12.21.2003

A blog entry from a friend of mine that would fit quit nicely in here:

countplusplus and AI

12.09.2003

Another thought:
Early humans foraged for grains, nuts, roots and, if they were lucky, some tasty berries. We still go nuts when we watch chimps on TV use a stick to make ants-on-a-stick, a great example of what must have been early human haute-cuisine.

Now we spend top dollar to eat Crackin' Fibrous Chunks or Organic Recycled Cardboard Tofu Chips. Pretty much the same shit our ancestors wouldn't feed their pets.

I'm not advocating we eat McDonald's sugar-enriched pseudo-burgers five times a day (I don't care what Dr. Ronald McDonald, diet expert, says) but does eating healthy mean eating things that look and taste like industrial byproduct? I take great pleasure in eating. It is an intensely visceral experience for me. I like the taste of meat much like my ancestors enjoyed a haunch of slow-moving animal. I think chocolate is as much a wonder of life as a sunset or a really dirty limerick (and I don't mean the crappy, North American, not-even-close chocolate).

I think the Romans screwed us hard when they popularized and romanticized gorging and binging (as much as a culture that had "vomitoriums" can romanticize such things). Moderation, people. In all things, moderation.
The sound of shuffling feet will only become more commonplace as years go by. The atrophy of the human body is well underway.

From Segways to Supermarkets, our need for physical vessels is being eroded, slowly but surely. We already have athletes being paid millions of dollars to perform great sporting feats so we don't have to. We have TV and the internet to keep our minds amused as our bodies dwindle to input devices. Perhaps a future generation with have a remote/keyboard/mouse implant? Can we perhaps invent the neural shunt sci-fi has promised us? We're already way behind on the jet pack and moon bases.

We used to need to be able to hunt tigers and gather berries. Then some lazy bastard got on a horse and said, "Walking is for chumps." Then some clever but movement-hating proto-human said, "Check this out: irrigation." Next came the chariot, the palanquin, aquaducts and theatre. Before you know it, clocks start showing up and people begin efficiently using their time so as to maximize their "not doing squat" time.

Nowadays we can't even be bothered with going to war. Why send 100,000 troops? Send 20 and arm them with a force multiplier of 50,000. We have cars, planes and boats. We have dinner-in-a-box (dinner-in-a-pill just doesn't have the same experience, but for some reason dinner-in-a-shake seems to be ok with a lot of people). We have enough drugs to make certain that our minds will go long before our bodies.

Why even bother? Just scoop out my non-motor-control neurons, slap it in some petri dish with nutri-gel, and hook up some electrodes. The red pill? Hell, we've been working on the blue pill for generations.

12.03.2003

When I have kids, and I really do want kids despite the extreme difficulty, it seems I'll have to deal with Santa Claus. A lot people have strong feelings about telling kids about Santa and how great the memories are and how cool it is to believe in made-up things for kids. There is, however, another camp that really doesn't understand the need to lie to kids, the pain of disillusionment when they find out he doesn't exist, etc. etc.

I like the idea of Santa. It's a cute, harmless cultural tradition here in the Western, christian world (though I suppose he's not particularly religious a figure). At the same time, I am against feeding lies to a child. It's a tough line to walk. So far the best idea I've heard and one I plan on using is telling my kids:

"Listen, there is no Santa. Mommy and Daddy put the presents under the tree for Christmas. But at Christmastime everyone pretends there is a Santa."

Perhaps it'll be couched in more kid-friendly terms but that will be the gist of it. This shouldn't lead to my child ruining other kids' Chirstmas and me getting yelled at by other parents, in theory at least. And it shouldn't make my children social pariahs by being hardcore sceptics at the age of four. I don't really see the harm in actively pretending there is a Santa so long as the child understands that it's a fiction that people willingly participate in. After all, that is one of the more important concepts people learn as they grow up.

11.25.2003

Our hungers make invitations of each whisper to our senses.

11.20.2003

They say the best revenge is success. It's true. Success at getting revenge.

11.19.2003

An update from the exciting world of "If I don't have cancer, what the hell is it?"

I went to the hospital for an ultrasound. You have to fast for six hours prior and then one hour prior, you have to drink a litre of water. I waited for my ultrasound for 90 minutes. Lemme tell ya, the bladder starts to get full after you drink a litre of water and then sit still. I really had to go but the ultrasound doesn't work unless you have a big, bloated sac of fluid in you. After 75 minutes of waiting (and recall that I had drunk the water an hour before arriving), I had to go so bad that I could have etched my name on the moon. I asked the nurse what I should do. I was told to go but not to empty.

I beg your pardon? Have you ever tried to start and then stop before you were done? It requires a lot more concentration than I thought I could muster. It's so unnatural that just thinking about it makes me want to go use the facilities. Anyways, I managed to relieve my stress to the point that I was worried that I was depleted.

I finally went in for the ultrasound and got the goo squirted on my belly (Might I add, I have now been on the receiving end of that sensation, though without the staccato) and the nurse started bouncing audio pulses off my innards. Once she reached my groinal regions, she remarked that my bladder was still full. I didn't think it was full until she moved a bit lower and pressed. Ay. Now I had to go again.

The nurse fetched the doctor quickly (she knew I was about to do my Hull-of-the-Titanic impression) and they went over my lower torso with the gusto of a needle merchant looking through a very special haystack. The doc pronounced me clean and clear so I cleaned up, changed out of the fancy hospital garment and headed straight for the bathroom where I nearly dented a ceramic toilet.

I also had bloodwork done. They drew four vials of blood for various viral tests. I won't find out about those for a while. So I was in and out of the hospital in about 2.5 hours and I now resume what remains of my daily routine.

11.14.2003

So I had my doctor's appointment today to find out exactly what caused my operation. The good news is: I don't have "make-out-your-will" cancer because they didn't see any in the biopsy but they can't rule out one specific type because the cells were too immature. So I have to get bloodwork to check for viruses (which could have caused my lymph node to swell up). I am also going in for an ultra-sound to check for other lumpiness (or babies! Maybe I have ovaries...).

So if the virus tests are negative, then I have to wait to see if anything comes back. If lumps comes back, then it's a treatable cancer. If nothing comes back, then I had some weird virus and my system worked it out. If the virus tests are positive, then I get treatment for them. Because it's close to the holidays, I might not get those results until January.

I will also have to go in for frequent check ups now for the rest of my life to be vigilant for unwanted groinal growths. The wanted groinal growths will continue unabated.
Here is my impression of a blogger:

Seriously, I hope the Hilton Hotel in Paris has a kick-ass web server to handle all the accidental traffic.

Well, a very slow-witted blogger.

11.13.2003

Two unrelated thoughts

Carol Burnett is one of the most underappreciated comedians ever. She is certainly not an unknown by any stretch of the imagination but she rates way higher than Lucille Ball in my opinion. Her characters are varied and distinctive, her timing is impeccable, her physicality is outstanding (certainly among the best ever) and quick as a fox on fire. I always hear female performers citing Lucille Ball or Gilda Radner, who were both excellent, but I can't recall too many giving a nod to Ms. Burnett. Gender isn't even the issue to me, Ms. Burnett is one of the funniest people on two legs. Period.

Things my generation loves:
-Excessive hyperbole
-Avoiding genuine sentiment
-The word "literally"
-Dismissal
-Things that glow
-Dissecting social phenomena

11.10.2003

Let's have little recap of recent events:

Early September
I have my annual physical with the family doctor. In Montreal, it's pretty tough to get a family doctor and we lucked out in getting a good one. During the exam, a 7cm long, 1 cm high bulge is found on the front of my left hip, towards the groinal region. I never noticed it. It was painless and didn't interefere with my movement so I doubt I would have picked it up for a while. The doctor says it seems like it's in a weird place for a swollen lymph node. She thinks it's possibly a hernia. I am given a referral to the same doctor who diagnosed my lipomas. Life goes on with me not lifting heavy objects in fear of exacerbating my potential hernia. Take that, heavy objects!

Early October
My appointment with the specialist arrives and the doctor thinks it' probably a lipoma but it's pretty big. She recommends removal. In case it's something more serious, I am given an appointment 2 weeks later. That's fast-tracking, for you non-Canadian, non-Medicare using mofos. The possibilty of something being wrong with my lymph node is brought up again but in a "that doesn't make sense" kind of way.

October 20
It's surgery day. My wife takes the day off. In I go for day surgery; it's the same specialist that I saw a few weeks ago who will perform the operation. I have cleared a week with work but figure to be back in action within a couple days. Surgery begins. I feel pulling and tugging. I hear snipping and slurping. I'm carefully analysing the ceiling. I've folded my hands behind my head and, eventually, my hands fall asleep. Nice move. I bring them back to my sides, but out of the doctor's way. During the surgery, the doctor announces that I have a "juicy" lymph node. My incision gets bigger as doc needs more room to maneuver. It takes a while because she has to work around a vein.

She said at the start that if it looked serious, she'd send it to the lab right away. Otherwise, it'd go to the two-week lab. As the lymph node comes out, I'm told she's sending it for analysis right away. Aw. Yeah. I've got something. It could be TB or cancer or something else. I'm asked about recent injuries, travel, my occupation. It's sent to pathology and mycology. The doc only sends a bit to mycology. Looks like the doc suspects cancer. Nice.

I have the doctor tell my wife what she's told me so far (minus the conclusions I've had to reach on my own). The wife is winded. No kidding. We go home and await the results of the testing that should be given us by the end of the day. The whole ordeal is done in under an hour.

October 20, Home
I have aprescription for strong painkillers but after the anasthetic wears off, I get by with Advil and ice. We get the call after much anxiety, silence. There's been a nervous crackle in the air all afternoon. No one wants to talk about it in any detail until we hear from the hospital. An appointment is made for my follow-up in two weeks as advised at the hospital.
My doctor calls back. The word "cancer" is not used, the word "lymphoma" is not used. Instead, I hear "early stage", "immature cells", and "nothing angry". Nothing urgent. See you at the follow-up.

I miss the full week of work mostly because I can't really walk due to the position of cut. I admit that I missed it partly because I needed the time recollect my thoughts. I don't have the information I need to swallow this, even now. I don't know what I have really. Maybe the doctor isn't sure either. But I don't know what my next step is, what to expect from here, what kind of treatments I should be, will be taking. I finish The Legend of Zelda: Wind Waker and Otherland by Tad Williams. Who wants to leave unfinished projects behind. Ugh. Morbid thoughts have already left their fingerprints.

I return to work and find out that I've been laid off. Eight people were cut. It happened while I was away and I wasn't told because I was home recovering. I can't decide if that was courtesy or otherwise. My supervisor was clearly uncomfotable. He's a nice guy and we got along great. He was told to cut people and chose me. That's cool. Maybe my unhappiness at work was showing. In any case, my wife had to deal with another blow. She's holding up pretty well. I kind of expect her to collapse or something but I guess she doesn't have time for it. Her work is going crazy, too. She needs a big vacation. Big time.

End of recap.

So I await my appointment this Friday. I will hopefully find out more details about what I have, what the treatments are, what kind of plans I should be making. I'm mentally preparing myself for things like chemo therapy or fighting a hungry tiger with my bare hands. I'm also preparing myself for "Cancer? No, you have lymph flu. Boy, are you a hypochondriac or what?" I really don't have a lot of concrete information so any speculation on my part is about as valid as a Nostradamus fortune cookie.

So far, only my wife and immediate family know most of the details. I haven't really told my friends what's going on because they'll ask questions I can't answer. I've been vague and demurring. I can already see they're worried; I imagine my lack of clarity only heightens the concern. I can feel them talking about me in serious tones behind my back. Once I visit the doctor and I can answer the questions myself, I'll be able to let everyone else in.

I'm not down or depressed. Life deals you cards and you play them. That's a big part of what this blog is for. To help me deal with and absorb this world, these days, these people. All this input and me, trying to turn it around, making output.

10.30.2003

Imagine a world where you can only see in blue for the month of February. In July, the world is rose-tinted. In December, everything looks green. Sounds rather arbitrary, doesn't it? Well, that's how I feel about photons.

The electromagnetic spectrum runs from very long wavelengths to very small wavelengths. It's not continuous thanks to Mr. Planck but it might as well be to us since we aren't equipped to distinguish such inifinitesimal differences. What's arbitrary about photons is our eyes. We have receptors in there that see red, blue and green; rods and cones and all that high school stuff. When they fire in combination, our brain interprets them as various colours. But it's only a small section of the spectrum that our eyes are senstive to. Infrared and ultra-violet are out of our league. There are some insects who can see ultra-violet and some flowers look different in ultra-violet light. But, for us humans, we're confined to our narrow range of wavelengths.

Why this range of wavelengths? Well, our atmosphere blocks a whole lot of E/M radiation from getting down to the Earth's surface but it lets two large sections through, radio and visible. I suppose we could have evolved eyes that were sensitive to radio but then our resolution would be on the order of meters. Everything less than 50 cm would probably look like 50 microns does now. So, that's less than practical.

We have ears, they interpret air modulation. Our skin feels wind, the touch of another person, temperature. Our inner ear give us a sense of gravity. We can interface with the world on a wide array of levels. As such we have constructed for ourselves a fairly representative model of "how the world works". It seems to make pretty good predictions and keeps us on top of things.

But what about plants that can't interface with, say, sound, as we do. Does that mean sound is not a useful way of looking at the world because plants can't sense it? For us, it's a pretty useful tool to have at our disposal. So what does that signify about human perception? My question is: what interfaces with the universe are we oblivious to?

There is probably level of information out there that we just can't "see". It stands to reason that the universe has many many ways of being looked at and we are limited by the senses we developed locally. I would hope that these other methods of looking at the world around us can inferred from what we can perceive or perhaps we could one day build instruments to do so...

It's an old saying but it's probably true. The universe is not only stranger than we imagine, it's stranger than we can imagine.

10.22.2003

There are many reasons to blog. Some people do it to let their friends know what they're up to. Others do it for attention. Some for private thoughts. A good many blogs are to share thoughts on a shared interest. There are probably a good few out there by aspiring writers as well. Most blogs are probably a mix of all the above.

What I wonder is: how many people believe their blog is something of a legacy, words left behind to remain after their passing. 1975-2025. That's fifty years for me. I well imagine it could be far less, but so far I've had nearly thirty. That's not bad. Can't really complain too much about thirty years of life in the First World. I've got silver spoons coming out my nose. But I don't have the delusion that come 2099 Corpse Countdown, 1975-2025 would mean anything to anyone. Pointless in 2099 or 7811 or 37831 or 16 PE (post Earth). It will be as meaningless to them as Hurrg Getfood, 17123 BC- 17049 BC is to me. This blog does little to preserve my name, even in alias. In fact, to me, it is a given that such a goal is futile.

The greatest charioteers of Rome, whose statues stood a hundred feet tall in the centre of the mightiest Empire known to date, are barely known to historians who specialise in the field. That's after having a ton of stone-etched writings, statue remnants and peripheral mentions in other works preserved after only about 2000 years. Good luck to you, buddy, if you think you or your blog, perhaps even humanity itself will be remembered for anything other than a blink in cosmology.

10.07.2003

http://www.biologyoflaw.com/

This is a very cool website. I'm all over this one.

Cities and Personal Thought

In the past your community was little more than those people around you who shared your world. Hunters on the plains, a village by the river, perhaps a group of villages. All of these people needed to have rules that govern their lives, not necessarily written laws, but at least rules that were codified for communal living. Typically, these guidelines for brutes (because if you need guidelines on common courtesy, say Do Not Kill, you're a brute. point final) were entwined with religious beliefs. Thus, religious law which governed the spiritual also governed the secular, or legal laws.

The growth of communities allowed people who dissent to form larger groups. If I believe Zog the caveman is the messiah, convincing Grak and Shmrug does not a new religion make. However, get a whole bunch of people convinced that Jesus/Mohammed/Voodoo Man is an emissary of God and you can start a movement. These kinds of shifts require large groups of people moving in the same direction. Only the development of agriculture could allow people to gather in such large numbers and enable them the luxury of a group philosophy.

Today we have cities with popluations in the tens of millions. Each and every possible culture, belief, hobby, cult of personality can find a threshold of people willing to join in and support the cause. When millions gather, communities will bloom in such a way that puts photoplankton to shame. Any personal philosophy that has an appealing hook, be it "Reggae for God" or "SUVs are cool", will propagate into a pool of millions and take root. The stronger memes will flow easily from city to city, the weaker ones either grow slowly or get choked out by stronger memes.

Essentially, cities provide a fertile ground for an ecology of philosophies. As global interaction grows and physical distance becomes essentially erased, there will be a single ecology made up of varying parts. Currently each country is an individual host, though cities still maintain some independence. Long ago the city state was as large as the single ecology could get. It is not impossible to envisage the internet (in some future form that would be little more than science-fiction to us) as the final community ecology. This single massive environment is weaker than multiple very-large ecologies. The only redundance to it is the parallel worlds of virtual and physical. This should sustain and grow us as an evolutionary form but I worry that we might stagnate.

Normally, I have little but pity for those who erect barriers in the path of inevitable homogeneity, trying vainly to stop a lava flow with palm fronds. However, I can see a time when this instinct becomes beneficial in that it can slow mergers that are harmful. Cities will continue to grow, countries becoming cities and isolation, that inestimable breeding ground of ingenuity, will disappear. So that the final result is that while there will be more room for more marginal philosophies, the rate at which they are born and the novelty of their scope or focus will diminish.

9.22.2003

Why don't they teach CPR in high school? Perhaps once when you're 14 and again when you're 16. After a while, you'd have a population full of people who could save lives. Even if you don't remember it exactly, some of it should come back to you.

There's bound to be someone who was paying attention around you when you're having a stroke...

9.15.2003

A little fact about myself I discovered on the weekend:
I will subconsciously leave a door in the same state I found it, either opened or closed.

9.11.2003

I'm a married man, have been for five years. Dated my wife for five years before that. Occasionally, the thought pops into my head, sex with another woman would be nice. Perhaps I don't consider it quite so casually. Would I like a donut? Would I like to watch TV? Would I like to cheat on my wife?

It is tough to keep the passion aflame when you both come home tired, stressed and just wanting to forget the slog you've been through. And this is without kids and in jobs we both claim to enjoy (or at least find satisfying). It just doesn't and cannot compare to the intensity of a new relationship. So my reptilian brain asks for more woman flesh and I always have to quash it. It's actually not very hard.

1) Getting some other girl pregnant would be terrible.
2) Catching a disease would be worse.
3) Giving that disease to my wife horrifies me.

Sure, you could work it to minimize those risks. T'ain't hard. But it's also true that the only way to be 100% sure is abstinence. There is more to it than the simple high school sex ed routine though. Even if you presented me with a woman who had no uterus and doctor's papers saying she was cleaner than the vacuum of space, I still wouldn't touch her with my ten-foot pole.

I made a promise on my wedding day and I intend to keep it. I have an amazing relationship with my wife; emotional, intellectual and physical. The truth of the matter is that, while my instincts want me to impregnate as many females as possible, the grass is pretty goddamn green on this side of the fence.

9.10.2003

On my way into work, I often get stuck in traffic. I at least have someone to keep me company seeing as I carpool. My carpool buddy and I have recently come up with a depressing game that passes the time.

1) Get into the left-hand lane (or right-hand lane for you British-emulating weirdos).
2) One person is "SUV" the other is "Carpool".
3) SUV counts the number of SUVs that pass in oncoming traffic.
4) Carpool counts the number of cars with more than one person in it.
5) Try it a couple times and find the right ratios for your area.
6) Once you get a grip on the ratio (in Montreal it seems to be 2 carpool to 1 SUV), someone picks a number and one of the two categories (eg: 10 SUV).
7) The other player is automatically the second category with the correct ratio. So if 10 SUV is selected in Montreal, the other person is 20 Carpool.
8) The first person to count to their target number in the opposite-flowing traffic, wins.

No one may select Regular Car, One Person as that is 95% of traffic on the roads.

9.03.2003

One of my friends is waiting for the robots. He would like to see a world where androids have replaced human endeavour with a superior, more idealized approach to living life. They first replace us in manual labour and the menial, thankless jobs that humans do now. Already that plan is well on its way. It is simply a matter of time before sentience is achieved in machines (that time is likely well off but having seen the leaps in technology over our history it can only seem inevitable). Eventually, there will be sentient androids superceding us and living out human ideals to a degree that we, hypocritical and self-delusive, are unable to achieve.

Many people stop and question the dangers in proceeding with such a plan. What happens if we make ourselves obsolete? Can we control sentient robots? Or will we all require Arnold Schwartzenegger to be sent from the future for humanity's sake? But the truth is we have a higher duty than to preserve the primacy of humans. We have a far greater obligation to preserve sentience as we understand it.

Humans are fragile, the world we live in is fragile. Small flecks of proteins suspended in water clinging to life, like lichen on some unnamed rock in the arctic. Trapped between a layer of tectonics and air, we are only now making strides in living in the rock and soaring above the clouds. We need systems of survival that are more robust and if we have the capacity to reproduce that which makes us alive, our sentience, then we must propagate and sustain it. It is simply a remarkable event in our local neighbourhood of systems. Perhaps on a universal scale, we might not be quite so precious but to the limits of our observation there is little sign of anything similar. Statistical flukes such as ourselves don't have an inherent right to propagate but if we have the capacity then we owe it to ourselves to explore the nature of our world. A search for meaning and our supposed role in the universe is not what I'm talking about. That would be ascribing qualities which may or may not exist. Rather, I speak of a descriptive understanding of how our world works, the proverbial Quest for Knowledge.

So fear not being superceded! It is our duty to bring ourselves to obsolescence for a superior, less destructive and self-destructive form to which we aspire but may never attain.

9.02.2003

I found out over the weekend that about half of your feces (yes, you specifically) is the lining of your intestines.

I have nothing clever or insightful to say about it. That kind of statement pretty much stands on its own.

8.28.2003

The Mystery of Consciousness

A pair of scissors is, at its most basic, a pair of blades attached by a pivot. Someone thought to put a couple loops on one end to make it easier to use. My arm is a pair of rods attached by a ball-joint. I flex my muscles by sending a signal along my nerves which stimulates millions of muscle cells to expand or contract in a practiced sequence. Choosing how and when to control those muscles is learned in our infancy when we are completely unaware of our ineptitude and are not able to comprehend our ignorance. In the end, mastery of our body becomes innate and invisible. Those who are burdened with physical disabilities would tell those of us who aren't to appreciate the ease with which we move and flow through space. Our struggle was fought years ago as babies and now we possess our bodies to a such degree that we consider them a part of ourselves, more than mere extensions but rather a full expression of who we are. That is a fallacy, of course. I would still be myself were I to lose an arm or a leg. Sure, I would change in many ways but it would not affect my consciousness other than having to constantly remind my brain that, no, it's gone. An awkward and frustrating retraining of the mind's relationship to its vessel.

I can dissect my arm and tell you how the muscles pull. I can understand how oxygen flows from the air, through brachioles into my blood on the bus marked 'Haemoglobin'. Yet, I will always struggle to tell you how my mind works.

What physical manifestation of consciousness will we ever find in our squishy, folded brain? Axons and dendrites, neurons and myelin sheathing. How do they fit together to store the memory of my wedding, the scent of bubble gum, the sound of thunder? Do I have some strange and unfathomable series of ones and zeroes, some organic version of registers and pointers? Where is the RAM? The hard drive? Where are those ancient memories of infancy stored? All of these questions are beyond my reach.

Part of the problem lies in emergence. You can look at a hydrogen atom and an oxygen atom all day long but you'd never be able to predict their behaviour in a water molecule. Take two things and mix 'em together and you get something greater than the sum of its parts. Emergence, by definition, is unpredictable. So even if we do manage to understand the basic components, it will not be immediately obvious (though perhaps not impossible) how consciousness arises from a sloshy mess of gooey brains.

8.21.2003

If I had to describe humanity to aliens in two words it would be:
Sugar and Ashes

That's a great title for something, isn't it?

8.19.2003

Obviously our laws are meant to prevent what we collectively agree upon as "wrong".

I read this once upon a time. This is something I've been thinking about and come to the conclusion that this rationale does not work. Laws cannot prevent anything. They are first and foremost punishments for acts.

Let's say I live in a place where we want to prevent murder. We agree to pass a law that says murder is wrong. Human nature being what it is (witness my vague handwaving) a murder then occurs. The law did not prevent the murder.

We rethink the law and add a penalty, imprisonment. A murder occurs. The law is ineffective, people say. It needs to be stronger.

We pass a law that sets a penalty of death on murder. A murder occurs. The law has failed again. Where can you go from here?

If I want to buy an apple, it costs 25 cents. If I want to buy a car, it costs $20,000. If I want to gather nuts, it costs me 100 kJoules. If I want to hunt a deer, it costs me 10,000 kJoules. If I want to park without paying the meter, it costs me $50. If I want to kill someone, it costs me 12 years.

Laws only set cost. We cannot govern each other's actual behaviours. The law will not enter the mind to prevent such a thing from happening.

The only way to eliminate "wrong" is to eliminate free will. Some acts are clearly wrong. Flying airplanes into buildings: wrong. I can always choose to do these acts, however. I can also choose not to do so, and I frequently do.

I have to make a decision whether or not it will be worth it (vis a vis the cost of my actions). And even then if I can formulate the situation in another way ("I wish to stop the people who are killing my people. My best bet is to kill as many of them as I can." ), then it is not "wrong" from my point of view. We must never underestimate the ability to rationalize our own actions. This is the fatal flaw in using laws to prevent or deter crime.

My brother took my favourite toy. I asked for it back. He said no. There are no parents. I push him down and take it back. As a third party, we would say this act is wrong. I would argue, no, it was my only recourse. I had no access to an arbiter (parent). [And, of course, I would pay no cost since the only witness is biased. :) ]

Thus, even if I live by what I believe is "right", it is my ability to rationalize and justify my own actions that inhibits me from always doing what society would consider right and proper behaviour. We can always rephrase our behaviour to conform to societal norms.

In the end, deterrence is an effect of the law. The cause of the law is to provide a sense of justice after the fact of a crime.

8.15.2003

I feel like telling a story. Stories are our best possessions and diminish not as they are shared. In fact, that's how they grow.

This story is true. You cannot beat the truth when it comes to stories. No imagination has the power of reality. Believe me, you'll know when I'm making something up.

In 1993, I was waiting in line with a friend of mine at a bank as she was withdrawing money. This was just before the advent of ATMs and people still had to visit a human being called a teller. While you waited in line to speak to the teller, there was a table with several forms and a couple pens; sometimes there was even a cheap calculator. There were all sorts of forms: one for withdrawals, another for deposits, etc. While you waited in line, the client of the bank (my friend, in this instance) would fill out a little slip for a withdrawal or deposit or whatever and have it ready to present to the teller when you got the end of the line.

My friend started to fill out her little form while we were in line. Bored, I took out one of the slips and wrote on the back: "This is a hold up." I slipped the piece of paper back into the pile and as she finished, our conversation resumed. I didn't mention what I had done until we left the bank. She wasn't happy but thought it was funny in the end.

Two days later.

My friend starts yelling at me upon alighting her eyes on my face.

"You idiot!"

"What?"

"An old man took out the slip you wrote on and used it for his transaction. He presented it to the teller when he reached the desk. The teller flipped it over to stamp it and looked at the old man again. Appraently, the teller decided that this old man was not holding up the bank.

The teller showed the old man what was written on the flipside of the slip and he almost had a heart attack. He thought he was part of some scheme to rob the bank. The bank people calmed him down and smoothed everything out with him. They reviewed their security cameras and saw who did it, who they were with and tracked down who's account was used. They didn't know you but they found me. I had to go to the bank yesterday and they made me promise that you'd write a letter of apology."

"What?! No way!"

"You write that letter of apology."

"Uh. Ok."

" Tomorrow."

"Ok."

That letter has yet to be written.
After the blackout....

While New Yorkers poured out of immobile subway cars, emerged from stuck elevators, began long walks home or rested in local establishments, one unidentified man saw beauty.

"You can actually see the stars in New York City," he said.

-LARRY MARGASAK Canadian Press

8.12.2003

You can choose your friends but you can't choose your family.

I've never been particularly close to my family. I have nearly nothing in common with them. My father passed away in '92. He was distant, silent and reacted poorly to adversity. The only two things that I could share with him was that he could be funny when he chose to be (about once a year) and liked to watch sports. My mother is a self-centered Catholic. The only thing I have in common with her is a love of movies (and my difficulty in thinking of others before myself if I am to be fully honest).

My brother and I fought like sworn enemies growing up. Hostile, violent and uncompromising would best describe our relationship. We had no interests in common. I always wanted to play chess or sports or any game with him growing up. He didn't because I am way too competitive (though I didn't realise it at the time). We pretty much kept to ourselves. I'm not exactly sure what he did to keep himself busy, that's how far apart we were.

Things have changed today. We have more to talk about now. We found a common love of arts and foreign culture. I don't know if we can just hang out. I wouldn't really know what to say to him if I went out to dinner, just me and him. He's my brother and I would walk across fire for him but I don't call him up when I'm bored or have something to bitch about.

I have lots of very good friends. I treasure my friends above all else. I also treat them badly on occasion. I have been accused of being vicious and cruel to them and it's true. I can be a very poor friend at times. I can have terrible judgment when it comes to interacting with people. But I suppose that I don't do it often enough to chase them away so I seem to have built up many very close relationships. I know for a fact that were my familly killed and house burned to the ground I would be able to stay indefinitely with any of them. They could all be godparents to my future children (though perhaps some are more qualified than others). Maybe I overestimate the relationship but I think not.

Most of the people I meet, I want as little to do with as possible. Thus, my default personality for meeting strangers I am forced to interact with is cold and impersonal. I'll talk about the weather with you if you're lucky. "Nice day" is a conversation as far as I'm concerned; now leave me alone. I've got things to do and the only reason I'm talking to you is cause I need something from you. Strangers at a bus stop, cashiers, passers-by-- no more talking than necessary, please. I don't want to see pictures of your kids or hear your opinion of that guy's hat, you inane, petty navel-gazer.

Hmm. That sounds more introverted than I really am. I love to meet people at parties or functions where I can be sure people have something in common with me. If a friend is having a party, odds are the people there are there because my friend liked something about them. That goes a long way. I'll want to meet you. If I'm at church bazaar, I'll be sitting in a corner watching the clock hands spin mercilessly.

I was once sitting on a bench in a city square of Chartres (France) writing about what I saw on a cool but sunny Sunday morning. Suddenly, a strange man sat next to me (with a baguette, naturally) and begin chatting with me. I wanted to die. I was enjoying the solitude and in barged this thrashing beast. But because he was a resident of another country I talked with him, learned about him. Asked him what he liked about France, what he did, what he knew about Canada. I learned about how he saw his country, how he saw mine and how he saw himself. It ended up being quite pleasant, he was a nice enough guy. But it was certainly not something I would ever initiate.

Which makes the people I consider friends all the more special to me. People I can relate to. I am fiercely loyal to them and relish each opportunity to see them. I crave them and need both their validation or rejection, either is fine because, really, it's the honesty I seek. I need to know I'm not alone on this planet with people who have no desire to look past their front lawn. I need to argue, to laugh, to tell stories and to have stories told to me. I need people to sing with, to joke with, to threaten with mock fervour, to rant and vent upon, to be an audience and to perform for me. I rely on a network of people to get me through each day.

I chose you and you chose me. I like watching you change over the years. Watching you smile quietly or laugh uproariously. Seeing you passed out or running down a field. Hearing your tall tales or secret confessions. Fearing for you and cheering you on. You hold my hand and I hold yours and together we raise an island for ourselves against a rising tide of apathy.

8.05.2003

My wife started playing Morrowind. She is playing a character who is apparently perfect for being a thief. My darling wife then proceeded to steal something from a merchant. Afterwards, she told me she felt bad about it and then went about rationalizing her act. "Well, he wasn't using it. And I got it for him in the first place. He wasn't looking, so..." In essence, she felt guilty for stealing in a video game.

That's just not right.

7.31.2003

I love the new movement:
Property Damage for Social Justice!

Protesters who clamoured for Nikes two years ago are now fighting "capitalism". Right...

Mankind is greedy. It is simply not enough to have enough. It is not even enough to have more. If everyone gets more, well, I haven't come out ahead, have I? That's the problem. People need to have more than you. Is this the instinct that allowed us to survive the beasts and storms of our early days of sentience? Well, that's great because, while it might have been useful when we were trying not to freeze or starve to death, we're royally screwed now that there's so many of us that we live hundreds of feet in the air.

Communism won't fly because a) mankind is too greedy and b) communism requires direction and those in charge are greedy. Capitalism doesn't fly because it creates two classes, those who have and those who have not. The have-nots will always outnumber the haves and then we return to the familiar riots in the streets, M. Guillotine and New World Order. New World Order, by the way, is just a reset. The cycle of redistribution is only an initial condition that results, eventually, in New World Order II.

Socialism seems to be the best bet. My definition of socialism is this: We all agree to a basic, minimum standard. Everyone has a right to meet that standard. However, you have the right to surpass that standard as far as you are able. We each have a duty to contribute to that standard. People are taken care of but greed still has its outlet. Any system that fails to take into account the selfish and short-sighted nature of people is doomed to failure a priori.

The real fight is for transparency. The Freedom of Information Act is one of the greatest innovations in modern history. America has some brilliant political ideas from time to time. It's a shame they get lost in the muddle of the nasty, brutish and short lives of politicians. Decisions must be brought to light. Only the foulest deeds seek the cloak of shadows.

For those of you who play Diplomacy, think on this: imagine if all talks were to be made public. The first person to speak of crushing (naturally, someone who can do the crushing) will spark a rush of "get you before you get me". That's because the goal of Diplomacy is not to live in peace but rather to crush your "opponents".

If only every one else was not an opponent.

7.28.2003

Never mind.

I Hope he enjoyed himself.

7.24.2003

Two more thoughts for you today:

1) Is anyone else anticipating the "Paul is Dead" headlines?

2) I've always wanted to start a website called "Hope or Pope" (hopeorpope.com?). There you could vote online on who would slough their bodies first. As far as I'm concerned, it's a dead heat.

7.23.2003

When I go to bed, I try to determine if I've wasted my finite allotment of time. Somedays are damn productive, others are simply a step closer to death. Here are some of the things that let me live with the ticking clock:

-Quality time with the wifey
-Spending time with friends
-Reading a book or zine
-Writing something
-Eating/drinking something very tasty
-Travel
-Museums
-Planning
-Fighting entropy
-Listening to music
-Watching a movie

I guess this isn't a complete list. I just started writing it out but those are the big ones, I suspect. Somedays I do none of those. On the days when I'm recharging, that's fine. Sometimes you gotta put some gas in the tank.

And yet. And yet. There are days where I am worn down by the futility of trying to do something. It is infinitely preferable to do rather than simply to be.

7.22.2003

Two things today:

1) Falling asleep next to someone you love, someone that you trust so much that the concept of trust is for other people, someone who is funny and laughs easily, someone who loves to kiss, hug and caress; falling asleep next to that person is the sweetest feeling in the world.

2) A friend of mine realised that if you (as a male) were to have sex with an invisible woman, you would be able to see yourself inside of her as you were having sex.

7.14.2003

Perhaps the worst in all of us can be summed up in two words: Not Me.

7.08.2003

I just realised that I never followed up my lumpy forearm post. Thankfully, it ends happily so I'll be brief.

I made the appointment. Received explanation that some people get random lumps of fat that grow into solid clumps all over their body. They can appear anywhere on the body. I have two bigger ones that aren't a nuisance but might grow to be one. At that point I can have them removed but for now, they are too small to make it worth it. I probably have other, smaller ones I haven't found yet. Not cancer. Extra fat.

Fine by me!

Anyways, I figured I'd temper that anecdote with my review of Charlie's Angels: Full Throttle.

It's a dog and pony show. With no dog. But the pony kicked serious ASS! Very entertaining.

7.07.2003

"I want to believe." That poster was fairly emblematic of the X-Files TV Show. It's also fairly emblematic of my hope for an afterlife.

Of course, I want to believe in an afterlife. Who doesn't? It's hard to reconcile with experience and our limited ability to perceive ourselves but what would I have against an afterlife. I like being me. I'm a happy camper here and wouldn't mind continuing being one into infinity. But unless something unprecedented happens, I'm a finite being with a mind and conception of the universe destined to evaporated and be lost to the merciless march of time. That's cool. It's the way the world works and tough beans if you can't hack it.

I frequently fly into a panicked rage at the injustice of it all. But if it was good enough for countless billions before me, hell, I'll swallow it, too. Maybe one day in the future we'll be able to store our brains in a glass jar indefinitely. That's pretty cool. I can one day see a world where people are born, aged to 25 and then lobotomized into a glass jar that effectively replaces this impermanent raiment. We will someday be able to slough off this fleshy prison that dooms us to transience. It would be weird to live in a world where people only died by freak accidents. "Oh crap, I knocked Bill over last night. His jar shattered and his brain went soggy. My bad."

But not in my lifetime. To be sure, my expected 80 years will be way more than most people have had the over the previous millenia of evolution. Maybe by the time I reach 80, I might get a couple extra decades of quality living out of modern medicine. Dammit, kids are dying in gun battles the world over or passing on for lack of a bowl of rice and a glass of juice. Who am I to complain? I've had way more than my fair share already, to be frank. Impossibly, I've found someone to share my life with and, for that alone, I count myself lucky beyond measure. However, I've got myself convinced that I can accept this. It's a done deal, baby. When the time comes, I'm gone with no more permanent trace than a few words tossed to the aether. The pyramids are wearing down, the ink is fading, the chiselled inscriptions are fading to wind, sun and rain.

Enter religion. For everyone who wants to believe, there's twenty ways to "dodge the bullet". Religion has many, many roles and to reduce it to a simple afterlife scam does it a disservice. It genuinely has helped people through some rough times. It provides shelter in times of need, rules for those who haven't given them much thought and the support, love and sense of community that we all require as our daily bread. The afterlife is just one aspect of most major religions, likely due to the necessity of such a meme to thrive in the heated competition for numbers. The vast majority of people don't go overboard about it. They follow the set rules when it suits them and hope its enough to get past the bouncers. Not admirable but not despicable either.

Then there's the perverts. The people who harm others for their big shot at the afterlife. You know what? It's enough to make me glad that I believe in no afterlife.

6.30.2003

So the American Supreme Court (SCOTUS) just struck down laws criminalizing sodomy. Is this democracy? As much as I personally applaud the decision, it raises a question of democracy.

As a Canadian, this is largely a theoretical question, though our own Supreme Court has similar features. Several states have had referendums enshrining marriage as a heterosexual question. The people chose explicitly to do so. I won't go into whether I agree with it or not (that should be evident form the above). Imagine if the SCOTUS declares marriage not to be the domain of the heterosexual somewhere down the line, is that democracy? Even if I personally think it is the right thing to do, is it right to overturn the will of the people? Many states have already passed laws giving near-equivalence staus for homosexuals. It seems to be an inexorable, slow to be sure, but unstoppable march towards full equality. The American Constitution explicitly allows for this kind of decision and it does not seem out of bounds in overturning the state in, what it feels is, a federal and constitutional jurisdiction.

But, reduced to simpler terms, it is a group of nine who overrode the will of millions. Fine and dandy when one agrees with them but perhaps less palatable when a desicion comes down in direct opposition to one's beliefs, as this decision surely must for wide swatches of the American populace. Looking back at slavery, it took a long time for a great many people to realize that it was wrong and the work is still incomplete and leaves a legacy that burdens American society to this day. Abortion is another issue that has been decided by the SCOTUS and not by the people. The topic generates a great deal of acrimony and will continue to do so for the foreseeable future. Clearly, from a personal point of view I would not have wanted either of these decided alone by the people. The tyranny of the masses is a frightening thing for any self-respecting elitist but the masses cause unrest and it is always unwise to rouse them beyond the usual distemper.

It is a difficult point to argue that people would have eventually come to their own conclusions about slavery. Money and self-interest have always been known to master moral obligation and to quell a disturbed conscience. Justification and rationalization flow easily in these cases and their owners are more than willing to overlook any flaws in the foundation for their rationale. Clearly, a force from above is required to impel such societal change even if it is to the detriment of democracy. Then, the question that follows is: how to defend against the potential for oligarchy? The cultural norms are not being set by the community but rather by a group that does not always conform to the majority view. Rights and responsibilites are determined by the culture and one of government's duties is to elucidate and enforce those rights.

The American recourse is the Constitutional amendment. SCOTUS must obey the Constitution and, if brought into force, an amendment would overturn SCOTUS. It seems highly unlikely to me that this is a plausible outcome. Even should one occur it would be a matter of decades, perhaps even a century, before it was overturned, one that would read like the liquid paper scarring of the prohibition and its dismantling.

The beauty of the American Constitution constantly amazes but demands as much from its populace at it gives. SCOTUS functions as an accelerator of societal change, the "educated elite" handing down "superior theories of culture" based on "well-measured reasoning". It is oligarchy in a democracy, a taste of benevolent tyranny that society would seem to accept in the long term. Or perhaps it simply enforces conclusions that people would like to assume they would have eventually reached themselves.

6.26.2003

I went camping this weekend. It was amazing. I had been looking forward to it for weeks in advance. I laughed and got tired and got bit by bugs and all sorts of things that are expected to happen while in the great outdoors. But now I'm back in my regular world of wake/drive/work/drive/sleep. It seems so bizarre how my future becomes my past through this strange filter of present. I used to be able to enjoy the present and I did on the trip but now it feels like a part of me was left behind on that camping trip, stuck in the past and waiting to leap into the next future pleasure.

The rest of my life feels like filler and it's really tough work to not make it feel that way. The little energy I have left at the end of the workday is so precious and I loathe spending it on anything whatsoever. Hoarding it doesn't seem to build it up, though. It gets dissipated somehow in the invisible spaces between the day's regimented stages. Evaporating, leaking, trickling down some unseen drain. Gone and leaving me empty.

Tedium punctuated with fleeting instants of satisfaction. Life in the twenty-first century.

Are we spoiled with an over-abundance of free time? Does my brain feel unsatisfied at the lack of struggle I face daily? Would I be happier trying to eke out a survival existence? Subsistence farming has left the western world long ago and now the hours are filled with a blank void. Money, fame, sex; cheap validation is being sold to us daily by the media in an attempt to pry $ from our tight grip. The sugar melts quickly and leaves a bitter residue.

Better a return to night fires and mosquitoes than a world of hollow dragons building a hoard upon which to die.

6.03.2003

It's funny how instinct rules us. I wonder how much of my day is spent simply reacting to my enviorment in a manner that is hardcoded in my reptilian brain.

If I see a pretty girl, my head turns. My brain makes me feel good when I look at her. If I concentrate, I can override it but it requires an exertion of will, however slight it may be. If I hear a loud noise, my hands fly up to protect my head and I leap away. Bright flashes shut my eyes tight. And while it hasn't happened to me in a long, long time, if attacked, I would fight (perhaps flight?).

How ruled are we by our instincts? How much do we truly differ from our supposed "animal" compatriots? Sex, food, sleep, defecate; we are slaves to instinct and our higher order brains seem to me to be a refined cover for our desires to indulge our instincts. I like money but only because it enables me to indulge my instincts. Endorphins flow, blood rushes, pleasant times. Alcohol subverts our natural instincts, drugs give us altered states. Is it any wonder people seek refuge in them? It is a time when our instincts come out from beneath our polished selves and society allows us to shed our official veneer and let go the primal rages that storm beneath the surface.

How could I believe I am anything other than a fancy monkey? I write this in a moment of clarity, when I have appeased my instincts sufficiently that they leave me a few moments to myself and I can think upon whatever I desire. Soon enough, they will return and I will march to their beat. Sex, food, sleep, defecate.

5.30.2003

You know, it would be pretty damn sweet if people refused to join military organizations. But then militias would rise up and anarchy would rule once again. People are crazy. As long as desire can be denied, as long as will can be thwarted, men will close their fists and throw their rocks. Our instinct to do violence has allowed us to survive but now that we are past survival it is our own violence which threatens us the most. The line between brave and foolish is often noted but who will note the line between destruction and self-destruction?

5.22.2003

I imagine that a really satisfying afterlife would be one where we could travel through time and space at will forever and ever. You could watch yourself through time, others, historical events, travel throughout the cosmos.

Imagine finding life on other planets, watching the birth of the Sun, finding out what people said about you when you weren't around. You would be forced to learn the real truth about all sorts of things. You would be compelled to watch your horrible mistakes, to relive to your worst moments (how could you not?!). You could revisit your greatest triumphs and those of mankind. Imagine watching the first fish pop out of the water for a breath of air!

You could endlessly experience anything you wanted as a silent and invisble observer. Who needs a god to stand in judgment when you have yourself and an endless list of peers?

5.07.2003

I didn't want this to be a collection of links but these are awesome. Found at a site I only just discovered: www.aldaily.com

AIDS in Zambia


Humans Wage War

I survived.

I am sad that I lost my ring. I figured I would eventually (I know myself at least that well) and I'll probably do it again...

5.06.2003

Well, before I get myself obliterated by an angry wife, I might as well jot this down.

I don't worry too much about things like overpopulation or climate change and things like that. It's sad that we might cause so much avoidable suffering but it's tempered by the knowledge that the guilty party gets its just desserts.

These things correct themselves one way or another. It's heartening to know that 99.9% of the species on Earth were wiped out at one point. And here we are. Our future ant overlords should learn a lesson or two from our corpses...
I just found out that I lost my wedding ring. I took it off for a soccer game and gave it to the coach to hold (as had other people). I forgot to get it off him after the game because we had just won the season championship. Now, he can't find the ring.

This blog may be ending sooner than I thought.

4.29.2003

It strikes me as good analogy to liken the current state of humanity to an adolescent.

As infants, we are only aware of our self and even then in only the vaguest of terms: happy, hungry, sad, wet, etc. As our minds develop we become aware of various external forces and objects. Food becomes linked to hunger, parents to comfort and other such associations. We slowly begin to form some concept of the world around us. Young children question everything trying to wrap their head around all that they see. They learn about other children and interact and experiment. Then adolescence hits and suddenly they want to participate in the world instead of simply observing. But they haven't got the skills yet.

They cannot empathize well. Or over-empathize. They believe they have all the answers, usually simple answers to complex questions, but not because they are stupid but rather because they don't have all the information. Sometimes it's because they don't bother looking it up, sometimes they simply haven't been exposed to it, sometimes they simply cannot conceive of information they do not know. It is endlessly frustrating to try and impose your will on events larger than yourself.

Which is where we are at in terms of the world order. Nations are now connected in a way inconceivable to generations gone by. Cultural exchange is not inhibited by distances thanks to television, satellites, the internet, telephones, airplanes and all manner of socio-economic exchange. English has become a lingua franca and, despite fears of supplanting native tongues, will become globalized as the inevitable necessity of having a common tongue will enforce English whether people like it or not. But, until now, the world was as large as your nation (in some places, your village). Projects weren't larger than individual nations could handle. Wars were nation to nation. The idea of "we" was much, much smaller 100 years ago. Today there is a space station built by the richest nations on Earth. The United Nations is a tentative effort at a global parliament, though today it is seen as a tool for national agendas.

Things are slowly changing. Nations are growing up and learning to live with its neighbours. Each still is out for its own good, to be sure. But now careful negotiation is required and consensus is seen as desirable by a large portion of the world (when it suits them of course). Even this false notion of governance, however self-serving in the short-term, plants the seeds of actual growth in the next generation. Europe has long had its sibling feuds and rivalries. But France and Germany seem to have grown out of it. The lessons of history have taken root. England hesitates, balancing being a big fish in a little pond of Europe or a little fish swimming alongside the giant shark, American protege. But, it must be acknowledged that the awareness is there. Eastern Europe is not far behind.

Asia has not yet finished forgiving each other its past sins. Pride runs deep still but each passing decade it remains divided, the further back it falls behind. Religious states still exist seeing as they're the only organizations interested in the day-to-day affairs of these people.

Africa, ruined by abandoned European masters, is still settling disputes. The very technology that bridges the devloped world has yet to penetrate that continent fully. Until it does, the world will remain a small place to those who live there. Free access to information on an individual level would speed things along but ethnic divisions still clash with borders drawn by European exploitation rights. Until this disparity has been closed, until the wounds have healed only then will time be allowed to pass giving them time to nurse grudges as Asia currently does.

South America seems content to be ruled with iron-fists and second-hand traditions. Instability would be the byword for the region. A maelstrom of highs and lows, perhaps it is the future of second-world nations racing beyond their means to become first-world participants.

North America has not had to cope with divisions. Its indigenous people decimated, its land divided, bought and sold, almost with disinterest, by Europeans. Always the struggles were seen to be elsewhere. The birth of the USA and its Manifest Destiny burned from one ocean to the next with little to no opposition. The attacks on home ground have long since been forgotten (explaining the outstanding trauma of Americans from 9/11) and international engagement has been little more than self-interested business opportunities or righteous intervention, rather than survival in the face of aggression. When fires burn at home, how much less interest is there in gunpowder diplomacy?

A few of the world's players have the capability to excercise their vote. And now they must learn to work together. Instead of wariness, distrust and isolation, we are now forced by circumstance into unity, cooperation and compromise (the dirtiest of words). The alternative is endless destruction, and as our capacity for devastation escalates, extinction becomes the logical conclusion.

So, how do we navigate this uncharted water? The answer can only be drawn from our own human experience of transitioning from adolescent to adult: by making mistakes. It is my hope that we learn from them before we make a mistake from which we cannot recover. The belligerence and isolation of humanity is nearing an end. But what kind of adult comes from such a childhood?

4.25.2003

Sometimes, as I go to sleep, I pretend I'm dying and that I won't wake up. It's actually kind of peaceful after you get over the terror of the first few hundred times.

Nothing has changed my perspective on life and people I meet like acknowledging my (and their!) mortality.

4.22.2003

It would be nice to be able to say I understand this planet. But I don't. I just can't wrap my head around how people stick their head in the sand, how they cling unquestioned to their beliefs despite opinion (and sometimes evidence!) to the contrary. Are people trained or born with the inability to handle more than one concept at the same time?

I make it my personal goal to always understand and respect someone else's point of view even if I know that they are dead wrong. And I'm not just talking about "blue is better than green" wrong, I mean, "2+2=5" wrong. I've been wrong before on many counts where I thought to my core that I was right. I've learned not to espouse many things as fundamentally true. Is it so difficult to accept that we make mistakes? What have we been taught about mistakes and the tolerance thereof? Sure, certain things are not to be tolerated otherwise everything breaks down but surely there's room for leniency and accomodating.

Part of the problem lies in the belief of only one "true" solution and especially one "true" moral solution to problems. Killing people is bad because it's immoral. Is this valid? Why can't I say it is moral? I personally don't think killing people is a good thing. I don't want someone to kill me. So I'm against killing people. What if I did want someone to kill me? Can I then say killing is a good thing? Get out your guns! That doesn't seem likely. I feel safe in saying that it's a fairly universal sentiment that people would choose not to be killed if given the option.

Now what about something like abortion? Is it killing? Well, I think a major stumbling block is "Is it alive?". If you don't think killing is right, and you think it's alive, well, then you're against it. If you don't think it's alive, well, you're not killing anything, just a few inert cells. What do you do when you reach an impasse? Do you suddenly go ballistic and assassinate people? Hmm. Are you killing them or performing justice? I think it's fair to say individuals should not take justice into their own hands. In any case, a general policy is required in this society called law as to what is allowed and not allowed. But what prevents this from becoming a reasonable debate is the "black and white" outlook which doesn't help anyone and completely stops any progress in its tracks. Right and wrong are rarely clear especially when opposing sides differ on fundamental premises. If you really believe something is wrong compromise is not exactly your first thought. But it always comes back to the fact that you cannot know you are right. The solution that encompasses a multitude of views and allows for both sides to achieve partial satisfaction of their goals is often elusive. The satisfaction has to be enough that the matter will be swallowable. Which is why the best solutions leave both parties unsatisfied. It's an unpalatable philosophy but doesn't victimize one over the other (never underestimate the ability of people to feel robbed, denied, or generally hard done by). Victims rebel, rally and rage.

Sadly, people, for the most part, are unwilling to swallow anything but their own blind "truth". Then you have to ram it down their throat and hope that time brings wisdom as it often does. Sometimes, if you're lucky, the issue is made moot by obsolesence or circumvention. But don't count on it. The best bet is that even wrong principles are corrected by the majority over time. Deception and injustice are good in the short-term but erode readily.

4.17.2003

I've got these lumps in my forearms. I've seen about 5 different doctors and none of them say it's cancer. I don't want to be one of those people who keep harassing doctors even when they're not sick but you can't blame me for being too careful, can you?

I think what concerns me is that only one of those doctors gave me an idea of what they might actually be. The rest of them said, it's not cancer, please leave, I've got some serious shiat to deal with. Well, maybe not so brusquely but it felt that way.

The one thing they might be is blocked sweat glands. This makes sense because a week before I noticed the lumps I carried a heavy canoe for a few hours and there was a lot pressure on the spots where I got my lumps.

Anyways, it's been 8 months and I think they've gotten bigger. I did get a referral from my family doctor to go see someone if something changed. So now I'm going to try and make an appointment.

What a colossal pain.

4.16.2003

I posted this elsewhere today, I figure it should get an echo here:

In a star there are two pressures at work, gravity and heat. When a star's core has fusion run out of control, the overdose of energy is released as heat which expands the core. The expansion slows the rate of fusion since it gets less dense (the less crowded those atoms are, the less chances they have of smashing together). Less fusion means the bigger core can't stay as hot and cools down. As it cools, gravity kicks in and starts to collapse the over-inflated core. The whole thing starts to crowd into the center-of-mass. Which makes the star get more dense, which ups the rate of fusion, etc, etc. Eventually equilibrium is reached and the star just sits there spitting out a bazllion photons for the convenience of our eyeballs.

That's my take on how people/society work. We fuck up enough and we start to figure out that we're headed straight for the paleontology museum for our future ant overlords. Corrective action is taken. If none is taken, well, vines and seeds have grown over all sorts of funtastic former-civilizations.

I figure we'll either kill ourselves off or figure out that the last chamber holds a bullet in time. It's the only reason I'm not in some clock-tower. Why rush it?

Alternatively, you can get behind this movement.

http://www.vhemt.org/

4.15.2003

I guess the war in Iraq seems to be heralded as over as far the media is concerned. Back to your regularly scheduled pap.

I suppose that one day if Democracy flourishes in the Middle East some people will look back at this as the beginning and say, "Well, if it weren't for us, you still wouldn't be able to vote." much like they say "If it weren't for us, you'd be speaking German." (I won't specify who "they" are. I'm sure you can't figure my crypticism out. Yes, I just made up that word.)

Does that mean, in the end, wrong in the present can become right in the future? Or just different? Is it that history is written by the winners or is it that the winners survive history repeating itself?

I speak of wrong and right as though there are absolute answers when I know full well there aren't any but for some reason the mind demands it. Is our conscience that binary? I'll think about that.

4.12.2003

It's ok. I found my logbook. I know you were worried. There, there.

4.10.2003

I've lost my logbook at work. Where is it?!?! WHERE IS IT!?!?!?! It's got all my shiat in there!

Dammit. It's Chinese Water Torture to live the American Dream.

I suppose it's better than having my entrails held up to Western media cameras as an indication of the evil of the Enemy.

Or if I have triplets, they won't be taken from me and raised in a state orphanage.

Or that I can't play in the next-door field because of landmines or unexploded ordinance.

Mmmmm. This Water Torture sure is pretty sweet.

4.09.2003

Speaking of corpses, I watched the Manchester v Real match yesterday.... That was the very definition of devastating.

Also, as a Canadian, it is soothing to my psyche to know that it is the time of year when I get to hear those magic words:

"And here's Ron MacLean with a Stanely Cup Update..."

Ahhhhh.

Morbidity levels: low and dropping

4.08.2003

Make a fist with your hand. Pop out your thumb like you're giving a thumb's up. Put your thumb back in your fist. Think about how that thumb wayyyy down there moved.

You wanted it to move. You commanded it to move. The impulse travelled down your spine, down your arm, to the hand and flexed exactly right to move your thumb. It's all so transparent to you that it is actually very difficult to contemplate it objectively.

That thumb moving is YOU. That is the grand sum total of direct influence YOU have on this universe. Everything else is indirect.

The sad news is, eventually, even the body betrays. Which is why I appreciate and live in Wonder of my own body while it still functions reasonably well.

My body is a temple? No, it is levers and pulleys. It is haiku and limerick. It is medic and warrior. It is summer and winter. It is mine and I love it.

4.04.2003

Honestly, you know what's strange? I've had my mind blown away twice in my life (I specify mind because my heart is devastated fairly regularly). Both times were thanks to physics.

1) Finding out that the inverse root of the electric and magnetic constants equals the speed of light. I now know the magnetic constant is picked so that this is true but before I knew that my mind was peeled back, grated and replaced in my skull. What the? Electricity and magnetism somehow come together and yield the secret speed of light? That was like finding out if you take a rabbit and breed it with a radish the rabbit will give birth to a pocket calculator.

2) Watching Maxwell's Equations go from four to two by using a gauge transformation. I don't think any art will ever demonstrate an equal elegance. If math is simply the language of nature, then physics is its poetry. It was a moving experience. 99.9% of people probably think I'm some alien for getting emotionally involved in math. Maybe they're right but I feel that I have an appreciation for these things and I understand what went into making that leap. It's like watching someone blowing a bubble with bubble gum for the first time. "You can do THAT!?! I thought it was just for chewing!!" The universe is beautiful in so many ways I fear we will never know them all. That, my friends, is tragedy.
I'm not particularly religious. I have a degree in physics so right away you know I'm one of those logical, "proof-wanting" losers. I have very little respect for religion as it is a man-made endeavour and it is, at best, a fallible interpretation.

But that doesn't mean I can't have a sense of spirituality. I think the universe we live in is amazing. Water is less dense solid than it is liquid. If you don't understand how bizarre that is, I'm not sure I can explain myself to you.

The following things make me feel spiritual:
-RNA
-Planetary rings
-The transparency of the Earth's atmosphere to visible and radio EM waves

I could go on and on. And just so you don't think I only get science-erections, here's a few more:
-A genuine smile from my wife
-The American Constitution (plus the Bill of Rights)
-True stories from friends
-Sunsets (cliche but anyone who isn't moved by a good one should have their eyes removed and given to a blind kid)

The universe is a big place and it's so strange to me that I'm here and I can grasp just enough of it to taste its sweetness.
Holy shiat-in-a-box. I have to update the page to view any changes I make. That means a lot of crappy entries in the blog. I'll try to post something that isn't a total waste of your time.

Here:
In the Code of Hammurabi, the first two rules dealt with casting a curse on someone. WTF? Was it that big a problem?
Just because I'm going to die doesn't mean I have to have a crappy interface for this thing. Time to get into the nitty gritty of blogger and make it look good (or, at least, better).
Seriously, am I pissed that I lost all that time before I was born? Not really. So then why do I care about all the time I'm gonna miss after I die? It's a question of learning what finite truly entails. I'm enjoying myself and not suffering. I should just spend my time trying to spread that good shiat around.

4.03.2003

This is strange. I can write whatever the hell I want and I'm not sure how to go about it. Do I want to write about the pretentious rages of my inner workings or maybe go lowbrow with my sexual demons? Who in god's name would read these? It's textual masturbation.

It's going to take me a while to let my guard down and spill my guts on the page. Bear with me.

Goddammit, I am way too into myself.
Here's the first post. Too bad there won't be a way for me to comment on my last...