Category Archives: News

Marvin Minsky, AI pioneer and MIT researcher, dead at 88

Posted on January 26, 2016 by

To say that the universe exists is silly, because it says that the universe is one of the things in the universe. So there’s something wrong with questions like, “What caused the Universe to exist?” – Marvin Minsky

With all the celebrities passing recently, I thought I would identify a great mind that has also been silenced.

Marvin Minsky was a philosopher/mathematician/Computer Science educator at M.I.T., where he co-founded their Artificial Intelligence lab.

He made many strides in the fields of computer science, artificial intelligence, cognitive science, and the mind.

Minsky was also an atheist. Here is the New York Times article about his death, and here is his Wikipedia page. Both are worthwhile reads.

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The terrorists have already won…

Posted on January 18, 2014 by

From The Atlantic:
The NSA Speech: Obama Accepts the Logic of Staying Terrorized

Minor appeasements, with no guarantee they will ever be implemented…

Terrorists want to change how we live, make us live in fear, and they have already achieved that and more through the disruption of our way of life than they could ever achieve through direct force of arms.

We could have fought back by refusing to give in, refusing to be scared, and refusing to give up one inch of freedom and civil liberties in exchange for a fool’s security blanket. Instead, our governments panicked and played into their hand.

Sadly, when you look at the fear that exists in modern Western society, the massive disruptions caused by all the security procedures, the cavalier disregard for personal freedoms and dissenting voices, and the domestic spying being done on Western citizens by their own governments, you realize the terrorists already won.

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Supreme Court of Canada upholds some parts of anti-hate law, but not all…

Posted on February 27, 2013 by

Today the Supreme Court of Canada ruled that some of the province of Saskatchewan’s Anti Hate Speech laws were permissible because they were ‘reasonable limits’, even though they violate the Charter of Rights and Free Speech.

The story revolves around anti-gay activist Bill Whatcott – an obviously troubled individual – who has taken it upon himself to peddle anti-gay propaganda.

From the article:

The first two sets of flyers were titled “Keep homosexuality out of Saskatoon’s public schools” and “Sodomites in our public schools.”

The other two were photocopies of classified ads with Whatcott’s handwritten comments on them stating the ads were for “men seeking boys.”

The first two items (pamphlets) were determined to be hate speech, while the latter two were not.

I am torn on this. Primarily, I support anybody’s right to say what they believe, regardless of ludicrous and uneducated that may be. However, I also agree there need to be some restrictions. Interesting case, I think I’ll be reading the full; decision…

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Movember Madness

Posted on October 31, 2012 by

From the Movember Canada site:

During November each year, Movember is responsible for the sprouting of moustaches on thousands of men’s faces, in Canada and around the world. With their “Mo’s”, these men raise vital funds and awareness for men’s health, specifically prostate cancer and male mental health initiatives.

On Movember 1st, guys register at Movember.com with a clean-shaven face. For the rest of the month, these selfless and generous men, known as Mo Bros, groom, trim and wax their way into the annals of fine moustachery. Supported by the women in their lives, Mo Sistas, Movember Mo Bros raise funds by seeking out sponsorship for their Mo-growing efforts.

Mo Bros effectively become walking, talking billboards for the 30 days of November. Through their actions and words, they raise awareness by prompting private and public conversation around the often ignored issue of men’s health.

At the end of the month, Mo Bros and Mo Sistas celebrate their gallantry and valour by either throwing their own Movember party or attending one of the infamous Gala Partés held around the world by Movember, for Movember.

Day 1 – the goatee is gone!

Movember_sm.jpg

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Teacher fired for giving student a zero finds new home at ‘old-fashioned’ private school #education

Posted on September 20, 2012 by

Lynden Dorval

Lynden Dorval finds new home at ‘old-fashioned’ private school.

Good for him!

I’m all for formative evaluations. They are far more valuable as an indicator of progress than cumulative evaluations (read ‘final exams’, which are basically the modern-day version of educational dinosaurs).

However… I am also a firm believer in education as a two-sided effort. Teachers are responsible for providing the best possible learning experience, using the best possible teaching techniques and assessment techniques, and provide as much additional help as reasonably required to ensure the learner has every opportunity.

But… Learners must also be accountable for their side of the deal. That means doing the assigned work that is designed to help aid their education/learning. Even using “formative assessment” as a platform, failing to hand in an assessment – without reasonable excuse – can only be assessed with a zero. Just like an apple picker who fails to pick an apple from the tree will starve, a learner who doesn’t do the assignment can’t be assessed formatively or cumulatively if they haven’t submitted anything.

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How to Trick Your Taste Buds Into Enjoying More Healthy Foods

Posted on March 16, 2012 by

A friend of mine posted this article from theatlantic.com (@TheAtlantic) on Facebook:

How to Trick Your Taste Buds Into Enjoying More Healthy Foods

Image from www.theatlantic.com

It makes great arguments about how we have evolved to eat certain types of foods (crunchy, sweet, and salty) based on survival instincts, and how we must use those instincts to replace processed foods with healthier choices.

While I agree with this article, particularly with regards to the “crunch” (chips are my Achilles heel…), it omits another – and potentially the biggest – “crunch” to which processed/junk foods appeal – the “time crunch“.

The processed food machines have also spent billions selling their “quick fix” meals to a society that, whether real or perceived, is also addicted to a time crunch. They have convinced us that time spent preparing meals is wasted, rather than time that can be enjoyed. As a result, many people would rather plunk their fat a$$ down in front of the TV with a pre-processed dinner cooking in the oven or microwave rather than take a little extra time to prepare a healthy meal. That needs to be addressed as well.

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Carl Sagan (November 9, 1934 – December 20, 1996)

Posted on November 9, 2011 by

If he were still alive, today would be Carl Sagan’s 77th birthday. Unfortunately, Carl Sagan died of pneumonia at 62 as a result of complications from myelodysplasia in 1996.

Carl_Sagan_Planetary_Society

(Image from: http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/b/be/Carl_Sagan_Planetary_Society.JPG/225px-Carl_Sagan_Planetary_Society.JPG)

Carl Sagan was a voice for science and rationalism. He made science “cool” (much more so than the actors on the “Big Bang Theory” ever will), he knew how to bring science to people who might not otherwise understand such daunting concepts, and he entertained while he educated.

I remember watching “Cosmos” and being fascinated by all the interesting facts and information about the galaxy. His show, along with David Suzuki’s “The Nature of Things” were two of my favourite shows on television when I was growing up and learning about the world and the universe around us. Both men opened my eyes to new wonders every week.

I read Carl Sagan’s book “Contact” when it was published in the late 1980s and later watched the movie about the book “Contact”, starring Jodi Foster and Matthew McConaughey in 1997. “Contact” (the movie and the book) once again allowed Carl Sagan to teach and  entertain.

As a staunch “non-believer” in religion of any kind (and particularly staunchly against religion’s influence on society), one of Carl Sagan’s quotes rings true to me. It explains quite nicely the fallacy of religions and allows me smile inside whenever someone “preaches” to me that I should/must believe in a god:

The idea that God is an oversized white male with a flowing beard who sits in the sky and tallies the fall of every sparrow is ludicrous. But if by God one means the set of physical laws that govern the universe, then clearly there is such a God. This God is emotionally unsatisfying… it does not make much sense to pray to the law of gravity.

Unfortunately, in a world that every day seems to have more need of a calm, clear voice for science and rationalism, we can only wonder what else Carl Sagan may have accomplished if he were still alive and promoting science and rationalism over mythology and fear.

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