CBC Top 10 Miracles of 2010? No miracles, but lots of science, medicine, and chance

Posted on December 27, 2010 by

A friend sent me a link to this article: CBC has a video article article showcasing what they consider to be the greatest miracles of 2010. Wow, I am not sure where to begin with this rather odious piece of journalism, but here goes… Miracles are a funny thing, and not in a way that should make anyone laugh.

Wikipedia defines a miracle as an unexpected event attributed to divine intervention. Sometimes an event is also attributed (in part) to a miracle worker, saint, or religious leader.

While wikipedia is not the final place to go for definitions, it is normally a good place for a general consensus. So, using this basic definition, let’s examine the events surrounding our plane crash survivor. For example, the number one miracle was titled “Sole Survivor”. It is a story about a man who survived a plane crash. He was the only one of 104 passengers and crew to survive. And CBC labelled it a miracle. Do we see the problem here? Where is the divine intervention? I am sure there are 103 families who would disagree that a miracle occurred.

It may seem like semantics, but the word miracle implies divinity and religion, giving undue credence to superstitions and myths that have hindered free thought, blocked scientific advance, and killed countless people in an attempt to remain relevant and force controlling beliefs upon the masses. Religion has followed us since the beginning of our species’ existence, mainly through the indoctrination of our young, when they are the most impressionable. (Here’s an article that explains more about this )

As for the age-old adage about humans not judging events this way, all the dubious, sugar-sweet soothing messages about “god working in mysterious ways” or “it isn’t our place to question him” doesn’t make the foul medicine taste any better or the fertilizer used to grow the story any less offensive.

Our children are permitted to stop believing in Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny, and the Tooth Fairy, but are encouraged – and in many cases forced – to profess belief in outdated superstitious myths with no burden of proof by organizations that don’t even pay their fair share of taxes.

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A Politically Correct, Legally Non-Binding Greeting for the season

Posted on December 18, 2010 by

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Received this years ago in an email. I brush it off and share it each year, just for giggles!

Please accept with no obligation, implied or implicit, and without prejudice or consideration, my best wishes for an environmentally conscious, socially responsible, low stress, non-addictive, gender-neutral celebration of the winter solstice holiday, practiced within the most enjoyable traditions of the secular practices or religious persuasion of your choice, with respect for the secular/religious persuasions and/or traditions of others, or their choice not to practice secular or religious traditions at all; and also my wishes for a fiscally successful, personally fulfilling, and medically uncomplicated recognition of the onset of the generally accepted calendar year 2011, but not without due respect for the calendars of choice of other cultures whose contributions to society have helped make Canada a great cultural mosaic, (not to imply that Canada is necessarily a greater cultural mosaic than any other country or is the only nation with a cultural mosaic), and without regard to the gender, nationality, race, creed, colour, age, height, weight, intelligence, voting preference, physical ability, food preference, religious faith or sexual preference of the wishee.

By accepting this greeting, you also accept and agree to these terms. This greeting is subject to clarification or withdrawal. It is freely transferable with no alteration to the original greeting. It implies no promise by the wisher to actually implement any of the wishes for her/himself or others, is void where prohibited by law, and is revocable at the sole discretion of the wisher. This wish is warranted to perform as expected within the usual application of good tidings for a period of one year, or until the issuance of a subsequent holiday greeting, whichever comes first, and warranty is limited to replacement of this wish or issuance of a new wish at the sole discretion of the wisher. The wisher accepts no responsibility for any unintended emotional and/or physical discomfort, disruption or stress these greetings may bring to those not subject to societally sanctioned or unsanctioned seasonal emotions, beliefs or traditions.

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Habana journals going Ivory in North America

Posted on December 17, 2010 by

In the latest Quo Vadis blog post, the following was declared:

In 2011, we’ll be switching our Habana notebooks over to the same paper as Quo Vadis France. The ones we sell in North America will still be made in the US, but they’ll now contain ivory colored paper that’s 85g in both small and large (and lined and unlined) versions.

The decision was made in the interests of international standardization.

I know people have strong preferences when it comes to white vs. ivory, and all Clairefontaine brand notebooks will continue to be filled with bright white paper — as will the Rhodia pads, though the Webbies have ivory paper. If you’re looking for a notebook that’s got white paper AND a Habana type cover, keep in mind that you can get much the same effect with a Clairefontaine basics notebook and a leatherette planner cover. I’ll be experimenting with other planner cover/Clairefontaine combos in the weeks to come.

As opposed to the French versions, Habanas sold in North America had 90 g paper and a bright white paper.

Both Habanas and Webbies are difficult to obtain in my part of the world without paying very expensive shipping costs, so I normally pick them up as treats for myself when I travel. But I did like the Habanas I tried.

From a business point of view, I realize that those of us who are book and pen nuts really are a niche market (likely even a dying breed whether or not we admit it…), so I understand the need to streamline processes both to save money and to keep prices reasonable. But that still doesn’t change the fact that whenever we lose options, particularly for something as personal and emotional as paper quality and journals, it saddens me.

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Why Tron failed

Posted on December 17, 2010 by

Disney’s $170-million ‘Tron’ reboot fails

I’m not surprised at this article. What made the original Tron a cult classic was the fact it was an original story idea for the time, and that it had cheesy special effects, even for the time.

Today it seems that the movie and TV entertainment industry is pushing special effects for everything as a way of cashing in on mass hysteria. It must be easier for them to throw special effects money at a weak story and market it to death rather than working harder to come up with a good story led by a good director and carried by good acting.

Unfortunately, this reliance has led to an "arms race" of special effects – today it is 3D technology, who knows what it will be next – feedback in the chairs? Maybe the added scent of burnt flesh and destruction in the air???

In general, the overuse of special effects by the entertainment industry has led to a decline in the number of truly good, solid movies. Yes, the occasional “independent” blockbuster arises, but today’s après movie water cooler discussions tend to revolve around explosions and action sequences rather than how compelling the actual message that was being delivered.

In a short-sighted quest to cash in on the quick turnaround and fast buck that society seems ruled by today, the industry has failed to realize that humans have thrived on folktales and myths for many thousands of years. We evolved listening to the chronicles of others, and we know a good one when we hear it. I doubt few modern movies will be remembered with the same respect and reverence as past masterpieces like Citizen Kane, Casablanca, To Kill a Mockingbird, or 12 Angry Men (the original and the remake!).  These movies were based on great stories and were carried by intelligent direction and great acting.

Like everything else that is new, eventually the shine will wear off 3D and it will become the norm. Once that happens, people will still need a good story to keep them interested.

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Red Whale Coffee lockout shows poor business ethics

Posted on December 11, 2010 by

I am writing you to express my concern and anger over Phil Brodersen’s decision to close the doors to Red Whale Coffee in Rothesay, NB. My understanding is that Red Whale Coffee was not behind on their lease payments, so I cannot begin to understand what would make Phil Brodersen want to lock their doors, simply because he wanted to place a different tenant in the location?


Red Whale Coffee is a great example of the type of business the KV should be looking to create and attract. Red Whale Coffee is a KV-based small business that offers the highest quality coffee in Southern New Brunswick, as well as a great atmosphere to sit back and enjoy the company of friends. They also employed 15 people in the KV area. I have seen and met many of Southern New Brunswick’s business and government leaders enjoying themselves at Red Whale Coffee, so I am sure there are many others who are disappointed with these actions. An online Facebook page created to support Red Whale Coffee attracted over 100 people in a matter of hours, showing that Red Whale Coffee has some very loyal customers.


To explain how important this business is to the KV area, I live in Saint John but travel to Rothesay specifically to go to Red Whale Coffee. While in the KV for my coffee trips, I also do additional shopping and eating at several other KV-specific businesses – Cochrane’s, On the Vine, Thai Hut, Pomodori’s, and various shops on the main strip are some examples. All this additional shopping is done in the KV because I make special trips to visit Red Whale Coffee. Much of this additional shopping will stop if Red Whale Coffee no longer exists.


I cannot think of a better example of the type of business than Red Whale Coffee that the KV Chamber of Commerce should be supporting and promoting in the KV area, a business that is packed with locals and also attracts people from elsewhere. Instead, Phil Brodersen locked the doors and forced 15 KV employees out of work two weeks before the holidays.


When someone holds a position such as President of a Chamber of Commerce, sometimes they have to think about what is good for the area and not just themselves. Phil Brodersen is a representative of the KV Chamber of Commerce and as such, this does not reflect well on that organization’s business practices.


***
Above letter was sent to the KV Chamber of Commerce and as a Letter to the Editor at the Telegraph Journal

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Does bilingualism help keep Alzheimer’s away?

Posted on November 9, 2010 by

If true, this study is yet another great reason for learning other languages.

Low intelligence or inability to excel in other subjects at school is not indicative of ability to learn a second (or third or fourth) language. Statistically speaking, almost anyone has the capability to learn multiple languages.

Now the province of New Brunswick needs to learn that research by linguists, neural scientists, and educators all show that the earlier the better for learning new languages. Your body actually begins to re-direct those parts of your brain used for language development to other tasks once you hit the teen years. To be successful, immersion needs to start in kindergarten for all NB students in both official languages. Grade 5 is too late!

Link to article

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Do we really need more prisons, or do we want the ‘American Dream’?

Posted on October 26, 2010 by

Crime is down in Canada, and gun-related murders are down as well. This is probably why our prison-loving Prime Minister wants to scrap Statistics Canada’s tools. Who will believe him when he says we need to spend billions on new prisons for putting imaginary criminals away???

We should all be happy for what we have in Canada and fight to keep it this way. Our higher taxes pay for social services, treatments, education, and effective policing programs that actually reduce crime, not just prisons to lock away the bad guys.

As an idea, let’s compare our national murder rate with that of some of our lesser-taxed, Southern neighbour’s states with comparable populations:

2009 Murder Rates


Canada (whole country)

Population:34,000,000

Total Murders: 548 (all types, 179 were gun related)

Stat: 1 murder per 62,000 people

(data: http://www.cbc.ca/canada/story/2010/10/26/homicide-rate.html)

Notes: Manitoba was the deadliest province in Canada in 2009 for the third year running

United States

California

Population: 36,961,664

Total Murders: 1,972

Stat: 1 murder per 18,700 people

(data: http://www.fbi.gov/about-us/cjis/ucr/crime-in-the-u.s/2009)

Florida

Population: 18,537,969

Total Murders: 1,017

Stat: 1 murder per 18,200 people

(data: http://www.fbi.gov/about-us/cjis/ucr/crime-in-the-u.s/2009)

New York

Population: 19,541,453

Total Murders: 778

Stat: 1 murder per 25,000 people (quite safe by US standards)

(data: http://www.fbi.gov/about-us/cjis/ucr/crime-in-the-u.s/2009)

Pennsylvania

Population: 12,604,767

Total Murders: 661

Stat: 1 murders per 19,000 people

(data: http://www.fbi.gov/about-us/cjis/ucr/crime-in-the-u.s/2009)

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Why we truly need electoral reform #nbvotes

Posted on September 28, 2010 by

There are 55 seats in the New Brunswick Legislature. Currently these seats are determined by a first-past-the-post system in 55 ridings, rather than a more fair and inclusive system.

The results of the provincial election last night were a perfect example of the skewing that occurs in this medieval system.

Here’s the results:

49% of the province voted PC, yet they received 76% of the seats (42). 49% should represent the wishes of 49% of the population, or 27 seats.

35% of the province voted Liberal, yet they received only 24% of the seats (13). 35% should represent the wishes of 35% of the population, or 19 seats.

10% of the province voted NDP, yet they received 0 seats and no voice. 10% should represent 5 or 6 seats, not 0.

4.6% voted Green, yet they received 0 seats and no voice. 4.6% should represent 2 or 3 seats, not 0.

Another ~1.5% voted ‘Other’ and received no voice. 1.5% represents .85% of a seat.This one is a 0 seat and  probably should stay that way, but there are 8 seats out of 55 missing from above.

I understand that “this is the way it has always been done” is a great excuse for not changing. It has been used by Luddites for many years. But that doesn’t make it right.

The environmentally minded, the poor, the sick, the unionized, and many other groups are basically ignored or paid lip service by the major parties because they have no true representation. While I agree that these smaller parties are unlikely to form a government and run the province on a daily basis any time soon (although the NDP is doing a decent job in Nova Scotia and Manitoba right now and have run Ontario and other Western provinces before), they represent the interests of many people who took the time to vote and who have basically been shut out by an archaic system. These groups have great ideas and policies that should at least be at the table for discussion.

Yes, there are flaws in a proportional system as well, but you can’t tell me that a province with a population that barely qualifies as a large municipality in many parts of this country can’t come up with a way of using regional, proportional representation to ensure everyone’s vote counts.

Those who argue that a majority is the only way to get anything done forget Universal Health Care and Medicare, Unemployment Insurance, Worker’s Compensation, Children’s Allowance, and most of the other things that make Canada the great place it is today. These were all mainly done by minority governments who were forced by virtue of that minority to work together in a civilized manner. That type of civility and diplomacy is what is missing in our current adversarial style of government in Fredericton and particularly in Ottawa.

My solution? When I am Benevolent Dictator of Canada, I will tear up all the Legislatures (and Parliament for that matter), and replace them with a horseshoe or circle formation designed for discussion instead of insult-tossing, to create an atmosphere where respect and civility rule, whoever is speaking is the only one with the floor, hecklers are evicted for being morons, and everyone has at least a chance to be represented by way of some form of proportional representation.

How do we achieve this proportional system? We might even use a mixed system that resembles the ward and at-large system in use in Saint John. Even better, for inspiration, take a look at Nunavut. They basically banned political parties in their legislature and run as a consensus government. What a great idea!

In any case, our system is not fair, nor is it inclusive. There is always room for improvement. While this particular election saw an increase in voter turnout *(see note below), the trend is dropping as more people feel their votes don’t count.

NOTE: It turns out this statement was not accurate. The voter turnout was a higher % of the voters list, but the voter’s list had fewer people on it than last time and less people actually voted. In the last election, there were 377,247 ballots cast, which represented 67.5% of eligible voters, while in this election,there were 372,502 ballots cast, which represented 71.5% of the eligible voters.  Two possible reasons – inaccurate voter’s lists or population decrease. In any case, the actual number of votes cast is the lowest in New Brunswick since 1978.

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Promises, promises… #nbvotes

Posted on September 22, 2010 by

I was a bit fuzzy on the poll numbers (they added up to about 124% at first count…) until I read that the figures for the parties were percentage of decided voters. Right now, depending on which poll you follow and the day, NB Progressive Conservatives (yes, we do still have a few with a little ‘Progressive’ left in them here in our provincial politics…) have between 42% and 48%, NB Liberals have between 36% and 38%, NB NDP has 9% or 10%, NB Green Party has 5%, and the People’s Alliance of NB Party sits at about 0% or 1% of the 60% of the population who are decided.

Of course, this means there are still 40% of the entire population who are undecided… (I am one of that 40%), which means anything could happen on election day once people are in the ballot box.

Some pollsters think many of the undecided are those who might normally vote Liberal but are unhappy with the way the Liberals have governed for the past four (4) years or just unhappy with Premier Shawn Graham. This leads to the other possibility – an all-time low voter turnout. Most “normal” (i.e. not party-affiliated) people I have heard talking are simply not happy with the choices they have been given, and Elections Canada and the provinces don’t have the backbone to put "None of the Above" on the ballots, probably because they are afraid it would win in many ridings, particularly in this election… 😉

Personally, I hope we get a minority with a couple of NDP seats and maybe a Green holding the balance of power. Unlike “Dear Leader” PM Harper in Ottawa, I like minorities, mainly for accountability and to keep government honest. Democracy is a messy business, but worth every bit of the mess. Unfortunately, the NB electorate remains pretty old school and most of the undecided people will keep voting for the two "usual suspects". This despite the fact both of them are promising the world in an effort to "spend our way back to fiscal health".

Neither of them will have any money to keep their promises if they get in, but I guess they figure they can worry about that if they win. The NDP, usually the unrealistic younger sibling, this time are actually the fiscally prudent ones, which is a nice change for them. Brings hope in me for their future, since they represent the needs of a significant portion of society that is mainly ignored or only paid lip service by the other parties.

I was talking with a friend yesterday and my analogy of the two main parties was this:

The endless promises to the public in this election are like them walking into low-rent housing and promising everyone who lives there that they will be approved for credit to buy a 60" TV. They aren’t ensuring the people can pay for it, just promising that they get the credit. The fallout for the purchases won’t be felt until after the election is over, when they can crank up the spin and blame someone else for the mess.

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