Category Archives: Rants

Response to article 'Why I am Not a Humanist'

Posted on July 12, 2009 by

This is a response to an article titled ‘Why I am Not a Humanist‘ that was posted on the Atheist Ireland website.

Philosophical arguments/rants of this nature are caused by the human race’s incessant need to categorize and label everything. In truth, ‘environmentalist’ would indeed be a better label than ‘Humanist’ if we find ourselves forced to assign a label, since in reality, humans are just one small part of the entire environmental system as a whole. Yet ‘environmentalism’ is not only within the domain of atheists & humanists, it contains Christians, jews, voodoo worshippers, Wiccans, and many others. So what can we do? Maybe look at the basis for each of these labels and see where we stand?

‘Atheism’ is the non-belief in a deity or group of deities, whereas religion proposes belief in a deity or deities as well as leadership at a philosophical level that includes a structure for behaviour and society. Humanism also promotes a structure for behaviour and society. This author’s argument that “the tenets of humanism do not represent a radical departure from those of any major religion” is very true! However, in this case, also very misplaced. In essence, the major tenets of Humanism step in where Atheism ends.

It is without a doubt that the human race has evolved to a point where it can think rationally beyond the here and now and at a higher order than simply “must feed, hungy now”. Because of this, (most) humans are able to understand that for a species as intelligent, industrious, populous, and potentially destructive as we have become, a set of ‘guidelines’ that ensure a peaceful co-existence are highly desirable.

Atheism by itself does not provide that system of values and ethics by which society should conduct itself. It simply proposes that there is no higher power that is responsible for everything (or at least that there is no evidence pointing to that, depending on how deeply your belief runs). In contrast, Humanism encompasses a much more philosophical viewpoint that includes an ethical framework that is not inherent within Atheism, yet complements it very nicely.

As the title states, Humanism is a framework for humans, not the entire planet. Because Humanism places humans in the center of importance, it is not a perfect philosophy, but it is one that is generally for the good of all and is the best available for those who are ‘non-religious’ or ‘non-believers’ until everyone begins to think of humanity more as a partner than as a master within this planet’s systems. Also, Humanism is not necessarily anti-religious. Some ‘fundamentalist’ atheists sometimes forget that not everyone who is an atheist or humanist is or ever cares to be a geneticist or biologist.

So, for anyone to argue against the need for a set of governance rules in any type of advanced civilization is illogical, and contrasting atheism to humanism in this manner is no different than arguing that an apple is not an orange.

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United Airlines sucks!

Posted on July 8, 2009 by

A buddy of mine, Dave Carroll, was travelling via United Airlines to a concert in Nebraska. While they were loading his $3500 Taylor guitar into the baggage compartment, the baggage handlers threw it, breaking it. Here is the story.

He went through all the proper channels and United Airlines in all their glory, refused to do a thing to help, despite the complete lack of professionalism their baggage handlers showed.

So, in true singer/songwriter fashion, Dave Carroll promised them he was going to write and sing about their crappy service.

Here is the YouTube Video:

Apparently, this is only the first song. He is writing 2 more! 😉

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Apple Aperture Purchase

Posted on July 3, 2009 by

So of course, Apple finally gets the kinks out of the iPhoto library system and allows multiple users on one Mac to share a Library, just in time for my upgrade to Aperture 2. The Aperture 2 vault system specifically states it is not intended to be shared between multiple users…

I think I can use an external image location option and work from that, although I think is will be a small issue really, since Nadine will use iPhoto almost exclusively (easy, fast, and uploads to Facebook in one click -> just how she likes to edit images!) and I will be doing the deeper work within Aperture and Photoshop CS4.

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Obama Puts Brakes on Mountaintop Removal

Posted on June 11, 2009 by

Finally, someone in the White House is willing to put the environment ahead of the economy!

Whether you believe in global warming or not, ripping the top off mountains and dumping the sludge and other crap into the rivers just to dig up some of the dirtiest fuel in the world is not a healthy way to treat your home planet!

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Quote from the article:

The Obama administration announced a plan today for curbing the use of streamlined federal permitting for mountaintop coal mining and boosting efforts to protect rivers and streams from mining debris.

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I hope Sun Microsystems didn't use Glassfish for this!

Posted on June 11, 2009 by

So, I’m a bit of a Java nerd. OK, if you must know, I teach it at the College whenever Dave M can avoid doing it! In any case, I belong to the Sun Microsystems tech developer network (if I recall correctly, the criteria for becoming a member was an email address, the ability to type your name, and enough skill to click a submit button once the little boxes were completed, but I digress…).

Today I received an email from them titled “Build a High-Performance, Open Web Platform with Sun GlassFish Portfolio“. Neat. I sometimes use Sun’s NetBeans IDE for teaching Java development, and I have heard good things about Glassfish as an app server. Being the uber-geek I at least pretend to be online, I went to the web page, filled in all the pertinent information, then clicked ‘Submit’. I figured “Let’s give this document a read and see where it goes”. I’m always looking for more samples and ideas to use as teaching material!

You would think that if you were offering to provide your developer network with a document describing how to use their web platform and development software to “Build a High-Performance, Open Web Platform with Sun GlassFish Portfolio“, they would have a kick-butt example at their own site to display their capabilities.

Unfortunately, after what seemed like an eternity of watching the ubiquitous beachball spin and the web page just sit there, I received the following server error from the Sun website:

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Really instills lots of confidence in their ability to “Build a High-Performance, Open Web Platform with Sun GlassFish Portfolio“, doesn’t it? 😉

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Small Nuclear Reactors?

Posted on June 10, 2009 by

According to this Scientific American article, Babcock and Wilcox just developed a small nuclear reactor. The article states:

Babcock & Wilcox Co.’s 125-megawatt reactor would be significantly smaller than the average 1,000-megawatt nuclear reactor and is aimed at plugging a major “market gap,” CEO Brandon Bethards said at a Washington press conference. The new reactor might come online as early as 2018.

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Latest news is that NB Power may order some just as soon as they pay off their Orimulsion bill to Hugo Chavez

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Chris' Rules of Camera Shopping – The Point & Shoot Version!

Posted on June 2, 2009 by

I put this together for a friend at work and decided to post it as a general guide for anyone who might want to read. The information is all gathered from personal experience. It was written to help alleviate some of the stress induced by all the spin and ad rhetoric, but it is by no means a panacea. Prices are in Canadian dollars and my camera store references tend to be local to Saint John, NB! 😉

***

The key is to remember the following “Chris’ Rules of Camera Shopping – The Point & Shoot Version”. Don’t let any snot-nosed kid at a department store try to tell you anything different, and understand that the people working at real camera stores will most likely recognize that you have done some homework! 😉

    (1) Megapixels…


Megapixels is basically a selling feature and is an almost useless gauge for measuring a point & shoot camera’s capabilities. The more megapixels it has makes a great ad blitz, but it also means you need a bigger memory card and more hard drive space to store all your pictures! A good 5 or 6 megapixel camera with a good lens can take much better pictures than a 10 or 12 megapixel camera with a crappy lens. Most people will never need any more than 5 or 6 megapixels (that is plenty to get a good 8 x 10 print). That said, it is getting tough to find a camera with less than 10 megapixels. They all want to keep up with the competition and it is cheaper to increase megapixels than to increase camera quality.

    (2) Zoom Zoom Zoom


Always use OPTICAL zoom and not DIGITAL zoom when determining your zoom needs. OPTICAL zoom is real zoom, whereas DIGITAL zoom is crap (that’s a technical term! 😉

The way zoom on a point & shoot works is a 3X zoom will give you a zoom factor 3 times that of the widest opening. For example, if 35mm is the widest opening, a camera with a 35mm wide angle and a 3X zoom could zoom out to the equivalent of 105mm. A camera with a 35mm wide opening and a 5X optical zoom could zoom to the equivalent of about 175mm.

Digital zooms use software to ‘enhance’ the picture and zoom in electronically, not with the lens. This technology is great for selling to unsuspecting buyers, but generally delivers quite poor quality images. If you really need that zoom of Bigfoot in the Rocky Mountains and the only way to get it is with digital zoom, OK, but other than that, avoid it… On second though, don’t even use it then, you’ll just end up with yet another grainy Sasquatch image that everyone will suspect you tampered with and spend the rest of your days trying to convince people you aren’t nuts.

    (3) Which Brand?


I know I may take some heat for this, but I recommend sticking to one of the “camera” manufacturers – a company that made cameras first, then got into digital, not electronics companies who decided to get into cameras to make some cash. So, Canon, Nikon, Olympus, Pentax (and Minolta when they were still around) are all very solid names and normally, you can’t go wrong with them. You may pay a little extra for them, but it is a few dollars that are generally worth the price.

Unfortunately, like anything you buy these days, they also have come out with some crappy products at the low end to lure in the casual buyer, so buyer beware still applies -> you get what you pay for!

    (4) Where to buy?


Buy from a real camera store and not Future Shop, Staples, Bargain Giant, SuperStore, Wally-World, etc. Real camera store employees tend to know what they are doing, they tend to pay a “living” wage as opposed to minimum wage, they are much better at helping with warranty issues, and we should all try to keep these stores in business! In Saint John, the last true camera store left standing is Applebys.

    (5) Conclusion

The Good
Most mid-level point & shoot cameras will do a decent job of capturing images for the average user. In many cases, the auto mode is all many users will ever need/use. Plus, most decent point & shoot cameras allow you to manipulate the settings, so down the road, if you want to get creative, you can play with them and try to change it up a bit.

The Bad
You should get at least one spare battery, at least two memory cards. 2 or 4 GB cards are what you need for an 8 or 10 MP camera and should easily be found in the ~$30 range. A spare battery will run you about $60. Trust me, you will need the spare cards and batteries. One will always die or be full when you need it the most! You also need a decent camera bag with a zippered or velcroed pocket to store the spare battery and memory card (probably in the ~$30 range). If it won’t seal shut, you will eventually lose either your spare battery, spare memory card, or both!

The Ugly
You really should only expect a 2 – 3 year lifespan on any new digital camera you buy, unless you never take it anywhere and never use it… I am a firm believer that they really do use “planned obsolescence” when they make electronics these days, plus the technology keeps changing. Suck it up and be aware! 😉

    (6) Recommendations


At this point, while I own two Canon Digital SLRs and I have friends with Nikon and Pentax cameras too, I would highly recommend the Olympus Shockproof & Waterproof line of point & shoot cameras. We bought one for my six year old son Aidan for Christmas and it has worked wonderfully in his hands (and three year old Natalie’s as well!).

These cameras take great pictures right out of the box and they handle rough treatment (cameras in travel bags get beat up a lot! 😉 and water (I don’t have to tell him not to use it in the rain!). Plus, Olympus cameras can be plugged directly into any computer without installing software (handy if you are not near home).

Option #1 – OLYMPUS STYLUS 850SW ORG 8.0MP
$249.99 today at Henrys.com (Appleby’s in Saint John will normally match Henry’s pricing)
Aidan has this one – Has a 3X zoom and 8 megapixels, which is more than enough! The lens length covers 95% of what you would want, there is just no long zoom shots on birds, etc., which most won’t people don’t do anyway.

Option #2 OLYMPUS STYLUS TOUGH 6000
$349.99 at Henrys.com (Appleby’s in Saint John will normally match Henry’s pricing)
Chris’ Choice (if he were buying today) – This is a newer camera, has a 5X optical zoom and 10 megapixels, so better at close-ups and a bit more data to crop your photos if you only want one part of a photo and not the whole thing. This newer one has a bit more ‘Ooomph’ than the 850SW, but you may not need the extra features. That’s a personal decision! 😉

They each use Secure Digital card which are small, relatively inexpensive, and fast. You may want to buy your spare cards somewhere other than the camera store if budget is an issue

Hope this helps!

Regards,
Chris

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Canada's Q1 GDP drop worst since 1991

Posted on June 1, 2009 by

So CBC is reporting the first quarter GDP for Canada declined significantly, worst since 1991.

From the article:
“Statistics Canada said the gross domestic product — essentially the
country’s income — fell by 1.4 per cent for the first three months of
2009 as companies stopped spending on new equipment because of the
global recession.”

Q1 GDP decline worst since 1991

I bet my property taxes are still going to go up this year…

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List of CBC Jobs and Programs Cut

Posted on May 28, 2009 by

Posted this comment on Tod Maffin’s blog when asked for feedback on whether he should publish what he knows about job and program cuts at CBC:

If people and/or programs agree to be added or if the information has been made public, it is fair game.

We are all following because we all feel strongly about the cuts. I personally feel like the fabric of our Canadian identity is being attacked with this brutal affront to culture at the hands of a group that likely can’t even spell the word without a speech writer…

That said, Con or Liberal, the Canadian government has supported public broadcasting at a financial level that is almost rock bottom, per capita, in the Western world. We also have the most widely dispersed population base and difficult landscape to cover. That takes money and expertise to maintain.

Among many things, you are a journalist and you have information we need to hear about. Tickle that keyboard and journal for us, please!

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World heating up while sun dims, story at eleven

Posted on April 23, 2009 by

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/science/nature/8008473.stm

Hmm, so sun’s activity is very low… and it isn’t offsetting global warming. Maybe the Mayans were right and 2012 is it?

Somehow I’m not quite ready to run up the credit cards and start the “End of the World” party yet! 😉

If it weren’t for this quote, I’d think we might have a chance…

“Sometimes I think the surest sign that intelligent life exists elsewhere in the universe is that none of it has tried to contact us.”
Bill Watterson (1958 – ), cartoonist, ‘Calvin and Hobbes’

Maybe if we could convince Richard Dreyfuss to sit on a remote mountaintop and play a corny tune on an organ, they might decide to drop by??? Or perhaps a trail of Reese’s Pieces could lure them down???

What I really think we need to do is boost funding to the interstellar tourism departments. More flashy billboards in the distant galaxies describing an entire planet ripe for a truly intelligent species to come and take over before we ruin it with oil spills, CO2, and land fills topped up with discarded Barbie dolls. 😉

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