Thursday, February 27, 2014

Faded Licence Plate Numbers Are Illegal in Ontario

I recently got pulled over in my car on the 401, at night, for having plates that were unreadable.

The story actually goes back a few weeks, as I noticed that the numbers were fading, but I thought still legible.  I bought some blue paint to touch them up, but didn't use it as I found out this practice is also illegal.  And it was very cold outside.  Then about ten days ago I was driving at night on the 401 and noticed an SUV tailgating me, like about 2 meters behind me.  I sped up a little and the SUV fell back, so I ignored it.  Then I started to pass a large truck, and the same SUV was back again, tailgating.  Instead of doing anything stupid, I slowed down a little, got behind the truck then signalled to pull in behind the truck and let the tailgater go through.  Instead the tailgater stuck right behind me.  And then it turned on all these flashing lights, that's when I saw it was actually a police car.  So I pulled over on the side of the road.  He came over to inform me my plates were unreadable, and that it was a $200 (or so) fine, but this was just a warning.  He suggested that a new pair of plates was only $20, and I should get some.

When I got home a few days later, I went to the licence office, and was told the plates were actually $23, but I'm not going to quibble over $3.  But I had to return the old plates immediately or I would have to pay for my full registration all over again.  Since I had already waited in line for 15 minutes, and because the clerk told me I could bring in the old plates without lining up again, I went out to remove the plates in the snowy and cold parking lot.  The old plates had been there for 8 years, so the screws were stuck, and I broke my cheap screwdriver.  So I drove to Canadian Tire nearby and bought a pair of Vise Grip pliers, and successfully removed the plates.  I went back into the office and paid for my new plates and they tossed my old ones in a special box.  I then of course had to mount my new plates back on the car in the parking lot before I could drive away.

Finally everything was back to normal, and I had new unfaded plates.  But I did notice my mother's car had much older plates that were not faded.  Her car is parked outdoors like mine, with the back plate facing the sun, also like mine (the front plates did not fade).  She got her car in 1997, so that's 17 years, but the plates were from her previous car, so add another 6 years.  My faded plates were  new in 1997.  I think there was a bad batch of paint when I got my plates.
"Several years ago, in a similarly themed column in Wheels - Ont. Min of Transportation admitted that approx. 10-15 years ago they did, in fact, have a period when substandard paint was allowed to be used on what then were the early reflective licence plates. (if my memory serves correctly - at that time licence plates only contained 6 characters: 3 letters and 3 numbers)." 

French Laws and Delilah

This morning I came across an interesting (to me) story of the French language laws in Quebec.  As most people in Canada probably know, businesses in Quebec, by law, must cater to French speaking customers.  In other words, signage must be in French, promotional materials etc. must be in French.  Other languages are optional.

I do not consider myself an expert on this law, as I live in Ontario, but I know many English speaking Canadians view it as an infringement on their rights, and they do love to come up with stories of the evil Language Police hunting down innocent store owners and driving them out of business with onerous requirements to change their signage.

This is the story I saw this morning.

A sweet charming woman, being harassed over her Facebook page that advertised the store in English, but not French.

Whether or not this case has merits remains to be settled, but let's just use some critical thinking for a moment.  Eva Cooper, the store owners says
“It’s not like I’ve ever not followed the law with my businesses on the Quebec side.”
I assume it is a very easy thing to change the Facebook page (well, anyway my Facebook page is easy to change, but then I don't know if she needs to hire a consultant to make the change for her).  So there should be no problem.  But I noticed the name of the store is "Delilah", and Delilah is famous in the bible as being one of the most deceptive women in a book with many stories of deceptive women.  So I did a little fact checking myself.  On Google, I could not find any record of Eva Cooper having a previous run-in with the Language Police.  Then I had the idea of checking Google Maps street view, to see if the signage on the store was bilingual before the CBC story was filmed.  On street view, I saw a photo of the store just before it opened, with two large signs on each side of the door announcing that Delilah was coming soon.  Both signs were in English.  Is Eva Cooper being deceptive, or did she simply forget, or maybe nobody complained, so it does not count. Or maybe the law only comes into effect the moment the store opens, I just don't know. But I didn't see any French language signs, and two English-only signs.

Anyway, I am not arguing or explaining the language laws in this particular blog, but it's more about honesty in reporting and story telling.  CBC made this woman look like she was not only in complete compliance with the letter of the law, but also the spirit of the law.  Yet she was being asked to change her Facebook page.  Google street view says different. What is the real truth?

Lower picture off Google Maps (9 chemin scott, chelsea qc)

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Why O Why Does God Need to Fight Darwin?

I have heard of religious people feeling they are in conflict with science, even oppressed by scientists.

A movie called "Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed" starring Ben Stein states part of the argument of religious extremists.

Religious argument
1. Scientists are shunning anyone who believes in the Bible, and kicking them out of universities
2. Darwinism (a scientific theory that conflicts with the bible) in particular has led to mankind's greatest immorality: the Nazi Holocaust of World Wart II

I don't believe this supposed conflict is doing anyone any good, and that it is a "made up" conflict that serves mostly the purpose of the religious extremists.

If you are an atheist, or a Christian of mainstream religions, you may think it is impossible for the religious extremists to actually benefit from attacking science.  After all, science has given us modern medicine, airplanes, cars, heated houses, refrigerators, telephones, computers, and other fancy stuff.  But there is still an advantage to be gained from attacking science.  For example, the "Flat Earth" movement from about a hundred years ago did the same thing.  A few charismatic leaders arose, and began speaking tours, and writing pamphlets casting doubt on the theory that the Earth was round.  Even though the round Earth was a well established fact, these Flat-Earthers attracted a large and growing following.  It got to the point that some actual scientists became worried enough to try debating the point.  But it didn't actually do much good.  In time, the Flat Earth movement gradually faded, although as of 2012 it had about 400 members

We all know about conspiracy theories, and how they can attract followings, like the "Truther" movement that argued the destruction of 9/11 was an inside job, not the result of planes crashing.

I see a similarity between  the "Young Earth Creationists" and these other conspiracy groups, although I feel that Creationists are a much stronger movement with more adherents.  The question is why have they got so many adherents, how did it grow to be such a large movement?

I think we can start by looking at the history of Creationism.  In 1800, almost all Christians were creationists.  but it was not a cult of contrarians, it was simply mainstream thought with no serious challengers among Christians or Jews.  Even Darwin started off as a creationist.  Then in the mid 1800's, Darwin proposed the theory of evolution, which seemed to defy the traditional story of the Bible.  Incidentally, this was not much different from the earlier discovery of the round earth, and the fact of the Earth going around the Sun instead of vice versa. Both those theories seemed to defy the word of the Holy Bible. But while the theories of the flat Earth the the sun going around the Earth both gradually faded, Evolution came in for some stiffer opposition which is still going strong today in the USA.

The particular historical circumstances that made evolution such a battleground may be connected to the US civil war.  One clue is that the centre of Creationism today is still in the Southern US states that supported slavery.  Another clue is that the civil war took place around the same time as Darwin's theory of Evolution.  A third, and more complicated clue, is that an argument of the Civil War was whether or not slavery was the will of God. In the debate about whether or not God accepted slavery, one key point hinged on whether or not every word of the Bible was true.  Because in the Bible, it clearly states that you are allowed to own slaves and allowed to beat them nearly to death. Anti-slavery Christians had to downplay the importance of the literal interpretation of the Bible.  But southerners who supported slavery emphasized the literal truth of every word of the Bible, since it supported their cause of slavery.

Once the US Civil War was over, it seemed pointless to continue debating slavery, but a new bugaboo emerged for the Southern religions to attack with their belief in the concept of "Every word of the Bible is literally true".  The new bugaboo was Darwinism.  So for about a hundred years, a low level conflict continued, with the south fighting for "Biblical Creationism" while the rest of the world moved on to a general acceptance of evolution.  This  "Darwinism" debate found new life with the passing of civil rights laws for African-Americans, which forced all government schools to enroll black students.  Opposition to Darwin and Evolution became the way southern people could attack the government school system, and gave them non-racist excuses to keep their kids out of schools.

The Creationist vs. Darwinist debate took on a life of its own, with many people being able to make a good living off it, much like any of the other conspiracy theories.  But this time the argument had a religious element, a racist element, and a political element thrown in for good measure.

In the end, there is no need for people to give up their Bible to accept evolution.  The Catholic Church has done it already, so have other mainstream churches.  Even the strictest biblical literalists accept the idea that the Earth is round and orbits the sun.  And they also (I think) have given up on slavery, regardless of the words in the Holy Bible.  There is no need for a smackdown between God and Darwin.


Sunday, February 2, 2014

The Difference Between Bushcraft Skills and Survival Skills

 Still socked in with snow, no relief in sight.  I try to avoid getting cabin madness fever by randomly searching the Internet for a knife to take on our camping trip this summer.  During my search I come across a curious new distinction.  There are some knives referred to as "Bushcraft" knives, and some referred to as "Survival" knives.  I would like to know the difference between them, wondering if this is just another example of over-specialization that we find in our society.

Bushcraft is the set of skills needed to survive in nature (i.e. the bush). Skills include firecraft, tracking, hunting, fishing, shelter building, the use of tools such as knives and axes, foraging, hand-carving wood, container construction from natural materials, and rope and twine-making, among others. (Wikipedia)

Survival skills are to help us survive a natural or man-made disaster.  Unlike bushcraft, the location is unknown.  That's because we do not know what the disaster might be.  So the disaster is often referred to simply as "SHTF", or "Shit hit the fan". You need to be prepared for any of the various possible SHTF scenarios.  That's why survivalists are often called "preppers", in that their main activity is preparing for the day the SHTF. After TSHTF, you may end up in a flooded area, or out in the bush or desert, in even your own home. Skills include first aid, finding water and food, "thinking clearly", self defence, and making the perfect "Bug out Bag" of stuff to grab quickly when TSHTF.  In Survival skills, the main thing that all preppers seem to agree on, is that when TSHTF, you will need to defend yourself against other humans (and possibly zombies) out there, trying to get your stuff or simply wanting to eat you.  There is a lot more emphasis on self defence in Survival than you find in Bushcraft.  So you will often find Preppers are accumulating guns and ammunition, while Bushcrafters may be more absorbed by trying to light fires by rubbing sticks together.

So after all this research, I find that bushcraft knives are designed more for whittling sticks, or making wooden spoons.  Survival knives are made for knife fights, for target throwing, and stabbing.  The same distinctions apply to survival axes vs. bushcraft axes.  So far, saws have not been divided into "Survival saws" vs. "Bushcraft saws".  That distinction may be coming one day, but the current school of thought has it that sawing off an attackers leg or arm is too slow to be an effective deterrent to all but the slowest zombies.  And those can be avoided by simply walking around them.

Pictures: Some of bushcraft from Wikipedia, and one from this website: