Thursday, November 20, 2014

The Usefulness (or not) of Armed Insurrections

Here is one of the scariest videos I have seen in a while, and there are several copies on youtube, not just on the Anarchy channel.  Not because of the outright violence, but because of what this seemingly sweet young girl is advocating, and the powerful propaganda controlling her mind.  (e.g. equating gun ownership with the safety of air bags)

I am quite sure that sweet "Josie the Outlaw" does not have any real experience of war, revolution or anarchy, or she might reconsider her opinions.  I'm not even sure that she understands the meaning of "outlaw" other than as a cool youtube nickname.

Josie the Outlaw  Why good people need to be armed.

I will admit that I have no experience of violent revolution or anarchy either.  But both history and current events tells us violent armed revolution is quite unappealing.  Not something to be encouraged unless the situation has already become so bad that it can't be any worse.  I can give a few examples in recent years.  Sierra Leone and Liberia in West Africa show us that there is a tendency to atrocities, and they occur on both sides of the struggle.  There was a documentary about the Liberian insurrection on PBS two days ago.  Also, there is anarchy in Syria and Iraq right now, so plenty of reports to give you an idea what life is like during an armed insurrection.

In case you imagine that armed insurrections are more polite and glorious in America than in Africa, you need to study some history that has not been cleaned up for high school textbooks.

Usually armed insurrections do not really start until thousands of people have been killed by the current regime, or unless there is mass starvation.  Most people realize that they really would prefer to live under rule of law, even if it is pretty bad, rather than the absolute horrors of an insurrection, where not just thousands, but hundreds of thousands will die.  Millions more will live in refugee camps after losing everything they had.

So what is going on in America today, that sweet Josie the Outlaw thinks an armed insurrection may be a good thing?  Yes, the national debt is quite high.  Yes, some people are corrupt, and make too much money off the backs of the taxpayers.  But are Americans close to mass starvation yet?  Are groups of Americans being put in death camps yet?  Do secret service people pick up suspects in the middle of the night, never to be seen again?  If not, then conditions are not ripe yet for armed insurrection.

Does Josie have an estimate of how many people will die in a serious armed insurrection?  If not, I would suggest that you might expect about a million before its over.  And that will not necessarily make America a better place, as many of the best people will die, and many of the most vile, and hateful people will still be there - for they exist on both sides of any insurrection, and even seem to rise to the top as the insurrection become more cruel and bloody.

My own advice would be to cool it with the gun advocacy for a while.  Maybe stop watching Fox News and check the dictionary instead for the meaning of tyranny.  And more than anything stop thinking that there are "good people" and "bad people".  Hitler and Stalin both believed that they were only killing the bad people.  Turned out the bad people were them.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

We Had a Cold Day

Wall of snow approaches Buffalo NY

Yesterday was the first day I had to shovel snow this winter.  It was also -7c with a strong wind.  I was all set to stay in the house after supper, but Mary Ann wanted to go to the movie, which was "Emptying the Skies", a documentary about bird poaching being shown at the Princess Cinema.  As usual, she wanted to walk, in order to save the world from the global warming that would be caused by the carbon dioxide emissions from our car.  So I dressed up warmly, and then waited for Mary Ann to finish up by putting on 3 pairs of gloves.  As I pointed out to her (jokingly of course), that the top layer alone of her handwear was rated down to -30c, and all three layers together would probably be too warm even if we were on an expedition to the south pole.  She countered that she was just getting over a cold, and needed to stay warm.  I did not counter with "Why are we walking to the theatre then?".

Today I saw in the news that all the US mainland states had freezing temperatures on Tuesday.  Buffalo NY had places with over 1 metre of snow.  And of course the usual comments on the news items about "Well, I guess this proves to the eco-weenies that global warming does not exist".

I guess it would really help the cause of the Global Warming people, if we had +30c temperatures all over Canada yesterday, but the Global Warming models show only about a 3c rise in average world wide temperatures over a period of 50-100 years.  Meanwhile, our front yard can warm and cool by 10c on any given day.

Why is there so much wilful ignorance over the case of global warming?  I am quite sure that most people have some kind of opinion one way or another, while very few show any understanding of the science.  If most people are smart enough to superficially understand how a car works, they should be able to figure out that "average" world wide temperature is not the same thing as seasonal changes in the northern hemisphere. Most Canadians know that a car can freeze in the winter.  You need to have antifreeze in the coolant in order to prevent the car from freezing and ruining the engine.  There are no "deniers" claiming that cars can't freeze.  Funny thing is, that if a car "freezes", the engine is not destroyed by the cold, it is destroyed by localized overheating.  Assuming people can accept this paradoxical fact, why do they still claim that cold weather proves global warming does not exist?

I think we should try to apply some of the same sophisticated understanding that we have of our cars to the planet.  Think of it this way: The planet is a complicated machine, just like a car. The main difference being that all 9 billion people need to share the one planet.  Since we can't even live without our planet, we need to be in agreement if some maintenance needs to be done, or if something is happening that needs attention.  Scientists are pointing out that increasing carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere are warming up the planet. We don't need name-calling and gloating about freezing temperatures, we need understanding of how we can deal with the problem.  We need to be cautious in our approach, rather than reckless. And there is nothing more reckless than letting the oil companies influence our approach to this problem.  That's kind of like putting tobacco companies in charge of our health care.

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Is the Movie "Interstellar" Liberal or Conservative? (Subliminal Messages)

 I suspect that Interstellar's hidden message may be conservative, despite the seemingly liberal image of the Earth's environment collapsing.

This is not a review of the movie, it is an analysis of the hidden messages in the movie, and whether it is mainly conservative or liberal.  So there will be spoilers below.  And by the way, I don't think that the bias in the message is severe enough to spoil the movie for anyone.  I barely noticed it at the time.

On the face of it, we have America unable to feed itself, with the return of giant dust storms like the 1930's.  But more than just America, in the movie "Interstellar", the entire world is in the same state of environmental decline, and humans will not be able to survive another generation.

This could  be a liberal message because Liberals believe in global warming, and apparently, conservatives don't.  But actually, I think it is made clear in the movie that this destruction of the Earth is caused by blight or diseases ruining the crops.  If you are a die-hard Conservative, you can then assume that dead crops may be causing these dust storms, and not global warming.  However, this argument can be taken either way.  For example the severity of the Mountain Pine Beetle's recent destructiveness may be linked to climate change.

I hope I'm not misrepresenting the conservative point of view, but I think the Conservative point of view is sometimes stated like this: "we do not need to be careful of the environment, because human ingenuity will find a way to save us no matter how much destruction we cause."

I will put a quote and a link here to a conservative website doing a similar political analysis of this movie:

"there isn’t the slightest doubt that Nolan’s view of climate change is that it is simply another of the many environmental situations that man is equipped to cope with. In the context of the film, this means extreme actions that make for cinematically exciting scenes, but on an allegorical level Nolan is saying, “Mankind has the creativity to respond to crises, even global ones."

Is it truly a conservative viewpoint, that if the Earth is failing, we do not need to save the whole planet, we simply need save Humans, probably by getting us off planet Earth? And is it truly a liberal attitude that we need to preserve our planet because we believe that Humans are just evolved monkeys and therefore we are not smart enough to invent a way to survive? If so, then this movie's hidden message really is conservative. Because in the movie, mankind does discover two ways to survive beyond planet Earth.  At the end we see these giant spaceships, complete with farms, where people are living with no need for planet Earth.  And the movie also presents the possibility of colonizing one of the planets on the other side of the worm hole.

As a liberal watching the movie, I admit that I was simply not convinced that either of these survival plans was really possible.   I guess if I was a conservative, I may look at the movie thinking those survival strategies are reasonable, and that the destruction of the Earth is the really unlikely scenario. But it's the ending of the movie that points to the hidden message being truly conservative.  Those huge orbiting space colonies are the result of the scientific work by Murphy, solving the riddle of gravity, and thereby allowing humans to build these giant structures and lift them off the earth without much trouble.  But as far as I'm concerned, overcoming gravity is no more likely than black magic or holy miracles at this time.

Then, in case gravity was not defeated, "plan B", was to fly through a worm hole to another habitable planet.  But Plan B would not allow any more than a handful of existing humans  to survive. Those handful of humans that take this trip could take human genetic material to the new planet, and so regenerate the human race again, similar to Noah and the Ark.  Again, I am not aware of any theories that humans, or anything, really could get through a worm hole if they really exist.  So I think both Plan A and Plan B are just cop outs without any real scientific basis.

So we come back to planet Earth, and the big question: is it worth preserving or should we simply exploit our planet to the maximum then bug out?  What I find strangest is that preserving the Earth has become a Liberal point of view in recent years, while developing technology to escape the Earth used to be the Liberal point of view.  In the past, Conservatives were really all about "conserving" and liberals were all about scientific discoveries (such as evolution, DNA, nuclear physics, and the Earth is not flat).  Ironically, the people most intent on self destructing planet Earth today are not the scientists, they are the religious nuts who believe the end of times are at hand, and their political allies, the Conservatives.  But the theoretical scientists are the ones who have the best chance of inventing the technology needed to save us, and they are mostly liberal, working outside the corporate culture of short term profitability.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Birdwatching Can Get Political... if you are in Canada.

Mary Ann and I both belong to a club called the Kitchener Waterloo Field Naturalists.  It would be unkind of me to call them (I mean us) birdwatchers, because we are much more. In addition to watching, and counting, species of birds, we are also watching trees, flowers, mosses, insects, fungi, salamanders and lichen.  And probably a lot more, since I am not one of the most observant members of that club.

It came to my attention that there was a CBC news item about the club.  The story is that the Federal Tax department (CRA) sent a letter to the KWFN, warning them to not get too political. Apparently, the club had sent a letter or two to politicians, urging that (a) bees were at risk due to some chemical spray, and (b) the Ontario Government should not water down the "Endangered Species Act".

The CBC news item

The letter from the CRA to the KWFN

Now, I know that feelings can sometimes start running high about threats of a tax audit. At least one member of the club was willing to speak to CBC reporters about his feelings of being muzzled by the Federal Government (in the embedded video).

On the other hand, you have level headed internet commenters like 123noitall saying
"Follow the rules like everyone else...or drop your charitable status and do it on your own."

I want to take an objective position here, and try to be fair about this news story.  First, the CRA did in their letter admit that the KWFN had done nothing wrong.  So why did the KWFN get a warning letter?  Because in their official financial statement, they had reported 0 dollars under political expenses.  Since writing two letters can easily cost you a few dollars postage*, the CRA merely was reminding the club that it should report this as a political expense.  The Federal government has decided it is political to write a letter to politicians urging them to pass or amend laws. And once the political expenses get over 10% of your budget, you are deemed too political, and must abandon your tax free status.  The KWFN also had a speaker at one meeting talking about the tar sands, and urged members via their website to look into the David Suzuki "Blue Dot" tour.  All these things could cost money- so many megabytes of web space, and honorariums for speakers.

*A further wrinkle is that you are allowed to send mail postage free within Canada to the Government under these rules, which I'm not sure if they apply to provincial governments:

The CRA, for its own part also has to be very careful to not give the appearance of partisan bias.  So they have to be very careful to investigate conservative bird watching clubs just as much as liberal bird watching clubs.  It's the same when they are investigating millions of dollars being hidden offshore by wealthy Canadians.  They cannot investigate just the liberal minded tax avoiders, they must pay equal attention to conservatives hiding their money offshore. And I guess they have been pretty non-partisan about the whole thing, because the CRA don't really have the budget to investigate any offshore banking (liberal or conservative), while they do have an increase in their budget to check out virtually all birdwatching clubs in Canada for unreported political activity, liberal or conservative alike.

So I don't think there is really all that much muzzling for us free Canadian citizens to be concerned about.  As long as you correctly report your expenses when sending a letter to your member of parliament, you will be fine.

All this brouhaha is actually the fault of the Green Party. Because of their party platform, caring for the environment has become a political thing.  And if some other party opposes the Green Party, then caring for nature and the environment becomes not only political, but partisan. I predict that one day, some political party will make it a policy to destroy the environment.  From that day on, any club that enjoys preserving nature will be automatically be considered a partisan political group.

Here is a link to another blogger who has commented on this story, but he is not as even handed as I was in my judgment.

Picture: Steven Harper and his wife set an example, engaged in some non political birdwatching.  Ironically, he has a bird sanctuary named after him in Israel. The Stephen J. Harper Hula Valley Bird Sanctuary Visitor and Education Centre, Israel

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Where is the Real Disappointment?

Look at this picture of Putin for Prez. from

Are Americans nuts, or is this a Russian ploy to take over the world?

But it does seem that many Americans are disappointed with Obama.  Especially those who listen to Fox News, but the disappointment is spilling over to other outlets, such as the Washington Post and CNN. I saw part of a program on CNN titled "Is Obama the "Disappointer-in-Chief"?  And then I found an article on the Washington Post website titled "Barack Obama, disappointer in chief"  by Aaron David Miller.

Speaking as a Canadian, who was relieved to see Obama win the 2008 election, I am not disappointed.  Well, at least I am not disappointed by Obama except for one thing, there should have been some major prison sentences for the Bank CEO's who instead got huge bonuses from the bailout.  But since I didn't pay for that bailout with my taxes, I guess I have nothing to complain about.

But I can understand why many Americans feel disappointment.  They look at presidents like George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, and JFK and they think that Obama simply doesn't measure up.  Washington was the military genius who defeated Britain in the war of independence, Lincoln freed the slaves, FDR ended the depression and won two wars (counting Germany and Japan separately), JFK was a very nice looking president who would have done more if they had not killed him.  Compared to those guys, Obama seems to be just a pretender to the title of Best. President. Ever.

But let me set the record straight.  Those other presidents are historical figures, while Obama is a current events kind of guy (for now).  If you move forward about 100 years, Obama will still be known as the first black president in US history.  And, if I guess right, there should be less racism in the US than there is today, so it is quite possible that history books will be very kind to Barack Obama, just as they were to those other guys.  And a lot kinder than Fox News, CNN and Aaron David Miller. History will remember Obama as the president who gave the USA decent health care.  Of course I am assuming (going by Canada's history) that health care will not bankrupt the United States.  And in 100 years, he will still be the president who got Osama Bin Laden. (If anyone asks)

My own interest was mainly in recovering the US (and Canadian) economy, which was teetering on the brink of collapse. Actually, I'm pretty sure that the Republicans under Palin and McCain would have recovered the economy too, as they were already involved in bailing out the banks under President Bush.

But now I'm starting to worry that the Republicans will gain power yet again, and start another war and crash the economy like they did last time.  Especially if they cannot learn any lessons from the Democrats who were able to steer the country away from disaster under Obama.

And P.S. for the Fox News announcers wailing that we need Mr. Putin as president of the U.S.A.   Are you nuts?  It's one thing to whine about everything Obama does, from mustard on a hamburger to his high(normal)-rise blue jeans.  But to wish for Putin as president?  Well, I'm sure he would "get things done", but he is now pretty much a dictator in his home country of Russia, and seems to have the same power as the Communist party did in the past.  Are you really willing to give up freedom so easily just to be able to scare a few Arab terrorists in the Middle East?  Now, that is disappointing.

Saturday, August 2, 2014

Witless Bay

Yesterday we got a room for two nights under the Irish Loop Cafe. We also went on a Gatheralls boat tour, then went for the evening to George Street in St John's.
Everyone says you should not drive at night in Newfoundland, but we did anyway, and arrived back at our room at 11:30 PM. This is why. We started out for town at 6:30 because we both fell asleep after the boat tour. Then we had trouble finding the Sundance Saloon because Google maps mislocated it at Queen and Water, also Queen has no street sign at Water. Then we found out there was a festival going on, and it cost $30 per person to enter George St., which we paid. Then, we walked the length of the street to get our money's worth which is slow because it's packed with people, and Dr Hook hasn't even started playing yet. We ordered wings and nachos, but could only order a Labatt beer because of the festival.

Just a side note. Newfoundland seems to have a lot of rules that only make sense to Newfoundlanders, like you need to have a reservation to go standby. So when I'm told a new rule I don't ask for further clarification, it just gets worse.

Now back to the beer. I order a Lime-a-rita because I see a giant picture on the wall, but in real life, the can is like a Puffin, WAY smaller than you ever imagined.

It was dark by the time we finished and Dr Hook was playing and now George St was packed solid. You can't fall down, you can hardly move. But Mary Ann plows ahead slowly but steadily. We could go on another street, but we paid for George St. It seems impossible, but by 10:45 we are past the worst of it. (Or best if you like that sort of intimacy with strange women)

Finally, a dark ride home is made brighter by the off road lights of a monster truck tailgating all the way home.

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Lost and Burgie Went West, Go East

My blog of our trip to Newfoundland is here

Sorry, cannot figure out how to make a proper link or labels with my phone.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Tracing my Family History on Anticosti Island

Anse Aux Fraises 1901

This picture is of a place called Anse Aux Fraises, on Anticosti Island.  Today it is uninhabited, but my Great grandfather lived there many years ago.  This is his story, which I pieced together from research on the internet, and some of my fathers stories.

My great-grandfather was Francois Bezeau, called "Frank".  He was born in Shippigan, New Brunswick, September 14,  1841.  The fourth child of Francois Bezeau and Amable Blais.
Frank Bezeau & Philomene Noel

Frank was married at the age of 26? in 1867? to Philomene Noel.  In the year 1873, He and Philomene had a baby (also named Francois who is my grandfather) and in the same year, moved to Anticosti island, together with his 5 year younger sister Elisabeth, and her husband Pierre Doucet, a Frenchman from St. Pierre and Miquelon.  Instead of moving to the established village of Baie Ste Claire (Or Baie des Anglais as it was called), they found an uninhabited cove, called Anse Aux Fraise about 10 km away on the south coast. Anse aux Fraises may have had some wild strawberries, but more importantly, had wild grasses that could feed a cow, while Baie Des Anglais on the other hand, did not allow "horned" animals. Frank was a fisherman, but fishing alone was not enough to survive on in the days before employment insurance, especially in the time of the "truck system" of payment for fish. (see )

The family story is that Frank moved by using his fishing boat, loaded with his family, and all their possessions, including the house which I assume was at least taken apart for the trip.  I don't know if he had a cow or chickens, or how they were transported, if he had any.

The reasons for Frank wanting to move away from Gloucester county in New Brunswick, can be found in a report on the conditions of the residents of this county, presented to the New Brunswick Assembly in Frederickton in 1853 by M. H. Perley, Esquire, Her Majesty's Emigration Officer at Saint John, New Brunswick.  Here is an extract of the report from

"The settlers in Little Shippagan Harbour do not follow fishing but attend to the cultivation of the land, some of which is there tolerably good. The settlers at Point Miscou are all fishermen, who are employed every season at the fishing stations, to which they are more or less in debt. Their houses are built of logs and poles ; these are small, and very ill fitted to resist the severity of the climate. They cultivate little patches of ground, in a very imperfect manner; the manure used is generally cods heads. They are all squatters on Crown Lands, and appear very anxious to procure some title to occupy their several locations, either by licence of occupation or otherwise. While the writer was at Miscou they prepared the petition which is annexed to this Report, praying such licences of occupation, with privilege of the beaches in front of their locations; and also some arrangements with respect to the wild grass on the marshes and beaches of the Island.
The petitioners stated, as a great hardship, that the wild meadows in the County of Gloucester are sold every season at Bathurst, where they are unable to attend, at a nominal sum; that those on Miscou are purchased for a few shillings by one of the Jersey merchants, who charges them ten shillings per ton for the marsh hay, and five shillings per ton for the beach grass, which the fishermen themselves cut and cure. To these terms they must submit, or else they can make no provision for their cows, by which they endeavour to eke out a miserable subsistence during the winter. 
* The whole of the wild meadows in the County of Gloucester were told in 1848 for [illegible] pound only.— See Appendix to Journal of the Assembly for 1849.  
All the settlers at Point Miscou complained bitterly of their poverty, and state of bondage. They said they were completely in the hands of the Jersey merchants, to whom they were indebted, and who dictated their own prices and terms of dealing. They appeared to feel very much the want of a school; and they stated the surprising fact, that they had never been visited by priest or clergyman of any denomination. The children are growing up unbaptised, and in total ignorance; this state of things ought not longer to exist in a christian community which patronizes foreign missions. Their excellent health requires no aid from the physician; but they desire a resident magistrate to enforce the laws and maintain good order at all times, but more especially during the fishing season, when the Island is the resort of many lawless fishers from abroad.
The general voice indicated Mr. Wilson as a fit and proper person; he is highly respected, and if he accepted the office, would perform the duties of a magistrate fearlessly and faithfully.
The absolute state of serfdom of the fishermen of Point Miscou has been particularly described, because there are like bodies of fishermen at other localities in the northern part of the Province, who are held in nearly the same state of poverty and bondage. The more favoured inhabitants of New Brunswick, who dwell at a distance from its remote northern shores, will no doubt be surprised to learn, that there are any of their fellow subjects, dwelling in the same colony, who are even in a worse position than southern slaves, and of whose moral, physical, and spiritual wants, less care has been taken." 

Later on, a brother, Philias (about a year older than Frank) arrived and some others from the Baie des Chaleurs area, to add to the population of the new little village. Philias also had a son, and also named him Francois Bezeau, I suppose to confuse later family historians. On the 18th of July 1887, in Anticosti, this other Francis Bezeau (my great-grandfather's nephew), married Mathilde Duguay.

In Anse aux Fraises in1876, a chapel was built 36'x25'.  In 1880, it burned down and was replaced by a chapel 55'x30'.

In (about) 1892, Onezime Doucet,  Elisabeth Doucet (Bezeau)'s eldest child, aged 21 got lost hunting near Jupiter River, his frozen body was found on the shore of the island.

The following account was written around 1897? by a priest, l'Abbe Huard, while talking to a fisherman of Anse Aux Fraise.
"There are today 22 fishing boats at Anse Aux Fraises.  Just like the fishermen at Baie Des Anglais, each man fishes for himself.  When the cod is dried, they are free to sell to whomever they choose.  Ordinarily, it is Mr. de Courval, of Point aux Esquimaux (Today Havre St. Pierre), who buys all the fish.
Serious cod fishing begins here at the end of May, and continues until mid August.  As bait, Herring is used, and at the end of the season, squid.
"If we take more herring than we need for fishing, we salt it, and sell to the traders, to augment our revenues.
It happens occasionally that, in netting the bait, we find a few salmon in the bottom of the net. We take advantage of this bonus, even though we don't have a licence for fishing salmon."
 That day, the family treats itself famously, drinking tea, the terribly strong tea of the fishermen, to the health of the honorable minister of Oceans and Fisheries of Canada.
"And on the subject of salmon, let's admit immediately that we fish on a line at Jupiter River, about forty or fifty miles from here, on the south coast of the island." 
Jupiter River?  I was not able to find out from the fisherman why such a name was given to this water flow.  It would be absurd to figure that the ancient Romans had come as far as Anticosti."

In 1895 the entire Island was purchased from Canada and Quebec, without regard to the rights of the inhabitants, by Henri Menier.  He was a billionaire from France who inherited his vast wealth from the chocolate business.  Henri paid $125,000 for the entire island, and set about turning it into his personal feifdom.

Menier introduced 28 statutes or bylaws that restricted the rights of residents of his island, and were punishable by banishment, without resort to "due process". Actually, Henri Menier accorded himself full rights of lord of the island and had final say in all matters.  The first to be banished were the English speaking, Methodist settlers of Fox Bay.  They were were moved to Manitoba where some reportedly perished.  The resulting bad press encouraged Henri to be a little more generous with his financial settlements with the remaining French-speaking, Catholic settlers, such as the ones in Anse Aux Fraises.

In 1902, Francois "Frank" Bezeau (my great grandfather now 61 years old) sold the land he occupied in Anse Aux Fraises, 4 acres and a partially completed house, for $125 cash to Henri Menier and moved to Riviere au Tonnerre on the mainland north of Anticosti.
Anse Aux Fraises Today

SOME OF THE RULES LAID DOWN BY HENRI MENIER FOR THE INHABITANTS OF THE ISLAND, May 1, 1896 (Translated by me from French to English)"Whereas Anticosti Island is a private property, in the Province of Quebec, and ruled by the laws of Canada and this province.The inhabitants, who may only reside on the island by a lease, or the "regular permissions", must submit to these regulations, and all other regulations of the administration, or policies which may be dictated in the future."
1. It is forbidden to land (debark) on the island, to stay, live, engage in commerce, or industry, or profession without having obtained special authorization, signed by the administration.
2. Any permission to inhabit the island, or exercise a profession, is revocable at any time.
3. No one may give shelter, under his roof, to anyone who does not have a permit to live on the island.
4. No one may import to the island, nor transport, [unintelligible],  beverages, 
[unintelligible], seeds, plants, dogs, animals, or in general objects of any sort other than by the commercial services, or boats with the authorization of the administration.5. Alcohol and spirits and fermented beverages are prohibited.
6. It is forbidden to possess or hold firearms, except in special cases where temporary permits will be issued, which are revocable at any time.  The permits will be numbered to the firearm, which must also be stamped with an identifying number.
7. Hunting is forbidden, for any animal, in any manner. The same with the capture, concealment, destruction of any animals, its young, its homes, its nests or its eggs....
9. No one shall have a boat, except by special temporary, revocable permission.  The permission must state the size and tonnage of the boat, it's inventory, and its intended use.  Permits are always revocable
13 Any mine or mineral discovery, must be immediately declared to the administration, not only by the person making the discovery, but by anyone else who has knowledge of it.
?3.  Except in the case of a shipwreck, no-one may debark, no ship may load or unload merchandise without authorisation, as stated in article 1.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

The Bowe Bergdahl Controversy Real or Fake?

American soldier, Sgt Bowe Bergdahl is returning home after 5 years in captivity by the Taliban.  And when he gets home, it seems he will be the centre of a controversy pitting Republicans vs Democrats.  If the story so far is any indication, controversy will be based not on fair minded analysis, but on the ongoing US political propaganda war.

Up to now, I have found that there is a damaging propaganda war, creating storms of controversy about everything from the death of the US ambassador in Benghazi, to the use of spicy mustard on the President's hamburger, to the high waisted jeans he wore to throw the first pitch at a baseball game.  Texas has threatened to secede from the union, Generals in the field have been fired for showing lack of respect to the Commander in Chief. Congress is at a virtual stalemate.

Is this new controversy real or is it all made up nonsense?  I confess that I have a certain bias toward Obama, as I think he has actually done very well, although even the killing of Osama Bin Laden was turned into propaganda against Obama, and a vindication of everything the previous Republican administration had achieved.  If that can be made into a propaganda point, what can be made of Bowe Bergdahl?

The Democrat's side of Bowe Bergdahl's case,  is this.  He was the only US prisoner of war still held by the Taliban, and so they did a prisoner exchange to bring him home.  If not, he would have been left behind after the US withdrawal, and probably died due to declining health or some other unspecified immediate threat.

The Republican side is this.  Bowe snuck away from the base in Afghanistan, leaving behind a letter he wrote criticizing the US conduct of the war.  Then six soldiers died in trying to find him and bring him home safely.  Now the president of the USA is encouraging more deserters, and has broken tradition by negotiating with terrorists, and releasing five highly dangerous terrorists from Guantanamo, so that they can go and fight again and kill more Americans.

It is shocking to me that six soldier could have died on a mission to rescue a deserter.  If I was in charge of the military in Afghanistan, I would have said "It's not worth it, let him go!".  But it seems more realistic when I see that the military orders were this: If you hear that Bergdahl might be in a certain village, on your next patrol, take a closer look at that village for any signs of his presence.  This makes more sense to me, because most of the time, soldiers are not really sure of which village to patrol, but they need to patrol something, and the rumour of an American presence is enough reason to take a peek and ask a few questions.  Two soldiers were ambushed while patrolling a village where they also thought Bergdahl may be hiding, but I don't think that was much different than the usual casualties while on patrol.  Apparently four other soldier died when their base was attacked, and the argument from Republicans is that this would not have happened if soldiers were not out on patrol looking for Bergdahl.

So in the end, is it a rational argument based on what is good for the country, or is it irrational political propaganda designed to hamstring the current President and administration?

About the 6 soldiers dying, I don't really see how Obama could be blamed.  In fact, if it was true, and he could have been blamed, this controversy would have hit the fan five years ago, when it actually happened.  So the 6 dead soldiers were not directly caused by Obama's actions nor are they any reason why a soldier might be denied the right to return home in a prisoner exchange.

About the desertion, I think the controversy is premature.  I don't think there has actually been a statement by the military that Bowe Bergdahl is not going to be declared a deserter after a court-martial.  But again, I don't see how it's Obama's fault that Bergdahl has not already been shot for desertion. Time will tell for this one, and it would be nice to have a court martial first.

About releasing Taliban prisoners, well it seems about time, as the war is almost over. At a certain point, you need to either free them or execute them.  What else are you going to do?

It seems reasonable to ask questions and point out lack of judgment by the President.  But in a partisan frenzy, you can stray too far from reason, and then dissent becomes bad for the country and for the democratic process.

Picture: Jani and Bob Bergdahl, family members awaiting the return.

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Real World Lessons About Electric Cars

I recently watched a documentary on PBS "Revenge of the Electric Car".  You can see a preview here.

Today I was looking up Tesla cars on Google to see how they have been doing since the documentary was made, and one interesting development is a series of quick recharge stations called "Superchargers", that Tesla has installed across the USA.

But in researching the Tesla, I came across a different article that I believe shows all the negative aspects of the Tesla.  Whether this was a deliberate hatchet job, I don't know, as it seems an innocent enough test, and fair observations of the result.  The article was called "What Running Out of Power in a Tesla on the Side of a Highway Taught Me About the Road Trip of Tomorrow", written by Nate Berg on a website called "The Atlantic Cities"

There are many comments after the article, and surprising to me, most support the Tesla, and even more shocking, I saw none that were vulgar or rude.

One comment that caught my eye may be typical of many neutral observers reactions (because after all, the seemingly neutral article did spend a lot of time pointing out the electric car's main shortcoming.) :  Adam Schulz says "Fantastically balanced article. I really like how you didn't demonize Tesla for your breakdown but illustrate that there are genuine constraints to electric vehicles, even with the supercharging stations. Thanks for this work!"

That was in part, my impression also, but I did not take this as an illustration of "genuine" constraints on electric vehicles.  On the contrary, it's amazing to me that the author drove from Barstow to Kingman (206 miles) in an electric-only car, and that if he had gone three more miles, could have recharged in about one hour.  And after that, he could continue his trip all the way to the East coast.

Obviously, the main limitation of the car was the driver himself, who should not have blindly followed the computation of the car's range calculator.  If I was driving that car, I would have slowed down to less than 65 mph once I saw the that the extra distance turned negative.  And I would not have bothered to pass that "psycho" trucker that nearly forced Nate Berg off the road.  Instead I might have stayed behind the truck, and benefited from the lower speed and the draft of the truck to save electricity.  And I'm pretty sure I would have made it to Kingman.

By the way, dimming the car's computer screen to save electricity is almost funny.  Or was he being serious?

I suppose I should not be making such absolute comments about an electric car, when I don't own one, but come on!  This is just basic Physics.  Most cars operate on the same principle.  They carry X amount of energy, and have to go Y distance.  The big unknown is the efficiency of converting the energy into distance (also known as "miles per gallon" in the internal combustion world.)  Another factor is the grade of the road, and as the author noted, Kingman is higher in elevation than Barstow.  I checked, Barstow is at 664m, Kingman is at 1016m above sea level.  So again simple Physics would tell us how much electricity would be needed to lift a car that distance straight up, and subtract that amount from your range.

In the end, I was very impressed by Tesla's range and speed.  Even more impressed by the number of their Supercharging stations, and how fast they can recharge the batteries.  Not too impressed with Nate Berg's driving, but since I would not be hiring him to drive my car, I don't care.

Picture:  This is how you sell cars in the real world.

Friday, April 4, 2014

The Noah Movie Review: Do Cats Hate Water?

Last night I persuaded Mary Ann to go and see the new movie "Noah" at the cineplex.  I was intrigued by this movie, as it is a bible story, yet I see in the news that Fundamentalists hate it.  Apparently because it is historically inaccurate.  I think that Atheists may have the same objection.

Anyway, it stars Russell Crowe (Noah) who is not my favourite actor, but I don't hate him either. As Noah's  wife, Jennifer Connolly, who I like because she starred in Blood Diamond, but also don't like because she seems to be starving herself to death.

I hope this does not spoil anything, but this version of Noah solves some of the age old questions, like what did they do with all the animal poop, how did they feed all those animals for so long, and how did they stop the animals from killing each other?  I will reveal the secret here:  They put them to sleep (like hibernation) with some kind of burning plant smoke that does not affect humans.  Wasn't that easy?  The Holy Bible should have hired a few more Hollywood writers and it might have come off as more believable.

Now back to the movie.  The director had a radically different interpretation of the Noah story from the one most Christians cling to.  The normal Christian interpretation is that God is an angry God who is easily annoyed, and punishes mankind quite horribly when he is in a bad mood.  And sometimes even if He's in a good mood!  So bottom line: better worship God as hard as you can, as often as you can.

The writer and director of this movie was Darren Oronofsky.  His view is that a Creator made a nice planet, but one of his specially created species is greedy and cruel, and causing a bit of a problem by wiping out every other form of life.  I don't think I'm giving anything away by revealing that the problem species is Humans.  And so "The Creator" can only solve the problem by wiping out most of life on Earth with a flood, and starting over, either with Noah's family, or without humans altogether.

Oronofsky's vision is not too far off the vision of many environmentalists.  The environmentalist view is that humans are just one species of a complex ecosystem, and should learn to live within that ecosystem without destroying it.  On the other hand, the Fundamentalists seem to believe a man-shaped God created Man in his image, and that the entire rest of the universe was only created by God for a backdrop to Man.  In other words, they believe that a universe without "Man" makes no sense whatsoever.

Would you want to see this movie? Probably not, if you only want to see the cute animals  like giraffes and zebras and gorillas marching two by two up the gangplank.  You will see that, but you will also see a lot of killing, and just plain nastiness.  Also you will see just about everything that you normally find in an epic action movie starring Russell Crowe: monsters, battles, a lot of screaming and crying, man-to-man wrestling and swordplay.  But most of all, if you are a Biblical literalist, you will find a lot of offensive stuff on a philosophical level and on a "factual" level. (especially the constant reference to "the Creator" instead of "God".)  It's also not tremendously appealing to environmentalists, if Mary Ann is a representative sample.  Of course, her main objection was that everybody seemed to leave their empty popcorn and drink containers in the theatre instead of taking them out to the garbage.  "Is this the new culture?" she said disparagingly at the end. So apparently not a lot of environmentalist saw this movie, but it does have a powerful attraction for litterbugs.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Russian Propaganda is Just a Distraction

Now that Russia has successfully invaded the Crimea and is annexing it, what propaganda do we hear from "The Voice off Russia" here in Canada?

According to them, Canadian authorities have committed an innocent man to a mental institution for being generous, and giving money to strangers.

You can read the story hear on the Voice of Russia

Of course I wanted to check this out.  Is it true or is it propaganda? Or is it both?  So I found out that this same story, with the same slant, is indeed being run on a lot of Canadian news outlets, such as Sun News and the National Post, and others.

Here is what seems to have happened.  A man was handing out 100 and 50 dollar bills to strangers in Halifax. Now that would not be crazy if Bill Gates was doing it,  but I'm pretty sure if Mary Ann found out I was doing it, there would be some explaining to do. So, the police had reason to suspect this man was losing his marbles, which by the way, for all you police haters out there, it is not that uncommon for people to lose their marbles, either due to natural causes affecting the brain or due to drugs.  At any rate, it is not "evil" for the police to question somebody who is causing a scene on a street corner, especially if he is attracting a crowd of greedy people who want in on the action.

It seems after questioning Richard Wright, and finding out that his home was "in the woods" and that he was on a mission from God, and that one day the 1% richest people were going to have problems, they decided to take him to a nice warm place to get checked out by a trained professional psychiatrist.  He was not locked in a dark cell with bars on the doors, as was implied in the picture (above) on the Russian website.  That is a picture of a Russian mental health prison gulag, not a Canadian hospital.

So you Canadians who are commenting that you hate the police and the psychiatrists, how would you feel if your spouse, or sibling, or parent suddenly decided to walk up and down the street handing out hundred dollar bills?  I thought so.  Get them checked out.  This is Canada, not Russia.

Following the Oscar Pistorius Murder Trial

Last year, Olympic runner Oscar Pistorius was accused of  murdering his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp.  The trial is going on right now in South Africa.

What do you need to know about South Africa, to be able to follow this trial?  Well, other than the fact that South Africa is mostly a black country with a white minority, it is recovering from a long period of time where the whites took charge and violently suppressed the black people.  This was called "Apartheid".

Today in South Africa, blacks are allowed to vote, and hold jobs that were previously reserved for whites (like President of the country, policeman, judge etc.)  But the black people are still mostly poor, and now South Africa has one of the highest crime rates in the world, an overwhelmed police force and justice system, and also one of the highest crime rates of men against their women.  Yet still, it functions as a country and tourists still visit there.

Interesting, also that the judge in Oscar's case is black and a woman.  Also, that Oscar has both legs amputated at the knee and runs competitively on springs known as blades.  He fought a long battle to be allowed to run in the real Olympics, and won his case.  But did not win a gold medal.

Now back to the trial. Oscars's version of events:  at 3:00AM one morning in Oscar's house, Oscar heard a sound in the bathroom.  Thinking it was a burglar, Oscar grabbed his gun from under the pillow and fired four shots through the bathroom door.  He was then very distressed to find out that his girlfriend, Reeva, was not in bed.  He then broke down the locked bathroom door with a cricket bat, and saw her dead inside the  toilet.

Police Version: Oscar was trying to murder his girlfriend, and Oscar was trying to make it look like he  didn't know she was in there so that he would not have to go to jail for murder.  Also, Reeva was screaming in pain and fear as two of the first three bullets hit her, and the final bullet through the brain finished her off.  Neighbours heard the screaming and gunshots, which Oscar's lawyer insists was Oscar screaming like a woman, and the sound of the cricket bat smashing the door open.  The neighbours don't agree.

My version: Both sides seem a bit extreme.  For one thing, even if Oscar had killed an actual intruder (most likely a black man) instead of his white TV star girlfriend, he would still go to jail for 10 years according to South African law, for killing someone without a self-defence argument.  On the other hand, Oscar's case is also very weak in that he seems to be a quick-tempered hothead who loves guns and the shooting thereof without any concern for other people's safety.  He is also very wealthy, and I think (or am guessing) he felt like the law was mostly for other people.  He also throws up a lot when he hears about the damage his "special" bullets did to his girlfriend.

Most recently, in this trial, Oscar and Reeva's private phone texts have been introduced as evidence.  Reeva once sent a message to Oscar saying he "scared" her sometimes.  Oscar's tenacious lawyer argues that out of the thousand or so text messages,  99% were loving and kind.

My question: Is it also a good defence to argue that 99% of the time that Reeva went to the bathroom, that Oscar did not kill her?

Picture: From Oscar's twitter account, apparently of Oscar and Reeva at a party.
I found it on this page.

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Owning a Cat is Not A Type of Slavery

This may be an old question, but I only heard it recently.  Is a person who owns a cat the same as a slave owner?  I want to answer this question for two reasons.  I did own a cat, and second, slavery is the argument that fuelled the trend to extreme Bible Literalism.

I admit that I did not pay my cat any money for working for me.  On the other hand, he did very little "work" other than scratching up the furniture and barfing in surprising places. So that is the end of the similarity of pet owning to slavery, now I will give my reasons for supporting pet ownership, even though I oppose slavery.

Ironically, if all slaves were treated as well as the average pet cat, the institution of slavery might have survived till today.  But no, slaves were not treated as well as my cat.  Sad to say, human slaves were treated much worse than cat slaves.

If my cat runs away, I don't send dogs after it to tear it to shreds, then whip it or cut its legs off when I get it back.  Also, there is no law in the land that compels me to commit such barbaric acts to my cat.  Au contraire, I would be punished for "cruelty to animals" for doing it.  And there is no passage in the bible supporting such cruelty to cats.

The problem with slavery was not so much about paying slaves proper salary. Slavery simply was an evil governmental institution that also spawned an evil religious cult.  A cult that used the literal interpretation of the bible to justify such barbarity against fellow human beings, that today we would call it institutional terrorism.  Fundamentalist religion made slave owners feel that any evil they did would be forgiven, because the Bible itself told them that slavery was performed with God's blessing. And the Bible could never be wrong.

End of argument, but I still have more to say!

Post Script:
It is unfortunate that even to this day we have people indoctrinated on this old-time religion from the Slave States/Bible Belt, putting forward the same old arguments that make no more sense today than they did before the Civil War.

It's obvious to me that we must continue to argue about slavery with extreme Bible Believers.  We cannot allow Bible Fundamentalists to sabotage the public education system by changing the topic from slavery to an argument about evolution and "Darwinism".  Let's take the fundamentalist religious controversy back to slavery, where it started, instead of letting it spread its curse of ignorance to all aspects of our society.

Picture: Kitten jammed in a tight box on a slave ship to America.

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:

Thursday, January 30, 2014

The Harper Doctrine: A Talk at CIGI by John Ibbitson

Last night I attended a talk at CIGI in Waterloo by John Ibbitson

The title was The Harper Doctrine: A Conservative Foreign-Policy Revolution.  FYI: Harper is Canada's current Prime Minister, and the person responsible for changes in Canada's foreign policy in the last 7 years.

Although I consider John Ibbitson to be a conservative leaning  (  columnist, and it was -15c, I went anyway, as Mary Ann wanted to go.

My initial thought was that Harper has no original foreign policy.  He simply mimics the foreign policy of the right wing USA, especially Republicans, but to some extent the Democrats too.  For example, he matches the Republicans disdain for the UN, their dismantling of the Kyoto agreement, and their one-sided support for Israel.  He seems to want Canada to cease being a peacekeeper, and become a combat-hardened nation like the US, I assume to help them in  foreign wars.  He even uses the catch phrases of the Republicans like "we won't cut and run".

In his talk, Ibbitson started off by stating that he had come to the conclusion that there was no Harper doctrine and that anyway, doctrines are actually associated with superpowers.  Later on, he stated that Harper's love for Israel developed when he was a teenager, and was not simply a ploy to grab the Jewish vote.  And I assume he was trying to imply without actually coming out and saying it, that Harper was not necessarily copying US foreign policy. I still think that's debatable.

During the talk, Ibbitson took a big swipe at the Province of Quebec for it's newly proposed legislation banning religious garb while performing civil servant or government jobs.  According to Ibbitson, this is clearly a discriminatory practice, effectively banning religions from the teaching profession, hospitals, police etc.  I don't want to get onto a different track here, but I think there is a big difference between banning religions in government jobs and banning religious garb while on the job (and let's also remember religious garb in some cases includes the carrying of weapons).  I'm sure those religions, if they want to accommodate more secular, multicultural Canadian ways, can also find ways to modify their strict "dress codes" to allow their people to take government jobs. After all, look at the Catholic Church and how it finally allowed people to eat fish on Friday, after first making it optional on airplanes. Look at how some religions have abandoned the practice of honour killings (at least in Canada). Most of these religious dress codes are more cultural than a core religious values, but I can leave that for others to argue.  I'm not sure why Ibbitson thought he needed to bring it up, except to point out how Quebec was worse than the rest of Canada.

Ibbitson also talked about how the Conservatives had a strong and growing political coalition that now includes immigrants, the suburbs of most big Canadian cities, and the rural areas of Canada, with very strong support in the Western provinces (that are also still growing in population and influence).  He did not mention that most Canadian voters did not vote for Harper, and that in a true runoff election he would probably lose. From my own point of view, if not for the unfortunate left wing split between Liberals, Green, and NDP; the Conservatives would still be an opposition party.  And just because the west is growing does not mean that all westerners are extreme right wing conservatives like Harper.

In summary, Ibbitson referred to Canada's foreign policy from WW2 up to Harper in 2006, as "Laurentian" and Harper's foreign policy as "Conservative".  My own feeling is that the so-called "Laurentian" policy (a policy based on diplomacy, respect for the UN and world court, peacekeeping, and fairness to all) is more like a "Canadian" foreign policy, while Harper's policy is more like "mini-right wing USA" foreign policy, carried out by his puppet government supported by US oil companies and US evangelicals.  And an embarrassment to most Canadians.

So in the entire talk, which I will admit was fast paced, funny, and worth hearing, Ibbitson described Canada's political situation and foreign policy with the all the conservative assumptions and prejudices.  So it  was not necessarily a balanced view, and he never did mention how Harper's doctrine looks to be a copy of Bush's US foreign policy.  And none of the questions from the audience brought up the subject either. I suppose I shouldn't complain, as I had the opportunity to bring it up myself at the talk, but didn't.  I guess I prefer to write about it in a blog instead.

Monday, January 20, 2014

Starting Campfires

When I was growing up in Baie Comeau, we did not have all the rules to protect me that I now enjoy. And one of the things we used to do was start campfires.  I actually had some training in campfire building, so I suppose there was no real excuse for some of the things I did.  I guess I will start with the worst, and actually it didn't turn out too bad, as I did not burn down the entire town.

I decided to start a campfire in the forest near town.  Sounds bad already doesn't it?  Especially in Baie Comeau, a small northern community surrounded by combustible forests, which was nearly evacuated in the early fifties due to a massive forest fire that came within a couple of hundred yards of the house I grew up in.  And I guess I have doubly no excuse, as my father was a forest fire fighter, and I was in the Boy Scouts.  And the road leading out of town into the bush had one of those huge fire danger warning thermometers on it.  I didn't see it that day, as I built my fire inside the town limits.

So me and a few friends were stoking up this fire, which I didn't realize was right under a big spruce or fir tree.  But after the fire got going pretty good, there was this loud whoosh sound overhead, as the entire tree, probably about 20 ft tall, burst into flame all at once.  I don't remember exactly how we put it out, but no emergency fire crews were involved and the incident went no further.  I guess we must have put out our campfire with water, and then the tree, which was thankfully isolated a bit from the rest of the forest, burned itself out.

Many years later, I had three little boys of my own about 3-6 years old, and we were camping in an Ontario provincial park.  They were poking sticks into the fire, as people sometimes do, and of the sticks began to glow red at the tips.  They started waving them around, and just then a park ranger came by and put an end to this activity.  I think he muttered as he was leaving something about this is the most ridiculous thing he had ever seen.  Well, by my standards it wasn't even close.

Today I was researching methods of starting fires on the Internet, in preparation for our camping trip to Newfoundland this summer.  In particular, I was thinking that maybe I didn't really need to bring a 2 pound axe to make fires.  After all, we are never allowed to gather our own wood at regulation campgrounds.  The wood that is supplied is already cut to length and split.  My only job is to split it down to smaller sticks and supply kindling and a light of some sort.  You can actually do that with a large knife which weighs much less than 1 kg.

While I was watching videos of people using a knife to make kindling, I came across all kinds of interesting ideas.  For example I didn't know that you could use a saw to split wood.  Here's one of many videos about that.

I came across a huge variety of ways to start a fire.  Of course the cliched "rubbing two sticks together", which I have never done myself, unless they were matches.  There is another way involving a 9 volt battery touched to steel wool.  The shower of sparks from certain kinds of metal is a traditional favourite. Then of course, matches and Bic lighters.  Those are some of the ways of getting the first flame.  Next is the tinder, or what you set fire to first with the match or sparks.  Here I came upon another revelation.  Vaseline-soaked cotton balls are now very popular for tinder.  I understand why it would work, but when I was young we frowned on using artificial fuels to start the fire.  For example, pouring a gallon of gasoline on the fire would be a no-no.  And actually, I always thought the politically correct way to start a fire was with some birch bark and thin sticks.  What we always ended up using was scrap paper, and often it didn't burn hot enough to start the sticks on fire.  So the fire would flame out, which was embarrassing in scout camp partly because the big puff of smoke signalled everyone else that you fire starting attempt was a flop.  We used to have competitions, where we had to start the fire with only three matches.  If you could start it with one match, it was the perfect fire start, unless gasoline was involved.  But what about Vaseline?  Apparently it burns pretty good, and nobody has to know you are using petroleum products.  Then I found out that Cherry Chapstick works just as well, and so does Purelle hand sanitizer!

So I started to adjust my packing list for this summer's trip.  I may just take a knife instead of the axe, and save 700 grams in my camping bag.  And I'll add a small jar of Vaseline, but no cotton balls.  I figure I'll just poke the stick of kindling in the jar of Vaseline then set the stick on fire with a Bic lighter.

Before I commit to a new way of starting fires, I must first test it myself.  I don't trust my own eyes when looking at YouTube videos.  Luckily Mary Ann was away today, so I could build my practice campfire in the bathroom with the fan on.  I could also go outside in the snow, but that could attract too much attention in a highly disciplined, rules-driven place like Kitchener, Ontario.  So I grabbed some wood from outside that fell during the ice storm, I'm sure nobody will miss it.  I used a hatchet to cut it into 30 cm lengths, about the same as campground firewood.  Then I brought it inside and used only a knife to split it up into small kindling sticks.  I put it all into an aluminum pan, and stuck one of the sticks in Vaseline then lit it on fire and put it in the middle of the pile. After a while, when I was sure the fire was truly started, I doused it with water and cleaned up the mess.  I also threw the burned sticks out in the snow in the back yard.  See, I'm really careful these days.

Picture: How to start a campfire with  Harley.  It's not what I thought (park the bike in a pile of kindling and toss a match in the gas tank)

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Thoughts About Riding Side By Side

I have had at least two people suggest to me that riding side by side on motorcycles is the best way to ride together (as opposed to staggered formation.)

First I will note:

In BC you are prohibited from riding more than two abreast, but two abreast is OK.

Illegal in Alberta

Illegal in Newfoundland

I wonder if three wheelers are officially motorcycles when it comes to riding side by side?  I've never seen two riding abreast.

OK In Australia, but not more than 1.5 m apart, and only in the left lane on a two lane road. (JK, but true also)

OK IN USA except for states beginning with V

PROS (of riding side by side)
- keep together in traffic, without getting separated by four way stops, and traffic lights
- bigger visual impression on other drivers to make them see you
- Faster for either one to hand signal the other (Unless you have radio communication)

- No escape path on one side for sudden swerving avoidance
- Requires a much greater level of teamwork and training (Which most riders do not have, although they may think they do)
- sometimes illegal

Without extensive training, do not ride side by side, except I sometimes get pretty close to it for going through traffic lights and four way stops (Assuming this tactic is understood ahead of time), and that the normal staggered position is immediately resumed.  Otherwise, just ride in staggered formation.

As a rule, I don't do any activity where I must depend on perfect teamwork with another person or we both die:

Exceptions noted:
2. If I'm going to die anyway, and said teamwork is my only hope of survival.
3. This activity is insanely fun.
4. I am going to benefit in some major way from this later.

Picture: I'm not really sure if those girls are exactly side by side, but they are violating a lot of other laws.  And anyway, I don't care that much if they are side by side or not.