Saturday, December 31, 2011

The State of the Sciences

I believe I'm finally ready to start blogging again. No, for real this time. Although I am thinking about a slight change of 'format' for lack of a better term. The subheading has changed only once or twice since I started, at least since I graduated, and drifted away from academia, been going through 'stuff', but then again, haven't we all.

I'm ready to drift back, but in a different direction. Whether I have said so before or not, I'll say it here. Science was never my favourite subject, I only took it growing up as an academic requirement, but I'm happy that I did. I graduated with a Political 'Science' major in university, but it never struck me as an actual 'science', because of its inexact nature. I heard that they are going to change the name to 'Political' something else, don't know how much truth is in it, but if they do, I'd say it's about time. It is in the Arts faculty after all.

However, I also spent five years editing that newsletter which is still operated out of Autism Nova Scotia (the erstwhile Provincial Autism Centre), and took a keen interest in science in the treatment of autistic people, both children and adults. I was not a science illiterate going into it, but I had much to learn about how science works. And I was in the middle of my studies at Saint Mary's University, so combine those two factors, and I acquired some knowledge about peer-review and academic ethics, among other things.

So what is the point of everything I have written here? Simply, this blog is going to take a keener eye on the state of the sciences, focusing in particular on autism and Anthropomorphic Global Warming, which I am still convinced is real, in spite of all the noise, snark, and alleged 'Climategates'. Of course, I'm not saying that there is ANY kind of link between autism and AGW, but if there is any bad science, no matter which side of the issue I'm predisposed to, I will help expose it. I do not claim to know for certain if AGW is real or not, but I am willing to risk being on the side that is ultimately proven wrong. By all means, engage me, that is why the comments section is open here (unless otherwise indicated in a particular post). I still intend to have a solid foothold on politics, but will try to untangle the mess between partisan politics and the sciences.

I find myself often despairing about the current state of the world, don't know if it's the time of year, pre- or post-Christmas blues, S.A.D., or just me. However, I would like to start off the new year on a happy note, courtesy of the Christian Science Monitor.* Happy 2012 everyone!

*Link corrected 2 January

Addendum:  Just decided to link to the other four articles, the one right above is Part One.  Here is Part Two, Part Three, Part Four, and Part Five. Feel free to distribute this post.

Monday, August 29, 2011

My Tribute to Jack Layton

I was as shocked as anyone by the passing of Mr. Layton, just a week ago now. Not altogether surprised, but the fact is that he was still in the public eye, and now he's gone. What did I think of him? Not much to be perfectly honest. I have not been a supporter of the NDP in my adult life, but if a bunch of people say what a great man he was, I'll just have to take their word for it. Never met him, cannot vouch for him.

However, he did a tremendous job as leader of the federal NDP. It may be argued that their showing in the last election can be attributed to the decline of the Liberal Party and the implosion of the Bloc Quebecois, Mr. Layton was, nonetheless, the first NDP leader of Her Majesty's Loyal Opposition, and the first leader of the opposition to die while holding that office in recent memory (has anyone had that distinction since Sir Wilfrid Laurier?), so in my opinion, his state funeral was perfectly appropriate.

Last week I started poring through the comments in Yahoo! News as I usually do, and was shocked at the callousness of some of the commenters. They fell just short of spitting on his grave, calling him a communist and otherwise attacking his politics. I was naively hoping that they would cease the personal attacks until at least his body is in the ground. I tried to make the point in an article (which is gone now) that Layton does not deserve this kind of animosity, particularly since he just died. That kind of bile should be reserved for serial killers and dictators like Khdaffy. Layton never did anything to deserve the kind of cheap shots he's been getting in the comment sections.

However, I started poring through the right side of the political sphere, as is also my wont, and they were quick to point out some really tasteless stuff about Stephen Harper, mostly along the lines of 'why couldn't it be him instead of Layton?'. Harper has done everything right regarding Mr. Layton's passing, but that really isn't the point here. As far as evil commentary, that takes the edge of anything anyone said negatively about Layton. I seldom agree with Harper's politics, but I would not wish him a headache. It's only political difference, shame on you for wishing any ill towards Harper. You did not pay any heed to what Layton said in his final address, and sullying his memory worse than his enemies did. Keep things in their proper perspective, and get a life.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Global warming made visible

Something I stumbled upon the other day which made global warming a little bit more real. Now before you say that either I am just another gullible dupe who has fallen for an elaborate fraud by rogue scientists in league with the U.N. and tyrannical governments to take over the free world and take away all of our money and property, or worse, in league with them..., I'll just have to give you my word that if there actually is such a nefarious conspiracy, I have absolutely no part of it and that if there is such a global plot, I would be outraged as many of you already are, assuming that it is fraudulent science.

If I were to go halfway with you, that the U.N. is plotting some kind of world government tyranny, I would happily risk it assuming that global warming is real. Understand me correctly though, I would never be in favour of such a government, and I would take up arms against the U.N. if it should come to that, but I think that it would be folly on their part to even try. How COULD the U.N. enforce its will on everyone in the world? How much manpower, air and naval power does it have? Certainly it has more military strength than the Vatican, but can you really imagine a Blue Helmet invasion of any country? Does the U.N. have the resources to make its own artillery? I am inclined to answer no to all of these questions, because the U.N. as it stands is pretty weak right now.

It has always seemed to lack an executive function, even if it were to get a lot more prestige, it would still be limited in its ability to enforce its will on most nations because of the perpetual stalemate of the five members of the permanent Security Council. So I may be a gullible dupe for believing this and not believing that, but if serious attempts to slow down or reverse global warming turn out to be based on widespread fraud, such mistakes can be reversed with relative ease and quickness. If it turns out that the science is right and we do not act, such mistakes could take millenia or longer to correct.

So anyway, the page that I was referring to in the beginning contains something called a "Climate Time Machine". It has a map of the entire Earth with four boxes at the bottom which enable the user to move through the months/years of colour-coded measurements of things like carbon emissions and global temperatures since they started measuring the latter in the late 19th century. To me, it illustrates the difference between weather and climate, but go ahead and start picking it apart. Feel free to send me proof that it is all wrong, I'm liable to believe anything.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

You have to see this

Just something I found in Saturday's Chronicle-Herald about an autistic artist. Inspiring, no?

Did anyone catch that repeat of "The Hour" on Friday night?

The "special guest" on that episode (originally broadcast in May I believe) was none other than Hustler magazine founder Larry Flynt. I cannot say that I have ever been a fan of his, I have never had a look in any of his magazines, but I think that all I've had in common with him is the belief in free speech. After watching that interview, I would like to say that we have less in common than I thought. At first, he did seem to have an awakening of conscience in regard to some of his earlier depictions of rape and cartoons about child molesters, but it was around the end of the interview when Sarah Palin was brought up, and he started trashing her as you would expect, but it was about her decision not to abort her youngest son Trig, who has Down's Syndrome.

He would go on at length about how handicapped children are such a drain on our financial resources! I'm pretty sure that I heard some gasps and groans in the audience, and at this point, I would like to give George Stroumboulopoulos some props for countering that offensive argument by saying that everyone has something to contribute no matter what they look like or what their handicaps are. Again I do not recall the exact words spoken, and the interview on the CBC website cut that last bit out of the interview (no link).

So, should we be angry about this? However one may feel about abortion in general, if it were anyone but Larry Flynt, there would be a media firestorm, people would call for a boycott of whatever it is he's selling. But since this is a famous smut peddler, it just slipped under the media's radar. And you know what, it should have. He is just not worth the time and energy to be mad at, we should all just shun him, and let him crawl back into the sewer.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Good news from New Brunswick

In case you haven't heard, the federal government has rescinded a deportation order to send the Maeng family back to South Korea because of the anticipated medical expenses of their younger son, who has autism and is epileptic. Apparently, all it took was for the New Brunswick government to write a letter to the Minister of Immigration Jason Kenney stating that they would be able to cover any expenses the young man will have in his lifetime (with some encouragement from across the country).

Later in the latter article, the Refugee Protection Act is quoted as saying that prospective immigrants can be denied permanent residence if their affliction can "cause excessive demand on health or social services." One has to wonder when that act was passed, and was it passed retroactively? Anyway, it's looking a bit more hopeful for the Maengs. 

It does not change what I said about the CIC. Perhaps the federal government can clean up the mess that is there. They have four years to do so. It may not make up for the other stuff that I have come to expect from the Harper conservatives, but if they can do something right, credit should be given where credit is due.

Switching gears a bit, this post from the blogger I believe was formerly known as Orac embeds a news report from Australia about the cost of refusing to vaccinate children, allowing formerly rare, fleeting diseases to make a comeback, and the sort of quacks who have their own following.

Still on the subject of diseases, a timely report from CTV called 'Filthy Food', which switches into a report on measles and the MMR shot.

Again on diseases, something from a repeat broadcast on Marketplace last Friday. The coming superbugs, and the coming failure of antibiotics.

A suggestion to change the way immigrants are treated. Make the process more local.

Tuesday, June 07, 2011

How about Citizenship and Immigration Canada? I have had questions about how it's been run for quite some time, but this case hits a little too close to home:

I first heard of this on the evening news last night about this South Korean family who moved to Moncton 8 years ago, opened a convenience store, and have now been told to go back to Korea by the end of this month, because of the medical expenses of their younger son who has autism and epilepsy. I first became infuriated with the CIC a few years ago when they ordered a North Korean defector to go back from where he had to escape for his life because he was accused to saying something bad about "Dear Leader" Kim Jong-il, which I don't think is much of an exaggeration to say that is a capital offense there. He was ordered back there because of crimes that he allegedly committed by being a member of the communist regime there, but he was never accused of anything specific.

This I think is even worse, because the Maeng family did not try to hide their son's condition. If the CIC thought that it was going to be a problem, they should not have let them in in the first place, instead of letting the kids grow up here, only to tear them away from the place they grew up, particularly affecting the young man with autism, letting them start a business, and filling them with false hope.

It should be questioned that if they were not self-employed and had full-time jobs with benefits, this would not be an issue, and they could get full citizenship with no trouble. The bottom line here is that this is hardly a new problem, and we certainly should not blame this on Stephen Harper. The CIC has been incompetently run for a long time, probably for decades. I do not have much faith in Mr. Harper, but if he can make the Maeng family stay, and make some much needed improvements in the way the CIC is run, he may just make a believer out of me yet.

Update: Here's a petition.

Friday, April 29, 2011

The Day The Earth Stood Still, not the movie

RUN FOR YOUR LIVES! Nah, don't bother. THERE IS NO ESCAPE! RESISTANCE IS FUTILE!!! Probably, but I will attempt the impossible, and avoid at ANY cost coverage of that, well, event that I need not bother speaking its name. Seriously, can one avoid going offline and not watch TV news for one whole day? I will only consider watching it in the event that anything goes wrong, but if it all goes according to plan, great. I'll say right here that I wish Will and Kate well. You cannot do worse than his parents. I remember that the teacher of my junior high social studies class (1985 at the latest) told us that Charles and Diana's marriage was arranged. It seems now that many people in the Royal family knew that it would end in disaster. There seems to be little coercion here though.

This, need it even be said, is going to dominate the news tomorrow in the English speaking world (note, if your hotair.com page keeps switching to the main Yahoo! search page, try block any scripts coming from chartbeat.com), and likely every nation that still has a monarchy. What's more, it is the first wedding of its kind in the digital age. Remember how some sites crashed when Michael Jackson died? That should pale in comparison, pardon the pun. The Royals still carry a big stick tens of thousands of miles away, not wanting this 'solemn' occasion being mocked by any of its colonies. Ah well, if anyone asks me today if I saw any part of it, I'll just say truthfully that no, I made a point of not seeing any part of it, and see how they react. I'll only be checking my e-mail tomorrow, but if anything actually newsworthy happens, I'll find out about it on Saturday, assuming that we still have an Internet. Will anyone even see this post? It may have been a complete waste of my time. Crap!

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Oh Robert MacNeil, some autistic adults would like a word with you

When I had first heard what we can only assume is Robert MacNeil's curtain call, a six-part series where he gets personal for the first time after working in journalism for 50 years, talking about autism, which his grandson Nick has. I have to admit I was willing to put aside any reservations about journalistic integrity in regard to getting personally involved in a story, and asked some friends of mine to watch it, maybe even record it, but after what I had to learn second hand (because I don't subscribe to cable, my choice), I will state that this reinforces the danger of getting personally involved (particularly with your family) with a story. It's a gamble, and it seems he lost.

He lost in a number of ways, first and foremost he brought up the still unproven connection between autism and vaccines (I want to say disproven, but you can't prove a negative). This could be a huge step backward for us. That sector of the anti-science movement may have had new life breathed into it. It brings me to the same issue from yesterday, that long form certificate. Apparently, da Donald is proud of himself. You can be sure that if he is actually speaking the truth, he is speaking only for himself. The rest of the birthers are bitterly disappointed, those who believe that it's the genuine article. The rest/most of them are likely what could be called present-day "refuseniks" ("IT'S A LIE! IT'S A FORGERY!" and so on and so forth). Here is a likely explanation for the birther movement, as loathe as I am to play "the race card". It casts a pall on those of us who seek facts and absolute truth. Of course, one can't be absolutely sure of everything, but can one be absolutely sure of ANYTHING? Does 1 and 1 equal 2 in absolutely all cases?

Back to Robert MacNeil, he does autistic adults a tremendous disservice, Kim Wombles explains that autistic adults have their own set of problems, like high unemployment, reliance on family for support, and an overall lack of reliable services. She also points out that MacNeil didn't even care enough to interview autistic adults who were desperate for a cure, and I'm sure that there are plenty out there. From what I can tell, he simply did not even try to get the perspective of people who are actually on the autism spectrum, and that is probably the worst aspect of his documentary (again, I haven't seen it, feel free to prove me wrong). I'm certain that Mr. MacNeil has done tremendous work for the increasingly rare animal that is responsible, clear journalism (I may even pick up "Breaking News" one day). I'm sure that his body of work was greatly unappreciated, since the old MacNeil-Lehrer Newshour did not fall under the category of "Action" news. I'm also positive that he has done better work, which would be a shame if "Autism Now" were to overshadow everything else that he's done.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Birthers, the search for truth, and other opposites

I tried to stop myself looking at this issue for as long as I could. Just could not believe that this is a serious issue, yet people are still talking about it. You get the feeling that even if a videotape existed of Barack Obama being born in Honolulu with his father present for it, the kneejerk reaction would be to insist that it is a forgery, part of some kind of widespread conspiracy to get someone elected president who was not eligible. So much time and energy has been wasted on this issue, which should go without saying that this is a partisan thing. Has anyone seen any Democrat birthers? For what it's worth, a 'likely story' from CNN about Obama's birth certificate, but of course, the birthers will never be satisfied, they already 'know' what the 'real' truth is.

And now we have Donald Trump come out as one of them, and now he is running for president for 2012. Funny how you think that you think you know someone from television, news and movies, but when they run for public office, their entire lives, every sordid detail, are laid out for everyone to see. If any good comes out of this, Trump will be roundly humiliated and afraid to show his face in public again.

Even Shepard Smith speaking for Fox News basically says it's a non-story now. Here is a possible explanation for all of the conspiracy mindedness, and possibly some recommended reading.

BREAKING: President Obama has released his long-form certificate. You can be certain that the die-hard ninnies will insist that it is not the real one. They will want to see his KENYAN birth certificate. Good luck finding it.

It reminds me, I had a recent conversation with the Elbot, and he said something worth repeating. It was something like, "The more evidence there is, the less likely that humans will believe it." I don't know where that originally came from, but it does seem to explain a lot. So many people suffer from unshakable fallacies in their belief system, against all evidence to the contrary. Some people believe what they want to believe, and that's all there is to it.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Canada, history fails us?

This article in the National Post about New Brunswick had started me thinking, wasn't Nova Scotia also dragged into Confederation kicking and screaming?  Aside from Ontario, isn't it true for the rest of them? (I won't even get started on the Natives). I learned in a history class at SMU that Nova Scotia was once an economic power house before confederation. It's hard to imagine, but I have little reason to doubt it. We were promised a bunch of stuff, like having our industries and institutions stay here in NS, and they were, for the most part, unkept. When did the Bank of Nova Scotia move its headquarters to Toronto anyway?

I had also learned that only one person in the NS legislature (Sir Charles Tupper), wanted to join Canada, the other sixty-something, including local legend Joseph Howe, fought against it. It was apparently to appease some higher interests, not for the benefit of the people living here. That was the way of the world back then (the Realist paradigm applies here). I wonder if that way of thinking still persists. Of course, there are endless conspiracy theories out there, some far removed from reality, others to fulfil some already biased viewpoints (9/11 'truthers' being one example).

In short, how bad would it be if we 'lost' Canada? If either Quebec or Alberta should decide to separate. In any case, it seems highly likely that Canada would be irretrievably changed if Stephen Harper were to attain a majority government, and I don't mean for the better. I envision a dismantling of democracy, if not a complete handover to corporate interests or even to the United States for economically weak regions like this one. I do not look forward to either option. If I ever want to become an American, I would move there, I do not want it moving here. To me, it would be the ultimate sellout for us.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

How Great Was Ayn Rand, Anyway?!

I was first introduced to this old woman years ago in a Frantics sketch for radio. They mentioned "Atlas Shrugged" and read a passage from it. Years later, I bought a copy of it at Coles, alongside a wrestling magazine (always had varied tastes). I only read halfway through the former (didn't have patience at the time for 1000+ pages). Much of what she says makes sense, one can learn a thing or two. Now a movie has been released. The first of a two-parter, and I could see it if I wanted without worrying about spoilers. After some consideration, I will just add the other half of AS to my list of must-reads. When the movie(s) come out on video, I may just consider watching them then. If this post on Wonkette is close enough to being true, I will make an effort to avoid throwing any money to this movement, which seems to be largely inspired by Ms. Rand. Her inspired selfishness came from an admiration of a sadistic child-killer. She has come to represent everything that is wrong with neo-liberalism today. As much as I've come to sympathize with capitalists, she is too much.

As for the Frantics, I'm going to see if they have that sketch somewhere online. I just downloaded "Boot to the Head" from iTunes a little while ago, and so far it has not included any female roles, as that sketch did. They were great on CBC radio, but in my opinion, their transition to TV left something to be desired. It was only sporadically funny in comparison (and the pacing was different), but they were only on TV for one season. They would have likely improved in the second season, if CBC TV had granted them one.

More on Ayn Rand from Slate.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

The denouement is at hand, or is it?

It is high time I weighed in on the election, but I do not have much to say that is positive. I do not consider myself a liberal anymore, I'm more sympathetic to George Grant's worldview. Having said that, I dread the prospect of a Stephen Harper majority, I'm in the 'anyone but him' category. I'm not sure if Michael Ignatieff is 'ready for prime time' yet (or the whole Liberal Party for that matter), but they are the only two realistic chances we have.

Of course we have heard it all before, 'vote for this guy, and it's the end of Canada as we know it!'. We have probably heard that in every election. I could be wrong, like many other Canadians, again. But do we really want someone who breaks all the rules of Parliament with impunity? Who disrespects science, and basically tries to squelch all opinions other than his own? I can only suppose that we get the kind of democracy that we ask for, which is better than having none at all, which brings me to my other point.

You should check out thoughtundermined's blog about how the electoral process works. He may be a bit partial for Alternative Voting (that's what's being decided in England right now), but I'm in full agreement that the First-Past-The-Post system bites. This post contains two videos, the second one is a little easier to understand. It shows how undemocratic the two-party (and in our case, two-and-a-half [and the BQ]) system is. It's like all we have to choose from is the 'Bad' party and the 'Worse' party, even more so in the States. It would be nice if there was another serious contender (like here in Nova Scotia now).

This sort of thing has been building up for decades. There can be one of two possible outcomes. Either Harper succeeds in usurping the democratic process, or enough people try to overhaul the entire system, which we as a people do not seem to have much of a history of doing. Or am I wrong? Perhaps Christopher Moore can set me straight.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Under African Skies

It would appear that the Arabian/African Spring is blooming quite nicely. A combined effort of the United Nations (!) and France (!!) has led to the arrest of Laurent Gdagbo. I believe that it's a good thing, that they don't kill him before they can show him first hand the damage he's done. At least they have made him do a sort of 'perp walk'. Now the International Criminal Court is looking into charging him with crimes against humanity. Now if they can only get Khadaffy and Mugabe.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

The news as it relates to me

I had the privilege yesterday morning to attend a press conference at my old workplace, where a couple of cabinet ministers and Premier Darrell Dexter announced the action they were going to take in response to the 53 recommendations made in the report from the Autism Management Advisory Team (it's 142 pages in the PDF format). I was struck by the fact that the 53 items were not mentioned specifically, but it does seem to be a good thing that they are doubling the budget for EIBI services (even though I have some reservations about it, such as it may not be a perfect fit for all autistic children) and getting rid of that 'lottery' in which half of children do not get it at all. The following pictures are from my own pocket Panasonic:
The Hon. Maureen MacDonald, Minister of Health
The Hon. Premier Dexter holding up the Autism Spectrum Disorder Action Plan

The Minister of Emergency Management Ross Landry also announced that the federal government has contributed $273 000 toward Project Lifesaver, which sets up a new surveillance and tracking system to make it easier for Search and Rescue teams to locate people with autism or conditions like Alzheimer's disease who have a tendency to wander off and get lost.
The Hon. Ross Landry, Minister of Emergency Management
I have not had much time to go over the ASD Action Plan (only 16 pages, PDF format). I just skimmed over it and it does seem to mention services for adults, despite what I said yesterday, I just did not get it from the speakers themselves. I'll comment on it when I've had time to go through it thoroughly.


Still on the subject of the Provincial Autism Centre, there was a report on Global TV last night about the work program that the PAC has. A couple of good friends of mine are featured. Which reminds me, I need to update my resume.


Sunday, April 03, 2011

Limits to conservative coldness

I linked to this blog post by Ed Morrissey regarding the murder of 10 United Nations workers by a mob in Afghanistan protesting the burning of a Qu'ran in a Florida church (the latest), looking for someone to make light of their deaths. Apparently, I underestimated them. No one did, much less congratulated Messrs. Sapp and Jones. There weren't even any trolls as of this posting. If it is moderated, way to keep it tasteful Mr. Morrissey. More to the point, not all of them agreed with Pastor Jones, some of them even insulted him, and spoke out against the burning of any book.

I would also like to propose a deal to Muslims everywhere. If you do not condemn and hold the entire West responsible for the actions of an ignorant few, we will not hold all Muslims responsible for the deaths caused by enraged mobs against Westerners and each other half a world away. It seems like a stacked deal to me, what do you think?

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

International law. Does it work?

This has been one of my biggest questions since I have been politically aware. It was something that helped me to decide my major when I was attending Saint Mary's in the early aughts, when the political atmosphere was at its most toxic and Iraq was invaded. When neo-conservatism seemed to be at the height of releasing its long repressed rage.

From what I can gather about the Western powers air strikes in Libya, they do seem to be turning things around, and for what it's worth, I'm happy that they are. Col. Khadaffy had in effect declared war on his own people, and that is a good reason for outside powers to intervene when they can. In a similar vein, a really good reason to intervene is when one country decided to invade and annex another country, like with the first (second) Gulf War when Iraq under Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait. I have always agreed with the Western powers forceful ouster of Hussein from Kuwait, because it was the essential purpose of why organizations like the United Nations were put in place to begin with. I also heartily agreed with the invasion of Afghanistan, because there were so many reasons to do so.

I could have agreed with the second (third) Gulf War under the right circumstances, but it was done in such a haughty, high-horsed manner that alienated too many people. It may even have been illegal, but international law is a different animal. I think that the bombing of Serbian forces in Kosovo in 1998 was largely considered the right thing to do, even if it was illegal, because it supposedly averted a mass slaughter.

It took quite a while, and it almost seemed that it would never happen, and the rebels were at the verge of being defeated, but somehow, Western nations with authorization from the United Nations have been striking Libyan tanks and artillery and enforcing a no-fly zone over Libya. As a result, the rebels have gained just about everything they lost in the last couple of weeks. And what's more, the U.S. is ceding the lead to this mission to NATO forces dominated by European nations. It's hard to see how this will end.

It does seem that it is mostly being done 'by the book', even if President Obama did not ask Congress, which some conservatives object to (should we remind them of Gulf War I back in '91). There has been no serious talk about sending any land troops to Libya, even then, that may not require a formal declaration of war (reached the point of my uncertainty). International law does seem to be working this time around, and to all the kneejerk anti-war pundits, it does require force. Certainly loss of life is nothing to make light of, but there are times that you have to make a choice: less slaughter, or more slaughter. I believe that they made the right choice.

Monday, March 28, 2011

On 'Hobo with a Shotgun'

On Friday, my birthday coincidentally, I was able to see the aforementioned movie on it's first official day. I felt the need to see it since it because it is supposedly a hit on the independent cinema circuit, and was shot mostly in my hometown of Dartmouth by a Dartmouth native. I could recognized a few places, but I think that I could have waited to see it. It did not live up to my expectations. I think that it lacked the camp factor that such movies require.

I didn't mind the gory scenes so much (the guy who played Julian on 'Trailer Park Boys' is among the first people to get dispatched by the movie's villain, and later George Stroumboulopoulos plays a newsman who get it as well), perhaps it had too many bad lines (don't know if it was deliberate). It was refreshing in a way, particularly since Hollywood has all but given up trying anything new ever again. I can't even blame Hollywood for it, it's the audiences who suck the big one. People who pay $11.50 to see the repetitive schlock they are putting out and will continue to do so for the foreseeable future, even though they now show commercials and PSAs before the coming attractions. I think the last movie I saw before this one was 'Avatar' and was rather disappointed by it. Sigh, bad cinema ain't what it used to be.

Here is a link to a list of movies that I think are worth a good long look at.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Sympathy for Tom DeLay?

When I heard that "The Hammer" was sentenced to three years in jail, my first thought was, "So there IS justice in Texas". What surprised me though was the lack of support from conservatives. Apparently there is some, but I had to go looking for it. They may have a point, he may have been convicted ex post facto, which is to day that the things that he did may have been sleazy, but they were not illegal at the time they were committed. He may be an arrogant prick, but apparently, arrogance is not a crime. On the other hand, maybe this should have been:
This brings to mind another tool with the nickname "Hammer". Here in Halifax, the Fox channel we receive on basic cable is WUHF in Rochester, New York.They used to show ads from someone named Jim Shapiro, who would frantically show what sort of cases he sues people for. He would run down a list of injuries he takes people to court for (cannot remember if it included 'slips and falls') and would give his number. It's difficult to put into words, you have to see it for yourself (video courtesy of "Ripplin"), and give thanks that lawyers in Canada are not allowed so much freedom to advertise on television.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Much Ado 'For Nothing'

I remember when this song first came out in 1986, when it included the word 'faggot' (there, I said it) and was somewhat shocked by it.  I was even more shocked when I heard later versions on the radio when that passage was omitted, and was looking forward to hearing it for some reason and was disappointed.  I don't know whose idea it was back then, but it was ruled on Wednesday this week by the Atlantic Regional Panel of the Canada Broadcast Standards Council as unfit to play on the radio after a complaint by a professed lesbian, because she was "offended".

I'm sorry missy, but the word "faggot" (there, said it again, but did not address it directly to you) does not have the same history as the famous 'n' word (I'll say it, but not in public, certainly not within earshot of anyone of African descent).  I am finding more and more, as many other people are, that most calls for censorship are coming from the politically correct Left, not the Right, the Left.  The Left are getting offended a lot more these days than the Right to the point that they call for speech to be altered.  Quite the opposite was true not long ago, when people on the Right complained about content in music was offensive.  Most of those complaints get ridiculed today, and rightly so.  I'm hoping that the same complaints today get thrown into the "dustbin of history" and garner the same kind of ridicule.

Kudos to Q104 and their plan tonight to air 'Money for Nothing' unexpurgated for an hour tonight starting at 9pm AST.  Here is a link to Wierd Al Yankovic's video "I Wanna Be A Beverly Hillbilly" to lighten the mood, a near perfect fit to the song.

Addendum:  Apparently it's not a government-run tribunal, but an "industry group".  Still, this decision is for the birds.  Just one complaint for any reason is all it takes.

Addendum II:  Mark  Knopfler has an idea as to what to replace the offending word with.

Departing from matters scientific

There are some things that science cannot determine.  That is something I realized when I read through a coin manual (I'm a collector) and it stated that there is no absolutely scientific way the condition of a coin can be determined, whether it is VG-8 (relatively poor quality, but you can still make it out) or varying degrees of "uncirculated" (starts at UNC-60, the highest possible grade is UNC-70).  It cannot be determined by any computer, however powerful it is, what the grade of both sides (and possibly the edge) of a coin, is.  It is up to a person or persons to determine such things, however imperfect the process is.  In a similar vein, neither man nor machine can be absolutely correct as to what speech goes "too far".

Of course, some standards have to be observed, particularly when there are children or otherwise feeble-minded people are involved, but the point here is that as a result of the horrific shootings in Tucson last Saturday, people on the political left are asking people on the right to "tone it down" and placing blame on people like Sarah Palin for her online map placing some congressional districts in "crosshairs".  My conclusion about that, the shooter did not need to see that map, and likely did not.  He had harboured a grudge against Gabrielle Giffords, simply because he did not like the answer she gave to a question at a similar rally a few years earlier.  There is ample evidence, some of which you can still easily access online that he had wildly incoherent political views and a "unique" way of seeing the world.

I can recall something I learned in history class years ago, about how the Crusades were almost singlehandedly started by a speech made by Pope Urban II in 1095 C.E., which so inflammed masses of people that anti-Islamic hysteria quickly spread, and caused hundreds of thousands of people to leave their homelands in Europe, and rescue the Eastern Roman Empire from those "heathen" Turks and Arabs.  It caused immeasurable death and destruction off and on for centuries until the Turks were able to take over Asia Minor and some of the Balkans.  It also created much ill-will and distrust that is still very much alive today.  THAT kind of speech is taking things too far.  Not some vitriol filled speeches and web pages that likely had NO factor in Saturday's tragedy.  That is my non-scientific take on this.  If someone incites unruly mobs to attack, THAT is taking things too far.  Isolated semi-random shootings by some lunatic cannot and should not be attributed to Palin, Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity or anyone on the right or left.

Some thoughts from someone who actually believes that "bullets kill people", and someone from the Christian Science Monitor who also believes that heated words are not the problem, they're the solution.

Friday, January 07, 2011

Is THIS the final nail in the coffin?

I received a call from my mother late last night about a report that Anderson Cooper was giving about a study linking vaccines and autism.  My feeling was "Oh oh, they found a connection", and I do not have cable in my new place, so I just went straight to my desktop and looked for a live broadcast on CNN's website.

It turns out, as most people interested in this topic know already, that the British Medical Journal has accused Dr. Andrew Wakefield of falsifying his results in a landmark study which he published in The Lancet in 1998 ("elaborate fraud" I believe is a direct quote").

I'll spare you most of the details, but if you want more information on this report, I recommend Buzztracker's list of news articles, where this story is currently dominating the autism category, and CNN's video page, where you just click on the health category on the left side of the screen, and roughly half of all videos on this topic are related to autism, although I recommend videos with Cooper in them, particularly ones where he puts Wakefield through the wringer, and shows the disgraced gastrointrologist (sp?) to be the pathetic little rat that he is.

This was the sort of thing I worked on for editorial content when I was still working at the Provincial Autism Centre.  The vaccine/autism issue was such a huge point of controversy for a long time, but by the time I left, the study in the Lancet had been retracted, and it had otherwise become a non-issue, replaced by a number of legitimate issues.  In the process, I had become something of a 'lay expert' (slight exaggeration, but I cannot think of better words) on the inner workings of science, having attended symposia largely having to do with the current state of autism research, and reading different opinions online, even ones hostile to mine.  It's the best one can do without any special talent for it, I suppose.

Also got around to changing the description (finally) at the top of this page, proudly proclaiming myself as an autistic man, and a graduate.

The Segue of the Sciences

Still on the subject, I have noticed some tie-ins on the subjects of autism science and climate science.  Climate change is something we first heard about in the 1980s and most people took it as 'gospel'.  I am still inclined to believe that it is real, and that carbon emissions by Man are causing it.  And then there all of these accusations of widespread fraud and corruption among the scientific community, but they are mostly along partisan lines.  It should NOT be a partisan issue.  Either anthropomorphic climate change is real, or it is not.  And if it is not, then there IS widespread, longstanding fraud and corruption on a scale never seen before in the scientific community that dwarfs anything that Andrew Wakefield ever did.  There should be a number of people jailed for it, but the Wakefield case should be evidence on science's ability to correct itself.

At the moment though, the scientific establishment (note I did not say 'consensus') states that there IS AGW.  And please do not call me a liberal dupe, I do not consider myself to be all that liberal anymore, and I am not a huge fan of nature, I'm much more of a city person at heart, and I certainly never subscribed to the religion of 'Gaia', that is still very much an alien concept to me.  But if you want to engage me, I will be more than happy to entertain opinions and interpretations of scientific data that are at odds with mine.  You may ultimately convince me, but I will counter at first with what I find to be true.  I tend to dismiss conspiracy theories out of hand, like 'birthers' and 9/11 'truthers', but you had better be telling me what you really believe to be true, or I will make you sorry you did not.  Certain scientific points may be impossible to prove, but maybe some points can...

Thursday, January 06, 2011

Congratulations Roberto Alomar

Made it in by 90%, not bad.  I can still remember the hype surrounding the trade that brought him and Joe Carter to the Blue Jays.  It was one of the few instances where the hype was more than justified.  I can also remember sitting in Jerry's Pub while watching the ACLS in 1992 where Dennis Eckersley showed a lack of sportsmanship after striking out a Blue Jay and ending the inning.  It was in the next inning where Alomar hit a two-run home run off of Eckersley and turned that game, and likely the series, around.

Sadly, it may be a while before any more Blue Jays get in the Hall.  It's strange because they seemed to have had such depth of talent back then.  I wonder if Joe Carter has ever been considered.  He had some really good years with the Cleveland Indians before coming to Toronto.  He narrowly missed out on a 30/30 season (home runs/stolen bases) but apparently he had gotten robbed of a 30th home run that year by future teammate Devon White when he was with the Angels.  Someone should look into this.

I bought Alomar's rookie card with the Padres for $5 years ago, I wonder how much it will appreciate.

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