Monday, November 9, 2009

The Greatest Generation Should Be Pissed

I'm not one for militaristic, flag-waving, ooh-rah for the soldiers, jingoistic-cheerleading. I think war is conducted by the smallest of small minds who cannot work out global issues without resorting to blowing shit up.

As for the recent incursions into Afghanistan, Iraq and all the other post-9/11 bullshit war zones, I think we're still being lied to about why we have troops fighting and dying. The global war on terror as it's being sold to us is a lie. This isn't about keeping terrorists from our shores or protecting innocent civilians from the evils of the Taliban, al Queda and the rest of the terror alphabet. This is about money, trade routes, oil and strategic leverage in key parts of the world.

If it were anything different, you'd have US and NATO troops chasing terrorists across the Philippines or across Java. You'd have US, Canadian and EU soldiers in the Congo and Darfur. If this were truly about combating terror, the rich nations of the world would have troops in every, blistering, third-world jungle and desert where acts of terror are committed daily. Instead, your soldiers are being sent to take part in conflicts that were at best, orchestrated to protect international, corporate interests.

I think soldiers, on the other hand, ought to be commended for the job they do, when they do it well. They get sent to the places where you and I would never dream of treading, put their lives on the line, make the bad guys go away and try to protect the innocents around them.

Modern conflict and the World Wars/Korea are light years from each other. In those cases the threat to home was very real; especially in WW2. In global conflicts of days past, the men and women in uniform were joined in a very real way to the national populations at large. They were fighting for our freedom.

Now, maybe I was a tad fragile after watching Saving Private Ryan between 11:00 - 1:30am last night, but I was hovering around that place in my brain that is reserved for humility and thankfulness. Right around the end of the movie, when Ryan as an old man is standing in front of the grave of Tom Hanks character, and he's pleading with his wife "Tell me I've lived a good life. Tell me I'm a good man.", we cut to commercial. The commercial was for Macy's Veterans' Day Sale.

I got really angry. First, the timing was really not appropriate but more than that, Macy's chose to honour the war dead by giving you 15% off the price of an iPod??!! That's crass, folks.

What Macy's is essentially telling you is "Hey North America, on November 11, take one minute of silence to think about the people who fought and died for you. Then, spend the rest of the day buying crap in their honour."

If you do follow this plan, at least have the decency to show up to a Veteran's Day event or, here in Canada, a Remembrance Day event and tell a vet "Gee I'd love to stay and think about you and your friends and stuff, but I have to go to a sale and buy a big-screen tv."

Thank God I've not seen anything like the Macy's ad affiliated with Canadian business.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Screw Equality

I'm taking a break from school work to write this blog post. It's mostly directed at the citizens of Maine and California, but I suspect that it will be applicable to other states in the near future. As a polite, erudite, nice Canadian I feel obliged to say this to you.

"What is wrong with you, you backwards-thinking, ignorant, hate-filled idiots?!"

Right now at 10:17pm MST, the State of Maine has 52% of its population voting to repeal their same-sex marriage law. California repealed their gay marriage law earlier this year. This effectively says to the American, gay community that all the progress that has been made in the past 30 years has been wasted.

For the life of me, I do not understand why gay marriage so damn threatening to people. Pierre Trudeau very eloquently said "The government has no business in the bedrooms of Canadians." And yet time and again up here in the cold frozen North, our Federal gov't (at least the current flavour of it) wants to do away with gay marriage. Why?

Here's a fast set of questions for anybody who, inexplicably, gives a shit about what two people do behind their own doors.
  1. Do you believe that gay marriage makes your own marriage any less legal, sacred, important or valuable?
  2. If you answered yes, why is that the problem for a married gay couple and not for you? It would seem to me that if your marriage is so fragile that it can't stand up in the face of two men or two women getting hitched, then you and your partner should get some marriage counselling.

I would pay money to anybody who can make a coherent, logical, intelligent argument as to why gay marriage should be outlawed. There are some ground rules.
  1. You can't say "the bible says so". Most of you who feed this line don't live a literally biblical life. Picking and choosing what you like and don't like is the very definition of hypocrisy.
  2. I said intelligent. You can't use any of the proven-false statistics that claim children of gay marriage are more likely to commit suicide or fall into a life of crime or make less money or any of the rest of that garbage. All of those studies have been proven to be either a) statistically invalid or b) outright, make-believe.

I know I can rant until I'm blue in the face over this and it won't make a difference in Maine, California or here in red-neck Alberta. I would however leave all of those small-minded, bigots with this:
Look any gay person in the eye and tell them that they are less of a human than you are and that they should be willing to sacrifice their rights to protect your ideals. If you can do that, you're in some interesting company. That's exactly what Hitler did in Poland, what the KKK did in the South and what the Taliban do today in Afghanistan.

Welcome to the club.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Garbage Goes in the Can. Come ON People!

Litter. Have I ranted about litter here? Probably not.

So, here's the thing. In this day and age where we have (somewhat) intelligent conversations about environmental issues like water conservations, global climate change, declining fish stocks, deforestation, acid rain, light pollution, heavy metals, desertification and myriad other problems, why do I still find litter on the ground?

I don't mean gum wrappers and cigarette butts either. I mean full-on, deliberately tossed, "I don't give shit about shit" garbage on the ground. By way of example I was at the local Save-On-Foods on Sunday night. Save-On shares its parking lot with a McDonalds and other businesses. In the parking stall right next to me was a McD's bag and drink cup. There was a garbage can less than 10 feet away.

This was a large bag. It didn't fall out a car door unnoticed. How could it? I can't make any reasonable path to a conclusion where the owner of the bag didn't know it was on the ground. Someone sat in a parking stall, ate their crap from McDs and then threw the bag and cup out the window and drove away.

So, after picking up the bag & cup and throwing them in the garbage can I scanned the parking lot. I saw: two Tim Horton's cups, another McD's bag, an empty 750ml pop bottle and a cigarette pack. Needless to say I was late getting my groceries and had to use the store's bathroom to wash up.

I know that a few bad apples shouldn't spoil the bushel (or whatever) but I can't help but despair for a society that can't clean up after themselves. If we can't get to a universal, basic like "don't throw your crap on the ground", how are we supposed to engage people in larger discussions? I honestly thought we were past this; at least at a local, parking-lot type level.

But then maybe its all perspective. Maybe the trash in the parking lot is just part of the flotsam we seem to be comfortable with. After all, we don't seem really quick to do anything collective about the Pacific Ocean garbage dump. It may get cleaned up. However it will be a private contractor taking on the job rather than governments and the polluters that support them. And likely, that's how the suburbia parking lots, the downtown streets and few remaining green belts will get treated. Contractors will be hired to do clean up and as long as people can see their stuff simply disappear, they'll continue to refuse to take any responsibility.

I have in the past pointed out people's refuse to them with a friendly "Looks like you dropped something there" but I usually get a profanity-laced response. I once waited for the garbage tosser to walk from their car to the store then picked up their Tim's cup and Tim Bits box and wedged them under the windshield wiper. It was all gone when I left the store. I like to think of it as Guerrilla Community Based Social Marketing: Shame the person, build a better habit, educate and do it all without getting your face kicked in. It's an interesting challenge.

So, if you (you better not) find your tossed garbage wedged between your side mirror and door or under a wiper-blade, take the hint and throw your garbage where it belongs: neatly separated into the appropriate blue bin for paper, plastics and glass. If that's too hard, just throw the damn stuff out in a garbage can. I know that at least I feel better having made your life a little more difficult so that we can have a slightly cleaner place to live.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Sometime I Just... rhgg... AAHHHHH!!!!

Ok, so I'm a reasonably tolerant person - reasonably. I can see the flip side of almost any issue and respond intelligently to most thoughts and ideas; even when they contradict my world-view. I like to think that these responses are reasoned, well-thought out and fairly objective.

So, it is with this in mind that I felt the need to respond to Calgary's Bishop Henry in regards to his portrayal the HPV vaccination program.

Here is my reasoned, well-thought-out response:

You are an arrogant, dogmatic, mysoginistic, under-informed, deliberately-misleading, bloviating dimwit.

See? Reasoned & objective.

Here's the thing... there is finally a definitive link between a virus and a type of cancer. Scientists know for a fact that if a woman is carrying the Human Papiloma Virus, that she has an incredibly higher risk of contracting cervical cancer. Woman without HPV have significantly reduced chances of contracting cervical cancer. There is now a vaccination for HPV. Vaccinations condition our bodies to produce the antibodies needed to kill viruses. So, vaccinate and you won't contract HPV. No HPV, no cervical cancer. This is pretty basic stuff.

Vaccinate girls at a young age and protect them for life. It's a reasonable strategy. So, the school districts in Alberta were asked by Alberta Health Services to add voluntary HPV vaccinations to their in-school vaccination programs.

Here's the aggravating part.

Bishop Henry, presiding Bishop for the Calgary Catholic School District has urged Catholic parents to turn down the HPV vaccination claiming that it will lead to increased incidents of teen-sex and pregnancy. In its place he wants a greater emphasis placed on abstinence-only education.

In fairness, HPV is considered an STD. But, unlike syphillis, ghonorea, the clap and the rest of the STD stew, this one can't be cured or controlled with medication and it will lead to a condition that is fatal - cervical cancer. This is serious. AIDS serious. The person who works out an AIDS vaccine will win the Nobel prize.

Teenagers have sex. They have sex anywhere they can get away with it. Abstinence-only education is joke. It doesn't work to control disease or teen-pregnancy. It doesn't work because hormones over-rule happy lectures about waiting for marriage. However, Bishop Henry wants you to believe that if you vaccinate your daughters for HPV, they'll somehow take that as a sign that they should bonk every male object that comes their way, regardless of consequence.

Why am I so angry about this? Well, in the Calgary Public System, 75 percent of Grade 5 girls are now protected from the potentially fatal consequences of HPV; they got vaccinated. In the Calgary Catholic District? 25%.

People listened to and chose dogma and fantasy over reason and science. They chose to put their head in the sand and trust God, rather than be responsible parents and protect their kids. Good job Bishop Henry. From now on, every cervical-cancer related death of these unvaccinated kids, is on your head.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

A New Nemesis

I have a friend who once described his daily battle with a particular breed of driver called "Dodge Truck Guy".

According to Mur, "Dodge Truck Guy" is a species that is incapable of driving sedately through traffic - during rush hour. "Dodge Truck Guy" must, when the light goes green, stand on the accelerator, dump a huge cloud of black diesel smoke in the air and race to the next light and then... stomp on his brakes. Only to repeat this pattern every two blocks through stop and go traffic.

Well, I have discovered a sub-species, or perhaps a better term would be a co-evolved species. I have discovered "F-350 Guy".

"F-350 Guy" shares many of the same attributes as "Dodge Truck Guy" with a couple of notable additions:

1. The turn signals on "F-350 Guy's" truck, never work. Lane changes, going around corners... I think the elevation of the lift kit renders the signals unusable.

2. "F-350 Guy" is incapable of parking in less than four parking spots at one time. Exception: he can totally fit his truck into two adjacent Handicapped spots. I think maybe "F-350 Guy" feels that the inability to park is a handicap.

3. "F-350 Guy" doesn't seem to know how to turn the key counter-clockwise in the ignition. Even when fuel was $1.30/litre.

4. "F-350 Guy" must never, ever be seen driving a stock truck. It must be lifted, after-market wheeled, and for extra points, have a colour matched suspension system. It must also never, ever, ever get dirty or be used for anything vaguely truck-like; even though the bed will be rhino-lined.

5. While his income likely comes from the oilfield, "F-350 Guy" must never appear in public looking like anything less than an underage, metro-sexual club kid, Ironic for Alberta. Seriously dude, the frosted tips and totally unoriginal tribal tattoo make you look like a cadidate to be Ryan Seacrest's bitch.

Anyways, "F-350 Guy" and "Dodge Truck Guy" seem to rule the streets around here. And, when you're me - "Skinny Mountain Biker Dude" - the diesel smoke, synthetic testosterone and really big tires get a little scary. At least I can park properly.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Stop. It.

You know how I've written some entertaining, some deep and some significant stuff here in the blogosphere?

Well, this isn't one of those times.

Nope. This isn't witty, deep or politically aware. This isn't a poke at the moral compass of our fair country. This isn't social commentary.

This is not a request. It's a demand.

Stop. Spitting. In. Public.

When you are in a parking lot, walking down the sidewalk, driving down a residential street or wherever you happen to be, please try to restrain the urge to fire a big, sticky, yellow, warm wad of phlegm and tooth-grit from your gaping maw.

It's gross. If you live in the country and have a patch of land that you spend time on by yourself, please, by all means, turn it into a fetid pool of saliva and throat-snot. However, when you are around people, in a public place, please understand that we don't want to dodge your little germ-ridden stalagmites as we go race into Starbucks - wearing flip-flops.

It should not be your mission in life to build a fortress or sputum around your car door every time you park and get in or out.

To quote your mother: "Were you born in a barn?"

If you were, well then Jesus, you sure as hell aren't there now so clean up your damn act.

That is all.
For anybody interested... I want one of these:

Not so much the mug. I just really like the vampire Jesus fish.

Let's see... what annoyed me today. Nothing I guess. Must be something in the air.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Just a quick break between study-topics.

Here's the thing. I've just about had it with companies that don't empower their employees to make a decision on their own or to exercise judgement. In the same vein, I'm sick of employees who blindly follow "the rules" and are incapable of thinking for themselves.

Case in point. Tonight I went to the Greyhound station to pick up a package that had come in (pre-paid). In their defense, the cargo area was closed. However, upon finding the closed door, I walked into the terminal and asked the ticket lady if she could grab the package for me. The cargo area was wide open and lit, and she had just returned from there, having done something on the phone involving waybills. So, it didn't seem like a stretch to me to make a simple request.

"Hello, I didn't realize the cargo area closed at 6:00. I thought it was open until 9:00. Is it possible to pick up a package that has come in for me; please?"

"Cargo is closed and cashed out"

"Well, that's ok. The package is pre-paid, I just need to pick it up and sign the form that says I've received it."

"If I do it for you, I have to do it for everybody."

At this point I mentioned that the terminal is empty and that there is nobody else, she'd have to do it for.

"Cargo is closed"

"Yeah I know, but the package is probably my daughter's birthday present and her birthday is tomorrow. It is pre-paid, so all you'd have to do is give it to me and get me to sign the form."

"Cargo is closed."

Some grumbling from me and I leave.

Now, I get that the area is closed and that I should have checked the hours etc... I get that But, if the lights in cargo are on and the ticket lady has just been working in there... should she not be able to either a) make a decision for herself as to whether or not to help and b)come up with a better explanation than "if I do it for you, I have to do it for everybody."

I mean seriously. Use your damn brain. Look at the person in front of you, decide whether or not the request is reasonable and then act on that request/judgement. Don't just blindly follow "the rules" without being able to give a coherent explanation of why you can't help.

Business owners, listen up:

1) Encourage your employees to think for themselves and interpret "rules" to fit the situation.
2) Retailers, allow your staff the leeway to give a small discount if it will keep your customers happy.
3) Don't hire mindless drones who will end up costing you business because they were "just following the rules". Innovation and critical thinking will win everytime.

Three simple ideas. Nothing earth-shattering. 

Friday, May 1, 2009

Insert Loud Profanity

The Alberta gov't has decided that learning about evolution and gay people is bad for our kids. So, they have a bill before the legislature - supported by the Education Minister - that, if passed, would require parents being notified before their kids were exposed to evolution (in science class) and the concept of homosexuality (presumably in health class). And, parents can pull their kids from those units if they choose. Here is a link to the story:

Evolution is valid scientific theory. We can actually watch it happen. We live in a country that keeps church and state separate. Public schools are government institutions. There is no place in them for swapping out valid, accepted science. 

What else might we choose to shield our children from? Should we require parental notification in order to teach the theory of relativity to Physics students in highschool? How about asking the parents of kids taking a highschool communications course if it's ok that they learn the theory of Social Interactionism? Where do we draw the line? Grade 11 Geography and the theory of Plate Tectonics? Should we notify parents that their kids will be learning about a theory that postulates continents are constantly shifting around on an imperfect crust; contrary to biblical teachings?

Please note, I am not taking on or hammering against religion here. Not at all. Religion, belief and spirituality are very private expressions of how we view the world, where we come from, where we may be going and what it all means. The world has a varied and colourful spiritual landscape, As such, these issues need to kept out of a science classrooom. Science cuts across boundaries, belief, culture and religion. It is neither better nor worse than metaphysics; it's just different and it's teachings are just as sacrosanct as those of the church(es). We wouldn't presume to bring science into a religion class or to require notification that Religion 30 may study Buddhism as a point of comparison to Christianity. So, why the double-standard with evolution in a science class? 

And, don't even get me started on the issue of homosexuality. Seriously? Are we still at this point? There are gay people in the world. Lots of them. Your kids are going to meet them. Chances are, they already have. Get. Over. It. Requiring parental notification that kids are going to learn that the world has gay people is like requiring notification that the seasons are changing. It's a big, interconnected world out there. Fostering trust, acceptance, reverence and love for all people is hardly the worst thing we can expose our kids to.

So, while you may not be as passionate over this as I appear to be, if you feel that teachers should be able to teach valid science and that our kids should be encouraged to explore and embrace all facets of society, please write to the AB Government and to Minister Dave Hancock. His website is:
You should be able to email Education Minister Dave Hancock at or try

Thanks for listening folks. 


Thursday, January 22, 2009

Balance in the Balance

This entry sprang from a discussion on eco-philosophy in my Systems Perspective Course. It was kind of running off the rails so I decided to move it here where it wouldn't get in the way of the course content.

...I agree. We do need to find the balance between rationality and emotion, the masculine and the feminine, Cosmos and Kosmos. I agree completely (colleague) that "healing and integration has to start within before we can reflect it outwards to heal our world." -Beautiful quote btw.

Unfortunately we are currently living in a consumer society that constantly devalues emotion, wholeness and Kosmos. Engineers, product designers, geneticists, reductionists like Dawkins, pharmacologists rule the world. We are becoming a global society of quick fixes to big problems. We have shortened our attention spans to the length of a 20 second sound bite or 30 second SuperBowl commercial.

What nobody - and I mean NOBODY - has been able to tell me is how the hell we get people to slow down, unplug, shut the hell up and listen. To listen to themselves and their inner conversations, listen to breezes blowing through their hair, listen to the air move in and out of their lungs.

Absolutely [redacted], you, me, the rest of "the converted" need to start from within and then reflect it out. But, at this point all we are doing is spinning theory, searching for meaning and arguing about who's model of the nature of being is correct.

None of which is of the slightest concern to a population at large who is on the one hand spouting off about how GHG's are causing global warming and on the other hand drooling over a new X-box because the old one they got last year just isn't new enough.

Eco-philosophy can't be packaged and sold to the markets of the world. And, that's not a bad thing. It shouldn't be commodified. However, until we figure out how to "sell' eco-philosophy to a public (at least here in Alberta) that largely views the environmental movement as being a collection of weepy, doe-eyed, no-nothing, pot-heads full of dreams and no clue of how the real world works... we're Quixote tilting away at his windmills. In more common vernacular... we're screwed.