Monday, December 31, 2007

2007 Round up

After a generally unsuccessful relocation to Gatineau, we've moved back to Montréal. Sheila completed her Masters Degree in Sociology. She's now pursuing her bodybuilding hobby and working as a marketing consultant. Certain relationships have been renewed- others sundered. Anton is growing into a rambunctious little boy. Sheila and I are jamming together, again.

Now that the missus has finished grad school, I'm hoping to return to my MA in the Fall. For now I'm tutoring adults in English and being a full-time home daddy. Health issues have been defined and addressed.

Life is more fun than it has been in years. All the best in 2008.

Friday, December 28, 2007

Winter running

Well, 'tis the season of overloading, plate, cup and glass- so I'm out running on the trails again. Running in the winter can be invigorating and beats trudging on treadmills. The points to remember are that you want to keep the wind from blowing on exposed skin to prevent frostbite, but that the exercise itself will generate all the warmth you need. A light layer clothing of the correct materials is usually sufficient, beneath some kind of windbreaker.

Dressing for running in the winter can just mean loading up on layers of sweaters and $10 sweat pants. I did that through two winters and survived OK. However for a few more bucks I got some polypropylene running tights and a similar turtle neck sweater. Unlike cotton, which absorbs water, these materials wick the perspiration away from your body so you stay warm and reasonably dry, and don't develop pneumonia or, more seriously, hypothermia. To cut the wind I wear a cycling jacket. The tail helps cover my buttocks from wind, which is a big bonus. In colder temperatures(below -10C) I add a similar technical sweater(poly fleece or similar) over the turtle neck. Polyester fleece mittens will keep your hands warm and not too sweaty. On my head I favour a tuque(stocking cap) or if the temperature is up around freezing, a ball cap. Since I wear glasses, the peak of a baseball cap keeps falling snow from blocking my vision.

I've never tried winter running shoes. After running through 13 Montreal winters, I don't see the point. Regular running shoes and socks work fine, and if you like the fancy, wicking, technical socks your feet wont notice the difference (I've run regularly for durations of up 1 1/2 hours at temperatures down to -20C/-10F and never suffered from cold feet).

Underwear is another issue. Usually a pair of biking shorts provides adequate protection for me, but my buddy swears by wind-proof shorts. It seems he got frostbite down below one time, and has been 'sensitive' about his parts ever since.

Some people complain of difficulty breathing cold air. Apparently there is even a form of asthma that affects some people, including Olympic-class cross-country skiers. You can get a mask that helps warm your breath as well as shield your lower face from the wind. A fleece scarf wrapped around your face will also work.

Overdressing can be a problem. Many people overload on the clothing then get too warm after about ten minutes into the run. Jogging in a parka is hot, sweaty and heavy - and not in an attractive way. As a rule of thumb, you should feel a little cold at the start of the run and rely on warming up as you get moving. An option to ward off the initial chill is to do calisthenics or lift some weights prior to stepping out.

Once you get out on your path, it's a good idea to plan your running based on time rather than distance. That 20 minute path can easily take 30 minutes if it's covered in 20cm/8" of crusty snow. Don't forget to drink water as you can still get dehydrated, even if it is cold and snowing.

Running in the winter has some different challenges from summer running, but can be really exhilarating. Running on Mont Royal with a gentle snow fall and the lights of Montréal below, unobscured by leaves, is a lovely experience.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Are words violence ?

"Remember," wrote the Stoic thinker Epictetus, "that foul words or blows in themselves are no outrage, but your judgment that they are so. So when any one makes you angry, know that it is your own thought that has angered you. Wherefore make it your endeavour not to let your impressions carry you away."- retrieved from an internet source, 27Dec, '07

A rather more broad take on "sticks and stones" . People who argue for limits on freedom of expression forget that such limits have usually presaged real violence, political repression and covert manipulation. Finding something offensive or intolerable reveals an internal emotional state not anything intrinsic to the received source of offense.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Building a home studio- an introduction

A few years back, I realised I was spending a small fortune renting rehearsal studios. The old shed/garage in back of my triplex offered a potential space for conversion into a practice and recording studio. The arrival of my son also meant that we needed our musical gear out of our flat to make room for the nursery. I spent about 18 months researching the project.
Budget, available space and requirements effected the process. An additional 2 feet in each direction would have been nice, as well as the budget to add acoustic rubber to all the surfaces beneath the drywall/sheet rock and vapour barrier. Oh well, next studio

(above, left)The studio had to be physically unconnected to the shed exterior to
prevent sound being transmitted in or out through the walls.

The structure was built out of 2 x 6 lumber, screwed in place(no nails), and acoustically insulated with 6" rock wool. The interior sheetrock was attached to the walls with z-channel strips. Power was supplied from an existing 25 Amp circuit and most of the outlets were quad(4 socket) boxes. It's foundation was comprised of six 8" cement pilings.

Note the vapour barrier between the z-channels
and the sheet rock(above, right). Vapour barrier
seams were taped with contruction tape.

It was very important the that the interior vapour barrier has NO HOLES. Any holes will drastically increase noise transmission, both in and out. Equally important, holes in a vapour barrier will let all the humidity from sweaty musicians accumulate in the walls, causing mold and all sorts of related problems both to health and to the structure itself, which will start to rot. The only holes should be the door systems(which is tricky) and a ventilation system, so the humidity inside is vented and fresh air gets in. Getting these two things balanced with the no holes rule is tricky, and the hardest part of the process. The screw holes made in attaching the sheet rock apparently self-seal.

The final result was a secure room 7 feet wide and 15 feet long. It cut sound well enough that I could record a folksinger without getting exterior noise, and the neighbours couldn't hear the speed metal drummer from 40 feet away(at ten feet, vibration was more noticeable than the snare hits).

You could use a similar process to build a good studio in a spare room or basement. In that case, you'd probably rest the structure on a series of thick rubber pads(hockey pucks?) to absorb sound vibrations.

Please remember, these articles are for information only. Use them at your own risk and peril. Consult your local officials as to building code restrictions, especially regarding electrical installation. Your mileage may vary, but it worked for me.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

"Chernobyl Steve" Harper strikes again

According to CTV the Government tried to pressure The Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission to bend safety rules to open Chalk River Nuclear Plant. When the experts rejected this as unsafe, the Government legislated it open. This kind of thinking lead to the Walkerton tragedy, Three Mile Island and Chernobyl.

This Government is a menace, and the Opposition should bring it down with a confidence vote on this issue.

The social currency of Celine

“You could say that punk rock,” he writes, “is anger’s schmaltz.”
-Carl Wilson

I still don't care for Celine Dion's music, but this review of Carl Wilson's book about Celine Dion and the phenomena of taste is worth reading. He doesn't care for her either, but he makes an interesting assessment of her popularity as more democratic than attitudes the music snobs who dismiss her music.

And here is an equally positive review of the book in a cooler channel(Exclaim!).

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

"Chernobyl Steve" rolls the dice

"Chernobyl Steve" Harper is willing to reopen a nuclear reactor even though Canada's nuclear regulatory agency says the reactor requires safety upgrades. Harper's response to it was to blame the Liberals for the regulatory commission's position. (After all, "Canada's New Government" has been in power just shy of two years. Is it reasonable to expect them to replace every bureacrat with one that toes the Tory line?)

Harper argues that the lack of radio isotopes required for medical purposes justifies reopening the reactor before repairs are completed. Contaminating populated areas of Eastern Ontario and Western Quebec apparently is worth the risk. Harper claims that independent experts said it was safe.

Monday, December 10, 2007

This is not copyright...

nor protection of an industry. This new Canadian law is an attempt to legislate a particular industry group's right to stay in business in perpetuity, regardless of its cost to society at large. It is an attempt to save the dinosaurs by bureacratic fiat.

Contact Minister Prentice and ask him to stop this nonsense.

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Sheila O's Fit and Fabulous Over 40

SheilaO has a blog Fit and Fabulous Over 40. As you may know our second date was a 10km foot race. She's always been an enthusiastic body-builder and now wants to share some of her experience and knowledge.

Saturday, December 08, 2007

Writing with and about Philip Pullman

An Interview with Philip Pullman offered a genial view into Pullman's creative process. I admire his discipline as a writer. Three pages a day, no more no less, and only one page in ten survived to print. Of course, he's the Antichrist, this week.

Listening to the criticism from the Christian right, the epigram "Take care when you joust with monster's that you don't become one" is worthy advice. It's pity it wont be taken by those who need it most. Pullman argues that you can't really communicate with those who believe they have all the answers, and especially those who cannot weather criticism or contradiction of their beliefs.

Anton and I are going to see The Golden Compass next week.

Friday, December 07, 2007


China: Our past and our future?

It's nice to have one's opinion supported by a reputable authority.

Slavoj Žižek reiterates my view that China is simply following in the footsteps of all liberal democracies, which weren't so democratic or liberal in the past as all that. All these societies walked through a Valley of Tears on the way to economic propserity and liberal democratic governance. As goes China, so goes modernity? was a previous post in which I asked the same questions.(Forgive my smugness)

Žižek raises the issue that perhaps authoritarian capitalism is the next phase of modernity/post-modernity. He also implies in the article that Marxism is not the final phase but a route to liberal capitalist democracy.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

I sing the dance of purpose

"Why can't I dance and put on my clothes?" asked my 3 1/2 year old. I had just admonished hime to put on clothes before "he got frozen, got sick and died". of course he could do his little dance, which mostly involved pursuing his underpants in a tight circle, reminiscent of a dog chasing it's tail.

But when a performance artist takes amundane activity and rutualises it it becomes not merely about getting dressed, but rather the meaning of getting dressed. Not withstanding a desire for play that seems linked to the faculty of creativity which is at the root of human problem solving, sometimes the meaning is best addressed directly-Get dressed before you freeze.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Hello Hello

Hello Hello is an instrumental here for music

Look! we had a winter last night

This means somebody else got our global warming...

Monday, December 03, 2007

Between Adam's Ears-

I originally christened this blog, Adamvanistan, after I heard folks criticising Canada as being pro-terrorist and pro- Taleban. Hence it was slurred by both foreigners and generally conservative Canadians as "Canuckistan". I'm sure that pleases the men and women of the Canadian Armed Forces, working, fighting and dying in Afghanistan.

Seven years on into this period when the citizens of the US discovered that the rest of the human race inhabits a large proportion of the globe that doesn't rest within the USA's borders, it seems my cheap shot has become as irrelevant as their's.

I've decided to rechristen the blog, Between Adam's Ears which seems more appropriate and more positive. Now that I can put multimedia on this blog(assuming my toddler naps for long enough) I can close down my increasingly neglected podcast/music site, and recycle the name.

The blog will also get a minor cosmetic facelift, as time permits.

Saturday, December 01, 2007

Cheap memories in 4/4 time

Listening to Russ Ballard's "On the rebound" makes me think of tooling up the road to Chateauguay in my dad's old green Buick, on a steamy summer day in in 1980, the radio dimed, and hopeless thoughts of adolescent lust on my mind.

Damn me but life is better now. Still like some of those tunes, tho- The Cars, early Talking Heads and so on .

My second adolescence was much better, and consumed my 27th summer, along with the Pixies, Swervedriver, the Double Deuce, the Craigster, the Professor, Nance, Lynne, Bobcat and the Magnificent D-beast. Forgive me for being maudlin, but those people and places don't realise how important they where to me. They truly populate my "happy place" to this day.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Freedom to offend redux

The book "The Golden Compass" was recently pulled from the library shelves of a Catholic Schoolboard in Ontario. Having not read the book, I can't argue for the motivations.

However, I have argued that the Freedom of Expression includes a fortiori the right to offend. After listening to the arguements for and against a given book in a given school, I think the Charter of Rights should be rewritten to include a Charter of Obligations- and that should include the obligation to hear dissent.

In any event, the timing of these protests couldn't come at a better time to promote the film version which is just opening, and the furor will no doubt attract further attention to the book.

Friday, November 23, 2007

The best burgers in Ottawa

A big shout-out to The Works. They are the most consistently enjoyable restaurent I encountered in Ottawa. No I don't get paid by them- I just wish they'd open- up a "Les Works" in Montréal, preferably around Atwater market. It makes the trip to Bytown worth the aggravation. My personal faves are the Field of Dreams w/ an Elk meat patty, the Greek Goddess w/ a lamb patty and the Jamaican Jerk w/ a conventional beef patty.

And why can't we get Steam Whistle lager in K-Bec?

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Down with Kindagarchy Now!

Normally, I don't care for Joseph Epstein's opinions. However, I share most of his opinions about American Thanksgiving- Especially as regards how children have come to dominate holidays. And in this we both think it is a Bad Thing.

The only opinion in this article I don't share is that Christopher Hitchens would be a drag at thanksgiving- I think he realizes nothing succeeds like excess at least as well as that pompous sonuvabitch Epstein.

Monday, November 05, 2007

Canada's New Government: Not more than 34.3%

For the last few weeks, not to mention back almost 18 months, I've had to endure endless sermons from Conservative supporters and even those that aren't. These folks seem to feel Stephen Harper, for his is the will and mind of his caucus, is a political genius who will sweep the next election.

Despite the cheering and moaning, like the fox leaping for the grapes, he never quite gets them. I predict that the Conservative party will not garner more than 34.3% of the popular vote in the next federal general election. And if Stephan Dion starts trusting his own council, and not those of the smarmy backroom operators, the Conservatives' result may be a lot smaller than 34.3%.

Every time Harper's party commissions a poll, and that poll suggests the Conservatives have reached that magic 40% popularity/ majority region, the Lemming Left and the Righteous Right announce it's all over save the CBC predicting a Conservative win on election night.

However, once the headlines clear, and polls come out that weren't paid for by Harper's Harpies, the conservatives are once again revealed to be floundering about in the low 30's. After acting like belligerent teenagers on the Floor of the House and in Committee, after trying to buy votes with our taxes, they have eliminated all but the conservative diehards, and those not yet ready to forgive the Liberals. That last group may well decide to split between the Grits, Greens and 'Dippers. At 10%, the Greens have a strong possibility of gaining seats.

For all the spin, the biggest change is the gradual decline of the Bloc and the gradual rise of the Greens. And you can take that to a non-income trust bank!

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Here are my top questions

There are some questions I ponder other than St.Ambroise pale ale or Boreale rousse; Arctic Monkeys or George Thorogood; hill run or long, slow day.

What is the relationship of Experience, Knowledge, Art and Subjectivity?
This informs my interest in Phenomenology. The experience of seeing something as something else- in my specific case seeing an old electrical support as the sculpture of a deer- pins one of my areas of interest about the connection of art and experience. In answer to a lesser question of a teacher as to how Yoga can be classified with Philosophy in a college Humanities department, I've been pondering the phenomenology of running. Many of my previous posts about meaning, creativity, Schopenhauer and so on are related to this general theme.

What will the the world economy look like after human populations stabilise at about 9 billion people sometime in the middle of the 21st Century?
Just curious about what's next on the program. To wit, is China the next phase of modernity? Or will liberal capitalism survive? What are the characteristics of a modern society? Does liberal democracy go hand in hand with capitalism or will state-centered oligarchies and a new round of empire building define political-economic relations for the foreseeable future? An answer to this not attributed to biblical prophecy or Norman Podhoretz would be welcome.

Perhaps one heretical question that has occurred to me is; Should economics be reduced to subfield of social-psychology? After all, beauty and share value seem to be in the eye of the beholder.

I had a maths question, but it was solved - it was similar the the Bridges of Koenigsberg problem.
This one had stumped me since I was 8 years old. This issue, how to draw a square with an "x" in the middle without lifting pen from paper and without doubling back over a line only occurred to me as a mathematical problem about 6 years ago.

I have a few stories about; the economics of vampyric slavery, the devil's role in freedom of choice, a lonely wolf and the village he defends, and bio-warfare terrorists. But the questions I ask there are less rigorous.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

creativity versus originality

At the risk of drawing a false dichotomy, I wonder if we can draw a useful distinction between creativity and originality. For example, Einstein came up with three major ideas-the theory of special relativity, the theory behind photo-voltaic cells, and a theory supporting Brownian motion. Which ideas originated with him, and which ideas did he develop?

If a thinker or artist comes up with one good new idea, could we term that thinker original, but not necessarily creative? On the other hand, one who has new interpretations of another's work
could be termed creative without being particularly original. For example, consider the roles of the composer and the conductor in serious western music.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Take a hike

Some days I wish everybody would go for a long walk and get the hell off my doorstep. Don't you have someone else to ask questions to? Don't phone me- read my bloody blog if you really care about my opinion.

Talk to the hand...I'm going on a beer run.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Fear, Boredom and Plastic ware

A friend of mine sincerely believes that microwave ovens release unnamed poisons from tupperware(plastic kitchenware). There are many who believe that vaccination is far deadlier than the diseases prevented by it.

What boring lives these people lead, that they must find bogeymen to occupy themselves with. What atavistic urge inspires them to think they can control things with pseudo-scientific appeals to magical nostrums?

Heart disease, cancer, traffic accidents and pneumonia are the only significant threats to life, and only traffic accidents are likely to effect people under the age of 50, at least in Canada and similar industrialised nations. Most people living in those countries will die at an advanced age, hopefully surround by loved ones, possibly at home or in some institutional setting. On the other hand, depression and stress related illness are the most common forms of disease in the developed world. Suicide actually has become a relatively significant cause of death.

The pointless hand wringing of those ninnies afraid of magical maladies and media menaces does nothing to help the sense of unease that seems to effect so many people.

Unfortunately, there is no cure for foolishness, and the fears it engenders.

Friday, October 19, 2007

As goes China, so goes modernity?

What are the characteristics of modernity that we can draw by comparing the US with the People's Republic of China?In the article Big Red Checkbook by John Feffer published in The Nation the November 5, 2007 issue,he discusses various author's views as expressed in their books about contemporary China.

In China Road, his absorbing chronicle of traveling Route 312 from Shanghai across the expanse of China to the farthest reaches of the Gobi Desert, National Public Radio correspondent Rob Gifford meets a Tibetan who makes his living teaching Chinese to his compatriots. Gifford carefully broaches the subject of betrayal.

"No one blames me," the Tibetan tells him. "There is no other choice. The only way to say I'm not going to take part in this is not to learn Chinese and reject the whole Chinese system. But that would condemn me to poverty." He won't give up his Buddhism, and he will never marry a Han Chinese woman. But otherwise he has decided to trade in the nomadic life, which he says is nothing to romanticize, for the life of an upwardly mobile Chinese citizen. "That is simply today's world. The modern world. The globalized world. I'm not sure we can completely blame the Chinese for that."

Foreign policy analysts speak of various crunches that China will face. There's the demographic one, when China suddenly becomes a senior citizen society virtually overnight because of its one-child policy. There is the economic one, when rapid growth begins to sputter and an angry middle class joins hands with the disenfranchised to close down the party. There's the environmental one, when the poisons of industrial development choke the country to death.

How these conditions might appear varies somewhat between the US and the PRC, but it is disturbingly easy to show parallels between the two. Does Modernity lead to a techno-feudalism or are there other possibilities?

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Music, intangible value and the economics of meaning

In a previous post I argued that the diminution of production costs associated with recording and distribution would reduce the music distribution industry but not the calibre or breadth music production. My opinions seem to be supported by the unfolding events as described in the Time article "Behind the Battle for Madonna"

Records, it seems, have merely become advertising for live performers- and promoters are the new economic power.

"At a time when lagging CD sales and music piracy have made the album a mere accessory to touring, merchandising and licensing, it's no wonder that ailing record labels like Warner Music Group have been exploring ways to get a piece of that much more lucrative side of the business. So just imagine how they must feel now that Live Nation, the world's largest concert promoter, is close to stealing away pop music icon Madonna for a cool $120 million in cash and stock."

On a more theoretical level, at what point does a product( a record, film, book, t shirt) or a service (live performance, theatre) transcend it's role as itself and become advertising? I'd argue that from the time it leaves the sole awareness of its originator that it starts with it functions as advertising.

Advertising----> Social capital-----> hidden capital of education, law, social relations
The Secrets of Intangible Wealth- Reason Online
Two years ago the World Bank's environmental economics department set out to assess the relative contributions of various kinds of capital to economic development. Its study, "Where is the Wealth of Nations?: Measuring Capital for the 21st Century," began by defining natural capital as the sum of nonrenewable resources (including oil, natural gas, coal and mineral resources), cropland, pasture land, forested areas and protected areas. Produced, or built, capital is what many of us think of when we think of capital: the sum of machinery, equipment, and structures (including infrastructure) and urban land.

But once the value of all these are added up, the economists found something big was still missing: the vast majority of world's wealth! If one simply adds up the current value of a country's natural resources and produced, or built, capital, there's no way that can account for that country's level of income.

The rest is the result of "intangible" factors—such as the trust among people in a society, an efficient judicial system, clear property rights and effective government. All this intangible capital also boosts the productivity of labor and results in higher total wealth. In fact, the World Bank finds, "Human capital and the value of institutions (as measured by rule of law) constitute the largest share of wealth in virtually all countries."

Once one takes into account all of the world's natural resources and produced capital, 80% of the wealth of rich countries and 60% of the wealth of poor countries is of this intangible type. The bottom line: "Rich countries are largely rich because of the skills of their populations and the quality of the institutions supporting economic activity."

This idea of intangible wealth explains why file sharing and not copyright advances the economy- and why outmoded relationships rather than technology must fade away at the hands of a free market.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

sticks and stones...

"When it comes to free speech, we need to let a hundred flowers bloom. We need to chill. We need to stop being pussies."

This is the conclusion of Kurt Andersen, writing in the New Yorker. I can't add much to his challenging and sardonic article- this relates to my post of sometime ago that concluded we need the Freedom to be offended.

Thursday, October 04, 2007

Recognizing the immense costs of mortality for a meaning machine.

Trying to define "personess"- sometimes called philosophical anthropology- has occupied philosophers since Plato defined man as a featherless biped and Diogenes of Sinope held up a plucked chicken as a response.

I'm going to say we are meaning machines. This term was coined by Prof. Deb Roy of MIT and is used by artificial intelligence researchers to refer to computers that think.
In my case I'm trying to respect modern empirical science as regards human biology, while addressing our experience of, well, experience and how we interpret that experience.We are, from a biologist's point of view, organic machines. Yet we seem unable to go through life as if our choices were pre-programmed. We(I can't speak for chickens, featherless or otherwise) create meaning- we assign value to phenomena.We manufacture meaning and this seems safer to ascribe to a biological rather than metaphysical origin. My approach is that we are biological computers that create meaning. This has implications for both epistemology and ethics.

Meaning has both a linguistic sense such as when calling a dog, a dog, I'm attaching meaning to a generally four legged mammal. But meaning has its ethical dimension, as when a dog is a bad movie or a poorly engineered car. I wonder how much there is a difference between meaning as to identify and meaning as to evaluate. We experience both as we go through life, but unlike in critical, philosophical thinking we don't necessarily separate the objects of meaning strictly into is and ought as we create meaning for the phenomena we encounter.

How I greet my small son is different from how another greets him. A brief review of recent history reveals how the the beloved child of one person could be a toy to another and considered an evil affront to another. In each case a very specific identification and evaluation are attached to this child.

Often these values we create conflict both within us and amongst us. After all the Choice vs Abortion debate is keenly felt by people on both sides, and yet there are others who feel it isn't worth arguing about. On another issue I prefer to lead a simpler life with modest material assets- but I still feel envy for those who own a convertible, especially the late model T-birds with the retro paint jobs. Still, my conflict finds me saying 2 feet good, 4 wheels bad.

Moreover, the reasons why a person attaches a particular meaning can vary. Those reasons can even evince a 180degree shift in position.

Now, if life is finite then how does that inform the meaning that one brings to life? So how do we build an ethical system that reflects the creative nature of human values? How do we deal with a need to create meaning that doesn't dismiss that need as an epiphenomena of biological processes nor ascribe meaning as a metaphysical entity separate and ineffable from our biological nature?

Thursday, September 20, 2007

My son the road engineer; making tracks for morons

One of the activities of little boys is making roadways in the playground sand. The other evening, Anton and I arrived at a local playground with a variety of small plastic digging tools. Immediately he set to laying out an elaborate road system. Then he made a long winding road away from his main site.

He announced "That road is for jackasses so they don't drive on the good roads". I reflected that my on-road terminology was having an effect- he recently had taken a certain joy in the phrase "learn to drive, moron" which he yells at fast moving or erratic drivers.

Perhaps he has the right idea; leave certain roads unrestricted and only minimally supervised, and let people drive on them at their own risk- a sort of libertarian Autobahn. Then tightly control the remaining roads, especially in residential areas. Hopefully the incompetent, immature and down-right homicidal drivers will be removed from the genepool.

Friday, September 07, 2007

disturbing dichotomies

Aside from being a neat alliteration, it disturbs me that Gatineau has 60 000 citizens without a family doctor, but Montreal has a Birkenstocks Hospital.

More distressing is that Canada's New Government has proposed a ban on camcorders, but doesn't want to ban handguns. Apparently Movie studio's profits are very important, Canadian citizen's safety less so.

I guess tough on crime means crime against foreign corporations not Canadians.

Friday, August 31, 2007

Encore "Nous"

12 years after Mr.Parizeau's remark about "money and the ethnic vote", ethno- nationalism is back in vogue, although the sanitised expression is 'you are all welcome, as long as you become like us'.

Mrs Marois' opinion's here.

Coca-Cola - is(sh)it

I found this parody video of a Coca-cola ad followed by the original. I have nothing witty to add- just feelings of frustration and anger at Coke.

and here's the preening, hypocritical original...

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

What kind of vegetable is Stephen Harper?

What kind of vegetable does Stephen Harper remind you of?

In this article in Deutche Weller, the controversy about the Polish president being compared to a potato(o the scandal of it!) made me think we should apply the same level of discourse to our own head of Canada's New Government. It's about the right tone, and certainly reflects the same level of sophistication and maturity as the current PM.

So what kind of vegetable is Prime Minister Stephen Harper?


He's a sweet, colourful fruit! But given his party's level of sophistication, he's also tasteless.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Back in the saddle

Well, we're back in Montréal. The new digs are a spiffy little apartment in St.Henri. Back where, to within a block, we started about 2 years ago when Sheila and I decided to move to Gatineau/Ottawa.

I'm shocked and delighted how well that experience seems to have resolved itself. Almost forgotten, like a bad dream.

Anybody want to buy a house with in walking distance of Parliament Hill?

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Ignatieff:Struts and Grovels at the same time

Unable to say "I wrong was about Iraq" Michael Ignatieff produced a convoluted mass of weasel words in the NYT. It has generated much cruel laughter in such as this article by David Rees.

Pompous egoism is forgivable in academics provided they can write clearly about interesting or difficult ideas. But I still wouldn't care to have that species of intellectual in my home, even if I buy their books.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Iraq: Insurgent stategic judo

In a previous post, I suggested the loose coalition of terrorist groups refered to as Al Quada were pinning Western forces in Iraq. Numerous articles covering or refering to the release of a CIA report indicate this is exactly what is happening.

Al Qaeda seen reborn as key threat

Monday, June 18, 2007

Freedom of expression: a feeble faith

The threats and outrage expressed over Salman Rushdie's knighthood reveals a terrible feebleness of faith on the part of some believers of Islam. It's supporters believe their prophets can be sullied by one they consider despicable. It seems Islam regards its foes as greater than its leaders. This intolerance for any type of criticism, whether lofty or base, speaks more to a lack of faith than a desire to protect the "infinitely powerful" or to follow in the steps of the"infinitely merciful".

A infinitely merciful and powerful deity doesn't need or require suicide bombers or draconian regimes to silence loudmouths.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Adam's log, stardate 2007.06.14

Well it was ambitious of me to try and read and comment on one chapter of Schopenhauer per day. I'll try and get chapters 3 through 5 up today.

We're returning to Montréal shortly, so the last couple of weeks have been a flurry of renovation activity. I'd planned on taking 18 months to complete what has to be done. i now have less than a month.

My marathon plans are still on track. Maybe this is my year to run 42 km, hopefully in 3 and 1/2 hours. Broken toes, bronchitis and Norwalk virus have stymied me in the last few years. if I succeed, then I'll get my first tatoo- a running man.

Politically, the conservatives seem edging towards implosion, with nothing left but a western rump and a bad taste in the mouths of eastern Canada. On the other hand, growing numbers of foreign insurgents threaten our troops in Afghanistan, and the American failure in Iraq, coupled with a conflict between Turkey and an embryonic Kurdistan, sabre rattling with Iran and a palestinian civil war signals a anxious time for everyone. Did it sound like this in 1912?1938?

I made my first Long Island ice-tea yesterday. Summer in an alcohol-loaded glass.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

The end of amateur hour

The fiasco of partisan bickering in the house reflects the failure of the Reform/Canadian alliance wing of the Conservative party to learn how parliament works, or get over the cynical idea that Canada is governed by a parliamentary dictatorship. Certainly, all parties vie for popularity, but usually, they have recognised that some measure of cooperation is necessary. Members of Parliament also recognised that the committee process required a high degree cooperation away from the partisan grandstanding in Question Period. Unfortunately, Canada's New Government, as the Stephen Harper Conservatives style themselves, has embraced the view that "winner takes all" and that opinions of the plurality, or today the majority of Canadians who didn't vote Conservative don't count.

This rather petty and puerile attitude has lead to the subsequent result:

Conservatives' lead dwindles: poll
Sat May 19, 2007 11:52 AM EDT
TORONTO (Reuters) The Strategic Counsel survey for the Globe and Mail newspaper found the Conservatives had 34 percent support while the Liberals had 31 percent. In an April 26 survey by the same pollster, 36 percent of those surveyed said they backed the Conservatives and 30 percent favored the Liberals.

Canadians expect their politicians to compromise on solving the issues. This reflects the diversity of opinion amongst canadians, and a certain recognition that nobody is going away, so we have to get along.

A disturbing sense of entitlement pervades many politicians of all stripes, (Don Boudria's son was coronated as his successor in his riding- the Liberals haven't been chastened enough in the last election). This sense of entitlement leads to pompous ad hominum attacks on critics. This defensive attitude serves only to dishonour its authors and diminish the political process in the eyes of an already disillusioned citizenry.

I think most people want their MP's to represent their interests, not steam-roll the interests of other canadians. Hopefully, this parliament will fall, and a more cooperative spirit arise in the next one. At least, I'd like to see the amateurs sent packing.

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Plagiarism, Creativity and snarkiness

"Most of my Google results for Plagiarism dealt with academic plagiarism on the high-school and undergraduate level. This is because many young students are sneaky. And lazy. And on drugs. Sneaky, lazy, young people on drugs don’t make for original, successful scholars. Poets? Perhaps (see Shelley, Byron, Edna St. Vincent Millay, Robert Lowell, every single Beat poet, Edgar Allan Poe, Charles Bukowski, and possibly Rod McKuen[6])."

-Eric Cambell, The Virginia Quarterly Review

I'm not sure what this statement proves, as regards plagiarism, but I like the snarkiness of it.

The article ruminates on where the line between plagiarism and originality falls.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Indian Democracy: the clash within civilizations

Martha Nussbaum writes about the challenges of democracy within ethnically and religiously diverse India. She offers a hopeful analysis of the situation there and what it means for other democracies, especially in the face of religious extremism, ethnic friction and political manipulation of these tensions.

"The real "clash of civilizations" is not between "Islam" and "the West," but instead within virtually all modern nations — between people who are prepared to live on terms of equal respect with others who are different, and those who seek the protection of homogeneity and the domination of a single "pure" religious and ethnic tradition. At a deeper level, as Gandhi claimed, it is a clash within the individual self, between the urge to dominate and defile the other and a willingness to live respectfully on terms of compassion and equality, with all the vulnerability that such a life entails."
-Martha Nussbaum
Section: The Chronicle Review
Volume 53, Issue 37, Page B6

Friday, May 11, 2007

The world as will and representation, ch2

"The body is object among objects and is subordinated to the laws of objects , although it is an immediate object."
WWR p.5

Schopenhauer regards space,time and causality as a priori, that is knowledge that exists prior to any particular experience. Merely being a subject gives us this insight.

This phenomenological position, privileging our subjective experience, pressents my starting point for a theory of knowledge that is live, momentous and forced, to use Dewey's criteria. Neither Schopenhauer nor myself advocate a solipsistic view of the universe. However, our own experience is the lens that we must approach it through. The experience we can first look at is the experience of being embodied.

Do we find space, time and casuality a priori through the immediate experience of the body?

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

the world as will and representation, Chapter 1

" The world is my representation...[the reflective person] does not
know a sun and an earth, but only an eye that sees a sun,
a hand that feels an earth."
Schopenhauer, Arthur, The World as Will and Representation, E.F.J. Payne, trans. Dover, New york,1969.p.3

Schopenhauer argues for the supremacy of the subject, not because of the lack of a material world. Rather he argues we only know that world through subjective experience. The failure to avoid solipsism is a fault that he acuses the british philosopher Berkeley of, while commending berkely's assertion of subjective nature of experience.

This reflects view that Schopenhauer frequently expresses throughout WWR, that he is a kantian, and only desires to correct Kant's few mistakes. Thus Schopenhauer tries to deal with the divide between the noumenal world(what really is) and our subjective experience of that world(which may or may not reflect the actual state of reality).

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Reading the world as will and representation

About 23 years ago I asked a question about Kant's epistemology. My college instructor couldn't answer it. For about ten years I assumed it was a dumb question. Then I discovered that the German philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer had asked a similar question, and had written his own answer in 3000 pages in his masterwork, The World as Will and Representation. You can find it online here

My question was that if we make mistakes, what does that say about the nature of the universe?Why shouldn't we "get it right"? To say we make mistakes because we're stupid is simply to say we're prone to error- a tautology. To say we're imperfect is the same and to say we lack God's perfection heads-off in the direction of magic and superstition.

My intention is to read it (the original volume, not volume 2 that Schopenhauer wrote years later), chapter by chapter, and post my response to each chapter in this blog. Why blog my reading of this dense work? Because since there is no one I know who is remotely interested in this topic, I can pretend to have a dialogue, which is the way I philosophise best. Each day I'll blog one chapter (and/or one section of
Arthur Schopenhauer entry in the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy
Arthur Schopenhauer entry in Wikipedia

If by some chance you read this, please post a hello, or better yet, a comment.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Fish Paralyzer

So I finally developed a drink that bears and deserves the name Fish Paralyzer. My idea was that it was a drink that could be found with materials you might find on a fishing trip. To wit, beer(lager), whiskey(rye), lemon and tobasco sauce. The title comes from a phrase used in the Saturday Night Live sketch "All Drug Olympics".
It was the last in a list of drugs a power lifter in the sketch, played by Phil Hartman, had supposedly taken. I always wondered what horrible concoction resided in fish paralyzer- now we know.

Fish Paralyzer
1 pint of lager (I used Steamwhistle)
1 jigger of rye(I used Canadian Club)
juice of 1/4 lemon
tobasco sauce to taste
Slice of lemon

This isn't sweet- some might call it a man's girly drink. It goes well with steak and barbequed shrimp.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Kurt Vonnegut on war and Bush

I heard this on the overnight programming on CBC radio 1.

"I hate how Hollywood has made war reputable . It allowed President Bush to to say , proudly, he is a war president. War should be disreputable. Saying he is a war president is like saying he is a syphilis president. War is a terrible disease"- Kurt Vonnegut

Saturday, March 10, 2007

empathy and guilt

I was watching the news, this afternoon. It seems that someone has abducted a three-day old infant from a hospital in Texas.

What was this person thinking? Were they mentally ill? Or was there some bizarre sense of entitlement? Or something truly sinister?

I thought about how we try to avoid guilt, and especially avoid arousing feelings of guilt in others. However, as I imagined the situation of this child abductor, it occurs to me that guilt is a feeling related to empathy. Perhaps this person was never encouraged to feel guilt.

So I'm asking the question, without offering more than the notion, that guilt is the emotion that allows us to experience the pain we inflict on others. Thus from experiencing guilt we learn empathy.

Friday, March 09, 2007

Updates from Ottawa

I've been slow updating, due to new projects. The Mac Group hired me to update and webmaster their site. Virtually an accident. I had dropped in to buy a hard drive, got to gabbing, and was hired on the strength of my experience doing a former band's website(The magdalens- see my podcast). is the name I'm setting up my video business. Aside from standard corporate video, I'm interested in developing video content for web and mobile phone.

Finally i'm writing songs, stories and film scripts. More on that later.

Monday, February 26, 2007

Knowledge and experience: Plato vs Kant

The notion of reality - what really is apart from what we think is- presents problems. Plato , regarding the amount of error in what we perceive as real, asserted the notion that our perceived world is a flawed and limited image of the "real" world of "Ideas". These ideas constitute a true essence of everything we see, in Plato's system. What we see however, is not real, because it can change, as do our perceptions. This notion of the possibility of erroneous perceptions also informs Emmanuel Kant's thesis, that there are three realms of reality- the subjective, which we know but cannot share(I can feel pain, and know that I feel pain, but you can only speculate that I feel pain); the objective, which is that which we can agree upon(Fred over there is in pain because he's screwed up his eyes, is rolling on the floor and moaning while clutching his bloodied knee) and the nuomenal, which is really what's going on (indeed, Fred is in pain, and not playing an elaborate joke on us; or fred is a really good actor; or fred comes from a culture which expresses pleasure that way; or.....).

Which concept better represents the more accurate representation of reality?

Both Plato and Kant attempt to explain the interaction of knowledge and experience. Plato's theory posits a metaphysical realm of "Ideas". In these "Ideas" the true essence of things lies. There are problems with the concept of his Idealism; there are an infinite possible number of ideas( an Idea for man, and idea for blogger an idea for adam, and idea for Adam as blogger, an idea for someone reading Adam's blog.........). Secondly there is the lack of explanation how these "Ideas", however imperfectly, touch our conciousness.

Kant's idealism has the advantage, in terms of coherence, of saying the noumenal realm is probably beyond our understanding. Indeed, much of kant's work is based on creating criteria to judge whether a system of knowledge actually reveals the noumenal. The nature, the ontology, of the noumenal is really not asserted.

Monday, February 12, 2007

Whose digital rights?

The fight over intellectual property rights had another shot fired by Steve Jobs across the bow of the recording industry. Recounted in Stereophile Is This the End of Copy Protection? Jobs argues that DRM coding will ultimately fail, so the music industry should give up on it, and move on.

At this point, I wish people would stop conflating the record distribution industry with the music industry.

Musicians can now produce music more inexpensively than record labels could create advertising. I'd suggest that recorded music has become advertising for performers. Sadly, recording industry giants will wither away, as did steam locomotives and muskets. On the other hand, artists will have more control and about as much income as they did under the ancien regime.Those who fear for the folks in the recording industry should relax- the few good promoters will find employment promoting and organising shows, tours and
concurrent publicity.

A parallel is in the publishing industry, where publishers like Baen make their author's works available for free online. After several years with this experiment, Baen concluded it boosts sales, so they intend to continue.

Since I'm not an economist, I can only speculate that the efficiency of electronic distribution (I could write a book or record a song on this computer, upload it and make it available world-wide for pennies cost to me) off-sets the expensive of big publicity, printing and physical distribution systems that were necessary prior to the rise of the internet. The creator now can publish without requiring the huge distribution infrastruture that was required previously.

This means that you only need to offer premium experiences(paper books, high quality CD's) to those that really want to buy. As a result, the bureacracy, and large physical plant systems previously required to transmit intellectual work are increasingly obsolete. This obsolescence will disconcert those who make a living in the old ways. On the other hand, services, like live performances, and experiences, like reading physical books, cannot be duplicated, and that is where I speculate, the economy is going.

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Empty words and empty calories

The use of a snappy name seems to lead ultimately to an empty solution. The Zone, the South Beach diet, the Atkins diet, the grapefruit cleansing diet- all of these seems to be attached to a product, in as much as a diet plan is a product.

Of course, the Canada food guide with it's mundane "eat a balanced diet" is a brand that appeals to those of us that mistrust glibness. Now, it's true tht the food guide spins food choices- in Asia, you wouldn't find recommendations for dairy products, because many asians don't consume dairy products. Western europeans adapted to consuming the milk of othe animals, and so now we have dairy lobbiests pressuring health Canada to include milk and the like in the food guide.

That being said, health Canada doesn't recommend diets based on the faddish notions cooked up by diet guru's to sell diet books and products.

Having been exposed to this humbug for the last few years, I'm willing to advocate the notion that a glib name is the sign of a charlatan's diet.

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Better late than never?

This morning the local CBC radio morning show reported on a speech given by the new mayor of Ottawa, Larry O'Brien. Six weeks prior to the election he gave a speech saying he would fire a large number of city bureacrats.

Why didn't the CBC, who had taped this speech, report it when it happened? It was the closest thing to a policy statement O'Brien made during the election, other than opposing the light rail system(what does he care, he drives a Mercedes). Yet it isn't until a month after the election we hear about this.

I don't believe in shooting the messenger, except in this case, it seems the messenger was incompetently late.

Friday, January 05, 2007


So i've finally figured out some of this podcasting stuff. Within the next week I hope to have some more audio available, but until then I've included a little ditty The Wife and I improvised some time ago.

There always seems to be a learning curve to these things, depite the recording stuff i've done over the years.

better late than never, I suppose...

"If I had to choose between betraying my country and betraying my friend, I hope I should have the guts to betray my country."
-E.M. Forster