Sunday, December 19, 2010

Average low temperatures; a global warming hypothesis

If we were to remove the Earth's atmosphere entirely, presumably its surface temperatures would resemble that of its Moon's: Daytime high of 123C(about 253 F) and lows of -233 C (-387 F). The Earth's atmosphere reflects much of that heat energy, so our average daytime temperature rarely exceeds 40 C and that same atmosphere retains the heat that does get through, so the lowest temperatures rarely exceed -40 C.  In fact the average daytime temperature across the surface of the Earth is about 9C (and rising). My hypothesis is that as carbon dioxide increases in the atmosphere, heat will be retained incrementally, while daytime peaks will be somewhat mitigated as the CO2(and other greenhouse gasses) reflect some heat during the day but retain more heat overall, causing among other effects, warmer overall low temperatures.

Currently, Western Europe is suffering from a relatively cold, snowy winter. Many comments suggest that this is because the earth is getting colder. But Europeans, especially brits(I was born in Reading) live in latitudes farther north than much of Canada(Montreal sits roughly at 45 degrees N while London, UK sits at 51 N). The weather there is still currently milder than here in eastern Canada. Meanwhile, our current weather is milder than normal.

Britain, and much of western Europe have benefited from the Atlantic Conveyor, a stream of warm water flowing from the warm south Atlantic up to Europe's west coast. Most models of global warming have predicted this warm water will cease to flow due to the effects of global warming. Europe will get similar mild(for Canadians) winters as northern North America. Eventually, temperatures will all catch up, but for some, the effects will seem more ambiguous.

Since I don't have the raw data, I can only offer anecdote, but it seems to me Montreal's weather has become milder. Evening low temperatures are warmer across seasons, but the high temperatures haven't spiked as high. Winters offer warmer days but Summer days are less likely to be blisteringly hot. This is what inspired my hypothesis. Now perhaps some one can analyse the data and see if this is true.


Ref: Gell, Alfred "The Distributed Person" in Art and Agency. Oxford. Clarendon 1998
Externalist Theory of agency places agency in the viewer rather than what is viewed. In an idol "we can at least depict the possibility of a mind we cannot depict"(p. 132). Gell's argument is that we attribute agency- both when we look at a living person and perform idolatry with a relic. Both require a body which contains a soul. However, this system of Containment and concentricity is entirely dependent on the audience for agency, even when the audience looks into its self.

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

Betting On Climate Change

The evidence for the increase in global temperature and the indications that it is manmade are about as scientifically certain as to whether or not the sun will rise tomorrow. This will change our planet. It will not end life here, but it will become more difficult for many people. The worst effects will happen beyond my lifetime, and some may well be catastrophic to people and unforeseen. Using less polluting foms of energy and production seems sensible(why would you pay to make pollution? For that is what inefficient industries do when they pollute). Still we will not be able to duck the effects of what we have set in motion. However, we can look at how we can cope with these changes. Sadly, many people, especially in Africa, the Indian sub-continent and much of Central asia will suffer both from flooding due to sea level rise, and drought due diminished rain fall and diminished glacial run off as the glaciers in the Himalayas shrink.

Cities on the Mississippi River
-map shows 2m sea level rise.
However, the great rivers are unlikely to fail, as the Nile continues despite the encroachment of desert on its banks. So look to cities like Minneapolis, Memphis and baton Rouge to become more attractive as they are more likely to retain a reasonable supply of fresh water. Las Vegas on the other hand is not really sustainable, unless it can develop an alternative to siphoning water from the great plains. Those plains, in turn are using a non-renewable water supply. Essentially, they are drinking deeply from a great underground lake left over from the melting of the glaciers thousands of years ago. Those aquifers are rapidly being depleted.

The St.Lawrence river, flowing from the Great Lakes to the Atlantic ocean can sustain the cities on it, as long as they do not grow substantially bigger, although its water level has declined, partially because most of the water taken by Toronto, Montreal and Quebec is used, treated and returned to the river.

Québec city and environs with 2m sea
rise. The current port would be under water
Some otherwise attractive cities—New Orleans and Quebec city, for example, will suffer from rising sea levels, although much of Quebec city is so elevated that if water washes over the citadel, then most of north America will be underwater. This is hardly so likely but the suburbs around it, like parts of Levis and of Beauport, as with most of  New Orleans, are likely to be submerged.


Monday, December 06, 2010

Wikileaks has doomed Canada to terrorist strikes!!!!


Below is the list that was hysterically reported by the Toronto Sun(ohmygod the terrorists know the secret location of Toronto now). I like the way "Hydro Quebec" is listed. Do they mean the thousands of km of power grid, the huge dams located in isolated northern areas, or the cable leading to my wall socket.

These are secrets only to ordinary citizens who can't be bothered to google this information. indeed, almost all of the wikileaks cables would only be secret to citizens of the US. I am sure the taliban and ordinary Afghans know where coaltion forces have blown up both militant and innocent civilians. I presume that terrorists can think of many of these targets on their own.

The one thing the overreaction of the US and other governments reveals, is how thin skinned and/or paranoid they have become. Worse yet, given the nature of these so called secrets, it reveals that governments in the west, especially that of the United States are as afraid of their own citizens as they are of the terrorists that potentially threaten them.

S E C R E T STATE 015113  


E.O. 12958: DECL: 1/29/2019 

1. (U//FOUO) This is an action request; see Para. 13. 

Canada: Hibernia Atlantic undersea cable landing Halifax , Nova Scotia,
 Canada James Bay Power Project, Quebec: monumental hydroelectric power development
 Mica Dam, British Columbia: Failure would impact the Columbia River Basin. 
Hydro Quebec, Quebec: Critical irreplaceable source of power to portions of Northeast U. S. 
Robert Moses/Robert H. Saunders Power, Ontario: Part of the St. Lawrence Power Project, between Barnhart Island, New York, and Cornwall, Ontario
 Seven Mile Dam, British Columbia: Concrete gravity dam between two other hydropower dams along the Pend d'Oreille River
 Pickering Nuclear Power Plant, Ontario,
 Canada Chalk River Nuclear Facility, Ontario: Largest supplier of medical radioisotopes in the world
 Hydrofluoric Acid Production Facility, Allied Signal, Amherstburg, Ontario 
Enbridge Pipeline Alliance Pipeline: Natural gas transmission from Canada Maritime and Northeast Pipeline: Natural gas transmission from Canada 
Transcanada Gas: Natural gas transmission from Canada Alexandria Bay POE, Ontario: Northern border crossing Ambassador Bridge POE, Ontario: Northern border crossing Blaine POE, British Columbia: Northern border crossing Blaine Washington Rail Crossing, British Columbia Blue Water Bridge POE, Ontario: Northern border crossing Champlain POE, Quebec: Northern border crossing CPR Tunnel Rail Crossing, Ontario (Michigan Central Rail Crossing) International Bridge Rail Crossing, Ontario International Railway Bridge Rail Crossing Lewiston-Queenstown POE, Ontario: Northern border crossing Peace Bridge POE, Ontario: Northern border crossing Pembina POE, Manitoba: Northern border crossing North Portal Rail Crossing, Saskatchewan St. Claire Tunnel Rail Crossing, Ontario Waneta Dam, British Columbia: Earthfill/concrete hydropower dam Darlington Nuclear Power Plant, Ontario, Canada. E-ONE Moli Energy, Maple Ridge, Canada: Critical to production of various military application 
electronics General Dynamics Land Systems - Canada, London Ontario, Canada: Critical to the production of the Stryker/USMC LAV Vehicle Integration Raytheon Systems Canada Ltd. 
ELCAN Optical Technologies Division, Midland, Ontario, Canada: Critical to the production of the AGM-130 Missile Thales Optronique Canada, Inc., 
Montreal, Quebec: Critical optical systems for ground combat vehicles 
Germanium Mine Graphite Mine Iron Ore Mine Nickel Mine Niobec Mine, Quebec, Canada:  
Niobium Cangene, Winnipeg, Manitoba: 
Plasma Sanofi Pasteur Ltd., Toronto, Canada: 
Polio virus vaccine GlaxoSmithKile Biologicals, North America, 
Quebec, Canada: Pre-pandemic influenza vaccines

And there goes 2010

Well, 2010 was a pretty good year with a general upswing. Anton learned both to ride a bike and swim unassisted, and his first grade report card says he is doing well both in English and French, speaking precociously in both and learning to read both. His math skills are also coming right along.

Educationally speaking, I am coming along to, with my thesis in first draft state. Briefly it deals with how performance artist Wafaa Bilal created a space of conversation, specifically about the war in Iraq, by creating a performance that featured people chatting with him and or shooting at him with a remote controlled paintball gun via the internet. It raises issues of how we interact of the internet, and how boundary objects facilitate communication. It questions if and how conversations sparked by performance art practices can really be places of resistance, and suggests how digital games may do the same.

I am recovering from the absence of my wife, and feeling positive about my diminuated family. Overall, I am proud of having come this far in the face of such vicious betrayal and the emotional shock it dealt me.

Monday, November 08, 2010


I was reading Robert Day's article "We'll Always Have McSorley's" in The American Scholar online. It is an elegiac memoir of his time living in New York and visiting McSorley's pub. Day's writing were a nice start to this morning's thesis writing. But the ending seems almost a call to his girlfriend of the time, Lola, to meet him at McSorley's, today. Another scholar, Robert Wolff recounts how he rekindled an early romance later in life. Is there something about middle-aged scholars, or just men, that we wish to find some one who has known us so long that we are different from now until then?

With the ubiquitous presence of the internet, I never try to communicate with old flames or crushes. My name is unusual enough that they could find me in a minute via google, and contact me by email, social media or phone a moment after that. I confess I google old friends, to see what they are up to- but many have lives that don't revolve around the exchange of information virtually, and others have names that generate so many hits, it would be hard to find them.


Sunday, November 07, 2010

Stupid is the New Smart

Anti-Elitism= Stupid Is the New Smart
The charge that one is a latté-slurping, ivy league, abortionating and generally miserable coward has lead to the favour of such figures as Jason Kenney, Stephen Harper, Sarah Palin, John Boehner and so on. 
Perhaps the classic example of  a bogey-man elite is that Skull & Bones, Yale-tutored, Massachusett's born, ex-military officer....George Bush? John Kerry? It describes both. The charge of elitism is meaningless, because it is used by people who by their very nature fall into it. Stephen Harper went to grad school, in economics and then worked in think-tanks afterwards.
Why do these people use the term? It seems to me that Stephen Harper, the Tea Party apparatchiks, et al use the term to artificially divide the polity into perceived antithetical groups so citizens don't get around to changing the system or challenging the manipulative jack-asses they have elected.

Any how, please wear my ironic slogan on t-shirts, buttons or where ever you think it will do the most good. Perhaps it will encourage people to think over the proposition that you want dumbies running your country.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Headstomping freedom fighters...

...or Fugly Brownshirts? It seems Tim Profitt,  Rand Paul's Bourbon County Coordinator, considers holding down a young women and stomping on her head, with the help of his buddies, is acceptable political discourse. Of course she disagreed them, so she must have deserved it, right??

These tea party dimwits think they should be running the US? Only because they are too jack-shit stupid, narcissistic, and ignorant to realise how truly vile they are. And none of the "leadership" has the guts to come out and condemn this.

And in one week these cowards and thugs will dominate the US congress...

Sunday, October 10, 2010

American People Hire High-Powered Lobbyist To Push Interests In Congress

My favourite passage from the article:

"[Elected] Lawmakers are going to ask me, 'Why should I care about the American people? What's in it for me?' And it will be up to me and my team to find some reason why they should consider putting poverty and medical care for children on the legislative docket."
 -From The Onion

And Canada, too, I guess.

Monday, September 06, 2010

From a review of The Oxford Book of Literary Parodies;

Mark Crick's take on Raymond Chandler's Philip Marlowe—not solving a case but preparing a leg of lamb: "I sipped on my whiskey sour, ground out my cigarette on the chopping board and watched a bug trying to crawl out of the basin. I needed a table at Maxim's, a hundred bucks and a gorgeous blonde; what I had was a leg of lamb and no clues. I took hold of the joint. It felt cold and damp, like a coroner's handshake."

Love it....

Thursday, August 05, 2010

Conservative fails finally coming home to roost?

 The National Post is reporting an 11 point drop in the government's popularity, according to EKOS polling. Perhaps people are noticing the incompetence of "Canada's New Government".

Just to remind you of the many sleazy and clumsy actions of Stephen Harper's government,  I have most of them covered in previous posts- look under 'Conservative party' in my tags.
here is a list posted in the Comments section of The Globe and Mail:

Chuck Cadman
Chalk River
Income Trust
Attempted to censor media coverage of our war dead coming home
Lying to Canadians about the Afghan War
Breaking his own election laws
Violation of human rights
Lying to Canadian during said election about the economy
Prorogation (twice)
Using Haiti as his personal photo-op (and his wife)
Contempt of Parliament
Billion dollar plus slush fund called the G20
1.7 million for the PMO
Killing the Census
F-35s when we are in HUGE debt
And for all you loving CONS out there...cutting the GST to 5% for appearances sake.
the attempt to hide the body of our first female casualty coming home from Afghanistan….Harper “stands behind our troops”? Only when there is a photo op.
-"Derringer" commenting on Stockwell Day's argument for spending 5Billion on new prisons for "unreported Crimes" posted in the Globe and Mail online

Sunday, August 01, 2010

Ankara part 2

So I was back at Eski Yeni for a beer on a Saturday night. The doormen were going to turn me away, but smiled and waved me in when I spoke English. Ersoy, who is the owner, recognised me and shook my hand.

Özge was the very kind barmaid who practiced her English while helping me with the menu.

Although this is a café, it looks like a beer hall to me. But you have a smattering of kids and babies out with mum(and sometimes dad, too). This place is in the Kizilay district- tourists are invisible. This is where locals go and it has a great energy. I originally walked into Eski Yeni because Ersoy looked kind of familiar- like my kind of hipster- it assauged a certain amount homesickness and loneliness I felt. I will recommend this place because it is friendly and fun without a touristy vibe.

So getting a smile of recognition and a hand shake was special. I haven't had a conversation face- to- face since Monday. Skype with friends and my little son is better than nothing, but I miss seeing faces when I palaver. 

approaching Maltepe mosque
Malatepe Mosque

The day focussed on putting together my presentation. Since Youtube is banned in Turkey, I was kind of screwed, to be blunt. How else do I demonstrate(an aside to demonstrate is to act out- a word of wisdom to my activist friends). But I found images and began putting together a piece of my argument. After spending most of the day writing and creating a powerpoint presentation, I stepped out to visit the Maltepe and Kocatepe Mosques.

Maltepe was constructed in the '50s but could have been much older. As I entered the courtyard wondering about the etiquette of photographing a mosque, a Turkish man smiled and said hello. I gestured to my phone camera and he said no problem then bade me enter. We removed our shoes at the edge of the carpet and he took them and placed them on a shelf inside the entrance. He then smiled and patted my shoulder and ushered me inside.

I watched for a few minutes as he went through a ritual of prostration, first standing and gesturing with his hands as if he were washing his head. He then knelt and folded across his knees, arms loosely outstretched in front of him. All the while, he quietly recited to himself, although so quietly the words were barely audible and entirely indistinct.
The mosque's interior was square, and carpeted from wall to wall and up the sides with a turquoise carpeting. The fenestration above was filled with stained glass combining abstract patterns with Arabic words. The interior was muffled with only the sense of sound and reverberation coming from the masonry surface dome above; It was decorated with abstract tiled patterns. A few men knelt before the far wall as the went about their devotions.

I left and continued on to see the Kocatepe mosque. A much bigger, more elaborate building, with underground parking, I just viewed the outside and then turned back so I could make a Skype call to my son.

After returning to my hotel, I chatted briefly with the little boy, and felt very lonely with him so far away. I cleaned up, napped, then set out again to see what Saturday evening was like in Ankara.

The clientele in Kizilay are Turks, so it is not as comfortable for foreigners as the tourist districts in Ulus, I suspect. On the other hand, a few words of Turkish and it is easy to gain the Turkish warmth.
Other important information: Koftë is a Turkish traditional dish. Essentially it is a spicy variation on Salisbury steak but it tastes good.

After a few beers and dinner I walked back to the hotel. I bought a can of Efes lager and a package of Ruffles chips(my concession to homesickness), drank it while checking my email and went to bed.

Friday, July 30, 2010

Ankara trip

There were a pair of pants hanging on the door of the bathroom stall  I visited as I walked from the airplane through Munich Airport to my connecting flight. A photo with my phone's camera would have added to the suspicious atmosphere,  so you will have to imagine a reasonably clean looking pair of Dockers style pants suspended in front of me. But where was the owner, and why had he abandoned his trousers?
I pondered this over a breakfast of white sausage, pretzel and a half-litre of beer. This is apparently the traditional breakfast in Bavaria. A three- hour layover doesn't leave much time to sample the local culture. My belly is gratified because the daylight says it is about 8AM but my internal clock says it is about 01:30. Splitting the difference with coffee, beer and sausages works, and besides I have more time zones ahead. White sausage has a special protocol for being eaten. It involves extracting the stuffing whiles leaving the casing virtually intact and uneaten. Look for online video to see how Bavarians do it, because I sure didn't.
The Airbus A-321 touched down in Ankara bang on schedule. The news later that day said the same model aircraft had crashed in Pakistan that day, killing all aboard. But every model of aircraft I have flown on has crashed- 747 to Cessna 172.
The hotel I stayed at was the least expensive that Expedia offered. It is comfortable without being luxurious. But it is well located to almost everything, save Çankaya university, which is hosting the conference that brought me to Turkey.
Çankaya U. is quite small, and the architecture reminds me of my old high school. The concrete block and reinforced concrete both remind me of structures built in the 60's. Much of Ankara seems to be constructed in that era, with trends towards the post-modern pastiche architecture thrown in. Çankaya U seems to reflect earlier practices and budgetary restrictions. None the less it feels oddly like home.

Mosque and apartments
Mosque and apartment buildings
That is perhaps what strikes me most; how similar Ankara feels to me as does the Montreal metropolitan area. This would be especially true of some areas of the south shore. However, the space is much more densely populated, and more provision is made for pedestrians.
One thing that I noticed is the side walks are substantially higher than the road deck. Usually they are about 25cm higher? Is this to keep automobiles off the side walks or to deal with heavy seasonal rains?
New apartments near Çankaya
Apartment buildings with large Turkish flag in the background
The climate feels very similar to Montréal. It would hit 37C the day I walked from my hotel to the University. The winter temperatures would be mild by Montrealer's standards but the summer days seem similar but perhaps less humid.
This slight variation also appears in the vegetation. Trees are very similar with something like a maple being common. Junipers and conifers also feel like home.
That feeling also extends to the use of Turkish, which replaces French as the dominant language that is not my mother tongue. I am working to learn a few critical phrases. Merhaba, lütfen, hayir, evet.
I got to practice them as I asked directions, bought food and so on. The writer from Frommers was being optimistic in implying everyone speaks English. But I can get by with sign language, the few words I have and being polite.
The next day I set out late, so missing breakfast. My knee was also sore, so I tool the subway two stops to Kizilay, although it would have been a short walk, for me. The kizilay station opened out immediately into a cheap mall- think the little kiosks immediately surrounding Peel metro station in Montréal. 15 turkish Lira got me a pair of black cotton slacks. The salesman handed me a card with the name and address of a tailor. First, I went looking for food.
I stopped at a café for what turned out to be a cheese sandwich(sanviç) and Turkish coffee. Turks seem to prefer tea and usually drink instant coffee if they drink coffee at all.
My pants spent two hours being hemmed- 1Tl. As I walked around the Kizilay,waiting for the tailor, it reminded me of London's Soho, but with more pleasant inhabitants. A conversational grasp of Turkish would greatly alleviate the sense of loneliness I have. I think my features suggest I might be Turkish, but my dress and comportment- subtle gestures of posture and movement- mark me as other. Once I open my mouth, that is clear.
There are few obvious tourists here- I saw a young in shorts and converse hi-tops. Probably from Japan, although I didn't see her face. A couple of times I saw college age men who might have been americans. Compared to Montreal, this area seems very homogenous.
I had arrived here at about 11 am. It was now about 14:00 and the day was getting hotter and hotter. The fish mongers were becoming more fragrant, although their goods were well packed on ice. Sitting on a bench, writing this post, I thought about how this city is new and modern, but built on a old series of previous cultures, civilzationscand empires. As the day wears on younger people are appearing.
I am going to go back to a cafe I passed, and have a beer.

Monday, July 19, 2010

truthiness outweighs data:

The Conservative government of Canada has decided to do away with the long form census form. It claims that Industry Minister Tony Clement and his predecessor Maxim Bernier were inundated with complaints about the form invading the privacy of constituents. They claim that a voluntary long form will serve to replace it. They also claim that Statistics canada, the government department mandated to collect, analyze and disseminate information in the public interest recommended this.

As a researcher myself, this is crazy- suddenly switching horses mean that you will be comparing apples and oranges when analyzing subsequent data. More over, it means that subsequent data will be of lower quality, because you are no longer polling random Canadians, but those who choose to fill out the form.

At the bottom of this is Canada's New Government's desire to not let facts get in the way. From the sacking of the head of the CNSC because she said that her engineers said the Chalk River reactor was operating unsafely(it was close for repairs shortly after her departure) to pressuring the Tory-appointed head of Elections Canada to break election regulations this government, that of Stephen Harper only cares about facts that support the policies they have already chosen. They have mistaken honesty for "truthiness".


I guess they thought they would get away scott-free. They failed to realise they had "Sown the wind, and now they reap the whirlwind" Hosea 8:7. Originally I was going to post this in February, 2009, but the continuing economic travails seem to have gotten worse, so it is just as germane.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Evil is awesome

Buy Evil now...

Let's talk about morality. Can you justify owning stock in companies that are treating the Earth like a prison pillow with a crayon face? Of course you can, but it takes some mental gymnastics. I'm here to help."-Scott Adams author of 'Dilbert'
more here.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Existentialism and Games

"Mr. Crowe first reminds us that the existential philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre was an avid student of football—see his "Critique of Dialectical Reason," where he remarks with undeniable wisdom: 'In a football match, everything is complicated by the presence of the other team'."

John Heilpern, Postulates Of the Pitch, WSJ online, retrieved 10 June, 2010

Tuesday, June 08, 2010

Tony Clement's adscam

The overspending of the Canada's New Government for the  G20 summit reflects an arrogance and stupidity that is appalling. Tony Clement, the tory minister of Industry, has seen vast sums spent in his riding to build new buildings, upgraded facades and the like. Ostensibly, this has been to prepare the town of New Sydney, in the Muskokas for the visit of the world leaders, their entourages and the global press that follows them. Unfortunately, New Sydney is thirty kilometers from the nearest G20 venue. These expenses are obviously pork-barreling for a prominent Conservative minister.

This is fiscal conservatism? These guys just aren't smart enough to try an adscam- and they have lifted a lot more money in their clumsy corruption.

Thursday, June 03, 2010

Dieting for the mind

 We are continuously challenged to discover new works of culture—and, in the process, we don’t allow any one of them to assume a weight in our minds.- Alain de Bottin "On Distraction" in City Journal
I actually read this article to take a break from reading an article on Haeccity, Pierce and Duns Scotus. Reading philosophy had the advantage of requiring less secondary reading than other disciplines. The relative depth of thought appealed more than reading repetitious papers that seemed to qoute each other. Now, of course, I can easily download more scholarly articles than I could possibly read each day.

Is this really learning, given the impossibility of knowing everything? A phd, they say, knows more and more about less and less. As their knowledge of a very narrow object grows- for example Galopagan sea snails, or a particular Shakespearean sonnet- they have less time to consider anything else. That is to say, anything else save it's relationship to their object of study.

My day is a steady stream of information- some scholarly, some journalistic, some personal- and on diverse topics. However, as my personal and professional relationships increasingly involve the academic disciplines of philosophy, art history and game studies(video, not strategic), my focus has begun to drift away from some issues. perhaps, in a decade or so, I will reemerge ready to reengage topics like freedom of expression without solely referring it to the phenomenological consideration of the visual culture/art history of digital games.

moreover, that stream of information is not merely cognitive. Affective information, feelings the heart also infuse my moments. Joy, pride at writing something good, frustration with administrative details, lust and love and gentle affection, not to mention the loneliness of a writer. Psycho- motor information also takes up my day. As a phenomenologist, how can I ignore the particular sensations of cool morning air blowing through the window, guided downwards by the curtain and spilling out across my legs? The pleasant stoicism of doing pull ups and dips on the apparatus i have scattered through my apartment, so i can do more than just sit at the computer, reading and writing.

Yet all this can distract from my work at hand? This balance between focus and obsession, between depth and narrowness.(These sentences without verbs:) each moment has its individual call for attention, specific, and necessary. My problem is to hear that call and respond to it appropriately. Perhaps, sometimes the correct response is not to hear it at all.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

The Passionate Bureaucrat

For while my daily rage maybe diminished,
I assure you we are still not finished.
I bet by now you have stolen time
To edit
The Beginner’s Guide to Hell.
I trust you’ve cheated Charon of a dime
And somehow brought a blush to Jezebel.
I see you basting in satanic slime
Before deep-frying in your cockroach shell.

 -Michael J Astrue 

I loved this verse by Michael J. Astrue, the fifty-four-year-old head of the Social Security Administration in the US federal government. Both a steady civil servant, according to the article in first things, and an award winning poet.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010


I am thinking about mistakes I have made, and most of them have been sins of omission. Lack of action that in hindsight discredit me. But I am looking for redemption. Not in the christian sense, because I am not in any way religious, or spiritual in any meaningful sense, but because in the face of the absurdity of the universe we strive in ways big and small to produce meaning. In that sense we are meaning machines.

Meaning, the significance of what we do feel and think gets it's realisation through language and broadly symbols. So one regret I have is that I did not learn French better, when I was younger. I also regret that I didn't learn Mohawk, which was offered at my high school. As a would-be scholar, Latin's significance for understanding European thought can not be overstated. I should have learned those languages when I was younger.

After running and biking so much over the last 15 years, I think I should have been more involved in sport, although I was pretty active, anyway. The discipline of actively pursuing a sport would have done me good. Although I had a some good teachers, high school didn't benefit me- and it is easy to go back to school, here, so I should have dropped out and returned as a mature student.

I wish I had learned to play piano when I was young.

My point is to reflect on meaning as I create it now, and so choose how to correct my lapses. My french is getting better, I have a piano and skim through Wheeler's Latin primer.

We humans can't have a major effect on the atmosphere...

..or can we.

The Earth's atmosphere is a very thin layer of gas, relative to the planet itself. If we imagine the earth as being the size of a basketball(a diameter of a little more than 9 inches), the atmosphere would be about 1/100 of an inch. Moreover that atmosphere contains about 78% nitrogen gas, about 21% Oxygen, a little less than 1 percent argon- the rest is water vapour,CO2 and other gases such as methane.

So the actual gases responsible for the green house effect that traps heat in our atmosphere comprise about 1 percent of our atmosphere. So we don't have to change the composition of our atmosphere much to have an effect on it.

The total mass of our atmosphere is 15 x 10-18 Kg(15 000 000 000 000 000 000 Kg) or 30 x 10 -18 lbs.
These days, humans emit 26 gigatonnes or 26 x 10-9 tonnes of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere or about 2% extra carbon dioxide per year. The earth's environment absorbs about half of that( which is causing acidification of the oceans, among other problems). Of course, methane and water vapour also contribute to green house gases, and human activity produces them, too.

So we are making a massive change in the small quantity of gases that keep our planet at a habitable temperature. This current rate has been typical of the last ten years, so our atmosphere should have shown in the region of a 10 % increase in atmospheric CO2 in the last ten years. The WMO reports an increase of 1.8 ppm of CO2 per year over the last decade or 18 parts per million increase out of about 360 ppm. This seems low, and leaves the question, where has all the carbon gone? is it my math? On the other hand, the WMO indicates a 5%/annum increase in CO2- which means doubling in 20 years.

How I write essays

I start by reading- preferably about something related to what I want to write about. And I research, which means downloading academic, peer reviewed articles- I actually read some of them. Then I scribble little ideas on scraps of paper and increasingly on my iPod touch notepad. Then I clean the bathroom. I also try to read things for fun that aren't as stiff or clunky as a lot of academic writing. Adventure novels, feature journalism from Rolling Stone or The New Yorker or the English version of Der Spiegel, popular writing about your topic all help you to pick up good habits of writing. Good sports journalism is often both dynamic and clear, so it helps set you a good example of how to present your ideas.

Two days later, having thought about my idea, I go to lunch and chat about what I am thinking about to someone who is interested in the subject. After lunch, and a nap, I try to reduce my idea to a single sentence based on my conversation. Talking to people about your idea is a great way to develop it. Try talking to a professor or helpful grad student about it. Try explaining it to a friend who has no idea about it- that will help your clarity. That single sentence is what academics refer to as a thesis statement.

That sentence expands out into an introduction, with the idea in mind that each sentence represents a section in the final paper. So the first paragraph of your paper should have an opening sentence that sums up your idea in one shot, and about 8 to 10 sentences that support your main sentence.

Then I write a paragraph using each sentence as the introduction. This should take no more than half an hour per section, even if you write very slowly. Here is a rule of thumb calculation:

10 page essay =

1page introduction this should encapsulate your whole paper(Tell'em what yer gonna tell'em)
8 pages- 1 page per section(Tell'em)
1page - Conclusion(Tell'em what you told'em)
Think of each section as a question and you have to answer it in a page or so.

I keep feeding the beast until it is as bloated as a goose's liver. I then take it for a brisk walk, and in 20 minutes for a 9 pager, I pretend I am trying to explain the paper to friend who is less than entranced with the idea. I record this onto my iPod, and play it back, transcribing and editing as necessary. Usually, this is pretty easy.

At this point I have a pretty coherent, well thought-out paper of about 8-10 pages.

Some of these stages I may repeat, but the idea is to break up the process into small manageable chunks. Each section, for example is only about 1 to 2 pages long, so it is easier to write section by section rather than to try and write the whole thing in one shot.

You can also try composing your paper orally into a recording device immediately after or during your research. Then you have a first draft to work from. But using the method I outlined works better if you are dealing with really new, unfamiliar information.

Being And Wine; Terroir, taste and time

And then there is terroir

"In Nossiter’s world, wine is all about terroir, the French concept that wine is “an expression of a place . . . the geology and meteorology of a specific site, [but] also of the history of that land in relation to the vine and, equally importantly, the history of those people who have cultivated that place. It’s the intersection of human culture and agriculture. And each bottle is an expression of that intersection.” (The wine that lost its edginess came from a vineyard that had been sold to someone outside the original vigneron’s family.) Terroir is a gorgeous idea, one rooted in labor and tradition, and it ties in beautifully with the humanist argument that gives Nossiter’s book its title—that wine is a kind of liquid memory because it’s imbued with the character of everyone and everything that made it."
- Melanie Rehak Red Wine and Blue: Americans have a long and contradictory history of imbibing and proscribing. Sept/Oct/Nov 2009

This notion of Terroir sounds remarkably similar to Martin Heidegger's notion of the groundedness in Being.

Sunday, May 02, 2010

What is cooking...

Well, a short and sweet update. Politics: I still think the Tories should be concerned about their weakness, given Michael Ignatieff has proven a weak leader. Despite all the criticisms and political missteps(i.e. bad communications) the Grits are only 2 to 4 points behind the Tories.

Academically, I am looking at the intersection of video games and performance art. I have an idea that developing a more sophisticated critical language around video games will give us new critical insights of previously existing genres and art works. I hypothesize  that existing insights into 'ritual' as discussed by scholars like Catherine E. Bell will help explain much of how digital games work. Is the time ripe for introducing ethnography( with it's phenomenological dimensions) to the examination of art works?

Personally, I ran the rather modest distance of 5 km in about 30 minutes. This is the first work out that will culminate in my completing the Montréal Marathon in early September.

Tonight, Anton and I dined on pork chops marinaded in rosemary, olive oil and balsamic vinegar. But what I want to try is cooking sous-vide. This entails heating the food to the appropriate temperature by wrapping it in vacuum sealed bag which is then submerged in hot water. Meats may be grilled after removal just to brown the exterior.  This method promises to avoid over- cooking because the food cannot be heated beyond the correct temperature. For example, the water is heated to 124deg F for a rare steak. The steak can't over cook because 124F is as warm as it will get. I will experiment myself with a pot, thermometer and beef, to see if I can avoid buying the ludicrously expensive sous-vide cookers.

A big shout out to Mennonite Girls Can Cook blog, which gave a great recipe for home-made hamburger helper. Balancing nutrition with what little boys will eat without a stern beating means looking for recipes like this.
Lower in sodium and tailored for the taste of the family in question, it makes me wonder why bother with the Hamburger helper product at all- it is not easier to make than home made(ok, you have to saute the onions and spices, first)
Having searched MGCC I can't wait to try their Perishky recipe(a delicious looking, turnover-like dainty)

I am coming to terms with being single, and feeling my heart un-thaw, a bit. But that emotional release is accompanied by many emotions both light and dark. Seeing my wife, as we pass our son from one another puts me in a foul mood. Childishly, she still denies that this has any more significance than change brands of soap powder. Her home-wrecking lover still denies he owes child support to his ex-wife.

So a bitter ending to a sweet beginning.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

If breastfeeding offends you, put a blanket over YOUR head!

And censorship is pretty bloody nasty, too!


If breastfeeding offends you, put a blanket over YOUR head!

We still have no clue what happened. All of the group members got the same warning. Its not a copyright on our logo because that symbol is public domain. Its not the horrible kitten torture video that someone posted either. When content like that is removed, only the poster gets the warning. We have had tons of breastfeeding pictures removed but it hasn't sent a warning out to everyone before.

This is a response from an eponymous facebook group, of which I am a member, that encourages the freedom of women to breastfeed in public, when and as they wish. Someone has tried to shutdown the site by claiming it contravenes intellectual property laws. This is analogous to attempts to use legalistic arguments and methods such as law suits to silence critics of companies and other groups. I think the onus should be on the accuser to prove it. While online forums are ultimately private owned, they seem to be forming a new kind of digital commons, becaue they have to address the concerns of those that make them happen. 

This significance is that members of the breastfeeding group didn't give in, or quit Facebook. They are arguing for the legitimacy of the group, and demanding that anonymous accusers have to prove their point. This indicates a social "ownership". 

 Legally, FB seems to have created their own turf, and you function there as guest, in their view. However, the relationship is more complex, because they represent your digital persona. I regret I didn't research the literature on this topic before I posted, perhaps you all can add some other thoughtful writing on the subject of who own social media?

Thursday, April 08, 2010

Another step

Despite everything, I have completed my course work, today, and have a thesis supervisor. Now, on to researching and writing my thesis.
(Champagne cork pops!*)

Wednesday, April 07, 2010

Thin on the ground

My worthy readers- all three of you, and delightful you are- may have noticed less activity Between Adam's Ears, lately. This is because I am blogging regularly for a class blog. This is the primary theoretical activity in a course in Digital Games theory and design course I am taking. I actually think this is a better way to approach writing, as it gives me a chance to put down ideas, get feedback, then apply them to my thesis. four blog posts is equivalent to a standard essay, so writing consistemtly on themes gives me a paper to present somewhere, and feedback from classmates and prof's. This will also complete my course work for my MA.

I'll probably write more on my academic stuff on my other public art blog, Pictures and Objects, and save this for my ramblings and personal demons.

Sunday, April 04, 2010

if you aren't making some mistakes, then you aren't trying hard enough.

A great article about Warren Buffet's leadership style, but reported in Foreign Policy as an admonishment to U.S military leaders, and overly bureaucratic businesses.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Drama according to david mamet

I am qouting from this article in Movieline, so that I won't lose the important bits. Sorry, Mamet writes in All-Caps.







Mamet also criticises the "Penguins-in-blue suits" for demanding information rather than drama in dramatic writing. Mamet's implication is that 

These notes surfaced in a memo to the writing team of "The Unit", a military espionage series that ran four seasons. It was taughtly written and brilliantly acted. Mamet was producer and head writer.

"Enlightenment Fundamentalism": A warning or a slur?

The term "Enlightenment Fundamentalism" has been used by thinkers such as Ian Buruma to criticise other intellectuals such as Hirsi Ali. The term suggests that enlightenment values are parochial western values and that ethical arguments for free speech, for example, actually serve as colonial arguments that promulgate western hegemony.

Paul Berman's book" The Flight of the Intellectuals" is reviewed in Slate. Berman chastises "the liberal left" for failing to defend Hirsi Ali's critiques of Islam in the face of death threats from militant muslims.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

how's that transparency and corruption fighting working out for you?

The CBC reports that the ministry of Public works( remember the Libs got into trouble there) gave out 12 million Dollars for a contract in Haiti. No bid, no announcement.

But the folks involved made donations to the Tories.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

British anti-tory ads

These posters make fun of the airbrushed perfection of British Tory leader David Cameron.

Some are a little more subtle:

time and space; latitude and longtitude, seconds and distances

It was thinking this morning, as I sat with my young son, how remarkable it is that we measure distance with units called 'minutes' and 'seconds'. We were playing with the book 'Tick Tock Sharks' which uses a shark themed poem to teach time telling with a representation of a clock in the middle of the book. A dial using two concentric rings moves the hour and minute hands, and an associated digital dial providing the numeric time, i.e. 05:00 and so on. The units "minutes and seconds" are used not only to measure the span of time it takes a clock hand to rotate around a clock face, but to indicate the divisions between the lines of latitude and longitude that navigators use to indicate locations on the surface of the earth.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Facts Versus Notions, Hypotheses, and Theories

The word theory is generally meant to express what is more technically referred to as a notion; an idea that people have that is either vague or grossly unproven. This gives rise to comments like; "it's just a theory".

In academic circles, a theory is an explanation for the relationship of all known example of something. For example, evolutionary theory accounts well for all known fossils- it gets refined when new examples appear. Darwin, for example didn't have a science of genetics to help explain how traits where passed on. He also couldn't as efficiently account for animals that looked similar. For example, Auks(living in the arctic) and Penguins(living in the antarctic) look similar but genetically are very different species. This fits nicely with the idea that a bird that adapts to living in cold regions might eventually take on the overall form shared by the two species.

A hypothesis arises when, after looking at a limited number of examples, a possible and testable explanation arises. Experiments and methods are used, adapted or devised to test the hypothesis. Early research is a bridge between a hypothesis and a notion. For example, in the current research I am involved with, we are looking at how people interact and behave when playing video games, especially Wii. If you ask, we haven't collected enough data to formulate a hypothesis. Some of us have some notions as to what kind of social behavior will arise, but we haven't nearly enough data collected to see real patterns emerging. In time patterns will start to appear and we will have hypotheses that we can test to explain the social behaviors that emerge.

At later stages, we may do things like creating digital games to see how people interact with the game and each other in specific situations. This will allow us to test those hypotheses and give explanations for the behavior that emerges. However, those theories will be subject to revision as new ways of playing games and social pressures cause new behavior to emerge in the future. In the hard science's Isaac Newton developed his theories of physics, and these work well for describing objects bigger than atoms and slower than about 6% of the speed of light. His theory is accounted for by the Einsteins' theory of relativity, that accounts for really fast motion, up to the speed of light. and Quantum theory, that describes actions from within the atom. As yet, no theory has been able to account for all three. The facts seem to contradict each other, but the behavior of very fast and very small objects have been seen and described.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Self-reflexive Stephen Harper; looking for poll joy

This explains much about the current government's problems. The fact that the Prime Minister seems to lavish himself with his own image( a christmas card that reveals he has at least twenty four pictures of himself in his office), raises the question of where does anybody else fit in the picture? The Christmas card is photoshopped, but the government lobby isn't.

This obliviousness explains why, despite the opposition Liberal's lacklustre performance with Michael Ignatieff at the helm, the Conservatives are in a statistical tie with their nemesis. More over, despite the polls indicating the widely held view that Stephen Harper is the most competent leader in the house, the Conservatives still are a long way from getting a majority. Moreover, they have declined in popularity since the last election. The criticism of the Liberals for their inability to surpass the the Conservatives must be cold comfort to the Tories, when the Conservatives' inability to improve their popularity is so conspicuous.

The currentEkos poll, published here by the CBC:
Conservatives: 31.2 (+0.2)
Liberals: 29.0 (-)
NDP: 16.5 (+1.0)
Bloc Quebecois: 8.8 (-1.5) (In Quebec: 35.9 (-5.8))
Green: 11.8 (+0.5)
Other: 2.7 (-0.1)
Undecided: 11.4 (-1.7)

Monday, February 08, 2010

Haptic Heaven: Why touch screens rule

I was looking for a phone number on my rather old fashioned mobile phone. It is an LG Chocolate- reliable elegant looking, and functions well as a phone. Its additional features- camera, mp3 player and so on- don't get in the way too much. I realised, as I searched for a friend's phone number, that I was repeatedly trying to scroll the screen with my finger tip, rather than with the button. This was because of six months with an Ipod touch. My default for small screens is now "haptic".

This goes back to a vision from at least the Seventies, where computers as portrayed in the future would be controlled with gestures, and voice commands would replace textual input. Today, the Ipod touch, and now the IPad(a pad is a wad of paper, and I understand the critique from women that the name has mentrual connotations; a pad is also where I live; a pad is also a cushion that softens my fall; a pad is also a small keyboard) use an almost button- free system of control based on finger movement across the surface of a screen.

It is remarkable how fast that experience transfers. The ease of haptic inteerfaces, combined with their relative durability, due to the lack of moving parts and entry points for dust and moisture suggest they will become ubiquitous for control panels. The sole limitation is the panel requires a glass or potentially ceramic face to allow the capacitance system to track finger movement. However, bullet-proof glass could presumably do the job in public areas where abuse might be more of an issue.

What will it mean when gesture increasingly returns to human Computer interface. In a sense, we will be waving at a computer, rather than prodding it. more over, I think there is a difference between texting in instructions and data, as I am doing now, and using a series of gestures to achieve the same results. Think of how we might relate using a gesture such as a raised clenched fist to mean stop (watch any military drama with a movement-to-contact sequence for this gesture) as opposed to a verbal command to "wait here" or "stop". We are moving away from logos- the word- and into a more embodied relationship.

The situation is not one of either/or but a plenum between a completely subjective experience, say sensing the rise and fall of one's own chest in breathing, and the experience of reading a letter. The sensation of breathing must be one experienced by not only humans, but certainly all vertebrate animals. The context of meaning might well change for other species, but that requires a kind of communication that humans have yet to achieve with other animals. Our most abstract communication, with written words(or math- I will bracket that, for the moment) on the other hand requires an almost disembodied consideration of the intersubjectivity between myself and the other who wrote the letter.

What does it mean when we return so much to the body when we interact with machines, especially computers? But the ease with which one becomes accustomed to such interfaces sayssomething about thought, and embodiment- but I am not sure what that is...

Monday, January 25, 2010

The myth of Conservative fiscal prudence

The received wisdom is that Tories cut government spending. But if you look at Canada's spending as percentage of GDP, it has been falling through the 90's and only stabilises, and rises with the arrival of the Conservative into power forming a minority government. The last previous rise, doubling both debt and deficit was under Brian Mulroney's Conservative government.

The problem is the Tories like to spend money on expensive(and arguably futile or unnecessary) moral crusades, such as more prisons and a larger, conventional army and big corporate subsidies, and less on less splashy but cheaper and more effective programs i.e. drug rehab, an expanded Coast Guard and various kinds of post-secondary training and R&D funding. After all, successful businesses need new, better methods to stay in business, not a financial crutch to hide poor management practices. Preventing crime is more cost effective than punishment. On the otherhand, heavy weapons like main battle tanks are made by large corporate entities. The utility of having such systems seems redundant in the asymmetric battlefield of today. But the relationship between elected representatives and such business interests are well known. These do not always serve the interests of the polity at large.

Of course, Canadian's are not immune to being bribed with their own money, or better yet, that of their fellow citizens who don't vote for the Conservatives.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Anti-prorogation Montréal

Protest the Harper minority government's arrogance and incompetence. Join the anti- prorogation rally in your community.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Too serious

I was thinking, as I rehearsed a lecture, that we think many things are serious, and other things are funny. As a result, humour in the classroom is thought often innapproriate. But perhaps the highest compliment a stand- up comedian can receive is that they are funny and they make you think. In a sense, observational comics like George Carlin and Jerry Seinfeld use humour to begin deconstruct the notional world we live in. They take the first step to rethinking our fundamental assumptions, because they find the absurdities and incongruities that make us laugh, but that thus expose the constructed nature of the world we live in.

I am not saying we have a solipsistic or purely made up or textual(post-modern?) world. I am saying that we experience the measured pace of time as temporality. That is to say, five minutes is excruciatingly short in the arms of a loved one, and excruciatingly long in the line up to use the bathroom. Fourteen seconds is a flash of time during "the little death" but an eternity of dying during a waterboarding. Similarly, the measure of space is interpreted as spaciality. My apartment would seem small to many North Americans, who are used to living in 185 Square meter houses, yet for many Asians, my apartment would seem spacious. Similarly, I am about 168 cm tall- apparently the average height for a human being. I can reach the top shelf, but don't bang my head on low doorways. My son's experience of space is that of a 105cm boy. Much of the architecture and furnishings are too big for him to easily negotiate. Additionally, he is growing quickly, in spurts, so his embodied experience is often one of clumsiness, as his arms, legs and head may suddenly reach farther than his reflexes had accounted for.

This clumsiness, this absurdity, this unheimlich experience makes us laugh. So I argue that we should embrace humour to help unpack social and philosophical constructions that we are surrounded with. The difference between the lecturer and the comedian is two fold, however. The comedian needs only unpack this absurdity that we might laugh. Indeed, many succesful comedians then go on to recontextualise the absurdity so what is funny becomes understandable, so as to stabilise. Jay Leno, arguably the most popular comedic figure in North America, has said that comedy is the cowards way of fighting back. Once you get the laugh, resistance is spent, is the essence of his arguement.

The second difference is that the lecturer must theorise and so explain and recontextualise the phenomena he or she is talking about. This exposes the possibility that the meaning, and hence the significance of a given phenomena, be it social, physical or even abstract(what are the ideas in my head?) can shift or become polysemous.

An example of a polysemous recontextualisation is the biblical commandment"Thou shalt not kill". This dictum is very clear, yet many who claim to be christian also support the death penalty and war. They recontextualise killing from an absolute prohibition into one that is contextualised by who, where and when the killing takes place. But when others argue that abortion constitutes a sovereign right of a woman over her body- to take the most fractious debate over killing in our society, as the debate extends even to whether or not abortion even constitutes killing- we can see how a naive recontextualisation takes place. Part of the lecturer's job is to consciously offer recontextualisations of a phenomena, having "unpacked".

We can unpack humour to say it makes the uncomfortable process of examining the unexamined more acceptable. But as I mentioned, it can help to repack an idea, leaving it's social position intact. at the same time, it can relieve the emotional discomfort, making it possible to grapple with the phenomena as it takes on new and more complex significances.

Wednesday, January 06, 2010

My freedom versus other's "humiliation"; The Muhammed Cartoons, again.

"the West" should also refrain from the wearing of mini skirts, eating pork and the legalization of same-sex partnerships in order to avoid causing any feelings of debasement and humiliation in the Islamic world. More here...

The freedom of expression has the corollary of the freedom to be offended. The ethical obligation here is that if you wish to have an opinion, you must take the responsibility to observe the expression of others who may offend you. So when I argue, for example, that sexual orientation should not figure in the regulation of marriage, I accept that I will have to listen to opposing opinions, often robust or aggressively in opposition to mine. that I find those opinions offensive, or at least, often offensively expressed, does not reduce my obligation to accept that they will be expressed.

Of course, intolerant people and belief systems see things differently, but I am not prepared to acquiesce to them. I am prepared to listen, however.

Monday, January 04, 2010

There is no box

Slate has a list of catch phrases from the decade past.

Thinking outside the box? There is no box(my new mantra).

Sunday, January 03, 2010

My kid; A douchebag?!!!

Our kids don't need to be our buddies. They can like us when they're 30. Mostly what kids want is for a parent to be in charge."-Greg Ramey in DETAILS

"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