October 31, 2005

MDG and Me - An MDG Computer Adventure (part 1)

Let me begin this post by saying that it is not customary for me to whine about businesses. Being that my family are also business owners I understand things don't always run smoothly and sometimes there's confusion or misunderstanding between the business and consumers. However, this story is too good to be true, as was the service MDG promised! So in today's Toronto Star, on page A11, MDG advertised a Horizon 3000LX system for $849. This system includes an Intel Pentium 4 - 3.06GHz processor, 1 Gb of ram, 160Gb hard drive, 17" LCD monitor, etc., etc. It also came with a free printer, free digital camera, free MP3 player and free software bundle. It was defitinely a bargain by any means. My mother needed a new computer for her business and figured this would be a good fit and inexpensive. So my mother and myself decided to take a trip to our local MDG dealer in Mississauga (at 5659 McAdam Rd.). We get into the store and wait a few minutes for a sales representative to help us. He comes over and asks if he can help, we show him the advertisement from the Star. Instead of asking us to sit down to talk about the system or any of the free options he tells us to write down or name and number on a piece of paper and he'd call us when it was ready. My mom and I looked at each other and both basically said, "when what would be ready?". We hadn't purchased anything yet and we hadn't even discussed the system being offered. Then the salesperson returned with a blank piece of white printer paper and said to write our information on it. Nothing formal at all; not an agree to purchase contract or anything like it. After a few more minutes of trying to figure out what was going on, we finally got the salesperson to stop 'running away' and answer some questions. We asked about the free items. He told us they were all done through mail-in-rebates. That was fine, Futureshop, Best Buy, Staples et al. often have the same thing and it just seems to be a normal practice anymore. So we asked specifically about the free digital camera. The camera is supposed to be a Creative Arts 5.1 megapixel unit. Well, they didn't have any left in stock. Fine enough, we weren't there for the camera anyway. However, he was started to 'run' once again, but my mom stopped him to ask about the MP3 player. His response was that they could get us the MP3 player and the printer. It was $195 and the rebate would be $100. Now I've heard of funny math before and even poor math, but how anyone could mistaken free to equal $95? Apparently, that MDG doesn't carry the free MP3 player but only the upgraded model which you only get if you're willing to pay for it. Fine enough, again, the whole limited quantities thing. We did question that somewhat because it was too funny and seemed too much like a gimick to get more money out of us. However, he then proceeded to tell us that they didn't have the offered printer in stock either but they were getting new ones in and they would call us to let us know when it was available. Once again, limited quantities... So then after we were able to tackle him and tie him to a chair - well, okay... we just got him to stop running away again (It was truly like running away. Say something, bolt, repeat.) - we asked about the software bundle. Now here is where it gets really interesting. The advertisement states,

Over $440 in Microsoft 2005 software included. Total price for retail packaged versions $443.85 included with Vision or Horizon System purchase.

Notice that there is no 'limited quantity' statement and there are no astericks or whatever indicating to fine print. Even reading over the fine print several times, there is no mention of the software package. Good, because we would really like the software package. Remember too, that the system we wanted is a Horizon system. The salesperson looks at us blankly and proceeds to tell us that he wasn't sure if the software bundle was offered with that that system but he would check with the manager. The salesperson returns and tells us that it is offered with a different computer package. We pointed out that the ad states that it is included with a Horizon system and we wanted a Horizon. We were told it was another Horizon system it came with. Well, needless to say, things seemed a little too funny about the whole incident and we left without purchasing. But we were not alone either, as a couple that came in at the same time we did, asking for the same system, also left after they got the whole same spiel. This leads me to believe I wasn't being crazy. To Be Continued - Part 2: MDG and ME - Fun on the Phone! Links of Interest Complaints.com - a website containing several letters written about MDG Advertising Standards Canada - contains an issue concerning MDG advertising Epionions - forum containing both good and bad experiences about MDG

October 29, 2005

It's like winning the blogging lottery...

This past Monday I posted about the Google joke that lead to a bio-page of Dubya. Who knew that would have been all I needed to get traffic to my site?! I hadn't posted since, so I thought I would see how much more poorly my traffic has been. I clicked on my Site Meter icon and was I ever blown away. My traffic jumped from about 10/day to over 200 on Thursday. According to the references most of the traffic came from people doing Google searches on the prank. I put in the same search on Google and found that my site came up as the first link once and third the next time. Honestly, it feels like I hit it big time. To have hundreds of people come to my site was something I thought wouldn't ever happen. And only by mentioning the prank did my blog dream come true. Now, if I could only get that kind of traffic for the stuff I actually consider important... Posted by Picasa

October 23, 2005

google math: failure+I'm feeling lucky button=????????

I just received an email about another interesting quirk in the google database. A couple years ago if you were to go to google.com and type in 'weapons of mass distruction' you were directed to a spoof website. Well this time the quirk doesn't really lead you to a spoof website but rather an official government website, a bio page in fact. Here's what you need to do. Go to google.com, type in failure and then press the I'm Feeling Lucky button and you get a nice little chuckle!

October 22, 2005

John Tory not political enough?

Last night I was watching CTV news and they were talking about the Dwight Duncan spending 'controversy'. After explaining the entire incident they went to a scrum with John Tory, leader of the Ontario PC's. They asked him if he had ever in his past charged on his expense account when he was with Rogers $70 steaks while doing business. His initial answer was 'yes, maybe once or twice'. It was then quickly followed up with, not in a manner of justification but what seemed more like desperation to qualify a terrible first response, a comment about not being tax payer money. I'm willing to grant Tory his pitiful qualification has some merit. However, he blew that answer by not giving that as the first and only response to the question. I haven't watched much of Tory this fall season, but I have heard others criticize his ability to be a politician. Not in the sense of his effectiveness, his ideas, his leadership but in his ability to be political. Not that I speak from any experience, but I don't think any politician in their right mind should have answered that question with a 'yes I have'. By doing so Tory just gave Duncan, right or wrong, validation. What he told the public was that when doing business sometimes $70 steak dinners happen; it's normal. It doesn't matter that he tried to correct himself, his first response was the wrong one and that's the first thing people will process. For a party that is trying to criticize, diminish and stall the Liberals with 'exposes' like this, the leader just made a huge bungle in my opinion. I'm not sure who his advisers are but I can't imagine someone like Kinsella or John Duffy advising their bosses to give such an answer. I don't think those two would be in the positions they are if they did. Maybe I'm wrong about this, it is only one incident that I have seen first hand. Maybe this is the new Ontario PC strategy and I'm walking right into it. I think however that if this is how John Tory has been handling himself in scrums, etc. then I can't imagine he's going to make much of an impression come election time.

October 19, 2005

NetSweeper Put Me Out with the Trash (and Progressive Bloggers)

I had some time this morning, before school started, so I decided to load up my blog. I often use my blog as a way to easily access other blogs such as Kinsella's or the Progressive Bloggers and Canadian Conversation collectives. However, Netsweeper, our school board's internet filtering system, has put me in their Global Deny list. In other words, I'm banned from the education system in which I work for. I'm sure it's because I have this post that plainly uses a racist term. While the post itself is not racist material, the term is probably just automatically picked up by a bot of some sort and added my blog to its list. The post even explains that the expert that was on the Oprah show, which the post is based on, says the term should be just used instead of saying something like 'the N-word'. If you're using such a 'discreet' way of saying it, you have essentially already said and thought it. There is no point in hiding what it is. Thus, I used it in my post. And I assume that is the reason for my banning as opposed to 'course language' because I can still load up Kinsella's site which contains much more cursing then my blog does. I think it's unfortunate that the system is so indiscriminate because there are other sites that are also banned but would be great for my computer classes, especially when I get into Weblogs and journalism/media research. One site that would have been useful but is also banned... Progressive Bloggers. That's right, PB is banned. However, it is not under the global deny list, Progressive Bloggers is listed as an Occult site and therefore banned. Who knew when I woke up this morning that I would be considered both a racist and a member of the occult? This morning has been enlightening to say the least!

October 17, 2005

On Teachers' Strikes

There are already many people who have weighed in on the issue of the BC teachers' strike so I'm sure any thing I'm about to say isn't purely original but this post got me going. I'm sure it had something to do with the author being an old acquaintance, but I think it is also because of actually throwing some real arguments out against the teachers, he used some of the old, time-worn, predictable conservative arguments. These were the same arguments that former Ontario Premier Mike Harris and his high school drop-out crony of an Education Minister John Snobelen had used against the Ontario teachers in 1997. The first argument I've always loved is the "holding students hostage" position. Unions and teachers get this thrown at them all the time. And while I'll admit it's a statement that can have everyone thinking twice, including teachers, it's no more true for the teachers as it is for the governments that turn a blind eye to the students they are also allegedly standing up for. If the governments cared as much they preach they do then they wouldn't 'hold students hostage' by cutting back services and programs, teachers, and funding for resources. Ontario went through a period under Harris where each of these rang true. The result was classrooms with outdated and limited number of text books, classrooms that had upwards of 35 or more students and limited access to specialized educators for students with disabilities. But as soon as the Union goes on strike Teachers are the evil ones. Another good argument is one about teachers 'breaking the law' by going on strike. In BC, teachers are considered an 'essential service'. Thus going on strike is automatically illegal. In Ontario, the teachers just disobey the government's back-to-work legislation, which is also illegal in the end. For this, teachers are often criticized for setting a poor example for their students. What if we were to look at it as 'standing up for yourself'? Teachers are constantly trying to instill self-confidence into students, especially those that are obviously struggling either in their education or in social settings. How would it look if teachers, especially those that believe the students are being abused by the government, just gave up and walked away? Who else is going to stand-up for the students. Students don't vote and aren't really on most modern politicians radar. I realize, in terms of education, that a strike doesn't benefit the student, but how are students supposed to stand up for themselves? Who else is going to fight for the state of education? Whatever happened to one of the foundations of democracy? Teachers are called hypocrites but when a government with an agenda takes your right to strike away and legislates your contract without bargaining in good faith, who is really the hypocrite? A democratic government unwilling to act democratically is worse because it is obvious at that point they don't respect the foundations that their government is built on and because they can, if unchallenged, use that abuse of power for a negative agenda. Even looking at the arguments against the idea of strikes in general, especially when it concerns public institutions versus the government, is even far-fetched. To say that all strikes are about is "you're not giving us what we want, so we're going on strike" is completely unfair to say the least. Then to add, "To say such a thing to the government - a duly elected body, accountable to the people - requires a staggering degree of audacity" is to miss the point completely. It's not always about what we want. Its sometimes about fairness, either in terms of balancing wages with company earnings. That just comes in under the idea of ethics. It's goes along with the same reason why we have minimum wages, why we have rights as workers, etc. Going on strike is an extension of the workers' right to gain their respect and most of all stand-up to those who would try to take advantage of them. It doesn't matter if it's the government or not. My father's union used the threat of a strike to hold his regional government, which was also his employer, accountable for not paying their workers what the industry standard was. The regional government was paying my father and his co-workers almost 50% less then what other regional governments, even those in areas where there less people and had less accessible money, were paying their equivalent employees. If it wasn't for their threat to strike, the government wasn't about to budge. This leads to the second statement missing the point. If someone is going to argue that it requires a staggering degree of audacity to strike against an elected body, accountable to the people, then let's not forget that public employees are also voters and the government has to be accountable to not only them as voters but its employees as well. If a government is not willing to be fair then the strike option is there to fight back. On a last point, I don't agree with teachers bringing 'propaganda' into classrooms. The classroom is not a place for that type of politics, despite how much it is affected by it (ie cutbacks, etc.). However, it's not always as easy for teachers to jump on the airwaves and get into print their position as it is for the government. To that end, sometimes teachers probably get frustrated because they are on the frontline of both the negotiations, the public criticisms - especially if turns into a public hanging as was the case with Harris in Ontario - and the cutbacks. Despite what people think, teaching is not always the easiest job. In Ontario, new teachers have a staggering burnout rate within their first five years. Having another issue thrown on them like a strike, or the fear of a job cut, or knowing that it's going to cost part of your own personal salary to bring in supplies for your students, which causes frustration and they end up making a comment in class, maybe cut them slack. Maybe some empathy or sympathy would be a better response instead of losing all the respect that they built up with you over several years. I honestly wish there was another avenue for teachers then striking. Hell, I wish there was another option to striking in general, but what are the alternatives? I even wish that some governments and corporations, and even some unions, wouldn't try to abuse their power. Since the latter isn't likely to change, I don't believe that the former should change either.

October 14, 2005

Image of the Invisible: Prose on Poverty

The issue of poverty is something that I take serious. It is the root of so many other issues in our society and in so many other countries. I also am a big fan of the Make Poverty History campaign. I like it so much that, if the campaign is extended into 2006, my fiance and I are giving out information and their bracelets as guest favours at our wedding. As crazy as that may sound the campaign is about awareness of the issue and this is partially my way of contributing. Remember that there are so many more ways to solve the problem of poverty, especially in Canada, that governments won't take and opt in favour of utilitarian, band-aid solutions instead. The results are clear of what happens when the problem is only managed instead of being truly dealt with. The aftermath of Katrina in New Orleans is one of the best, recent examples of half-assed measures and governments failing its own people. This doesn't need to be the reality. Poverty can end! Anyway, my reason for this post is actually promote both the poverty issue and a band. With the issue part out of the way, may I direct your attention to the band Thrice. While Thrice's music may not be everyone's style being that they are considered post-punk (aka punk fused with alt.hard rock) they are defitinely a band I'd admire for their music as much as their lyrics. With their new album hitting shelves on Oct.18 I wanted to bring attention to their first single Image of the Invisible, which deals with the topic of poverty. This isn't the first song they've released that deals with poverty but this song is being released with an attempt to bring attention to a few quality programs that deal directly with child poverty. Please take a look and always keep in mind that there are solutions available to this everyday and shameful (on the part of governments) problem. Lyrics to Image of the Invisible by Thrice we're more than carbon and chemicals, free will is ours and we can't let go we can't allow this, the quiet, cull so we sing out this, our canticle we are the image of the invisible, we all were lost now we are found, no one can stop us or slow us down we are all named and we are all known, we know that we'll never walk alone we're more than static and dial tone, we're emblematic of the unknown raise up the banner, bend back your bows, remove the cancer, take back your souls we are the image of the invisible though all the world may hate us, we are named though shadow overtake us, we are known Please take a minute to check out these: www.invisiblechildren.com www.826valencia.org www.syrentha.org www.apch.org www.kidsmatter.org

October 13, 2005

Creation Versus Evolution. Is it really worth it?

Every once in a while when I'm visiting the Progressive Bloggers page I notice that someone has been doing an update on a court case in Dover, Pennsylvania. The case involves, from what I understand, a dispute about whether or not Intelligent Design - a religious spin on semi-evolutionary theory - should be included in the education system. I don't want to debate the merit of either Intelligent Design, Evolution or even Creationism. Rather I just want to make a point. This past summer I was working at a residential summer camp. There were several staff that subscribe to the Christian faith. Seeing it as an opportunity to hear others points of view in regards to my own faith, which is rooted in the Judeo-Christian basis, I joined their spiritual support group. Myself and another member had just finished reading the book A Short History of Nearly Everything by Bill Bryson. It's about the history of the major scientific theories. Included in this list is evolution. We were kind of just making small talk about the book when the topic came up about whether we believed in the idea of Creation or Evolution. There was some discussion about it when another member made the comment that he didn't think our subscription to either one made any real difference in your ability to be 'faithful'. It was interesting statement, especially coming from the person that it did. However, if I think about seriously, I agree 100%. Does it really matter if you believe Genesis gives an acurate account or if Evolutionary Theory is closer to the truth? No as far as I'm concerned. For one thing, agreeing with Evolutionary Theory does not automatically mean you do not believe God had a hand in the process. God could have very well set up the whole evolutionary process himself and could have had a guiding hand during it all. Secondly, I do not see Creation as a cornerstone or a pre-requisite to having faith in the first place. There are so many more important ideas - fundamental ideas - to the Judeo-Christian faith that Creation has nothing to do with. Creation is not a pre-requisite to the Ten Commandments, tolerance, belief and following Christ, acceptance, etc. To spend time arguing whether or not Evolution or Creation or whatever is correct is just a waste energy in the end. It is energy that could be better spent strengthening your own faith, and working at being the best example of a believer you can be. Some side-tracked thoughts... 1) God apparently created the world in six days but days weren't created until something like the 3rd or 4th day. 2) Could you imagine what Abraham's or Moses' expression would have been if God had tried to explain the science of Evolutionary Theory to them? 3)There is a good chance that if Islam had continued making progress in science and math, rather then giving it up, they may have developed something like Evolution themselves. If so, then there probably wouldn't have been much of a debate about God's involvement in the process and it would have been seen as the science behind Creation....

October 11, 2005

Is This the Christian Side of Bush?

I'll admit, I'm not the most knowledgeable or stereotypical Christian. I don't have verses memorized, I don't attend church (though I don't believe you need to), I hold many views that conflict with the views of the mainstream. However, I do believe in the fundamentals and I do believe the best example of how a Christian should live their life is one modelled after that of Jesus. In my opinion, the big What Would Jesus Do? (WWJD) movement that was popular amongst Christian youth was amazing. I also believe I know enough that when a man who claims he's a Christian, who goes as far as saying God talks to him or at least gives him clear direction, but believes torture is permissable is either a liar when it comes to faith or he's not talking about the Judeo-Christian-Islamic God. If he is the God-fearing man he claims to be, he is definitely not afraid enough. How any American that claims to be a believer could support this man is beyond me. I understand that with some areas, such as the environment and even in terms of social programs, there is a grey area in the scriptural interpretation and how we should treat such areas. However, I don't believe torture, under any circumstances, would be a choice that Jesus would go with.

October 06, 2005

On the N-Word: Using the term 'nigger'.

Oprah with the Cast of Crash An interesting debate about the power and usage of language developed on Oprah today. Her guests included the cast of the Crash, a movie that deals with racism and social perceptions. While discussing the movie and its contents it brought up an issue about the usage of the word 'nigger'. On one hand, Oprah argues that the term holds too much hurtful history and is still a term filled with negative power. On the other, Don Cheadle believes that the word can have its connotation changed to be a term of endearment and can be embraced with acceptance. While I have my own opinions on this debate, I'd rather explore their arguments in hopes of facilitating discussion on this topic. As mentioned, Oprah views the term as one with a nasty past and a negative connotation. No matter who is using the word, it only serves to fuel hatred and confusion. The hatred is fueled because those who still believe and perpetuate the nonsense associated with the past see the word being used by the black community and in their already skewed logic, believe the term is a free for all. The confusion is created because, as Don Cheadle argued, that while the term can be used amongst black aquaintances it is still not a term that other cultures should be using. This was probably the weakest and strangest argument from Cheadle who was otherwise seemingly prepared for such a 'debate'. However, Terrence Howard and Ludacris both seemed to support that same basic premise. Howard argued that he has no problem with his best friend, who he alluded to be caucasian, calling him 'nigga' and even admitted to even using towards his caucasian friend. Ludacris argued that the term was different anyway. That the term that has become popular is not niggER, but niggA. The change in the ending represented the changing attitude with the expression. Oprah shrugged that off by saying the word is the same no matter if it ends -er or -a. The core of Cheadle's position was not the above but rather that through effort and acceptance, the connotation can be changed. The result, hopefully, would be that the word would lose its negative power and I assume for future generations the word would hold a new, more positive meaning. The above argument aside, the idea is simple. By having close-knit groups using the word with each other as a term of endearment or representing a meaning based on friendship that the word would have no more meaning rooted in the past. He continued by arguing that by people trying to shun the word, to burry it, they would only serve to push the negative term underground. It would then be available to be used against them, as it was in the past, to marginalize and hurt those affected by it. Orpah's response was that they cannot let go of the past because there were too many people lynched in America for being a nigger to forget. She and the guest professor both believed that the word should and could disappear forever through awareness and sensitivity. This is the jist of the two arguments and both sides do hold some sway. This is definitely not a new argument as hip-hop artists have used the term freely for years and have been subject to criticism for just that. However, I had never heard the arguments laid out so well by either side. And while I have to admit that I watched Oprah to hear it, I'm glad I did. I also recommend to everyone to see the film Crash, it's as moving as it is thought provoking.

October 03, 2005

Anti-American, really?

I recently read a tale of an American woman who moved to Canada only to move back to the USA after she found the level of Anti-Americanism too much to handle. Though she was quite disgusted and disappointed with her own country’s political regime, she claimed Canadians were over the top with their own criticisms. I don’t recall any specific examples that she gave, if she did at all, but it makes me wonder, at the risk of over-simplifying her experience, if she may have been too sensitive. In the class I was teaching today, I allowed the students to play Green Day’s American Idiot. The students had work sheets to complete and it gave me a few moments to listen to Billy Joe’s lyrics. It’s not that I haven’t listened to the lyrics before, but prior to today I more or less just heard them and racked them up to just the usual anti-war rhetoric. Yet, this time I realized there are a lot of shots thrown at not only Bush and the ‘war’ in Iraq, but at those Americans that also support this agenda. At no time though do I recall this album being referred as much worse than ‘anti-war’, ‘anti-bush’ or even ‘anti-establishment’. In fact, I think much of the American-based music and other media outlets that make direct attacks on conservatives/republicans are often considered only anti-establishment or the latest buzzword, liberal. As soon as outsiders take many of those same arguments or stances, in this case Canadians, it is considered, almost immediately, anti-American. This seems to happen often even when some of the arguments or criticisms being made are the same as those said by Americans. This of course is excluding Carolyn Parrish’s over the top remarks, but I’ve seen and heard it done to many people, including myself (not that it happens often based on my traffic flow!). If anything, I think the groups that toss it around the most are the Conservative Alliance Reformers and their like-minded friends. However, they are definitely not the only group to accuse Canadians of being anti-American. Numerous journalists, writers, etc. have commented on Canada’s tendency to be such. And these are not always those with Conservative connections. I’ve heard it so much in the last few years, notably in the last federal election, that it’s almost a term that has no weight anymore, especially concerning when it is used in arguments. It almost seems like another one of those buzzwords. Maybe that is exactly what it has become, a buzzword. American conservatives toss around the term ‘liberal’ in a demeaning manner to describe anyone that disagrees with them. Often done in an attempt to bully those dissenters into submission, conservatives are obviously good at using language. Could it be that the same attempt is being made here, outside of American’s borders? Maybe the term ‘anti-American’ was supposed to be a way for conservatives both inside, but more likely outside, to try to marginalize those outspoken against Bush and his agenda by those, internationally, that sympathize. If this is so then I would have to say that it doesn’t seem to be working. However, what it may have accomplished is the tightening of the language and criticisms that aims to place Bush et al in a negative category. It may have had the opposite affect. Rather than shutting down the opposition, it has only made them more focused and possibly even louder as ranks of dissention seems to be growing, both within and out of the USA. Obviously, this would not be the only reason, but it may be a factor in the growth. And let’s be honest, who really likes to be debated by someone that only tries to shut you up? Most people I know would only become more determined to get their message out and come back stronger, which may be the case here. Sure, we might be anti-Bush, anti-war, and even anti-establishment, just like so many Americans are, but to be anti-American for just holding those opinions is unlikely and unfounded.

October 02, 2005

On Thinking; Bill Bryson, Aquatic Apes, Etc.

For many people, the subject of science brings visions of sterile environments filled with people in white coats and thick-rimmed glasses. For others it’s a horrific nightmare of numbers and codes lost in a never-ending state of experiment. And for another group it rings of controversy that sometimes borders heresy. For any of these groups, the idea of science is either boring or beyond their sensibilities. However, thanks to Bill Bryson, most noted for his travel literature, and his book A Short History of Nearly Everything, science has not only been treated to an easy-to-read guide, but also has been turned into fascinating historical tale. I picked this book up in the summer after reading John Ralston Saul’s The Collapse of Globalization. Being that I’m very particular when it comes to reading fiction and Saul’s book was the 5th or 6th political piece I had read in a row, I was looking for something very different. Bryson’s offering was just what I was looking for. A Short History places the largest scientific theories into simple language without over-simplifying either their ideas or significance. Covering every major scientific branch, from mineralogy to chemistry and astrophysics, this book has (almost) everything a person needs to know about science. The book even includes, for a greatly added benefit, back-stories about many of the scientists and researchers that developed these scientific theories and often their relationships to each other. These tales are often as humourous as they are intriguing. I would even go as far as to say that these are the real driving force behind the book, the parts of the book that actually makes you want to know what happened next. In hindsight, if this were only a book of theories, it may have become tedious. However much this was about to turn into a book review, I merely wanted to point out how enjoyable, informative, and easy the book is to read. In fact, Bryson’s writing is fluid and agreeable that I have decided to put off my return to political pieces and have started reading his travel pieces. So what then, if this is not a book review, is this blog entry about? It’s about an omission in Bryson’s section on evolution. Let me just start that I am in no way qualified to make any resounding judgments, especially where science is concerned. However, I do think Bryson got caught up in the problem that science is often dealing with and that is the exclusiveness, the possible elitism that is found in scientific circles and in doing so omitted some theories from his book. The theory that comes to mind for me is the Aquatic Ape Theory. This is a theory that I first was introduced to when I was taking Environmental Studies at York University. The Aquatic Ape Theory argues that in the gap of human evolution the pre-human apes left the Savanna and moved into a remote corner of Africa and took to a life of semi-aquatic living, before returning to the mainland, out of necessity. It is here that these apes evolved many physical traits that are still found in modern humans, and that mainstream evolutionary science has had some difficulty explaining. It is an interesting theory that does have some merit but it has faced some strong criticism. While the original theories date back to the early 1900’s, the latest version is credited to Elaine Morgan. This is where much of the modern criticism is also focused, on the author. Morgan is by trade a playwright, feminist activist, and not a scientist. It is because of this much of the criticism is based more around the merits of the author than the merits of the theory, despite having its origins developed by at least one legit scientist. From what I recall from my lecture about the theory Morgan was first laughed at because she was a feminist and the theory was first published in such a book when times (1972) were less open to women than they are currently. Afterwards, when the theory wouldn’t disappear Morgan was rebuked because she was not a scientist, despite her working at the theory for almost 30 years in a scientific manner. I am not writing this in hopes of pushing any specific theory, to criticize science or Bryson (especially), or to even bring attention to the plight of women or feminists, in the past or present. Rather, I just wanted to bring attention to an amazing book that brings science to masses and to maybe have people think about what sometimes is not mentioned in what we read, hear and/or see. Essentially, this was about just making people think. Whether this means you might think about reading Bryson’s book – which you should – or if you want to read more about the Aquatic Ape Theory or maybe even get into a discussion about the plight of women over the years. Whatever it may be that this post with no clear written focus but with a clear goal, I hope it has you thinking.

Bill Bryson: Official Site Aquatic Ape Theory c/o Wikipedia

Cleaning Up Ontario

Premier must take lead on GTA trash, critics say
Exporting Toronto's Trash

Just over one year ago, the issue of what to do with Toronto's garbage was an issue that came up because John Kerry, during his campaign to get the oval office, promised to ban trash imports from Canada. It brought up a lot questions as to what Toronto, and the rest of the GTA, might do with all their trash since the province was limiting Toronto's options. Now the issue has been brought up again as Michigan itself is threatening to close the border. On one hand, the Conservatives are looking at the ancient idea of incinerators, while the NDP are stuck with a not-so-distant past, small-thinking option of standard recycling programs.

What is needed is something more forward thinking. Incinerators are obviously not a good choice. With a province that already deals with smog and other pollution problems, incinerators would only exacerbate the issue. Even if the facility were placed in Northern Ontario, it would result in Northern Ontarians being punished for our lack of innovation. Neither outcome is desirable. Expanding recycling programs is a great idea, especially if were still in the early 1990's. The problem here is that is doesn't go far enough to convince - force - people to bother with the program. Besides, if we (supporters) like to admit it or not, the recycling program is quite costly and throwing more money at it may not be the answer. Just over one year ago, I argued that Ontario as a whole needs to take two cues to deal with the problem. One from Nova Scotia and the other from Alberta.

Ontario needs to take an approach to garbage much like Nova Scotia has. Nova Scotia uses an extensive recycling AND composting program. All of their trash, with the exception of a very few items, is either recycled or composted. And to help the public to be mindful of the program, households must put their garbage out in clear, plastic bags. This allows collectors to monitor what is being tossed and apply fines to houses that don't comply. Each household is given a list of what cannot go to the landfill. While Nova Scotians were a little upset at first, most now swear by the program and the province has cut back its landfill waste by over 50%. This is the type of thinking the NDP need to push for. They should not just look at expanding recycling facilities but should be thinking about changing the regulations about recycling and adding in composting into the mix as well.

In addition, Toronto, the GTA and the Ontario PC's should be pushing for co-composter facility, much like the one used in Edmonton. The plant mixes sewage, trash, river sludge and other ingredients to create compost. All the trash of the city is brought to the plant to be sorted. Items that cannot be broken down are taken away and recycled, if possible. What remains is added into the mix and 'cured' into compost that is then sold. The project is a public-private venture, co-owned by the City of Edmonton and TransAlta Utilities. For Edmonton and the surrounding area, the project has resulted in more than a 50% reduction in landfill waste. Why I think the Ontario Tories should be looking at this option over incinerators is because it has the added advantage of not creating air pollution, it will be a (probably small) revenue generator, it will create jobs and it involves the Tories' friends, the corporate sector. Yes, I'm willing to advocate for a public-private venture if it means bringing it to Toronto.

Quotes from people smarter than me...

"If a free society cannot help the many who are poor, it cannot save the few who are rich" ~ JFK

"Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter. " ~ Martin Luther King Jr.

"Those who would give up essential liberty to purchase a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety. " ~ Benjamin Franklin

"First it is necessary to stand on your own two feet. But the minute a man finds himself in that position, the next thing he should do is reach out his arms. " ~ Kristin Hunter

"When you're a mayor and you have a problem you blame the provincial government. If you are provincial government and you have a problem you blame the federal government. We don't blame the Queen any more, so once in a while we might blame the Americans." ~ Jean Chretien

"Which is ideology? Which not? You shall know them by their assertion of truth, their contempt for considered reflection, and their fear of debate." ~ John Ralston Saul

"It is undoubtedly easier to believe in absolutes, follow blindly, mouth received wisdom. But that is self-betrayal." ~ John Ralston Saul

"Everybody dies, Tracey. Someone's carrying a bullet for you right now, doesn't even know it. The trick is to die of old age before it finds you." ~ Cpt. Malcolm Reynolds (Firefly, Episode 12)