Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Oh, the silent majesty of a winter's morn

I like Edmonton in the winter because I can watch a beautiful sunset while I'm on my lunch break.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Stephen Harper resurrects War on Terror for 9/11 anniversary

The Conservative government will reintroduce controversial anti-terrorism measures that were allowed to expire amid privacy concerns and Charter rights complaints, Prime Minister Stephen Harper confirmed to The Post Picayune Tuesday.

In celebration of the tenth anniversary of 9/11, Harper plans to help everyone remember and relive the days of racist fear-mongering, unjust persecution, and suppression of human rights that we all enjoyed over the past decade.

"We must look back to 9/11 and remember all that we've lost," the Prime Minister said, pausing to wipe a tear from his eye. "We've really lost a lot of government power these past few years. We used to be able to lock up people just for saying the wrong thing or having a 'foreigney' name. We used live in constant fear of our neighbors. Our fears kept us safe... they kept us wanting to be safe. We must never forget, never get complacent and let ourselves idly enjoy a life without totalitarian government power over the people. Without its protection and it making us do what's best for it and for this country, just imagine what a scary world that would be! We must remember the fear, and the hatred. Terrorism strikes right when you least expect it, and if you're not being vigilant by constantly living in terror, that's when terror will get you."

In what will surely go down in history as a great address of the nation, Harper said "The only thing we have to fear is... terror!, terror!, terror!!! And Islamicism, which as you all know is worse than Islam, Islamics, and even Islamism. We cannot sleep peacefully until the Islamicists are all hidden away in a secret prison and preferably tortured a little for good measure."

The Prime Minister later commented on his uncharacteristically emotional display during the speech. "I just think back to 9/11 and can't help feeling sad. I really miss those days. I really do."

Friday, April 8, 2011


Source: American Splendor

Friday, April 1, 2011

Takin it off here, boss. Wipin it off here, boss. Drinkin it up here, boss!

Do you ever notice yourself making decisions based on the outcome of essentially random events? For example, "I will only stop for coffee if the light turns green in the next five seconds," or "If it's heads, then I'll do some housework," or even "If the stock market's up, then it's a good day."

I think this might be happening as a result of being used to or even wanting an authority figure to make decisions for us. In the absence of such a figure, rather than allowing or forcing ourselves to make every decision that needs to be made, we invent authorities to make decisions for us.

Imagine a case where you've quit your job to write a novel. You are your own boss and get to decide what to do and when. Imagine also that you have writers' block. Now you are in a situation where you have sole control over your own actions and productivity, yet your decision-making feels ineffective. I believe the tendency will be toward making more and more "rules" to steer your actions -- an imaginary boss to fill the authority void -- until you fully replace the freedom of working for yourself with a level of control and restriction that you're used to in a job.

Not all such rules are "bad". For example, "I will write between 10am and noon even if I have nothing to write" can help force yourself to deal with procrastination. It can help inspire ideas that only come by doing, and not just by thinking.

Meanwhile, other rules like "I will only stop for a snack if the last digit on the clock is a zero" is an irrational and arbitrary rule that has no connection between the deciding factor and the outcome. Such rules are used to avoid judging for ourselves whether we deserve something or not. It is also used to try to avoid guilt: I didn't decide to eat this cookie; the clock did.

The key measure of whether a given rule is good, is simply whether the expected outcome of the rule is the desired outcome. All other rules should be abandoned, and replaced with a conscious acceptance of yourself as your own boss.

(Turn and face the strange)

Evolutionarily speaking, 'change' is both a good thing and a bad thing. Change is the very essence of evolutionary refinement. Change is also what kills dinosaurs. The difference is the rate at which change happens. Evolution involves adapting to a changing environment, and the process of adapting involves the changing of a species. As long as the latter can keep up with the former, everything's copacetic.

It is no surprise then that we have evolved both a fear and psychological need for change. Too much is chaos, and too little is stagnation. Any process of improvement by definition involves change, so change should only be avoided when things are perfect. But even then, the human mind does not enjoy constancy. The brain works on differences. Stare long enough at an unmoving point and a scene will begin to disappear. Remain motionless and you'll begin to stop feeling what you're touching. Spend a few months in a fixed routine and you'll have very little memory of that time passing.

So we should be constantly (or perhaps only often?) seeking change. One pro tip is to be more aware of what can be changed. Form a habit of checking yourself: Contemplate what you are doing in any random moment; notice the details, and ask yourself why they are that way. Then consider what can be changed (and why that might be an improvement). Then -- don't forget this step! -- it.

As for the big changes: Rather than fearing and avoiding them, find ways to stretch them out into a slow, gradual, and manageable process. Acclimate yourself to everything. A new job or new location, even if you win the lottery: only fools rush in.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

If we had some bacon we could have some bacon and eggs if we had some eggs

A couple is grocery shopping. One sees bacon on sale and says, "Ooh! We could have bacon and eggs!"

The other replies, "Ehn, don't bother. We don't have any eggs."

They continue shopping until they come across eggs on sale. "Ooh! We could have bacon and eggs!" says one to the other.

"Ehn, don't bother. We don't have any bacon."


Or a more realistic example:
Person 1: "You don't have a DVD player?"
Person 2: "Well, I don't own any DVDs, so what would be the point?"
Person 1: "They have DVDs at the library. You could watch those."
Person 2: "Well, no, I can't, because I don't have a DVD player."


Or even closer to home:
Person me: "I don't need a high-paying job, because I don't have a lot of expenses. Then again, it would be nice to be able to travel a lot. But I can't do that, cuz I don't have a high-paying job. But I don't need a high-paying job, cuz I don't have a lot of expenses."


Is there a name for this particular type of neurosis? It seems to involve a narrow focus on a single problem at a time, and the unsolvability of it due to some other blocking problem, without simultaneously being able to think of the other problem being solvable. Looking at only one of several mutually dependent problems, there is never any ready solution to any. It may be due to a dependence on a sequential ordering of problems and solutions, which isn't always available. It may have to do with an attitude of scarcity rather than of abundance, where "what is missing" is the driving force in decisions, rather than what else is possible. All of one's options may not be considered, if some part of your brain has already ruled out some of them for some minor reasons.

Is there a treatment for this particular type of neurosis? One potential idea is to train yourself to consider any problem as solvable, when faced with one. More than just consciously thinking that this particular problem is solvable, unconsciously accept that all problems are solvable. Imagine that all problems are solved, and then let your imagination fill in the details of how that happens.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

New oil extraction technique delays peak oil

Advances in "mountaintop removal coal mining" technology have been harnessed by the oil industry to tap into reserves that were previously inaccessible.

Oil engineers briefed The Post Picayune on how the technique works.

"Basically, you take a continent, pump water, sand and chemicals into it to crack it, then you grind the whole thing up. You just mix up the shit out of all the ground until it's all a big muddy goop. Then you wait till all the oil seeps up to the surface, get a bit straw, suck it up, t'row dat in yer gas tank, and yer drivin!"

Oil executives estimate that the new technique could provide upwards of 200 barrels of precious, precious oil per day for several months, by tapping just one moderately sized continent.

"Of course we're really looking at processing two or three continents, to really leverage the technology. For starters."

Environmental groups are calling the technique "environmentally questionable".

Read more about this story at:

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Why the global-warming debate doesn't matter

The debates about whether global warming is anthropogenic, and about whether we can do anything to stop it, are phony arguments that just detract from the real debate, which is: do we care enough to do anything about it? The odds are stacked on the side of "No."

Consider this: If mankind could stop global warming through a collective effort, would it?
What if everyone accepted that global warming was caused by man?
What if global warming kills on average 500,000 to a million people per year over the next century?
What if global warming could be stopped instantly if everyone agreed to do it?

Would any of these things surely make us stop it? If you think "yes", then please explain why we still have wars. Why do we still have a problem that is entirely man-made, killed 70 million people in the last century, and is only sustained through intentional action? Why would we put in the effort to stop global warming -- a massive, coordinated effort that could only be done through unprecedented cooperation among all countries --and yet continue to have groups of people killing each other while we accept it as something inevitable that we don't even bother to think about that much? Clearly, the motivation to stop global warming has to be something a little more than just "people's lives will be overwhelmingly affected by it and many many people will die."

When the world is affected by war, we put up with it, we don't end it. Why would it be any different with global warming? Perhaps in the future we'll all be affected, and we'll all complain about it, but only a few crazy hippies and idealistic high school students will think that anything can be done about it -- people who haven't yet surrendered to civilized society and accepted our motto: "Who cares."


But then again, the question "Who cares?" has an answer, and that is another motto: "I care! (about me)." Global warming will be dealt with, one way or another (whether that means stopping it or completely ignoring it). I'm sure the way that mankind deals with it, or with war in general, or with any problem for that matter, we will stay true to our mottos.