Sunday, November 27, 2005

Layers of Funny

"I like to state, I have no connection with Mr Cohen and fully support my government's position to sue this Jew." - Borat
(for some of the context and the story go here)

Why I Am Not A Christian

I just finished Russel's lecture/essay Why I am Not A Christian.
Go read it.

Saturday, November 26, 2005


There's only us
There's only this
Forget regret
Or life is yours to miss
No other road
No other way
No day but today

Youth Crime - Globe and Mail

Most young offenders see the inside of a courtroom just once, according to a new study that tracked thousands of Canadians' brushes with the law over 10 years.

But the report found the earlier that youngsters commit their first crime, the more likely they are to make it a habit. As well, while small in numbers, chronic offenders account for a majority of court-related activity.

The paper, which has wide-ranging implications for public-policy makers, is the first of its kind in Canada to follow the criminal behaviour of young adults from several provinces born in a single year. Researchers from Statistics Canada and the University of Waterloo traced the group for a decade starting when they turned 12 and ending at age 21.

"This is a sort of condensed criminal biography of 59,000 people," said Peter Carrington, a University of Waterloo sociology professor who is the lead author of the study.

Of the 323,300 babies born in six provinces during a 12-month period spanning 1979 and 1980, 18 per cent -- or about 59,000 -- were later charged with a criminal offence and made at least one trip to court. Four in five were male.

"It's part of what being a teenager is about," said Neil Boyd, a professor of criminology at Simon Fraser University. "No matter what we do, in every country in the world, crime is concentrated in males between 12 and 18."

Fifty-five per cent of the alleged offenders had just one brush with the law, a finding that shatters conventional wisdom, said Graham Stewart, executive director of the John Howard Society of Canada.

"They've attempted to address what is a myth: that once involved in the criminal justice system, a young person or even an adult is likely to persist in criminal activities and that's a tragic misunderstanding," he said.

Repeat offenders, or those who were sent to court for two to four incidents, accounted for about 28 per cent of the group.

But it was the smallest number of lawbreakers who were accused of the majority of crimes. Chronic offenders, defined as those who went to court for five or more incidents, comprised just 16 per cent of the cohort, but were responsible for 58 per cent of all court referrals.

The study measured court referrals, which are defined as instances when someone was charged with -- though not necessarily convicted of -- at least one crime and referred to youth or adult court. Of course, youth may have engaged in additional crimes but escaped detection.

And the study, which largely mirrors trends in other criminology research, found that children were more likely to become repeat scofflaws the younger they became involved with crime. Those who committed their first offence at age 12 had an average of 7.9 court referrals, while those who started at 21 had an average of just 1.2 referrals.

Young adults were followed in six provinces that account for 78 per cent of the country's population: Newfoundland, Prince Edward Island, Quebec, Ontario, Saskatchewan and Alberta. The others were not included because they did not make court data available.

Saskatchewan had the most court referrals for young adults, at 31 per cent. Quebec had the least, at 11 per cent. However, Prof. Carrington said the data cannot easily be compared because the provinces have different practices. For example, some jurisdictions require young adults to make a court appearance -- thus counting in the statistics -- before diverting them to an alternative measures program.

Of all males and females charged, 72 per cent were found guilty of at least one crime. Girls peaked earlier in their court time: The largest proportion were referred to court at age 16, while the peak time for males was age 18, the study found.

The most prevalent incidents were property crime and administrative offences, such as breaching probation.

Once more years of court data become available, Statistics Canada said, future research will be able to determine additional trends by following Canadians' criminal activities into adulthood.

Crime over time

A Statistics Canada study followed 59,000 young offenders from age 12 until they reached age 21. It found that the majority of young offenders appear in court only once and that a small percentage of repeat offenders are responsible for more than half of the offences.

Percentage of offenders

Chronic offenders*: 16%

Repeat offenders: 28%

One-time offenders: 55%

Percentage of offences

Chronic offenders*: 58%

Repeat offenders: 24%

One-time offenders: 18%

* Five or more incidents. NOTE: Percentages may not add up to 100 due to rounding.


Friday, November 25, 2005


"When I am doing calligraphy, I am actually practising martial arts. And when I am drinking tea with you, this too is part of martial arts... Many people have a misconception that martial arts is about fighting and killing. It's actually about improving your wisdom and intelligence."
- Shi Yongzhi, senior monk at Shaolin Temple in China's Henan province.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

The Game of Life

"While genes are pivotal in establishing some aspects of emotionality, experience plays a central role in turning genes on and off. DNA is not the heart's destiny; the genetic lottery may determine the cards in your deck, but experience deals the hand you can play."
(My paraphrase: Genetics stacks the deck, environment deals the cards)

"Genetic information lays down the brain's basic macro-and microanatomy; experience then narrows still-expansive possibilities into an outcome. Out of many, several; out of several, one."

"Like most of their toys, children arrive with considerable assembly required."

All from Lewis, T. Amini, F & Lannon, R. (2000). A General Theory of Love. New York: Random House. (Thanks M&M)

Sunday, November 20, 2005

The Story of our Life

"To be an adult means, among other things, to see one's own life in continuous perspective, both in retrospect and prospect. By accepting some definition as to who he is, usually on the basis of a function in an economy, a place in the sequence of generations, and a status in the structure of society, the adult is able to selectively reconstruct his past in such a way that, step by step, it seems to have planned him, or better, he seems to have planned it. In this sense, psychologically we do choose our parents, our family history, and the history of our kings, heroes, and gods. By making them our own, we maneuver ourselves into the inner position of proprietors, of creators."
-Erik Erickson, 1958
(Aside from the exclusive use of the male pronoun and the neglect of the complicated issue of agency, this is a pretty good statement.)

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Speech by Bill Watterson

The author of Calvin & Hobbes gave a speech to a graduating class many years ago. I think it is worth the read.

An excerpt:
"We're not really taught how to recreate constructively. We need to do more than find diversions; we need to restore and expand ourselves. Our idea of relaxing is all too often to plop down in front of the television set and let its pandering idiocy liquefy our brains. Shutting off the thought process is not rejuvenating; the mind is like a car battery-it recharges by running."

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Calvin & Hobbes

If you haven't had a chance to read every single Calvin & Hobbes cartoon ever written, I suggest you do so now. No, I mean right now. I'll wait... Well... go!

Sunday, November 06, 2005

Race Against Time - Stephen Lewis

Stephen Lewis, the UN Secretary-General’s special envoy for HIV/AIDS in Africa and a commissioner of the World Health Organization’s Commission on Social Determinants of Health, gave the 2005 Massey Lectures that are contained in the book above and also shall be broadcast on CBC's IDEAS the week of November 7 - 11th, from 9-10pm (maybe an extra hour for the East Coast).

I stongly suggest you listen.

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Context: It Shames and Diminishes Us All

"At present, the European Union and United States together subsidize their farmers to the tune of $350 billion (US) a year; it equals five times the amount that is ploughed into foreign aid. If I may offer an evocative juxtaposition: Every cow in the European Union is subsidized to the tune of two dollars a day, while between four hundred and five hundred million Africans live on less than a dollar a day."
-Stephen Lewis, Race Against Time (pg. 18)

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

How charitable

This makes me happy.