Thursday, April 28, 2005

You do it to yourself

I was recently watching a Frontline documentary about Walmart and learned some interesting things.

The main one is that Americans have sold themselves to the Chinese.

The line of reasoning: Walmart became so big that it could make demands upon manufactures, reversing the existing trend for the first time. As Walmart continually strives for lower and lower prices (driven by patrons), they made ‘unreasonable’ demands upon their American manufactures. The not-so-subtle implication was that the American companies had to start manufacturing in China just to stay competitive.

Some relevant info: Walmart has 100 million Americans buy things at their stores every week. Walmart has the highest revenue in the world, one time posting a figure of $288 billion! An organization that moves so much product, obviously needs a lot of product to move. Walmart has 6000 manufactures worldwide, 80% of which are in China.

So, what you have are numerous companies that produce numerous products employing numerous Chinese people, all serving Walmart. Additionally, there is an increasing trade deficit between the US and China, with the US importing more goods from China than the reverse.

Walmart devastates local businesses and small towns, mistreats American manufacturers, creates exportation of American jobs, increases trade deficits and promotes uniformity and censorship of certain media. Aaaaaaand, what do they get?

They do it to themselves.

Wednesday, April 27, 2005


Sometimes I'd like to give the whole world a hug, but then I think it best if I could enlarge their right anterior insula and bump up their IQ by 30 points first.

Watch this

From last night's Jon Stewart. Click on "Stewart: Gaywatch"

I'm Starving!!!

Every 3.6 seconds someone dies of starvation. Think about that. Finish two sitcoms or an hour long show, that's 1000 dead people (mostly kids). Watch a movie, about 2000 dead. 10 minute walk, 165 dead. Go to class, at least 800 have perished. This is the world in which you live.
Oh, the next time someone says "I'm starving," feel free to say, "No. No you're not."
(I know I postedthis baserates, but it is of great importance to me)

ps: So you have context and possibly some hope, 20 years ago it was over 40,000/day

Monday, April 25, 2005

False Dichotomy

The more we understand our nature, the better we can nurture
(paraphrased from Mind Wide Open, by Steven Johnson)

You are the first and only person to ever experience this moment

"If I have seen further than certain other men, it is by standing upon the shoulders of giants." - Isaac Newton (1642–1727), Letter to Robert Hooke, February 5, 1675.

While Newton was making a reference to his dependency on Galileo’s and Kepler’s work in physics and astronomy, his words are very accurate for many situations. If one thinks of the history of a culture, life, the Earth or time, it seems it is there is almost nothing that did not depend on what has come before. ('Depend on' does not have to mean 'necessarily require' but it might).

When you have some free time, try to imagine the billions and billions of events (and non-events) that have occurred (and not occurred) since the birth of Time to make You.

Sunday, April 24, 2005


Boo reality... sigh.

Saturday, April 23, 2005

They're spreading....

My friend Mush and I recently started a new blog: base rates. Giver a look see.

Friday, April 22, 2005

La Luna

Nuclear reactions; fuel and fire
Spread illumination throughout everywhere.
150 million and 384 thousand back again.
Our glorious satellite revealed,
My face becomes a smile

Thursday, April 21, 2005

You know what? They are special!

I’ve said it before and I’ll…

"[The United States] now stands as the only state on record which has both been condemned by the World Court for international terrorism and has vetoed a Security Council resolution calling on states to observe international law." - Noam Chomsky, "The New War Against Terror"
posted by Darren at 11:55 AM

Evolution of Reason?

"An important scientific innovation rarely makes its way by gradually winning over and converting its opponents… What does happen is that its opponents gradually die out, and that the growing generation is familiarized with the ideas from the beginning."
-- Max Planck

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

Our Country

The following is an excerpt from a poem by Mariam Waddington discussing Canada, if anyone knows the poem please share.

We look
like a geography but
just scratch us
and we bleed

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Everything that has a beginning has an end

I just rewatched Matrix: Revolutions last night. It is still confusing and the end fight scene still delights me. Anyway, Agent Smith (perfectly played by Hugo Weaving) had some nice lines.

Agent Smith:
Can you feel it closing in on you? Oh, I can. I really should thank you for it, after all. It was your life that taught me the purpose of all life. The purpose of life is to end.

(Neo persists)

Agent Smith:
Mr. Anderson, why? Why? Why do you do it? Why? Why get up? Why keep fighting? You believe you're fighting for something... for more than your survival? Can you tell me what it is? Do you even know? Is it freedom or truth or, perhaps, peace; could it be love? Delusions, Mr. Anderson; vagaries of perception. Temporary constructs of a feeble human intellect trying desperately to justify an existence that is without meaning or purpose; and all of them as artificial as the Matrix, itself. Although, only a human mind could invent something as insipid as love!

Monday, April 18, 2005

B-Russ kicking the Poli-phil

"Perhaps the essence of the Liberal outlook could be summed up in a new decalogue, not intended to replace the old one but only to supplement it. The Ten Commandments that, as a teacher, I should wish to promulgate, might be set forth as follows:
1. Do not feel absolutely certain of anything.
2. Do not think it worth while to proceed by concealing evidence, for the evidence is sure to come to light.
3. Never try to discourage thinking for you are sure to succeed.
4. When you meet with opposition, even if it should be from your husband or your children, endeavor to overcome it by argument and not by authority, for a victory dependent upon authority is unreal and illusory.
5. Have no respect for the authority of others, for there are always contrary authorities to be found.
6. Do not use power to suppress opinions you think pernicious, for if you do the opinions will suppress you.
7. Do not fear to be eccentric in opinion, for every opinion now accepted was once eccentric.
8. Find more pleasure in intelligent dissent that in passive agreement, for, if you value intelligence as you should, the former implies a deeper agreement than the latter.
9. Be scrupulously truthful, even if the truth is inconvenient, for it is more inconvenient when you try to conceal it.
10. Do not feel envious of the happiness of those who live in a fool's paradise, for only a fool will think that it is happiness."
-- The Autobiography of Bertrand Russell, 1944-1969, pp. 71-2

I find it interesting that 'Liberal' could have such wonderful connotations in some parts of the world and the opposite in others. I think all of these statements build to an overarching theme: If you have the best understanding of, or answer to, a particulat situation, then you can handle all challenges.

Maybe only those who fear they are wrong (or don't want to change their mind) don't like to be challenged.

Sunday, April 17, 2005

Between Meals (...what?)

In the past while there has been far too much intracourse and not enough...

Saturday, April 16, 2005

Here come the Roo sweats

In case you didn't know, some snakes can eat kangaroos (or other large animals)

Thursday, April 14, 2005


I recieved this puzzle, Petals Around the Rose, courtesy of Angela. Enjoy the frustration and delight. (If you feel you need a hint, see the comments section.)

For the Children?!?!?

Terry Jones (a former Monty Pythoner) recently wrote an article in the Guardian. Matt Good posted the full article, I felt it was worthwhile to do the same.

Let them eat bombs

The doubling of child malnutrition in Iraq is baffling
Terry Jones Tuesday April 12, 2005

A report to the UN human rights commission in Geneva has concluded that Iraqi children were actually better off under Saddam Hussein than they are now.

This, of course, comes as a bitter blow for all those of us who, like George Bush and Tony Blair, honestly believe that children thrive best when we drop bombs on them from a great height, destroy their cities and blow up hospitals, schools and power stations.

It now appears that, far from improving the quality of life for Iraqi youngsters, the US-led military assault on Iraq has inexplicably doubled the number of children under five suffering from malnutrition. Under Saddam, about 4% of children under five were going hungry, whereas by the end of last year almost 8% were suffering.

These results are even more disheartening for those of us in the Department of Making Things Better for Children in the Middle East By Military Force, since the previous attempts by Britain and America to improve the lot of Iraqi children also proved disappointing. For example, the policy of applying the most draconian sanctions in living memory totally failed to improve conditions. After they were imposed in 1990, the number of children under five who died increased by a factor of six. By 1995 something like half a million Iraqi children were dead as a result of our efforts to help them.

A year later, Madeleine Albright, then the US ambassador to the United Nations, tried to put a brave face on it. When a TV interviewer remarked that more children had died in Iraq through sanctions than were killed in Hiroshima, Mrs Albright famously replied: "We think the price is worth it."

But clearly George Bush didn't. So he hit on the idea of bombing them instead. And not just bombing, but capturing and torturing their fathers, humiliating their mothers, shooting at them from road blocks - but none of it seems to do any good. Iraqi children simply refuse to be better nourished, healthier and less inclined to die. It is truly baffling.

And this is why we at the department are appealing to you - the general public - for ideas. If you can think of any other military techniques that we have so far failed to apply to the children of Iraq, please let us know as a matter of urgency. We assure you that, under our present leadership, there is no limit to the amount of money we are prepared to invest in a military solution to the problems of Iraqi children.

In the UK there may now be 3.6 million children living below the poverty line, and 12.9 million in the US, with no prospect of either government finding any cash to change that. But surely this is a price worth paying, if it means that George Bush and Tony Blair can make any amount of money available for bombs, shells and bullets to improve the lives of Iraqi kids. You know it makes sense.

·Terry Jones is a film director, actor and Python. He is the author of Terry Jones's War on the War on Terror

Wednesday, April 13, 2005

Finally, they just did it

" After years of criticism over its labor practices abroad, Nike Inc. is disclosing for the first time the names and locations of more than 700 factories that produce its sneakers, apparel and other products." (from LA times)

" The broader question lies with retailers such as Wal-Mart and Target. Such companies say they monitor their contractor factories for labor abuses -- but unlike Nike and Reebok, which submit to independent audits, the results of the retailers' inspections aren't disclosed to any outsiders. And neither are their factory locations." (more detailed, from BusinessWeek)

My initial source was CBC news (not the website, this is so 'new' that neither CBC, nor CNN has this story up yet).

While this could just be bowing to pressure from activist groups instead of a decision based on understanding and sincerity, I'll take what I can get. This could be good. :)

(related. Bad news, but important to know it)

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

I know, I know... but it's funny

Monday, April 11, 2005


there ain't nothing here at all
another day, a week, the mall
someday this place it going to burn
is your whole life in there waiting?
there ain't nothing here at all
another month, a year that's all
so you can tell them I'm coming
and hell's coming with me
someday this place is going to burn
is your whole life in there waiting?

-Matthew Good

Hands up to bat

Many of us often feel different from those around us; it is important to remember the similarities too.

Saturday, April 09, 2005


Douglas Hofstadter, in The Mind’s I, discussing how the brain changes when we learn things and the nature of a self:

In fact, at every instant of our lives we are permanently changing our synaptic structures: We are ‘filing’ our current situation in our memory under certain ‘labels’ so that we can retrieve it at appropriate times in the future (and our unconscious mind has to be very clever doing this, since it is very hard to anticipate the kinds of future situations in which we would benefit from recalling the present moment).

The self is, in this view, a continually self-documenting ‘worldline’ (the four-dimensional path traced by an object as it moves through both time and space). Not only is a human being a physical object that internally preserves a history of its worldline, but moreover, that stored worldline in turn serves to determine the object’s future worldline. This large-scale harmony among past, present, and future allows you to perceive your self, despite its ever-changing and multifaceted nature, as a unity with some internal logic to it. If the self is likened to a river meandering through spacetime, then it is important to point out that not just the features of the landscape but also the desires of the river act as forces determining the bends in the river.

Who's in charge here?

Do you realize that presently there is no one on Earth that is infallible? That means that only people are in charge, and we've seen their track record. -Daily Show with Jon Stewart

Friday, April 08, 2005

The Art of Science

I've always thought 'science' art is cool (i.e., the prism splitting the light beam, fractals, or just geometic shapes.) I came across this link and was delighted at the use of existing internet connections and code to create figurative and literal (meaning artistic and virtual) trees of information. As it says, type in any url and watch it go (you might have to fiddle by pressing the space bar first). I also suggest clicking some of the other links to find out how it works, how it might sound and other aspects of the program.

Wednesday, April 06, 2005


A lightning bolt is hotter than the surface of the sun

Tigers have striped skin, not just striped fur

Unravel your DNA and it would stretch from here to the moon (450km)

You were born with more bones than you have now

The Universe has no edge… and no center

China executed at least 3,400 people in 2004

(Add your tidbit of knowledge here... it can be anything :)

Tuesday, April 05, 2005

Money, Money, Money

Today I had the interesting experience of holding a thousand dollar bill. That's right, $1000 bucks. I then started to think of things that 1000 dollars represents. Below are some thoughts, please add your own.

$1000 =
  • one really nice dinner (for rich people)
  • rent, food, water, heat, cable, and net access for me each month
  • 14 years of wages in Zimbabwe (wow!)

Monday, April 04, 2005

It's what God would have wanted

In early America, there was a law that white men have to carry guns when they went to church.


Because Sundays were the only days off for slaves, so if the 'uprising' should occur, it would likely be on Sunday when all the white men were in church. Therefore, white men were required to carry their guns to church.

(I could say a lot here, but I think it speaks for itself)

Saturday, April 02, 2005

That's a Big Hat to fill...

Upon hearing of the death of Pope John Paul II, I was deeply saddened and distraught. That such a magnificent man is now gone troubles the mind and makes the body ache.

But then I realized he was going to Heaven; a place of infinite wonders and happiness that are beyond the realm of human comprehension. As the Earthly representative of His word, PJPII is guaranteed luxuries and enlightenments likely above those of ‘mere’ mortals.

Even knowing this though, I still felt I would miss him somehow. Of course, I’ve never met him, but he is often in my prayers and I feel that I am in his. Now that he is in Heaven I guess I can only… have him in my prayers… and in a way, he’ll still be able to watch over me. Hmmm… that’s not that different at all.

PJPII’s passing might be a little harder for those who have actually seen the pope (albeit mainly as a large group, from a great distance) or watch him more frequently on television. I guess that is why many feel like they lost a family member with the death of PJPII. I started to feel that a bit too, because it is hard when someone so important is taken away. But then I realized, as a good Christian, that I would also be going to Heaven, where I could meet the recently departed Pope for all of eternity. So I guess 20 or 40 years doesn’t mean much when there is eternity waiting!
Oh hey, I just realized that when I’m in Heaven I won’t just get to meet PJPII, but I could meet all Popes throughout all of history! (Newton too, but maybe not Gallileo) Wicked!

An important point to remember, when discussing the ineffably beautiful afterlife that awaits me, is that it is actually Heaven. What I mean is that often people will say, “It’s like Heaven.” This is not a simile. This is Heaven!

After thinking about it a bit, the fact that the Pope is going to Heaven now and I’ll be going to Heaven soon, I guess this whole thing isn’t that bad. Oh, the and fact that an infinitely wise God chose this to happen. See you soon, John.

ps: 5:06pm, CNN Heading, “The catholic church has lost its Sheppard.”[my italics] This is one of the few times I agree with CNN’s choice of words.

Friday, April 01, 2005

Gedanken Experiment

If you were to participate in a brain transplant operation, would you rather be the recipient or the donor?