Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Twenty Goals for Twelve Resolutions

I'm infatuated with poetic justification, even if I'm not much of a poet myself.

The Twelve Root Resolutions:

  1. Eat Right and Exercise Better
  2. Use Less Power, Smarter
  3. Learn Canadian French - Living in the only bi-lingual province, it would be nice to know the other official language.
  4. Brush Up on My German
  5. Visit The Someone More
  6. Appear as Academic as I Am.
  7. Stick to a Budget
  8. Make a Name, Make it Relevant
  9. Treat People Better
  10. Be More Spiritual
  11. Make Better Use of My Brain
  12. Complete a Fencer draft.
These Resolutions can be measured against the following Twenty Goals:
  1. Achieve and maintain a healthy weight. (1)
  2. Correspond throughout the year with Ex-Boss in German (4)
  3. Reduce power consumption by at least 15% versus the same month in the previous calendar year (2)
  4. Correspond with various Francophone friends throughout the year in French (3)
  5. Make at least 12 trips to Fredricton over the next year. (5, 9)
  6. Achieve and maintain a GPA of at least 3.75(6, 11)
  7. Do not experience a deficit over the Winter, Spring, and Fall terms of 2012 (7)
  8. Return to service on the SRC (6, 8, 9)
  9. Exercise regularly according to the health plan developed by Alec Stanley of MP fame. (1)
  10. Get and hold a job for at least eight months. (7, 8, 9, 11)
  11. Reduce food waste by 80% by weight (1, 2, 7, 11)
  12. Complete a translation of a section of a Short Work (comprising at least 14, 000 words) and have translation confirmed for both languages. (3, 4).
  13. Complete the Introduction to Epistimology writing. (6, 10, 11)
  14. Complete the RCAC Fitness Test at at least a Silver level by August 2012 (1)
  15. Give better Gifts (7, 9)
  16. Complete a draft of Fencer by November 2012 and have proof-read by year end. (11, 12)
  17. Reduce computer baseline power use by 10% (as measured with a power meter), (2)
  18. Reduce water consumption by 45% as calculated. (2)
  19. Reduce household garbage output (by weight) by 25% (2)
  20. Increase non-spam readership of A&G by 15% (8)

New Year Resolutions and Human Social Responsibility

This is that time of year when a lot of us are thinking about New Year's Resolutions and how we want to change or improve our lives for the coming year (because when better than the arbitrary start of a new calendar year to make a commitment to change, right?). I've started tinkering around with a few ideas, having not gone much further than the usual first two: Eat Right, Exercise Better.

But as I sat down to start a proper list (because manic-spectra, obsessive-me LOVES lists) I realized that many of my resolutions are society-focused. "Treat People Better" would do wonders for the day-to-day stress level, but it would also, you know, remove one more jackass from the world stage. "Use less power" is great for my pocket book (and my brother's, since he shares the bills), but it's also great for the local arena, seeing as most of the power in Saint John comes from either the Colson Cove coal-fired plant or the Point Lepreau nuclear facility. I came to realize that New Years Resolutions can also be a form of social engineering, and that, if enough people adopted the same resolutions, they would have a profound effect locally.

So I went back up the list and I've picked out a few that I think a lot more people haven't considered (and probably should), or haven't realize the social consequences of.

  1. Treat People Better - This one's benefits are obvious. Being polite is a dwindling art in the modern North America, but politeness and eloquent handling are the surgeon's scalpel of affecting social relationships for the better. Be polite, speak reasonably, and study about logical fallacy like ad-hominem or ad-populum. Your interpersonal relationships will thank you for it.
  2. Eat Right, Exercise Better - Bad diet and poor exercise are some of the greatest health risks in our culture second only to sloppy driving and the use of drugs (including alchohol and tobacco). Staying in shape and eating "right" is both mentally and physically rewarding, and if you live in a country without a "socialized" health care system like us up here in the Soviet Republic of Canuckistan (I love sarcasm, I do), financially securing as well. Better, if the general trend across entire populations was toward a healthier lifestyle, such public health care systems would see a sudden decrease in both strain and cost. Examples include adopting high-plant diets, or going for a run every morning (particularly you lucky folks in sub-tropical climates.)
  3. Use Less Energy - I haven't done any real research lately into the amount of energy used by a single person in a North American country over the run of the year, but I know that the level is rather high, especially when you factor in the hidden energy costs that you don't see: telephone and internet use, the energy used to manufacture, farm, or fish everything that you wear, eat, drink, or use, and the energy use you represent at your place of employment. Every hour of the day, there is potential for you, as a single person, to use a little bit less energy-per-capita-per-activity. You could drive less, turn down the heat by a few degrees, keep the lights down, switch the lights over, or any of a hundred thousand other things. I believe I did a Green Wonk post or two about ways to save energy. They might be worth importing.
  4. Eat Local, Buy Local - If you're like me, you might be lucky enough to live near a grocery store that offers local produce, or even live close to a grocers that specializes in it. Transporting food is perhaps one of the biggest sources of the hidden carbon costs in our lives. You'd be surprised what's available locally, too: I was surprised to learn that New Brunswick actually does a thriving summer-time trade in hot-house bell peppers. It doesn't just stop with food, either. I've found local manufacturers of everything from soaps to glasswares.
  5. Learn how to "Do" - Growing up, I never really made much with my hands. I gardened a very little, and I learned a few recipes that I enjoyed, and even took a little metal-working in High School. It wasn't really until I was in college that I realized you can make just about anything with a little ingenuity and a willingness to clean up after yourself. A lot of the time, you can even make things out of things that would otherwise go to waste (in point of fact, all soup-making in this house is an exercise in waste food reduction), or make things that would otherwise bring significant waste, such as making two-dozen cookies and putting them in a tin as opposed to purchasing two-dozen cookies at the local grocery. Never mind waste reduction: it's good for the mind. I am particularly taken with people who can do what I consider "skilled crafts" in their own home. Cooking is something anyone can pick up, but I've seen people do everything from sewing entire wardrobes for their family (Cam) to my former boss's wife, who stretched her own canvases for painting, rather than buying high-priced ones at the store. Save money, save waste, make cool thing. Teach kids how to make cool thing. Society perpetuates.
  6. "Hack" your Transportation - I take public transit in a community where transit funding is constantly being cut back and routes and runs are disappearing. Very often, transit can't get me where I need to go at all, so it's either walking or bumming a ride from a friend who can drive. Fact of the matter is, though, that for 90% of whatever I need to do, the bus is perfectly adequate. It costs me less even to buy the most expensive of monthly bus passes than to maintain a car for a week, by a grand margin. Sure, being able to drive would be nice, but even if I could drive and had a car, most of the time the bus would be the more appropriate choice. People need to think of transportation as a net-net activity. Walk when you can, ride the bus when you must, and drive when there's no other option. Your heart, wallet, and our collective lungs will thank you for it.
Anyone have anything to add? Any thoughts?

Friday, December 23, 2011

In Defence of Christmas

No, this isn't another rant about Happy Holidays being used in place of Merry Christmas. I'm able to accept that I live in a pluralistic society, and in point of fact I agree with pluralism. I can't believe wishing someone an enjoyable end-of-December 'season' is causing so much grief.

When I was younger I used to read this comic called Oh My Gods!, which was written by a neo-pagan, for other neo-pagans, and I bring that up because of something that the author pointed out, and which I've heard fairly often this time of year.

You see, it doesn't take much to realize that Christmas and Yule (the Anglo-Pagan celebration of the Winter Solstice) coincide... in point of fact, for many people, the two terms are synonymous. In fact, when you look at it, the two celebrations are highly similar: the former celebrating the birth of the Son of God (who is known by the epithet "Light of the World"), and the latter celebrating the return of the Sun God (the literal light of the world).

So you hear it put about by atheist, agnostic, and general muckraker alike that Christmas is just Christianity co-opting yet another pagan holiday in order to ease conversion, and that therefore Christmas is invalid and there's no way to say precisely when Christ was born, so logically it couldn't have happened that way, and therefore Christmas is just one more way the Christians are mislead by the Church (which we all know is used by many to refer to the Universal Church rather than any one particular tradition). Let's take a look at that idea.

Christmas and Yule overlap, this much is true, and nobody can argue that point. Indeed, they are similar situations, and one could even argue that the choice to celebrate Christ's Birth in place of the return of the sun and the lengthening of days was made so that the pagan world would be that much more accepting of this new religion. The problem stems from taking that and assuming it somehow invalidates Christmas. For one thing, I've never heard it argued by anyone who makes a study of this sort of thing that Christmas is literally the day that Christ was born. This is the time of year that the world as a whole chooses to celebrate His birth. Much like how there's no real reason to argue that Easter is the precise weekend that Christ died at Cavalry, lay in a tomb for the weekend and returned to the living. In fact, there's no reason (that I know of) to even suggest that the three days he lie dead were the weekend at all.

The fact of the matter is that, much like much of the bible, the holy days of Christendom are symbolic and allegorical.

Thursday, December 22, 2011


So, if you're the first person to read this, you're the 500th visitor to A&G. Congratulations. This is also the 70th post, according to blogger, so yay for me.

There's been a sharp decline in the frequency of posts around here and it's not been because I'm busy. I wish I could even go so far as to say that I haven't been writing because I've been thinking, but it's not that (for the most part.)

Mostly, it's just some personal stuff, floating through the abyss, combined with a general lack of enthusiasm and  a loss of focus. This sort of thing is common for me, with the onset of winter. I lose energy and focus with the loss of sunlight. But like an elm that way. I mean, sure, I could get one of them fancy lights or start taking supplimental vitamin D, but... "whatever", as they say.

That's not to say I haven't been thinking. I have. I've been thinking of a lot of things. And sooner or later, I might be bothered to put pen to paper and explain to myself what I mean.

In the meantime, keep thinking, dear reader. You never know where it will take you.

Respectfully Bored,

Thursday, December 15, 2011

My Appologies

A few days ago now, I seem to remember posting a rather short post promising to deliver number of posts that have so far failed to materialize. My default behaviour in that case is generally to address the issue with citation of poor work-life (or I suppose school-life in my current situation) balance, prior commitments, or a lack of available information. In this case, the problem is more of a creative-energy lull combined with far too much information.

For example, the Attawapiskat crisis can be sliced about a hundred and thirty ways, and I can't even pick up the knife to do the slicing before I've decided where to come down on the issue, which was made more complex a few days ago when the chief/ranking member of the reservation asked the third-party managers to leave.

And as far as Epistimology goes, I could take a whole semester's worth of spare periods to study it and barely scratch the surface. Now, bear in mind that I probably will make a study of it, since epistemology and ontology are the two founding fields of what we call metaphysics, and without either I can't even begin to address the question of So who is this God person anyway?.

So in the meantime, I will be able to have something roughly legible appear around here some time today, but don't expect it to be any sort of grand, illustrious commentary.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Tomorrow, On A&G

Commentary on the ongoing Attawapiskat situation (and other current events) with The Auditor.

Also coming to you live from the brainpan of a self-important 20-something is Introduction to Epistemology and Ontology from The Gentleman.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

A Vision Statement, of Sorts

What is An Auditor and a Gentleman?
A&G is a general-interests blog produced in the spirit of a “commonplace book”, which were a common feature of intellectuals’ desk. The commonplace books were collections of the accumulated notes of the owner, on every subject of interest, from medical recipes to mathematic and chemical formulae to note-form dissertations on the parts of speech. No two were the same, and unless you found two people with identical interests, you’d be hard pressed to find one that was even similar.
Yeah, but why that name?
People who know me well have often commented that there are two of me, and whether they meant that in a nice way or not, the concept has always seemed appropriate. Often, people come up with two examples: the upbeat, whimsical and somewhat eccentric “bumpkin”, and the hot-headed, arrogant and cock-sure jerk. Experience has shown this idea to be more apt than not, and therefore, you have the Auditor and the Gentleman.
So, what’s the scope of A&G?
The scope of the blog is essentially whatever it wants to tackle and wherever it wants to go. Like many people I have a hard time defining a narrow band of my own interests, and it seems a tad overly impersonal to spend my time crunching the heck out of the traffic numbers Google provides Blogger users in order to determine what produces the greatest number of hits and write solely about that. Think of it as a sort of Commonplace Book, but instead of being my desk’s knowledge catch-all, it’s available for public pursuit. In general, though, expect to find a variety of material within a range of interest groups.
How much of this content is your idea?
There are any of a number of reasons why that question is hard to answer. If you’re asking how many of the ideas on the blog are totally original, it’s probably few. I mean, humans have been having ideas within varying definitions of complexity for about ten thousand years or so now, so there can’t be that many original ones left!
In terms of how much of this is fed to me, very little. Sure, I comment on other blogger’s work from time to time, or on news material, but for the most part, the process of finding that information is my own unguided whim. I’m not now, nor have I in the past, taken any sort of compensation from anyone for choosing what or what not gets discussed.
Which of “you” is which?
The Auditor’s the cranky one. To say he’s either from the manic or depressive end of aforementioned spectra would be dishonest, but he’s definitely from one extreme pole or another. If he was a night at the bar he’d be a double of Maker’s Mark and a cheap cigar. To put him in terms of a West Wing character, he’s the Toby Zeigler, best described as the “prickly, mumbling communications director”. That grumpy me is the one most likely to call someone to task, to drag out one social, economic, or political blunder or another, or to propose an actual, cited idea.
The Gentleman’s a bit more placid, from the middle of the spectra, certainly. He doesn’t go to bars that often, but when he does he’s the quiet guy with the beer in his hand making the… interesting choices of shot on the pool table. While we’re stealing Sorkin’s work, he’s your Jed Bartlet, your Sam Seabourn. The former is seasoned enough to know stupid when he sees it, the latter is young enough to stick to the ideal anyway. As it was once put on the show, “I know he screwed up, but I love the way he did it full speed… BAM… like there’s a Sam Seabourn-shaped hole in the wall somewhere”. The gentleman drags out the philosophy, the ideas unfettered by citations, and the brief moments of pique found in ideas like the perfect shave or the proper time for proper grammar.
And, where possible, I try to tag posts accordingly.
Well, what happened to all the old stuff… the Catholicism rants?
Well, rant was a good for it. Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m not necessarily recanting. The idea, now, has had time to mature. I don’t think the public stage is a good place for those rants, and I’m not sure I’m still agree with even three quarters of what was said, but they’re what I said and I’m letting them stand until I can either be bothered to address them otherwise or I see a demand for it.
Mostly though, I’d really rather talk about other things. As a free thinking person, I am more than the sum of the things I believe, and those things don’t always have useful labels. To be honest, I don’t remember half of what was said offhand anyway, which is a pretty good sign I’ll be recanting at some point in the future. In the meantime, I wouldn’t hold my breath waiting for too much more of it. It’s a big world, after all. That doesn't mean no more religion and philosophy... just less soapbox.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Governmental Ethics: Socialism and Morality

Like our neighbour to the south, Canada has a long, storied, and often sordid history with our First Nation's population. Like many colonial states, the incoming European settlers (from whom I am at least twice-descended) supplanted the native population, and there have been at least two centuries of war and bloodshed that followed, followed by stark oppression, followed by a persisting and modern undercurrent of less-than-favourable relations.

I spent the first part of my life on Canada's far western coast, in an area with a relatively large native population, which is where I picked up my first (rudimentary) understanding of the traditions and customs of Canada's native people. It wasn't until I moved out east, where I live now, and got a little older, that I started to understand why those traditions had faded into ceremonial memory as opposed to being present-lived.

Canada's treatment of her original forebears has been historically poor, and even now is less than ideal. For example, Attawapiskat First Nation has recently declared a state of emergency over a very, very major housing crisis. Housing in winter is a serious enough proposition in Canada, but Attawapiskat is on the shores of James Bay, in Ontario, which is off of the Hudson Bay, and is one of the coldest parts of the country south of the Arctic Circle. Having a roof over one's head isn't enough in that kind of environment, and adequate housing in such an area isn't just an improvement of the quality of life, but it's essential for day-to-day survival.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Actually, We Don't Know Anything.

If I were to ask you how many states of matter there are, I would expect one of two answers, without knowing a thing about your age, and making the assumption you're in a non-physical-sciences field. You might say three, or four. I historically always went for "four".

Well, it turns out I'm not remotely correct abut that. There are the four that we've always heard of: solids, liquids, gasses, and plasma. There are also superfluids and super-solids. Plasmas are a sort of "class" of states of matter, including typical plasmas and quark-gluon plasmas. Then there are the extreme low-temperature states such as Bose-Einstein Condensates, Quantum Hall states and the so-called strange matter.

I bring up this rather non-exhaustive list to make a point. We really don't know anything. Not a thing. And that's fascinating, if only because it means there's always something new to learn, even about something we always used to say was "basic" and "certain". How then can you say to be certain?

I ask questions because I don't know. Here's something else I don't know: What do you feel like hearing about over the next week? Well, the ~65% of you who aren't programs hitting the website to spread around your domain names, anyway. I imagine "hitbots" can't leave comments.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Following Up: Muon Propagation Restraints

So, and ahead of schedule, I've read the two papers I talked about in the previous post.

Photon Finish: Mechanical Analysis Suggests Opera Results Incorrect

I'd be lying if I didn't say I expected this, but another laboratory, lead by M. Antonello, has published a paper, not yet peer reviewed, which claims to refute the idea that the OPERA neutrinos are travelling at super-luminal velocities and suggests they are instead "merely" travelling at the speed of light. The study is based on an idea analogous to Cerenkov Radiation, where a superluminal particle should throw off lower-energy photons as it moves... an idea that has also not been peer-reviewed or demonstrated. The Cerenkov-Analogue was presented in a paper by Andrew Cohen and Sheldon Glasgow.

The papers are provided above in Portable Document Format, once again courtesy of Arxiv. The language is very technical and I'm not done with reading any paper yet. I hope to have them finished by the end of the night so that I can comment more effectively.

Monday, November 21, 2011

A New Kind of Spam: Hitbots?

I was going through the blog's traffic information and I found some really interesting trends that are leading me to suspect there's a new type of spam advertising making the rounds: hit-bots. Simple computer programs that point a browser at a website over and over again, generating hits. The idea, on a much higher scale, is the basis behind what's called a Distributed Denial of Service attack... on a lower scale though, it generates enough traffic to catch the attention of a curious website admin.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

The Question of Leisure

Of late, I've pondered the difference between having a healthy appreciation for leisure, and being truly lazy. To be fair, I'm aware that I place a high value on the former and a negative stigma of sorts on the latter. I think there is a certain extent to which one must use the principle of fairness in considering the question. Certainly, the company one keeps will make it easier or more difficult to be productive and have a strong work ethic, but they  can also make it easier to spend your entire weekend seated, most comfortably, in your favourite chair, on any of a number of pursuits.

I'm not saying that hanging out with one's friends, playing games, watching the television or surfing the web are inherently bad things or that working and keeping the hands and mind genuine busy are inherently bad things. I'm thinking that there must be a balance, a work-leisure or work-life balance, that is different for every person... but I imagine there are bounds.

In any event, and within the context of my own life, I know I could work harder than I have been. I do it on a regular basis. The question is what is sustainable for the next year, or five, or decade, or lifetime. I could run an experiment, of course, but that might be a bit to anal.

Just thinking out loud.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Ah, Interesting!

My old chemistry teacher in high school never let us say "Oops"... everything was always interesting. That just struck me as worth mentioning.

The world of physics was shaken up a month or two ago when researchers involved with the CERN and OPERA laboratories announced that they'd first observed Neutrinos (very small non-interacting particles that have all sorts of wierd physics attached) to have passed c, the speed of light through a vacuum and the long-held theoretical speed limit of the universe. At the time, I agreed with most that such results were interesting, but I speculated that they were subject to some form of an error or another.

Well, it turns out I'm wrong. A multinational team lead by Thomas Adam of the University of Strasbourg's IPHC laboratory (who works on the OPERA project) has published new results. These new results still haven't been peer-reviewed, but they strongly suggest confirmation of the original results. Neutrinos travelling faster than they should be able to would open up all sorts of very interesting avenues in science, even if they open no new practical applications.

The science is still developing, but here's the original report of the group, in all it's jargon-laced glory. As far as I know I violate no copyright or intellectual property laws in posting this link. I should make it clear that I'm not affiliated with the host or the authors of this paper in any way.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

The Name of God

If I've never gone so far as to say it, there was a time in my past when I practised the neo-pagen pseudo-religion of Wicca, which was about as free-form and self-directed as spirituality can be. That's nothing against Wiccans, mind you, but the disciplines weren't for me.

What stuck, however, was an interest in things most aptly described as "occult". Anything old or arcane, really, though there's often a direct connection between these ideas and the idea of magic. In the course of this study, one theme in particular seems to have been a surprisingly common trend: the importance of a name.

Occultists of ages both past and present have continuously come around to the idea that the true name of something had a special power over that thing. Demonologists, as some call themselves, have believed that the names of various spirits, up to and including the angels themselves, were a key component of the rites to summon those powers into the material world, and even binding them to their service. The Dharma faiths of the east recognized the central importance of the Om, a key mantra said to encompass all reality, and in some Hindu sects, it is considered to be the name of God. The Abrahamic faiths considered the true name of God to be too holy to pronounce, and even his known name, YHWH, is best left unpronounced, or so it is said. Even Benedictine monks, at least in part, have a belief in the importance of names, and at least one monk from Worth Abbey in England holds that a passage in Revelations states that everyone's true name is recorded on a white stone in heaven, and advises others to try and find this true name.

The idea of a name is intimately connected with what a thing is, even from a purely linguistic view. Names can be simple or complex, and a thing can go by many names, with each name being a different face, sometimes an entirely different thing. Sometimes these differences are a matter of presentation, as a forum user hiding behind a moniker, but we must remember that all of these names show a kernel of truth, and are, in one way or another, rooted in the identity of the thing so named. A laptop is properly a computer, but that hardly tells the whole story. What is it's operating system? Who manufactured it? How is it configured uniquely by the user? This is so with God.

I'm supposed to use these posts to make an observation about the nature of the world, so here it is: the goal of the spirit is to learn the name of God.  Anyone who has ever taking a moment to examine their spirituality has, at some point, had to make the distinction between spirituality and religion, if only because the various religions of the world are so disparate. One is tempted to make the mistake that anyone one religion is necessarily more true or totally true as compared to the others, but I hold that this is not necessarily true.

Those who study the ancient history of man and religion as a whole have found, increasingly so, that religions are increasingly recursive. Taking our own familiar Abrahamic faith as an example, we can show that Islam developed out of Christianity (where Christ appears as a prophet), and that Judaism was the forerunner of Christianity, but we also know that there are forerunners to Judaism, and forerunners to the forerunners, and so on and so forth, to the point where it is almost tempting to say that the most accurate of the religions would be the oldest... except that there are no records of any of those ancient faiths outside of a few specious archaeological remnants.

However, a very clever woman and I recently hypothesised, and had done so in the past, that when we finally die and become aware of the true nature of God, we'll find quite the amalgamation of the lessons of all faiths, and the identity of god will be quite a bit different from the paternalistic elder image we so freely associate with him. The idea of recursive faiths moving closer together the further back in time one goes seems to support this conclusion.

I wish to learn the name of God. I think, on some level, everyone does. If only I had some idea how to go about that... thoughts?

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

The History of Everything (And why it is Inspiring)

Around 13.8 billion years ago, things began to happen. All of matter, space, energy, and time existed prior to this in a compressed state known as a quantum singularity. 13.8 billion years ago, than singularity entered a state commonly referred to as the Big Bang. Time and space expanded at an exponential rate and began to be filled by the remaining matter and energy. 13.7 billion years ago, the first stars began to shine in the heavens. 4.4 billion years ago, matter accretes to form a metallic planet about 1 AU away from its sun, which we affectionately call Earth.

Around 3 billion years ago, the first primitive cells begin to appear, and around 2.8 billion years ago, the first multicellular colonies of cyanobacteria appear in the fossil record. 1.2 billion years ago, we see the beginning of plants and animals, with the development of mitochondria and chloroplasts. 530 million years ago sees the start of the Cambrian Explosion, one of the most dramatic examples of speciation in earth's history. By the time it ended 450 million years ago, Earth had seen the first of the vertebrates, and the first of the terrestrial plants.

370 Million years ago, the very first land vertebrates slither out of the oceans. They are called tetrapod, the ancestors to every other vertebrate living on land. 330 million years ago, the first species of amniotes appear, the first to be able to lay their eggs on dry land and have them survive. 67 million years later, the first synapsids appear, the first precursors to the theraspids, who, 200 million years ago, gave rise to the very first mammals... who were probably Hadrocodium.

14 million years ago, we saw the rise of the most recent common ancestor of all the apes, ourselves included. And between 5 and 6 million years ago, we saw the Australopithecines diverge between genus Homo, our own, and Genus Pan, the chimpanzees.

195,000 years ago or so, the first anatomically modern examples of Homo sapiens sapiens appear in Africa, and 145,000 years later, they show the first examples of the modern thought process. 7300 years ago, the first urban society is formed in Mesopotamia. Within the last 6000 years, recorded history begins as writing becomes commonplace among the learned. 2350 years ago, Aristotle is making his contributions to western thinking, including the foundations of the scientific method, upon which our modern society's marvellous technologies, medicine, and understanding are based. 1100 years ago, the first examples of early English appear. 144 years ago, Canada confederates. Within those 144 years, two world wars begin and conclude, mankind learns to fly, walks on the moon, maps the human genome, develops the simple computer, builds the internet, launches a cloud of artificial satellites in concert with radio towers (also developed in that time period) making it possible for any of 5 billion people in 212 different countries to contact any of their number remotely, instantaneously. We learn to split the atom, leading to revelations both good and bad; to send entire libraries, almost instantaneously, along strands of glass the width of a hair. We've seen outside our own solar system and mapped planet mars.

The sum of recorded human history makes up, quite roughly, four billionths of the sum total of the time passed since, well, time started passing. And the modern era, depending on your definition, makes up about 2.4% of all of recorded history. In that time, we've gone from the age of the monolithic train to the ubiquitous automobile, from the first, clumsy powered flight to putting men and machines on other worlds. What used to fill an entire room in terms of processing power now fits on the radius of a human blood-cell, and 5 billion of us hold in our pockets a processing power greater than the moon landers had in their entire vessels.

Some would look at these time-scales and argue that humanity is an insignificant player in the overall scheme, and that argument is correct. However, in the scale of the human experience, the frame of reference that one argues matters most, we are significant. We, the temporal 2.4% of history, have done things our ancestors could only dream, and in some cases, could not even conceive. And of those things we have done, we have only opened more questions than are answered.

A Proper Cup of Tea

This morning, for whatever reason, I am reminded of the character Arthur Dent, of Hitchiker's Guide to the Galaxy fame, who spent a good portion of the book (and the majority of the film) in the quest for a proper cup of tea. Not because of any real difficulty in sourcing the proper cup of tea (though admittedly the beverage at hand is Root Beer, not tea), but because of the sentiment.

There are little things in our life to which we become accustomed and which are, consciously or subconsciously, a source of pleasure in our lives, and which the removal thereof can place a strange and often unidentified stress upon our lives. It's not addiction in the medical expense, because there's no withdrawal. We are simply accustomed to them. They universally cost us next to nothing to maintain, but a time almost always comes when we don't have them, and we feel off-balance for the rest of the day.

For me, it's a cold root beer, a cup of hot earl grey with lemon, a Schaeffer filled with silky smooth ink, or a hot bath. What are your little things? Leave a comment below.

The Perfect Cup of Tea: Twining's Earl Grey, steeped overhot for about two minutes, taken with the juice of 1/8th to 1/6th of a fresh lemon.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Man, 52, Gets 5 Years in Record Child Porn Bust

Original Article with the CBC

As I was cruising the news this morning, I decided to avoid the usual subjects that were titillating the class, most of which involved the birth of babies in less-than-ideal circumstances, to put it lightly and mildly. I was reading about the eviction of the Occupy protesters from their park in New York, when a New Brunswick headline caught my eye.

Douglas Stewart, a 52-year-old man from Moncton (which is about two hours or so from home), was sentenced either this morning or yesterday evening after having plead guilty to the collection, access, and distribution of the largest collection of child pornography ever ceased by law in Canada. He was given 5 years for the collection, and four and a half years each for the other two offences. That's 14 years total, which at his age would leave him 66 and in dire need of an identity transplant.

The thing is, the judge in question ordered that the sentences be served concurrently... meaning he'll only actually spend five years in jail. Hardly a fitting punishment, considering the crime. While I am aware that such crimes are often punished by the guilty's prison-mates, I do not condone that sort of behaviour, nor do I consider it justice.

And, while crimes against children generally make me incandescent with rage, I'm afraid there is a larger issue at hand here, something which runs a little deeper than a mentally-ill man being overly coddled by the state. The majority Conservative government lead by Prime Minister Stephen Harper recently enacted legislation that amended the Criminal Code, the federal crime laws. In particular, the amendment framed changes to drug legislation that included longer sentencing for trafficking in narcotics, including marijuana. Under these new rules, it's possible to spend longer in jail for possessing less pot than you could smoke on a sunny Friday afternoon than for holding a child pornography collection including 4.5 million explicitly sexual images of children, some of which are as young as two years old.

I'm not advocating that anyone smoke marijuana or make use of harder drugs, but it seems surprising to me that the political party which brands itself as Canada's moral pulse cares more about people trying to tune out for a few hours than little girls being sexually exploited. Now, admittedly, that argument is a bit of a strawman, but I think it is a relevant one. If the drug problem in Canada is as problematic as everyone seem think it is, it still can't possibly be more of a crisis than child pornography. To amend the Criminal Code to stiffen penalties for one without even addressing the other sends a very different message.

And before anyone asks, I'm not a Liberal. I'm not a Green, either, or a New Democrat. I'm not a member of a political party or especially strongly aligned with any particular one. I'm what you might call an independent. I vote the issues that matter to me. This isn't about the Conservative Party. This is about the balance of the law in Canada, and the things we seem to consider just. If anyone believes, for even a moment, that a collection of pornography of that size and grade could be collected without harming the children involved, I would suggest that person does not know nearly enough about the issue, and should consider an education on the matter. And if anyone believes, for even a moment, that the drug problem is a bigger problem than taking care of children in this country, than we as a society need to examine our consciences.

Monday, November 14, 2011

To Put it Another Way: Maturity for Tweens

"You're a good man: you don't have to act like it. You're a good father; you don't have to act like it. You're the president; you don't have to act like it. You're not plain-spoken, you're not 'just folks'; do not, do not, do not act like it."
I wish I could say I was quoting some of my own work, but it would be rather dishonest. The above quote is from The West Wing, and I suppose having some context would be helpful. One of the President's advisor, his communications director (who is possibly my Fourth favourite character on the show after the Chief of Staff, Deputy Chief of Staff and the President himself) was having a rather frank discussion with him in the oval office after a flubbed speech. Trying to avoid being quoted on a subject he wished to avoid, the president had given a very non-committal, meaningless response. For those who haven't seen the show, this particular present was a Rhodes Scholar and a Nobel Laureate, so an unintelligent non-answer looks rather silly from him.

To put it another way, he was trying to be that which he was not. And there's something of a problem with that.

We are who we are. There's no way to get around it. We're angry people, happy people, hyper people, morose people, dumb people, smart people, strong people, and weak people. We come in all shapes, sizes, and colours. We can't always change who we are, and so, we have to embrace it.

Many people take that lesson though, and run in the wrong direction with it. Being a happy person is not license to spend all day bouncing off the walls, and being an angry person (sad as I am to admit it) isn't license to grab the stupid person beside you, who asks all of the really tangential questions during already boring lectures, and bash their head against the table. Embrace your traits, yes, but embrace them constructively.

I'm an angry person, at least to some extent. I have a short fuse that's a familial trait and it's aggravated by whatever disorder the state decides to call it this week. To take that constructively is to acknowledge that I am an angry person and to actively seek amicable solutions to the things that make my angry. And now, suddenly, I'm no longer angry, but instead proactive.

This is a major point to understand for the pursuit of that elusive value we call maturity. If you are a lazy person, consider establishing a method by which you can maintain a reasonable standard of living with less work... without sacrificing anything you're responsible for. If you're irresponsible, well... I'd advise developing the trait. In such a case, another quote from the same program might be of more value.

"Act as if you have faith, and faith will be given to you. To put it another way: Fake it until you make it."

Shooting the Colosseum: A Milestone

It was brought to my attention by a very patient friend that the previous post regarding the near pass of meteor 2005 YU55 was my fiftieth post here at A&G. I wanted to take the time to thank everyone now, though a more substantive post will be forthcoming.

Monday, November 7, 2011

It's Like Shooting at the Roman Colosseum

... and overshooting the Vatican.

Tomorrow Night (assuming you leave in Greenwich Mean Time), a 400 metre asteroid (2005 YU55) is passing within about 324 000 km (or 201 000 Miles) of Earth, the closest pass by any such object of comparable size until the year 2028.

It's not the largest asteroid to ever make such a pass (or even strike Earth), and certainly not the last, but unfortunately, conditions just wont be ideal for viewing. It will be too close to dusk, too close to the light thrown off by the moon, and generally too small to view with the naked eye or binoculars. A good telescope with a diameter of six inches or more might let you view it. For professional astronomers, this is an excellent opportunity to get images of the object at resolutions of up to two meters (that's per pixel.), or about the height of a fully grown adult male.

Now, I realize anyone who's been listening to me over the last few weeks (the lengthening nights always get me thinking about astronomy) is going to realize that 324 000 km is the width of an astronomical hair. It's closer than the mean orbit of the moon. But it's still like shooting at the Colosseum in Rome and missing by six kilometers (which, for reference, would take a fast person a little over an hour to walk. In point of fact, if you made that abysmal shot, you'd have shot closer to the Vatican City than to the Colosseum, in terms of what you managed to hit. It's still 324 000 km, regardless of whether or not it's small on an astronomical level.

For those of you lucky enough to own a sufficiently large telescope, enjoy. For me, well... I'll probably be studying for my accounting test.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Introduction to Rationality I: Experiments

You know what? I've been throwing around the word 'rationality' since we've started here, and I've never actually bothered to explain it, so from time to time I'm going to explain a few key points. As a general summary of what might be expected, let's take it as read that I find rationality to be deeply rooted in two complimentary disciplines: science (by which is meant the ability to confirm hypotheses using imperical data), and logic (by which is meant the ability to resolve conflicting but unmeasurable statements using analogues).

Today, though, I want to talk about a particular, and very central, concept: The Experiment. Fundamentally, there are only ever two kinds of experiments: Thought Experiments, which are a discipline of Philosophy, and the unrelated Material Experiments, that are a discipline (and, in fact, the foundation) of science.

Material Experimentation is often called the scientific method, and it is the only reliable way of gathering information about the physical world.* A material experiment uses the manipulation of a single variable in order to test a hypothesis, which is an educated guess based on observation of the material world. This imposes a number of pros and cons on material experimentation.

*There is also statistical analysis, which is useful (within degrees) for predicting the behavior of human systems, in fields like urban planing, political science, marketing, economics, and the like. We won't discuss that much.


  • Reliability: A properly-performed experiment offers reliable, repeatable, and verifiable evidence in favour of a hypothesis, or a final and definitive refutation of the same.
  • Direct Translation: An experiment can (and should) be readily understood by the person(s) performing it. In fact, one of the strongest advantages of an experiment is that it directly translates into knowledge. In this way, experimentation is the direct connection between the material and the mental.
  • Quantification: An experiment will always include quantitative data, which is data that can have a numerical value attached to it, a key component of measurement and the basis of the idea of empirical evidence.
  • Objectivity: A properly performed experiment is objective. The manner of the test should be so controlled as to make it impossible to introduce a bias into the system, save for whatever bias exists in the variable you are attempting to measure.
  • Labour Intensive: Setting up a proper experiment takes time, materials, effort, and thought. Often, experimentation is beyond the scope of the average person for any combination of those factors. Fortunately, there are research scientists who make a living performing experiments of all sorts and their results are published and generally available from your public library, if nothing else. Never the less, some experiments are cheap and simple enough that even an amateur scientist could take part. A list of such ideas might be a topic for another time.
  • Increasing Complexity: The more rigorous the experiment or the more precise the idea, the more work is involved, and, proportionately, the more complex the experiment becomes. An experiment to determine the most effective plant food for your tomatos might be very easy to do. An experiment to determine the molecular structure of an exotic new enzyme or protein is very complex. Climate modelling is one of few applications for which we still construct computers that fill entire buildings, at least as far as complexity is concerned. In short, the further removed a hypothesis comes from a person's day-to-day life, the greater the expert knowledge they will need in order to decipher the results.
  • Verification: Even the most disciplined person can make a mistake, and sometimes a source of bias in an experiment is overlooked. Because of this, scientists frequently perform experiments that other groups have already performed, to either verify or refute their results. Such processes are time-consuming, and for the amateur scientist who has developed his own experiment, it can often be difficult to find anyone to attempt to re-create it.
Conversely, there is the idea of a Thought Experiment. It is exactly what it sounds like: a test of a hypothesis without an actual material experiment. This is often useful in the study of ethics, or in fields where experimentation would be largely impossible, such as the famous  Schrödinger's cat experiment. A thought experiment is not merely thinking over an idea to see if it seems to make sense, however. Thought experiments can and must be backed up with calculations based on the existing science.

For a less abstract example, let me explain a form of thought experiment we use all the time in business... the Business Case. A company wants to know if it should move forward with a new product line, expansion, or just about anything else. Before it does so, it gathers every sort of applicable information and has it analysed statistically. Everything from consumer behavior to traffic patterns to engineering limitations is under consideration. The various options are all considered with respect to a number of dependant variables, and the most favourable option is chosen.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

The Pro-Life Logic Snarl

A somewhat prominent youtube user named cdk007 ran a video recently where he posited an interesting argument that I want to address, going something along these lines:
Let's assume you are pro-life. Are you also anti-death penalty? Now, many will argue that the two are not equivalent, that abortion is death death of a perfectly innocent human being, while the death penalty is used only on adults who have committed terrible acts. However, statistics suggest that a certain number of the people on death row are acquitted each year as evidence of their innocence comes forward.
There's a lot here. First, the premise is clear: you cannot be pro-life and also pro-Death Penalty. that much, at least, is true, if not tautological. The reason he gets to make this argument is because of the incorrect use of the term "pro-life" and the political landscape of the United States, which I presume is his home. Opposition to abortion generally tends to be seen most strongly in socially conservative areas of the USA, which is the same with a pro-death penalty attitude. It creates an image of a paradox, to be sure. We must be clear to distinguish between being Con-Abortion and Pro-Life. The two terms do not mean the same thing and the difference should be clear to those with even a cursory understanding of the meanings of "pro" and "con".

There is a very real point to be made here. To those who are actually pro-life, the death penalty should be abhorrent. Humans are fallible, and that includes our judges and politicians - of that, nobody needs to be convinced. Further, just because the conditions for the death penalty may appear to be justifiable within one district, that is not always the case. In many majority-muslim states, it is the penalty for a range of sins, which are criminal under Sharia Law. Closer to home, however, and no less relevant, jurisdictions in the United States still execute the mentally handicapped. Is it fair to kill someone for being incapable of controlling their own actions? Too big of a question for me, to be sure, at least for the moment. If only we saw the same people who blockade abortion clinics blockade prison execution facilities.

The argument continues, however.
How about war? Surely, the argument can be made that wars can be fought in self defence. But how can you be pro-war if there can be no guarantee that no civilians are caught in the crossfire.
Firstly, I'm not sure anyone can be categorized as "pro-war". Let me recant that. I'm not sure any reasonable person can be. War is bad, for any of a number of reasons, and whether you base your decisions on compassion or on reason, war is simply, emphatically, wrong. But it will happen, it has always happened, and it will likely continue to happen, so long as there are people on earth who are not reasonable.

I suspect a certain amount of the reason for constructing this argument in this way had to do with the deeper question of moral absolutes. I'm not accusing CDK of any sort of intellectual dishonesty by saying that, but it is a point that needs addressing. Christianity is often associated with the idea of the moral absolute, of the absolute rules of "right and wrong" that generally align with what is found in scripture (though arguments often ensue about how a given scripture should be interpreted).  The question of moral absolutes has no definite answer, which is the first clue that it contains a logical fallacy: if there is such a thing as absolute right and absolute wrong, why can't we test that?

I am not a moral absolutist, because I believe that the needs of society often outweigh the needs of the individual. I believe that many of the things an absolutist would consider to be absolutely wrong are inherently wrong. Killing a person is wrong. Killing people from the other society that is trying to forcibly subjugate your own is self-defence. It's dark, undesirable, but necessary. Nobody likes it that way, but until society finds a way to keep the warring factions of the world from going at it, it will be necessary. That's where the phrase "necessary evil" comes from. It's wrong, yes. It's justified.

There can be no same justification for abortion. Abortion does not serve the interest of society in any way other than to limit the impacts of population growth upon our infrastructure, and there are other, better ways to tackle the problem of the ever-expanding human population than to start killing off our own.

I am reasonably assured that most of my readers will be at odds to or disturbed by the concept of justifiable wrong. It is disturbing. It is saying, in effect, that there are cases in which right and wrong no longer apply, and self-preservation becomes the only essential concern. But that is what we are made to do, on the smallest levels that can still be considered life. Our only biological goal is to survive long enough to reproduce.

Reason, Science, Morals, and Faith are our ways of reaching beyond our biology, of reaching the next step of evolution. The universe tends toward entropy, toward increasing complexity, and even as our increases in understanding bring order to the chaos, we find new places to reach, to achieve. It is time for humans, as a society, collectively and as a whole species, to reach ahead. To become the next level of intelligent life. In earlier times, we thought it was our tools that make us unique, but we no longer have the monopoly. We must become sentient in more than craft. We were the species that went from the first powered flight, to walking on the surface of the moon, in less than a century. Why can't we do it again? Why can't we go from morality for the sake of abstract concepts to morality for the sake of society? We all seem to agree, with very few exceptions, on how people ought to behave around each other, or at least we claim to all agree. Why can't we act like it?

[i]Ab intra, ad maiorem Dei gloriam.[/i]

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

The Unknowns Are All Around Us

I have a reputation among those who have known me for some time as a bit of a nerd (or a geek, depending on whose parlance you're using), and for good reason. I have always been fascinated by the things I do not know. I studied chemistry because I didn't know what happened when you took the smallest thing you could see and cut it in half, which lead to me studying about atoms when I didn't know what happened when you chopped up molecules  and then subatomic particles, and then their constituent parts, and so on. I studied astronomy because I didn't know what stars were made of. I studied physics because I didn't know why hitting the drum louder made a louder noise. I study philosophy because I don't understand how chemical reactions, on any level of complexity, can lead to free will (or at least the illusion thereof). I studied faith because I couldn't understand why people would pray. I studied history because I didn't understand why people said it repeated itself. I studied theoretical mathematics because I didn't understand how you could ever be certain that, in all cases, the square of the hypotenuse on a right-angled triangle would be equal to the sum of the squares of the other sides. I studied computers because I didn't understand how programs of ever-increasing capacity could be resolved into a series of switches being turned on and off. I studied metal-working because I didn't know how you could ever hope to machine things on such fine scales, I studied mechanics because I couldn't understand how you could turn a spring (whose release of energy is constant and rapid) into a clockwork, and I studied cooking because I didn't know why rosemary (which you could never eat by itself) made beef taste so good.

And the general trend in any study, whether casual or immersive, professional or amateur, full-time or night-study, is to reach ever and ever deeper into the field of the unknowns. My reading over the last few weeks has concerned itself largely with the way in which science has derived the shapes of molecules without being able to directly observe them on any visual level.

Every now and then, though, life jumps up and slaps you in the face like you called its mother something uncouth. I was cruising through the internet on a quest to learn a little something or other about orbital mechanics for a game I was playing, and, taking a break, I wound up doing what I often do, which is cruise youtube. There, I stumbled upon a youtube video, again by Thunderf00t, with the rather grandiose claim of having been the first bit of video ever captured of a particular chemical phenomenon.

It's entirely possible he's right, but what was more astounding was what the phenomenon was. He was filming the reaction of one of the alkali metals (lithium, if I recall) with water... something just about every amateur chemist has heard of, and probably seen himself. Unlike me though, he had the advantage of being a highly-trained chemist, and he had come to a realization that the final explosive hurrah of the reaction shouldn't actually happen. This lead him to take more video in a better setup that showed the formation of a large ball of lithium gas, which is responsible for the final explosion.

It's fairly astounding stuff, first to the punch or not. This is a reaction that every high-school "chemist" has seen, and if not them, than certainly their early-university peers. I've seen it so many times that video of the reaction is actually boring now. And yet, here was something that nobody had ever taken the time to document. It's been known for a while that lithium will release that gas when it is being distilled, but nobody ever noticed that it would create that gas in the process of reaction with water. That's significant. Billions of people have seen this reaction take place without realizing there had been an unanswered question.

We are surrounded by thousands of unknowns. Certainly, the more we know the less they happen, but that's what makes the game exciting. I want each and everyone one of you to think of something you don't know, right now, and go learn about it. That's what brains are for, and I believe we wouldn't have them if we weren't supposed to use them.

Monday, October 31, 2011

Rubber Stamps Make for Broad Brushes.

There was a Youtube user I always enjoyed, who operated two different channels. The first was called Beautyintheuniverse, where the man went on his roughly-annual road trip across America, visiting state parks and doing interesting things with amateur avionics and astronomy equipment. The other, and the name by which he generally goes by, is Thunderf00t.

Now, I like Thunderf00t. He puts me in a philosophical and intellectual mood, which can be hard to stay in when I'm surrounded with all the usual distractions. His videos are informative, and they're a major part of the reason I decided to re-examine my traditional hatred of the field of biology (which has always been utterly uninteresting to me). One of the prime features of his channel, though, is one I've been having an increasing problem with.

He has a long-running series of videos titled "Why People Laugh at Creationists". The videos themselves have significant merit, in that they highlight the more ridiculous claims of the young-earth creationism movement and shine a little light on common scientific misconceptions. The problem is that a dichotomy is created in the dialogue, admittedly unintentionally, that you cannot believe in things outside the scope of empirical analysis (say, God), without somehow ignoring science and being, either willfully or otherwise, ignorant.

Well, you see, I have a problem with that, because I do believe in God. I don't believe in creationism, young-earth or otherwise. I see gaps in all sorts of theories from abiogenesis to the Big Bang Theory, but the gaps do not invalidate the theory. For example, the exact matter-to-force relationship between mass and gravity is not fully understood in the field of theoretical physics (thus the Large Hadron Collider and the search for the Higgs Boson), but that does not mean that gravity is false.

And that's what bugs me about the videos. Sometimes it sucks to get painted with too-broad a brush. But, if you've got thick skin and a hankering to learn something, I'd still check the videos out. They really are most interesting to watch.

And, if nothing else, the Beautyintheuniverse channel should be syndicated and available over cable 24 hours a day. They are always worth watching.

Health and Productivity Finale: Spiritual Health

A bit delayed, perhaps, but I've been busy, and this is worth a special level of attention.

The main problem with discussing spiritual health is that you first have to define what is meant by spiritual. Many of us (a growing number, actually), hold increasingly secular beliefs, and quite a few put the soul up on the same shelf as Santa Clause and the Easter Bunny, and that's fine.

I've written fairly heavily on belief in the past, so it may come as some surprise to the readership that I'm not much for standing on soapboxes when it comes to religion. I'm not an Apologist or a Theologen and I'm not properly equipped to discuss either in a proper debate setting; anything else would simply be arguing. I've had enough about belief, in one form or another, shoved down my throat to know that it generally has the opposite effect the "pusher" intends. That's not productive. However, when discussing Spiritual Health, we can actually break the subject down into the emotional states connected to that spiritual health.

There is, however, a unifying factor in all of this: Truth. A loaded word, I realize. Getting two people to agree on the Truth of spirituality can be difficult, if not impossible, even when all the same source materials are used; look at the schism that exists within modern Christianity. Compare a prototypical Carthusian Monk (perhaps the height of spiritual enlightenment in the Christian Tradition) to a member of the Westboro Baptist Church. You could not find two people more different, but both have what they call Truth. I am not wiriting to define Truth, at least not today, and this paragraph and the three above serve more as a disclaimer to that reality than anything else. The truth may be deeply personal, but the overall path to spiritual health is more universal.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

The Dream Office

A little bit of prose for those who aren't familiar. I issued a challenge on facebook yesterday for people to stretch their creative writing muscles: Describe your dream workspace. I tried to leave the question fairly open-ended, but I didn't get many responses. Here is my own response, in full. I hope it is enjoyed.

Vote for New Content

I need a helping hand, here. I've been having some difficulty coming up with new material to write and talk about of late. Is there any way you lot could go over a few ideas I had, and maybe suggest your own?

Serial Features

  • Recipes
  • News Commentary
  • Literary Commentary
  • Biblical Commentary
  • Daily Digest of Events
  • Productivity Tips
  • Organizational Tips
  • Unorthodox uses for ordinary objects

Monday, October 24, 2011

Health and Productivity 3: Mental Health

Health isn't all about the body, you know; your mind plays a large part in it as well. In this instalment of the Health and Productivity series, I'll be taking a look at the meaning of "mental health" and the impacts it has on your productivity and lifestyle.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Health and Productivity 2: A Healthy Body

Health is a major driver in media and business these days. We all seem to want a healthy body. What does that mean, and how do we get there? More after the jump.

This is Part 2 of a series of posts on health and the link to productivity.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Health and Productivity

There is an innate link between health and productivity that we generally seem to ignore. In fact, the current popular paradigm seems to be that one must sacrifice certain elements of their health in order to attain productivity, but I hold that this is not the case. The paradigm is flawed, basing its stance upon a narrow definition of "health", for a certain inaccurate definition of the word productivity.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Free Rosary? Where?

No major promises, but Cam, over at A Woman's Place, is giving away a custom rosary in honour of today's Feast Day, which is in honour of any of a number of saints, as can be seen at the Catholic Encyclopedia, but especially Our Lady of the Rosary, thus the giveaway.

Her work is very nice and you should all go check it out.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Keeping Busy with the Gen X Hypocracy

Sensible persons within the Baby Boom and the Generation X: This post is not for you. This is directed at the few of you who have inherited the ethos of the generation before you. You know who you are. You're the people who describe the Generation Y in terms such as shiftless, lazy, and so forth. It's time to give you a paradigm shift, to put it politely.

The last members of Generation Y were born in 1994. They will be joining the rest of their cadre in the workforce in the next year or so. Still, we are seen as shiftless, lazy, uneducated, and addled. We like to live in the basement forever, playing the video games, or else we're always out there skateboarding, smoking dope, street racing, getting into fights, and generally acting in a manner that is not conducive to being productive, valuable members of society.

I'm in a class with a number of "mature" students, who have been out of the high school system for a while. I myself qualify, barely, for the designation, but when I say this, I largely mean people in their thirties and forties. And I just got the third degree from the middle-aged man beside me about having checked my phone in the class before and generally using my class time to play games on my laptop rather than work on the assignment.

The thing is, though, I was done the assignment. I finished it two days ago, when it was assigned. I was playing games on my laptop because I was bored. I have no outstanding assignments and no immediately-present tests. Prior education meant I have a few courses I've been exempted from, including the one I'm using to write this post. That means no notes to take, no test to write, and no assignments to do. I sit in the class because I enjoy the discussion, because a little extra review never hurts, and because I'm reasonably certain there will be a successor course in the next semester. It's not always a bore, sometimes I do focus if I don't know it. Today it is, and so I write. Another day it might be a game, or tinkering around with the stock market simulator, or reading the blogs and rss feeds that filter into my Outlook over the day.

I can see the annoyance, though. I understand it. What I don't understand is the same man's earlier bad attitude when I finished those two assignments from Tuesday in approximately 45 minutes. The projects were to be done on Word, simple formatting and editing tests designed to build familiarity with the program. Me, I'm rather familiar with word. I know most of the shortcuts and where the buttons and tools are. I've had to learn two different versions of it now (2000 and then 2007) and I'm fluent in the use of both. The six documents I had to proof and format should only have taken a person with my level of familiarity about 45 minutes. But this man was angry, saying that I must have cut corners, that I didn't even open the textbook other than to get to the assignments themselves, so I must have known some way to cheat. Now, which would have been more industrious: to do the job in three quarters of an hour, or to stretch it out over the two hour class?

It's not just this guy. It's in the media, in the workforce. Generation Y is just plain lazy. We take too long to do our jobs. That was the big complaint I had to deal with at the Hilton. I was the slowest cook there. I took too long to do even the most basic tasks.

Of course I did! Every other cook had three times the experience in the field, at least! Most of them had been working at the hilton for years. And in the run of the day, I still got more done than some of my co-workers. I'm the guy who skips a break to finish a job or shows up early without pay to fill gaps. It was the Old Guard, the union vets, who were taking breaks every two hours on the dot, leaving things half-finished and eating icecream in the slow parts of the day rather than try to keep up.

We work hard, most of us. We want to succeed.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Busy? Honey, this isn't even excited yet.

When I came to NBCC for the second time to do this most recent program, all the instructors ever wanted to talk about was how incredibly busy we would be. Seven hours of lectures on Monday, an average of five a day across the week, with assignments for every class that would take at least an hour or so's commitment. Homework to make a grown man cry, on top of your studying. You in the army now, son.

Well, with the admission that I'm not taking the communications course for the three hours a week everyone else is, I'm pretty sure that so far that's all been a load of baloney. Rare is the assignment delivered that can't be completed before the time comes to leave the building. Instructors assign the reading from the textbook a week ahead of when they expect to touch the material, so even taking notes in class has been reduced to a mere insertion of a footnote wherever the teacher seems to linger the most, with the words "expect on test". The whole year's writing has consumed just two cartridges for my Schaeffer fountain pen and I write at least two pages of personal notes for every page of schoolwork required to be done by hand... mathmatics, mostly.

Very little is submitted. I have enough time during the day to go through my blog reading, usually get into an argument or two online, try and guestimate what the market is doing, and insulate my simulation against the inevitable crash from Greece's fiscal irresponsibility and the rest of the world's inability to see that we're all in this together. I lost big money yesterday, not because I didn't have time to dump the shares out of the simulator, but simply because I couldn't have cared enough. It was inevitable. The TSX dropped something like 300 points. Nobody made money, yesterday, unless they short-sold their entire portfolios right at market open.

And that's just the morning. In the afternoons I usually have time to balance my books (a real task, considering there's about 2000 dollars floating around in them right now that I seem to have pulled out of the clear blue sky), read a chapter or so out of whatever I happen to be reading (or re-reading, since the late target has been Getting Things Done by David Allen), send about a half-dozen emails to my brother in the next class, and still find the time to be bored.

Maybe I'm more effective than I remember at balancing my time, but it doesn't feel it. Sure, my house is a mess, but not much I can do about that from the comforts of the class-room, and I certainly wasn't this good at multi-tasking in the kitchen at the Hilton. Then again, I've always been good at numbers and letters.

In any event, I almost wish there was some way I could sell my empty time, try and cut the losses I incur. Last month cost me nearly four grand, with nothing more than the interest on my not-exactly-Warren-Buffet accounts to defray the expense. I thought about writing articles freelance, but then you have to ask yourself "about what" and "for who"

Any suggestions for a guy with a computer and a brain for the English Language and financial math?

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Examination of Conscience and Getting Things Done: The Balance of Prayer and Productivity

I'm a big advocate of Getting Things Done, a productivity process laid out in the book of the same name, by the consultant David Allen. GTD is a popular method amongst the Old-Lifehacker/Hipster PDA/Moleskine crowd. The whole process is certainly enough to fill a book and I'd be remiss if I were to explain it in detail, not to mention likely violating a law or two, or at least the spirit of that law. I found my copy for ten dollars at my local big-box book store. It's been worth every penny.

What is relevant to this discussion, and what you really need to know for this comparison to make sense, is that the method focuses on moving as much as possible out of mind, while keeping it readily accessible, achieving the business equivalent of the focus-high common to professional athletes. The idea is that you aren't wasting mental energy trying to remember everything, and you trust your system enough that you know you won't forget anything. It has the rigidity of a full organizational scheme while maintaining the flexibility of real-time prioritizing... but the main element is the "review".

You review to find anything you might be missing and refresh your memory about your longer-term commitments and goals. Mr. Allen suggests doing so weekly in order to truly benefit from it. You search your mind for anything actionable or quasi-actionable and put it together into some readily-referenced format. That gets it off your mind, into the hands of something much more capable, and frees you to work on what you need to work... the areas you identified by doing a review!

Today I realized there was a similarity between this practice, and the Catholic practice of an Examination of Conscience, one of the necessary steps to prepare for confession. In an Examination, one consults one's own conscience, often with the aid of a list, and calls to mind the state of one's soul. Most Examinations focus on Mortal Sins only, which is fair, as these are the only ones we are required to confess, though some people more experienced than me tell me it's helpful to confess venial sins too. That's a topic for another time.

With the Examination though, I find there's a side that is often overlooked. We think of Confession as wiping the slate clean, and it does, but many mortal sins are sins of habit. Let's face it, if we know something is wrong and we do it anyway, it's not because we want to be bad, it's because we've associated that bad thing with some sort of positive outcome. I think paying attention to your Examinations, and maybe even keeping any done within, say, a two-month period, would be helpful in allowing you to identify areas where you're having some trouble... sometimes they aren't always as obvious as a major addiction.

I'd leave you with a dilbert comic, but I can't afford the licensing fees. Instead, I merely ask that you try and find the origin of the statement "I intend to fuse six sigma with lean methods to close the gap between our practices and our goals."

The Power of a Nice Blazer

Don't ask me to explain this particular artifact of human behaviour, but I am universally treated better when I'm wearing a blazer, no matter how casual or even ragged my other clothing may be underneath. I have a number of options for a jacket when I'm leaving the house, including a few different hooded sweaters, a fleece windbreaker, a sued jacket and a heavy wool winter coat. The winter coat and the blazers seem to elicit the best reactions out of people. Salespeople smile, bus drivers give a friendly nod, instructors ask how I'm doing, and so on.

But if I wear one of the sweaters? Forget it. Human nature is what it is, I suppose.

Busy Day

I don't have my own car, which forces me to keep my schedules pretty simple, most of the time. When it takes twice as long to get anywhere, or do anything, it becomes more necessary to take one's time. Transportation takes a lot of my day, and I've never figured out how to really optimize my time on the road.

Every now and then, though, there's a day where I do have to do more than a handful of things. Tuesdays are normally grocery day, but normally I can get my groceries on the way home from the college by just stopping at the mall, where I'd have to transfer buses anyway.

Today, my day is somewhat more complex. I've got a class that was cancelled, so my whole school day was shifted by about two hours, and, unfortunately, it wasn't a shift which engenders extra sleep. The doctor called to move my appointment to today, specifically this afternoon, which the cancellation of the class had freed up only hours beforehand. What's more, there's just enough time in there to travel, between my last class this morning and my appointment, with a nice gap in the middle where I can eat something if I have it with me. After the Doctor's Office, I'll presumably have to turn around and get right back on a bus, where I *should*, if everything goes according to plan, meet my brother at the mall to do the groceries.

Then, I come home, rest for an hour or so, and go see the RMT my mother sees, who will hopefully be able to tweak my back and wrists so that I'm good for at least a little while longer. Not that either are particularly bad, I suppose, but it would be nice to be rid of the aches of both for at least a few days.

Thursday, September 22, 2011


Today I became aware that I've spent the last several days in a spiritual dryness. I talk the game well and I study my catechism, but the actual spiritual side of my Faith is lacking. I don't pray often, because I try to pray in private and I don't get much of that.

About a week after my Baptism, I fell into a mortal sin I have a particularly strong habit for. I made an arrangement with Father to hear confession, but I wasn't very clear about the sin being recent, because I felt shamed of it being so recent, and when he said that baptism washed away prior sins (which is true), I didn't bother to press the issue. I didn't want to go to Mass, then, either, because I didn't want to wait in the pew for the Communion, and I definitely didn't want to profane the Eucharist by recieving in a state of mortal sin... so now I'm up to two.

I feel a very strong need for Confession. The only anonymous confessions in the city are held at the Cathedral on Saturday afternoons, which is a less than ideal time to travel by bus, but it's a sacrifice I'll just have to make.

I honestly feel there is a connection between my slipping into my sins and the feeling of a spiritual dryness I am experiencing.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

A Meditation on Catechism

Lately, I've been reading the Catechism. It's been one of those "I should do this but" activities that I have so many of, but someone made a gift to me of the hard copy, and tucking it into my backpack seemed to be all I needed to do to make a habit of it.

I originally set out to annotate the entire thing, but that's a tall order and the sort of thing you should really only do if you're making a professional study of the document. So far, however, what I've read isn't what I expected. I can read some pretty dry stuff, and I'm fluent in about eighteen different dialects of legalese, which is more or less what I was expecting. This document is a standard, a sort of deposit of faith in its own right, that is supposed to lay out all there is to lay out about the Christian faith. And it is, but what I was expecting was a rather long list of the "thou shalls" and "thou shall nots". I was expecting, for some reason, to have my faith challenged a bit as I am made to consider that I don't always put God first. And it was. But the read so far has also been edifying. I want to share a few graphs I found to be particularly so.

154 Believing is possible only by grace and the interior helps of the Holy Spirit. But it is no less true that believing is an authentically human act. Trusting in God and cleaving to the truths he has revealed is contrary neither to human freedom nor to human reason. Even in human relations it is not contrary to our dignity to believe what other persons tell us about themselves and their intentions, or to trust their promises (for example, when a man and a woman marry) to share a communion of life with one another. If this is so, still less is it contrary to our dignity to "yield by faith the full submission of... intellect and will to God who reveals", and to share in an interior communion with him.

159 Faith and science: "Though faith is above reason, there can never be any real discrepancy between faith and reason. Since the same God who reveals mysteries and infuses faith has bestowed the light of reason on the human mind, God cannot deny himself, nor can truth ever contradict truth." "Consequently, methodical research in all branches of knowledge, provided it is carried out in a truly scientific manner and does not override moral laws, can never conflict with the faith, because the things of the world and the things of faith derive from the same God. The humble and persevering investigator of the secrets of nature is being led, as it were, by the hand of God in spite of himself, for it is God, the conserver of all things, who made them what they are."

Finally, to anyone considering taking up bible study as a serious hobby or as a legitimate form of spiritual growth, at the very least, read the Second Article of the first Part, Section, and Chapter of the Catechism, entitled Sacred Scripture. It's like an owner's manual.

Monday, September 19, 2011

A Few Special Projects

I just wanted to let you all know a few of the special projects I'm starting over the next few days.

  • Converting my old fish tank for my younger brother's pet leopard gecko, so that she can have some proper legroom.
  • A full Getting Things Done audit after about three months of not using the system properly.
  • The first stages of business planning to decide exactly what field I'm going to go into when I begin private practice.
  • A full read-through of the Catechism, which I'm annotating heavily, and for which I'd like to thank my confirmation sponsors, Jim and Joanne, since it's something I'd never have bought for myself and probably never have read without a hard copy.
  • A collection of my notes on the same, which I'm tempted to distribute electronically, for educational purposes and under all the appropriate fair-use clauses. Just let me confirm with my law instructor that that's something one can do.
So if I seem sporadic, that's why. At the very least I'll try and come up at least once a night to say something. Cam put a lot of pressure on, mentioning me to her readers! I feel like I'm on a deadline now. (Don't worry, that's the way I like it.)

A Last Note on Infanticide

I try not to get too hung up on one topic for too long, and between my classes with the college and trying to get up to speed on the Greek financial crisis and the impacts it's going to have on the Eurozone, the World, and Canada herself, I don't necessarily have the time to write a treatise or anything.

On the other hand, things good and bad have a habit of coming in in threes, and I still have something more to say on the subject. Something I thought wouldn't need to be said, but I'm not entirely surprised to find I really, really do need to say it.

I do, as a matter of fact, feel that the penalties in the Effert case were too light. I feel, to be honest, that the maximum penalties assigned to the crime of Infanticide (as defined in the Criminal Code of Canada) are too light as a whole. In fact, I'm not entirely sure I feel that Infanticide should be separated from Second Degree Homicide at all.. My explanations of the case were more to alleviate the mentality shown on the CA Forums and elsewhere that "Those immoral Canadians have legalized killing infants!" is an entirely vacuous remark.

We need serious criminal reforms in this country, and not always in terms of tightening up the penalties. This is the sort of thing that always reminds me I may very well have politics in my future... I just can't keep my mouth shut when I see something being done incorrectly.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Can you blame me?

Everyone knows there's not a person alive without a particular sin they struggle with. Some are liars, some are cheats, some are thieves, some like the hunt of the night... but just about everyone seems to have a thing. We all fall, and hopefully we all try not to fall too often.

Catholicism teaches that this is an unfortunate, but perfectly normal, part of our existence. Mankind is disposed to sin but called to rise above his dispositions. There are so many sins that we've split them into two categories, according to their gravity; mortal sins and venial sins.

Mortal sins are all the ones you can think of off the top of your head (not really, but you get the idea). These are the sorts of sins that, done intentionally, with full knowledge of their nature, land you in a world of otherworldly trouble when, god forbid, you kick it. They are deliberate refusals of God's will. And when we commit a mortal sin, we need special grace to bring ourselves back into communion with Him: the Sacrament of Reconciliation.

Reconciliation, or Confession, is probably the most recognizably catholic sacrament, after communion. It's also the most widely misunderstood. I hear all sorts of thoughts about it, and a lot of them come from my own head. Things like: "The priest will use this information against me.", "It will get out.", "I don't see why I need to confess to a mortal man."

I'm not writing a scriptural defence of the sacrament. The Catechism does a pretty good job of that for me. What I am writing about is the state of the sacrament in my diocese, a sacrament that I need and have difficulty obtaining.

First of all, it's pretty thin on the ground. Father has said, and others corroborated, that you don't see too many people making a regular practice of it. Accordingly, the only place in town where it seems to happen regularly is the Cathedral. Anywhere else, you need to make a special appointment with your pastor. First Confession is observed, or so it seems, among the little ones, but other than that, even the older Catholics from Pre-Vatican II-era St. Ann's don't make confession often enough to make an open window every week that important. St. Ann's doesn't even have a confessional in the building.

Why would it be important for there to be a regular period for it? Well, for one thing, not having to arrange for an appointment leaves the door open for anonymous confession. That's what we have confessionals for, after all; the screen allows you to hide your face from the confessor. Some say that that removes some of the psychological pressure and makes the confession less effective as a practical measure against repeat punishments, but I think that, if we want to be healthy, we should look at confession less as a punishment as more as a wonderful opportunity.... and that's really hard to do if you're dreading telling a person who knows you personally your innermost struggles and vices.

Having Confession only at the Cathedral presents quite a chore for me, and anyone else in my immediate area without a valid driver's license. For me to get to the cathedral from my house takes roughly an hour to an hour and a half on a saturday, which is when the confessions are heard. What's more, from what I hear, the door isn't always open every week, and I'd hate to have travelled that distance, particularly with winter coming up, to find the cathedral doors locked.

Being a good catholic with all the proper disposition, observing all we are told to observe in the Catechism, was easier 50 years ago than it was today. Can you blame me if, occasionally, I don't?

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Addendum: R v Effert: Perspective

To be perfectly clear: the previous post was not an endorsement of Abortion or Infanticide. in point of fact I think the laws should be somewhat more stringent for both.

What the previous post was was a general admonition against sensationalism. I've spent the last few days having to explain to both Catholic and Agnostic friends and acquaintances from the US that this judgement isn't a legalization of infanticide but an application of a concept in Canada called common law. Previous rulings have all treated mothers who have committed this crime in much the same way, provided they have sufficiently similar circumstances.

Judges in Canada are not empowered to alter the criminal code on a whim. The SCC is empowered to overturn laws on the basis of violations of the Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms, but the Alberta Court of Queen's Bench (the jurisdiction involved) is not.

Infanticide has always carried a lighter penalty than murder, even within the text of the code itself. That's because not every murder of a child qualifies. The killer has to be the biological mother, and she has to be shown to have a suite of clearly-defined mental illnesses.

We might not like that the original homicide conviction was overturned in favour of infanticide, but that's not our choice. There is a reason why we have a right to refuse trial by jury in this country. Laws are not the structure of the public opinion, and they are not the codes of morality. In point of fact, morality cannot be legislated. For every person, the moral code is a higher bar over which we must jump. The laws are merely the bare minimums of behaviour we expect out of people who wish to live in our society.

Again I invite all of you to pray for the peace and the souls of those involved, from the deceased infant to her mother, to the rest of their family, and all the judges and lawyers engaged. And, again, I implore you, do not make the mistake of letting a journalist's good story get in the way of the news.

Friday, September 16, 2011

R. v K. Effert: Perspective

The Bloggosphere and forums like CAF have been abuzz lately with the latest news out of the Great White North: Infanticide has been legalized by Activist Judges! Oh God, have mercy on them, they know not what they do.

Reality Check. Some like websites like LifeSite News. Others like the reliability of CBC. Me, I like to go to the source; the actual Memorandum of Judgement.

The most important thing to consider is that the judgement was passed by the Court of Queen's Bench, a court responsible for finding in federal crimes. Ms. Effert is still guilty of the crime of infanticide. She has still been penalized. She must notify the court if she ever again becomes pregnant. She is subject to a suspended jail sentence, and to court-mandated psychiatric evaluation.

That sounds like a conviction to me. But don't let that get in the way of headlines like CAF's "Fourth Trimester Abortions Legal in Canada as Infanticide OK'd."

Don't take me wrong. Abortions and Infanticide are all tragic events. But we can't let the issue of the tragedy supplant the truth of the situation. The law wasn't overturned; this woman wasn't even acquitted. But that's the spin segments of the Catholic e-Culture have put on the story, which belittles the death of the little one. It is farcical, and a disgrace to the rest of us who occupy that sensible band of worldly awareness where we actually read and, failing to fully understand, research, rather than regurgitate the headlines of the disingenuous.

God gave us brains so that we could apply critical thinking skills. Let's not turn our back on one of his greater gifts. I hope the rest of you can join me in praying for the peace of the unborn, of the poor victim, and for the forgiveness and conversion of Ms. Effert.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Professionalism, Pride, Charisma, and Humility

School is going smoothly, and I'm glad to be able to say that despite sitting in the classroom with the frequent severe temperature shifts, a developing head-cold and a bad case of fatigue. However, being back into business studies has woken up a few old maxims I usually left to sleep somewhere between the correct way to fold a fitted sheet after its been washed, and the proper colour to wear for a pocket-square.

I speak, of course, of the idea of Professionalism. That's not to say that I was unprofessional as a cook, though there were times when my professionalism left something to be desired. The difference is that professionalism changes a bit when we're talking about an office setting. Certain things that pass for situation normal in an industrial kitchen are totally unacceptable in the offices of an accounting or legal firm. For one thing, there's a much higher premium placed on deportment and dress.

The thing is, as professionals, there are certain unwritten standards to which we are held. Customers and managers like to see professionals with a charismatic way and a sharp sense of dress. A cheap dress shirt counts for little when one can wear a nicer one. A tie with a subtle but unique design seems like a cheap innovation but can cost two, maybe three times what a similar-but-not-as-nice tie would cost. A simple suit, even with a good fit, is rarely a substitute for a tailor-made one... and so on.

Don't get me wrong, I like all of those things. I like them a lot. I'm just concerned that acquiring these goods, and the charismatic, I-own-the-room demeanour that comes with them, is detrimental to the virtue of Humility. Where is the line drawn between taking a bit of pride in one's appearance, behaviour, and profession, and that pride becoming Vanity?

It's an interesting question, anyway.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Ten Years

You know, I remember where I was ten years ago. I remember almost exactly how that day went.

The Scriptural Readings for the Sunday Liturgy are amazingly relevant, dealing with how we must forgive others before we can be forgiven by God.

That's all I really have to say about that.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

College Orientation - Day One

So, today was the first day of college, what I was expecting to be the first-and-only orientation day. Turns out they've stretched it to three. That would make sense, given the fact that the NBCCSJ campus is about three times the size of the Saint Andrews campus.

Thing is, in a course that's centred around business administration, there seems to be a lot of wasted time. For starters, every single new-entry student was on campus today, and began their days by crowding into the gymnasium only to file back out again immediately afterward. There was a grab bag and some sign ups during that time, but it was nothing that couldn't have been distributed to the classrooms that we all tried to get to en masse. Traffic jams, pedestrian or vehicular, are a major source of stress for me, which is a big reason I've totally ignored the idea of going into urban planning. The lecture in the classrooms was relatively worthwhile, though there was a certain "get on with it" voice in the back of my mind, since most of the lectures were fairly self-explanatory for anyone who'd already been to college; the workloads are heavier, the hours are longer, the attendance is more of an issue... that sort of thing.

There was a catered break with coffee and donuts, and then a tour of the campus that everyone tried to do at the same time, causing more traffic jams. The tour was nice, but with all of our classes in the same room (a feature I haven't had access to since the sixth grade), it was a little superflouous. Then there was a two-hour long lunch (presumably because everyone was expected to wind up in the cafeteria), followed by a Q&A with program graduates, and a general dismissal about an hour ahead of schedule.

All and all, a good enough day, though it demonstrated a certain hyperbolic tendancy among the staff. Time management is crucial, and you've got to work hard to succeed in our courses. Cut to the famous clip of George Bush solemnly speaking about dying US soldiers in Iraq at a golf course, and then turning and saying "Now, watch this drive."

Tomorrow promises to be only marginally more productive. An hour-long information session on school policies and general housekeeping tasks, followed by fifteen-minute mini-tutorials for each of the semester's courses, going over the syllabi, meeting the instructors. Somewhere in there there's room for another two-hour lunch, a campus-wide barbeque with students of both years in attendance and lines as long as the school, to be sure. In as much as a population of largely 18-19 year olds can be expected to form lines on their own. Supposedly we have a scheduled slot to hit the book store, something I would have done weeks ago if I hadn't been uncertain as to which courses, precisely, I would be exempting. I have at least two of the courses exactly from my previous work, and in two of the other courses I have very similar credits. Then there's an hour and a half for the students who are leasing laptops from the school to pick them up, followed by another early dismissal.

Friday seems somewhat more promising. Fridays for us are generally half-days, with the afternoon blocked for testing and whatnot, but more often than not, leaving us with a lot of empty time on our hands. Other than that, there's a toonie breakfast from 9 AM to 10 PM, followed by an hour-long software download session (and, so help me if I have to change any of the software I'm already using, like office 2007 (which we are required to use anyway) or, say, McAffee (also a requirement), and then an hour to make sure we can all log into the school network okay.

So I guess the hard work doesn't start until next week, huh? Maybe I'm just acclimated to the busier environment of college through my past with the Hospitality and Tourism Management program, but even a "heavy day" sounds pretty light to me.