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?