Monthly Archives: March 2012

I Believe

Of course there is a magical being in the sky who gives us life.  Not something you’ll hear often from an atheist.

But we figured it out tens of thousands of years ago.  At some point, human beings developed enough intelligence to notice that something in the sky gave us life.  They could even see it.  A yellow circle.

When it was around, it gave warmth and light.  Two things essential to survival (yes, light included, because we depend on eyesight to find food and avoid predators).

But it wasn’t always there.  Sometimes it would be obscured by clouds, and cold rain would fall from the sky.  Humans were worried on those days.  Perhaps they were superstitious, thinking they had done something to upset the magical yellow circle in the sky.

They would have loved to have known more about it, but they didn’t have a way to learn.  So they prayed to it to always be there for them, and even sacrificed to it.  They argued over which acts angered the circle, and in groups decided what not to do, for of course, the circle was always watching them from the sky.

For ages these practices continued.  Many peoples started worshiping other natural elements, like rain for crops, and wind for calm seas.  They had no idea why these things happened.  They were like magic, and if prayer made a difference, even for peace of mind, what was the harm in that?

Eventually, humans did figure out how to learn about these “magics”.  We learned that the sun is a ball of fire, it comes and goes by the rotation of the earth, and about its effects of heat and light and even vitamin D.  We learned what causes wind, about the water cycle that causes rain, why we have seasons, what makes certain plants grow, and many more things.  These discoveries fall under the umbrella of “science”.

But by then, worship of the circle in the sky and other natural beings had taken other forms, as mythology evolved.  Mystical forces were called “gods”. Some were anthropomorphized; others had the forms of animals.  Great stories were written about these deities, and groups argued and fought with others who believed in different gods, just like how people would have argued over how to please (and not to anger) the all-powerful sun for giving us life, which is itself related to different systems of morals and ethics and lists of what thou shalt not do. Peoples’ superstitions remained with us, and though sacrifice is uncommon, prayer is a daily part of life for many people.

I believe this is how religion developed.


Canada must learn to protest

Dear Canada, I challenge you.

The Conservative election fraud scandal is the topic du jour, and people are starting to make themselves heard.  31,000 complaints to Elections Canada.  Oh, and in Vancouver, literally hundreds of people took to the streets last weekend.

Ho hum.

This pales in comparison to the numbers of people who protested, say, the G20Occupy Toronto was a piddling two or three thousand.

So by Canadian standards, this election fraud protest isn’t a big one.

But Canadian standards, honestly, are pathetic.  I don’t know if we’re lazy, uninformed, uneducated, apathetic, unsympathetic, or what, but if you want to make the government listen, you’re going to need more than a few hundred people.

Tunisian and Egyptian revolutions had protests of hundreds of thousands of people demanding new governments.  Rome’s Iraq war protest drew 3 million people.  Canada, to its credit, actually had people show up for some of its own, but in comparison, Chile had protests just as large just to reform their education system.  Not for people being killed, or fear for safety, or unjust government (though that is not unrelated), but just so middle- and lower-class people get fair access to education.

So rise up, Canada, show that election integrity needs to be protected, and that we won’t settle for anything less than the democratic best.  The Conservative government has done a few protest-worthy acts since it was granted a majority; we have to actually let them know that we won’t stand for it.

This goes for other issues as well.  Canadians need to show they care*, and in large enough numbers to make a difference. 300 is nothing.  Thirty thousand is something.

*Care was the first word that came to mind, and shows me that either my English is poor, or that it was the Canadian in me using a friendly- and nurturing-sounding word.  “Care about it” should be replaced with “Bloody well fucking demand it, because we wouldn’t want to live in a Canada without it”

That’s more like it.

Aesthetic Law

This post inspired by me travelling, and trying to take photographs without radio towers or utility wires ruining the shot.

In Toronto, the view of the provincial parliament building, Queen’s Park, from the south on University Avenue, is meant to be protected.   Sadly, a proposal to build condominiums to the north was approved.

Toronto already suffers from a lack of great buildings, and subpar aesthetic appeal.  We’ve been tearing down historic buildings, rather than preserve them, to make room for condos and office buildings, which could be integrated into those older buildings.  This was like the nail in the coffin.  We really do not care enough about the little history we have.

The best example of preservation I know of is in Paris, where the need for office development wasn’t ignored, but placed outside the historic city centre.  Wikipedia tells me that the same is true for Canary Wharf in London.   I also like the name, which sounds like they’ve defended their culture and history without sacrificing commercial growth.

Ugh, it was even worse to read that part of the reason the Ontario Liberals did nothing was because of Rob Ford’s then popularity and their own upcoming election.  Can’t people take the politics out of government now and then?


It was late afternoon when he invited her into his garden.

“Oh wow,” she said, “It’s beautiful!”

“Thanks, I work hard at it.  I’ve actually been away for a couple of weeks; looks like there’s weeding to do.”  He started absently pulling up small and large shoots and collecting them in one hand.  “Want some raspberries?  Or a tomato? Food tastes best fresh off the vine.”

“Some raspberries would be lovely.”

He knelt down, picked some with his free hand and passed them up to her.  As she ate, he continued weeding.

“Mmm… these are – whoa, what are you doing?  You just killed that flower!”

“What, this?”  He was holding a pink tulip, that he had pulled out, root and all.  “It’s just a weed.”

“It’s a beautiful flower!” she said, aghast, and took it from him.

“It does look nice, but it doesn’t do anything useful.”

“It’s not enough for it to look nice?”

“Not really.  The garden is already colourful, isn’t it?”

“Yes, but –”

“Raspberries, squash, tomatoes, pears, apples, yellow zucchini, cauliflower.  They look nice and taste good.  See those little tufts? Those are carrots, and those behind you with the white flowers are potatoes.  And next to the house are the herbs: rosemary, chives, mint, basil, and so on.”

He tossed all the weeds on the compost heap. “Everything in this garden is a food.  I like tulips, but I don’t want them in my garden.  I’ll pot it and you can take it to plant at your house.”

“I’ll do just that,” she said.  “That’s actually impressive that this garden is all food.  Those raspberries were delicious; you must eat well.”

“You’re right, they’re delicious and chemical-free.  If you stay for dinner you’ll see just how good it can be.”

She grinned.  “Thanks, maybe I will.”  Then her smile faded.  “But I don’t think you can call a tulip a weed.”

“Sure.  A weed just means an unwanted plant.  And tulips don’t any more belong in a patch of raspberries than dandelions do.  A potato plant in a flower garden might be called a weed.”

“All right, you’re off the hook.”  She kissed him on the cheek.  “Now, about that dinner…”

Psychology and Math

I think it’s interesting how if I were to tell a grade 9 class (14-year-olds) that girls outperform boys in math until age 15, that the girls probably would outperform the boys, but if I said instead that boys surpass girls at age 13, the boys would outperform.

If I say, “This course is challenging,” does that mean that students will do poorly compared to if I had said “This course is easy”?  I would say it’s challenging in order to emphasize the importance of practice (i.e. homework) and studying, but could I instill the work ethic and create a better psychological effect with a different phrase?  “This course is easy for those who keep up with homework and studying”?  Or possibly even better, a single word, “This course is ___”

I would probably do well to learn more about this, so I can figure out how to have positive effects, but even more importantly, to avoid creating negative ones.

Anyone know of any resources?