Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Things people do to save the world...

You might find this article interesting if your interested in the things we are doing to "save" the world.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Annoying rule bound people

Ok, I like to write, I mostly follow conventions of writing and even if my spelling tends to be atrocious my text structure and ideas are usually above average. One thing I don’t do when writing is assume that there are strict don’t break or the police will arrests you rules in the format of the text. For example I believe that I can write a 4 paragraph long introduction for a text, even if the text is only about 10 paragraphs long, simply because I can use the paragraph divisions as a way to bring forth the topics the following paragraphs will develop. Sure in some case it might be better to write only a single paragraph for the introduction but it’s not rule, I don’t have to use only a single paragraph or else my text won’t be read by anyone and will spontaneously combust.

Now, I agree that there are “rules” for writing text, there is a certain order to the paragraphs and the introduction usually precede the conclusion. But the format of each of the part can be pretty loose, and trying to enforce a set up is writing by rote, not understanding writing. It following a recipe for a text instead of cooking your own, while that is not bad it can lack a certain level of originality and it can often make for dry text and in my opinion most of those people would make pretty bad poetry writers.

Ok, that just a minor inconvenience, but I suffered through it today so I’m gonna share it with you. What the person really wanted to say was that my introduction was too long, and he was right it was. However it was not too long because I use three paragraphs, it was too long because I was too verbose and went into too many details in my examples. In a way I was using a story as an introduction for the rest of my text and telling the story in one paragraph would make for one giant weird looking paragraph so I split it off where the ideas demands it, in a way the introduction is it’s own text, with an introduction to the story, the story itself and a short conclusion that introduce the main topic of the text. I do not think I have to do all that in a paragraph, in fact I’m sure that it would harder to read.

Ok, enough ranting about a minor thing oh and in case the person reads my blog that rant is not directed at you, you just triggered something that had been waiting for a event to be released.

Wrong solution

I was reading a link posted by yofed about the cost of food in Halifax and while I find it strange that it cost more there then it should there is something in the article that makes me thinks Halifax won’t see a lowering of it’s food price anytime soon. You see Patty Williams one of Halifax nutrition expert is proposition a very bad solution for the healthy food problem faced by “poor” families. Her solution: raise the minimum wage by 4 to 5 dollars an hour.

Now maybe you think, what up astrogeek that a good solution! Give more money to those that receive the less and they should be able to afford all the stuff they can’t right now. Well let me ask you something, do grocery stores hire lots of employee at the minimum wage rate? Then, consider that raising every minimum wage employee wave by 4 to 5 dollars an hours should cost that store about 160$ a week for each employee. That add up to 8320$ per employee per year. Doesn’t sound like much for just the grocery store but then remember their is a chain of people working for minimum wage between the food production and the grocery store each one costing 8320$ a year more. Now, no business men wants to reduce its profit (or worse go into deficits) so the easiest and most logical choice would be for them to increase the prices of everything. The end result being that the minimum wage worker have at best as much spending power as it had before and at worse less, because other employee that where paid above the minimum wage would like an increase in their wage to keep up with the increased cost of living which will by itself also increase cost of living.

This increase of minimum wage idea is the start of a vicious cycle, every time you do that, you actually make the situation worse by increasing the prices across the board. Now a wiser solution (at least according to me) would be to lower one of the many taxes that are imposed on the food from its production to its consummation. One tax that would really benefits everyone (and the minimum wage worker in particular) is a lowering of the fuel tax. The amount of fuel required to take food from our field to our homes is staggering and it account for a significant part of the price of everything, lower that cost and you should lower prices across the board making healthy food more accessible. And that would also strangely give more spending power to the minimum wage workers. Wouldn’t that be a better solution?

Happy Darwin's day

200 years ago one that was to be named Charles Darwin was born. His contribution to science was so great that 150 years after the publication of his world changing book we are still using the basic idea he was proposing. Today celebrate the advancement of human knowledge and Darwin's day.

oh a weirdly related note, today the campus for christ organisation is having a talk about 5 reasons for the existance of god and 3 reasons why it matters. I'm sure it just a coincidance but considering the anti-evolution sentiment I've read in their promotional leaflets in the past I have to wonder.

Playing god

Skepchick as a great article on "playing god" and what it seems to be meaning now a day. I found it very interesting.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Leave my internet alone!

Once again Quebec’s artistic community is asking the CRTC to impose regulation on the internet. They want to force TV and radio station that stream content online to follow the same quota and regulation that the non-internet radio must face. Once again the argument to justify those regulation comes from the idea that we must protect our culture. Ok, lets make something clear: If I’m not watching your TV, listening to your Radio or reading your newspaper it’s probably because your culture isn’t mine. STOP fracking trying to force me to listen, read and watch your crap, produce something of quality and you can be sure I will read, listen or watch it but for the moment you’re of not interest to me. Imposing more regulation on my internet content will only push me farther away from your culture and will insure that I will look to go elsewhere. I want to be free, not controled, I want access to information and content not censorship, I’m an adult human being I can decide for myself what is right or wrong from me (provided I have the information of course) so I don’t need you to control, censor or decide for me. So please, CRTC, Quebec artist and whoever else want to regulate the internet: LEAVE MY INTERNET ALONE!

Guys and girls

I had an argument today about boys and girls, more precisely the existance of the difference between the two. Now I was arguing that part of the gender identity comes from genetics, and that boys are different from girls. Now, I admited that part of the identity also comes from society and education but there are still difference in gender beyond (and maybe reinforced) those of society. Now the argument continued toward the fact that we should not teach little boy the “stereotypical” male attitude of when you’re hurt you don’t cry you continu and do the job. My vision of the thing is that there are times to “cry” and times to keep it inside to finish what needs to be done until it is possible to “cry”. Some people can also keep things inside and then let them go, of course there are also some people that keep things inside and then explode.

Now someone argued that it was bad and that humanity would be better without that social phenotype (the guy that don’t cry). That is something I can’t agree with, I think that humanity need this social phenotype. There is a need (and a place) for people that will not stop and cry or explore their feeling everytime something “hurt” them and simply do the job that need to be done.

In a way I think that rejecting this social phenotype is rejecting the male social phenotype. I think that it would be a great lost for humanity and that it does a great diservice to future generation to try and make sure everybody cries and explore their feeling the moment things hurt them. Now I’m not saying you should encourage guy never to cry or explore their feeling, but letting it be ok not to explore them right away is probably not a bad idea, sometimes times is what it takes not crying. Oh well, I just had to rant about that conversation even if that rant ended up being confusing.

Saturday, February 07, 2009

The teaching of history

The whole Battle on the Plains of Abraham once again made me realize how crappy the education system is at teaching history. When I was in high school we could take at most 3 history class, the first one on the ancient world, the Greek, the Egyptian and the Roman (go forbid we talked about the Celt, the native American, the Aztec, the Maya, the Chinless or the Indonesian civilizations) while the second is supposed to be on the world history until world war 1 with emphasis on Quebec and Canada. Now my memory of that second class is pretty hazy I know we talked about the end of the renaissance and the beginning of the colonization of Quebec. We saw in some details how the colony was settled up until the English conquest and then learned about that battle (and that battle only, nothing about the rest of the war, such as Chevalier de Levis’ attempt to capture Quebec). Then it was major event in Quebec with particular insistence put on event that the English minority at the time put inflicted on the Quebecers. The patriot revolt (with failure to mention the English patriots), the declaration of the high and low Canada and all the other stuff that reinforce the idea that Quebec is an oppressed province in Canada. But we skip over any realization by the Canadians and most of the thing involving Quebec that are not “inflicted” by the English.

Sure I understand that the class is limited in time and that we have to cover the “important” event but I fail to see how skipping part of the patriot revolt really inform Quebec student about it and how failing to mention the treaty of Paris influence on English rule really help. I would think that the history we teach should at least be complete and true. Now if I was redoing the curriculum for high school there would be history class at every grade. I would also insure that the program includes both Canadian and Quebec history and that it goes up about 10 years before the last class (i.e. 1999 this year). I think we need to learn a lot more about our history to understand where we come from and to be ready to step into a greater role in the world. Not to mention that it would help us take another look at the decision of the past and if we can give the next generation a better understanding of these decision they would be better equipped to see if we need to change them. It probably would reduce Quebec’s reliance on the: “it’s a choice we made as a society” answer when we question our model.

Well, in a way that part of my a better education is the best way to solve most of our society problems and to insure that our society’s future is bright and free of tyranny. I really think that education is much more important the health care (well one is actually part of the other, a good education includes preventive health care which is sorely lacking) and should involve a great deal more of our effort.

Public speaking

Last Monday I had to give a talk at an amateur astronomer club and well it went relatively well. I say relatively well, because my one hour talk lasted for 1h45, and well I didn’t go through all of the stuff I had prepared for this presentation. I was supposed to talk at length about the Canadian telescope and the science we do there. In fact the talk was intitled: “Canadian Telescopes: Unsong heros of astronomy” and I barely got to talk about any modern telescope (the last one I talk about was the cloud covered pic of Mont Megantic which is hardly the most recent one). Part of the reason for this “failure” lays squarely with me, I underestimated the amount of talking I would do at each telescope and the amounts of question I would receive, another part of it lies with the club that held a 45 minutes talk about february night sky, right before my presentation and the last part comes from a question that really surprised me. Someone asked me to sell to the group the idea of the Quebec-Canadian governement building a Megantic-like telescope today within the current economic crisit.

I really liked that question, even tho I had absolutly nothing prepared to answer something of that kind (according to the asker I succeed quite well). I like the question because it forced me to think on my feet, to convince someone that my science was worth investing in even when the economy isn’t that strong and to answer something I’m prepared for on the fly. In short, that might be a good preparation for my thesis defense!

Nonetheless, that not what I brought up the sujet, I brought it up to speak about public speaking. Now, those of you that know me know that I am very verbose and that I can speak quite a lot. Given the evidence of my speaking too much above I assume that even those that don’t know me very well understand. You might think that my next sentence would something along the line: but I’m scared of public speaking or some such. You would be wrong, I love public speaking, it must be part of my attention whore side and no I’ve never been that scare of speaking in public. Still, I’ve heard and tried many of the “tricks” to help yourselve speak in front of an audience and frankly I don’t think any of them really works. Imagining people naked, yeah that sure is going to get me too feel better, I’m giving a talk in front of bunch of naked people. Finding someone that looks sympatic to me in the audience and looking at him while I speak, great only one person came to hear me. Looking above the audience to the wall behind, great no one came to hear me talk. None of that works, at least for me, I prefer to talk to the audience. I’m talking to everyone there as if it was a single person, when I answer question I start my answer toward the person asking the question but I go on to talk to everyone, using the logic that if someone asked the question most of the group probably was wondering the same thing.

Well that my idea about it, I’m certainly not an expert on public speaking and it probably doesn’t work for every kind of public presentation there is. I’m pretty sure that an act can’t work well with that technic or any kind of performace that doesn’t require feedback from the public but I don’t know. So what do you think?

Stimulus for your economie

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

The conquest or the giving away of Quebec

I listened to Pierre Falardeau one of Quebec artist complaining about the recreation of the Battle on the Plain of Abraham in Quebec. Now in a previous post I said that I not a big fan of celebrating the defeat because for the french speaking majority of Quebec associate this historical event to a defeat and it could be seen as rubbing the defeat in their face. So I’m not hot on the idea, but I would welcome an historical recreation particularly if it was set in within the Fête de la Nouvelle France.

Now many of mister Falardeau’s follower parrot that the battle was the conquest of Quebec. Now while Quebec city was conquered in this battle, most of Quebec was still free, one proof of that is that Chevalier de Levis (a french general) fought for Quebec in 1760 and defeated the British at the battle of Ste-Foy. However the British managed to retreat the to fortification of Quebec and hold out the siege until English reinforcement arrived and forces Levis to retreat to Montreal where he was forced to capitulate by September of 1760. So while the battle of the Plain d’Abraham was a major defeat for the french it was by no mean the end of the war in fact if France had send reinforcement for Levis he would probably have retaken the city.

Next we have to remember that in the Treaty of Paris the French where given the choice between taking back Canada or the island of the Guadeloupe. They chose to take the Guadeloupe leaving the snowy fields of Quebec to the English. The nicely provided closes in the treaty protecting the french living in Quebec and giving them a 18 month period to move out (basically). So remember, France GAVE Quebec to the English, they could have kept the territory if they had let go of the Guadeloupe.

So yes, the British conquered Quebec, but the French did far worse they abandoned Quebec. For a few gram of sugar they gave Quebec away without a second though and without ever trying to retake the province from the British. Yes we where conquered but we should own no loyalty to the people that abandoned us, Quebecers are their own culture, we are one part french and one part english and completely unique. This is what we should celebrate, that our destiny was changed by a battle and a name on a treaty but that we nonetheless forged for ourselves a new destiny and a new identity.

Introduction to the Ontological Proof of God's Existence

An interesting arguement, however it suffers from a few flaws. First, it assumes that existance is a greater statuts then non existance because if you can imagine a being that which nothing can be greater and it doesn't exist well you can imagine a being that nothing can be greater and that would exist and say that this is greater. Second it is circular, the argument is that if you can conceive a being it must exist because if it didn't exist you couldn't conceive it.

Nice try but still no proof for or against the existance of god.

Sunday, February 01, 2009

A little less game in my RPG please

In the last few month, Wizard of the Coast as produced two new editions of their award winning game, the Star Wars Saga edition and the Dungeon and Dragon 4th edition. I’ve started playing in a Star Wars Saga game and as the high level geek I am keep informed about the new D&D and I think I’ve come to a realisation. Theirs is too much game in 4th edition for me to enjoy it, in fact from what I read and seen you could probably remove the RP from description of the 4th edition. Star Wars Saga follows the same tread but it seems to be weaker.

It might seem strange for me to decry a game for being well, a game but let me explain and I hope you will understand. Like I said before I do RPG for the stories, the characters and the settings the rules are kinda like the physic behind the universe and while they shouldn’t be too quirky they should not endanger “belivability”. You don’t want people to read your rule, think for a second and see that if the rule existed in our world that would bring forth amazingly stupid situation.

Now when you see the RPG as a game first and the rest second those kind of rules “creep” in naturally with the rules to insure game balance. The idea that every character must have the same amongt of utility in combat (at least according to D&D and it’s descendant), most designer will claim that their system is made to represent both combat and non combat encounter but seriously when everything hindge on the mecanic that tract how close you are to dying it’s hard not to think of it as a mecanic for combat even more so when the mecanic only reproduce very short action. Sure it’s balanced and everyone has “exactly” the same amount of influence on the game and many people call that fun, but to me it’s so illogical as to make the game far less enjoyable.

Think about it, in Star Wars Saga some character can have the opportunity to recruit followers, in a way have someone follow them and their orders. Well to presever “game balance” the game designer made it so that for your follower to act you the character have to sacrifice one of his own action. Think about this in reality, the corporal and his soldier are in a fight, for the soldier to fire his weapon the corporal as to stand and wait! That just wrong, but it makes for a balanced game, the character with the follower does not get more “game time” nor does he get extra power.

I guess I prefer simulations to game, and roleplaying to game balance, sure I don’t want character x to be always better then character y in all situation and about everything but I don’t want character x and y to be completely identical except for the name of their abilities. So please tone down the gamy feel in future supplement I’m sure you’ll be able to get a larger share of the market.