Wednesday, September 29, 2004


My In-Laws are from Italy. They lived in a rural area, and grew up during the second world war. They still do many things in old, traditional ways, like making home made pasta, and tomato sauce. Sunday, we went over to make sauce for the coming year. I thought I'd walk through the process for those of you that might be interested.

It starts, of course, with tomatoes. Here we see about three bushels of plum tomatoes spread out on a table in the greenhouse for ripening. My In-Laws have almost an acre of property, and maintain a very large garden, but it's difficult to get enough tomatoes ripe enough at one time to make a large quantity of sauce, so we usually buy several bushels. These are supplemented by whatever ripe tomatoes the home plants do provide. When the expert (my Mother-In-Law) decides that they have reached a suitable level of ripeness, she gives the word, and the relations are summoned. It's time to make sauce.

The first order of business is washing. We put the tomatoes in buckets of water, and swish them around a bit. All we're trying to do is rinse off any loose dirt that might be clinging to them. The rinsers also are taking a quick look at them as they go, trying to pick out any bad ones. As they are rinsed, they are transferred to bushels and put in line to be sliced. The slicers cut off the top of the tomato to eliminate the hard part where the stem joins the fruit. They then slice the tomato lengthwise, and squeeze out some of the water. This is an important step, because if the tomatoes are too watery, the sauce will be, too. The sliced tomatoes are put into a bushel lined with a tablecloth, and every so often they are covered with a layer of salt. The salt serves to soften the skin and help separate it from the meat. When a bushel is full, the expert makes a decision regarding the suitability of the tomatoes to be processed. If they are still too watery, she may fold the tablecloth over top of them and apply weight, to squeeze even more moisture out.

Once the sliced and salted tomatoes are declared ready, they move on to the machina. Let me say a few words about the word machina. The word machina is Italian for machine. They use it for every mechanical thing in their lives. The car is a machina
. The refrigerator is a machina. The lawn mower is a machina. You have to have been paying close attention to the conversation at the In-Laws' place or you can get pretty confused about which machina they are talking about at any given time. The machina we use to make sauce is an ingenious device that pulps the tomatoes, and separates the sauce from the seeds and skin. The one shown here is electric, but less than ten years ago, we were still using a hand cranked machina. Trust me; in some ways progress can be a good thing.

The tomatoes are loaded into the hopper on the top, and they are drawn down through a conical screw. The meat of the tomato is pulped and squeezed out through small holes in the grill covering the screw. The seeds and skin will not fit through the holes, and so are carried out the end. The skin and seeds are poured back into the hopper and run through one more time to ensure all of the available sauce is collected. They are not run through more than that because too much skin and seed in to final product can make it bitter..

A full bucket of sauce is moved over to a table to be transferred to mason jars. We use several sizes of jars to facilitate cooking different sized meals in the future. The largest jars are referred to as Wide Mouth Masons. You didn't need to know that, but I wanted to get that link in there. Once the jars are full, mason lids are placed on top, and the screw caps are screwed down. After the ladies have tightened the lids, we men go around and re-tighten them. Just because we're men, OK?

The full jars are placed into a large pot of water, and boiled for about a half hour. Boiling does two things. First, it kills any bacteria that may be in the sauce. Second, as the mason jars cool, a very strong vacuum seal is created, thereby extending the storage life of the sauce by a considerable amount. We store the sauce at room temperature for periods of well over a year with no problem at all. After it cools, the finished product is boxed, and put into storage for use as desired during the next year.

I'd show you a picture of a delicious plate of pasta with fresh sauce, but (::urp:: excuse me) I already ate it. 

Friday, September 24, 2004

Responding to comments

I'm not usually very concerned with comments, but there have been several good ones left here that have provoked a response.

Re: Critical thinking revisited
pamela wrote:
"OK smartypants, you say. Here is a piece of broccoli. What do you say to that?"
i can understand the reasoning but what if it wasn't REALLY broccoli .. seriously !! if you didn't believe it existed, you wouldn't recognize it if it were stapled to your forehead so how do they prove its broccoli instead of say a horseshoe or a banana or a ghost even?

Are you saying that scientists refuse to recognise legitimate evidence of ghost sightings just because they don't believe in ghosts? Oddly enough, I think the opposite is true. I think the paranormal gets far more attention from the science community than it merits, because the scientists want to believe. These people aren't robots. They're human beings, just like you and me. They heard the same stories growing up. They have the same emotions and imagination. They just also have extremely analytical minds that will not permit them to believe in things they cannot demonstrate to be real. The science community would love to be able to prove the existence of the paranormal. Then they would be allowed to believe in it.

Re: Two-for-one offer
aiibrat wrote:
You have some interesting I'll take you up on your offer.

You go, girl!

Re: Two things
Sandi wrote:
I can understand what you are saying, but a phone call or prank is not as hurtful as having someone try to get you to open up about a horrific event in your life under the pretext of helping....when in fact, she was lying. That's what everyone got upset about.  I really don't care if someone wants to pretend to be the Queen of England that's fine, just don't hurt people.

One of the difficulties of this situation is the fact that many of these people desperately need this community. The internet is jam packed full of lonely people. People who are, in some way dissatisfied with their own life, and so escape into an artificial community online. That's not necessarily a bad thing, except that these people are emotionally fragile to start with, and may be unable to take my advice to keep an emotional distance from the people with whom they correspond. Of course, anyone pretending to be someone they are not for the purpose of defrauding someone out of money or gifts, is breaking the law, and needs to be dealt with accordingly. But, the person who creates a fictional persona and storyline only to attract attention to themselves is just being needy, and is really pretty similar to the people who get emotionally entwined with them. I mean, really, doesn't that describe us all, to some degree.

There's a complete journal entry in there somewhere.

Re: Pit Bulls
Sandi wrote:
Don't get me wrong I love animals. But there's just an image I get of a pit bull named Killer, governed by an owner named Bubba...not enough chainlink fence in the world for me to place between me & mine when it comes to this type of breed.

Do you think that if Bubba was not allowed to own a Pit Bull, whatever dog he did choose to own would be any safer to be around? The very point I'm trying to make is the problem is not with Killer. The problem is with Bubba. If Killer was prohibited by law from being a Pit Bull, he would be a Rottweiler, or a Doberman. In fact, twenty years ago, he would have been a Rottweiler. Thirty years ago he would have been a Doberman, and twenty years from now, he'll be some other breed of dog. But he'll be just as dangerous, because he'll still be owned by Bubba.

Re: The law of internet invocation
Karen wrote (and was echoed by several others):
I'll be interested toknow whether you hear from any of these people.

So far the experiment's a bust. I haven't heard from a single one of them. Not even my Dad. (flora, you don't count)

Re: Thoughts of the future
Jay wrote:
Great writing. You should have set up a blog ages ago!

Thanks, Jay. The cheque is in the mail.

Thursday, September 23, 2004

More puppy pictures

I promised that more puppy pictures would be forthcoming, so here they are. According to the paperwork we got from the OSPCA, Shadow will be 14 weeks old this weekend. I thought it would be neat to look at how he's changed in the 4 weeks since we got him.

August 28th                                  September 23rd

August 28th                                                            September 23rd


Also: Bonus pics!


I'm only going to bring this back one more time.

There! Don't say I never did anything nice for y'all. Tomorrow I go back to being a mean old jerkwad.

Wednesday, September 22, 2004

Critical thinking revisited

A recent exchange on the AOL Journals message board:

Subject: A journaler who claims to be taking pictures of ghosts.

Paul: The young person in question is simply taking pictures of dust motes on his camera lens that become illuminated by the flash. An extremely common photographic artifact

Lahoma: I hope he does get a Ghost pic though.

Paul: Given the fact that ghosts are creations of our imaginations, I'd have to say it's pretty darn unlikely.

Lahoma: Wrong! That's all I got to say about that.

Paul: Proof?

Sherri: If it is her opinion, she dosen't need proof or justification, just as you don't.
Just because you don't beleive it, dosen't mean she can't believe there are.
She shouldn't have to give someone on the internet proof to have her own opinion.

An unruly mob: I agree with Sherri.

Sheila: There is really no concrete evidence that ghosts exist.  There is also no concrete evidence that they don't.  It really is left up to personal experience and how you were raised as far as religion goes, and your personal beliefs. Until such evidence is determined, you are neither right nor wrong.


Let's have another little discussion about scientific method, and critical thinking, shall we?

I like broccoli. That is a statement of opinion. I'm entitled to it. Your opinion on the taste of broccoli may or may not differ from mine. That is your right.

Broccoli exists. Ah! Now, that is not a statement of opinion. That is a scientific hypothesis. As such, proof is required. Don't be silly, you say. Of course broccoli exists. I've eaten it before. I'm sorry, but anecdotal evidence does not constitute proof. Why not, you ask. Think about my last journal entry. We all write "anecdotes" down in our journals. We've already agreed that some people are not entirely honest in the things they are writing. So, just because you say you've eaten broccoli before, doesn't mean you are necessarily telling the truth. More proof is required. OK smartypants, you say. Here is a piece of broccoli. What do you say to that? Excellent. You have shown me an actual piece of broccoli. We can now state uncategorically that broccoli exists. Save that piece, just in case we come across somebody else that denies the existence of broccoli.

Ghosts exist. Another hypothesis. Show me the proof. Here, look at these pictures. Let's show those pictures to a photographic expert, shall we? This is a dust mote on the lens illuminated by the flash. This is a camera strap illuminated by the flash. This is an internal reflection within a poorly coated camera lens. This one is an obviously deliberate double exposure. This one is an accidental double exposure. This one is caused by a light leak in the camera. This one is caused by defective film. And this one? Well, this one is your thumb. There is nothing here that I haven't seen a thousand time before, and isn't easily explainable. Next? Look, this electromagnetic device registers a disturbance in the area. Look, it also registers a disturbance in my kitchen, in my neighbour's back yard, in the school parking lot, in the grocery store, in your elbow. Everywhere. But, I've seen a ghost in my house. Let's go to your house, and you can show me... Seventeen ghost free days later: The ghost doesn't like you, or, the prescence of scientific examination causes the ghosts to disappear. (Don't laugh, people have actually claimed that) I'm sorry, but no truly scientifically honest study ever done has turned up a single shred of evidence to support the possibility that ghosts exist.

You can't prove that ghosts don't exist. I don't have to. I have to prove that they do exist. I can't prove that broccoli doesn't exist, because you can prove that broccoli exists. That's how scientific method works. You start with an hypothesis, and you try to disprove it. There is no other way to do it. According to scientific method, the hypothesis is: ghosts don't exist. We must attempt to prove that ghosts do exist. Even though we believe that they don't, we must do our best to prove that they do. And I will repeat: no truly scientifically honest study ever done (and there have been many, many of them) has turned up a single shred of evidence to support the possibility that ghosts exist.

I don't care. I still believe that ghosts exist: Well, that's different. That makes you superstitious, and there's nothing I can do about that.


edit: you can replace the word Ghost with Astrology, Dowsing, Tarot Cards, Psychics, Reflexology, Feng Shui, or the Bedini Ultra CD Clarifier in this article and it would read the same.


For more on critical thinking, read this older entry.

Monday, September 20, 2004

Two things.

Much ado about...

There's been a lot of talk, all over AOL j-land, about the telling of truth or falsehood in people's journals. As far as I can gather, an issue was recently made of several journals purporting to be by a young cancer patient, his girlfriend, and others. Many people, reading these journals, were naturally filled with sympathy for the plight of the allegedly ill person. It has now been posited, based on what reliable information I know not, that these several journals were the work of one very creative person in need of attention. Apparently, many readers had become emotionally involved with the saga, and felt betrayed by the news that these journals appeared to be somewhat fictionalized. More recently, another journal has come under fire by the j-land community. A young woman claiming to be a former rape victim has had her story scrutinized for, as far as I can tell, poor judgement in the pictures she chose to display in her AOL profile.

Now, I'm not here to dispute the veracity or mendacity of these journalers, but to question those who have chosen to make a big deal over it. Surely you've known someone in your lifetime who's called up the local supermarket using a disguised voice and asked them if they had pop in the fridge. Why does it come as such a surprise to you that there might be jokers pulling the same stunts on the internet? This is the ultimate voice disguiser. With the exception of each account's primary screen name, AOL handles are disposable. Make up a new one, use it for a few weeks, and delete it. You can do that as many times as you like. My wife currently uses two different screen names. So does my son. I have three. For more temporarity and anonymity, there's hotmail, yahoo mail, the list goes on and on. The internet is the world's biggest mask, and Jacks abound.

My advice to those out there who feel that they have been hurt by dishonest journalers is to celebrate a valuable lesson learned. You don't really know these people. You can't really know these people. The next time you come across what appears to be a compelling story of personal tragedy and loss, run to your kitchen. Open your table-salt shaker and remove one small grain. Place it on your monitor. Go ahead and read. Hey, I'm not saying every journaler is a liar. I'm not even saying the ones alluded to above are. What I am saying is, you have no way of really knowing, so exercise a modicum of emotional detachment. You'll thank me later.


Funeral for a friend.

My ten year old son lost a Buddy today. He came home from a sleepover at a friend's house to discover that Buddy, his pet hamster was sick.

It came on quite suddenly. The little tyke kept us up half the night with the squeak of his wheel as usual. Sometime during the afternoon my wife discovered that he was hunched up in an unnatural position, and breathing labouriously. Several care filled hours later, he stopped breathing. Matthew was the one that went in to check on him the last time, and found him dead. Matt is a sensitive child. He cried for a long time. Mom found a little gold box in the basement, and Dad dug a hole in the garden. Matt held Buddy for a few moments, stroking his soft fur, then put him in the box, carried it outside, and reverentially placed him in the hole. "Good-bye, Buddy," he said. "I love you." Mom and Dad held Matthew, and we all sobbed uncontrolledly for several minutes. Nobody in this family handles death very well.

This story may seem ironic, in light of the comments that preceded it, but every word is true. I swear.

coming soon: new puppy pictures  (old puppy pictures)

Friday, September 17, 2004

Broadband's back, oh yeah!

Woo Hoo!

I am finally back on high speed access. I have been in the middle of transitioning from Sympatico DSL back to AOL. Not my choice, don't ask. Seems AOL could not process my order for broadband service until Bell Canada released the line from their DSL service. During the two week interim, I have been relegated to dial-up. I had forgotten how slow dial-up is. Man I'm glad to be back on high speed. Also, now my wife can use the phone while I'm on the internet.

American politics

John Scalzi is tired of all the screeching. He writes:

And I'm wondering whether it's always been this way, and I'm just noticing it now, or if this is a new election model and I'm just going to have to get used to it.

I'm not an American, but from an outsider's view, I'd say that the American political parties have spent the last twenty years or so riding the pendulum's swing away from the center. You currently have two parties striving to be as polar opposite to each other as they can manage. It looks to me like the pendulums have reached the extent of their swing and are already starting back towards the center, though most haven't realized it yet. The vitriol (to borrow a great word) is the result of the extremists subconciously resisting the inevitible moderating trend. Don't worry. By 2012, you'll all be lamenting the fact that the two parties are so nearly identical, it won't matter who you vote for.

Thursday, September 16, 2004

Pit Bulls

What did I say?

What did AOL say: Should Pit Bulls be Banned? <--this is an AOL only link. Sorry.

Invocation revisited

Weekend Assignment #24: Tell us what the first song was at your wedding reception and why you chose that song.

No offense, John, but I'm going to pass on this week's assignment... because it's smarmy chick stuff... and because it's lame. There is, however, some unfinished business in the garden to mention. We just picked up our annual garlic sets. It's still a bit too warm to plant them, but probably shortly after halloween, we'll drop them in the ground, so we'll have fresh garlic next fall.

As well, why don't we revisit the invocation story.

To start with, we have our first success story. And what a success it was! As the comments section of my previous entry clearly shows, floralilia dropped by to find out what I had written about her... before I had even written it. No doubt, her amazing feat of prescience was due to her featuring me in her "pearls of wisdom" type journal: succulent wisdom-juiciness from j-land. I am honoured and humbled. But, what was that old saying about swine? Nevermind.

Next, I'm going to mention my Dad. Last time I was at Dad's house, I fired up his computer, connected to the interwurb, and called up my fledgling journal page. He kinda glanced at it, but I don't think he really understood what I was talking about. I bookmarked it for him so he could find it again if he ever wanted to. Think he will?

I'm also going to mention Clinton Hammond here. Who, you ask, is Clinton Hammond? Google him. When I just did, his page was the first result of 187,000. If it says "sword for hire" you've got the right guy. Clinton is a fellow "denizen" at Bright Weavings. He's also the self-proclaimed God-Emperor of Geeks. Why do I call attention to Clinton? I guess I'm just a sucker for punishment.

As I said in the previous entry, in the interest of science, if any of the above mentioned people come by and read this, please leave a comment here, or e-mail me at:

Tuesday, September 14, 2004

The Law Of Internet Invocation

John Scalzi has a theory. He calls it The Law of Internet Invocation. I say we test that theory. No, not on him. I'm going to post a link in his comments section leading him here anyway. I'm going to write about several people I know casually, and some I don't know at all, and find out if they come by to visit, and how long that takes.

Let's start with Guy Gavriel Kay. Guy is a Canadian novelist whose work I am particularly fond of. I regularly hang out at Bright Weavings, an authorized web site devoted to the man, and have posted the address to this journal in the forums there. I have met the man a couple of times. He is incredibly personable, and also incredibly intelligent. I consider myself to be pretty smart, but my brain gets a crick in its neck looking up at his. If you've read and enjoyed The Lord Of The Rings, you owe it to yourself to read Kay's Fionavar Tapestry, for a different take on the high fantasy genre.

My next experiment victim will be Joey DeVilla. Joey's blog, The Adventures of Accordion Guy in the 21st Century, is among the most popular blogs around. I mostly read it just in case I ever run into the guy on the streets of Toronto, I can say, "Hey! I know you." Did I spell accordion right, Joey?

Next, how about Mark Hamill, General Hospital alumnus, and star of the blockbuster movie Corvette Summer. Oh yeah, he did some space thing, too. I can sense you rolling your eyes, but I figure he's probably doing about the same as I am right now: spending a lot of time surfing the internet. Could happen. Seriously though, Mark has been working steadily for years doing cartoon voice work. If you've got kids who watch cartoons, you've probably heard his voice hundreds of times without realizing it. I understand he's currently working on the series Super Robot Monkey Team Hyperforce Go! I swear I did not make that up.

Coming back down to earth a bit, let's mention Curtis Joseph. Curtis lives, during the off season, near me. One of his kids is the same age as my son Matthew, and they played soccer against each other one summer. I also once sold Curtis some speakers when I was working at a stereo store. I believe Cujo is currently without a gig, but I doubt he's all that worried about it this year. Actually, I hold out more hope of Mark Hamill dropping by in support of John's Law than I do of Curtis Joseph. Curtis just doesn't seem to me to be the type of guy who spends a lot of time browsing the internet.

Ok. There we have several people who I would be very surprised to hear from. If one of them does happen to come by and read this, I'd appreciate it if they'd drop me an e-mail at and let me know. Updates will follow if and when John's Law bears fruit.

Monday, September 13, 2004

I can't get enough of this guy.

Dog bite statistics?

As a new dog owner, I have had to consider many issues that are new to me. Dog bites is one of those issues. There has been a lot of news recently about so-called Pit Bulls. Some municipalities have banned ownership of the breed, and Toronto is apparently considering it. It's led me to research the subject a little bit.

There do not appear to be any reliable statistics regarding the frequency of dog bites by specific breeds.  In fact, there does not seem to be very much in the way of unbiased information to be found anywhere. Most articles I found were either by lawyers encouraging litigation, or by dog lovers, who would have us believe that dog bites are incredibly rare anomalies. People do seem to agree that the vast majority of dog bites are minor, and go unreported. The lawyers and insurers state that the breeds most likely to bite are pit bull terriers, rottweilers, german shepherds, huskies, alaskan malamutes, doberman pinschers, chows, great danes, st. bernards and akitas. What they are really saying is those are the most widely owned large, strong breeds. They are also breeds that are most commonly owned by people who bought them specifically for their reputations as fighting or guard dogs, and train them to be aggressive. So bite incidents that result in serious injury leading to litigation or insurance payouts most commonly involve those breeds.

Leaving breed out of it, the statistics seem to be thus:

The largest percentage of reported dog bite cases are of dogs biting their own owners. In most cases it is because the owners either engaged in rough play with the dogs, leading to aggression, or because they were cruel to the dogs.

The next largest group of reported bites are of friends or family of the dog owner, occurring on the owner's premises.

Following that, is bites to people unknown to the dog who were trespassing on the owner's premises, or who were leaning over a fence. Usually, they were taunting or tormenting the dog.

The fourth highest percentage of reported dog bites stems from dogs running free and unsupervised. Often these dogs will team up, and pack behaviour ensues.

The number of dog bites that occur when a dog is on a lead, off its own property, is so small as to be statistically insignificant.

What all this leads up to is the fact that dogs should not be licensed, but their owners should be. Dog ownership should be predicated upon a prospective owner taking a course, and passing a test. Owners that are found to be negligent in the care, training, and socialisation of their dog should lose the privilege of dog ownership.

Dogs kill or maim, just like cars do, only in the hands of the negligent, or criminal. Lets take them out of those hands.

Sunday, September 12, 2004

Weekend Assignment

Weekend Assignment #23: 100 years from now, your great-great-great-grandchild has been assigned to write a school report on your life and times. Help him or her by putting five things in a time capsule.

   Another toughie! John's really making me think here. Five things that would cast a light on me or the times I lived in...

1) My VHS copies of the original Star Wars trilogy. The pre-Special Edition ones, because by then George Lucas (who will still be alive) will have succeeded in totally eradicating all memory of his first release of those films. Oh, and a VCR. You know, so they can play them. Actually, the VCR might fall under the "what the heck is this" category. And if it doesn't, this might:

2) My curling broom, shoes, and sweater, and this picture of me, so my descendant can learn about one of my passions.

3) The box containing all of my old writing from high school and university, because it might be worth something by then. Or, the energy criris may be worse, so they might need combustible fuel.

4) The remote control from my TV, and the keyboard from my computer, so they can have a laugh over our quaint, yet clumsy system controllers.

5) And, last but not least, a copy of that famous Farrah Fawcett Majors poster from the seventies, because, I don't care how far into the future you go, it doesn't get any better than that.

Friday, September 10, 2004

End of summer garden wrap-up

   I haven't gotten around to thinking about Weekend Assignment #23 yet, but John's latest entry has prompted mine. Our garden was, with few exceptions, a disaster this year. Here in Southern Ontario we had an unseasonably cool, wet summer, and, in my specific neck of the woods, two severe hail storms. Most of our plants were completely devastated. Out of four different varieties of tomatos we planted, the only ones we've been able to harvest have been the cherrys. The Romas (sauce tomatos) were all diseased, and the other two never even made a single fruit. Our radishes never grew bulbs, they were all leaves. Our Zucchini plants rebounded somewhat after the hail, but never gave us as many as we are used to. (Actually, that turned out well. We had enough zucchini for our needs, but we didn't have to run around the block trying to foist off the extras on our neighbours.) The cucumbers turned out alright, but they came late, so we didn't get as many there as we were used to either. We will probably only get about a dozen hot peppers where we are used to getting about 50-60.

   As well, tomato sauce canning time is coming up, and all of the local farms selling plum or roma tomatos have nothing but the smallest, scrawniest, unjuiciest tomatos I've ever seen. We'll probably have to buy 40-50% more tomatos to fill the same number of jars as we did last year.

   Oh, well. There's always next year. Nature has a way of balancing out. Hopefully, we can look forward to a bumber crop twelve months from now.

Thursday, September 9, 2004

The Second American Civil War

The venerable Dr. Oxford, resident intelligentsia of the website Pointless Waste Of Time, has outdone himself this time. Jumping onto the political discussion bandwagon with both feet, he has elected (pardon the pun) not to take sides, but simply to illuminate. His latest scholarly article: The Second American Civil War, takes on us. Yes, us, the bloggers and journalers of the world. He writes:

Who is influencing the opinions of American youth today? It is a core of cyber peers, massively popular untrained and uneducated writers on the internet that, together, command an audience of tens of millions of future voters and leaders and fighters. They do not have editors or real publishing costs. They answer to no one. They relate to the web surfers as friends.

We are not alone in cringing from the scathing words of the good Doctor. So-called internet news sites also fall under his scrutiny. Regarding a recent movie review on
Ain't It Cool News, he writes:

Harry turned his review of a... movie starring CGI robots... into a treatise on the evils of the Bush administration. And he did it for a horde of readers who do not watch Meet the Press. For hundreds of thousands of them, that review was the only reading they did about politics that day.

He goes on to warn us of our rapidly polarizing population, and where he thinks it will lead. Many of his points echo thoughts of my own. Just several weeks ago, I expressed to accquintances on an internet message board the concern that the dramatic swing away from the center currrently going on in American politics was disturbing. When we stop seeing the shades of grey, we can be fooled into thinking that we have to choose between black and white, and that such absolutes actually exist.

If you are going to visit
Pointless Waste Of Time to read the article, and perhaps comment in the forums there, please take heed of these two cautions:

1) You will encounter language that some deem offensive. I do not believe it is used frivolously.

2) All may not be entirely as it seems on the surface. Read carefully. Take advantage of the
two-for-one offer wisdom. Think about what you have read before commenting. Have a thick skin.

Monday, September 6, 2004

Thoughts of the future

It's funny how little things lead to big things.

A post on a message board I frequent led me to look for the meaning of an archaic word. My clumsy internet searches turned up The Rosetta Project, which is an attempt to document and preserve as many human languages as possible, in order to "help in the recovery or revitalization of lost languages in unknown futures."

Unknown futures.

The Rosetta Project is an offshoot of the Long Now Foundation, who's mandate is to "creatively foster responsibility in the framework of the next 10,000 years."

10,000 years.

Most of us have trouble thinking about next year, much less what might happen in 10 or 20 years. Exceedingly few of us spare any thought for what might transpire after we leave this earth. And why should we? I mean, we'll be gone, right? So who cares what happens then? Why should we worry about what the world of our children's children will be like?  This is the ultimate lack of responsibility. We have become a disposable society. Zooming along the freeway of life, we toss our garbage out of the car window, unconcerned with what becomes of it. Hey, we're not coming by this way again, right?

Recently, my wife and I had a discussion about water. Neither of us like drinking the water that comes out of the tap. For me, there's just too much chlorine in it. If we process it through one of those Brita water filters, and let it sit in the fridge for a while, I find it quite acceptable, but my wife still objects. There's something about the taste that turns her off. For a while we were buying cases of bottled water for her to drink, but one monday evening, as I carried our blue box to the corner for pick up the next morning, I was struck by the fact that it was full to overflowing with plastic water bottles. That would be fine if I was confident it was all being recycled. Unfortunately, current statistics tell us that more than 50% of the things we put into our blue boxes still find their way into landfill sites. Hence our discussion. I feel a responsibility to do my best to preserve this world for posterity. Not only for my child, but for my grandchildren, and their grandchildren. If we don't start taking some pretty drastic steps now, our descendants will live in a barren, unhospitable wasteland. We eat up arable land thousands of acres at a time for new development. Along the way, we are cutting down the forests that are our atmosphere factories, and filling in the marshes and wetlands that are our natural water treatment facilities. Here in the Greater Toronto Area, we generate so much solid waste we can't even deal with it ourselves. We have to ship most of it to Michigan. What they're doing with it is anybody's guess.

Years ago, my wife and I made a commitment to be more ecologically responsible. We recycle everything we can. We need two blue boxes to hold all of the paper, glass, and plastic that we don't put into the trash can. As well, all of our biological kitchen waste (with the exception of meat products) goes into a backyard composter, and turns into rich soil which gets mixed into our gardens twice a year. We are proud to put a single, only partially full garbage can at the curb every tuesday morning. Complacency, however, is the enemy. After my epiphany with the plastic water bottles, my wife and I agreed that we would no longer buy those large cases of bottled water. She committed to getting used to the taste of our tap water, and bought a refillable sport bottle to use at the gym, and around the house. I applaud her sensitivity to the issue, and continue to look for other ways to reduce, reuse, and recycle.

10,000 years of forethought may be somewhat beyond my ability to grasp, but the little things do help extend my influence on the future to some extent. You wouldn't believe me if I told you I was Conservative, would you?

Thursday, September 2, 2004

Weekend assignment (cont.)

Here are a few more pictures I took a long long time ago:

Also hand printed by me. You can see that it's yellowed a bit with age.

Took this one downtown. I thought it was an intersting scene.

This is my wife. She wasn't my wife at the time. She is now.

Stephen Wright. Picture taken at the Ontario Place Forum. It's not there anymore.

Weekend assignment

John Scalzi is kinda like AOL journals' ambassador to the blogging/journaling community. Every Thursday, he posts a weekend assignment, and bunches of people, sheeplike, dance to his tune.


This week's assignment is: "Got a photo you really love? Show it and tell us why." That made me dig out some really old pictures I've had lying around and never done anything with.

This is one of the earliest photos I took that I was somewhat proud of. I took it with my Dad's old Kodak Signet 40 rangefinder. It's a view from the cottage of a friend of mine in Parry Sound.

This is one of the few pictures of myself that I don't totally hate. It was taken in a little cafe in old Quebec City by a friend of mine about 15 years ago.

This one was taken just a couple of weeks ago with my Sony digital camera. It's my son Matthew. For a better look at him, scroll down to the entry titled puppy dog tales. I have a few others, which I may add a little later this weekend.

If you're here from the link in the comments section on John's journal, Hey!

Critical thinking, or lack thereof

Sometimes people believe strange things. Some people believe the alignment of the stars at the time of their birth can influence their lives. Some think that their future can be found in a deck of cards. Or that they can receive messages from long dead loved ones. Some people believe that Sylvester Stallone's mother can tell their fortune by looking at a photograph of their naked posterior. You laugh. I understand she's making a good living at it.

Recently, something led me to the website of The James Randi Educational Foundation.

James Randi, formerly known as The Amazing Randi, was at one time a working illusionist and escape artist. He first came to the public attention in his new role as a debunker of paranormal frauds and proponent of critical thinking in the early 1970s when he assisted The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson in ensuring Israeli mentalist Uri Geller could not employ common magicians' tricks during his guest appearance. Uri had little success demonstrating his "psycho-kinetic" powers that night. In the 80s, Randi exposed televangelist Peter Popoff as little more than a carnival fraudster, using a concealed earphone to receive information about audience members from assistants offstage. In 1996 he formalized his long time challenge to psychics with the creation of the JREF and the establishment of the $1,000,000 prize, available to anyone who can demonstrate, "under proper observing conditions, evidence of any paranormal, supernatural, or occult power or event." More recently, well known "psychic" Sylvia Browne agreed to take the JREF challenge. That was almost four years ago. Since then, she has accused Randi of dealing in bad faith, and not actually having $1,000,000 available to pay out. Randi claims she is just dragging her feet because she objects to the scientific controls he insists on placing on any experiment or demonstration. To this day, she has yet to complete the challenge. Nor, for that matter, has anyone else.

I give you this short biography of James Randi in preamble to my experience at his site. Mr. Randi writes a weekly commentary in which he discusses critical thinking, and talks about current events that get his hackles up. He also hosts a forum where people are invited to discuss matters pertaining to the $1,000,000 challenge, paranormal investigation, and critical thinking in general. At first, I visited almost daily, riffing through the forums, itching for the next commentary article to be published, and reading through much of the information to be found. As time went on, I found myself dropping in there less and less frequently. Now, I pop in once a month or so to see if anything interesting was mentioned in a commentary, and I almost never visit the forums any more. Why? Because nothing new ever happens. The forums, like many throughout the internet, are jammed with regulars just waiting to tee off on unsuspecting newbs. If there aren't any of those to be had, they turn on each other, criticizing each others' beliefs for no reason other than the fact they hold them. Randi's commentaries, while sometimes interesting, increasingly sound like a melon being thrown against a wall. I guess the most illuminating piece of information is the fact that Uri Geller, Peter Popoff, and Sylvia Browne, all of whom were embarrassed on national TV by James Randi, continue to take money from unsuspecting and emotionally needy people to this day. In the end, people will believe what they want to believe, in many cases flat out ignoring known facts in order to do so.

If anyone reading this has demonstrable psychic, or paranormal abilities, the JREF $1,000,000 prize is still up for grabs. Let me know if you apply. Oh, and if you're hard up for a little tittilation, Jackie Stallone's site has examples of the types of pictures she wants you to send her.