Monday, April 28, 2008

An Arctic Fail

Barry Zellen has written an op-ed for the online edition of the Globe and Mail in which he decides that this whole global warming thing is a good idea. After all, if it opens up the Northwest Passage (and more), why, then, a few dead polar bears are just fine, to say nothing of entire regions of the Earth that would undergo greater desertification and enormous populations that would suffer and even die due to loss of arable land and extreme weather changes.

Probably his happiest moment is when he says this:

Climate-change pessimists worry about increased resource competition, coastal flooding, infrastructure damage from melting permafrost, changes in wildlife migration patterns, and stresses on some species –especially polar bears – as well as on the indigenous cultures of the region.

But climate-change optimists imagine a world where international shipping can take a direct northern route, linking Asian, North American and European markets, cutting the consumption of fuel and reducing carbon emissions by using substantially shorter shipping routes; they foresee tremendous potential for maritime commerce to stimulate the economic development of Arctic ports, from the Port of Churchill on Hudson Bay to the depressed coastal communities of the High Arctic.

Did you catch that in the second paragraph? Good news indeed! Once all of the sea ice permanently melts, then we can transport goods between the continents and save on fuel and cut down carbon emissions.

The argument here is mind-bogglingly insane. Instead of parroting all the latest nonsense about global warming being false, we're now seeing nut bars like Zellen stooping to telling us that we can offset the damage by first causing the damage so that we reduce our emissions. Splendid idea, that.

Here's an idea to go along with that one, and it fits well, since it keeps the Arctic theme rolling: I suggest that we kill almost all of the polar bears, even ahead of the melting ice helping that along. Then, with so few predators in the way, their prey will rebound to astounding numbers. And then the polar bears that are left alive will have so much to eat their numbers will bloat before you know it. Hell, maybe the new ones will somehow be able to figure out how to get by in this brave new world. Provided that when they're swimming for days on end they can avoid all the giant, greenhouse-friendly freighters plying these exciting new waters.

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Thursday, April 24, 2008

Copyright Idiocy

Aidan had his first performance at the local Speech Arts festival today, a group thing with the rest of his class. They did well, I think.

I had my camera there, hoping to take pictures for his grandparents. But lo, before things started, someone came out to announce that pictures and video are disallowed due to copyright considerations.

I almost jumped out of my chair. Of all the bloody ridiculous idiotic ways to shut parents and other family out of enjoying the process. Even worse, most performances I saw today were small portions of bigger works. This, it seems to me, falls under fair dealing, and I don't see how restricting the further enjoyment of this event by family and by the performers can do anything to aid copyright and make the creators somehow richer.

Interestingly, this diatribe may not apply to Aidan's group, since they possibly performed the whole thing, and I have no idea whether or not the author is alive or has been dead for decades. But I do know that the two groups who performed selections from Anne of Green Gables and the pair who performed a selection from Pride and Prejudice chose works that were well into the public domain.

Maybe, I wonder, the concern over copyright is over the presentations themselves. I don't know. But my question then is, Does someone somehow expect these performers to make money from these performances? Or is the judging what's copyrighted? Honestly, I can't think of any reasonable situation that would allow for such a ludicrous stance.

No luck visiting the web site for the festival, by the way. The best I can find in the FAQs is a list of copyright violations regarding photocopying. I'd be overshooting myself to say I have the expertise to handle these ones; perhaps I can persuade Cory to take a shot at them.

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The Book Looks Good

As I've noted in these parts, my story "Ancients of the Earth" will be in Tesseracts 12 this autumn. Happily, Edge has posted a PDF of the cover and excerpts from the book that you can have a gander at right here.

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Monday, April 21, 2008

Don't Let the Door Hit Your Ass on the Way Out

Not to anybody here, of course.

When we moved into our house, there was much about it and the neighbourhood that we deemed perfect. It's a quiet little cul de sac, with the requisite dearth of traffic. There are bazillions of kids, most of them boys, which means Aidan and Brennan are outside and being active a whole lot. We like it.

A day or two after we moved in our neighbours to the right pulled up in their driveway and Smokey and I walked over to say hello. The man got out and did shake my hand (I can't remember his name right now), but his wife did not get out of the vehicle until I left. After brief introductions, the told me that he would appreciate it if I kept my dog on a leash.

All right. Duly noted. Although if I'm in my front yard, and I can keep my dog under control, I don't need to put her on a leash.

Anyhow. For months that was the only interaction I had with them. If we were out at the same time (rare), they wouldn't acknowledge me. But what they would acknowledge was the kids. If a ball landed on their lawn, the woman would come out and yell at them (any kids, not just ours) and sometimes would take the ball into her house, which required parental intervention. It got so bad that the boys were scared to play street hockey or basketball, even in their own driveway.

Things came to a head one day when a boy who was not from the street rode his bike up onto their driveway and back off immediately. When I cam outside moments later, ready to head out on an errand, she was out on her drive yelling at the kids, including my own.

I put down my bag and suggested that if there was a problem, perhaps she should consider dealing with an adult instead of threatening and harassing kids who, quite frankly, were only behaving like kids. Well, this resulted in a lengthy diatribe that touched on why couldn't the kids play in their own back yards, or perhaps at the area park, the extreme affront she took at them playing golf and baseball on the street (neither with a hard ball) and making so much noise, the sprinkler head they broke when retrieving a ball (thanks for the news - no one knew about hidden sprinklers until that very moment), and how the block was so much better when there had been no children. I have to say, I surprised myself with how patient I was with the woman, who by this time it was apparent was not a parent.

I pause now for a quick sketch of the block. At the far corner on our side lives a widow. Next house there's a young teenage girl and a boy about Aidan's age. Next is the scary couple, then us. Next is a couple, his daughter (also Aidan's age) living there part time. Then a house with two boys, one 13 and one 10. Then a retired couple, then another young teenage girl and a boy about Aidan's age. Then a boy a year older than Aidan, a girl a couple years younger than Brennan, and a pre-school boy. Then a pre-school boy, but also three other boys who live with their father there half time (but also they only live a couple of blocks away with their mom, so they're by all the time), then an older teenage boy, then two young girls (that house is for sale), then a boy Aidan's age, and he has two older siblings.

Plus all the kids who come from everywhere else, because it's such a cool block and so easy to play on the street and stay safe.

Well, it drove the neighbours nuts, enough so that they sold and are moving out today. But the funny thing about it is they didn't want us to know, or else (and this is Jo's suspicion, and probably a safe bet) the woman has some severe phobias. No sign went up, no ad was placed, but we did see a realtor's vehicle there and later a home inspection vehicle. But it was all hush-hush. They wanted no gawkers, did not want to give up an ounce of control by allowing strangers to come see their house all willy nilly.

And so, today the neighbourhood is celebrating. We hope it's a good and fun family moving in.

Surprising Update: Turns out they didn't sell the house. They have indeed moved, but there's a sign up on the lawn today. Which is interesting. I hope for their sakes they have no mortgage, since even these folks elicit my sympathy (combined with awe over such stupidity) if they have to cover two mortgages now.

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Monday, April 14, 2008

There Aren't Many Who CanTurn a Phrase...

... like James Wolcott can. In a piece about the ridiculous David Brooks, Wolcott writes: "Mistakes keep sticking like peanut butter to the roof of his brain."

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Wednesday, April 09, 2008

A Record of Our Time On the Moon

The Apollo Lunar Surface Journal is just what it says it is: pictures, video, audio, scans of documents. It's a treasure trove that I'll be spending hours perusing.

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But More Often, People Don't Surprise Me

And in this case, I mean in a rather disappointing way. In the off chance I go to Finland and meet this guy in a pub, I intend to kneecap him.

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Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Sometimes People Can Surprise Me

When the Royal Ontario Museum (ROM) announced that they were bringing the Darwin exhibit to Toronto, I remember being hopeful that its presence would show Canada to be a tad more forward about behaviour towards evolution than, say, our southern neighbour (for regular examples, see Pharyngula. Just about any day, sadly). But that wasn't looking all that likely at first, as I recall reading a review of the show in the Globe & Mail that stated that the ROM was having trouble finding corporate sponsors to help underwrite the cost of the show.

It's disappointing that no major corporations were willing to come through: no Rogers, Bell, RIM, Canwest Global, or anything else. All a bunch of chickenshits, apparently, unprepared to deal with hard line Christians who insist that if you're going to support that godless Darwinism you're going to pay for it.

I see that some sponsors have stepped up to the plate, though, and I'm quite surprised and even pleased to see what they are. No shock, I suppose, to see that the Humanist Association of Canada is tops on the list, although while this show might be in their purview, the fact that they are not actually a corporate citizen (as much as such an entity is possible). Good for them, though. The big news, at least to me, is that the two "Exhibit Patrons" are a school and a church publication.

Although I now live my life quite happily as an atheist, I did grow up in the United Church of Canada, and my parents are still involved with it. If any Christian group would be able to justify complete support for the teaching of evolution, the United Church would be it. It's liberal enough that many fundagelicals believe its adherents to be, at best, severely misguided, and at worst on their way to hell. And to see a school in there, even an apparently elite private academy, is a pleasant surprise, with all the news these days of schools either teaching mis-named versions of creationism or else people working hard to force schools to teach it and to try to show that evolution is a false doctrine.

As I write this I find an article from late last month about this very thing, here in the National Post, and another in the Star. I don't know if the theme of sponsorship saving the show is overstating the case, especially since it made its way in the US without any sponsors. But these shows are expensive to run, and so it's good to know that strange bedfellows can come forward to help make these things, if not possible, at least easier.

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