"Hence I am cautiously optimistic."

Interesting stuff found via Brijit, both of which relate to the book I’m reading right now: The Shock Doctrine by Naomi Klein.

From The Washington Post: A Chance to Defend Themselves (Thomas B. Wilner)

More than 300 prisoners remain at Guantanamo. Most have been there almost six years. We now know that the great majority were not captured on any battlefield. They were not even captured by U.S. forces. Rather, as the National Journal reported last year after an exhaustive study into government records, many were simply “innocent, wrongly seized noncombatants” who were “handed over by reward-seeking Pakistanis and Afghan warlords” in exchange for bounties.

From the New York Times: What’s Your Consumption Factor? (Jared Diamond)

The population especially of the developing world is growing, and some people remain fixated on this. They note that populations of countries like Kenya are growing rapidly, and they say that’s a big problem. Yes, it is a problem for Kenya’s more than 30 million people, but it’s not a burden on the whole world, because Kenyans consume so little. (Their relative per capita rate is 1.) A real problem for the world is that each of us 300 million Americans consumes as much as 32 Kenyans. With 10 times the population, the United States consumes 320 times more resources than Kenya does.

The outlook of the second article is more encouraging than the first, which at least ends with cautious optimism from the author, but its central issue is no less troubling.

[tags]brijit, naomi klein, guantanamo, jared diamond, consumption[/tags]

"[B]ottled water is not a sin, but it sure is a choice"

Bottled water has always been wasteful and indulgent, but now it’s just getting ridiculous. Via Newsweek:

Holy Drinking Water, produced by a California-based company called Wayne Enterprises, is blessed in the warehouse by an Anglican or Roman Catholic priest (after a thorough background check). Like a crucifix or a rosary, a bottle of Holy Drinking Water is a daily reminder to be kind to others, says Brian Germann, Wayne’s CEO. Another company makes Liquid OM, superpurified bottled water containing vibrations that promote a positive outlook. Invented by Kenny Mazursky, a sound therapist in Chicago, the water purportedly possesses an energy field that Mazursky makes by striking a giant gong and Tibetan bowls in its vicinity. He says the good energy can be felt not just after you drink the water but before, when you’re holding the bottle.

I’d call that truly insidious marketing, but I suppose that’s redundant. At least the nuns have their heads screwed on straight:

The Franciscan Sisters, together with a community of Benedictine nuns nearby, have launched a letter-writing campaign against the largest producers of bottled water and they’ve designed coasters to encourage people to drink glasses, not bottles, of water from the tap.

Via Brijit.com, once again.

[tags]bottled water, holy drinking water, liquid om, franciscan sisters[/tags]

What say, fuzzy britches?

From CityTV:

Drive-thrus have become a way of life in car conscious Toronto, as busy GTA residents find they don’t have the time to even get out of their vehicles for a coffee or a hamburger. But what are they doing to the environment and how would you feel if local politicians made a move to either curb them or eliminate them altogether?

I’d question the environmental impact of eliminating the drive-thru. It seems to me it wouldn’t reduce the demand for coffee (could also be hamburgers, etc., but I’ll use coffee as my example here), so you’d have three net effects:

  1. People parking their car at the curb and idling while they run in for coffee. If it’s true that drive-thru wait times are less than counter wait times (and I assume it is) then the result is more pollution.
  2. People circling the block to find parking before running in; this circling means needless driving time, resulting in more pollution.
  3. The above two effects causing more traffic congestion in the vicinity of coffee shops, again resulting in more pollution.

If you believe that removing a drive-thru will reduce the overall demand for coffee, then maybe this model works (for the environment, but certainly not for the business). If you think demand would stay the same, then the model only works if you believe customers will stop driving to Tim Horton’s and will walk there instead, and I’d bet pretty hard against that.

Anyone disagree? Are my assumptions off?

And just out of curiosity, what marketing jackass invented the word thru?

.:.

From CNN:

Two inmates escaped from a county jail, hiding the holes they made in the walls by putting up photos of bikini-clad women, officials said.

Attention, all jail wardens: you might want to WATCH THE SHAWSHANK REDEMPTION!!

[tags]toronto drive-thrus, jailbreak, bikini posters, shawshank redemption[/tags]

Seven lean years…

Thanks, Stephen Harper. Way to improve our image on the national stage.

MUNYONYO, Uganda – Canada appears to have got its way at Commonwealth talks on climate change.

The 53-member organization has produced an agreement stripped of any reference to binding targets for greenhouse gas emissions.

Canada and Australia had been the lone holdouts against an earlier resolution that would have included such targets – and the Australian government has just been defeated in an election.

.:.

The home improvement continues. Last night we picked up the framed poster that we bought in Paris (well…saw at a restaurant in paris, ordered here at home and had framed down the street) and hung it on the wall. The drill we bought finally came in handy; this sucker’s about 36″x48″ so we needed to sink some screws into the studs. We moved around some other picture, put up some shelves, through out some old pictures…it’s like we’re moving again.

Today we dropped a bunch of stuff at Goodwill, then picked up a counter-height dining table (which Nellie’s being eying for about a year) and a Herman Miller Aeron chair (which I’ve wanted since about 1999). My ass is firmly planted in it as I type this and I think it might just be the best thing I’ve ever bought.

Next up were some new chairs; a place just down the street had some that we liked so we ordered them in for next week. Time to get rid of that old cushy beige one and get some grown-up chairs. We bought some frames for our  diplomas too; after nine years I guess Nellie figures it’s time to hang hers up.

Now Nellie’s off shopping for a dress for my company’s xmas party next weekend, while I unpack the new stuff and wait for the cleaning service to finish up. It’s been a busy 20 hours!

I think we’re going through this mad decoration phase for two reasons: first, we’re entertaining tonight and next Saturday, which gives us some incentive to finally do something; we’d been too busy and complacent after moving in to finish everything off. Second, we went years without buying any new furniture, or painting, or hanging new art, because we were waiting for the condo to be built. I’ve been sitting on the same $40 office chair since my fourth year of university, so I don’t mind dropping the dough for an Aeron to make up for the 11 years of sore-ass.

[tags]canada, commonwealth talks, climate change, stephen harper, condo decorating, herman miller, aeron[/tags]

I had no idea "religiosity" was even a word

Richard Florida, author of Rise of the Creative Class, professor and all-around smart guy, is living in Toronto now. His blog is mirrored on the Globe and Mail’s website, and given his local focus I’ve subscribed to the feed. I find most of what he posts about very interesting; he describes his specialty areas as “economic competitiveness, demographic trends, and cultural and technological innovation” so I guess I shouldn’t be surprised.

Over the weekend he posted a graph that he’d found on Andrew Sullivan’s site, who found it in a Pew Research paper. I’ve posted it here:

Wealth and religion

While it doesn’t surprise me, it does illustrate the data nicely. Put simply, it indicates that the more religious a country, the less wealthy it tends to be. You could argue about which is the chicken and which is the egg in that correlation, but the trend is there. Canada’s easy to spot; the two North American countries are represented in navy blue and the US is labeled. Canada’s practically on top of the trend line.

Actually, the US is one of the two very interesting outliers: it’s the most wealthy nation, but is way off the trend line. Kuwait is the other: more wealthy than most of its middle eastern neighbours, but near the very top of the religion axis. Of course, that aberration can be explained by the fluke presence of oil; the US is a more complicated riddle.

Lots of other fascinating data in that report; give it a read if you have a chance.

.:.

More interesting articles that showed up in my feeds today:

[tags]richard florida, pew research, toronto pollution, wes anderson, malcolm gladwell[/tags]

87.717%

Awwwwwwwwwwww!!!!!!

Joe posts songs of little girls singing cute songs…I post ICHC pictures.

.:.

Maybe a commodity isn’t really a commodity anymore:

“Thirty years ago, bottled water barely existed as a business in the United States. Last year, we spent more on Poland Spring, Fiji Water, Evian, Aquafina, and Dasani than we spent on iPods or movie tickets–$15 billion. It will be $16 billion this year.”

[from Fast Company]

.:.

The pizza earlier was goooood. I’ve packed some of my stuff, I’ve reviewed a tiny bit and I’ve watched most of the draft. Oden-Durant 1-2, who’d have guessed it? Anyway, I’m gonna head over for a drink soon and then chill…maybe watch Studio 60 too.

[tags]cheezburger, bottled water, fast company, nba draft, greg oden, kevin durant[/tags]

Scott Adams for President (so long as he keeps drawing Dilbert)

A couple of weeks ago Scott Adams (the writer of Dilbert) wrote something I wish I’d written myself: a very logical and sensible summary of the global warming debate. Clearly I think we have to make thoughtful choices about the impact we have on the environment; that said, I don’t believe the most extreme doomsday scenarios which all the true believers are supposed to support. Here’s how Adams puts it:

“The people predicting likely doom because of global warming have not made their case. Humans are incredibly adaptive. And technological breakthroughs happen in steps, not predictable straight lines. Every other predicted type of global doom hasn’t happened because of human resourcefulness. No climate model can predict human resourcefulness.”

Ultimately he falls out in pretty much the same place as me: it’s a problem, and something has to be done, but nothing substantial will be done until there’s:

  1. obvious & undeniable evidence of global warming that even a low-grade moron can’t ignore, or;
  2. an economic way of solving global warming.

Failing that, it’ll stay a debate.

[tags]scott adams, dilbert, global warming[/tags]

Water, water everywhere, but trust me, you do not want to drink it

On sunny & windy days, this is a pretty typical view: beaucoup de sailboats. More pics over at flickr.

.:.

Enough already with the whining about gas prices. Seriously. It’s cheaper than milk. It’s cheaper than orange juice, Coke or cough syrup. It’s cheaper than bottled water. And yet, there are people like this:

“It’s always like this,” Harris said as she filled her SUV at the Esso station at Lake Shore Blvd. E. and Leslie St. “They spike it up on weekends. They spike it up on the long weekend. They always have an excuse. It’s refinery problems, or it’s terrorism in the Middle East, or hurricanes. Oil is down, so there’s no reason for high prices.”

First of all, you drive an SUV, there’s no reason for you to complain about high gas prices either. If you can afford a gas guzzler, you can’t be strapped for cash.

Second…the same free market economy that made you wealthy enough to buy an SUV is what makes gas prices go up and down according to demand. Of course they’re out to charge you as much as they can; why wouldn’t they? YOU KEEP PAYING IT!!

And please, no excuses about “I need my car to get to work.” Buy a smaller car. Take public transit. Bike. Walk. Car pool. Choose to live closer to work in the first place. If you can’t (or won’t) do any of those things, then by all means, produce the contract you signed when you bought your car stating that gas prices would never, ever go up. Don’t have one? Then buy some oil company stock to offset the losses that you’ve chosen to inflict on yourself.

Side note: it’s interesting to watch the Toronto Star cover stories like this. On one hand, the Star wants to stick to big business and take the side of the poor consumer, but on the other hand they want to be the environmental advocate (ironic, considering they’re a newspaper) so they come across as conflicted in these cases.

.:.

As much as I despised Jerry Falwell, and as cold an emotionless as I can be sometimes, and as much as I think it’s hilarious, I simply cannot bring myself to buy this shirt.

[note: if you don’t get the punchline, read this.]

.:.

A week-old post on Torontoist that I didn’t look at until just now has some great concert footage of the Arcade Fire. The scene in the middle of the clip is the best one; my favourite part is how Richard Reed Parry replicates a snare drum sound.

[tags]toronto, lake ontario, sailboats, spire condominium, gas prices, toronto star, jerry falwell, torontoist, arcade fire[/tags]

"Men never do evil so completely and cheerfully as when they do it from religious conviction."

Proof of evolution: just five years ago Stephen Harper called the Kyoto Accord a money-sucking “socialist scheme”, but today he’s a good steward of the environment. Welcome to the party, Steve.

.:.

There was an interesting article in the October issue of The Atlantic called “Prophetic Justice” about the grounds on which terrorism suspects are being tried, the ignorance and fear that allows the situation, and the political climate that fosters it.

That inculcation has ample source material, Haykel said, because many hadith and Koranic verses seem to advocate violence; most Muslims just know not to take them literally. Is it possible, he was asked during cross-examination, that someone radically inclined might take al-Kousi’s words as a call to action? “Well, the Koran can be taken as a call to action,” Haykel answered. “You don’t need to listen to al-Kousi.”

Religious speech is extreme, emotional, and motivational. It is anti-literal, relying on metaphor, allusion, and other rhetorical devices, and it assumes knowledge within a community of believers. Its potency is deliberate: faith is about calling on a higher power, one stronger than ourselves, and the very language we use helps inflate that strength. We arm ourselves (itself a violent metaphor) with prayer.

This is hardly unique to Islam. The question of how to interpret a text may be as old as writing, and it applies equally to determining where the power of religious speech inheres. In authorial intent? A reader’s interpretation? Historical or modern context? Over the centuries, and even today, the Bible and Christian theology have helped justify the Crusades, slavery, violence against gays, and the murder of doctors who perform abortions. The words themselves are latent, inert, harmless—until they aren’t.

It’s long, but worth the read.

.:.

My favourite new source of excellent music: the KEXP “song of the day” podcast. It’s usually something I haven’t heard, and is almost always very good.
[tags]stephen harper, kyoto accord, prophetic justice, terrorism, kexp[/tags]

A gurgling stomach is "one of the signs" of My Lunch's imminent return

First of all, some big news: my oldest brother is now engaged!!! Everybody pop over to his blog and say congratulations to TimmyD and She Who Must Not Be Named.

Needless to say we’re extremely happy for both of them. We adore SWMNBN, and love how happy she makes my big brother, so we couldn’t be more pleased. Huzzah!

.:.

We tried a new place for Winterlicious last night: The Savoy. T-Bone joined us once again, along with her friend AS. We had a MUCH better experience this time than we had at 1055. My wine (can’t remember what it was…something Tuscan) was really good, my starter salad was excellent, my mushroom risotto wasn’t bad (I don’t like mushrooms, but even then…pretty decent) and my creme brulee was just right. The service was also very good, and best of all our table was in an enclosed booth, so the four of us felt very private and cozy during our meal. To top it off, it was actually cheaper than the typical ‘licious meal — $25 instead of $35 — so we definitely felt like we got our money’s worth.

The Savoy could very well become a neighbourhood joint once we move into our new place.

.:.

I seem to have buggered up my knee somehow. Tried to run on it Sunday afternoon and had to hobble to a stop after 45 seconds. This happens occasionally; hopefully a day with the knee brace should fix it up. But of all the weeks not to be able to exercise: Winterlicious week. Deadly.

.:.

This post on the Showcase Sideshow blog makes an interesting observation: the quality of Mexican directors right now is pretty impressive. It’d be pretty tough to find a better trio of films than Pan’s Labyrinth (Guillermo Del Toro), Children Of Men (Alfonso Cuaron) and Babel (Alejandro Gonzalez Iñárritu) in theatres right now.

.:.

Holy blessed mother of hotpants, this Washington Post story takes climate change denial to a whole new level of silliness:

Hardison, a parent of seven here in the southern suburbs of Seattle, has himself roiled the global-warming waters. It happened early this month when he learned that one of his daughters would be watching “An Inconvenient Truth” in her seventh-grade science class.

“No you will not teach or show that propagandist Al Gore video to my child, blaming our nation — the greatest nation ever to exist on this planet — for global warming,” Hardison wrote in an e-mail to the Federal Way School Board. The 43-year-old computer consultant is an evangelical Christian who says he believes that a warming planet is “one of the signs” of Jesus Christ’s imminent return for Judgment Day.

His angry e-mail (along with complaints from a few other parents) stopped the film from being shown to Hardison’s daughter.

The teacher in that science class, Kay Walls, says that after Hardison’s e-mail she was told by her principal that she would receive a disciplinary letter for not following school board rules that require her to seek written permission to present “controversial” materials in class.

Seriously…if you’re the school how can you discipline a teacher for that? You’ve opened the door for teachers to be disciplined for discussing anything, since there’s always some nutbag parent who’ll get their knickers in a twist. Teaching evolution? Sex ed? Geology? Astronomy? Prepare to be disciplined. Hell, if a kid’s parent works for Verizon they’re even likely to complain about the math.

[via Cinematical]

[tags]engagement, savoy restaurant, winterlicious, climate change, inconvenient truth, frosty hardison[/tags]