Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Required Listening

Last week was the 35th Anniversary of Quirks and Quarks, Canada's national science radio program. While I would recommend you listen to it every week, I am going to specifically charge you with listening to a clip from the 35th anniversary special. If you are not feeling inclined to listen to the whole thing (which I strongly recommend), you can download part 2 and skip to the interview with Dr Mark Federman which begins at 20:12. Dr. Federman does a remarkable job of framing the challenges facing our species today in a way which is accessible to anyone living in the developed world but doesn't lose any of its urgency. He manages to sound concerned without sounding alarmist. This interview is an excellent example of how Quirks and Quarks is able to frame important questions about scientific subject matter in a way that all Canadians can understand. Bob McDonald, the host, is a national treasure. Also, I want his job.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Things That Make Me Smile

Classical music played on non-traditional instruments. In this case, guitar. Enjoy!

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Lies, Damned Lies and Opinion Polls

The Toronto Star is trying a new tactic in its war on informed democracy today.

Up until now, opinion polling numbers have been reported as fraction of decided voters. So, for example, when they said that Ford had 39% of voter support, what they meant is that 39% of the 64% of the people polled said they would vote for Ford. Which actually means that 24% of the people polled said they would vote for Ford. This tactic was useful in scaring people into thinking they need to vote strategically – I would be willing to bet that almost none of the undecideds were undecided about whether they were going to vote for Ford.

But this morning, they have cleverly switched to simply reporting that second number. Before, if you added up the percentages for each candidate, you'd arrive at 100% and the undecideds would be extra. But today, if you add up the numbers for Ford, Smitherman, Pantalone and Rossi, you get 76% which is conspicuously close to the number claimed in the article as decided voters.

The Star is using this to show the runaway-freight-train-like momentum of Smitherman's campaign. Of course, if you look at the real numbers, Smitherman's current rating looks a lot like his old rating plus Sarah Thompson's rating. So basically, at this point, all the candidates are within the margin of error of their previous values. In fact, if you look back on the opinion polls, there has been basically no change since July, with the exception of Thompson's dropping out.

So again, if you want to feel all clever because your strategic vote kept the Stupidest Man Who Ever Ran For Mayor* out of office, go ahead. We all know how that ends.

Or, you can do your research, learn about the candidates plans for transit and if you still want to vote for Smitherman, we'll argue some more.

* I realize that there have probably been stupider candidates. It's even possible one of them won.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

I Can Clearly Not Choose The Candidate In Front Of You!

Yesterday a long-time supporter of Joe Pantalone flopped and is now officially endorsing Smitherman for mayor. Let's forget, for a moment, that the opinion polling numbers are biased, meaningless and poorly reported and just remember that voting "strategically" is a good way to get a bad mayor while feeling really clever and self-satisfied. I think that saying "I think Joe Pantalone would be the best mayor but I'm going to vote for Smitherman" puts in you a similar position to the Sicilian from the Princess Bride. And we all know how that ends:

In any case, I'm with Janet Davis who said “I am strategically voting. I’m strategically voting by endorsing Joe Pantalone, the best candidate for mayor and for the future of our city.”

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Penny-Wise, Pound-Foolish

I would like to rewrite the old adage, "if you look after the pennies, the dollars will look after themselves."

How about something like:
"If you spend enough time bitching about a $4 million gun registry, everyone will forget the $1,000 million 2-day summit , the $10,000 million in unneeded prisons and the $16,000 million on fighter jets you just spent."

The people of Toronto seem to have this disease even worse. The Toronto Star has decided that Ford's budget claims pass the smell-test. I think there is an important implication when using the word "budget" when discussing a mayoral candidate. Because while Ford's claims to have saved the city $1.5 million in his 10 years in office may stand up to scrutiny (insofar as he spent about $1.3 million less than he was allowed to), it would take cutting the staff budgets and expense accounts of all 1,300 councilors to make up the $2,000 million in taxes he wants to cut right away. What? We don't have 1,300 councilors to cut? Well, I'm sure a man smart enough to eliminate Toronto's bedbug problem will come up with something.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

The WTF Economy

This article about companies that are thriving despite a bad economy is not improving my outlook on humanity. Company number 4 is Snuggie.

I think we have a smoking gun here: the economy collapsed because the education system in the US is so bad that people no longer know how to use a blanket by the time they reach adulthood.

Friday, August 13, 2010


Good news, everybody! You can now pay me for my ramblings! Flattr, who provides that little button next to all my post titles, is now open to everyone. It's pretty easy if you have a paypal account. So go and register and start Flatrring!

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Not Bloody Likely

I frequently pay in cash. I closed my curtains on the way out of the house this morning*. Turns out I must be a terrorist.

Terrorism is a problem. But the solution to that is not racial intolerance and kangaroo courts for teenaged soldiers recruited by extremists. I mean, if someone is willing to kill themselves in order to do something, how much of a deterrent will any sort of punishment be?

The above paragraph, and I suspect the objection to the ad about loners, relies on the assumption that when the media talks about "terrorists" what they really mean is "Muslims". It turns out that when you run the numbers, that doesn't make any sense..

Let's do some more math. Bayes' rule is pretty much the most important thing ever. It tells you what the likelihood of something is based on prior knowledge. In this case, let's calculate out the probability that someone is a terrorist, given that we know they are Muslim.

Using that link with graphs about terrorism and assuming that there are about 1 million Muslims in the US and about 300million people, we can calculate that

P(Terrorist | Muslim) = P(Muslim | Terrorist) * P(Terrorist) / P(Muslim)

We can get the first term, P(Muslim | Terrorist) = 0.06, from the pie chart at Loon Watch. The second P(Terrorist) = 318 / 300M = 0.0000011. comes from there, too, and our assumption about population. And finally, P(Muslim) = 1M/300M = 0.0033.

So, P(Terrorist | Muslim) = 0.06 * .0000011 / 0.0033 = 0.00002 = 0.002%

That means that out of every 50,000 Muslims you meet, 1 will be a terrorist. Compare this with the fact that of every 50,000 people you meet in NYC, 290 of them will be a violent criminal. Maybe it's time to ban I < heart > NY shirts from public places.

* The curtains keep the temperature of the apartment down on sunny days.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Out of the Mouths of Babes

Two links for your inner child. The first is Tiny Art Directory, where an artist does commissions for his bossy daughter. The second is Axe Cop, a hilarious comic strip written by a now-6-year-old boy and illustrated by his 29-year-old brother. Does using these kids this way constitute child labour? I don't know. But it definitely constitutes funny! Enjoy!

Friday, August 6, 2010

Time To Get Tough On Stupidity

I have a theory that our Prime Minister is a dangerous control freak. This is mostly based on anecdotal evidence, but it seems recent events fit that pattern. I think that after 4 years of a minority government, he is casting about for anything he can do without Parliament. These orders are completely in keeping with the Conservative ethos, but it's funny that we've gone for a while without any serious boat rocking and then all of a sudden in a single summer Parliamentary holiday there have been a number of dangerous Tea-party-appeasing measures rammed through.

One of the more recent things to come out of the Cabinet is a list of new items for the serious crimes list. Ostensibly, this is to hurt organized crime, but, as with all of the nonsensical orders being handed down by Cabinet, I suspect it will not serve the official purpose and cause a lot of collateral damage.

Included in the list of new serious crimes is "keeping a common baudy house." I will never understand laws like this. A keeper of a common baudy house is not automatically hurting anybody. Putting this on the organized crime list because gangs can make money from brothels is like saying that since some stores pay protection money to gangs, we should make it illegal to run a store.

Obviously people are paying for sex in this country. I don't even think it's illegal to do so, although it is illegal to communicate for the purposes of doing so, unless things have changed. And if a consenting adult pays another consenting adult for sex, what business is it of mine? I would even go so far as to say that by making it a crime to run a brothel, we drive the whole industry underground and make it more dangerous — for the sex-workers, for the clients and for the general public — and more likely to profit organized crime.

Instead of trying to legislate morality, it would make far more sense to make prostitution legal and regulate it and, most Canadian of all, tax the ever-living crap out of it.

But that doesn't seem too likely given our current mixed-signals government – for a party that doesn't want to ask you about your life, they sure seem to want to tell you how to live it.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

I know U R, but what am I?

Canada has two seasons: winter and construction. Well, it's not winter right now. This made me chuckle yesterday as my mind completely misread the company name on the shipping container on Kings College Rd.

Related link.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Can They Even Hear Themselves?

Our official government position is currently that we need to save money, as a country.

This is why we spent $1b on police officers for the G20. This is why we spent $16 billion on new fighter jets. This is why we have to spend at extra $30 million for a census which is, for all intents and purposes, worthless. This is why we have to spend $10 billion on building new jails for people who have committed unreported crimes.

Uh, what? So we're going to save money by spending more? And we're going to incarcerate people who haven't been reported to police, let alone convicted of any crime?

I sure hope you're enjoying your holiday, MPs, because I think it's high time for an election come September.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Oh, Grow Up.

Two posts in one day, I know, unheard of. But I just couldn't not share this.

I used to be into woodworking, when I lived in Waterloo and had a lot of space. There is a store in Cambridge called A&M Wood Specialty. For some reason, they thought it would be a good idea to register the domain ForLoversOfWood.com. It used to be the banner on the website. They've since replaced that with pictures of hardwoods. I had a moment once where I was looking at mahogany and came across an item whose detailed description was "African Crotch Swirl". Doesn't anyone proofread these things? Maybe I'm just less mature than your average woodworker.

I'm in kind of a pissy mood this morning because our eaves trough is blocked and it rained pretty hard last night and the water poured in a heavy stream right down onto the air conditioner in our bedroom window. We were awakened at 4AM by what sounded like WW III occurring in our bedroom window.

So I was looking for an extension ladder on a tool rental price list today when I came across another doozy: "Concrete Vibrator 1.5'' with 10ft shaft". Which makes sense, when you think about it: I can see wanting to stand at least 10ft away from anyone who was willing to use a concrete vibrator.

The Choice of Tyranny

For those of you not following, presumably because you live in some other country than Canada, our government has done something supremely stupid.

Statistics Canada, or statscan, is a world renouned stats collecting body. One of the reasons for this reputation is the mandatory cenus – all Canadians are required by law to fill out the census. As well, one quarter of Canadians are required by law to answer a long-form (53 questions instead of the usual 8) questionnaire. This mandatory thing is important, it is ostensibly the crux of the matter.

You see, the current government has exercised its droight de seigneur and made it no longer mandatory to answer all 53 questions in the event that you draw the short straw, so to speak. Statisticians are, rightly, pissed.

The reason the government claims for doing this is that it is an invasion of privacy. Of course, they also claimed that they were doing this with the consent of the head of statscan who promptly resigned to prove that they were lying.

As someone who has used statscan census data in the past, I can tell you that the privacy argument is ridiculous. As much of the data as possible is released, but there are certain products for certain census tracts which are held back because the small number of responses might allow someone diligent enough to use the data to identify individuals. The statscan website FAQ also points out that not even contractors are allowed to see the data.

So, what is really going on here? In Canada we have a government system which is set up to limit the power of any individual. (This is in stark contrast with our neighbours to the south who elect a new king ever 4 years.) For 4 years now Harper has been stuck with a lousy minority government, which means constantly having to consult with the opposition parties instead of just riding roughshod over the country's laws and ideals. I have been led to believe that the entire cabinet is completely under the thumb of the PM, which means this census decision came directly from Harper himself. And I think it has nothing to do with logic or reason, privacy or the census, even. I think this is entirely a case of Harper doing something because he can do it and the opposition parties can't do a damned thing about it.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

You Learn Something New Every Day

This is the best frequently asked question (and response) I have ever come upon (from the groupon FAQ):

One of your write-ups stated that "hummingbirds come from cocoons"... I'm not sure that's correct.

Thank you for your suggestion, but it is correct.

And if you don't know, Groupon is a neat service which uses "collective buying power" to get rippin' good deals. The trick is that they offer businesses a minimum number of customers to secure the deal, so if not enough people show interest (by buying the deal), no deal. Definitely worth looking into if you haven't already. Plus, really, what's one more piece of spam in your inbox each day?

Monday, July 5, 2010

Everything is Connected

Our desks in the lab have hutches whose tops are just the right height that they are good storage space for anything which doesn't get accessed frequently. A project I was doing last year required me to collect pop cans for a few months, so I kept them there. The projecte ended up being a no-go, but the pop cans stayed – perhaps two-dozen in all. Eventually I was compelled to throw them out before a lab open house. I have since restarted my collection, but it is a paltry 3 or 4 cans at the moment. Since I'm not actually collecting them for any reason right now, I haven't asked anybody to help by adding their own cans. This is something I had done last year, but I made sure that every can was rinsed before going up there. This will become important.

So while I use the top of my hutch to hold decorative pop cans, many other students use the tops of their desks to hold manuals and catalogues which are never used. Why students don't simply recycle them is one of the great mysteries of science. Today in the mail, one fellow student got just such a pile of literature. Since we had recently participated in Spring Cleanup, these were to be the first new catalogues on his pristine hutch-top. I offered some of my pop cans to make them less lonely up there. Somehow it came up about how fastidious I was about the rinsing of my cans.

This, I explained, was due to a particular high-school incident. I used to spend a lot of time in my bedroom as a teenager. Brooding, mainly. Reading and watching TV. And drinking pop. And I would never bring the cans out to recycle them. They would just sit in my room. And sit. And I would add to the pile. One day I was reading and drinking pop and not really looking as I put down and then picked up again my can of pop. I put the can to my lips and took a big swig. The sensation was somehow different from the normal CO2 bubble tingle. It felt almost like thousands of tiny legs running around on my tongue. I had accidentally picked up one of my old cans which had become filled with -- ants! I spit the mouthful of live ants across the room and, after rinsing my mouth out in the bathroom sink, hauled every last can out of my room and into the recycling outside.

Everyone in the lab was pretty grossed out by my story, but I pointed out that there are places in the world where people eat ants on purpose. And somewhere down the lefthand side of that wikipedia page you will find a bowl of mealworms.*

This immediately reminded me of an old episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation which I remember seeing once. And only once. This is remarkable because I watched a lot of TNG as a broody, pop-drinking teenager and saw most episodes significantly more than once. I googled "star trek tng mealworms" and came up with a list of the worst episodes of all time. Bingo! The episode was called Conspiracy. If you remember the episode at all, and even if you don't, I highly recommend this youtube clip of the episode in brief. Which I never would have found if those useless catalogues hadn't come in the mail today.

*Somewhere else on the wikipedia page for Entomophagy you will find a link to the page for Casu Marzu, which is worth a read if you're feeling particularly adventurous.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Saving Face

You know those horrible ads for "#1 tip of a flat belly"? Those drive me nuts. If it's a flat belly, how can it have a tip? Or is it that the flat belly is giving you a tip? I wish someone would rewrite those ads.

Anyway, I also have a tip for you. I got it from Rob Carrick's Personal Finance Readers a couple of weeks ago. His semiweekly blog is always entertaining, if not always entirely useful.

A tip came up on Rob's Personal Finance Reader a few weeks ago which was: dry your razor completely after every use. Being the experimentally minded person I am, I gave it a try. For the last few weeks I have been using my breath and a small amount of toilet paper to remove all the water from my razor blade after use. And you know what? It works.

Previously, I would probably get 3 or 4 shaves out of a blade and on the 4th one my neck would look like a freshly plowed field. I'm now on shave 6 with this blade and not a nick at all today. So give it a try, it'll save you money and save your face.

Let me know if it works, or if you have any other easy money-saving (or environment-saving) tips you want me to try out and write about.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Paying Our Dues

I live in a country that doesn't even rank enough to have received an iPhone 4G release date today. In order to remedy this, our government has decided to throw a $1-billion, 3-day long party for a handful of old, rich men.

I pointed out to my friend A that to pay for this you would have to go around to every single man, woman, child and other person in Canada and ask for $10 a day for 3 days.

"Shame," he responded, "that you couldn't just collect the whole $30 on the first day."

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Monopoly on Force

A leaked audio feed showed up on Youtube recently. It depicts a Canadian couple, apparently from Mississauga trying to enter the United States for a shopping trip. Listen to the whole thing and listen carefully.

I was going to simply repost but I feel that this situation is complex enough to warrant some discussion. I have known many people in law enforcement and worked for the Canada Customs and Revenue Agency (back when that existed) as a customs inspector so I have some insight.

Back to the audio stream. The officer on the line was clearly being belligerent. But anyone who crosses the border with any sort of frequency knows that you should expect that. So by answering so flippantly, the traveller should probably have expected to land himself in secondary. Once there, the officer interrogating him was quiet and reasonable. There are two things to note about that interview: 1) he was absolutely correct that no traveller has any rights when being detained at the border and 2) I find it extremely hard to believe that 3 terrorists a day are caught at the Port of Buffalo. If he'd said, "we arrest 3 middle-Eastern looking people every day at the Port of Buffalo" I would have been more inclined to believe it. But that's not what he said. So this sets him up as a probable liar.

Unfortunately, our friend the traveler remains agitated and presents the officer with some difficulty. Then some stuff happens with the wife and the audio stream gets a bit muffled. Presumably there is some kind of scuffle with the officers. It's entirely possible the audio clip has been edited here, but if we assume that it wasn't, then the most threatening thing the traveler said was, "what are you gonna do? shoot me?"

He is subsequently put in a cell and the superintendent tells him that he and his wife are going to jail because they have audio of the entire scene and the traveler has been recorded threatening. The first part is likely true, the second, if we assume the audio hasn't been tampered with, is not.

This is all quite reminiscent of the recent beating, trial and conviction of Peter Watts. Basically, customs inspectors started searching his car without so much as a "pleased-to-meet-you". When he got out to ask what was going on, he was beaten and pepper sprayed and thrown in a cell. All through the trial the customs people lied and contradicted their own statements but ultimately he was convicted because the obstruction law (which is mentioned in the audio feed above) includes a catch-all for failing to immediately obey a command from a border guard.

Now, there are lots and lots of good people in law enforcement. I have known some of them personally. But these types of positions tend to attract bullies. There seems to be a big difference in the types of bullies Canada and the US have in law enforcement. My evidence is, of course, all anecdotal or from personal (and therefore biased experience) and so should be taken with a grain of salt. Basically, the Canadian law enforcement bullies tend to be honest. The one glaring exception in my mind is the RCMP in the case of Robert Dziekanski. American law enforcement bullies, however, seem to have no qualms at all about perjuring themselves to defend their positions as evident in the Watts case above and as heard in the audio stream: 3 terrorists a day, we have a recording of you threatening us.

And all this is, I think, quite evident in the audio stream. The traveler says he's had intimate dealings with Canadian law enforcement. I think it would shock many Americans to hear that and then hear the way he talks to the border guards. But it's because he's used to Canadian law enforcement where, if you talk back, they will make your life a little more difficult for a little while, but you won't get beat up or be thrown in a cell for it.

I hope to hear more about where this audio stream came from. If it was a hoax, it was an elaborate one. I also want to know what the outcome of all this is/was/will be. I suspect that this will turn out much like the Watts case: US border guards will lie and lie and lie and then get a conviction because of the catch-all clause in the obstruction law.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Synthetically Delicious

Two days ago scientists from the J. Craig Venter Institute reported in ScienceXpress that they have managed to create a viable cell whose genetic material was entirely produced by humans. The AP has posted an interview with the namesake of the Institute (and the final author of the 24 on the paper) to their youtube channel.

I especially like all the Science going on in the background. People swirling flasks of brightly coloured liquid make me feel so much better about the whole thing.

Venter expresses some concern about potential uses for this technology. To that end, Longo's has released their very first synthetic life-form for solving the world hunger problem. I give you the pizzacherry tree:

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

The Invasion

I'm home sick today which means drinking lots of fluids, taking frequent naps, babbling nonsensically and reading the internets. Which is how I came across this:

This is how the invasion will come, people. First they will fire ziplines from one highrise building to the next. Then, the goats will carry their monkey assassins to their targets. You can never be too vigilant. Next time someone gets into your elevator with a goat, a monkey and a lot of military gear, notify the authorities.

On an unrelated note, please click the Flattr button near the title of this or any post I've written. The Flattr system is really cool; it's a way you can pay people very small amounts of money for improving your life a little. Totally worth checking out.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Review: Tati Bistro

Disclaimer: I am not a food critic. I did, however, grow up on extremely good food. I have worked in kitchens. I also have a food theory course taught by a Food Network celebrity under my belt as well. So everything I say is perhaps amateurish, but not entirely ungrounded.

I had my second meal ever at Tati Bistro tonight. The first time was when I treated L for her birthday. We had a lot of (very good, 2007 Bon Courage Shiraz) wine that night. Since I was treating L, I had to very discreetly read the bill. Also, the lighting in the Bistro is... understated. I put down what I thought was a fairly generous tip (since the service had been excellent) and left. On awaking the next morning, I did a little mental math in a slightly more sober state and decided that there`s no way the bill came to what I had originally thought. I should have been a good $20 more. I realized that I must`ve stiffed the waitress.

Not being one to stiff a waitress, and certainly not when the service was as good as it had been, I returned the next day to set things right. The maître d’ hunted through the previous night`s bills to find one that matched my order. Finally, he asked which credit card I had used. I told him I`d paid cash, at which point he said it was hopeless, they didn`t keep the cash bills past the end of the night. I described my waitress and he said he could go ask her, disappearing into the basement. She hadn`t remembered being shafted. So, either I didn`t misread the bill, or I got away with leaving a lousy tip and not being remembered for it.

Tonight we took L`s mom there for Mother`s Day.

The ambiance at Tati Bistro is about what you`d expect from a modern trendy downtown restaurant: a little loud, a little crowded and a little underlit. However, the food and service more than make up for these shortcomings.

Tonight I had the baked goat cheese salad. Delicious. Excellent balance between the baked, breaded goat cheese, the croutons and the greens. My entrèe was the steak frites. The frites were exactly the crispy thin frites you`d expect from a French bistro and the steak was extremely flavourful and cooked to perfection. For desert we ordered the cheese platter to share between the four of us. I can definitely recommend the camembert, the chevrot cendrée and an Ontario cowsmilk cheese whose name escapes me.

I also had the housemade cassis sorbet. To. Die. For. And I know frozen desserts. The extremely generous portion of crème brûlée also received rave reviews from the guest of honour.

The prices at Tati Bistro are quite reasonable; two can eat well with with a bottle of wine and either appetizer OR dessert for around $100. This number can come down a bit (or add the delicious, aforementioned cheese plate) if one can make it when the prix fixé menu is available.

My only complaint about the evening (and it is a mild one) is that the waitress was slightly less attentive that the ideal. She was quite friendly and emminently knowledgeable about the menu (which is surprisngly hard to find in Toronto, in my experience). But she just didn't come 'round quite often enough. It is also possible that this is because she was a little starstruck: in the corner opposite our table sat Rachael McAdams, treating her own mother.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

People Who Are Intollerant of Other People's Cultures, and the Dutch

Overheard today at the Publications checkout counter at Service Ontario: "Do you have any publications about discrimination?"

Imagined response: "Not for people like you."

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Altogether now!

We all of us have our vices, not least of all me. Being aware, however, that I am subject to various shortcomings, I try to plan in advance for them; to trick my future self, if you will, into doing the right thing.

I would like you to, just for a moment, open your mind to the possibility that it (your mind) plays tricks on you. It's easy to admit that other peoples' minds play tricks on them, but I can assure, without even knowing you, that your own mind does it to. One category of these trick is Cognitive Biases. They are surprisingly universal. I'm not saying that every single person is guilty of every single cognitive bias all of the time. But it is possible to test how often they come up and under what circumstances and the answers are quite surprising to most people.

So it is important to be aware that these biases exist and that, without even knowing it, you may be suffering from one or more at any point in time. With that in mind, please listen to this song.

Next time you're absolutely sure about something, remember the song and think about which biases you might presently be suffering from.

Everyone is susceptible to cognitive biases.

Except for me. I know because the only examples I can think of right now fit my expectations, which are that I have no cognitive biases.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Start'em Young

I had a strange experience today at my community garden plot.

I was digging a hole which, while for asparagus, was suspiciously about the size and shape of hole one might dig for disposing of, say, a human body. But never mind that.

The important thing is that I had a shovel. The other important thing is that my plot is very near the children's playground at my community centre. As I was digging, a child of maybe 4 or 5 years came over to the fence and said something about my shovel. I told her I was using it to dig. She asked if she and her friends could have it. I said no, I needed it to dig. She said I could have it back afterwards. I said that I couldn't lend it to her. She then said something I found very strange: we need the shovel to make money.

Capitalism and I are on the outs right now. I mean, insofar as I need capitalism to survive, I guess I have no choice but to transact commerce. The problem with capitalism is that the main justification for it relies on the premise that people will do what is best for themselves. This is demonstrably false. People are easily fooled. Information is easily withheld (think Goldman Sachs).

If a small child came up to you and asked to borrow your shovel because she needed it to put the means of production in the hands of the workers, you would probably call child services and tell them that her parents were communists.

I didn't call child services and tell them that there was a little capitalist child on the playground. I did tell her that she probably wouldn't be able to make much money with the shovel. But she probably didn't believe me.

After all, they've already gotten to her.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

We already knew that

I have started working out regularly, again. It's nice. I waited a couple of weeks for the "New Years Resolutionistas" (as I saw a friend call them about a month ago on the facebox) to give up and go back to sleeping in. Another friend who continued right through the New Years rush saw a guy who brought his laptop and an instructional video during that period. It would've taken all my willpower not to "accidentally" step on it.

I think my favourite thing is seeing the same people every time I go to work out. There's Fake-Tan-Guy-Who-Way-Overdoes-His-Static-Stretching and Older-Fat-Guy-Who-Sweats-A-Lot and Spandex-Girl-With-Eyebrows-Several-Shades-Darker-Than-Her-Hair. And the two girls who are sort of a workout gang: they monopolize specific pieces of equipment by moving in a pack. And then there are the iPod people. You know the ones for whom the workout is less about becoming fit and more about being seen at the gym. They sit down on a piece of equipment and spend 10 minutes setting up their playlist; actually using the machine would just mess up their hair anyway.

This Thursday I accidentally slept in and wound up arriving at the gym about half an hour late. To my amazement, the same people were showing up at the same part of my workout as on a normal day. Apparently everyone was running half an hour late.

Just another piece of evidence for the "I am the centre of the Universe" pile.