Saturday, 31 May 2008

Another reason I am glad to call myself Canadian

Fewer than three-quarters of Canadians believe in a god, suggests a new Canadian Press Harris-Decima survey.

"Religion in Canada today is not a particularly divisive subject and tolerance levels for different beliefs are high," said Harris-Decima president Bruce Anderson. "This is evident in the fact that one in four people feel comfortable saying they do not believe in a god."
This is, of course, is contradistinction to our neighbours to the south, where the figure falls to 8% - mostly due to political pressure.

The separation of church and state that is enshrined in the Constitution, and the freedom of religion (which included freedom from religion) was one of the most important things the Founding Fathers were fighting for. While intolerance is generally frowned upon, that does not apply to atheists. You do not have to spend very long on the web to realise that.

As far as I am concerned people can believe what they like. But they have no right at all to demand that others believe the same things that they do - or make that a condition of any services or accommodations. Yet it would be far harder to get elected in the US for any office, let alone that of president, by declaring that one is an atheist than being black or female. Indeed it wasn't so long ago that Americans were telling themselves how enlightened they were for electing the first Catholic - John F Kennedy.

And we don't do stupid things like printing "In God We Trust" on our money or forcing kids to learn creationism - or fighting court battles over plaques with the ten commandments on them in court houses.

Monday, 26 May 2008

And you think *your* job's bad

One of the men who played Jack Sparrow at Disneyland spills the beans on his former employer.

You’d hear that it sucks to work for Disney. They’re Nazis in Mickey hats. But I’d thought, “How bad could it be?” By the time I got fired, half of me was relieved. I was getting sick of constantly being barked at about what to do.
I did go to Disneyland, once. As a visitor it wasn't nearly as bad as I expected, and I quite enjoyed it. Though the family refused to go on Magic Mountain. We had the sort of ticket that gets you special early morning entrance - which sounds great until you realize that a lot of things do not open early. And many people have the same type of ticket. The lineups are long - and the locals who have season tickets always bring someone in a wheelchair as part of their group so they can skip the line. And the food isn't bad, and there are no outrageous rip-offs as there are at every other fair or amusement park. And a lot of Disneyland is about transportation, so it was like a busman's holiday. They really understand queue management.

But at the back of my mind all the time was this feeling like I was in "The Prisoner". But then, just because I am paranoid, doesn't mean they weren't watching me closely all the time.

Sunday, 25 May 2008

Love is ... a good job and a hefty salary cheque

With redundancies looming, trophy wives start planning to cash in and get out
Not just trophy wives and senior City executives either.

The piece in the Guardian talks about the top end of the market, but more women now regard marriage not as a relationship for mutual support through "sickness and health, richer or poorer". They take richer and health as preconditions - and there is no such thing as unconditional love. Marriage is so that they can answer their biological imperative - which means not just a potent mate but one with earnings. And even after the child rearing years are over, there is a calculus going on about "is this relationship worth it?" endlessly discussed with friends and relatives as well as the agony columns. Commitment is a quaint historical relic, confined to fiction.

The piece also is confined to jobs, but of course the big bait in all of this has been the huge equity built up in the family home in recent years. As soon as the market starts to look a little wobbly, people start to bail. And that is happening in this region now. Prices have not fallen, but the fear is that they will, so the home is unloaded as fast as possible. There are now more sellers than buyers which makes a price fall inevitable if sales are to be completed. The rule here now is that the equity is split 50/50 - and as most women earn less than their spouses this is as good as finally getting paid for all that housework and child rearing.

And then of course, the imperative is to hang on to what you have got, as women live longer than men. So all those sites that claim to pair up the newly single are full of women looking for "financially secure" men. Not those knocked sideways by the ruinous divorce settlement.

Tuesday, 20 May 2008

Court Rules That Paper Money Discriminates Against the Blind

This is one of those "told you so" moments.

My first trip to the United Sates was in 1984, and that was the first time I has a walletful of this strange green money. And compared to the British banknotes I had used up until that moment, I immediately noticed that you could not tell the notes apart unless you were sighted. Though in recent years newer "bills" have got a bit more colourful, they are still all the same size.

Of course when this arose in converstaion with my new in-laws they looked at me like I was barmy.

Just like the waitress at the Holiday Inn at Charlotte NC. I had asked for marmalade at breakfast and she said "This is America, honey!"

Eat your Wheaties, but hold the coffee

According to the study by University of Guelph researchers, blood sugar levels in people who ate low-sugar cereal were 250 per cent higher if they drank caffeinated coffee before or with breakfast, compared to decaf.

Earlier research has shown that, "whether you're a healthy individual, obese or a Type 2 diabetic, when you ingest caffeine and then follow that with some food that's carbohydrate-based, for a prolonged period of time -- certainly six hours at least -- your body becomes insulin resistant," says Terry Graham, professor of human health and nutritional sciences at the University of Guelph.
So now I know what I have been doing wrong. I tend to have two large cups of cappuccino in the morning -one before and one after eating breakfast. And although I like the eggs and bacon, the lack of good back bacon (why is that?) and the fuss and mess often means I go for something easier - often oatmeal or an oat based cereal. Or, like this morning, a bagel.

There are some good decaf beans out there - I have some - but I have never been clear why caffeine is so demonised. It had seemed to me to be one of those knee jerk responses that you are always told to stop drinking alcohol, and caffeine, no matter what the condition. And people still go on about foods being "high in cholesterol" when all that I have read demonstrates that you make your own cholesterol and it is fat - and type of fat too - that actually matters.

And also I have learned that an espresso has less caffeine that a regular filter ("brewed") coffee, as the ground beans are on contact with the water for a lot shorter period of time.

Friday, 16 May 2008

Communist party membership no longer a fireable offence in California

Americans - or perhaps I should clarify that to Republicans - seem to have a huge problem understanding the simple concepts of the Bill of Rights.

There is no value in a version of liberty which means you can believe what you want and say what you want as long as the party in power agrees with you. The whole point of the concept of freedom of speech and freedom of association is that you will defend to the death the rights of others to hold opinions that you find abhorrent. Including the violent overthrow of the state. Because that is exactly what the founding fathers advocated.

The American Revolution was an act of violent uprising against the legal government of the day. Its leaders, if caught, would have been hanged for treason. The 13 colonies were part of the British Empire and thus subjects of the Crown. Indeed last night I watched a fascinating interview by Charlie Rose with retired British General Sir Michael Rose, who has just published a book drawing parallels between the Revolutionary War and the mistakes the Americans have been making in Iraq. (And on his web page you can watch it yourself if you like.)

And it is unbelievable that oaths of allegiance are still a requirement of state employment that continues to be used against Quakers and Jehovah's Witnesses. What ever happened to freedom of religion and separation of church and state?

"Land of the Free" - no, not really.

Wednesday, 14 May 2008

U.S. lists polar bears as 'threatened' species

The U.S. government has decided to list polar bears as a threatened species under its Endangered Species Act because of the effects of global warming — a decision that could deal a severe blow to the lucrative sport hunt in Canada's North.
Good. Of course you do not hunt a species threatened with extinction.

Hopefully polar bears will begin to adapt to changing circumstances. They are closely related to other bears that are better equipped to deal with a warmer climate, so eventually we may see a different kind of bear. Or we may have to face up to the fact that when we destroy a creature's habitat it starts to adapt its behaviour in ways that inconvenience us. Like urban foxes and skunks.

But if we actually care about protecting species, and having an ecosystem which can adapt, we must stop people from killing for "fun" or "sport". Indeed, it might be a good idea to consider listing the desire to go hunting among urban males as a psychological disorder. Is there really that much difference between someone who likes - as a recreational activity mind - to shoot bears and one who likes to shoot people?

Monday, 12 May 2008

Vancouver Olympics security cameras raise privacy concerns

I can understand why these concerns are being raised, but they are beside the point.

The British experience (and they have more CCTV than anybody) is that they do not work. Crime has not been reduced and cctv footage is used in only 3% of cases.

It is a waste of money.