Daylight Savings

I wonder if the logic behind daylight savings time has even really been thought out. It is socially accepted now as being the normal thing to do, but do we really benefit from such changes? Wikipedia informs me that the original rationale behind this was energy conservation. Some studies showed that by moving the clocks forward one hour during the spring/summer months, that we could reduce our energy consumption by 1%.

I'm not sure I see the logic in this. Certainly, there are some potential savings in regards to energy use, but they seem to be offset by the system itself. For example, since sunset occurs one hour later, there is one extra hour at the end of the day when we don't have to use lights in our homes. This does nothing to change the amount of sunlight hours, so it has no impact on our use of air conditioners.

In the wintertime, back in regular daylight hours, we gain sunlight in the morning and instead favor it getting dark at 4pm. My thinking is that regular time increases energy consumption. On winter mornings, people will rely on lights in their homes no matter what. The days simply aren't long enough. However, if we were to continue daylight savings through the winter months, it seems like we could economize in terms of power consumption at the end of the day.

This also poses problems with time zones, for many areas do not observe daylight savings. If indeed daylight savings is all about efficiency, it doesn't seem to be fully thought out. Most of all, however, it seems like the fact that it gets dark at 4pm during the winter months is far more depressing than anything. What about continuing daylight savings the whole year round?


Our complete misunderstanding of machines

The US has been constantly speaking of building a wall that would cover the entire border to Mexico lately. It seems that fear is a predominant emotion for North Americans. We fear immigrants, terrorists (which to some are the same thing), hackers, murderers, rapists, getting old, bad drivers, collapsing bridges, etc..We fear what we don't understand, and what we don't control. We question everything, but never take the time to analyze it. I see this all the time at work. People hypothesize how the machine works. I've heard all sorts of theories.

I've actually heard people speak of the machine in terms of how the machine "thinks". This is one active metaphor I'm afraid of. Why do people believe machines to have a mind of their own? Why people even believe these machines to be thinking is beyond me. The worst is when they hypothesize two completely different theories and completely miss the obvious.

"It says 'Insert your card', but I already did! Maybe it thinks I haven't done it yet, or maybe it does but it's searching for my movie now. What do I do?"

The truth is machines are relatively simple concepts. As a matter of fact, all machines are simple. That's what makes them work so well, simplicity! The system at work is so simple, it's a wonder nobody thought of it earlier: You scroll through the database and reserve films under your acount, you close the database, and log in the dispenser using your card to retrieve your films. The card reader simply reads your card, access' your acount and retrieves the movies reserved.

I guess we do have fears of machines because we don't understand them. We don't know who built them, and how they were built. Maybe they're is a failsafe somewhere that records our every move! Maybe the boss' are using these machines to monitor everything we do! Actually, these machines were built to take over our jobs, and if we're not careful, they'll take over the world! The truth is they're here to simplify and they aren't thinking. I never feared my bike would somehow take control of my ride all of the sudden, or my car automatically driving itself to the edge of the world. That's because I understand the mechanic behind the engine. But of coruse, I fear fluids not functionning well, because nobody can trust them. I once heard gas call me an idiot! Can't trust those guys.


Sharing Lyrics

I want to share some selected lyrics from songs that I'm really enjoying at the moment. Two each from Rush, The Beatles, and Simon & Garfunkel.

Rush - Lakeside Park

Everyone would gather
On the twenty-fourth of May
Sitting in the sand
To watch the fireworks display.
Dancing fires on the beach,
Singing songs together...
Though it's just a memory,
Some memories last forever.

Rush - The Necromancer
Silence shrouds the forest
As the birds announce the dawn
Three trav'llers ford the river
And southward journey on
The road is lined with peril
The air is charged with fear
The shadow of his nearness
Weighs like iron tears

The Beatles - I'm Looking Through You
I have an ongoing debate with myself on this song. Happy or sad? The lyrics are sad, but the music seems optimistic, I think... Thoughts?
I'm looking through you, where did you go
I thought I knew you, what did I know
You don't look different, but you have changed
I'm looking through you, you're not the same

Your lips are moving, I cannot hear
Your voice is soothing, but the words aren't clear
You don't sound different, I've learned the game.
I'm looking through you, you're not the same

Why, tell me why, did you not treat me right?
Love has a nasty habit of disappearing overnight

The Beatles - Norwegian Wood

I once had a girl, or should I say, she once had me...
She showed me her room, isn't it good, norwegian wood?

She asked me to stay and she told me to sit anywhere,
So I looked around and I noticed there wasn't a chair.

I sat on a rug, biding my time, drinking her wine.
We talked until two and then she said, "It's time for bed"

She told me she worked in the morning and started to laugh.
I told her I didn't and crawled off to sleep in the bath

And when I awoke, I was alone, this bird had flown
So I lit a fire, isn't it good, norwegian wood.

Simon and Garfunkel - Kodachrome
Kodachrome, they give us those nice bright colours
They give us the greens of summers
Makes you think all the world's a sunny day, oh yeah
I got a Nikon camera, I love to take a photograph
So mama don't take my Kodachrome away

Simon and Garfunkel - Hazy Shade of Winter
Seasons change with the scenery;
Weaving time in a tapestry
Won't you stop and remember me

At any convenient time?
Funny how my memory skips
Looking over manuscripts
Of unpublished rhyme.
Drinking my vodka and lime,
I look around
Leaves are brown,
And the sky is a hazy shade of winter.


Sports Page Filtering

While on the subject of the media, I want to address something that Ben brought up several weeks ago. He was talking about the sports page in newspapers and how there it is the only part of the newspaper which undergoes no filtering whatsoever. For the sake of argumentation, I think this could be extended to the entertainment section as well.

As we all know, media is controlled by "gatekeepers" who decide what type of news to report on, how much coverage it should get, and where it should be positioned in the medium (newspaper/website/TV, etc.). Sports are an interesting phenomena because there is so much time and effort devoted to them. The sports section of a local newspaper will cover the smallest, most insignificant games as well as all the large matches and events. Even those stories for which there are no specific write-ups, there will usually be a wealth of statistics and numbers about the game. In the regular "news" section, countless important stories are omitted on a daily basis because they are outside the scope of the newspaper's coverage, or because they are deemed to be irrelevant to the readership's lives. I would argue, however, that the results of most sports games are just as irrelevant to our lives, if not moreso, than sorely lacking information on the Darfur genocide (as an example). If one still doubts that those who control the means of communication in the world do not push an agenda, then one simply needs to compare it to the sports section. Information should be controlled, prioritized, and distorted. Sports news must be relayed in excruciating detail.

The same goes for entertainment. It is both a reflection on our culture, and one of corporate media distortion, that we know all the painful, uninteresting details about Tom Cruise's marriage, and Britney Spears' kids -- because they are regurgitated to us on a daily basis -- but most do not know about current votes in the House of Commons. Yet, these votes are far more deterministic and influential than Tom Cruise could ever hope to be. Having said that... how 'bout 'em Sens....eh? Eh?


A recent ad campaign on the sides of buses by the local CTV station has left me puzzled and amused. The station has a number of ads with slogans like "Ottawa's News Leader" and "The Name You Trust For Weather". It's interesting how news is always marketed in terms of credibility, when it is actually the last thing that they actually do. Fox News, for example, will always talk about "trust" in their advertising campaigns -- set to a backdrop of a waving American flag -- and yet they could just as easily say something like "The station with the most explosions, action, entertainment, and sensationalism!". I'm not sure this would be totally ineffective. The illusion of trust works brilliantly when you're such a hardcore propagandist like Fox News is, though.

Getting back to this advertising campaign, it is the one about the weather that puzzles me the most. The weather is a quasi-science at best. It's like calling economics a science. It's part mathematics, part Jenga. You hope that you picked the right fucking block... or the whole thing might come crashing down. While I'm on the whole game analogy, how about Guess Who? (the boardgame). That's 50% of what weathermen do, because their predictions are only about 70% accurate for the next 24hrs, and 20% in 48 hours. Long term forecasts are just as much of a guessing game as Guess Who is. "Does your weather system have a moustache? Is it black? Is it Dwayne?"

So, how do you qualify yourself as being a leader in weather accuracy? "The one you trust!" Of course, you attach a friendly, over-photoshopped face to your weather segment, and feature this person prominently in your ad campaign. What's funniest is that those who do the weather segments on TV and the radio are nothing more than broadcasters. They have absolutely no experience whatsoever in predicting the weather. They just get their information from Environment Canada like everyone else, dress up in a fancy suit and tie, and talk eloquently enough about the subject that people take them for experts. I always loved this quote from my great mentor Stanley Kubrick: "If you can talk brilliantly enough about a subject you can create the consoling illusion it has been mastered." But, hey... I trust the local newscasters at CTV. Just look at these trustworthy, robotic faces!


Evangelical Christians: Quebec vs. the United States

There was an interesting article on the front page of the Ottawa Citizen today involving Evangelical Christian schools in the Outaouais region. Apparently a few schools on the Quebec side are refusing to teach evolution and sex education, instead applying their own curriculums and ideas of what should be taught. As it turns out, the Quebec Ministry of Education requires all schools to follow set standards in terms of what is taught in schools where students aged 6-16. These schools do not follow that requirement, and the school boards responsible for the regions where they are located have filed complaints. Therefore, the diplomas which the students from these schools receive will not be recognized anywhere in Canada. There have also been calls to shut down these schools if they do not comply with the law.

In Ontario, the situation is a little bit different. The school boards must only ensure that a certain percentage of time is devoted to set subject matters, but there is no requirement to teach evolution or sex education like there is in Quebec.

I find this to be a really fascinating situation that shows the discrepancy between Quebec and the United States (and Ontario, to a lesser extent) in regards to religious tolerance. Quebec deserves a big round of applause for enforcing secular values based on fact. I have always been disgusted in the need of most religions to indoctrinate children into believing their drivel. It shows a certain sense of insecurity in their beliefs. If they were so convincing, would people not adopt these religious values en-masse when they have reached the age of reason? Instead, we feel the need to teach children about virgin births and creationism from the moment of birth. In the US, we have seen the complete opposite effect, in which teachers and parents do not want children to learn about evolution -- and this is accepted. Because, as we know, they do not want children to find out that their great book is wrong. The earth is flat, too!


Copyright murder

Here's a wierd thought that came to me yesterday. How about copyrighting murders?

It came to me when I realize that some feared copycat murderers in some form or the other. The idea that kids would also immitate movies and go about doing the wrong deads fictional characters do. What I thought was a funny idea at first, became somewhat interesting afterwards. How about we copyright murders? Movie makers, book writers and actual murderers can copyright their material to make so that they can sue the shit out of anyone who commits the crimes afterwards.

The great part is that if some punk decides to actually copy these things, image having to hear from the original maniac who commited the crime? Better yet, how about we also copyright any sort of crime. We can charge people for the crime they commited plus infriging some copyright laws! The downside is that the first person who commited the crime can get right off of someone copying his work, but how about copyrighting, copycat crimes once the settlements for actually copying the crimes are made? What an idea!


Moving around in Quebec

I broke out of my usual reads the other day and picked up a free copy of the local newspaper here. As it turns out, the opinion section held two articles that made me laugh quite a bit and entertained me as well. One of them concerned an Australian family who recently moved to Quebec and were having a hard time getting use to driving here. She felt out of the loop about a number of constantly broken laws and the lack of police presence about the subject. The article pointed out a lot of flaws Quebec drivers have, and made me realize, it isn't just driving that we enjoy being pushy about, it's also walking.

When it comes to driving, Quebecers often times turn a blind eye to the law. It is quite a common site to cut accross three lanes without the use of a signal. Anyone who's driven in major cities will tell you that one can encounter 'distance lines' which are lines painted on the highway that indicate the proper distance one should be of other cars on the road. Montreal lacks such lines, and drivers lack such knowledge. Following people really close to force them to change lanes is common sight, and common practice here. When the highways are blocked by traffic, people don't signal, wait and then merge into a lane, they simply cut and push their way through!

The speed limit is also something subjective over here. One can see both extremities. While on the one hand, it's common practice to talk on a cell phone and drive on the highway at 50km/h, and on the other, it's also common to be driving at 160km/h and high beam the guy in front to tell him to "GET THE FUCK OUT OF THE WAY!" People also enjoy forging their way up one-ways, and entering through exits. Anything is possible on Quebec roads! We're paving the way to the future...in blood!

The same practice can also be observed in how we decide to cross the road and walk around. Pedestrians cross roads when they want, and how they want. Cut across the whole intersection in a oblique line? Sure, why not! Most major city pedestrians seem to respect the whole pedestrian walk system, over here, nobody cares. People walk in the middle of the road if they feel like it. Parking lots turn into death traps for everyone, but nobody cares because everyone wants to be first to go.

It doesn't surprise me to see overpasses collapsing, the people who build them are the same people who drive on them.

Side note: Part of the leters to the paper had a guy bitching about learning the area codes when dialing numbes. His argument was that since he still gets connected, he shouldn't have to remember the numbers. How stupid is that? How hard is it to remember 3 extra numbers, not to mention those 3 fucking numbers will be the same to most, if not all the numbers this sad excuse for an intellect will have to remember. When I was on my way back from Ottawa, I listened to a station in the city that had the announcer pronounce this phrase: "I guess it's a good sign that we now have to dial the area code as it is a sign our city is growing and expanding!". Here in Quebec "Colisse de numero a marde!"


The Pleasure of Vinyl

There is a key element missing in music consumerism today. As we have made the transition from vinyls to CDs to MP3s, the physical manifestation of our love of music has been lost. Looking back at vinyl, for instance, the expressive gatefold covers, almost as important as the music itself in some respects, created a whole experience around the music. One needs only to think of Roger Dean's famous paintings for most of the Yes albums, or Hypgnosis' design of Pink Floyd's covers as examples of this. With the miniaturization resulting in the transition to CDs, cover art became less important. Liner notes were initially abundant, but slowly degraded over to time to little more than a placeholder piece of paper. In the fully digital world, there is nothing left of this. Buying songs on iTunes, or downloading them illegally from Torrents or P2P apps is inherently less rewarding than ripping off the shrinkwrap from your favourite band's new album.

Vinyl had another interesting thing going for it, which most would see as a downside. Listening to a record was a very meticulous process which required proper care and tuning of the stylus, tracking weight of the arm, etc. The records themselves also required specific care in order to maintain optimal quality. Indeed, it was annoying at times, but it contributed to this physical connection to the music and, I believe, a deeper understanding and respect for it.

Last but not least, sound quality has not improved through the years whatsoever. Today's MP3 players don't sound as good (to an audiophile, of course...) as CD players did, due in part to the lossy compression. CDs lacked the warmth and natural sound of vinyls which, as I have argued in the past, have the potential for much higher audio quality than CDs do.

Remember McLuhan: The medium is the message...


Highlights: Letter to a Christian Nation

I seem to really be harping on the religious stuff lately. Seems like I don't have any humorous social commentary to make (Between me and the other Eric, we've probably said it all...judging by the size of the archive now). Having said that, I finished Sam Harris' new uber-short read Letter to a Christian Nation tonight in a few hours' time. Here are just a few excerpts I wrote down which either had me laughing or applauding, and I thought I'd convey to those reading this.

Speaking about the relatively high percentage of miscarriages and births which we do not know about, in relation to abortion:
If God exists, he is the most prolific abortionist of all.

Paraphrasing from the Bible:
If a man discovers on his wedding night that his wife is not a virgin, he must stone her to death on her father's doorstep.

Atheism is nothing more than the noises reasonable people make in the presence of unjustified religious beliefs.

It is time that we admitted that faith is nothing more than the license religious people give one another to keep believing when reasons fail.

More Short Takes

-There appears to be an inversely proportional correlation with intelligence and smoking. It suddenly hit me that there are very few people at university who smoke, and that there has been a gradual decline in percentage since high school. My thinking is that there has to be some type of link here between those who succeed in life and non-smoking. I have always said that smoking is a character flaw in that it shows a personality weakness, but this new conclusion is all the more interesting. Either this is the case, or smokers are choosing to conglomerate in hidden bunkers for fear of lynching.

-The collapse of another overpass in Laval two days ago is a humorous situation. Is it just me, or does shit like this only EVER happen in Montreal? There was that overpass that was under construction a few years ago that just collapsed onto the highway, and now this one. No matter what or who is to blame, it just seems to me that you never hear about major overpasses randomly collapsing in other cities. No doubt the complete state of disrepair of most Montreal streets and bridges has absolutely nothing to do with this incident!

-When you go out in public, you're not at home. This year, the university has ripped out all the nasty old desks on one floor of the library and instead put in some nice new carpeting and couches galore. This is a fantastic idea, as it gives students a more comfortable, relaxed atmosphere in which to study. The problem is that some people think that because there's a couch there, it's like your fucking living room. The worst offenders that I've noted so far are those who kick off their shoes and lay down on the couches, or put their feet up on the table, allowing everyone around to smell their cheesecrust corn nibblet toes. One girl even went as far as completely removing her socks and smearing her feet all over the place as she tried to lay down and get comfortable. Another couple figured that because there were couches there, that this was a social environment. Therefore, they began talking loudly. After about 10 minutes, everyone was yelling at them to shut the fuck up. This is a library... not your dirty living room.

-Academic texts are needlessly pompous. It seems like most academics take pride in writing in the driest, most uninteresting possible style, which makes watching paint dry look like a pleasurable activity. It's not the content that's the problem, but rather the arrogant manner in which it's written. I admire Chomsky for being an intellectual who speaks out about trash like this, admitting that he doesn't understand half of the postmodernist literature because it's written in a manner that tries to exclude everyone but their own little sect. As Chomsky put it (I'm paraphrasing), if intellectual elites were to simplify the language in which they conveyed their ideas, it would make their positions in society irrelevant, which is simply unacceptable! In reading most academic texts, it amazes me how two pages could often be summarized into half a page. In political anthropology, for example, the primary literature is mostly pompous bullshit. Foucault wrote this 15 page text on the structure of discourse that was summarized in a political anthropology reference book in about three paragraphs. There was nothing I got out of the Foucault text that was not understood in those summarized paragraphs.

-Finally, while speaking of Chomsky, there's a comment in his latest book, Failed States, which comments on the judgment of the Nuremberg Tribunal (faithful followers may remember a similar comment he made on his Bill Maher appearance a few years ago). The judgment of the tribunal expands on such precedents as the Geneva Convention, and was adopted by the International Law Commission of the UN over 50 years ago. More specifically, the following part from Article III is interesting to note: "The fact that a person who committed an act which constitutes a crime under international law acted as Head of State or responsible Government official does not relieve him from responsibility under international law." Chomsky cites the example of the German foreign minister who "was hanged for such crimes as his role in the preemptive attack on Norway" If honesty were still an important principle today, and the United States government did not continuously apply a double-standard to itself, the leaders of the US government would be given the death penalty for their part in violating the Geneva conventions, especially relating to torture of prisoners, extradition, and unlawful detainment of prisoners without just cause. Least of all, for the illegal invasion of Iraq, which defied pretty much every international law in the book.