Sunday, February 27, 2005

Portugal II

Just a short post to tell you of some of the cultural shocks I have been perplexed and enlightened by. Johnny took me to her parents who were very parental in an ideal way that I imagined and idealized her parents to be. I thought I didn’t like fish. Correction: empirical research suggests that I don’t like any fish other than Johnny’s mother’s fish, or perhaps that Canadian fish sucks because it is frozen and Portuguese fish rocks because it is fresh and cooked to perfection.

Throughout dinner I struggled to fit in and manage around the language barrier. I now know the words obrigade and when to say ciao and how to rarely say adios. One obstacle is that I am a slob and this conflicted with the fact that Porties are very well mannered, as far as I can tell. I saved broccoli pieces as they jumped off my plate, slyly retrieved them, learned to put my napkin in my lap, and ALWAYS USE A KNIFE AND FORK. It may seem common sense to some, but it absolutely confused me when I was brought a second set of cutlery in preparation for an ORANGE. How do you eat an orange with a fork and knife? Is this what people do? Well, I used observational learning and was calmed by the fact that they too eat oranges with their organic digits, but I tried to impress them with my flair as I peeled the orange with my knife and made a swirl to undress it with one swoop. No one applauded, but I think they were all secretly impressed (or so I would have myself believe). Needless to say, lunch was very good. I like how Porties have all the amenities on the table: olive oil, vinegar, and «crisps». They all converse brightly and simultaneously, with their grand hand gestures, humourous teasing, and colourful laughter.

In other affairs, I am learning how to be fashionable. Since I walk with a stiff sailor’s gait, I am loosening up in hopes of one day walking like a homo erectus and being admired on the runway. I got some wonderful clothes, a jacket and a sweater as well as some brilliantly beautiful shoes. I let Johnny do the honours of pitching my old $7 second hand shoes into the «rubbish bin». Howard was with us for awhile but he became impatient. He said he «had some matters to attend to» and that he would meet up with us at the mall but then he was typically evasive. I’m sure we’ll see him again. For now, it is a relief to not have to hear his suggestions about how Johnny should rearrange her furniture, or his unbecoming habit of noticeably imitating the gestures of Porties on the street.

Friday, February 25, 2005

Glass Explosions in Portugal

Tropical haven here with all the palm trees everywhere. I took a flight to New Jersey, noticed the sign that said «your car may be searched» (for no apparent reason) heard the warnings that unattended luggage may be removed and destroyed, and got on the plane to Lisbon with the help of some people who were able to translate not-english not-portuguese not-spanish and tell me «they are now boarding seats 25 and up». I watched some silly movies like Taxi featuring Portuguese model/bank robbers and another with convicts that sing in Gospel choirs starring Beyonce. She did a good version of «Fever». I kept slugging down rum and cokes to endure the turbulence, slept an hour out of 48 and made it to Lisbon.

It has been a day and I´m totally used to Portie time. What I am not used to is Portie technology. I woke up this morning with a tragic air lingering about me. Sure, I felt chipper because unless I´m forced by school, I never wake up at 9am in Canada. I trundled into the kitchen and tried my hand at Johnny’s coffee brewing contraption. From looking at the oddity, I actually figured out how it was to be used, but the stove was a different matter.

First I must explain that my stove is a glass convection stove that is gas operated. You put pots directly on the glass and it heats up just like magic. I thought everything worked the same way on Johnny’s stove. There was nice glass, an igniter, and gas. I turned it on and it seemed to be going well until the brewer started heating up (well, really, the glass that is not designed for convection was heating up). I lifted up the brewer and set it down on the glass and POP!”#!” the whole top glass piece when flying everywhere. Johnny comes in the kitchen looking worried as she should (it sounded like a glass factory exploding or something) and then she explained that the glass was a COVER!!! Didn’t I feel like the dumb blond? So we had some sweeping time and she was very gentle with me. She might have grabbed me by the neck and flung me out the window to my sympathetic death.

I was feeling a bit bummed about it, but I am not good with technology. I already killed her CD player after that by putting in a cursed CD. She told me I was lucky the glass didn’t go flying into my cornea. With my imagination I immediately started picturing other images of the glass slicing my belly open and leaving my intestines hanging or other such pleasantries but since this is a blog for the whole family I won’t even mention that. She put it into perspective with her story about the poor farmer, his cow and his son.

The story goes like this: there was a poor farmer. He talked to angels as intercessory communicators. He wondered why God would give him such a poor lot. Even more so when his cow died. Now he had even less. Then his son broke his arm. There’s no workers compensation on the farm. What a tough God, he thought. Then the angel explained that he had really done the man a service through his negotiations. You see, the angel of death had been hovering over the family for some time, and the angel thought the cow was a better sacrifice than the farmer’s wife. Women’s udders are better. Then the army was enlisting soldiers that were able-bodied. The farmer’s son would have had to go but instead he had a broken arm. So, you see, the injuries and the loss of a cow were really a blessing that saved the family from further loss. The wife could have died or the son could have been sent to war, but the angel was a good salesman. I would have lost an eye or got my guts ripped apart but instead I just smashed the hell out of Johnny’s stove. So it’s not so bad.

Today we will go to the beach and then the synagogue. I’ve never been to a Jewish synagogue but I like the Hebrew music I’ve heard so far and we Jews and Christians share some of our texts after all. So, that will be fun. This is a great holiday and it’s just starting. If I can manage not to break Johnny’s flat it will be even better. Here goes a try.

Tuesday, February 22, 2005

Johnny put her artistic efforts towards creating this avatar of me. It's so realistic it scares me. Posted by Hello

Monday, February 21, 2005

Day of Projects

Before I go to school to write my Strategic Planning exam, I go upstairs to fix myself a cup of coffee that Howard got me from Planet Bean. Then I'm off to a meeting with Mennonite Central Committee to plan ways of raising funds for their Generations at Risk AIDS relief program.

They communicate through the Mennonite and Brethren churches, produce CD's to raise money, assemble relief kits to be distributed by volunteers and give money to local organizations in Africa, Asia and other poor areas affected by AIDS. They want to give more orphans resources, more people care, and education to prevent the spread of AIDS, but there is a long way to go.

Whereas the tsunami was a hard hit that captured the public's attention, people seldom think about AIDS as a worthy issue because it's an ongoing epidemic. Jubilee 2000 never happened and third world countries are still in billions of dollars of debt. Other relief organizations like Artists Against AIDS Worldwide have been set up because celebrities like Bono and Fred Durst have taken a stance and decided to make a difference. It may take recognizable stars like Alisha Keyes to get people to pull together, but if so, then so be it, you can make a difference. MCC sees themselves making a difference by providing money to local organizations that can use it more effectively. They want to build relationships and support structures that will last, instead of providing band-aid solutions that merely cover the problem up from public view.

Guess Who's Going to Portugal (Not just me)

I come home to find Howard quietly sitting in my basement, wearing a new suit and tie, reading the paper. Surprised, I ask him what he's doing here. "You left the door open." He explains. "But why did you come here?" I ask. "Don't you think we have some preparing to do?" I have no idea what he's talking about. Frustrated, I throw off my schoolbag and go into my room only to find the incomprehensible. He apparently and deliberately took over my entire personal space to hang clothes-lines from one wall to another. There are assortments of every kind of sock possible and his scent is attributable to his bottles of cologne sitting on my dresser. Howard never settles for simply black or white or any other colours. No, there are black socks with white polka dots, yellow socks with green polka dots, ones with grey and white stripes, diagonal and horizontal, long and short, even socks with individual toes, which I could never see Howard wearing but nevertheless make it so that I have to duck to avoid being beheaded. My room looks like some sort of deranged theme-park. "Uh, Howard." "Yes?" he says, not even looking up from the paper? "You know we have a dryer eh?" "Of course, but I didn't want to bother you. Using a clothes-line is much more energy conscious." If he were a bit more energy conscious he might have saved himself the energy and not colonized my life. I need to get to the root of this so I ask him point-blankly: "What the hell is going on?" "Would you like a drink?" He asks. "What do you have?" "Only Hennesey." "That'll do. Now what's up?" "We're going to Portugal." I almost faint.

I thought that he must certainly be joking. But no, he bought a ticket from and even has all his belongings packed (something I haven't started). "We have to drink this bottle before Wednesday. They only allow us one bottle of hard liquor each on the plane. Bottoms up!" I give him the clink but refuse the drink. Hennesey eats at my stomach. He is apparently in a celebratory mood considering it's a 40 ounce bottle and he's barely penetrated the neck. "I thought you said we had preparing to do. Now you're being an alcoholic." "You didn't think you could run off without old father Howard did you?" "You're not my father." I say irritably.

I often feel more like Howard is more of a child than any kind of mentor, yet he is full of surprises. "Nevertheless," he continues "we are going to be back-packing together. You're going to introduce me to the illustrious lioness, and we will be partners in crime (not literally that is)." I try to level with him. "Howard, ok, I look up to you. I respect you. You know what you've done for me both professionally and personally to change my life but.." Then he interrupts me with "and that is why I have opted to help you in your navigation. My family has been bred to travel for centuries. You don't think we are named the 'Waywords' for nothing do ye? Onward and Wayword is what we always say! We will penetrate the country right through the centre, then we will hike up to the Porte e Norte and forge south to the Algarve. We will touch the sable earth with our fingers and make ourselves known to the villas. Yes! I even got you a pair of speedoes for the beach. I will be mingling with the Portuguese beauties on shore naturally. I will ride on the waves towards the Madieras until I crush them with my paddle. Onward and wayword! Hey Ho! Onward and Wayword!!"

At this point, I can no longer control Howard. He is taken by a fit of excitement and megalomania. I guess I will just have to put up with his nonsense intercontinentally. Oh well, perhaps the Portuguese can teach him a lesson about not being so arrogant better than I. It will be embarassing if he presumes to know everything about everything if he can't even speak the language. Either way, Howard and I will get our sun. He comes up behind me just as I'm about to go out for a cigarette. "Oh no no no, my son. What will it be first? Toilettries? Electronics? You aren't going to leave packing for last minute on me. That's what I came here to prevent." Maybe I can lose him in a busy Portuguese marketplace. Oh well, now I'll have someone to talk to on the plane, not that he'll ever shut up.

Sunday, February 20, 2005

My dad helps me jump-start the van with his truck, making sure to attach the positives to the positives and the negatives to the negatives, telling me with his hoarse, cold-infected voice. I drive to work and notice the days must be longer to be able to see the sunset. Usually, my saturdays are mostly black.

It is very busy at the restaurant, but the occupation keeps my mind off of some things, while the knowledge that I'll have two weeks off after it motors me through garbage take-out and other episodes of almost dropping a full glass of water on a waiter's head or actually elbowing a woman in the forehead, and then having her tell me she was going to sue me even though it was an accident that was prone to happen in a crowded bar. I don't think she is even angry, or serious. Nevertheless, when she threatens me, I smile and say "do it."

I have a slice of pizza after work with a couple of chaps and vent and laugh with my friends from work. When I get home I find Johnny's message that she is on the Kibbutz. The funeral will be at 2pm Isreali time. She is ok but overwhelmed by the unreality of it all. It is so bad what happened.

On Boxing day this past year, one of the worst nightmares of our decade was unleashed unbeknownst to us, until we saw the news and the implications of real life sunk in. Now everyone is scrambling to try to clean up the mess it left and get over the loss it took, some are still figuring out what it was and how much. It's a stunning thing when something so big could have an impact on almost anything, and there are so many messages that we are bombarded with minutely, but then one touches your particular life, and makes it so that it doesn't even resemble what you thought it was before.

I hope she is with Lisa, Savtadotty and Squarepeg. It's important to be with those who are familiar to us at times like this, so that we don't feel completely alone. It is mental torture to think suddenly you are trapped inside a perspective that no one else can ever see or understand. People can, I think, not necessarily that they will. People do amazing things all the time, but it takes a lot for them, and often we aren't looking. They do amazing things, especially when you wish they didn't have to, and that's how we survive.

Saturday, February 19, 2005

Time Flies when you're Cutting Limes

and so does Johnny. After arriving home from work and going to sleep, I waken half-consciously when my phone makes the notification sound that I have been text-messaged. It was Johnny saying she was in Brussels, asking her idiosyncratic question "who knew?" for the fact that she has done something seemingly inconceiveable. She could be in Tel Aviv by now, on her way to Uzi's funeral.

It is unfortunate that I never met him. He was apparently very kind and he was "Tig" to Johnny. He called her "Pip" and they hadn't ever been without each other whenever they were in Isreal. Now it would be easier to think she's just going to visit him, because she couldn't bear to think of going to Isreal without him. Grief does strange things to the mind and sometimes it makes it possible for two contradictory things to happen at once. Denial lost its strength and it's apparent now that Uzi is really gone, but we will remember him, even those of us who never met him; how he lived and why it makes a difference.

I'll be going to Portugal just as Johnny gets back. We'll both be like scrambled waves converging in Lisbon and meeting in the airport. There are so many things to see that I am SO excited to go to Portugal, because I've never been there. I told Johnny that I would wait by "the rolling thingy" so that's all I have to remember, AND not wear the ugly sunglasses.

Tonight will be my last night working for awhile because then it's HOLIDAYS!! I then write exams in Advertising and Strategic Planning before I get on the plane. I've really needed a break ever since, well, the summer, because Christmas never was one. I got a lucky promotion yesterday from being in the right time at the right place when staff is badly needed (even though I've been pointing to myself and asking "you need a bar-runner?" for months and people still don't know my name). So tonight I will be making the great career advancement from busser to bar-runner, and from the mellower, older-crowded Flying Dog, to the big club Revolution.

Revolution has just been redecorated and given nice white couches. Now everyone wants to go there and management is thinking of hiring security just to stand over those couches and watch for spills. (Why white???) Anyway, so the environment and the position change should make things go even faster tonight while my mind is off wandering, and my fingers are cutting limes.

Wednesday, February 16, 2005

A Protocol without a Plan

The Kyoto Protocol comes into effect this Thursday, but Canada has no definite plan about how it will achieve this goal. Rick Mercer, known from "This Hour Has 22 Minutes" a comedy/news show, promotes the one tonne challenge, a government program where regular citizens are encouraged to reduce their green-house gases. Consumers and government burn about as much fossil fuels as they consume products whose procedures cause industrial waste. With the strange whether, melting ice-caps, increased asthma, and poor air quality, economists and environmentalists should be starting to come together with their world view.

US, although a huge producer of green-house gases, refuses to sign its own treaty because it feels it goes against its economic interests. It's obvious that pollutants aren't good for us or our longevity as a species. It's time for us to take up the challenge.

Filed under Environment
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Saturday, February 12, 2005

In the Sick of it All

I have a headache today. It could be my neck. It's just that I feel it in my head, near the base of my skull and in between my eyes. Stress. I still don't have a job lined up for the summer.

Well, actually, I just got called back to do my job from last summer: restoration. That's where I got a nail in the arm, a rip in my leg, sommersaulted off of scaffolds and ruined my back for about a month. I also got fit, made decent money and had good, consistent work, shoveling, jack-hammering, painting, climbing, nail-gunning, demolishing, sawing, and measuring. So, as it is, it looks like I will be standing on a swing-stage instead of marketing and building mutually beneficial relations with the public to reach the next stage in my life. Although, I wish that someone would hire me for my mind instead of my muscles. I makes me attitudinal.

It's annoying that employers never get back to you. I've learned to be persistent and leave them messages and visit their offices after I've applied to "follow up" or "set up an appointments" but even that is tough. There is usually a gatekeeper. I sometimes wonder whether the person that is listed to apply to is really just a decoy, some fictional person that obstructs you from harassing whoever is really behind the scene.

Today I will write more coverletters and search in the hopes of changing my fate. This summer drudgery is just a growing routine that I'd like to alter. Hey, it's not like I'm stuck in a factory year-round like some people I know, but how am I ever going to get experience if I need experience to get experience in PR? I've been going to school for 17/23rds of my life to get a decent job and so far, all I'm seen as is a disposable adolescent. I'm sick of this. My head aches.

I love! It's such a wonderful tool. You can design your own surveys, add questions, bias the response, whatever you want! I even have so much fun that I design surveys like this one and fill it out myself. I must figure out how to make it automatically compile results. I'm sure I could find out very interesting things.  Posted by Hello

Tuesday, February 08, 2005

Howard Communicates via Waves

It is the middle of the night, I'm broadcasting to you life-forms from outer space. It is the middle of the day. It is the afternoon. I am radioing this in at this moment from outer-space! There is no global time. I am looking at the sun as it peeks over to see what the moon is doing on the other side of the earth. Is it Tuesday or Wednesday? I can see both of them. Yes, it IS possible.

If I haven't introduced myself before, I am Howard It has always been my hobbyhorse to one day play father time and watch both the sunset, and the sunrise. Yes, you can see my face directly. Do not look so shocked. I am not wearing a space-suit, or garters, or fetters, or a silly pair of pants, or a bow-tie, neither am I wearing anything disreputable on my person. I have learned to astral project so that I may go places where no man or woman has gone before, where the effects of oxygen-deprivation do not affect my physical body because of my exceptional circumstances, yet all my internal physiology is inherently linked with the stars, with what a primate loosely orbitting several meteors somewhere in the universe might be like, so that I may have my outerworldly adventures, under relatively comfortable circumstances.

Of course, you who may be skeptics may wonder, but the fact is there is someone who knows, and although I cannot report the exact coordinates of my soul at this particular moment in your limited numerals, it is because actually, the worm-hole that holds this galaxy is constantly shifting on its axis, and at this moment, things are instable enough, that I can't tell you precisely, whether the year of the rooster is fully or only partially evolving at this particular moment of conjunction between the various planets and stars that hold this intricate system together, or whether shapes are round or oblong, but I can tell you that for some reason, my astral body has taken up a new form of movement, which I can only describe as some kind of disco dance.

To not overwhelm you now with lengthy explanations, I will simply send my regards and assurance that I will be completely safe out here in outer-space, and I will share my my main observance, which would be that it is overwhelmingly quiet out here. It is so quiet that as I speak I cannot even subvocalize what I am saying. SILENCE... Since there is no oxygen, the sound doesn't carry. I am coerced into the supposition that even my mind must be communicating on a more fundamental, intuitive plain. It is a mute one, in which symbols are more expressive, concentrated, intense, and less diluted in form, yet the debris of matter whirling at millions of miles an hour is no less real. It sounds so much more clearer. Even as gysers are exploding in front of you, it would be easy enough to fall asleep. For the written language communicated in space, there are no auditory ambiguities or opportunities to mistake the sound of a C for a D, or any other for that matter, because you don't even internally hear it. The thought of sound is impossible. However, the language here is so impeccably understandable. A Satellite just told me it is time to sign off. Humans on earth cannot often afford this luxury. Space is a wonderful place. No wonder aliens are so laid back.

Oh no! I appear to be gravitating towards another mass...

Filed under Howard Wayword

Self-Report on Consumer Behaviour

I kept a journal of the list of things I bought, their brand, their price, and the date I bought them on for two weeks. Then I wrote this 'reflection' for an Advertising assignment.

Many of my purchases are things that I buy either impulsively while I’m buying other related products or because they are essentials that I need to “self-actualize” i.e. do the things I want to do. When I am involved in social behaviour, I mimic the consumer decisions of those around me, buying and consuming many of the things that they do. This is what is referred to as conformity. Since people are like herding animals, we tend to socialize by partaking in the same activities as those around us. For example, eating pizza or drinking coffee or even reading certain books can all be related back to the attitudes we adopt about certain lifestyles, and the products that are associated with living those lifestyles.

The products that I buy are selected largely because of the reference groups in my life. I am not so much concerned with brands as products that may be connected to the kinds of groups I affiliate with, but they also refer to certain times and places in my life, frames. For example, I can always count on a Tim Horton’s coffee, because for me, I associate that with a break from hard restoration labour. I like DuMaurier because it takes me back to the days when I was just a young smoker, and Dr.Pepper is a treat for me because it has a catchy name, and I was exposed to the ad probably thousands of times before I ever got to try it out myself. A brand is a label that marks the product as what it is while subtly integrating a justification for using that product in the brand itself. The name Dr.Pepper makes me think of medicine, and then, on some level I think of the drink as something that is good for me. Dr.Pepper is immediately recognizable, so when I see it on the machine, my sense of thirst is elicited, and I already want the product before I’ve even been exposed to it directly. I know all the various pros and cons of each cigarette brand: which ones are cheap, which have special features or exotic tastes. DuMaurier has even added a small red square DuMaurier icon to each cigarette. When I first noticed this, I must admit, I uttered: “cool!” It caught my attention and distinguished the brand from other cigarettes, so I wanted to associate with that brand because by surrounding yourself by things you like, you hope to be liked. Advertising targets the fulfillment of a motive or a specific mood. So even if it is an aesthetic mood for an unaesthetic product, it brands the thought associated with that product.

I buy other things that I sometimes argue I didn’t choose to buy, but they are actually things I integrate so much into my personality that it feels as if I have no choice whether or not I buy them. To look at myself in the mirror and think I am who I am involves conscience of the things I own that facilitate activities that I identify with myself. There is a certain amount of personality upkeep we maintain via activities and behaviours that inevitably involve necessities and luxuries. For example, my passport and my books fulfill a need to pursue the things that are important to me: namely, travel, entertainment and greater freedom. If someone can convince me of the benefits of having things because they give me more choices, then I am apt to go for them, regardless of the costs.

I bought my microphone at a relatively high price compared to other things, but I figured it was worth the sacrifice because it related to personal goals that are subjective and not objectively quantifiable to price-value. This is why advertising often has a personal slant, where an organization claims not to be interested in mass-media, but rather what your needs are, as an individual. People want something that is unique and genuine enough to appeal specifically to them and facilitate the development of their personality. Celebrity endorsements of products are effective because those celebrities already have a public persona. By associating a product to them, it gives the product personality, recognizability, credibility, and authority. People buy the product in an effort to become like celebrities, believing that if celebrities choose certain things, then it must be a part of their personality. If those things are part of their personality and they are acquirable, then so is personality.

Advertising glorifies and celebrates the freedom that we have as consumers. It doesn’t show the negative consequences of buying a product that isn’t satisfying, because its mission is to sell. As a result, Affluenza is a particular disease of wealthy nations. Some have suggested that advertising may get to the point where the ad entirely replaces the product, but this will not be possible until everything can be transmitted as information, since that’s what ads are: well-crafted information. In the meantime, we respond by buying, and our choices continue to be influenced by our selective attention to needs that have been targeted by advertising.

Monday, February 07, 2005

I was experimenting with a little program called "ClickN' Design 3D" where you can custom design your own CD cases and such. It's very handy. My main purpose in using it in this case was simply to see if I could convert the file to JPEG format. I SUCCEEDED!! You can convert anything to JPEG, which makes it much more easy to send! You can insert your own photographs and play with colour schemes with this program, even design stickers to go directly on a CD with titles and text and whistles too by using the stomper. Yes, stomp it good. Pick it up at Staples for cheap. This is nothing compared to what you can do, but it is an example of something you can pull off in just a few seconds. Posted by Hello

Saturday, February 05, 2005

A Case for Aesthetic Pleasure from Fungus

You know, people always pick flowers for each other to give for friends, relatives, or as a romantic gesture. We all think they're cute, sentimental, "nice" la la. But how often do we stop to marvel the beauty of a fungus? Lively with growth and so fragile, you just want to reach out and touch them. They come in so many shapes and sizes and textures, thin and papery or fat and gooshy, filled with explosive puffballs or red and phallic.

I find the dogstinkhorn to be an especially erotic fungus. Its redness is passionately intense, and frankly you just can't have a more handsome fungus than that.

In the olden days, I used to find almost hard white fungus in the shape of plates sticking out of the sides of the trees, like these. This jolly delight would hit me from a distance, spotting what looked like a natural spiral staircase, with little steps, and no handles of course. What was it? Marshmallows growing on the tree? No, FUNGUS!! Then I collected them, they were always good to me. I wouldn't encourage people to hurt trees by ripping their bark off, I did that in my reckless youth, but if we decapitate roses all the time, why not fungi?

Fungus works with so many things, it can become a part of you in many forms including Athletes foot. It can hide in a towel. It is an ingenius little thing, interacting and consuming bacteria like cattle do grass. That's why I feel like the fungus character is something the really likes certain things very much, and it quickly becomes intimate with that thing to the point where it feeds off of that thing but then varies and evolves through cycles on its own. How symbiotic.

The Lioness had a beautiful picture of pink fungus on a mossy tree, but now she has another picture of a lovable pink friend, promoting his

Thursday, February 03, 2005

Robots Fighting Terrorists?

Yes, the machines are rising. The military is developing robots equipped with night-vision, video-recording capacity, with tank treads and semi-automatic weapons to fight enemies from a distance. Some of the variations of the model even have flame-throwers.

These SWORDS(Special Weapons Observation Reconnaisance Detection Systems)would be monitored by hidden soldiers removed from the action, that would control them via remote.

This solution to war would definitely cut down on the amount of human casualties, at least on the part of the robot-owning and commanding party, but is it really a reasonable solution to the US need to replenish and keep its forces in Iraq or when they decide to invade Iran?

Soldiers are trained to be inhuman, to follow orders, unflinchingly. If they introduced robots that carried out orders from soldiers who followed orders from generals, the purpose would be even farther removed from its source, and a robot can be as ruthless as the person on the other side of the remote wants it to be.

Imagine what it would be like to negotiate with a robot. Would the robots themselves have a way of communicating to the enemy? Would there be audiorecording too? Imagine a robot trundling into your house in pitch black dark. You wake up to an expressionless face and a machine-operated machine-gun pointed at you saying, "Show yourself! I am a weapons-detection system. If you do not cooperate, you will be eliminated!"

It definitely provokes the imagination of our generation, nursed on science fiction and Star Wars. If we create machines to carry out our own investigations, who's to say they won't be tampered with? Coupled with a universe monitored by satellites from outer space and an evolving sophistication of artificial intelligence, who's to say the machines won't start interfering and fighting with each other? I mean, they are bound to be flawed or biased by their masters and creators. What the human eye can sense about the contradictions of certain situations and how well intended orders can sometimes lead to disaster, robots cannot. Although technically, the images that the robot provides would be exposed to a human monitor, they would be filtered and limited by the technology that is conveying them.

As much as I'd like to save human lives, this freaks me out. I do not want to hand over the control and execution of war over to machines. If these machines are really effective, they could be used to find unmanned weapons like buried landmines, so that they could be identified and quarantined, or act as surveyors, without the guns. When the ownership of a gun itself increases the risk of that person's family being accidentally shot in their own home, I don't think it's a good idea to increase that risk by having a machine that controls a gun that is supposed to coerce and control another human.

Robots are great, however, we have to remember that although they may have intelligence, they do not have emotional intelligence. Our physiology as humans is designed to feel and weigh ethical issues emotionally based on direct experience, where we can judge another person's body language and emotion in person. For example, mediators and other human violence interventionists are highly trained communicators who can negotiate solutions with fanatics because they provide an environment that is less threatening and provide options that they wouldn't otherwise have. I don't think robots are as versatile. Neither do I think we'll even get to the point where we have the authority to mediate those judgements through a robot.

So my opinion is, if you're going to make robots, please make them peaceful. It doesn't matter if they can hit a nickle sized target 80 metres away 70 times out of 70 shots, because someone will use that precision for evil purposes. However, using technology for war is already snowballing. You can find out more about the strategic mission, and how we allegedly need soldiers and fighters more than ever because we are living in a time characterized by "opportunity and danger" where according to House Armed Services Committee, that stated, in 2003 (after the weapons inspectors still couldn't find anything and Saddam was already ousted that "Iraq is also aggressively seeking nuclear weapons."

The only weapons of mass destruction that I know have ruined lives are the chemical weapons that Saddam Hussein used against the Kurds in the 90's. Since then, coalition forces have gone around the world dropping bombs and planting mines in the guise of saving the world from great danger.

Now that the Iraqi elections have taken place, I'm proud of them. However, I don't think the invasion and the war are good things. Obviously they are not over and it may not be for a long time because perhaps Iraq was just a launch pad for something even more horrendous and dangerous that coalition forces will not react to, but initiate. Bush has a big agenda.

So if a robot comes to your door, do not invite them in, do not talk to them, because they aren't who they say they are. There are two kinds of robots: nice ones and mean ones. I trust CP30 but not a SWORDS because one is fiction and one is real, one is adorable while the other may appear so, but is a real killing machine.

Filed under News Reviews

Wednesday, February 02, 2005

With Valentines coming up, I was feeling a little romantic, but in a dark way. I wanted to express that through my computer painting. Posted by Hello

Tuesday, February 01, 2005

Another Bad Day for Farmers in Ontario

Last week farmers blocked traffic on the 401 near London to protest the restrictions on cash crops like tobacco. Today there was a recall on Sealtest chocolate milk because someone was hospitalized for drinking one that had a best before date of Feb 8. Apparently they found traces of chemical sanitizer in it. Milk prices will be going up 7 cents a litre despite the fact that they can't even sell all the milk that is produced and processed now, and butter and cheese suppliers will be looking for alternatives ways to cut corners.

When I listen to the radio now, it's just one big long sigh. Do the issues above sound like just another reason to turn away from and distrust the agricultural industry? You may cover your eyes, but the images don't go away. The fact that most of us need to live off of food we get from the grocery store should register as a problem.

Meanwhile on CBC, they discussed whether or not we should get rid of the penny. Apparently some people have nothing to worry about other than how inconvenient it is for them to count out the correct change. They whine because they have to roll their pennies and go to the bank, again. There was a general sense that discussing the issue was a waste of time but yet the proponent of this movement believes strongly that we could save valuable copper resources if we just got rid of the 1 cent. One smart caller suggested simply devaluing the dollar by 5 cents and adjusting accordingly so that you can actually buy something with a penny. No, that wouldn't work, rounding up and down to the nearest 5 cent doesn't work because it causes instability. So why don't you just suck it up and stop complaining about how you have money? If I wake up tomorrow and dollar value starts at 5 or 10 cents, I'm going to be really pissed off. That'll mean we've all lost it.

My dad and I talked about how much the government sucks over dinner. I asked him what the green-belt project is that I've heard about going on in the GTA. He explained that it's the provincial government's way of stealing land from farmers. I used to think I was liberal, it's how I voted, but the McGuinty government only seems to have successfully ticked off a large percentage of the public including me, for the ridiculous desires of special interest groups, like those who want to get rid of pit bulls.

Farmers are the ones saving the land for the future, but according to the government, it's them who has to pay so that city folk can have free rein to roam in the forest or over cropland. If farmers were saving the land to sell it for needed development space, now those around the GTA cannot, and with tight borders, BSE and no proposed solutions to farmers besides a questionable and tentative meeting sometime in the future, there doesn't seem to be any good reason not to sell your land right away and just get the hell out of the farming business before you're mummified in red tape, unless it's just something you love.

My father has been a farmer all his life. My grandfather farmed for over 80 years til the day he died. My other grandfather had a farm in Calgary, but he sold it because it's probably worth more as a mining site than a producer of wheat. But for some reason I always felt like farming was a dying profession, like the buffalo and the feathered Indian. Where have all the cowboys gone?

I'm not saying that it's not a good idea to conserve agricultural land because afterall, agricultural land is being lost to urbanization in Ontario faster than any other province but why blame the farmers for this? It's the people in real estate that are facilitating it. And if you want to save agricultural land, pay for it. The government should have just as much buying power as regular citizens. Oh, but I suppose they figure it's easier to be a crook.

So the government put a freeze on farmer's land so that they cannot sell it for urbanization. Basically they're devaluing their land so that it's worthless so that it's protected for everyone else who sold out for the city. Great plan. The government beat up the teachers, then it took away health coverage, now it's destroying agriculture. Who will be the next minority for the government to attack? Well, with the sponsorship scandal it can attack itself too. Let's get it together politicians. I know the house is mixed, but could you do something with that? Otherwise no one will succeed.

Filed under Environment
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