Friday, March 30, 2007

The Nature of Man (reposted with comments on :o( )

As I was driving tonight I saw more than a couple of cars with the little flags of different hockey teams. As I watched them I started to muse about the nature of tribalism and the little things we do all the time. I started wondering what someone outside of humanity would see by observing us, probably a bunch of great apes much like the chimps they had observed in Africa. (I know it's strange but it's been a long week, we just put on a Medieval fair with our kids at school, 12 hour workdays are not conducive to rationality)
We have oneupmanship with the alpha males beating their breasts and howling. (Here in Canada it's called Parliament, I always wonder how they can take themselves seriously) Tribalism with threats of violence (Alpha males beating each other up, except we do it by proxy, why should our alpha males get hurt when we can send someone else to do it in Irak and Afghanistan.) Tribalism is everywhere, from the fans of sports teams to street gangs and sometimes the sports fans are more violent. People have actually been beat up, even killed for a stupid sport, how useless is that? Have we come very far? Nope
As I was musing about such weighty things, the radio started playing some Gregorian chant. As I was listening I was struck by the dichotomy of our natures, how could we, the killer apes, come up with such sublimely beautiful music? Mozart's Requiem, Bach's Toccata, Handel's Messiah, Palestrina, all the music that transcends our nature. What about the great cathedrals, an act of faith made of stone. The great word smiths giving us words that will roll down through out the ages,

Shakespeare's Hamlet,

To be, or not to be--that is the question:
Whether 'tis nobler in the mind to suffer

The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune

Or to take arms against a sea of troubles

And by opposing end them. To die, to sleep--

No more--and by a sleep to say we end

The heartache, and the thousand natural shocks

That flesh is heir to. 'Tis a consummation

Devoutly to be wished. To die, to sleep--

To sleep--perchance to dream: ay, there's the rub,

For in that sleep of death what dreams may come

His Henry V
This story shall the good man teach his son;
And Crispin Crispian shall ne'er go by,
From this day to the ending of the world,
But we in it shall be remembered-
We few, we happy few, we band of brothers;
For he to-day that sheds his blood with me
Shall be my brother; be he ne'er so vile,
This day shall gentle his condition;
And gentlemen in England now-a-bed
Shall think themselves accurs'd they were not here,
And hold their manhoods cheap whiles any speaks
That fought with us upon Saint Crispin's day.

John Doone's For whom the bell tolls

Each man's death diminishes me,
For I am involved in mankind.
Therefore, send not to know
For whom the bell tolls,
It tolls for thee.

Milton's Paradise Lost, Dantes Inferno, Molière's superbe understanding of human nature. We have designed mathematics so complex and elegant that it can describe the fundamental nature of reality. How can our genome come up with a selfless example of humanity like Sister Theresa and a total monster like Hitler?
Sinner or saint? Demon or angel? G*d only knows for I surely don't.

***** SOMEHOW THE COMMENTS GOT TURNED OFF SO I'VE REPOSTED WITH THEM ON NOW. MEA CULPA, MEA CULPA, MEA MAXIMA CULPA. (for people who were not brought up as a catholic in the old days of latin, it means: my fault, my fault, my great fault!)******

Friday, March 23, 2007

Words, words words

Being an avid bunch of readers, everyone in our family has always had an affair of the heart with the words that convey the message. (see Jazz’s Blog) Two sentences can have the same meaning but a completely different feeling depending on which words you choose to use.
On the net I found this little page that tests you erudition. Have fun! (Let's see how you do lil' sister mine. ;o) )

Your Vocabulary Score: A+

Congratulations on your multifarious vocabulary!
You must be quite an erudite person.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Of mice and macs

I bought a new MacBook with 2 gigs of memory not long ago. It is our 8th Mac and we have had a Mac in the house since they brought out the first 512k Mac in 1985.
We had started computing way before that with a TI99/4A with all of 16k of memory. Programs? none, we programmed our own using Basic. Seems very primitive today but in those days it sure beat a slide rule and punch cards.
It is unbelievable the advance of technology in the last 30 years. I remember when I got my first Mac... BM (before Mac) you left spaces in your exams so that you could draw a diagram and cut and paste was done with scissors and glue. Barely 15 years ago if you wanted a web page you had to write the code by hand. Where will it all end? Well, I for one, won't be making any silly predictions because it is almost impossible to predict how far things will go. Some people however have tried....
  • "I think that there is maybe a world market for 5 computers." Thomas Watson; Chairman of IBM, 1943
  • "Computers of the future may weigh no more than 1.5 tons." Popular Mechanics 1949
  • "But what is it good for? (about the microchip)" Engineer at the Advanced Computing Division of IBM, 1968
  • "There is no reason to believe that anyone would want a computer in their home." Ken Olson founder of Digital Equipement Corporation, 1977
  • "640K ought to be enough for anybody." Bill Gates 1981
  • "So we went to Atari and said, 'Hey, we've got this amazing thing, even built with some of your parts, and what do you think about funding us? Or we'll give it to you. We just want to do it. Pay our salary, we'll come work for you.' And they said, 'No.' So then we went to Hewlett-Packard, and they said, 'Hey, we don't need you. You haven't got through college yet."' -Apple Computer founder Steve Jobs on attempts to get Atari and Hewlett-Packard interested in the personal computer that he and Steve Wozniak created

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Politicians and lack of "savoir-vivre"

Last night they had the leaders debate for the upcoming provincial election. While I am not a great fan of politicians and do not expect much from them, I do expect them to have a little bit of "savoir vivre". Last night however one of them, Mario Dumont, brought politics to a new low. Last fall, as you probably know, an overpass near here collapsed killing five people. Last night "Super Mario" came out with a government memorandum about the overpass that seemed to show that there had been problems before the collapse. He used this terrible tragedy to score political points off his adversaries. Hey guy, PEOPLE DIED IN THAT COLLAPSE! You don't use people's tragedy for political gain. It's worse that bad taste, it's just plain ghoulish.
Mario should be ashamed of himself, but knowing politicians I'm sure that he and his advisors are all patting themselves on the back for their coup. (I'm kind of surprised , in a way, that he didn't come into the studio with a piece of bloody concrete along with the memo.) And they wonder why people don't vote or why politicians have such a bad reputation.

Monday, March 12, 2007

Traveling what fun.

Well we are back from a small vacation in Tunisia. Mrs. BB and I have some friends in Tunisia so we decided to go pay them a visit. It was a delightful vacation but what a contrast. We left the day after the snow storm where we got 30 cm of snow and arrived in Tunis to a balmy 25 degrees. Then we left for a three day excursion in the southern desert. We rode camels, visited a dry salt lake, a hidden mountain oasis, climbed sand dunes, climbed in the ruins of a Roman coliseum and generally had a great time. We then came back to the hotel in Hammanet and relaxed for the next two days since it was pouring rain. Seems strange that a desert country like Tunisia should have such rain. There was 64 mm of water in 48 hours. I was reading in the news that Algeria was also hit hard. Finally we spent Saturday with our friends visiting the museums and Souks of Tunis. If you look at the picture you'll see that we went shopping at "The Bey" just like we do in Canada. ;o)
The people of Tunisia were invariably nice and helpful. In fact when we rode into Tunis on the local community taxis-bus (a small minibus that waits until full to go to destination and costs about 4 dinars ($4 cdn) from Hammanet to Tunis (75 km)) we needed to go from the terminus in Tunis to our hotel. A young lady who was on the bus with us was going our way, so we all piled into the taxi which brought us right to the door. When we offered to pay for the taxi, she just smiled, waved and wished a good day in Arabic. Their hospitality is without a doubt one of the most generous I have ever seen. Our friends refused to have us pay for anything, saying that in their culture a guest is sacred and is owed the best hospitality that they can give.
It is said that traveling widens our horizons, seeing how other cultures live makes it very hard to see them as two dimensional stereotypes. In every country we have been we have always encountered nice, generous people who would go out of their way to be helpful. From the police officer in Wales who called the hospital on his day off to ask how Mrs. BB was doing after an accident, to the staff of that hospital who went way beyond the call of duty to help, to the taxi driver in Liverpool who lead us to our destination and then refused payment, to the girl in Tunis, all of them showed us a generosity of spirit that seems to be a universal constant whatever the culture. I know that not everyone is like that but wherever we have gone we have always found generous people, and that makes traveling worth while. :o)

Friday, March 02, 2007

Snow day!!!! :o)

Well my March break just started with a bang... no school today since right now in Montréal we are having ourselves a nice snow storm (15-25 cm of snow with 40-60km/hr winds). (I'm sure that my lil, sister Jazz is very impressed, well maybe not, since I know how much she just loves winter) I'll be able to sit at my desk at home, with some Gregorian Chant playing on my Ipod (I know it's weird but I find it relaxing. I often play it while driving because of that, and no I'm not a believer, I'm an atheist, I just like the music.) This means that I'll be able to finally get all my corrections done, quietly, with nobody interrupting me every 2 minutes in the teacher's room because they are having a problem with a computer, printer, or program. At school; I'm the local computer geek. It's not part of my job but since I'm such a helpful person (it's good for my karma :0) ) I will usually help out the other teachers. The only down side is that Mrs. BB might have trouble coming back tonight, so I hope that the storm will die down later today.
With an abrupt changing of the subject, Mrs. BB and I finally bought ourselves some new Macbook laptops since our old 12" Powerbooks were 5 years old and starting to show their age. They were still usable but were getting kind of slow. We'll probably use one of them as a server and the other one we'll use while traveling which we do quite a lot of.

Here is some trivia about snow.
  • The highest seasonally cumulative precipitation of snow ever measured was at Mount Baker Ski Area, outside of Bellingham, Washington in the United States during the 1998-1999 season. Mount Baker received 1140 in. (29 m or 95 ft.) of snow, thus surpassing the previous record holder, Mount Rainier, Washington, which during the 1971-1972 season received 1122 in. (28.5 m or 93.5 ft) of snow. (Now that's snow. How about shoveling that out of the driveway?)
  • Snow crystals are crystals that have formed around tiny bits of dirt that have been carried up into the atmosphere by the wind.
  • Scientists think that there are really four different shapes of snow crystals. The simplest shape is a long needle shaped like a spike. The other shapes all have six sides. One of them is a long, hollow column that is shaped like a six-sided prism. There are also thin, flat six-sided plates. And lastly there are intricate, six-pointed stars.
  • As the snow crystals grow they become heavier and fall towards Earth. If they spin like tops as they fall then they may be perfectly symmetrical when they hit the Earth. But if they fall in a sideways fashion then they end up lopsided.
  • Falling snow crystals clump together forming snowflakes. Each snowflake is made up of from 2 to about 200 separate crystals.
  • Snow crystals are really soil particles that have been dressed up in ice.
  • The shape that a snow crystal will take is dependent upon the temperature at which it was formed.
  • What is chionophobia? The fear or dislike of snow. (Jazz must suffer from this ;o) )
  • Bright marshmallow-colored snow blinds us with its gleaming white color because it reflects beams of white light. Instead of absorbing light, snow's complex structure prevents the light from shining through its lattice formation.
  • Snow can actually be seen in several different colors. Snow can be red if the air during the snow formation contains red dust particles. Snowflakes forming around these tainted dust particles take on a reddish color. Red snow is found in those parts of Europe where the air is filled with dust particles from the red sands of the Sahara desert. In addition, certain types of algae stain snow yellow, purple, orange, green, and red. In fact, some people believe that the red algae that taints snow red actually looks and tastes like watermelon!