Assorted headlines that caught my eye this morning

October 10, 2009

I was perusing the BBC News website this morning and these headlines caught my eye:

  1. What happened to global warming?
  2. Marge gracing Playboy mag cover
  3. ‘Scary’ climate message from past
  4. McDo: A love-‘ate relationship?
  1. Empirical evidence indicates global temperature is currently trending down, not up as predicted by climate models.  Personally, I think that just indicates the unreliability of the models, not that human activities don’t affect the climate.  In my opinion, there are still plenty of reasons, global warming debate aside, for reducing CO2 output and other forms of pollution.
  2. What can I say… sort of makes sense in an age of virtual reality, I suppose.  Not that centrefold models have ever been that connected to reality.
  3. In a similar vein to 1. there appears to be new evidence that connects atmospheric CO2 levels in the distant past that are similar to the levels we are rapidly attaining to increased global temperatures and melting of polar icecaps followed by a consequent rise in the sea-level (with disastrous consequences for populations living in low lying coastal areas or on islands).  I am still cautious about the cause-and-effect conclusion that’s implied — I have to wonder if the events are correlated but not necessarily causal, or at least not in the simplistic manner alluded to.  Again, though, I still believe there are plenty of good reasons for doing a much better job of looking after our environment, regardless of whether the science here is bang-on or not.
  4. Ah, La Belle France.  If you’ve been reading my bons mots for a while, you will know that I spent some time living in France — I was seconded, by the Canadian subsidiary I was working for at the time, to their head office in Lyon, France as the project manager of a global IT implementation project involving a project team with members from the company’s sites in France, Canada and the US.  In the end, K and I lived there for four years, spanning the turn of the millennium — in fact, we arrived in France just a few months after José Bové lead a protest (referred to in the BBC News article) against globalization of the food industry and its impact on French food, culture and farmers.  During our stay in France, we did eat in McDo (pronounced “Mack-Doh” by the French) from time to time, particularly when travelling within France (we ended up seeing more of France than many French people ever do, we were told by the people we got to know there) — the food, if uninspired, was at least a known and predictable source of reasonably priced nourishment, accompanied by (most of the time, anyway) a decent set of toilets and air-conditioning, items which were probably more valuable than the food to us on a hot, humid summer day of touring around an unfamiliar city or town we were visiting.  So during that time we saw a lot of this shift in the attitude of the French that the BBC News article describes, and I can completely believe that the opening of a McDo in the underground shopping concourse linked to the Louvre was a non-event for the French media and population in general.  We did eventually stop eating at McDo, although not for reasons of globalization of the food industry — one of the perks of working in France was the “Comité d’Entreprise” or CE (here’s a Google translation of the French text for non-Francophones), which among other things often organizes subsidized events for the company’s employees, including trips scheduled during holiday periods.  The CE had planned a trip to Egypt in 2003 and we were all signed up for it, looking forward to the trip with great anticipation (we had previously gone to Tunisia on a CE arranged trip and had a wonderful time) as visiting Egypt from Canada was something we would not likely be able to afford later on.  And then… Dubbya decides to invade Iraq.  Due to concerns for the security of employees, travel to the area at the time was prohibited by the company and the CE duly cancelled the trip… merde.  We have not (to the best of my recollection) set foot in a McDo, anywhere, since then.

Of course, YMMV — read the articles and form your own opinion, dear readers.

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Praise the Lord and pass the ammunition

June 28, 2009

Saw this headline on the BBC News website:

US pastor opens church to guns

Now, I’m not anti-gun, per se, since I have in the past participated in the shooting sports (using small calibre target pistols owned by the club I was a member of; I don’t own any kind of firearms myself), but as far as I’m concerned, handguns belong only on shooting ranges (or safely transported in a locked case back to where they are kept in locked storage when not at the range).  In a public space like a church, though?  Nope, they don’t belong there — unloaded or not.

The BBC News article says:

“Pastor Ken Pagano told parishioners to bring their unloaded guns to New Bethel Church in Louisville for a service celebrating the right to bear arms.”

Apparently he did this in “an effort to promote safe gun ownership.”  The article goes on to quote a parishioner, Doreen Rogers, as saying to the Louisville Courier-Journal:

“For some reason, most people think that carrying guns is sinful. It’s not. I think my life is worth protecting.”

From that, I would conclude that Doreen’s gun was very likely not unloaded…

Fortunately, there seem to be more sensible folk in the area, as the BBC News article goes on to note:

A coalition of religious groups and campaigners held a rival gun-free event at the same time on the other side of Louisville.

“The idea of wearing guns to churches or any sacred space I think many people find deeply troubling,” organiser Terry Taylor told AP.

Amen.


Headlines that make you hold your nose while smiling

April 18, 2009

OK, so this headline showed up in my BBC News website feed (I have it bookmarked in Firefox as a Live Bookmark):

Tasmania’s wombat poo paper a hit

What sort of comment could I possibly make that would do justice to this headline?  None, I’ve tried and can’t even begin.  Oh, well…


Whoa! This is either the luckiest or unluckiest dude ever

March 25, 2009

The BBC News web site had this headline today:

Man survived both atomic bombings

I just can’t decide whether Tsutomu Yamaguchi is incredibly lucky for having survived being in both Hiroshima and Nagasaki on those fateful dates (and still being alive at 93!), or incredibly unlucky just to have been in both Hiroshima and Nagasaki on those fateful dates…  or maybe he’s both the luckiest and unluckiest dude ever.

And speaking of luck, which I suppose is in some way a form of probability, the BBC News web site also had an article under their Magazine rubric today titled:

What do you get if you divide science by God?

The article starts by mentioning a French physicist, Bernard d’Espagnat, has been awarded the Templeton Prize for contributions to “affirming life’s spiritual dimension”.  He has worked on quantum physics, which is a field dependent on probability (which is how I segued into this from the piece on Mr. Yamaguchi).

The author then goes on to interview 5 notable physicists on “the meaning of physics”, and assigning each a spiritual category corresponding to their view on the overlap between science and spirituality, ranging from the “Atheist” to a new-agey “Pantheist” at either end of the spectrum with various flavours in between: “Sceptic”, “Platonist” and “Believer” (the latter being a quantum physicist turned Anglican priest).

As for me, if I were a betting man (hmm, there’s that probability thing again…) I don’t think I’d bet against there being some kind of “meaning” to Life, The Universe And Everything — after all, if there isn’t then there’s nothing much to lose in betting for it being there, but on the other hand I’d feel a right prat coming face to face with, well, whatever it was I’d bet against.

Of course, YMMV.


Headlines that make you glad you’re not making the headlines

March 23, 2009

OK, so what’s up with the BBC News feed today?  It seems to have a particularly deathly theme to it:

BBC News feed with a deathly theme

BBC News feed with a deathly theme

Just makes me glad that I didn’t make the headlines (yet again… not that I’m particularly newsworthy 🙂 )


Make them REALLY earn those bonuses

January 31, 2009

When I heard about President Obama’s stern rebuke to Wall Street bankers over the bonuses paid to their employees in the wake of the collapse of the financial sector and the subsequent bailout of those same banks under the Bush administration, I marvelled at his political courage in calling them out on this.

And then it got me to thinking, what would be an appropriate way to make them really earn those bonuses — after the fact.  Here’s what I came up with:

To earn their bonus, they each need to visit — in person, so as to give names and faces to the victims of their moral, ethical and professional failings; and at their own expense, so as not to divert any more of the bailout funds — all the people who have lost their homes, lost their jobs, lost their savings as a result of the fiscal irresponsibility of the people earning those obscene bonuses.

And when they are face to face with them, they need to justify to each and every one of them why they deserve their bonus.

But how to make this happen?  Maybe by implementing an income tax provision that would provide a penalty to anyone employed by a financial institution that benefitted from the bailout, and who received a bonus, if they did not participate in the scheme.  Set a target number of affected families to be visited, based on the size of the bailout the company received and the bonus paid, then pro-rate the tax penalty on the bonus based on how closely they “make their numbers” (just to inject a little irony…).

To be effective, the maximum tax penalty applicable should be sufficiently high to make it painful enough even for these high-rollers to think twice about letting it slide — let’s say the penalty for 0% compliance were set at 1,000% of (10 time s) the bonus amount.  As well, the number of visits required needs to be non-trivial — a minimum of one per week, or perhaps even more.

At 50% compliance, that is if they completed 1/2 of the required visits, the penalty would drop to 500% (5 times the bonus amount) and at full compliance there would be no penalty at all — they would still have to declare the bonus as income and pay the usual tax on it, of course, although I’m sure they all have well-paid tax lawyers or accountants to make sure they don’t pay much.

And the penalties paid should then be directed back to all the people who suffered as a result of the bankers fiscal irresponsibility.

So, let me know what you think about my idea for some social justice.  And if you think it’s a good idea, spread the word — as a Canadian, I have no influence on US policy, but if you are a US citizen and think this is a good idea, let your elected representatives know how you feel.


I am a snorathelete

December 16, 2008

Yet another BBC News headline — this time it’s personal…

Heavy snorers ‘burn more energy’

Yes, if there were snorlympics, I’d be in medal contention for sure…