Category Archives: Politics

Going green – what’s the point?


I heard an interview today on the Quirks and Quarks podcast with an environment economist named Dr. Mark Jaccard who was talking about how we can reduce greenhouse gas emissions. He was talking about how critical it is to do this, and how governments need to do much more to make it happen. The Canadian government set some unrealistic goals with respect to the Kyoto protocol (the goal was to reduce total emissions in 2010 to 6% less than the 1990 totals — we are currently at 25-30% above), and then did nothing to help achieve those goals except some advertising, misguided things like rebates (if you give someone a subsidy for buying a new energy efficient fridge, and then they put the old fridge in the basement and continue using it, what have you accomplished?) and simply asking people to cut down. There have been no additional penalties for homes or businesses that contribute excessively to greenhouse emissions. Quebec has imposed a “carbon tax”, but decided that the homeowners themselves wouldn’t pay any extra, only the energy companies, which does nothing to make homeowners want to reduce usage, and isn’t that really your ultimate goal?

He also said something that struck me as very unusual for an environmentalist. The host said that many people think that if they can be efficient and reduce their consumption and such, then that “should be enough”, but Dr. Jaccard says in his book that efficiency and reducing consumption is not the answer. He said they are “a significant part of the answer”, but that it would be a mistake to focus solely on that. I understand that it’s not the whole solution, but the implication to me was that reducing personal consumption is such a drop in the bucket that it’s almost not worth the effort. For an environmentalist to even imply this was very surprising to me.

I remember a trip to Canada’s Wonderland last year where I was watching one of the rides, called Cliffhanger, which takes a huge platform with about 50 seats and lifts it up, spins it around, and drops it repeatedly. Then we went to another ride called Psyclone that had a huge circle of seats and swings the whole platform while spinning it, and the one next to Psyclone called Sledge Hammer which has six huge “arms” with seats on the end of them, and spins the seats while lifting and dropping the arms. These rides run 10 hours a day, every day, from May until September. I looked at these rides and considered the amount of energy they must consume and thought “…and replacing the light bulbs in my house with the spirally ones is supposed to help?”

Similarly, I remember getting a Drive Clean test on my Grand Prix, which was about six years old at the time. I looked at the test results, and the car passed with flying colours — one of the tests said that a certain level had to be below 1500, and my car’s level was something like 12. Then while driving home, I passed a bus or a dump truck or something that was belching thick black smoke into the air, dumping more pollution into the air in an hour than my car did in a year. And I have to pay $40 for a Drive Clean test?

We have a test lab at work with hundreds of machines running 24/7. We do run a lot of stress tests so it’s not unlikely that a large number of them are actually in use for much of that time, but I am sure that on any given weekend, there are at least a handful of machines that are on and running the entire time but doing nothing at all. After the big blackout of a couple of years ago, it seemed that everyone went green for a short time and tried to come up with ways to reduce consumption. I remember that some of us talked about ways to automatically power off idle machines and then power them back on again when they were needed, but nothing ever came of it. Then there were no more power outages, and many people forgot and went back to their old ways. I won’t pretend that I am not one of those to some extent, though I’m definitely more conscious of it than I used to be.

We have not see the Al Gore movie “An Inconvenient Truth” though it’s on our “should probably rent” list. Gail saw some snippets of it somewhere recently and the bit about the polar icecaps melting which is causing polar bears to drown (i.e. this is not one of these “If we’re not careful, this could happen” things, it is happening) really struck a nerve with her. She went out the next day and bought some of the fluorescent (“spirally”) light bulbs to use in some of our most-often-used lights. One of our problems is that many of our light fixtures use unusual-sized light bulbs, which are not yet available in fluorescent models. I’ve read about people who install solar panels on their roof or build wind turbines in their backyard and use those to power their houses. Some are even able to remove themselves from the power grid completely. However, the initial cost of buying the necessary hardware is very cost-prohibitive. From what I’ve read, it costs thousands to install this stuff, and then takes upwards of 20 years before the initial costs are recovered in savings due to lower energy bills. I’d love to do this for the good of the environment, but I just don’t have an extra few thousand dollars sitting around, and therefore I cannot justify it.

I’m willing to do my part, and I certainly understand the logic of “one person doesn’t make much of a difference but if everyone does a little bit, the cumulative change can be significant”. But it sounds to me that unless government steps up and forces the worst offenders to clean themselves up (or at least makes it economically advantageous to do so), I kind of feel like any changes I make in my home are meaningless.

9/11


I’m late with this one — I meant to do this yesterday, for obvious reasons. Yesterday was the 6th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, and I have to say I’m a little surprised how little was made of it. I expected to have memorials all over the place and articles written about it all over all the newswires, but I didn’t see much. What I did see written was not so much about the event itself or even the commemoration events, but the politics surrounding them.

Anyway, I’m sure that in years to come, it will be one of those “Do you remember where you were when…” moments. For me, some other such moments were the explosion of the Space Shuttle, the assassination attempt on President Reagan, and both times the Blue Jays won the World Series. On September 11, 2001 I was working from home because of a doctor’s appointment (allergist) in the afternoon. I was sitting in the kitchen when I got an email from a friend which said, in its entirety, “Check out cnn.com! Holy shit!” I tried to go to cnn.com, but the site was so bogged down that I couldn’t get there. On my news headlines home page, I saw the headline “Plane crashes into World Trade Center”, and I remember thinking that some idiot in an ultralight plane had been flying over Manhattan and clipped one of the towers. Maybe he’s dead and a couple of windows got broken. Jenny must have sent me the link because there’s some footage of the crash or something. Ten minutes or so later I tried cnn.com again, and still didn’t get anywhere, but that’s when I saw another headline: “Second plane hits World Trade Center”, and I distinctly remember the first thought that went through my head then: “Oh shit. One plane hitting the tower might be an accident, but there’s no way two is an accident.” I didn’t know at the time that it was passenger jets we were talking about, not little Cessna’s or anything, otherwise I wouldn’t have considered the possibility of an accident at all.

I ran and put the TV on, and sat with my computer in my lap for the rest of the morning. I remember that I was working on a new memory management system for SQL Anywhere clients, and that the project was eventually shelved. I remember calling my mother, who worked in an office building in Toronto, and she told me they were already sending everyone home. I remember hearing about the Pentagon attack and the fact that a fourth plane had gone down in a field, and thinking that the fourth one must have been bound for the White House. I remember going to the doctor’s appointment and everything seeming surreal, like now that this has happened, who cares what I’m allergic to? That evening, I went to get the tires rotated on my car, and I remember the guy at the counter writing the date on the bill: “September 11th. That’s a date we’re going to remember for a long time.” and all I could think to say was “Yeah.”

I don’t pretend to have followed all the politics afterwards. Everyone seems to be down on President Bush for going to war with Iraq under the guise of a “war on terror” when Iraq had nothing to do with 9/11. It seems fairly obvious to me what happened. Bush looked for Osama for a while and got nowhere, and got antsy about not making any progress, so he figured “Saddam is a bad dude, he hates us, he probably had a hand in this”, a belief that turned out to be wrong. But Saddam was a bad dude, and he did hate the US, so you can’t really fault W for believing it at the time. The problem was that he acted on that belief before confirming it. By the time they figured out that Iraq wasn’t involved and had no WMDs and such, it was too late to get out without admitting he was wrong, something that politicians in general and W in particular don’t seem all that good at. I heard the other day that a survey of civilians in Iraq shows that many of them are less happy now than they were when Saddam was in power. Considering the nasty things Saddam did, that’s saying something.

Oh crap — political content on my blog! Quick, must scramble to find something more in line with my blog’s usual content… Ummmm…. New iPod! It’s cool! Got lots of songs on it!

A couple of quickies


The headline in today’s Hamilton Spectator is “New Weapons of Terror”, along with a picture of various bottles: water, hair gel, shampoo, V8, contact lens solution, toothpaste, etc. This is in response to the new airline rules banning passengers from bringing any type of liquid or gel in their carry-on luggage. I’m all for security, and I have no problem getting x-ray’ed and searched before I get on a plane, but this is just getting silly. When we went on our cruise in 2001 (2 months after 9/11), our luggage was searched, and we were forced to break off the little nail file on our fingernail clippers. (Note that we didn’t have to throw it away, we just had to break it off.) Nobody would have batted an eye at a 6-inch sharpened pencil, which is arguably more of a weapon than the nail file.

Here is a funny article about the next step in this “war on terror”. The terrorists may not have succeeded in significantly affecting the Western economies or changing government policies on anything (which, presumably, is at least one of their goals), but I’m sure they’re all having a good laugh at the stupid policies that have resulted from their activities.

On a completely unrelated note, I went out to Quizno’s for lunch today. Man, do they have it wrong. Their food is great, that’s not the issue; their ordering system is just silly. You get in line at one end of the counter and when it’s your turn, you tell the guy what kind of sandwich you want, what type of bread and extras you want, and whether it’s to eat in or to go. Then he makes the sandwich and puts it into the Magic Yummy Sandwich Making machine (aka toaster). You then get into a second line, behind all the same people you were in line behind the first time, and go to the payment counter, where you have to tell the person there what you already ordered. They handle the payment, then cut and wrap your sandwich and give it to you. Why do I need to give my order twice? This is the only restaurant (fast-food or otherwise) that I know of where I have to do this. What’s worse – the first guy doesn’t want your whole order, just the sandwich part of it. If you want soup with it, or a combo with chips and a drink, he doesn’t care. Surely they can figure out a way to handle the customer giving their order once and once only. Every other restaurant in the world can do it…

More on male oppression


John came by my office (“I’d comment, but that would require work”) and mentioned that in Canadian divorce law, the mother will almost always be given custody of children unless (a) she is deemed an unfit mother, and (b) the father is considered “adequate”. If both parents are considered adequate, then the woman will always win. A woman who doesn’t give a rat’s ass about her kids, but doesn’t actively abuse them, will win custody over the most doting and caring of fathers. Basically, in the eyes of the courts, any woman who is not shooting up heroin and turning tricks in front of her kids must be a better parent than any man could possibly be. If anyone can give me an explanation of this one, I’d looooove to hear it.

I remember hearing a few years ago that the average man is only slightly less likely to die of prostate cancer than the average woman is to die of breast cancer. However, breast cancer research gets ten times the amount of federal funding (this was an American quote) that prostate cancer research does. Now, that was from Rush Limbaugh, so who knows how accurate it was, but still…

Well, my build is done now, so back to work…

A political rant


Look out, a rare political “rant” from me. Note that “rant” is in quotes, because it’s probably too strong a word for what I’m going to write here; a rant is usually fuelled by some passionate belief in or against something, and I am just not that passionate about politics. But something I saw the other day did kind of piss me off, so I had to share it. Actually, I have two things to say; the first just a comment, the second is the rant.

Anyway, onto my thoughts. Whimsley and Yappa Ding Ding wrote a couple of weeks ago about Bob Rae becoming leader of the federal Liberal Party. Yappa likes the idea, while Whimsley doesn’t; not because it’s Bob Rae, but because the idea of someone joining a political party as leader bothers him, and I have to agree. When Jean Charest quit the federal Conservative Party to become the leader of the Quebec Liberal Party a few years ago, I was confused. I mean, political parties are built on beliefs and ideals about how to govern, they’re not just distinct groups of people. It’s not like Johnny Damon leaving the Red Sox to join the Yankees. I would have thought that changing parties would be akin to someone raised Catholic deciding to suddenly convert to Judaism, which I suppose is not that big a deal. However, in the case of a party leader quitting to join a different party as its leader, it would be like the Pope deciding to give up all this Catholic stuff and become a rabbi. I will be the first to admit that I’m less than knowledgeable about politics, so am I missing something?

Now, the rant. In the last federal budget, a new childcare credit was created, so that parents of kids under 4 can get $100 a month for childcare (or beer and popcorn if you so desire). I downloaded the necessary forms from the government website yesterday, and was dismayed to see this at the top:

For CCTB purposes, when both a male and a female parent live in the same home as the child, we presume that the female parent is primarily responsible and should apply, unless a note from the female parent is attached to this application that states that the male parent is primarily responsible for the child.

Once again, as a father, I am considered “less important” than Gail, simply because I am male and she is female. Gail gives the boys their baths more often than I do, just because I don’t particularly like doing it and she doesn’t mind. Gail cooks more often than I do because she’s a better cook. And she gets the boys clothes ready more often because she is more concerned about what they wear, and if the shirt and shorts go together and stuff like that. But I make the boys breakfast and Ryan’s lunch every day. I start dinner when I’m home before Gail. I do laundry as often as Gail does, and when it’s done, I end up folding it more often because she hates doing that part. I’m not going to go through and list everything that each of us does for the kids, but suffice it to say that Gail and I are equally capable of caring for our children. The idea that I need a fucking note signed by my wife to say that is sexist and insulting.

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