Sharing with you things that are on my mind...Maybe yours too. Come back to Wrights Lane for a visit anytime!

02 November, 2017

WHAT NEXT?...AN ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE GOD!?


The world we live in today is completely different from what it was 20 or even 10 years ago. Advancements in technology have both improved and disrupted our lives. Take, for instance, how artificial intelligence has transformed the way we communicate and get things done. We also can't overlook how machines are replacing jobs we as humans have been operating for decades. If Siri can answer our questions and Uber can develop self-driving cars, what's next on the horizon for AI? Here's one possibility.

It is not uncommon to hear people claim that God is man made – a belief that all religions and deities are human constructs. Religious folks laugh off such claims, citing a lack of evidence. But what if we, as human beings, were able to create a brand-new God? By harnessing the power of artificial intelligence (AI), one fledgling religion seeks to do exactly that.

“Way of the Future” is a religious organization founded by a former Uber engineer named Anthony Levandowski. Its mission is to “develop and promote the realization of a Godhead based on Artificial Intelligence”. By worshipping this Godhead, the organization hopes to “contribute to the betterment of society.”

No more is known about the specifics of Way of the Future's Godhead, so it seems unlikely that a figure will be revealed any time soon. The emergence of documents filed with the State of California, however, demonstrate how the rapid advancement of artificial intelligence and bioengineering is forcing discussions around how humans and robots will eventually coexist on earth.

But is creating an AI god even possible, or is this just another Silicon Valley pipe-dream? Levandowski believes it is possible – and if we ought to believe anyone, it should probably be him – Levandowski is famous for starting the first autonomous trucking company and paving the way for a future full of driver-less trucks.

Way to the Future seeks to capitalize on the idea of Singularity – a belief that at some point down the line, artificial intelligence will surpass human intelligence, creating drastic and unprecedented changes in society. When that happens, Levandowski and his followers hope to find themselves on the side of the machines. By creating their own AI god, they hope to curry favor with our future robot overlords

The topic of robot takeover has historically been confined to the pages of science fiction books. However, it’s become an increasingly popular hypothesis in recent years as technological progress has continued at record pace. In fact, some of the brightest minds in the world are lending credence to the idea of Singularity. Both Elon Musk, founder of Tesla Motors, and renowned physicist Stephen Hawking have warned that an AI-dominated world is no longer a matter of “if”, but “when.”

Considering the vast (and frightening) consequences Singularity will have, should we really be comfortable with groups like Way to the Future delving into the arena? If the group succeeds in developing an all-powerful AI god, is there any scenario in which things end well for the rest of us?

Think about it: for one, they are assuming that this ultra-intelligent creation would be interested in being worshipped as a deity. Isn’t that a massive gamble? What if it has violent or insidious tendencies? At this point, it’s just as likely that an AI “Godhead” would see humans as an enemy; an obstacle that must be eliminated to make way for further technological expansion.

From what little we know about Way of the Future, at first glance it may seem to be an organization that is trying in good faith to fill a spiritual gap among those who believe in a technological singularity. But where some see a quirky organization, others may just as readily see a group worshiping false (and potentially dangerous) idols.

The organization hasn’t provided further details on how things are progressing, but that doesn’t rule out the possibility of significant advancements occurring in secret. If Way to the Future gains traction, it could easily become popular enough to bring in converts from other religions.

Personally, it is hard to imagine ever worshiping a bot that lacks any real personality, wisdom, or ability to become relevant and personal, no matter how much more intelligent it is than any human. An AI god would be cold and impersonal, an intellectual “being” that’s not capable of love or emotion, yet it would be capable of telling people how to live, going so far as to even rewrite the Christian Bible.

Are there those who will actually worship the AI god? The answer is obvious — they will. We tend to trust and obey things that seem more powerful and worthy than ourselves. The GPS in your car is just the most obvious example. But we also trust digital assistants Alexa and Cortana; we trust Google. When an AI becomes much more powerful, in 25 to 50 years, there is a great possibility that it will be deified in some way. (Apple and Google loyalists already have a religious fervor.)

If an AI god does emerge, and people do start worshiping it, there will be many implications about how this AI will need to be regulated, or even subdued. Truth be known, it is all beyond this mere mortal's comprehension.  Little chance of me becoming a convert in this rapidly shrinking lifetime of mine...And that in my way of thinking is a good thing!

NOTE:  I have intentionally not capitalized the artificial intellegence (G)god referenced in this post.

01 November, 2017

LET'S PAY MORE THAN LIP SERVICE TO PLANET SUSTAINABILITY

Fires last month burned thousands of houses in California and British Columbia to the ground. Record hurricanes have devastated Houston and Florida. And global warming predicts more such “extreme weather events” in the years ahead.

What can you and I do, in our small corner of the world, to take responsibility for the ecological and cultural crises in which we find ourselves?  Good question.  In the end, would any individual contribution make a difference in the real picture?...An even better question.
for the complete sustainability problem to be
solved all three pillars of sustainability must
be sustainable. The three pillars are social
sustainability, environmental sustainability
and economic sustainability. Of the three 
pillars, the most important is environmental
sustainability. If this is not solved, then no
matter how hard we try the other pillars
cannot be made strong because they are
dependent on the greater system they live
within, the environment.


The non dual perspective says that everything is connected to everything else. There are no independent relationships and thus nowhere in particular to “point the finger.”  But in another sense, as people awakening to whatever degree of choice we have, we realize responsibility is distributed throughout the human system, so we each do have some real responsibility to the future. It’s important to feel and act connected to the moral implications of everything happening in our time, knowing that what happens in our lifetimes matters profoundly.

A third way to view our predicament is as an inevitable crossroads and an evolutionary opportunity. Natural selection, superior intelligence, opposable thumbs, and the acquisition of language would perhaps cause any species on any planet to overpopulate, choke on their own wastes and begin to destroy our life support system. Humans are not unique in this regard.

God help us, the writing is on the wall...We are going to suffer tremendous losses in the days ahead...This is no dress rehearsal. An ethic of sustainability is essential, not simply because it preserves the environment, but because it allows the discovery of a lifestyle that can continue for generations. It is far preferable to recognize the most egregious violations, and correct them as quickly as possible, so that people might ease into their new roles voluntarily instead of being thrust into by necessity.

By all accounts, this isn’t some abstract timescale of centuries, affecting a world we can’t yet imagine. Our actions are already affecting us. They will continue affecting us. The people who will have to make these radical decisions are our grandchildren, our children, and even ourselves in whatever time we have left on this planet. 

The question is, why aren’t we doing these things already? These problems aren’t new. They have been identified, we know they exist, and we know that they’re accelerating. We are uniquely equipped economically in Canada; we have enough wherewithal to make the economic transition to sustainability. We simply lack the willingness.

While we work to slow climate change, we must also invest in efforts to protect and preserve our air, water, lands, and native animals. Figuring out how to persuade people to make necessary changes in their lifestyles to ensure the sustainable use of this planet will end up being the great question of our generation. It is up to our federal and provincial governments to lead the way and to make hard decisions in dealing with corporate polluters.   

I suggest that whether we succeed or not at turning the corner to a sustainable future, the sacred invitation of this lifetime is both spiritual and social — we can awaken into a different way of being human, individually and together — and a new relationship to the earth, our fellow creatures, and one another.

Let us all give this serious thought -- please!

29 October, 2017

HOW AUTHENTIC AM I? WELL, YOU BE THE JUDGE!

I worked on this piece several months ago when something (I honestly can't remember what) was bothering me.  I came across it in my draft file this morning and thought "what the heck".  On review, I have scored myself on an authentic scale of 1 to 10 and am not too surprised with the results.

Being authentic has become somewhat of a catchphrase for people, but what does it mean? What is it to be authentic as a person?

Authentic is something that is real or genuine. It is easy to create a completely fake or misleading life on social media and carry that over to your actual life with people who do not know you intimately. Being authentic means that not only do you not present a false face to the world, but you are comfortable and happy with yourself as you are. 

Being authentic means having the courage to be yourself regardless of what people will think about you or what they will say behind your back. Authentic people are easily spotted by their traits, their actions and the way that they interact with the wider world.

From research and some soul-searching, here are what I found to be 10 traits of truly authentic people.

1. THEY ARE SELF-REFLECTIVE

They spend time looking at themselves and really trying to understand who and what they are, what they want out of life and what kind of person they want to be along the journey. They study their mistakes without obsessing over them and try to use those experiences as a springboard to being a better person.  *Personal rating: 8

2. THEY ARE NOT JUDGMENTAL

Because they look at themselves and their mistakes on a regular basis, they do not judge others for theirs. They understand that mistakes are to be learning experiences and are a valuable tool for growth and change. They take others as they are regardless of color, orientation, national origin, religion or anything else. *Personal rating: 9

3. THEY LIVE IN THE PRESENT

They do not dwell on their past, their regrets or mistakes. Likewise, they do not spend all day fantasizing about the future either. They live in the present and they take things day by day. Someone who is authentic understands that everyone changes and that life is a day by day struggle to make the most of our short lives here on earth. *Personal rating (a tough one for me because of a contradiction): 7

4. THEY ARE FOCUSED ON THE LONG-TERM

While they live in the present, they have a plan for the future. They are focused on long term goals and not on the short term gains they could make by lying to, cheating on or stealing from others. They invest their time for long term benefits and do not follow the mercurial crowd of trend chasers. They know who they are and what they want and so make a plan to achieve that in a reasonable amount of time. *Personal rating (another tough one): 6

5. THEY HAVE CHARACTER

They value their character, or their honor to put it another way, more than they value making a fast buck. They will do what they said they will do and when they said they will do it. They are dependable and honest. You can count on someone who is authentic because they hold themselves accountable for their actions. *Personal rating: 10

6. THEY LISTEN

If they are talking with you, it is because they want to hear what you have to say. Otherwise, they would not waste their time. You can tell because they are not just waiting to reply with their own thoughts or opinions but are actually trying to digest what you are telling them. They pay attention to the little things you say because they are trying to understand what you are telling them. *Personal rating: 9

7. THEY ARE CONSISTENT

Because the authentic person spends time reflecting on their own actions and hold themselves accountable for their actions, they are much more emotionally consistent. They know what they want already. They know who and what they are. They are on the path they have set for themselves and so do not chase ephemeral things like wealth or status. They are grounded in the here and now while they make their way into the future they have planned for themselves. There is no flip-flopping or indecision because they have already decided where they want to be in life. *Personal rating: 6

8. THEY ARE HONEST

Because they are honest with themselves about what they want out of life and who they want to be, the authentic person has little choice but to be completely honest with everyone. They don’t hold back. They call them like they see them. They are open and honest about their opinions and thoughts. They see no need to deceive others about their intentions because they are not insecure about themselves or in competition with them. The only thing that drives them to excel is themselves. *Personal rating: 9

9. THEY RESPECT THEMSELVES

Because they are honest with themselves and spend time in self-reflection and value their character, they respect themselves. Many of the things that they do revolve around making sure they can still respect themselves afterward. They won’t compromise their beliefs because they wouldn’t be able to look at themselves in the mirror the next day. They respect themselves and hold themselves accountable for their actions which gives them integrity and strength of character, which they value more than money. *Personal rating: 10

10. THEY ARE COURAGEOUS

They have the courage to be themselves and to be true to their ideals even when those things are not popular. They have the courage of their convictions and the strength to stick to their guns even when the whole world is trying to shout them down and bend them to their will. They do not succumb to societal pressure and instead march to their own drumbeat. Authentic people stand out because they refuse to conform to what others think they should be doing. They have the courage to be the unique individual that they are. Personal rating: 10

So out of a possible 100 points, I score myself an 84 on the authentic scale.  Sounds about right for a guy like me.  Not too much that I can do about it now anyway.

I'm about as authentic as I can get.  So live with it folks! 

26 October, 2017

CMA: Advancing Quality of Life and Quality of Care for Seniors

Okay fellow seniors, here's a news report that you are not apt to read in tomorrow's local newspapers.  It is information very important to all of us.

This afternoon (Oct. 26) the Canadian Medical Association (CMA) made a "seniors care" presentation to the House of Commons’ Standing Committee on Human Resources, Skills and Social Development and the Status of Persons with Disabilities. The committee has been studying the need for a national seniors care strategy following a motion introduced by Nickel Belt Member of Parliament (MP) Marc SerrĂ© earlier this year.

The CMA’s submission, Advancing Quality of Life and Quality of Care for Seniors, outlines 15 recommendations for how seniors can remain active and engaged citizens of our communities.

This is an important milestone in the work of Demand A Plan and the much-maligned federal government is at least to be commended for acting on the pressing needs of Canada’s seniors. More than 52,000 Canadians like me have lent their support to the CMA’s efforts by becoming supporters, and together we’ve sent over 100,000 letters to local MPs.

Canadians are living longer, healthier lives than ever before. The number of seniors expected to need help or care in the next 30 years will double, placing an unprecedented challenge on Canada’s health care system. That we face this challenge speaks to the immense success story that is modern medicine, but it doesn’t in any way minimize the task ahead.

Publicly funded health care was created about 50 years ago when Canada’s population was just over 20 million and the average life expectancy was 71. Today, our population is over 36 million and the average life expectancy is 10 years longer. People 85 and older make up the fastest growing age group in our country, and the growth in the number of centenarians is also expected to continue.

"The Canadian Medical Association is pleased that the House of Commons Standing Committee on Human Resources, Skills and Social Development and the Status of Persons with Disabilities is studying ways Canada can respond to these challenges," said CMA President Dr. Laurent Marcoux in presenting the 15 comprehensive recommendations that "would help our seniors remain active, contributing citizens of their communities while improving the quality of their lives."

These range from increasing capital investment in residential care infrastructure, to enhancing assistance for caregivers, to improving the senior-friendliness of our neighbourhoods. "The task faced by this committee, indeed the task faced by all of Canada, is daunting. That said, it is manageable and great advances can be made on behalf of seniors. By doing so, we will ultimately deliver both health and financial benefits to all Canadians," Dr. Marcoux added.

Here are the recommendation:

RECOMMENDATION 1: the federal government include capital investment in residential care infrastructure, including retrofit and renovation, as part of its commitment to invest in social infrastructure.

RECOMMENDATION 2: the federal government take steps to provide adequate income support for older Canadians, as well as education and protection from financial abuse. Improving the overall quality of life and well-being for seniors Improving how we support and care for Canada’s growing seniors population has been a priority for CMA over the past several years.

RECOMMENDATION 3: the federal government provide targeted funding to support the development of a pan-Canadian seniors strategy to address the needs of the aging population. Improving assistance for home care and Canada’s caregivers.

RECOMMENDATION 4: governments work with the health and social services sectors, and with private insurers, to develop a framework for the funding and delivery of accessible and sustainable home care and long-term care services. Family and friend caregivers are an extremely important part of the health care system.

RECOMMENDATION 5: the federal government and other stakeholders work together to develop and implement a pan-Canadian caregiver strategy, and expand the support programs currently offered to informal caregivers.

RECOMMENDATION 6: the federal government improve awareness of the new Canada Caregiver Credit and amend it to make it a refundable tax credit for caregivers. The federal government’s recent commitment to provide $6 billion over 10 years to the provinces and territories for home care, including support for caregivers, is a welcome step toward improving opportunities for seniors to remain in their homes.

RECOMMENDATION 7: the federal government develop explicit operating principles for the home care funding that has been negotiated with the provinces and territories to recognize funding for caregivers and respite care as eligible areas of investment. The federal government’s recent funding investments in home care and mental health recognize the importance of these aspects of the health care system. They also signal that Canada has under-invested in home and community-based care to date.

RECOMMENDATION 8: the federal government convene an all-party parliamentary international study that includes stakeholders to examine the approaches taken to mitigate the inappropriate use of acute care for elderly persons and provide support for caregivers.

RECOMMENDATION 9: governments at all levels support programs to promote physical activity, nutrition, injury prevention, and mental health among older Canadians. For seniors who have multiple chronic diseases or disabilities, care needs can be complex, and they may vary greatly from one person to another and involve many health care providers. Complex care needs demand a flexible and responsive health system.

RECOMMENDATION 10: governments and other stakeholders work together to develop and implement models of integrated, interdisciplinary health service delivery for older Canadians. Every senior should have the opportunity to have a family physician or to be part of a family practice that serves as a medical home. This provides a central hub for the timely provision and coordination of the comprehensive menu of health and medical services.

RECOMMENDATION 11: governments continue efforts to ensure that older Canadians have access to a family physician, supported by specialized geriatric services as appropriate. Prescription drugs represent the fastest-growing item in the health budget and the second-largest category of health expenditure.

RECOMMENDATION 12: governments and other stakeholders work together to develop and implement a pan-Canadian pharmaceutical strategy that addresses both comprehensive coverage of essential medicines for all Canadians, and programs to encourage optimal prescribing and drug therapy. Optimal care and support for older Canadians also depends on identifying, adapting, and implementing best practices in the care of seniors.

RECOMMENDATION 13: governments and other stakeholders support ongoing research to identify best practices in the care of seniors, and monitor the impact of various interventions on health outcomes and costs.

RECOMMENDATION 14: governments at all levels and other partners give older Canadians access to opportunities for meaningful employment if they desire. The physical environment, including the built environment, can help to promote seniors’ independence and successful, healthy aging. The World Health Organization defines an “age-friendly environment” as one that fosters health and well-being and the participation of people as they age.

RECOMMENDATION 15: 
governments and communities take the needs of older Canadians into account when designing buildings, walkways, transportation systems, and other aspects of the built environment.

The Canadian Medical Association is the national voice of Canadian physicians. Founded in 1867, the CMA’s mission is empowering and caring for patients, and its vision is a vibrant profession and a healthy population. On behalf of its more than 85,000 members and the Canadian public, the CMA performs a wide variety of functions. Key functions include advocating for health promotion and disease/injury prevention policies and strategies, advocating for access to quality health care, facilitating change within the medical profession, and providing leadership and guidance to physicians to help them influence, manage and adapt to changes in health care delivery.

The CMA is a voluntary professional organization representing the majority of Canada’s physicians and comprising 12 provincial and territorial divisions and over 60 national medical organizations.

As a seniors depending heavily on the services of our health care system, Rosanne and I greatly appreciate that the CMA has spoken on our behalf.  Somebody had to do it!

Pray that the government not only continues to listen, but ultimately acts on the recommendations of front line health care providers.

25 October, 2017

THERE IS FUTILITY IN "CAN'T WIN" RELIGIOUS AND POLITICAL DEBATES:

In retrospect, I am absolutely convinced that I was a much happier person when I was not influenced by politics and religion. In fact, for the first naive third of my 79-plus years, I flatly refused to become involved in conversations relating to either subject…And that is an unusual concession coming from someone who eventually became a newspaper editorial writer and in later years, an appropriately-designated lay pastor.

Life plays funny tricks on us and we do indeed experience twists and turns at various stages of our journey to senility. There was a time when I did not think that I had anything of significance to say and when I eventually did discover my voice, I found that by and large no one really listened. The world that I lived in had become confrontational, complicated by stubbornly-held opinions and biases.

Generally, today we beg to differ with just about everything and we do not hesitate to vent our spleens, regardless of who we offend -- even our friends. In ignorance we become over-night experts. In obscurity, we feel safe to become very bold on worldly issues. In a way, I guess, it is symptomatic of frustration in a society struggling to find a common voice at an agenda-driven-time in our history.

I struggle to balance the onset of age-related cynicism with a sensitive, non-biased, common sense rationalization of the crazy world in which we now find ourselves. There is reason in all things -- some times we just have to make an effort to find it and adjust our thinking accordingly, especially in this day and age.  Otherwise, we ere when jumping to conclusions!

22 October, 2017

"GOING BACK" IS NOT ALWAYS A GOOD IDEA

I often find myself relating to the writings of Rev. Bob Johnston. as if he and I went to the same "old school". The retired Saugeen Shores minister this week talked about his decision not to attend homecoming festivities on the campus of the University of Debuque several years ago. Here is what he shared:


"While I cannot live in the past, I can choose to let my memories of those long ago years be uncontaminated by the reality of the passing of time. In other words, when I close my eyes in a quiet moment of recollection, I can once again find myself back in 1959. All my teammates are still fit, young athletes, proudly wearing the Spartan blue and white uniform. We can run six miles and finish strong. My girlfriends remain Prairie-fresh beautiful, pony tails bouncing and Pepsodent white smiles radiant. My profs are dynamic and idealistic conveyors of truth. Eisenhower is President!
Rev. Bob


"Were I to return to my campus in 2013, nothing would be the same: My teammates, those still alive, would be old men much like me, now content to climb six steps, not run six miles, without puffing. Those “young women” would now carry the added wrinkles, sags and grey hair of long life. My profs are all dead and a man named Trump is President!

"I know the counter-arguments: I would be accused of being superficial, my long ago friends are still the same good people despite inevitable superficial changes in packaging, I could relive the good old days of athletic success with teammates while we mildly exaggerate to one another about post-university life achievements. I suppose I could flirt harmlessly with the widowed grandmothers as we exchange photos of our grandkids. We could all studiously avoid talking politics. Above all, by revisiting my old campus, I might even reawaken half-forgotten memories of good times when I was single and carefree, not yet having to shoulder major life responsibilities."

Bob concludes that he has no regrets over his decision. Sometimes cherished past memories, like precious old photos, are more valuable when left un-retouched.

I completely concur with his sentiments...Those are the very same reasons I choose to avoid "going back" to my old hometown of Dresden these days. Likewise St. Thomas, Simcoe, Prince Albert (Sask.) and Brampton where I left a lot of myself behind during my working career.

Memories, good and bad, are better left in the past. They are the markers of the journey through life. It is necessary to know where we come from because only then can we know where we are going. But why attempt to revisit what was? -- and in the process risk spoiling what is!

Come to think of it, who cares anyway. I can literally count on one hand (with at least three fingers left over) the times that I have been invited back -- anywhere, and by anyone.

...And no one has used up more ink on nostalgic reflections than me. Rev. Bob at least has the satisfaction of being asked to go back and there is something to be said for that.

18 October, 2017

SAUGEEN SHORES WOMAN A CLIMATE REALITY PROJECT MENTOR

With this post I continue to champion local citizens who generally fly under the radar in serving the community and country in which they live.

This week, Victoria Serda of Saugeen Shores has joined former U.S. Vice-President Al Gore's non-profit Climate Reality Project as a mentor at its three-day training event in Pittsburgh, October 17-19. This afternoon, Serda was scheduled to join the “Climate Reality Leaders: Who We Are” panel with Gore and three other mentors to share her experience in front of the 1,300-plus new trainees from around the world.
VICTORIA SERDA

Since being a teenager growing up in Owen Sound, Ontario, she has encouraged rural action on climate change as a public speaker and grassroots organizer, later as an organic farmer, then as an elected Municipal Councilor in Saugeen Shores.  Serda holds a Bachelor Degree in Independent Studies from the University of Waterloo and she has a long-standing interest and passion for community service and environmental protection.

She also has the honour of being one of the first 20 Canadian Climate Leaders trained by Al Gore and, in 2007, along with her then 11-year-old daughter Corrina, they presented over 90 times to more than 25,000 people across Ontario. After having run millions in programs with indigenous and settler governments, non-profits and companies, she now has her own consulting corporation, StepFour, that specializes in implementing community dreams.

Serda’s mentor group will include 25 people from around the world, including leaders from Sweden, Israel, Italy, Norway, Finland, Morocco, Albania, Germany, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, Hungary and the United States.

Their life experiences include being a student, professor, business owner, sustainability consultant, a food industry processor, farm researcher, lawyer, doctor and a father and daughter team.

As a mentor in the panel discussion, she will be asked questions by Gore about her own experience, to help the new trainees understand how to tell their stories, connect, and empower their audiences.

“This personal training from Al Gore and many experts in science, communication and community organizing will change over 1300 people’s lives, just as it did for me back in 2007,” Serda said. "They will join over 11,000 people already empowered to be effective local Climate Leaders around the world.”

What is The Climate Reality Project Canada?

The Climate Reality Project Canada (Climate Reality Canada) is a charity organization that serves as the Canadian component of a global movement.  Climate Reality Canada motivates Canadians to become active participants in solving the climate crisis by:

-- Training a diverse range of citizens from numerous geographic regions and walks of life, who will then communicate to the public about the urgency and impact of climate change.

-- Engaging the public through presentations, news media and individual conversations as well as non-partisan grassroots advocacy so that Canadians will make informed choices about public policy matters related to climate change.

-- Promoting personal, local, domestic and international initiatives to solve the climate crisis.

Originally named The Climate Project Canada, the organization was created in May 2007 with the objective of educating Canadians about the science and impact of climate change as well as solutions to address it. Based on the model of The Climate Project founded by Nobel Laureate Al Gore, the primary means of disseminating this information is through trained Climate Leaders like Serda from all demographics, regions, sectors and backgrounds. Leaders originally presented adapted versions of a slide show as featured in the widely viewed documentary "An Inconvenient Truth," which made the compelling case that global warming is real, man-made, and its effects will be cataclysmic if we don’t act now.

16 October, 2017

IT TAKES A COMMUNITY TO RAISE AN IMMIGRANT FAMILY

Members of welcoming committee help immigrant family get settled in their new home.
Many commendable humanitarian programs are carried out in small communities across Canada with little, or no, fanfare.  That's just the Canadian way!

A case in point is Saugeen Shores where the second newcomer family arrived this past weekend.

The two parents and four children had a long, exhausting journey from Tanzania to South Africa, and then all the way to Toronto, but they showed up at Pearson International Airport wearing big smiles and their Sunday best. Upon arriving in Port Elgin, a welcoming committe drove the family past their rental house (which they’ll move into on November 1st) and they clapped excitedly. They were also thrilled to see the school that the youngsters will attend.

For now, they will stay in temporary accommodations and begin the long process of integrating into the Lake Huron community and learning English. They speak only a few basic words, no French, only Swahili.

Many local residents have kindly expressed a desire to donate household goods and clothing to the family. Just as an example, here is a list of specific items needed at this time.

– Bathroom supply kit (toothbrushes, toothpaste, toilet paper, soap, shampoo, deodorant, sanitary pads, dental floss, washcloth, etc.)

– First aid kit

– Minor medications kit (Tylenol, Gravol, etc.)

– Grocery carrier or wagon (for making trips on foot to Walmart) – Toys for kids (baseball gloves, soccer ball, Frisbee, colouring books and craft supplies)

– Clothing & footwear (running shoes and winter boots) for specific ages: 12-year-old girl, 9-yr-old boy, 7-yr-old girl, 4-yr-old boy, 2 parents (both are slight and small). At this point, they need everything

-- Pants, skirts, shirts, undershirts, etc.

The parents will be subsequently enrolled in English classes at the ESL school in Owen Sound. Classes run from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. through the week, Monday to Friday, and volunteer drivers will be recruited.  All volunteers of course, are required to complete a vulnerable sector background check, as is required of anyone working with refugees under Canadian law.

The family of six comes from Zambia and the Democratic Republic of Congo, and has been residing in Tanzania. It has been two years since The Saugeen Shores Refugee Fund began a campaign to sponsor a family from Syria. That first family arrived in January 2016. This will be the group’s second and final sponsorship, made possible by donations from the community, Bruce Power, and local service groups.

“We decided to expand our criteria for sponsorship to other parts of the world, not just the Middle East. There are so many refugee crises happening all over, and the conflict in East Africa has been ongoing for many years,” says Katherine Martinko, SSRF coordinator.

SSRF works together with Mennonite Central Committee to make the sponsorship happen. Financial support is provided to the family for one year, with half the funds coming from fund-raised money and the other half provided by the federal government.

As they say: "It takes a community...!"  Perhaps more accurately in this case -- a country.
Happy faces of welcoming committee.

10 October, 2017

COME TO FIND OUT, I HAVE BEEN A RELUCTANT EVOLUTIONARY

For the purpose of a brief exercise, think about a time when you really wanted to change something, whether it was your lifestyle, your behavior, or to be just a bit more conscious about the world: what and where you buy, what you choose to eat, how you give back to society. Truthfully, often we hesitate, or don't act at all; sometimes, we make a good start, only to find our enthusiasm and motivation fade after a few weeks. We go back to old behaviors.
Enlightenment and evolution.

There's a lot that plays into our struggle to change, transition and transform. To start off, our brains love a good (and a bad) habit. It just has to be a habit for our brains to want to keep doing it. Secondly, we have in our DNA the struggles of the agricultural age, and the early industrial age. We thought progress was something that would free us, make life easier. We're not so willing to give any of that up, even if it really hasn't freed us at all; even if it means making a more sustainable world for future generations.

From my perspective, after decades of earnest spiritual seeking, I find myself falling into a pattern of settling for a transformation far less profound or complete than the one I aimed for when I started. Is it that—as some ancient eastern traditions tell us—enlightenment is such a lofty goal that we should not expect to experience any radical transformation in one lifetime? Should we instead see our current incarnation as but one of millions of baby steps toward that supreme goal?

Or is it, as many contemporary teachers are fond of saying, that any attempt to change ourselves is in fact misguided—that we should simply “accept what is,” “call off the search,” and realize that ordinary life in all of its neurotic frailty is enough?

With all due respect to those of differing opinion, perhaps there is another possibility.

Could it just be that the reason some of us find ourselves in a spiritual standstill is the fact that our spiritual path is just too small. In a word, it’s still about us—our own fulfillment, our own happiness, even our own enlightenment. It’s not that we’re selfish people. Indeed, most spiritual seekers are among the most selfless people on the planet.

The problem is that we’ve all been steeped in a contemporary spiritual subculture that sees the entire purpose of following a spiritual path as personal. It tells us that the reason for working on spiritual growth is so that we can live happier, more fulfilled, more peaceful lives.  And, as long as our own happiness is all we’re seeking, we’ll never awaken the depth of spiritual passion and conviction required to propel us into genuine evolution beyond ego.

That conviction only arises when we realize that the spiritual path is not about us, but rather is about participating in something far greater than ourselves. Imagine for a moment that the fate of the entire human race rested on your shoulders alone--that humanity’s evolution out of brute self-interest depended entirely on your willingness to transform your consciousness, to rise above your smallness, to evolve beyond your negative conditioning, and become an exemplar of humanity’s highest potential for the world.

Imagine too that, for you, evolving beyond ego became an evolutionary imperative.  Would you approach your path any differently? Would the energy you brought to your spiritual practice intensify? Would the quality of awareness and care with which you approached your interactions with others become more profound?

Would you find yourself reaching with inner muscles you didn’t even know you had to actually stay awake to the depth you’ve tasted in your most profound spiritual moments?...If you knew it all rested on you, would you have any choice but to change?

The Indian sage Ramana Maharshi once said that the spiritual seeker must want liberation like a drowning person wants air.  But the painful truth is that even when we recognize that we are drowning spiritually, most of us don’t care enough to struggle to keep our heads above water.

The challenges of authentic spiritual growth and transformation are so great that most of us will choose to continue suffering in our smallness, rather than feel the pain of allowing that smallness to die forever.  But how many of us would stay there if we realized that it wasn’t only our own suffering we were perpetuating, but the suffering of the entire human race?

Now, you may be thinking to yourself, “That’s a nice thought experiment. Sure, it makes me realize I could be more earnest on my path, but what does it really have to do with me? I’m no megalomaniac. I know that my growth and evolution alone isn’t enough to liberate the human race.”

Consider, however, that modern science has in recent decades been verifying what the ancient traditions intuited long ago: that, in both tangible and mysterious ways, we are all interconnected. Any one of us can have a profound effect on the whole. Add to that the reality that we are evolving beings living in an evolving universe—that we are all part of a grand, cosmic evolutionary process—and the question of our obligation to the whole starts to cut close to the bone.

To reframe my earlier question: What if we realized that the entire human endeavor, the evolution of consciousness itself, depended on our willingness to evolve our own consciousness?  Would it affect the choices we make every day if we knew that in a very real sense, those choices were either contributing to the evolution of the whole—or holding it back?

At this time when it seems that our very future depends on our willingness to evolve as a species, would you have any choice but to act in alignment with the greatest evolutionary good? The point I’m trying to make is that when we take a closer look at what spiritual work and growth is actually for, it quickly becomes clear that the path of awakening is not primarily about freeing ourselves from suffering and securing our own happiness.

Sure, that’s a nice by-product. But, as long as that’s all we’re seeking, we probably won’t get very far.

Where the spiritual path really begins to get interesting is when we recognize that transforming ourselves in the deepest possible way is in fact an evolutionary imperative, with profound consequences far beyond ourselves.  If we begin to embrace the fact that our lives are not simply our own to do with as we please—that in everything we do, we are in fact accountable to the Whole—something truly miraculous begins to happen.

Faced with the palpable responsibility to evolve for a greater good, it just may be possible to find that we suddenly have access to a seemingly infinite source of energy, intention, passion and courage to confront whatever challenges present themselves on our path. What’s more, all of the personal issues and problems—all of the fears and doubts and resistances that once seemed so insurmountable—may well begin to seem a lot less significant.

Why? Because our attention is now captivated by something much bigger than ourselves. This is the power of context. We see our individual concerns, the worries we fret over day to day, from a different vantage point. Held up against this larger picture and greater purpose, those concerns suddenly seem very small indeed.

Realizing “it’s not all about me,” and ignited by a noble calling to participate in the grand adventure of conscious evolution, there is a very real possibility that we could find that we no longer even want to waste a moment of our precious life energy on those worries. And in this freedom from self-concern, before long we actually discover that the deep inner peace and joy we were seeking all along has become the very ground we are walking on.

Stay tuned.  You will be hearing more about the emerging field of evolutionary spirituality. The younger generation should definitely be alerted to it.

05 October, 2017

ABOUT THE (MIS)USE OF TERMINOLOGY IN POLITICAL RHETORIC

I believe in "democratic" government.  I am "conservative" by nature and "liberal" with my time, energy and limited resources. Apart from politics, I think that the majority of us share similar personal virtues and no single one of those philosophical qualities completely defines us.

It is pertinent to note here that I have never aligned with a particular political party, choosing instead to vote for candidates on the basis of character and qualifications.  In the end, I accept the will of the majority and allow for the fact that there is no perfect government, just as there is no perfect politician.

The reason I mention the above is that I have increasingly heard those same terms spewed out in a political context, and not in a complimentary way.  In the United States, ‘liberal’ is often used as an epithet. To some degree, the terms ‘neo-liberal’ or ‘social conservative’ or ‘socialist’ are also used as negative descriptors in Canada.

Certain acquaintances in the USA, for instance, are extremely vocal in condemning "bleeding heart liberals" for everything that is wrong with their country.  A closer look at American politics reveals that historically liberalism has been associated with the Democratic Party while the Republican Party is influenced by conservative principles.

Part of the problem with the word ‘liberal’ is it’s used differently across time, and across countries. In Canada, the word mostly means a supporter of the Liberal Party, or someone in the political middle. In the United States, it means a strong social progressive, and in some circles can mean a socialist or a communist. In Europe it’s associated with internationalism and free migration. In Australia, in the words of Australian Liberal Party leader Malcolm Turnbull, it means the primacy of “freedom, the individual, and the market.”  (That last one, the Australian definition, is probably closest to what political scientists consider a classical liberal view.)

The concepts of liberalism, both classical and modern, are political philosophies and ideologies not specific political affiliations, and these concepts, among others, influence parties across the Canadian spectrum.

To my mind it is not particularly helpful to use philosophical terminology as a pejorative, or to try and sum up a person’s character or values with a snippy line about liberals, conservatives, socialists, or anarchists.

I worry that sometimes we throw out terminology as weapons and rhetorical jabs when aggressively expressing political views. Understand that behind all of the different perspectives and ideologies, there’s some claim to justice there. And even if I disagree in large measure with much of what’s being said, there is some truth that is being expressed. There’s something good in it. As good as it is to be engaged in politics and to really care about what’s happening, it’s also good to step back sometimes and to understand that when we use terms like conservative, liberal, progressive, socialist, they’re all reflecting a certain claim to justice, and there’s probably something in each of those that we can agree with.

If we could only understand that behind all the terms we throw around to describe people, there is a rich intellectual history, we could have more respectful and constructive political debate.

20 September, 2017

WIARTON WILLIE PASSES AWAY, UNDERSTUDY IN THE WINGS

Sad news folks...Wiarton Willie has passed on to that heavenly burrow in the sky. He was 13 in groundhog years.

Willie, an albino groundhog, came out each Groundhog Day (Feb. 2) to prognosticate whether or not spring would make an early arrival.  Last year, 2016, was the 60th anniversary of the Wiarton Willie Festival that has drawn thousands of visitors over the years and media from every corner of the province of Ontario.

"It's a sad day for Wiarton," said Mayor Janice Jackson. "Willie was a wonderful ambassador and we will be forever grateful as he put us on the map. We did give him 13 years however, as life span for a groundhog is approximately four years and less than that for an albino."

Willie lived in a 'house' designed by the Toronto Zoo and that was thermostatically controlled and where visitors could visit and see the star attraction at any time.

According to Jackson, there is an understudy, 'Wee Willie' who will assume the responsibility of his predecessor.  Wiarton will be holding a 'send-off funeral' for Willie on September 30th at Blue Water Park in Wiarton.

IS THE BANNING OF BOOKS TO PROTECT PEOPLE JUSTIFIED?

At the end of September, libraries and bookstores everywhere will be celebrating “Banned Books Week.” This got us thinking: why do people ban books (or, in extreme cases, burn them)? Literature is such a fundamental part of human life, and yet time and time again throughout history there have been concerted efforts to suppress or destroy certain books.
These days, when we talk about banned books, titles such as “To Kill a Mockingbird” usually come to mind. However, let’s not forget that one of the most commonly banned books worldwide is not some provocative piece of modern literature, it is the Bible. Today, owning a Bible in certain countries is downright dangerous and can lead to arrest, assault, or worse.

Closer to home, there is a move afoot in my own community of Saugeen Shores to have the Bible removed from public school classrooms.

Book Burning Throughout History

At the same time, it’s worth noting that censorship is nothing new when it comes to political and religious texts. Almost every country or religion has experienced some form of book burning. In 213 B.C, a Chinese Emperor burned philosophy and history books from states other than Qin, because the books did not comply with his dogma. Torah and Talmud scrolls have been burned since the early days of Christianity up until the Holocaust. Catholic priests burned Martin Luther’s German translation of the Bible during the Reformation.
A Harry Potter book is burned.
Copies of Harry Potter books frequently targeted for burning.


Unfortunately, book burning remains in fashion even to this day. Perhaps the most well-known modern example involves the popular “Harry Potter” book. J.K. Rowling’s now-famous stories have been frequently criticized by religious figures for romanticizing the occult and promoting devil worship. Some pastors, claiming the books were harmful to children, went as far as to hold public book burnings in an attempt to rid the Earth of the “ungodly” themes of wizardry promoted within.
Then again, book burning is not nearly as common as it once was. These days books deemed too offensive to read in school are put on the “Banned Books” list. Many school libraries continue to block students from reading certain supposedly-dangerous texts.

Censorship in Religion

Religious leaders often choose to stifle ideas that don’t align with the core teachings of their faith. For example, Charles Darwin’s “On the Origin of the Species” is rarely welcome during discussions about creation among people of faith. But isn’t there value in understanding ideas that contradict your own? Without reading the evidence behind evolution, how could a Christian successfully defend his/her belief in Creationism?
Great literature is worth reading and discussing, whether we believe with the point-of-view of the author or not. If a person is not strong enough in their own beliefs to stand against an opposing viewpoint, then censorship is the inevitable outcome. But is it the right one?

Words censored on a page.Why Ban Books?

Supporters of banning books argue that we need to protect people (and children especially) from offensive, inaccurate or obscene printed content. Critics, on the other hand, insist that all readers – even younger ones – deserve access to the written word, no matter how controversial it might be.
Now, parents may have good reasons to prevent their child from reading a particular book, but that’s hardly the point. Parents are well within their rights to make that decision. Issues arise, however, when censorship of ideas come from the top down – say, from a church or a school district.
A noted Supreme Court member once said “Censorship reflects a society’s lack of confidence in itself.”  I believe that to be true.

19 September, 2017

SONGSTRESS UNEXPECTEDLY INTRODUCTED ME TO THE GEOENGINEERED WEATHER CONTROVERSY WORLD AND ALL THAT IT ENTAILS

The singer, songwriter who lured me into her unfamiliar Facebook web, then gave me the heave-ho when I proved to be an irritant.  How could you not instantly love that serene countenance though?
I won't go into introductory detail, but I recently became Facebook "friends" with a very musically talented woman who had impressed me for some time with her beautiful singing voice and the intriguing lyrics to the songs she writes.  I became the 610th follower of  Kate Magdalena Willens who bills herself as "singer songwriter, a mother, a Musical Chaplain, an environmentalist, and a truth teller."

As far as I was concerned, I was simply enthralled by what I felt was a Joni Mitchell clone, only possibly better.  Her "Ave Maria Prayer for Children" and rendition of "Both Sides Now" completely won me over.

The environmentalist and truth teller side of Kate was all new to me and it became abundantly clear that I had strayed into a situation that was completely foreign to me.  Her Facebook timeline is almost completely given over to her commitment to an engineered weather and conspiracy theory in addition to a disdain for the "liberal" faction.  I was not prepared for any of that.

Kate Magdalena Willens, the protest singer and social media activist, became an intriguing enigma for me with her unexpected contradiction of interests and talent.

Last week she had this to say "...about the geoengineered hurricanes that blasted through our southern states wreaking havoc, destroying lives. But what are lives to the evil oligarchs selling us the geoengineering that has already been in place for two decades? As their battle slogans go, 'at any cost' for their agenda to control the planet, with drastically reduced populations, through the external arm of the UN. The worst thing about 'Liberals' is that they just can't see any of this. It's invisible to them. And if you speak of it, they will use the term devised by the CIA to diminish those that are able to think critically, conspiracy theorists. When there are conspirators like this, you better start thinking critically."

Truthfully, I had difficulty following the train of thought.

Over the course of several weeks I attempted to rationalize and understand posts like the above and even went so far as to pose a few questions and suggest alternate views in my Devil's Advocate sort of way which, I admit, is not always appreciated.  In one of her responses to me she wrote "Please stop telling us how to live Dick. Many others are doing the hard work of dealing with the reality in which we find ourselves. You have your path, and others have theirs. Don't presume you have to teach others the way, or pontificate, please, thank you."  

I was being taken to task for my reaction to an open letter from one of Kate's staunch followers -- a poor soul by the name of Tim Boyd.  It is classic example.  Here is what Tim had to say:

"Open message to all you victims of mind control and social engineering out there. Isn't it about time you opened your eyes to the reality of it all? How can you Not see, what is being done, on a daily basis? Do you Not care? Isn't the future of your kids and grandkids, indeed, the future of Planet Earth, worth anything to you?

"It is happening on All fronts...whether or not you want to believe it. "Oh...I am Not going down that rabbit hole..." Well, I hate to be the one to inform you of this FACT...simply because you refuse to acknowledge these things, it will Not make them go away. They actually are making you ill, causing Dis Ease, Big Pharma, the AMA, all for profit, and possibly other nefarious reasons. Control perhaps...and throw the Military Industrial Complex into the mix...the CIA, and a few other corrupt ABC agencies such as the EPA, USDA, FDA and BLM...agencies that are supposed to protect us from the very crimes they are in fact perpetrating on us.


"9-11 was an inside job...geoengineering of the skies and weather modification is very real...genetically modified organisms are Not beneficial to Life...vaccines are largely Harmful, rather than helpful...I could go on, but suffice to say, we Are being attacked on many levels. The ones of us who are spreading the word, tirelessly in most cases, enduring verbal abuse from friends and relatives, will continue. Join us please. We are approaching Critical Mass. Be the Hundredth Monkey!"


I could not help myself!  In thanking Tim for his efforts in tirelessly spreading the word, I asked "...what do you propose we now do with the information you dispense...Worry ourselves sick, live in a bubble, start a rebellion, pray a lot while continuing to enjoy a fool's paradise here on earth or better yet, ignore you in the hope that you will eventually go away and take the prophet of doom and gloom with you?"  I further suggested that if Tim saw himself as part of the Critical Mass, he was going about it all wrong. "Try something tangible like unconditional happiness, peace and love to all the world instead of critical scolding of unbelievers and see how that approach works for you," I urged.

I was quick to learn that on Kate's timeline it was either her way or the highway.  You are either with "the movement" all the way or you are not.  There is no room for Mr. In Between, although she did manage tolerate me -- for  while.

This is all by means of introducing what for me was an unexplored culture and way of looking at environmental events that are happening around the world. I haven't been able to think of much else in recent days. Here is what my subsequent research has revealed:

Contrary to popular belief, a technology that is capable of intensifying a hurricane exists and has existed since before most of us were born. This technology is not even secret. Since at least as far back as the 1940s, successful scientific experiments involving weather modification have been conducted. There is no longer any secrecy about the fact that technology capable of intensifying a tropical storm is real. The technology is known as cloud-seeding. An aircraft simply drops chemicals capable of encouraging condensation into a cloud, intensifying the storm.

In spite of the fact that the existence of one form of weather modification is not even a secret, governments and other organizations may be keeping secrets about when, how, and why the technology is used. Has the technology ever been used as a weapon? It certainly could be used as a way of inflicting death and destruction on a region without the inhabitants even knowing that they had been attacked.

Hurricanes of unusually high intensity do of course occur naturally. The undetectability makes weather modification a particularly dangerous weapon. In recent times, evidence that Hurricane Harvey was artificially strengthened has surfaced. The hurricane did not seem to be particularly strong in a natural way. Instead, the hurricane seems to have repeatedly regained its strength after weakening, an unlikely event if the hurricane was a purely natural force.

The technology allegedly used to refuel Hurricane Harvey does not seem to have been cloud seeding from aircraft, but rather man-made evaporation from facilities on the ground. Like cloud seeding, the existence of this technology is publicly known and is not kept secret. Analysis of satellite footage of the storm is said to be more compatible with artificial interference than with a natural storm of unusual intensity.

If the hurricane was in fact deliberately strengthened, what people were involved, and what was their motivation? There are few theories about why these storms are artificially strengthened. It is difficult to believe that weaponized storms are used simply to inflict fear on the population. Evil exists, but evil people and organizations tend to have motivations that one can understand.

As Americans begin to recover from the deluge of Hurricane Harvey and start to wrap their minds around ferocious Category 5 Irma, they find themselves in a dreadful moment between two storms of mythical proportions. As answers and up-to-date information is sought, our social media timelines are consumed with dire forecasts and projected outcomes.

At a glance, you may see no reason to doubt the data --  it certainly appears to be a viable scientific prediction. But what about that handle, @weatherwarsinfo? Sounds kind of suspicious. So you Google the name “Scott Stevens,” plus “meteorologist,” and you find that, he believes so-called chemtrails are used to control weather patterns. You learn that he resigned as the meteorologist of a local TV station in 1995 after it came out that he had lied about his credentials.

More astonishingly, Stevens left a different TV station in 2005, after working there for nine years, so that he could pursue an unusual theory about Hurricane Katrina: He claimed that Japan’s Yakuza mafia had acquired an electromagnetic generator made in Russia at the height of the Cold War and used it to create the storm to “avenge” the victims of the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima. And in 2012, he told conspiracist Alex Jones that Hurricane Sandy’s path had been set by the government, which possesses means of weather modification beyond all reckoning.

Kate patterns much of her online presentation off the work of Stevens and others of his ilk. She even hosts a radio podcast as a means of furthering her "mission" with guests like Patrick Roddie, the Robin Hood of the geoengineering activist movement who sees his long-term goal of totally exposing human contamination of the environment as being a spiritually-inspired calling. The envornmental issue is a theme that is also written, or rewritten, into most of Kate's protest songs. *The above video is an excellent example of one of her songs that is both alluring and disturbing at the same time.

Yes, indeed weather "truthers" are out there, and they have some pretty creative (may I suggest, far-fetched) ideas. As wildfires rage in some areas and deadly flooding exists in others, they see a confluence of natural disasters that cannot amount to coincidence, or even the effects of dramatic, accelerating climate change. For some reason, they find a nefarious plot to direct the wind and rain with secret, advanced technology more plausible than evidence that carbon emissions contribute to the destructive power of hurricanes. And they latch onto odd details to make their case. Take this woman who interpreted a graphic of Irma’s size as proof that it was engineered specifically to engulf the state of Florida, which is roughly the same length.

Where the logic behind such weather warfare is concerned, the truthers are free to cite any number of explanations. Rush Limbaugh says hurricanes are manufactured (and hyped by the media) to sell bottled water and emergency supplies. California contractor Dane Wigington, who runs a geoengineering web site, believes Irma and Harvey are efforts to keep the eastern half of the U.S. artificially cool as the rest of the globe boils — and that includes the western U.S., which he calls a “climate sacrifice zone.”

And what of the methods? Artificial weather-chasers are typically even less specific there, except to say that the military-industrial complex has been experimenting with ways to start or prevent storms for many decades, so of course they figured it out.

If there’s one device or installation the conspiracy theorists have zeroed in on, it’s the High Frequency Active Auroral Research Program (HAARP), based in Gakona, Alaska.

High Frequency Active Auroral Research Program (image via Wikipedia)
The facility was established in the early 1990s by the Navy, Air Force, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) and the University of Alaska Fairbanks. Its antennae were used to research ionospheric phenomena in the hopes of developing enhanced technology “for communications and surveillance purposes,” per the program’s description. This combination of widely misunderstood science, a remote location and government interests — it is, after all, “a gigantic, high-energy, Pentagon-funded gizmo” — has led people to believe that HAARP is a mind-control operation, a means of assassination and the culprit behind everything from the TWA Flight 800 crash to the Columbine shooting. And despite having been shut down several years ago, it continues to take the blame for recent waves of “weaponized” weather.

Lest you assume, however, that everyone in this niche agrees on HAARP’s role in all this, I’d point you to the YouTube account WeatherWar101, which takes a strong stance against the “HAARP drivel” and “Chemtrail Confusion” peddled by Wigington and Stevens. Their takes have “turned the entire community into laughing stock,” the channel’s anonymous operator writes, arguing that “In-Place Sequential Water Vapor Generation” is the cause of Irma and Harvey. (When you can’t point to ominous-looking machinery, it seems the best course of action is to cloak your writing in dense jargon.)

The fact is, weather modification does exist — and its repeated failures are the best indications that nobody has the capacity to manufacture hurricanes. Cloud seeding, a way of increasing precipitation by distributing particles (often silver iodide) into an air system, remains an unproven technique more than a century after it was first pioneered, yet California is bone-dry and desperate enough to try to force rainfall this way. Project Stormfury, an attempt to weaken tropical cyclones using similar principles, fizzled out in the 1980s. And psychoanalyst Wilhelm Reich thought to manipulate the skies with his “cloudbuster” device, which he said influenced “Orgone Energy,” a cosmic life force he also happened to invent. (Widely considered a fraud, Reich later died in prison.)

The machine most emblematic of our inability to harness or repel climate events, however, would be the hail cannon, “a shock wave generator used to disrupt the formation of hailstones in their growing phase.” Although the concept supposedly dates back to before the Industrial Revolution, there’s no reason to suspect hail cannons actually work — in reality, they’re more of a loud annoyance, producing intense booming noises every few seconds when a storm is detected. Would a civilization that can create or guide massive hurricanes still be using something this silly and superstitious?

Truthers, of course, will insist that the last few generations of progress in weather control have been kept secret. Their strange conviction as to our species’ technological omnipotence harks back to ancient rituals meant to please the gods of the sun and surf, guaranteeing favorable seasons. No doubt it is more comforting to think that some undefined “they,” no matter how evil, is in control of the elements than to confront our basic helplessness — just as President Trump would rather dismiss climate change as an elaborate Chinese hoax than deal with the stark threats it poses to the planet.

In that light, the weather-control conspiracists represent a perverse new iteration of climate-change skepticism, which otherwise tends to hold that human impact on nature is grossly overstated. While many of us worry about whether Harvey, Irma, droughts and heatwaves are partly “human-made” catastrophes, worsened by melting glaciers and rising oceans, the weather truthers are at once ignoring that possibility and heightening it to a fabulist extreme: Not only are the hurricanes and wildfires human-made, but we made them on purpose, to serve a shadowy elite. The same global trends that up the frequency of “hundred-year” floods will simply reinforce this narrative, offering countless more examples of brazenly “engineered” storms.

In other words, as forecasts call for more wild weather, we can expect to hear a lot more from the
Kate Magdalena Willens of the world. Trust me, this has been a mere tip-of-the-iceberg summary. There is so much more to this controversial subject.

Oh yes, I almost forgot...Kate has since eliminated me from her Facebook timeline.  She gave me the following kiss-off:  "Dick just wanted to say i'm sorry about unfriending you, i don't have any hard feelings, but i just don't want you commenting in the same way about everything i post. my mission is given to me, and i'm following it! Thanks for your friendly attitude."

It is an ill wind...

My beautiful songstress ends up singing a different tune and I now hear it with less naive ears, sadly not as much to my liking.  Too bad!

I'll weather the disappointment, a little heart-broken, slightly insulted but a little more informed on one of the most controversial subjects of the century!  I suppose it could well end up being the death of me...In truth, I really don't know.

11 September, 2017

IN SPITE OF EDUCATION ADVANCES, MATH REMAINS DIFFICULT FOR KIDS


I was terrible at math in school and looking back, I think it may have impeded my approach to most of the other subjects on the curriculum at the time.  Certainly, my high school math teacher Frank Brown would think that I would be the last of his students to ever write on the subject.  With all due credit, Frank seemed to understand that I was a math write off but he did not hold that against me. He instead encouraged me in other subjects that were more to my liking, along with extra curricular activities such as sports and high school cadets.  I have always appreciated and respected him for that.

Strangely enough though, mathematics has always intrigued me, mainly I guess because of the difficulty I had in mastering the course of study.  It was with a degree of understanding then that I read a newspaper report to the effect that only half of Ontario's students met minimum the Grade Six standard for mathematics.  It was a form of consolation to learn that even today I would not be alone in my frustration over math, misery enjoying company such as it does.  No surprise that while reading and writing skills seem to respond to educational teaching method changes, mathematics remains a stubborn foe of literacy.

A lot of modern teaching methods have been used over the years but the connection between method and improvement do not seem to have the desired effect.

Math and technology wizard Mike Sterling of Southampton knows full well that anyone who has taught anything at any level understands that teaching is hard work.  When proficiency comes up in conversations, Sterling has noted that there is a lot of over simplification. "To teach 6th Graders for just an hour on any subject takes a lot of 'mental elbow grease'. I've taught mathematics at the university level and I know teaching 6th Grade minds is a whole other story. It is far more difficult," he states.

"Some help has been given school systems in terms of special education for teachers but it is very difficult to measure the cause and effect of change in mathematical education...It is certainly a stubborn problem."

"Are we expecting too much?  Sterling asks.  "Would we expect more than 50% of 6th Graders in Ontario to be able to sight read a musical piece and play it on the piano without error?  Would we expect 6th Graders to be proficient in drawing so that they could do a life-like portrait of a person or scene?"

In all due respect for teachers, we should be careful in trashing the education system as a whole. Education is an evolving process -- changing (as it should) from generation to generation and keeping pace with world advances. The education system we (well some of us) graduated from was quite different from the one in our parents' day and it will be the same for our children and their children's children.

These days, for instance, conceptual knowledge is emphasized in math classes. Students don’t just memorize times tables. They’re expected to understand and explain their mathematical reasoning. In fact, new standards have removed memorization requirements. Thriving in today’s fast changing world requires breadth of skills rooted in academic competencies such as literacy, numeracy and science, but also including such things as teamwork, critical thinking, communication, persistence, and creativity. These skills are in fact interconnected. 

As young people are better able to manage their emotions, for example, their ability to focus helps them learn to read and by working on science projects together they learn how to collaboratively solve problems. This interplay of skills is central to both the concept of breadth of skills as well as to the educational strategies needed to help young people cultivate them. Ultimately, young people today must be agile learners, able to adapt and learn new things quickly in a new fast-changing environment.

Personally, from what I can determine, I think that I would have been a better student in the intellectually challenging classroom of today.  Of course, I couldn't be much worse either!  So that's not saying much.

10 September, 2017

COME ON FOLKS, LET'S LEAVE THE HATE OUT OF POLITICS!

I grew up in a large close-knit family in the 1940s where it was inevitable that during special gatherings my dad and uncles would go off by themselves and "talk politics."  There would always be a lot of loud vocalization, punctuated by roaring good-natured laughter, all of which was tolerated by the women exclaiming "they're at it again!"  I kind of got a kick out listening and marvelled at how seemingly informed -- and opinionated -- they all were.  I never once heard foul language or anything resembling an argument, just good-natured jousting that would end with slaps on the back and a toast of some description as the dinner table was being set.  In truth, that was my first realization that views can differ when it comes to politics but they do not have to lead to hostility, and that no one ever really wins an argument when taking sides. To this day I prefer a rational presentation or discussion of the sides, if in fact there is one.  

It is now clear to me that in North America we are increasingly stuck in a cycle of political hostility bordering on outright hatred. Political parties encourage citizens to “take a side,” and taking a side too often entails becoming irrationally defensive over that side, while ruthlessly bashing the other.

This aggression has ultimately resulted in a range of violence, from citizens being assaulted at political conventions for supporting a candidate of their choice, to students being ostracized in classrooms if they dare to share a political view that opposes the majority. Day after day, Facebook and Twitter news feeds are filled with one-sided political messages (generally of a chain variety) which fuel anger and polarization, while leaving no trace of collaborative solutions to pertinent issues.  I am also increasingly offended by ignorant and uncivilized name-calling and personal insults levelled on upholders of one particular political persuasion or another.

How will defending a political party, mainly because it is “your side,” and hating on the other side, make our country a better place to live? Bashing others, whether it be a person or a political party, does not lead to solutions.  This vicious cycle of aggression is serving as a barrier to collaborative solutions and rational compromise. So what can we do?

The answer: Stop being a hater! Every citizen has the power to break this cycle of aggression, and to fuel a new cycle of collaboration. Here is how to start, as I see it:

1) Recognize Defensiveness
We are all guilty. If we have chosen a political party, we have unfortunately become accustomed to being defensive of that party, even before we know the facts (not to mention that the “facts” are often difficult to come by). The first step to ending the cycle of aggression is to recognize our own defensiveness. Ask yourself these questions:

• Do I understand the wants and needs of both sides?

• Do I have all of the facts?

• Can I be sure that my “facts” are viable?

• Will being defensive of “my side” make this country a better place to live?

2) Stop Reacting, Start Listening
Once we recognize that we are being defensive, it is essential that we stop defending and start listening to what others have to say. Ask yourself these questions:

• What is the underlying want or need that is being argued for?

• Do I understand the want or need of all parties?

• Is that want or need a human right?

• Will that want or need cause harm?

• What might be a logical and fair compromise?

3) Recognize Flaws of every Political Party
Every political party is flawed, including our own. Every political party is guilty of repeatedly committing acts of hate and aggression. And every political party is failing at collaborating with one another in order to reach compromises and create positive change. It is essential that we choose to see and acknowledge these flaws, so that positive progression can be achieved.  Ask yourself these questions:

• Is my political party collaborating across political parties to reach rational compromise and create positive change?

• Is my political party causing harm to anyone or anything?

• Is my political party discriminating against anyone or anything?

• Is my political party respecting human rights of all people?

4) Post Mindfully
What are you posting on social media? We are responsible for fueling the cycle of aggression. One-sided political posts often fuel anger and hate without providing opportunities for collaborative solutions. Instead of posting or sharing one-sided comments, problems or solutions, focus on the need and eliminate the bashing on others.

Before posting something to social media, ask yourself these questions:

• Will this post fuel anger, hate or defensiveness? Will it offend (even some of my friends)?

• Will this post provide or deter an opportunity for collaborative solutions or rational compromise?

• Does this post bash anyone (a political party or a person)?

• Does this post focus on the need, or focus on the hate?

5) Choose Collaboration
The paradigm of “us versus them” serves as the greatest barrier to progress and solutions. Instead of focusing on the best interest of our political party, we need to focus on the best interest of all citizens, and the nation as a whole. We all have the power to choose collaboration by working to understand all sides of the want or need at hand, and by exploring and inviting compromises and solutions.

As a Facebook participant, just for once I would like to see someone post original thoughts on a political issue that contain a balanced presentation of facts leading to the basis of a reasoned opinion. What would be wrong with actually altering someone's political thinking in a positive way, as opposed to offending it with insulting innuendo. That should be the objective of all political pronouncements in the public arena.

Political leaders, regardless of party affiliation, are failing to work together to understand all angles of issues in order to produce progressive solutions. Instead of commending the bashing between political leaders or candidates, ask for collaboration. Recognize that every time a political leader attacks another, they are perpetuating the cycle of aggression, and creating a barrier to collaboration.

Good Lord...What is the world coming to?

I should not have felt compelled to publish any of this.  

The sad part of it is, I predict that 98 per cent of those reading my comments will continue to demonstrate hate for political opposition, resort to unsavory language when other words fail and persist in circulating (copying and/or sharing) unoriginal third and fourth-party material in support of their views on social media.  Something about politics in general that feeds a need for aggressiveness in human nature that can be so damaging and unhealthy in a society today that is already taxed with more than its share of unpleasantness and man's inhumanity to man.

Please tell me that I'm not asking too much!