There’s a commonplace story today at http://www.thestar.com/News/Ontario/article/525059 all about buried reports, stalled justice etc. etc.
The focus seems to be on victims of crime, with some emphasis on victims of violent crime.
Amongst other text I read:
The lesson was driven home eight years ago when he attended “candidates’ school” after deciding to run for federal office as a Conservative.
“One thing they told us is, ‘If you really screw up and it hits the paper, don’t worry about it: the public’s memory is 48 hours,’ ” Wamback said. “It’s a tragedy, but that’s the way our system works.”
And a few paragraphs further on, some qualification:
Wamback, whose son Jonathan was left comatose and paralyzed for months after a beating in 1999, is angry about the decision, saying the appointment of an advocate is “a moral imperative” because crime victims are often too distressed to speak for themselves.
Here’s a thought.
Each time a youngster (under age 21) is gunned down or knifed, and dies as a result of the violence, send one of the parents (the parents get to choose) to parliament as an member of the provincial parliament. For ten years. Salary equivalent to at least their current salary. Indexed.
Why ten years? Because the first such MP will be lonely, alone, and with little impact.
The Toronto Star (http://www.thestar.com/article/462663 says “But in 2007, Toronto had the most homicides of any CMA – 111 – and its highest rate since 1992.”
CanadaOnline (http://canadaonline.about.com/od/ontario/a/mppsont.htm) tells me “There are 107 seats in the Ontario Legislative Assembly”.
Do this anyway you like.
* Maintain a list of parents waiting to be assigned MP status.
* Any death of an MP is replaced with a grieving parent.
* Any by-election is automatically filled with a grieving parent.
* Pension off the longest serving MPP
You get the idea.
Within five years, grieving parents would get changes that today we can only dream of.
A grieving parent can resign at any time (no pension, let’s say), and be replaced instantly with the next grieving parent from the list.
Call me a Right-Wing Reactionary Rebel, or a Left-Wing Lunatic Louse; call me what you will. By all means include the word “Wing” in there. “Wing-nut”, for all I care.
I have friends who fly as passengers in airplanes.
I don’t know any pilots, but there is a uniformed man with a trolley-bag in my apartment building. Navy-blue suit. Some sort of braid on his cuffs. Nice enough guy. Youngish. Quiet.
Today’s Toronto Star carries an article (http://www.thestar.com/News/GTA/article/520938 ) about pilots being blinded by domestic lasers.
Turns out the maximum penalty is “$100,000 fine and five years in prison”.
I doubt that $100,000 would cover the cost of imprisoning someone for five years.
Turns out they once caught a guy who “told police he was ‘just having some fun.’”.
He was fined $1,000
Here’s an idea:
Spend $100,000 on trapping/finding these fellows.
Strap them to the front of a commercial jet.
(On the outside at the front).
For 24 hours.
Unstrap them wherever the plane ends up.
I don’t care.
Don’t tell me its draconian until you’ve had time to think about it during your next flight in or out of Toronto, Kelowna, Calgary, or wherever.
These. Not all automated phone calls.
1) The local public library drops a voice-mail on me whenever a book I’ve ordered arrives for pickup. It’s a good system (could be improved).
I browse the online catalogue for a book I’d like to read, and place a Hold on that book, nominating the pick-up location of my choice. When the book arrives at that location, the library uses automation to lodge a voice mail.
I have asked for this phone call. It is automated, and it is a part of the system that I love – that I don’t need to travel across Toronto to locate and pick up a book. I browse the catalogue online, and the book is delivered, if not to my door, to the door of the library most convenient to me. That may not be the closest library to where I live; it may be a branch close to where I’m working this month, at a client site.
The phone rings and I hear “Hello; the library“ and I get to hang up the ‘phone. Sure I’ve had to tear off my yellow rubber gloves and interrupt the dish-washing, but I want to know that a book has arrived. And it is easy to get off this list. I do it myself. Either stop ordering books, or go online and flip a switch on the notification page.
Those are all the automated phone calls I love.
I chose them all myself.
These. Not all automated phone calls.
1) BELL Canada, believe it or not, but just one type of message would please me right now.
Would have pleased me this morning.
Turns out that there’s a “Internet Outage” (note well, not a failure, collapse, or breakdown) in Etobicoke, that part of Toronto (centre of the known universe) where I live and work.
By the time I fire up my email-checker and web browser and stare at a blank screen, reboot the computer, ditto, turn off the DSL modem and wait one minute, shut down the computer. Restart the computer and do the snail-entrails technical tricks ….
By the time I decide it’s probably not me and dial BELL Canada and put up with the time-wasting “Emily” and hit zero to speak with a human.
By the time I wait on Hold for another seven minutes to reach Kevin ….
By the time Kevin (nice enough guy) has taken my details again, including my phone number which I had to key in to get this far (can’t they relay that to him? They are a communications company aren’t they?)
By the time Kevin runs a check on the line/account/connection and then tells me that they have several people calling in from Etobicoke, including one on Mill Road, …..
(a) Given that it’s a 416 number, might Kevin not have been prompted to issue a five-second header “We have an outage in Etobicoke”, which would have answered all my question unasked, and freed Kevin up for the next worried client.
That would have saved me 13 minutes
That would have saved Kevin 3 minutes, and
That would have shaved 3 minutes off everyone else in the queue waiting to speak with Kevin.
(b) Given that Bell is a telecommunications company, might they not have quietly dropped an un-ringing voicemail on me so that as soon as I picked up the phone I’d learn that the problem was Out There and Not In Here?
That would have saved me the best part of an hour today. I could have used that time to call my clients and advise them I was out-of-internet touch for the day.
That would have saved Kevin 3 minutes, and
That would have shaved 60 minutes off everyone else who fiddled around and sat in the queue waiting to speak with Kevin.
Those are all the automated phone calls I can think I’d like to have right now.
I get to chose them all myself
I didn’t know what to call this page. It contains some facts, some thoughts, generally, “Things that astound me”. The page is updated as I come across new facts, almost always from the books I read.
If it works, there’ll be a reference to each book near the foot of THIS PAGE, so you can purchase the book, or borrow it from your local lending library.
If you get the feeling that quotes from a book are “bunched together”, it’s because they are. As I read a book I am struck by one or more factoids, and, of course, record them here.
Here’s one I made up myself this morning:
- Remind every teenager (younger than you) that everyone they meet who is older than them was once much younger than them!
Language Instinct (page 300)
“Metabolically, the brain is a pig. It consumes a fifth of the body’s oxygen and similarly large portions of its calories and phospholipids. Greedy neuron tissue lying around beyond its point of usefulness is a good candidate for the recycling bin.”.
Castles (page 198)
“The map of the world in the Admiralty War Room measured nearly twenty feet by thirty feet … the enormous area of the Pacific [ocean] filling upwards of three hundred square feet. On this map the head of a pin represented the full view to be obtained from the masts of a ship on a clear day” Winston Churchill wrote after the war.
[Next time I read the original in Churchill I’ll replace this quotation]
Greatest Show (page 92)
A favourite analogy portrays the nucleus [of an atom] as a fly in the middle of a sports stadium. The nearest neighbouring nucleus is another fly in the middle of an adjacent stadium. The electrons of each atom are buzzing about in orbit around their respective flies, smaller than the tiniest gnats, too small to be seen on the same scale as the flies.
Plausibility (page 156)
To put things in perspective, the number of neurons in the human brain is estimated to be a hundred billion and the total number of synapses to be a million billion.
Twenty-six weeks after conception, the brain is at a critical period of development. It is still producing more than 50,000 neurons every second.
… a newborn’s brain has 20 billion neurons and a trillion synaptic connections, and the fetal brain must create a profusion of brain cells during intrauterine life — about 250,000 each minute — to meet those demands.
Plausibility (page 118)
Humans, for example, have more than three hundred recognizable cell types and consist of about one hundred trillion cells in complex arrangements.
Plausibility (page 29)
“ … the important distinction that only the genotype is inherited but only the phenotype is selected”.
Ancestor’s (page 390)
As Robert May, the current President of the Royal Society has said, to a first approximation, all species are insects
Ancestor’s (page 198)
Under favorable conditions the lake of a beaver can span several miles, which may make it the largest phenotype of any gene in the world.
Devil’s (page 45)
The military metaphor lets us think of each soldier [CG: an atom in an array of atoms in a crystal] as a metre or two from his neighbour. But actually almost all the interior of a crystal is empty space. Mt head is 18 centimetres in diameter. To keep to scale, my nearest neighbour in the crystalline parade would have to be standing more than a kilometre away.
Watchmaker (page 22)
There are about three million ganglion cells in the electronic interface (of each of our eyes) gathering data from about 125 million photocells. The figure of 125 million photocells is about 5,000 times the number of separately-resolvable points in a good-quality magazine photograph.
Watchmaker (page 22)
Each nucleus (of a human cell) contains a digitally-coded database larger, in information content, that all 30 volumes of the Encyclopedia Britannica put together. And this figure is for each cell, not all the cells of a body put together.
Watchmaker (page 96)
Some 1,000 million of these (electrical impulses) are transmitted every second, by means which are not properly understood, to a brain, which then takes the appropriate action.
Watchmaker (page 141)
Some species of the unjustly called ‘primitive’ amoebas have as much information in their DNA as 1,000 Encyclopedia Brittanicas.
Watchmaker (page 150)
Cows and pea plants (and, indeed, all the rest of us) have an almost identical gene called the Histone H4 gene. … We don’t know how long ago the common ancestor lived … call it 1.5 billion years. … letters carved on gravestones become unreadable in mere hundreds of years.
First Word (page 169)
(No animal communication system has an equivalent for “No”, argues Jackendoff, but it tends to be one of the first words in any child’s repertoire).
First Word (page 196)
All of us alive today share at least one grandmother who lived 150,000 years ago in East Africa. We also share at least one grandfather, and African man who lived 60,000 years ago.
(Ed: I know what you’re thinking … but it ain’t so!)
First Word (page 279)
Nilsson and Pelger … calculated that it would take about 1,829 separate evolutionary steps for the flat-patch eye to evolve into a stereo-vision globe. That amounts to less than 364,000 years, not long at all from an evolutionary perspective.
(Ed: I’m not at all sure that “evolutionary step” translates one-to-one to “generation”).
Nature’s Numbers (page 44)
(On prime numbers) The first proof of this fact worked only when the numbers got bigger than 10’10’10’10’46, where to avoid giving the printer kittens I’ve used the ‘ sign to indicate forming a power. This number is utterly gigantic. Written out in full, it would go 10000…000, with a very large number of zeroes. If all the matter in the universe were turned into paper, and a zero could be inscribed on every electron, there wouldn’t be enough of them to hold even a tiny fraction of the necessary zeroes.
Boston Globe (December 1, 2009, Image 9)
“Messier 104 (M104), the Sombrero galaxy” has a brilliant white, bulbous core encircled by the thick dust lanes comprising the spiral structure of the galaxy. As seen from Earth, the galaxy is tilted nearly edge-on. We view it from just six degrees north of its equatorial plane. At a relatively bright magnitude of +8, M104 is just beyond the limit of naked-eye visibility and is easily seen through small telescopes.
The Sombrero lies at the southern edge of the rich Virgo cluster of galaxies and is one of the most massive objects in that group, equivalent to 800 billion suns. The galaxy is 50,000 light-years across and is located 28 million light-years from Earth.
X-ray emission suggests that there is material falling into the compact core, where a 1-billion-solar-mass black hole resides. In the 19th century, some astronomers speculated that M104 was simply an edge-on disk of luminous gas surrounding a young star, which is prototypical of the genesis of our solar system. But in 1912, astronomer V. M. Slipher discovered that the hat-like object appeared to be rushing away from us at 700 miles per second.
This enormous velocity offered some of the earliest clues that the Sombrero was really another galaxy, and that the universe was expanding in all directions. (NASA and The Hubble Heritage Team, STScI/AURA) More (see this on Google Sky).
Language Instinct (page 145)
“A bit of arithmetic shows that pre-literate children, who are limited to ambient speech, must be lexical vacuum cleaners, inhaling a new word every two waking hours, day in, day out.”.
“Think of having to memorize a new batting average or treaty date or phone number every ninety minutes of your waking life since you took your first steps.”.
Beneath Flanders Fields (page 266)
“In the process five unexploded shells per square metre were uncovered”.
Tower (p xiv)
… but I can offer the reader a simple rule based on adequate research: all statements of how lovely it was in that [pre-war] era made by persons contemporary with it will be found to have been made after 1914.
Recognition (Mind Works page 85)
You find two crumpled balls of paper to be similar, even though their shapes are completely different, and find two people’s faces different, though their shapes are almost the same.
Men (Back To The Front page 186)
The war was over. Princip’s bullet had caused some 67 million men to don uniforms and go to fight. One in every six of these men was killed. Of the remainder, approximately half were wounded. On the Western Front alone, more than 4 million had died in their ditches.
Mixotricha (Unweaving page 229-230)
Mixotricha paradoxa is a flagellate protozoan which lives in the guts of the Australian termite Mastotermes darwiniensis. (snip!) A single Mixotricha individual, therefore, is a colony containing at least half a million symbiotic bacteria of various kinds. … a single termite is a colony of perhaps as many symbiotic oranisms in its gut.
[ 500,000 times 500,000 is 2,500,000,000] [That’s one termite!]
Communities (Unweaving page 229)
Each individual animal or plant is a community. It is a community of billions of cells, and each one of those billions of cells is a community of thousands of bacteria.
Drink A Glass Of Water (Unweaving page 179)
For example, every time you drink a glass of water you are imbibing at least one molecule that passed through the bladder of Oliver Cromwell. This follows from extrapolation from Wolpert’s observation that ‘there are many more molecules in a glass of water than there are glasses of water in the sea’.
DNA (Galileo page 64)
If the human DNA in one set of twenty-three chromosomes (with one DNA molecule in each chromosome) is stretched out and joined together, then it would be about one meter long, and all that stuff has to be confined to the cell nucleus. Because the chromosomes are doubled and there are about a hundred trillion cells in a human body …
Matter (Unweaving page 118)
Isaac Asimov has a dramatic illustration: it is as if all the matter of the universe were a single grain of sand, set in the middle of an empty room 20 miles long 20 miles wide and 20 miles high.
Yet, at the same time, it is as if that single grain of sand were pulverized into a thousand million million million fragments, for that is approximately the number of stars in the universe.
These are some of the sobering facts of astronomy, and you can see that they are beautiful.
Bar Codes On The Air (Unweaving page 72)
Think what is happening when you listen to a whole orchestra. Imagine that, superimposed on a hundred instruments, your neighbour in the concert is whispering learned music criticism in your ear, others are coughing and, lamentably, somebody behind you is rustling a chocolate wrapper.
All these sounds, simultaneously, are vibrating your eardrum and they are summed into a single, very complicated wriggling wave of pressure change.
We know it is one wave because a full orchestra, and all the noises off, can be rendered into a single wavy groove on a phonograph disc, or a single fluctuating trace of magnetic substance on a tape.
The entire set of vibrations sums up into a single wiggly line on the graph of air pressure against time, as recorded by your eardrum.
Mirabile dicta, the brain manages to sort out the rustling from the whispering, the coughing from the door banging, the instruments of the orchestra from each other.
Such a feat of unweaving and reweaving, or analysis and synthesis, is almost beyond belief, but we all do it effortlessly and without thinking.
Preface (Somme page xix)
Were one to write
of a page
about every soldier
on the Somme,
It would require
six hundred books
as long as this one.
We are going to die (Unweaving page 1)
… and that makes us the lucky ones. Most people are never going to die because they are never going to be born. The potential people who could have been here in my place but who will in fact never see the light of day outnumber the sand grains of Arabia.
Our eyes are open (Unweaving page 5)
We are granted (the privilege and) the opportunity to understand why our eyes are open, and why they see what they do, in the short time before they close for ever.
Cells (Unweaving page
A (human) cell is not just a bag of juice. It is packed with solid structures, mazes of intricately folded membranes.. There are about 100 million million [not a typo!] cells in a human body, and the total area of membranous structure inside one of us (humans) works out at more than 200 acres. That’s a respectable farm.
(page 9) Each one of us is a city of cells, and each cell a town of bacteria. You are a gigantic megalopolis of bacteria.
Bloody (Unweaving page 35)
The total length of capillaries round which the heart pumps the blood, from ventricle to ventricle, is more than 50 miles. If 50 miles of tubing are packed inside a human body, …
Key to Titles
|Castles||Castles of Steel||Robert K. Massie||Random House||0-679-45671-6|
|Greatest Show||The Greatest Show On earth||Richard Dawkins||Free press (Simon & Schuster)||978-1-4165-9479-6|
|Plausibility||The Plausibility of Life||Kirschener/Gerhart||Yale University Press||0-300-10865-6|
|Ancestor’s||The Ancestor’s Tale||Richard Dawkins||Phoenix||0 75381 996 1|
|Devil’s||A Devil’s Chaplain||Richard Dawkins||Mariner||0-618-48539-2|
|Watchmaker||The Blind Watchmaker||Richard Dawkins||Penguin|
|First Word||The First Word||Christine Kenneally||Penguin||978-0-14-311374-4|
|Nature’s Numbers||Nature’s Numbers||Ian Stewart||Basic Books (Science masters series)||0-465-07273-9|
|Language Instinct||The Language Instinct||Steven Pinker||Harper Collins||0-06-095833-2|
|Beneath||Beneath Flanders Fields||Barton, Doyle, Vandewalle||McGill-Queens University Press||0-7735-2949-7|
|Tower||The Proud Tower||Barbara W. Tuchman||Macmillan New York||LC 65-23074|
|Unweaving||Unweaving The Rainbow||Richard Dawkins||Mariner||0-618-05673-4|
|Somme||The Battle of the Somme (330+p)||Martin Gilbert||McClelland & Stewart||ISBN-13;978-0-7710-3547-0|
|Galileo||Galileo’s Finger||Peter Atkins||Oxford University Press||ISBN 0 19 860664 8 (hb)|
|Back To The Front||Back To The Front||Stephen O’Shea||Avon Books||ISBN 0-380-73167-3|
|Mind Works||How The Mind Works||Steven Pinker||W.W. Norton and Company||ISBN 0-393-04535-8|
|Boston Globe||The Big Picture (web site)||Alan Taylor||http://www.boston.com/bigpicture/|
(See also “Stephen Harper Loses My Vote!”)
He’s done it again.
This time another mechanical message left on my answering machine from someone, it sounded like Bill Carol, on behalf of Axel Kuhn.
A long message.
I know, because I listened for the contact information, something along the lines of “If you’d like to learn more, contact me at ….”.
It is a mechanical recorded message – no one in Stephen Harper’s camp really wants to talk with me, they are just to cheap to knock on the door and engage in dialogue.
These fools (no other word for it, coming hard on the heels of this week’s Do Not Call Registry) are adept at annoying “Nearly two-thirds of Canadians” – 64% plan to register for CRTC’s no-call list .
Count me amongst the 64% on voting day.
Bring on Australia’s system of preferential voting!!
So Stephen Harper and his mob (as in wooly-brained sheep) loses another vote for populating my voice mailbox with a mechanical voice. He loses it for aligning himself with those battalions of telemarketers who make my life miserable.
Stephen Harper has already lost my vote three times.
Now it’s four times, and, I fear, counting.
Sadly, I get only one vote per election, but I have a retentive memory.
I’ll find out which party he represents and deny that party my vote for the next four elections.
I feel better already!