What I'm Reading
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Wednesday, January 31. 2007
I came across this article from the Globe and Mail entitled, "Quebec town bans kirpans, stoning women." This news story seems to be generating a lot of attention both in Canada and abroad. I've seen the BBC and CNN pick up the story.
From the article:
A sign at the entrance of this rural Quebec town says: Hérouxville welcomes you.
Unless, that is, you plan on stoning a woman to death, sending your children to school with a kirpan or covering your face other than on Halloween.
The town council of Hérouxville, a sleepy community dominated by a towering Roman Catholic Church, has adopted a declaration of "norms" that it says would-be immigrants should be aware of before they settle here.
Among them, it is forbidden to stone women or burn them with acid. Children cannot carry weapons to school. That includes ceremonial religious daggers such as kirpans even though the Supreme Court of Canada has ruled that Sikhs can carry kirpans in schools.
However, children can swim in a pool with boys and girls alike, because they can't be segregated.
And for the record, female police officers in Hérouxville, 165 kilometres northwest of Montreal, can arrest male suspects. Also part of the declaration is to allow women to drive, dance and make decisions on their own.
"We're telling people who we are," said André Drouin, one of six town councillors and the driving force behind the declaration passed earlier this month.
A city police publication came under fire for suggesting female officers should defer to male colleagues when dealing with men from certain religions.
In Toronto, a judge caused an uproar last month by ordering a Christmas tree removed from a courthouse so as not to offend non-Christians.
Debate has raged in Quebec in recent weeks about so-called "reasonable accommodation" of ethnic, cultural and religious minorities, and a Montreal police officer is facing disciplinary action over a song circulating on the Internet about it.
I have very mixed feelings about this. On one hand, I do think that political correctness and the drive to not offend anyone has gone too far. By being too worried about offending people of other cultures and religions causes us to compromise some of the values that our society holds dear. For example, suggesting that female officers shouldn't try arresting men from certain religions is very demeaning to female officers. In this country, women are equals; however, by being too culturally sensitive, we introduce exceptions to the rule.
On the other hand, some consider the people of this Quebec town xenophobic or racist. The article does point out that there is only one immigrant family that lives in that small town. By not respecting other people's cultures, we risk becoming intolerant. This is ironic considering that Canada is a nation of immigrants and many cultures.
This may be a taste of things to come though. European governments are currently engaged in a culture war against Muslims. A lot of far-right wing parties are gaining power in Europe which are trying to limit Muslim immigration and they're targetting Muslim citizens. In the Netherlands and France for example, Muslim women are not allowed to wear burquas (dress that covers women from head to toe). They see the burqua as a symbol of female oppression. However, if women openly choose to wear them, should the state be able to override the wishes of the individual? It's an interesting question considering that we live in western democracies where we champion individual rights and liberties.
Monday, January 29. 2007
I got this awesome e-mail from Pam two weeks ago, about a cylon encounter in Vancouver. She met Grace Park who plays Lt. Sharon "Boomer" Valeri on Battlestar Galactica. I just had to blog about it. Here's the e-mail:
I met Grace Park today Smile emoticon She was at Sun Sui Wah (a chinese restaurant in Vancouver). No one else really recognized her, probably cuz the show, though awesome, has a small dedicated following in Vancouver. But she was on her cell phone contacting the people she was going to have dim sum with in the restaurant, just 5 feet away from me. As she walked past I engaged her in intelligent conversation about cylon vs human relationships...
Just kidding...I've been dying to meet her since I've been in Vancouver...so I was in star-struck mode and managed to blab out that I love her character and the show, etc. She was very nice.
I wish I had gotten pics of her, but I didn't want to seem like a crazy over-the-top fan. The funny thing is that she isn't that recognized in Vancouver...she didn't have the sunglasses on or anything and wasn't being mauled by fans...except for me of course. She was dressed normally (loved her style), much like myself. She actually re-acted quite "normally" to my fanactics ... she asked me if she knew me (i forgot to introduce myself...I basically went up to her and said "Hi, you're Grace Park!"), which is very down-to-earth considering she could've immediately tagged me as a fan and said so. Instead she treated me as you would treat someone if they came up and said they knew you, but you had no idea who they were. She also asked me my name and asked if I was having dimsum with my family. As mentioned before, she was quite nice.
If I saw a Cylon in a Chinese restaurant, I probably would have tackled her down and yelled to someone to get the SWAT team down here. I guess this kind of ruins season 3 of Battlestar Galactica; clearly the Cylons have found earth.
Anyway, a lot of the episodes of Battlestar Galactica are filmed in Vancouver. There's a site that talks about some of the scenes that were shot in Vancouver for season 1. I would also like to point out that in the BSG mini-series, we see Lee Adama land his viper in the hanger deck of Colonial One. That hanger deck is actually the car deck of the BC Ferries.
Thanks for the story Pam
Thursday, January 25. 2007
When 2007 started, oil was hovering at around $65/barrel. Then, it began to fall precipitously to as low as $50/barrel, even though OPEC said that they would defend oil prices at $60/barrel. Anyway, this is probably why you've seen gas prices slowly fall over the weeks.
In either case, I thought something was really fishy. Market analysts kept saying that oil prices were low because of the extremely mild winter that North America was experiencing. Heck, even Prime Minister Stephen Harper gave a speech in Ottawa about climate change, and he wasn't even wearing a winter coat. Ottawa was seven degrees celcius that day. From what I hear, everything in Ottawa is normally frozen around this time of year.
But anyway, last week the U.S. was hit by a massive deep freeze because all of this cold air from Canada made it all the way down to Texas. Even California was frozen, and a lot of its citrus crop was destroyed. Surely this would cause oil prices to jump up right? Nope, they dropped.
The conspiracy theory part of me wanted an answer to these crazy low oil prices. Then, I stumbled across this article from MSNBC entitled, "Are Saudis waging an oil-price war on Iran?."
Oil traders and others believe that the Saudi decision to let the price of oil tumble has more to do with Iran than economics.
Their belief has been reinforced in recent days as the Saudi oil minister has steadfastly refused calls for a special meeting of OPEC and announced that the nation is going to increase its production, which will send the price down even farther.
Saudi Oil Minister Ibrahim al-Naimi even said during a recent trip to India that oil prices are headed in the "right direction."
Not for the Iranians.
Moreover, the traders believe the Saudis are not doing this alone, that the other Sunni-dominated oil producing countries and the U.S. are working together, believing it will hurt majority-Shiite Iran economically and create a domestic crisis for Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, whose popularity at home is on the wane. The traders also believe (with good reason) that the U.S. is trying to tighten the screws on Iran financially at the same time the Saudis are reducing the Islamic Republic’s oil revenues.
For the Saudis, who fear Iran’s religious, geopolitical and nuclear aspirations, the decision to lower the price of oil has a number of benefits, the biggest being to deprive Iran of hard currency. It also may create unrest in a country that is its rival on a number of levels and permits the Saudis to show the U.S. that military action may not be necessary.
The Saudis firmly and publicly deny this, saying it’s all about economics. Not everyone believes them.
“If under normal circumstances, the price of oil was falling this dramatically [17% in the last few months], Saudi Arabia would have already called for a special OPEC meeting,” says one oil trader. “It’s got to be something else and that something else has to be Iran.”
I encourage you to read the rest of the article because it provides a lot of interesting supporting facts to back up this speculation.
The U.S. is definitely increasing pressure on Iran though. This month, they raided an Iranian embassy in Iraq. Another American aircraft carrier battle group has been dispatched to the Persian Gulf to apply military pressure to Iran. There's nothing more intimidating than an aircraft carrier parked by your country which sports a 1/4 acre of sovereign American air power.
In either case, kudos for using economic power to stop the Iranians from acquiring a nuclear weapon. Hopefully this could stave off a direct military conflict with Iran. I think the U.S. and its allies are far too war weary to fight yet another war in the Middle East.
Monday, January 22. 2007
Last week, I submitted my third draft of my Master's Technical Project to my academic committee. Today, I received word from the committee that they have reviewed the paper, and said that it was ready to go. They have given me the green light to defend the paper. It's on!
So now, I have to schedule a defence day, and start studying. For the oral defence, I have to choose three courses that I've taken, and the committee will prepare questions for those courses. The oral defence will involve a 20 minute presentation of my technical project, and a 40 minute question and answer period where the committee will ask questions about my technical project and the three chosen courses.
The thing I'm most worried about are the questions about the courses. I'll have to re-study for those courses again, and treat it like I'm about to write a final exam in those courses once again. One of the courses that I will be using for my defence, I had taken in January 2005, so it has been a LONG time since I took that course, so I'm a bit rusty.
I was talking to Mr. Teel a few months back, as he had finished defending his Master's thesis, and he told me that the hardest part in the Master's degree is writing the paper. Everything after that is quite anti-climatic and not really a big deal. I sure hope he's right.
Anyway, we are at the last mile of the marathon.
Saturday, January 20. 2007
Patrick brought this one to my attention. Jim Cramer (the stock guy that recommended buying shares of Google, $420/share->$500/share) was on the Colbert Report earlier this week. I found the clip on YouTube.
For those who aren't familiar with Mr. Cramer, here's a short clip that gives you taste of what his show, Mad Money, is like. It'll help you understand some of the jokes from the Colbert Report clip.
Finally, here's the clip from the Colbert Report.
Jim Cramer seems a little awkward on the show though. He's laughing way too much at some of the jokes.
Interestingly enough, when he recommended people to buy the New York Stock Exchange (NYX), the stock did move up quite a bit the next day.... then it came back down by the end of the week. When Cramer first covered NYX on his show Mad Money, he said that it was a $100 stock going to $240 in about 12-18 months. Be aware, there are risks associated with a growth stock like this, and definitely have to be patient because this is a long-term play.
Standard disclaimer: This does not constitute as financial advice. Please consult your financial advisor for any investment decisions. We are not responsible for any gains or losses that you may incur.
Friday, January 19. 2007
So for the last little while, my contact form hasn't been working due to a programming bug. Unfortunately, that means that I haven't been receiving e-mails from my blog if you've been trying to contact me through the contact form. Anyway, it's working once again. Thanks Adam for pointing out this problem to me.
Thursday, January 18. 2007
A few weeks ago, I met up with a kid that I lead during kid's camp, back in the day. Except now, this kid is all grown up! He just showed up one day to volunteer at the community drop-in centre that we run for kids at church. It's kind of neat seeing him again because you see how your kid turned out in life.
Anyway, he had finished high school and he's enrolled in the culinary arts program at Camosun College. This peaked my interest since I love food, and I love to cook. So, he was telling me that it was a 1 year program, and he just started. The first 3 weeks this month would be completely devoted to theory, and then they get to start cooking.
So, one week he comes back to church, and he's got a book that he's reading. I ask him what it was, and it was a practice test on "Soups, Stocks, and Sauces." He was studying for a test in his course.
Now, since I watch the Food Network all the time, I thought it was time to put my encyclopedic knowledge of food and cooking to work. So, I asked the guy if I could take the practice test. The guy seemed very skeptical because he had been studying all week and here I am attempting to take the test without any preparation. The test had 20 questions, and they were all multiple choice. I finished the test in about 6 minutes, and I passed by a good margin. The guy seemed absolutely shocked and asked if I just randomly guessed the right answers. Ah, all that time watching the Food Network has paid off.
Anyway, I inquired what were the requirements to join the culinary arts program. Apparently you need 3 months of experience in the food industry. Unfortunately, I don't have that... but maybe after I finish my Master's, I should go work at a McDonalds for 3 months so I enroll in the culinary arts program.
What's funny about this is that I recall an episode of a show on the Food Network called Restaurant Makeover. They had a master chef who joined the food industry late in life. Apparently the chef started out as a computer programmer, but after 10 years, he became quite jaded by industry so he changed careers and became a master chef. I could actually see myself doing something like that in the far future. Food is one of my passions.
My friend warned me that being a chef isn't as glamourous as it seems. He said that the instructors always warn that being a chef is a very "behind the scenes" kind of job, and you have to really love your work to stay in the business. Often times, you'll never get any recognition, and when you hear from the customer, it's usually complaints about the food.
For me, that warning wasn't much of a turnoff since being a sound guy or a computer programmer is quite similar. We work in the shadows, behind the scenes, and no one has a clue what we're doing. The only time we hear from people is when they complain.
So, here's my prediction. 2017, I will leave the computer industry to pursue a Master's in Culinary Arts. Hmm... it's becoming apparent that I have an obsession in collecting diplomas, degrees, and other random pieces of framed paper .
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"Great is the guilt of an unnecessary war."
--John Adams (1735-1826), 2nd U.S. President
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