Thursday, December 23, 2010

Banks, Tigers, and More

Banks, Tigers and Related Matters — Sierra Club of BC: "Banks, Tigers and Related Matters"

"we may have crossed the boundary from being a part of nature to being apart from nature"

"The environmental crisis presently confronting our planet is a variant of the one confronting our financial system. The time scales are different but the dynamics are the same. So are the denials, the rationalizations, the failed oversight, the paucity of regulatory constraints and the public's naivete. The collective values that have engaged people in the busy enterprise of making money and amassing wealth have kept them so busy with the industry and commerce of production and consumption that they have failed to notice that the ecology of the planet is unravelling."


Saw a small flock of waxwings eating berries in a bush when I was walking across the university campus. I love their coloring - the black bandit mask and bright yellow trim on the tail. I thought they were Cedar Waxwings, but we're more in the range of the Bohemian Waxwings.

Not my photo, didn't have a camera handy :-(

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

And they call it democracy

We are the majority! | Sierra Club Canada: "In every poll done over the last five years, an overwhelming majority of Canadians are in support of climate action. In the last election, 68% of voters voted for parties with plans to take significant steps to address this issue. The last pollster even told me we have the best numbers she’s ever seen for a public issue. Yet, somehow unelected senators can block the will of the public with sneaky parliamentary games."

[previously posted in my software blog by mistake]

Monday, December 20, 2010


Yesterday, walking home in the wind and blowing snow, a bald eagle came soaring down the river, riding the updraft off the river bank. He was gliding quickly, barely moving his wings. They are impressive birds. I don't recall seeing one inside the city before. And I thought they would have migrated south by now.

Today, walking home again, I spotted something up in a tree on the riverbank. Was it a big bird, maybe the eagle, or was it a plastic bag snagged on a branch? As I got closer it looked more birdlike, but it wasn't moving at all, even when I clapped my hands. Eventually it must have got tired of me and it tipped forward, unfolded it's wings, and slid away into the night air. It was too dark to get a good look, but I don't think it was the eagle. Maybe an owl.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Great Climbing Video

I really like this video. For me it really captures the essence of climbing big mountains. It evokes many memories. (not that I ever was in this league) The early morning starts in the dark, the strange food, the banter between partners, the incredible views, the fear, the happiness, the exhaustion.

And I really like that it's very low key, laid back. So many climbing stories, especially those aimed at the general public, push the melodrama way too far. Everything has to be extreme, on the edge, "into thin air", in the "death zone", about to die, bodies scattered about. Blah! To me, that's not what climbing is about.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Heads in the Sand

"People are caring about—and believing in—climate change a lot less than they used to. A recent Pew study found that less than a third of Americans think that climate change is a very serious problem. Even scarier? Only 59 percent of Americans believe there is “solid evidence” that the planet’s getting warmer at all, down from 79 percent in 2006."

from: Best and Worst Environmental Moments of 2010

Not that it should be surprising. Look at how many people don't believe in evolution.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

Money Isn't Everything

My last post on my computer blog was a quote about how the big threat is not losing your job, it's doing work you aren't passionate about. Jen commented:
Unless you are poor, and then it is losing your job! The only people who say money doesn't matter are the people who have it.
I don't think it's anywhere near that simple, and it bugs me every time I hear that kind of thing, especially from people that aren't "poor", except perhaps in their own minds.

I "have money" now, but for a good chunk of my life I chose to do work I was passionate about and be much poorer than if I'd just gone and got a regular job. In fact, I quit a regular job to do what I wanted, in full knowledge that I'd be much poorer. Coincidentally, that ended up with me being reasonably well off. But money was never my goal, and if it hadn't worked out the way it did I'd still be happily doing what I enjoyed, just poorer.

And my sister Penny is happily doing what she enjoys, rather than taking a regular job which would pay much better.

So no, it's not just people with money who say there are more important things than money.

By the standards of the majority of the world, none of "us" are poor. We think "poor" means having trouble making the payments on an oversized house, multiple cars, trucks, SUV's, ATV's, jet skis, snowmobiles, multiple big screen TV's, computers, video games, and on and on. That's not "poor" by any stretch of the imagination. Poor is not having enough to eat.

Money doesn't make you happy. Twice as much money won't make you twice as happy. Buying more "stuff" won't make you happier, no matter how much the people selling that stuff would like you to believe that. "Rich" people aren't happier than "poor" people, usually the opposite.

The people who are "poor" are the ones who spend more than they make, buying stuff they don't need. Having more money than you need is as much a matter of how much you spend as it is a matter of how much you make. It doesn't take an accounting degree to figure that out.

Are Shelley and I less happy because we live in a small house and share a single vehicle? I don't think so.

We all want to be happy. And we all want to find shortcuts. More money seems like a shortcut to being happy. Finding what you enjoy and are passionate about, and then sacrificing to do it, that's hard.

Monday, December 06, 2010

Photos of the Day

early morning fog

snow creature perched in a tree

oops, moved the camera, but the effect is interesting

Definitely pushing the low light (ISO 800 and 1600) capabilities of the G12.  The noise reduction in Lightroom is a necessity. The stabilization is also impressive, for example, the fourth photo with the path beside the building is hand held at .8 seconds!

Friday, December 03, 2010

McNally Winnipeg Annoys

I really hate petty bureaucratic small minded rule spouters.

Shelley and I are in Winnipeg on our way back from her conference in Grand Forks. One of the stops on our list was the McNally Robinson book store.

I'm browsing through the books and I find one that looks interesting. I try hard not to buy every interesting book I run across, so instead I was snapping a picture of the cover with my iPhone camera, as I've done numerous times before. Some guy comes along and says "hey buddy, you can't do that, it's illegal, breaks copyright law". I stare at him, thinking up wise ass responses, but keeping my mouth shut, as is usually wise in such situations. He sees I'm just staring at him and says, "I'm Andrew, I work here." I fight down the urge to say, "I'm Andrew too, and I'm the customer that pays your frigging salary, bozo."

Having said his piece, he left. Leaving me annoyed. First, I really doubt that copyright says it's illegal to take a cell phone snapshot of a book cover for personal use. Even if some lawyer could argue that it's against copyright, is it really something bookstore employees need or want to enforce? Or even something authors would want? Book publishers and authors spend large amounts of money and effort trying to get their books mentioned and the covers displayed anywhere and everywhere they possibly can.

I have no doubt that it pisses off bookstores when people browse the books and then just write down (or god forbid take snapshots) of the titles. I'm sure they imagine we all immediately run home and buy them from Amazon. But regardless of how annoying they might find it, abusing the customers who actually made the effort to come to the store won't help.

Nor does sticking to ways of operating that are helplessly out of date. The last time I asked for a book at McNally they said it wasn't in stock but they could special order it for me and it would only take 6 to 8 weeks. And they wonder why people order from Amazon when they get their book in 3 or 4 days? It seems to me they'd be better off taking the order, ordering from Amazon themselves, and getting the customer back in the store in a week to pick it up, even if they didn't make much profit on the deal.

I love bookstores and I don't want to see them go out of business. Yes, I buy books digitally because of the reduced impact on the environment (and the reduced impact on my basement stacks). I also read books from the library. But I still do buy books, and when I can, I try to buy them from local bookstores like McNally.

The people that care enough about books to be keeping wish lists are the very people they should be cultivating and encouraging, not pissing off.

You might say this is just one employee and not necessarily representative of the store itself. But the employees are the public face of the store. And this kind of behaviour and culture spreads. If one employee is acting that way, chances are good he's not the only one.

Needless to say, I didn't buy any books at McNally in Winnipeg.