Saturday, December 25, 2010

Christmas Light Show

Most likely I'm still at Midnight Mass, but I wanted to be sure to say Merry Christmas! Here's a way to celebrate for one and half minutes, or two minutes if you want to let the video load for a second.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Polar Bear Panic

I still can't believe that one cheap animation in an Al Gore presentation has had so much effect on our culture. The imminent extinction of the polar bear has been well documented over the past 3 weeks. Mercifully, at least one Ottawa Citizen reader is doing his part to insert logic into the debate:
Since your newspaper is so deeply interested in current scientific opinion, you are undoubtedly aware that another polar bear specialist, Dr. Mitchell Taylor
(Department of Environment, Government of Nunavut) has declared that, "It is entirely appropriate to be concerned about climate change, but it is just silly to predict the demise of polar bears in 25 years, based on media-assisted hysteria ... Of the 13 populations of polar bears in Canada, 11 are stable or increasing in number. They are not going extinct, or even appear to be affected at present. I understand that people who do not live in the North generally have difficulty grasping the concept of too many polar bears in an area. People who live here have a pretty good grasp of what it's like to have too many polar bears around."
After two weeks of shovelling snow and feeling my nostrils freeze, I'm sure the Arctic ice will be just fine and the polar bears will have tasty seal for dinner soon. Wait, aren't we supposed to save all the baby seals? No I'm sorry that was last year's cause du jour.

Thursday, December 09, 2010

What Can We Do?

This month old article in the Globe and Mail highlights the problem of ethnic cleansing in Iraq:

The Islamic State of Iraq, an organization affiliated with al-Qaeda, announced it carried out the cathedral attack to force the release of Islamic converts allegedly being detained by the Coptic Church in Egypt. The group later declared Christians everywhere to be “legitimate targets.”

As Christians converged on their churches Wednesday to seek counsel from their religious leaders, the capital's Syrian Catholic archbishop made an emotional appeal for Western countries to come to their rescue.

“It would be criminal on the part of the international community not to take care of the security of the Christians,” said Athanase Matti Shaba Matoka as he tried to console members of the Baghdad cathedral’s congregation.

I'll admit I feel helpless. I don't know what to do to help these embattled Christians. This is a country that our American allies paid dearly to liberate. Unlike Afghanistan, I don't think the Americans could credibly threaten to withdrawl their support from the country. There are far too many risks by simply leaving the country for Iran to meddle in.

I shall simply pray and hope whatever pressure our governments are able to apply will have some effect. In the meantime I will take some small comfort in the fact that the Iraqi Prime Minister is at least saying the right things:
Wednesday’s attacks came just a day after Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki visited the scarred cathedral and urged Christians not to leave the country. Iraqi security forces would protect them, he promised.

Sunday, December 05, 2010

Innovation in China

I was pretty impressed on Saturday morning when I read about China's new high speed train:
Measurements during trial service on the run showed that train CRH380A reached a maximum speed of 486.1 km/h (302 mph), breaking the world operation speed record for unmodified commercial use trains. With this run, the train obliterated its
own previous record speed of 416.6 km/h (259 mph) set a mere two months ago.
I'll admit my bias toward China is it's a great place to buy cheap throw away items. Now it seems they're capable of advanced technology as well.

Good for China. They have the money and economic growth to invest in new technology, and the fact that they have partnered with a strong international company like Siemens is a positive sign that the technology may be transferred to the rest of the world.

There's probably no need to make too big of a deal about the train. It's normal operating speed is 350km/hr which isn't terribly faster than the TGV trains in Europe. Nonetheless, the story offers a welcome challenge to my image of China as a low tech, high pollution economy.