Monthly Archives: March 2013

Living next to a killer

In a windowless office near Las Vegas, Nevada, an American Air Force operator controls one of the deadly Predator drones that fly over Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iraq, Yemen and elsewhere.    He hunches over his keyboard and joystick, squints at his computer monitors.  He presses some buttons, and on the other side of the world, a few lives are quietly erased.

Then at the end of his shift, he gets into his minivan and drives home to his house in the suburbs.  Perhaps he takes his dog for walk.  Maybe he plays catch with his kids, or has a few friends over for a barbecue.  He waves politely at his neighbour.  On Sunday he goes to church.

What would it feel like to be that guys neighbour?  The thought fills me with a profound disquiet.  I live on a street populated with accountants and software developers and police officers and teachers.  In general they are quiet, friendly people.  I like them.  But I never have to look at them and wonder how many mothers and fathers and children they have killed today.  Would I want such a person living next to me?  Would I let my kids visit their house, knowing that they are capable of taking another human life with little more effort than filling in an Excel spreadsheet?  How would I feel standing next to him in the pew at church at Christmas, singing together about the Prince of Peace, and goodwill to all mankind?

The more I think about our society’s quiet acceptance of death dealing flying robots, the more it worries me, but I worry most of all about the type of person who apply for and perform a job controlling one.

Church 35 – Barrie Kingdom Hall

Another first for me; I’ve never visited a Kingdom Hall before.  I received a flyer through my door for a special service to be held on Tuesday night, so I jumped at the chance to add another checkmark to my church crawl.

It’s probably impossible for me to be truly objective about my visit, given the lectures that I’ve sat through on ‘Debating with Jehovah’s Witnesses’, and the strong antagonism between Evangelicals and JWs that I’ve observed.  But I’ll do my best.

First, my initial impressions.  Like most Kingdom Halls, this one was a squat, windowless building, definitely built for function rather than for decoration.  It was full to capacity, but I got the feeling that this was the JW equivalent of the ‘Christmas and Easter’ crowd. I estimated around 150 to 200 people present, but we were informed at the end of the service that there were 181 in attendance.

So, lesson one about Jehovah’s Witnesses: they really like accurate headcounts.

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Visualizing Votes

Politicians do not spend a lot of time thinking about the issues they vote on, as I noted yesterday.

I just wrote a little tool to demonstrate this.  Have a look at this visual representation of recent votes in the House of Commons?

Vote Visualisation.

And then ask yourself this – are our representatives carefully considering all the facts before them, and then voting on each issue in a manner that best represents their constituents?

Or are they mindlessly following party orders?votes



Salomon Advanced Skin S-Lab 5 Set

So I splurged a little and got myself the hydration pack the pros use, the Salomon Advanced Skin S-Lab 5 Set.  Catchy name, I know.  But I’m already very impressed with it.  Empty, it weighs basically nothing.  It fits more like a vest than a backpack, hugging very snugly around the upper torso, with no pressure at all on the stomach.

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The Clergy and the Laity

Now this is interesting.  A survey at the New York Times shows a significant difference of opinion between the average person in the pew and the Catholic church hierarchy.  66% favour allowing priests to marry.  79% favour the use of birth control, and my understanding is that a higher percentage of Catholics than that will actually use birth control at some point. Continue reading