Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Word Watch


"Disorientate" is not a word. Neither is "Disorientated".

Try: "Disorient" and "Disoriented".


Triple Bottom Line

Yesterday I heard about a concept called the "Triple Bottom Line". My first vision was of a large dollar figure underlined three times!

Actually, what it means is that there are three important components to the "bottom line": economic, of course, but also environmental and social. They are trying to implement this approach in Hamilton - interestingly enough, when they evaluated various scenarios for dealing with air quality issues, they found that the impacts on all three aspects of the bottom line were negative for the "status quo".

They also evaluated several options which showed positive effect on all three aspects of the triple bottom line - nice to be able to show that a given approach has a positive impact in terms of more than money!

Sunday, February 26, 2006

This Merry-Go-Round

Have you ever suddenly realised that you're thinking things that haven't actually been articulated in the conscious part of your brain?

Sometimes I tune into my subcouscious - at least, I suppose that's what's happening - and it seems to be saying things like "next time around I'll try this differently..." and it's not talking about next week or next year. And it's also not an anxious or upset response to anything immediate. (That usually happens in a very conscious and obvious way!)

I think there must be some part of me that thinks we might all get another go at this life thing. My logical and scientific self... is not quite sure what to make of it all.

Ha! Maybe I'm a buddhist in a former life!

Saturday, February 25, 2006

Saturday Nonsense

Mumbo Jumbo
Christopher Colombo
I'm sitting on the sidewalk
Chewing bubble gumbo

I think I'll catch a WHALE...
I think I'll catch a snail...
I think I'll sit around awhile
Twiddling my thumbo

~Dennis Lee, from "Alligator Pie", 1974

Friday, February 24, 2006

Gold and glaciers part II

I previously wrote about plans to relocate a glacier in Chile to get at some gold underneath... well I learned today that the mining company, Barrick Gold Corp., is Canadian. How embarassing. Barrick was planning to dig up selected bits of the glaciers and then dump them somewhere nearby along the border with Argentina. So far the governement has approved the digging but banned moving the ice. So wierd.

I happy to hear that the environmental battle is just getting started - local residents along with Oceana and Greenpeace are planning appeals to Chile's council of ministers.

Supposedly half of the controversy is semantic: Barrick has insisted that the ice fields -- Toro 1, with an area of 138,500 square meters, Toro 2 at 129,200 square meters and Esperanza at 78,900 square meters -- can't be called glaciers. The company prefers the terms ice reservoirs, ice masses or glaciarets.

What the Hell is a "glaciaret"? Sounds more like an expensive cocktail to me.

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Classy Ladies!

Yesterday Cindy Klassen won an Olympic gold medal in 1500 metre speed-skating. It's her fourth of these games, and makes her the only Canadian woman ever to win five career Olympic gold medals - and she has a chance race again - in the 5000 metre competition, which I think happens tomorrow.

In the meantime, Chandra Crawford, who nobody had ever heard of before, had managed to win gold in the women's cross-country ski sprint.

Not to mention the silver medals won by Krista Groves (speed-skating 1500 m) and the women's speed-skating 3000 m relay team.


I was getting ready to be angry today though - thinking that despite these accomplishments, the men's hockey loss - which means they can't even try to get a medal now - would still end up as the big headliner on my morning newspaper.

It didn't... Cindy Klassen made it above that oh-so-important fold. I am disappointed that they didn't highlight Chandra's win anywhere on the front page though. They did put three pissy-looking men in hockey jerseys there though - I don't feel too sorry for them. Sounds like they just didn't have their act together this time.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

The Watchers

Today we got stuck in traffic. That slow kind on the busy highway that means there's been an accident. Today it turned out to be a van that was completely burned out - and well over to the side along with a single police car.

Even allowing for the buildup of traffic from when the fire originally happened, the slowdown must have been related to people wanting to have a look. This seems to happen all the time... Why are we so compelled to look at this stuff?Is it pure voyeurism - deriving some wierd pleasure from a rare chance to observe others in a difficult situation, regardless of how intrusive it may be?

Is it more cathartic - we feel some sort of emotional release from seeing others in trouble and being thankful it's not us?

Or is it actually adaptive on some level: take a good look at this (relatively) rare event - this is an opportunity to learn why each of us should try to avoid behaviour that leads to this kind of result.

...I hope the person driving the van was OK.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Less kvetching, more stretching!

I saw this on a big sign outside the local JCC (Jewish Community Centre)... it's an ad for their fitness facilities, but it makes a great metaphor for how to approach life. Maybe I'll make it my new mantra.

And besides, I love the sound of the word "kvetching".

Scientists holding bottles of bubbly...

I'm thinking that us scientists may have an image problem...

A group of seventh-graders were asked to write down what they thought a scientist was. A couple of prize-winners:

"I always see a scientist holding a bottle with a bubbly substance and it is usually a weird color, like green or red."

"To me, a scientist is bald and has hair coming out of the sides of his head. . . . Scientists live in their own world and the rest of society puts them there."

I also noticed that pretty much every kid referred to their imagined scientist as a "he". People, these kids are 12-13 years old!!

Luckily not all of them were so oblivious to what science is all about - and although not technically very explanatory, my favorite description was:

"When I think of a scientist I think of a person who is smart. They also have a little bit of funny joyful in there too. Scientists are very important to us today."

AND they got taken to meet some real scientists and then asked to revise their opinions. Check out the descriptions and the "before" and "after" drawings here.

Monday, February 20, 2006

Not strictly religious

I wouldn't qualify as religious according to any sort of "official religion" definition, if I can put it that way.

And yet... I actually really kind of enjoy being in churches, especially when there aren't too many people around (the one in the picture is in Cuernevaca, Mexico). They can be real oases of quiet; so suited to reflection and meditation. I especially enjoy spending time sitting in the pews when I've been travelling - it's a break from the constant exploration of physical surroundings and the mental challenge of handling different cultures, customs, and language (this feeling doesn't really extend to packed "tourist-destination-cathedrals" by the way).

Good thing that pews are usually so uncomfortable or I'd be tempted to take my work and reading there instead of to the coffee shops!!

Saturday, February 18, 2006

How to move mountains?

Apparently Chile has "Authorized Gold Mining Project but Banned Relocation of Glaciers"

The article talks about a mining company that wants to get at some gold in Chile. I guess they don't plan to cause any "environmental harm" but they want to "relocate" the glaciers by truck so that they can get at the gold underneath.

I don't really get how you can move a glacier. And it seems to me that moving one by truck would cause at least some loss of, um, cohesion, forget completely ruining any sort of ecosystem-level relationship between the existing glacier and its surrounding environment.

So while I'm glad to hear that the glacier-moving part of all this has officially been banned, the whole thing still sounds shady to me.

Friday, February 17, 2006

Nobody is 100% confident all the time!

Why is it that I have different voices for different activities?

Lots of people have a "telephone voice" - especially when they don't know who is on the other end of the line. This morning I taught a group of undergraduate students... using my "lecture voice"... and I know someone whose voice acquires a Western twang when he's feeling awkward in social situations.

My theory is that these alternate voices provide us with alternate personae when we're not 100% comfortable - it's a way both to hide and protect our true selves from injury. Although we usually interpret these feelings as shyness, it's really a form of fear - when you get right down to it. Although it's irrational, we subconsiously give the people who cause these feelings a false target to aim at. Just in case.

Thursday, February 16, 2006

Advice from my elders?

Two weeks ago I went to do some work at a coffee shop and sat near an older Greek man. He told me the story how how his father wanted him to be a a policeman, but instead, he followed his dreams, travelled the world, and lived his life his way. He clearly thought that sending every kid to university is not "the way" and that this/society's definition of "success" is faulty. I think maybe he was worried that I was working too hard and wanted to make sure I understood the importance of doing what you enjoy in life.

Today I was working at another coffee shop and men an older Eastern-European (I think) gentleman who is retired from some kind of law profession and was adamant that everyone should have an understanding of the law. Familiarity the law is apparently crucial in knowing how to manage your "windfalls in life" and in knowing when you can sue someone ! He seemed most concerned that I be sure of the starting salary I should expect and that I know that there are guidelines for this kind of thing. He clearly defines success in financial terms.
Both men were so sweet and obviously concerned that I be prepared for life...

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Medal count

It seems like every time the Olympics are about to happen, sports expert-types start trying to predict how many medals Canada will win. And then it seems like the final medal count always falls short of expectations... already there seems to be some disappointment with Canada's skiing results.

Well Geez.

It seems like a lot of pressure to put on these althletes considering that most of us pay exactly zero attention to them during the four years between the Olympics when they're off training and competing in various other competitions. I hope our athletes succeed of course - but given our apparent lack of consistent commitment to caring about them, their main concern should not be whether we (or maybe more specifically, our media!) seem disappointed in their perfomance.

... which leads into the inevitable discussions of how underfunded Canadian athletes are. Which only seem to happen directly pre- or post-Olympics.

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

When a fire symbolizes serenity

Lately I've been aching to get out of the city for a bit. I don't know if it's just because it's been a while (we haven't had a good dose of the Wilderness since we went to Temagami back in September) or if it's because right now I'm a bit overwhelmed by everything I've got a lot to do and plan for the immediate and long-term future.

The picture above reminds me of sitting by the campfire, quietly chatting, watching the stars, and waiting for dinner to be ready after a peaceful day of paddling with friends. I think we saw the Northern lights that night too...

Monday, February 13, 2006

Would Oprah watch her own show?

OK, I admit it... sometimes I watch Oprah on weekday afternoons instead of doing my work...

Every time I do, I think to myself that Oprah didn't get to be the big success that she is by sitting around watching daytime TV - she put a lot of time and effort into developing herself and her show. I imagine that she's still incredibly busy and I would be curious to know how much (if any?) TV she usually watches in a day!

In general she seems to approve of activities that help people to grow and know themselves (her website tells you to "Live your best life"), and reject activities that are harmful to self and others. I would say that watching her show is occasionally informative, often mindless (i.e., celebrity guests), and sometimes voyeuristic. Plus, it eats up time that could often be more productively spent elsewhere.

So... maybe it's not exactly the direct path to self-knowledge and success?

Sunday, February 12, 2006

remembered dreams

Have you ever had a dream that you recalled having before... but not until you were having it the second time? That happened to me last night.. and it's happened before.

This dream was some bizarro thing involving me and others escaping from the jungle down a river in a boat that was an upside-down, stretched-out beige baseball cap. Somehow from there we made it onto a streetcar in Toronto at night (one of those dream Torontos that doesn't look anything like the real thing but is instantly recognizable in the context of the dream).

That's when I remembered that I'd had the dream before, and that the streetcar is about to get into a catastrophic accident and we're all going to die. But his time, in my dream, the accident doesn't happen.

Truthfully, I think I'm a pretty even-keeled type of person, and usually reasonably happy with life in general, so I have no idea where this came from. Twice!! And I wonder: if, in the context of the second time around, I knew I should be dead from the first iteration of the dream, how am I still alive as the streetcar heads around that corner the second time?

The first sushi night...

...would have been over a year ago. P and I somehow started going out for sushi every Friday night, and a tradition took hold. Sushi night is all about looking forward to the food... but it's become synonymous with that Friday evening feeling too.

My current favorite is the green dragon - it looks so cool with the slices of avocado pressed along the top of the rice roll to look like dragon scales. The place down the street from us adds a nose and horns made out of the green plastic-paper stuff and some of those little orange balls (some kind of fish roe I think?) for eyes.

Tired, relaxed, happy that it's the weekend, and hopefully satisfied with a good week's work... plus delicious food: that's sushi night.