Saturday, 31 January 2009

Split Personality

Thought of the day: if one zygote divides a little too enthusiastically, it splits from one embryo into two, making monozygotic twin babies. This means that at one point identical twins were actually the same being.

Weird.

Unless, of course, that one cell wasn't really a being yet.

Oh, the bioethical implications....

“Always recognize that human individuals are ends, and do not use them as means to your end.” Immanuel Kant

Friday, 30 January 2009

Boom De Ya Da

This is officially my favourite commercial ever. It's a nice break from the usual cynicism I display and run into. If only it were a full song instead of a 60-second blurb.



"The longer I live, the more beautiful life becomes." Frank Lloyd Wright

Thursday, 29 January 2009

I Believe I'm Wrong

I pride myself (against my better judgement) for being able to find argument with just about anything - like finding that one exception to the rule or that particular ambiguous word that leaves wiggle room for interpretation. Sometimes this backfires and I don't understand simple instructions because I see only the problems and not what's trying to be said. Nevertheless, I always attempt to poke holes in a theory before I try to defend it, because it's a lot easier to defend something if you know where it's vulnerable.

The difficulty with this is that it's a lot easier to tear something down than to build something up.

For example, I've discovered a paradox. Nobody I know (including me) holds an opinion without believing it, yet I know that just by merit of being human, I must be mistaken in some of my beliefs, regardless of how well I can argue them. I may be more certain of myself in some things than in other things, but there are people who would contradict me and be just as sure about it. So basically, I can think that I'm right even while I know I'm not.

Not in a specific instance, of course, but generally speaking. I can know that I'm not always right, but I can't know when I'm not right. Even the reasoning I used to arrive at this conclusion throws itself into uncertainty. Another paradox.

This could turn into infinite regression very quickly.

The point of philosophy is to start with something so simple as not to seem worth stating, and to end with something so paradoxical that no one will believe it.” Bertrand Russell

Friday, 23 January 2009

Sweet Dignity

Homeschoolers dread doing university group projects, but my team has thus far proven to be excellent. Our first assignment was to interview our team members and write up a "mission statement" for the class that introduced our team and our goal (which, according to the professor, was to design a commemorative snowboard for the 2010 Olympics).

I'm glad that my enthusiasm was eclipsed by the other members of the team, because our mission statement ended up being inspirational, with an extended metaphor and accompanying "vow". One team-member wrote a short poem to go along with the mission statement, then somebody hit on the idea of everyone wearing a different part of a snowboarder's outfit to visually display how we were different parts of the same thing.

So there we were, sitting in class, waiting to present. The first team to present had their spokesperson flip open a laptop and read a few dry, factual paragraphs about their team members. Nobody even stood up. That's when my team first glanced nervously at each other. The second and third groups followed in the footsteps of the first team. Then the professor called on us. We got up, decked out in snowpants, goggles and gloves, trooped to the front of the classroom and took turns reading stanzas from our motivational piece of art. We were the only team who was applauded.

I would have laughed myself silly if our team had gone first and set the standard.

And speaking of standards, it's the general rule in computer labs, like in libraries, that even though the computers have speakers, they're not to be used. When I was typing up the last blog post someone decided to ignore that rule. Although I, and the rest of the computer lab users, turned to look over our shoulders and send death glares toward the unknown culprit, the noise didn't stop. At first I thought it sounded like Tim Allen doing some comedy routine, but wasn't interested enough to pay real attention. After about ten minutes we tuned the noise out, but apparently the lady at the front desk didn't.

Eventually she walked politely up and down the room, looking for the perpetrator. She turned down my row and walked up and down that as well. She stopped at me.

"Excuse me," she said, "but can you please either turn it down or use headphones?"

"Oh," I said, "It's not me."

"Oh! I'm so sorry!" she exclaimed quietly and scuttled back to the front desk, embarrassed.

A few minutes later, I finished posting, so I hit the X. And saw a pop-up add of a basketball game. Suddenly a little concerned, I hit the X on the pop-up. The sound stopped.

To quote Terry Pratchett: "He moved in a way that suggested he was attempting the world speed record for the nonchalant walk."

Oops. I could have sworn the sound was coming from behind me.

Friday, 16 January 2009

"Form"idable

The process of contesting a final grade at U of C:

1. Pull up form on computer in computer lab
2. Realize that it will cost money to print in computer lab
3. Go to registrar's office to get paper copy of form for free
4. Ask lady behind desk for form because there are no copies available with other forms.
5. Wait while lady behind desk bustles about office looking for form
6. Fill form out; run out of space
7. Contemplate whether to continue explaining the situation on a sheet of lined paper or whether to cut it short
8. Try to do both
9. Decide that final product is unprofessional, hardly understandable and not likely to set a good impression
10. Contemplate making woman behind desk scurry around office to find another form
11. Decide to splurge and print form from computer lab
12. Go to computer lab for second time
13. Learn that the computer will only print blank page
14. Decide against printing blank page
15. Agonize over whether waiting to turn form in on Monday instead of Friday is smart idea
16. Wonder whether computer at home will print form and not blank page.
17. Ponder whether to turn in first copy of form to registrar, despite misgivings
18. Remember that there are two pages but no staples and no envelope.
19. Contemplate phoning parents for moral support and creative ideas, but realize that phone is quickly dying
20. Decide it will be easier to complete form at home, assuming form prints properly
22. Make use of March 1st deadline and resign oneself to turning in form several days in future

In my mind, filling out forms is simple and straightforward, but it never turns out that way. Maybe I'm just waaaay too analytical and thereby confuse myself.

"...skewered through and through with office-pens, and bound hand and foot with red tape..." Charles Dickens

Tuesday, 13 January 2009

Observancy Skills

It's a weird world.

I bought a lunch at school today, and since it was Vietnamese cuisine, I was attempting to (and surprisingly be fairly successful at) eating it with chopsticks. Another student, this one of Asian descent, came and sat across the table from me, with a very similar meal from the same store. He ate it with a fork.

Meanwhile, I also feel inclined to inform you that on my way to school every day, I see a sign posted on the side of a building, facing the C-train tracks. It says "Christ is the Answer". Granted, I'm only one person, and I don't know how that sign affects other people, but regardless of how happy I am to find people trying to evangelize, I can't help but think "The Answer to what?" every time I see it. I'm not sure people normally think like they're playing Jeopardy.

As an aside, yesterday some friends and I were discussing how most homeschoolers loathe group projects in university. Luckily, I have not had to experience many group projects in my post-academic career thus far. I found out this morning that is soon to change.

And I must gloat that I have learned from last semester how not to go about buying textbooks. I cut at least $200 off the cost this time around.

“You see, but you do not observe.” Sherlock Holmes

Sunday, 11 January 2009

Surprise Visitor


One of the perks of having the Calgary Stampeders' chaplain as a member of your church. I wonder how many favours he had to call in to bring that baby home for us to see. He talked about how both the Grey Cup and the communion cup represent victory, but the Grey Cup is earned by the blood and sweat and tears of people while the communion cup is earned by the blood and sweat and tears of Christ.

The thing turns 100 this year. Even though I'm not an avid football fan, it was pretty cool. I'm almost surprised that it didn't come with armed guards.

Speaking of blood and sweat and tears, "You have to play this game like somebody just hit your mother with a two-by-four." Dan Birdwell

Saturday, 10 January 2009

Drive-Thru 101

Today I share with you one of my pet peeves: cell phones at drive-thrus.

As a word of advice to any of you who ever uses a drive-thru, please put your phone conversation on hold while you're ordering and paying. That's about two minutes max of talk time you're sacrificing. It's incredibly rude to be busy on your cell while we're trying to talk to you. Imagine what your reaction would be if we, as the people serving you, were chatting on a phone while we were handing you your stuff or taking your order.

And as for talking on the phone while you're at the speaker box - for pete's sake, we can't see you! It's amusing at best, incredibly frustrating at worst, when we're trying to take your order and we can't tell when you're talking to us.

This post was inspired by the oh-so-considerate woman who came through the drive-thru at Timmy's today.

First mistake: Yelling into the speakerbox, because using a projected, clear voice is apparently a foreign concept.

Second mistake: Yelling to someone on a cell in some other language.

Third mistake: Switching back and forth and back and forth between cell and drive-thru without giving us any way to judge to whom the speech is directed, except for noting that sometimes it sounds like garbledy-gook because the person on the other end of the phone speaks two languages.

Fourth mistake: Not paying attention to what we were saying, and so repeating parts of the order that we had already got, and not repeating parts that we wanted.

Fifth mistake: Taking probably twenty times the amount of time it should have taken to order, therefore holding up the line.

Sixth mistake: Being too busy to say either please or thank you. I don't believe, either, that "ARE YOU SERIOUS?! WHAT'S YOUR NAME?!" is an appropriate reply to "I'm sorry, we don't carry danishes."

On the off-chance that said lady is reading this post, I looked you in the eye - twice - and asked in a loud, clear voice whether you needed a tray with your drinks. Both times you had absolutely no reaction (I didn't even know it was possible to simultaneously make eye contact and completely ignore someone). I'm not sure whether you think I flap trays around because I like imitating birds, but your complete lack of reaction makes me quite sure that there is absolutely no way you should be on the road and driving. We laughed our heads off at you, and so did the woman in the car ahead of you. It's a good thing it wasn't too busy, or else we wouldn't have found it funny at all. I wouldn't recommend coming back - we'll all remember you much too clearly for your own comfort.

Similarily:
"The thug is aware that loudness convinces sixty persons where reasoning convinces but one." Mark Twain

Monday, 5 January 2009

New Year Entry #1

Huh. So much for starting the new year of blog posting with a bang. Oh, well. We took down the Christmas decorations yesterday and all music pertaining to the season is being actively snubbed for the next eleven months. My grandma drew an R-rated picture during a game of telephone-pictionary, which shocked us all into belly-laughter, and my family has begun to make frequent use of the word we invented: quantuming.

New Year's was a little anti-climactic with both my mom and sister hitting the sack at a quarter-to midnight, and I think I might have concerned my brother by saying that I didn't disbelieve the ancient races that all predicted the world would end in 2012. I've heard many conversations over the past month, mainly pertaining to the conspiracies behind 9/11 and the death of the EV1, and cooked myself to a light red playing "20" Questions in a hot-tub last night.

All in all, it was a nice holiday, even if I've hardly done anything outside the house since getting back from Regina last week.

What better way to meet the New Year than with some laughter? A while back, after my sister had a fender-bender with our car, my dad decided that it would be a lot cheaper to just cover the damage with a car bra instead of actually fixing it. A band-aid solution, but it should work for the time being.

He couldn't find the kind the car needed at any nearby stores, so he ended up ordering it on the Internet. Always happy when he gets new toys, Dad was pretty excited when the package finally arrived. Wanting to put it on the car right away, he went to find my brother. Hearing a movie blaring in the basement, he stood at the top of the stairs without looking down and bellowed, "Hey, Justin! The new bra is here! Want to come and help me put it on?"

My brother excitedly replied "Okay!" and bounded off the couch and up the stairs, leaving my sister to grimace as her new male friends cast her questioning sidelong glances. "A car bra," she sighed in clarification.

Shortly after, Mom informed Dad that there were two guys in the basement who had never been here before, so Dad went down to confirm my sister's explanation. Regardless, I don't think those guys have been back since.

In the words of a family friend, "When you say you homeschool, you really homeschool!"