Thursday, 24 December 2009

Round and Round

I am trapped in an infinite loop, and there doesn't appear to be an acceptable escape subroutine.

I love writing philosophical essays. They make my brain feel good. But a while back, early in the morning (as in *ahem* before I went to bed), I had to argue against granting elective amputation to people with BIID (Body Integrity Identity Disorder). All was going well until I stumbled over the argument, "Yes, because people have a right to make their own decisions. They should be granted autonomy."

My first thought to counter that was people with BIID are irrational and so must be protected from themselves.

But then I thought that atheists think Christians are irrational, and we sure wouldn't want them to use that as a reason to take away our autonomy.

But then I thought that suppose a man is running around stark naked in the street because he believes he'll go to hell if he doesn't? Is it wrong to intervene then?

So I decided to allow nude men on the street. Clearly that will appall many people, but he's not hurting anyone. But what if he starts propositioning people? Freedom of speech would allow him to do that, doesn't it? So long as he doesn't force the issue?

But the response could be equally offensive. If people don't adhere to certain standards, then there's mayhem. It'd be practically anarchy and someone would eventually take control of the situation. And then we're back to making rules!

So let's skip the nudity and make rules to being with. The only fair way to do this would be to use the democratic process. But suppose that the democratic decision is to put all Christians in psych wards or make a switch to an authoritarian model of government? Can you overthrow democracy in order to maintain democracy? Does that even WORK?

Naturally, we could skip the democracy and supposed freedom altogether. That would be a bit more stable, but eventually there would be a revolt, which would naturally lead to a (short) period of anarchy.

And so it goes like this:George Orwell came up with a possible out in his book, 1984, but even if it would work, it would end up in a state of perpetual Big Brother, and not one of perpetual freedom. So what's left?

The only good way I see out of this loop is like this. You have to go out of phase on an angle tangential to politics and philosophy, which of course, while good as a theory, still leaves the question of how to apply it:
Aha! Yes! If everyone just loved God and loved their neighbour, then rules would be a moot point.

...But then I thought that I'm only supposed to argue for not allowing doctors to chop healthy limbs off people. And I still don't know how to argue it.

Sigh.

P.S. Merry Christmas! Happy birthday, Jesus!

P.P.S. Heal up fast, Judith! Thank God you're safe. My thoughts and prayers with you *hugs*.

“Do all the good you can, by all the means you can, in all the ways you can, in all the places you can, at all the times you can, to all the people you can, as long as ever you can.” John Wesley

Saturday, 19 December 2009

Dragons

It turns out that when I don't have tons of school to do, I have time to do some drawing. In particular, drawing of dragons or dragon-like creatures. My papers are filled with dragon scribbles. This is Malamordred.


And this is Evangeline. She's also a dragon, but currently in human form.


Since I don't have room to put these pictures up on my wall, I thought I'd post them to my blog.

"It does not do to leave a live dragon out of your calculations, if you live near him." J. R. R. Tolkien

Friday, 18 December 2009

Nothing But a Creamer

This morning greeted me with a creamer explosion. I'm not talking about those little "baby creams" in white containers that you stick into coffees. I'm talking about the Tim Hortons "mama cream" bags that fill the creamer machines. Each one creamifies the coffees of what, say, a hundred or so customers.

At least it didn't explode on me. I was busy doing something else when I heard an ominous splooshing noise. I looked over just in time to see the white eruption on Debbie.

Goosh goosh.

Now, you understand that we have minor cream crises at Timmy's on a fairly regular basis. Most aren't overly dramatic, so when I saw the flood of cream, I thought, "Oh, Debbie will stop it. She's already got her hand on the bag. She can handle it."

Goosh goosh.

Then I thought, "Well, she should be stopping it by now. It's getting messy."

Goosh goosh.

The customers all watched goggle-eyed as Debbie wrestled with the torrent of cream. Brenda and I continued with our business, fully confident in Debbie's ability.

"Um, I need a bucket, please!" spluttered Debbie from beneath the geyser with just a hint of panic in her voice. It was at that point that I realized she wasn't winning. I stopped stirring coffees and went into the back room, picked up the bucket we mix ice caps in and came back. There was no where to step. The cream covered so much floor it looked like an ice rink. So I slip-slided across to Debbie and tried to figure out how to catch the rest of the cream from the still gurgling bag. Debbie stopped floundering around, picked up the mama cream in its metal box thing, and stuck the tip of it in the bucket. None of the customers said anything.

"Well, what a way to start the morning!" I said in hopes of keeping Debbie from getting upset. She laughed and slip-slided out into the back room, leaving a trail of white footprints all the way.

Still none of the customers said anything but just watched her glide out in cream-covered glory.

Then I ran out of cream in the second cream machine. That means that there was cream quite literally everywhere except in the cream dispensers. Water, water everywhere and not a drop to drink. I mean, talk about a white Christmas all you want, but this was overkill. Debbie was too scared to replace any of the empty mama creams for all the rest of the shift.

You should have seen the mop bucket after we were finally done cleaning that up (four hours later). I guess it's disasters like these that keep work interesting.

Speaking of over-doing things:

Wadsworth: Well, he's certainly dead now. Why would anyone want to kill him twice?
Miss Scarlet: It seems so unnecessary.
Colonel Mustard: It's what we call "overkill."

Thursday, 17 December 2009

I Guess This is Fan Art

If you don't already know that I'm a huge Fire Emblem fan, you've clearly not been keeping up with my blog. If you do know that I'm a huge Fire Emblem fan, but don't know what Fire Emblem is, you are sorely deprived. At any rate, today you shall have the opportunity to be "wowed" by a few drawings of Fire Emblem characters that I have done. Here are the few I'm most proud of:

From left to right we have Natasha, Neimi, and Innes. Innes' colouring is a bit off, but that's what happens when you don't test pencil crayon colours before having at it. Oh, and Neimi especially had better put on a little arm protector thing before she goes and tries to shoot stuff with her bow.



Here, of course, is Seth the Silver Knight. I'm particularly proud of him. Who knew you could colour so many different shades of black?



And now here's Amelia and Marisa. All the official Fire Emblem artwork gives the girls much shorter skirts (and less boot) but I couldn't bring myself to follow suit. Personally, I think Marisa and Seth are my two best attempts, though the others I posted aren't half bad.


Here's Amelia's "friend", Franz. I don't think his armour fits quite right, but I like his face. He has a very nice face. Maybe that's why Amelia likes him so much.


And to take a break from FE 8, here are a couple of guys from FE 7. I was having a bad day drawing legs, so I made them both sit down. I'm actually quite pleased with how Guy turned out. Wil looks a little bit like a ramrod. Maybe he's posing for a photograph with his dead bunny...


And *cough* Wil's girlfriend, Rebecca. I seem to like drawing the archer characters...

I suppose a Fire Emblem quote would be appropriate here.

Knoll, to Lute: "Er, excuse me... if at all possible, uh, would you mind not stalking me like that?"

Monday, 14 December 2009

Four Brothers

This is a tale of four winter tires.

Once upon a time, a family in Canada ordered four winter tires for a little silver car with a bra (to read the story of the car bra, see this December's edition of Reader's Digest, page 215, or click here).

The first tire, third tire, and fourth tire were brothers. They had lived happily in Hodgkins, Illinois, until the call up occurred. Eager to make a difference in the world, all three tires volunteered to be shipped out to the family in need, up in arctic, frigid Calgary. They signed up to go on the second of December, and began their journey north the next day. It wasn't long before disaster struck. Despite the best efforts of the brothers to stay together, brother number four never made it to the first pit stop... or possibly missed check in or something. Tires number one and three spent the whole morning in Minneapolis, Minnesota, looking for their brother, but they did not find him. Dejectedly, the resumed their journey north to Winnipeg, Manitoba, one brother short.

It was during their four day recuperation period in a UPS facility in Winnipeg that they joyously discovered that their brother was not lost, after all, but had only been sleeping in a corner of the truck, unnoticed. Now strengthened in their resolve to continue forth, the three tires boarded a truck, cried "Westward ho!" and excitedly began the final leg of their journey.

Together they arrived in Calgary on December the ninth. Huddled together for warmth in the biting cold, they waited outside the garage door of their new family. Slightly concerned that the delivery man had not signaled their arrival nor formally introduced them to the family, the four tires began to wonder whether they were truly wanted. After several hours, the family learned of their arrival and happily came out to meet them. Much to the disappointment of the three winter tires, the people scratched their heads and did not appear to be grateful for the sacrifice of the three tires.

"But, but, didn't you want us?" said the tires to the family.

"Oh, but indeed we do," replied the family, "and we are very glad that you're here. It's just that we need four tires, and you are but three. Do you not have a fourth brother? Has someone carried him off?"

The brothers had not thought of this. They replied that they had no brother and referenced the family to the organization they had volunteered with. It was five days later, on December the fourteenth, that there was a knock on the door. The three tires excitedly met their new companion for the first time. As they ushered him into the warmth of the family's garage, they begged him to tell his story.

"Well, you see," said the new tire, "I have long desired to make my mark on the world and help a harrowed family in need, but the opportunity never came up, because these families always need four tires, and I have no siblings."

The three tires looked at him sympathetically. "No siblings?" they said, "But where are you from?"

"Maumee, Ohio," the new brother said. "You can't imagine how excited I was when I was told that a family had been found for me. I left Maumee on the third of December for Windsor, Ontario. For four days I anxiously waited there, dreaming of my new family and my fellow winter tires. On the seventh of December, I was given clearance to continue on to Concord, Ontario. There I spent the night before beginning the road west. And now I am here, with you."

The brothers happily accepted him and it was not long before the winter tires had all fulfilled their lives' purpose.

Meanwhile, the family members continued to scratch their heads and wonder why four tires would travel three different routes to get to them.

"A joke is a very serious thing." Winston Churchill

Sunday, 13 December 2009

Batman is Worth it

So here's the classic Batman vs. L'Oreal personal worth conflict: According to Batman's love interest, Rachel, "It's not who you are, but what you do that defines you." According to airbrushed L'Oreal models, you should buy the products they are advertising "Because you're worth it." There doesn't appear to be any requirements for your being "worth it" - simply you being you.

In agreement with L'Oreal, we have the common assertion that everyone is supposed to simply "accept people for who they are." People are inherently valuable, like the old Sunday school object lesson with the $20 bill. In case you missed it, a $20 bill is worth the same amount muddy and ripped and faded as it is worth fresh and crisp and new. People are like money.

Yet society doesn't function this way. Scholarships are awarded based on merit. Trust is earned on merit. Job promotions aren't always given based on merit, but politics are a different subject altogether. We laugh at emo kids for whining that "nobody understands them" and shake our heads disgustedly at self-entitled nut jobs everywhere. And we bite out lips and feel really hypocritical when we catch ourselves feeling entitled.

I think this issue can be somewhat resolved for the human species if we make careful note of one thing. We are talking about two different kinds of value, here. The first kind of value, the inherent dignity and worth of a human being, is a result of God's dignity being bestowed on us. No matter what, we are "worth it", not because we're naturally awesome but because God is "worth it". The second kind of value, the amount we're worth in society, relies on both our integrity and our reputation.

I'd like to point out that a $20 bill, inherently valuable though it may be, is just a scrap of paper and utterly worthless unless put to proper use.

But this idea of bestowed dignity and value brings up another question: Where does God get His dignity and worth from? Again, we find there are the two conflicting opinions.

Opinion A: God is God, and God is good. He doesn't have to do anything. If God saves us or feeds us to the wolves, He is still worthy of our praise and worship. Romans 9:20, 21: But who are you, O man, to talk back to God? Shall what is formed say to him who formed it, "Why did you make me like this?" Does not the potter have the right to make out of the same lump of clay some pottery for noble purposes and some for common use? This goes back to Moses and the burning bush, where God identifies Himself simply as "I am". Being is enough. This opinion kind of appeals to me. It takes me out of the picture and simplifies things. God is sovereign.

Opinion B: God sent His Son to die for us. He takes care of us. Because of His great love and mercy, He is a God worth serving. This opinion reminds me of the objection, "I want nothing to do with a God who lets people suffer." Though this objection can be dealt with by explaining God's permission of injustice (i.e. free choice - God wants people, not robots), the presupposition of the argument remains intact. Perhaps God, despite being God, does not deserve our adoration. Perhaps He has to earn it. Take the book of Isaiah, for example. How does this God-breathed literature argue that God is worth serving? By recounting all the things God has done for Israel. All the things that God is able to do and the things that He will do. Hosea 13:4 But I am the LORD your God who brought you out of Egypt. You shall acknowledge no God but me, no Savior except me.

Isaiah 40:10-14 Behold, the Lord GOD will come with might, with His arm ruling for Him. Behold, His reward is with Him and His recompense before Him. Like a shepherd He will tend His flock, in His arm He will gather the lambs and carry them in His bosom; He will gently lead the nursing ewes. Who has measured the waters in the hollow of His hand, and marked off the heavens by the span, and calculated the dust of the earth by the measure, and weighed the mountains in a balance and the hills in a pair of scales?

So which of these views is correct? Or how are these two views reconciled?

I'm not so sure that the first view completely disregards what God does. Would anyone argue that an evil God is still God and therefore worthy of worship? It's just that when God does something "bad", we assume that we don't understand what God's very good reason is for it. Can you be good without doing good? I don't really think so. What God does is a part of Who God is.

And here I could get into a long discussion on whether Good existed and God adheres to the rules of Good, or whether God defines the Good, but perhaps I'll save that for another day. To keep things short, if even God is judged by and identifies Himself by His actions, then maybe it's not such a shallow way for us to look at things, too. What we do is a part of who we are. At any rate, I think Batman got it mostly right. L'Oreal is mainly trying to exploit our narcissistic tendencies.

"'You come of the Lord Adam and the Lady Eve,' said Aslan. 'And that is both honour enough to erect the head of the poorest beggar, and shame enough to bow the shoulders of the greatest emperor in earth. Be content.'" C.S. Lewis

Wednesday, 9 December 2009

Thing One and Thing Two

There are two things that I relearn every winter. I have just spent the last week relearning them again this year.

Thing number 1: If you're going to wear ankle socks and boots, you might as well wear no socks at all. The sock is going to end up scrunched around your toes before you even make it to the bus stop one block away.

Thing number 2: If you use the big warm hood on your coat, you shall be compelled to look straight ahead at all times. In order to look at something to your side or behind you, you will be required to twist your entire torso in the desired direction. Turning only your neck will result in you looking at the inside of your hood.

At least it appears that most people have remembered how to drive on ice and snow this year. Usually the first few snowfalls are really hairy.

Speaking of not learning, thanks Bill Watterson:
Calvin's mom: What did I just tell you?!?
Calvin: Beats me. Weren't you listening either?

Friday, 4 December 2009

Coffee Count II

Before the blizzard started this morning was the seven to nine o'clock rush at Timmy's. This was the second time Brenda and I have endeavoured to count the pots of coffee made within that two-hour period. This time, however, we had no stock of steeped tea and I counted the decaf coffee separately.

Final count? From 7 to 8 on drive-through: 34 pots. From 8 to 9 on drive-through: 25 pots. From 7 to 9 on counter: 35 pots. Decaf total: 5 pots (yes, I realize the twenty minute rule means there should be at least 6 pots, but you try to keep fresh decaf on while all the machines are brewing the normal stuff).

All-in-all, that puts the grand total at a neat and painful 99 pots of coffee over two hours, which is approximately a 25% increase on last week's amount. To do the math, that's a pot every minute and thirteen seconds between us.

Brenda and I agree that today was about average in terms of business. Not slow, but by no means crazy busy. It's all relative, I guess.

“Widespread caffeine use explains a lot about the twentieth century.” Greg Egan

Thursday, 3 December 2009

Tip of the Hat to Mowat

So, one of my favourite books of all time is Farley Mowat's Lost in the Barrens, or as my beaten-up paperback is titled, Two Against the North. You can imagine my excitement when I not only was able to locate the places mentioned in the book on Google Maps, but discovered that there is a river system that connects these places right to Calgary! If they existed, if would be theoretically possible for the characters to canoe their way to visit me!

I realized how hopelessly dweebish that all sounds, so I wrote a little piece of fiction to justify my spending so much time tracing the route.

***

Kieran is busy lounging on the common room couch, with one leg on the armrest and the other leg on the ground. His left arm is on the backrest and his right arm lost all sensation long ago. He is musing the shapes formed by the bumpy stuff on the ceiling when Renee pokes her head around the corner.

Sooo, Kieran” she says, dragging the words out, “I was thinking about what you said earlier.”

Kieran stops looking at the ceiling to turn his attention to Renee. “I said something thought provoking?” The surprise in his voice sounds just shocked enough to be fake.

Renee raises her eyebrows. “Well, remember how you said I really didn't know anything about Cree culture? At all?”

I think so,” says Kieran, stretching out to sit up. “You felt so bad about it you were crying into my shoulder.”

I don't recall that's why I was crying. And I don't think it was into your shoulder.”

I do recall.”

Renee rolls her eyes and makes a sound that signifies disgust and frustration, but the near smirk on her face kills the effect. “Anyways, let me tell you what I've been thinking about,” she says, pulling a soft-cover novel from behind her back. “Ever hear of Farley Mowat?”

Kieran peers at the book. “Sounds like a new model of motorcycle.”

No, goofy. He's an author. A Canadian author. And he wrote a book called Lost in the Barrens.” Renee steps forward and hands the novel to Kieran. Mildly interested due to the assumption that Renee has a point to make, Kieran flicks through the pages and turns it over to look at the back. Renee plops down on the couch beside him. “It's about a white boy and a Cree boy – a Woodland Cree boy, just like you, by the way – who, in accordance to the title, aptly get lost in the barrens of Nunavut and almost die while on a canoe trip.”

And?” Kieran looks at her expectantly.

Aaand,” Renee drawls proudly, “the idea of a canoe trip kindled my interest. In the book they only traveled from Thanout Lake to just past Wolf Lake before wrecking on the Kazan, but they find this cool viking grave.”

And that pertains to you knowing nothing about Cree culture how?”

Renee smiles tightly before walking to the computer desk and pulling up Google Maps. She points out a bend in Fish Creek.“If we were to start here, and your sense of direction proved to be as good as you claim it is, we could actually canoe all the way to the viking grave mentioned in the book. Well, to where it would be if it actually existed. But the rivers are real.”

Not sure whether she means to be taken seriously or not, he leans over and places one hand on the back of her seat and another on the desk. “Show me the route,” he says.

Starting at the bend in Fish Creek, Renee's finger follows the blue squiggle eastward. “See, we'd follow Fish Creek until it ran into the Bow, where we'd turn south and follow the Bow until it joined up with the South Saskatchewan River in Medicine Hat. From there, we'd just stay the course until it turned into the North Saskatchewan River and flowed into The Pas, Manitoba.”

She stops here to gage Kieran's reaction. He remains stoic. “And from there? Where did you say the viking grave was?”

Along the Kazan. I'm not sure exactly how to get to Thanout Lake from The Pas, but I know it can be done. I anticipate someone at The Pas could tell us, because the Cree in the area have been coming down to trade there on canoes for years. Or used to, anyways. I don't know if they do anymore.”

Kieran grunts acknowledgment.

So if we could get instructions from The Pas to Thanout, the rest of the route is outlined in the book.” Her finger continues to outline the path. “Through Kasmere, Putahow, North Nuelthin, then along the Mikkiku and Goose rivers, through Halo and Kakut Lake – don't worry, all these lakes are really close together – and then onto the Kazan.” She stops pointing and leans back satisfied in her chair. “If you do a Google search,” she says, “you'll find that canoe trips on the Kazan, or Kazon-dee-zee, as it's called in the book, are apparently quite popular. It has some spectacular falls, I hear.”

So let me get this straight,” Kieran says. Renee turns to look at him concernedly. Those words he just used generally mean he's about to become somewhat condescending. “The characters in this book you read are adept and experienced canoers who get wrecked, lost, and almost die in the arctic barrens, and yet somehow reading their story makes you want to try to do the same thing, times ten?”

Renee rolls her eyes and makes a pff noise with her mouth. “Of course not,” she says, “this was just to show you that it would be possible. All I'm saying is I think it would be fun to canoe on Lake Chestermere sometime.”

Kieran laughs and whacks her on the shoulder. “That, I would agree to,” he says, standing up, “provided that I got to push you out of the boat at least once.”

Aw, come on!”

You still know nothing about Cree people,” he teases. “Pakan.”

Yeah, well, I got a little sidetracked with my research. This canoe thing was too enticing.”

So I see.” He starts to head to the kitchen for some lunch meat and crackers as Renee turns back to the computer screen. Still gazing longingly at the satellite images, she sighs.

Hey Kieran?”

Yeah?” he calls back from the kitchen.

Just out of curiosity, how long do you think a trip like that would take?”


***

To quote a Cree friend of mine: Hamaga pakan. It means "Hurry then, you nut." I like to learn the useful bits of any language I come across.

P.S. I really would like to go on a canoe trip some time.