Tuesday, March 30, 2010

How Comedians Handle Hecklers

It's definitely an art form, and Kenny Moore is doing it wrong:

Proper examples are available here.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Guy Earle Trial Begins Today

I'm heading downtown to watch the Guy Earle trial and will be posting updates here.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Vancouver Bike Shops: Mountain Equipment Co-Op Taxes Unfair?

Global TV's Chris Gailus reported this story on tonight's six o'clock news:
…Members can [now] find at Mountain Equipment Co-Op: their own line of bicycles.

But not everyone is excited about the new additions. Smaller bike retailers say thanks to tax laws, they're competing on an uneven playing field.

Elaine Yong reports:

Tim McDermott knows a lot about bikes, and as the design expert at Mountain Equipment Co-Op, it's been exciting to be in charge of the retailer's inaugural line of bikes:

"By the time the spring hits, two things will happen. One, we'll sell more bikes. The other thing which happens is, as spring comes, the weather gets nicer, you start to sell a little bit more of that entry-level bike."

The bikes are only available at MEC's Vancouver store for now. Already they've sold more than 400.

Tim Southam, Mountain Equipment Co-Op:

"MEC has been selling cycling gear - clothing, parts, accessories, both MEC brand as well as from other brands - for over 25 years. So I think the question on a lot of people's mind is why has it taken so long for MEC to be selling bikes."

But there is another question that has independent bike retailers spinning their wheels. While the co-op continues to expand it's business in competing directly with smaller stores, it also enjoys tax benefits others don't.

Tim Woodburn, West Point Cycles:

"It's not specifically about bikes and I think this sentiment has been echoed by outdoor retailers in the past, but the question is what co-operative tax law is. And does the MEC, which is a large national retailer, do they qualify under the spirit of that co-operative tax law?"

As the oldest bike shop in the city, West Point Cycles says it welcomes competition, but it has formed it's own co-op of sorts - a group of independent retailers who are lobbying Ottawa to revisit the tax laws and ensure there's a level playing field.

Mountain Equipment Co-op won't comment on the fairness of tax laws, saying it's operating it's business to the letter of the law.

There are two things everyone can agree on though, regardless of where you shop: buy before the HST adds seven percent to the sticker price, and more bikes on the road are better business for everyone.

Tom Southam, Mountain Equipment Co-op:

"Our overriding goal in this is really to do just that - to encourage Canadians to cycle, to grow the sport and ultimately I think other bike retailers will benefit from our being in the market."

Mississippi Burning Civil Rights, Again

The 1988 film Mississippi Burning features Gene Hackman and Willam Defoe as FBI agents investigating the murder of three civil rights workers in 1964 amidst a local environment of ignorance and hostile racist culture in Mississippi.

Four decades later, the deep south hasn't changed. Ignorance and bigotry continue to rule in Jackson, Mississippi, where high school officials recently chose to cancel the high-school prom rather than allow a lesbian student to attend the event with her girlfriend.

Mississippi "school board", meet Gene Hackman:

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Why Mantracker is Fake, Part One

UPDATE: Why Mantracker is Fake, Part Two

When I first watched Mantracker on OLN, I really liked it. A human tracker is hot on the trail of human prey, just like in the old days, what a great idea! Two minutes later I was disappointed to realize the entire show is totally faked.

1) Forward camera positions betray staged scenes.
While the prey runs at top speed, camera crews somehow manage to always stay ahead and get great shots while remaining invisible to the Mantracker:

On the run from Mantracker, Vlad helps Nate climb over a barbed wire fence. How did the camera crew get over the fence before them and set up this shot? Staged.

Camera crew to prey actor: "OK, you wait here while we go through the tunnel and set up the camera on the other side. Don't start running through the giant pipe until we signal you." Staged.

Camera crew to prey actor: "We'll aim at the ground and film your footprint while you walk through the river sand. We'll do several takes and use the best one." True story. Staged.

Another barb-wire fence crossing with the camera crew waiting on the other side. Staged. (Mantracker producers love barbed-wire fence climbing.)

Camera crew: "Luckily, we were waiting right here at the exact place and time they chose to break out of the woods and cross the river. They ran right past our camera and gave us a nice shot." Staged.

It's really a TV drama, where producers recruit wily actors to act as prey and improvise action and dialogue within the fictional universe of a theoretical Mantracker pursuit. Is there anything wrong with that? No. But the scenes are so obviously staged (and sometimes painfully unrehearsed) that the scale of disbelief required to enjoy the show is so far off the map, it eludes even the Mantracker himself, who admits he doesn't watch the show.

Venerable Mantracker Terry Grant: "No, I don't watch the show."

Monday, March 22, 2010

U.S. Finally Passes Health Care Reform Bill

Relief at last!

After eighteen months of straining, Obama and the Democrats have finally passed a health care reform bill. It's nowhere near Canadian-style universal care, but it successfully yanks three big, rotten, over-biting front teeth from the greedy chops of U.S. health insurance companies:

-mo more denying coverage based on preexisting conditions.
-no more canceling health insurance when a policyholder gets sick.
-no lifetime limits on benefits.

The Republicans' Hitler's reaction is already posted to the internet:

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Vancouver SkeptiCamp Review

Welcome to the Irving K. Barber Learning Center.

I attended the afternoon session:

Afternoon lineup. Click to enlarge.

The venue was very impressive. About 65 friendly, smart and skeptical people attended. It wasn't crowded, which I really appreciated.

The Victoria Learning Theater accommodates 154 hungry minds.

The event was videotaped and will hopefully be available soon at VancouverSkeptiCamp. But here's my quick impressions of the afternoon:

Shannon Rupp, writer for the Tyee and Ottawa Citizen, addressed why newspapers and media wield such a limp skeptical stick. Yes, it's the cash-hungry bottom line.

Matthew Linsdell: Personal Trainers should beware of double-dipping into other professions without proper accreditation when giving advice to clients.

Radio Freethinker: Awesome presentation. Four smart guys, four smart talks.

Self Deception: People deceive themselves when it matches their needs.

Jaymie Matthews: Normal is the new not-normal. "Who needs paranormal?" Show me a picture of ghostly light in a dark cemetery and I'll raise you one high-res image of deep-space captured by the Hubble Space Telescope. Which one is more thrilling and thought-provoking, worthy of wonder and personal investment and education?

Jaymie Matthews: He holds the whole world, in his hands.

G. Switzer, The Language Code. Hot-button words and phraseology can colour, clutter and slant communication. Science opponents are longstanding experts at this art; it's time for science communicators to catch up.

Jacob Vohs – Myths about Child Abuse
Myth: Child abuse happens equally across all social classes.

Fact: Children raised in poverty are 30 times more likely to experience abuse. (It's true)

Gerry Armstrong – Scientology. Gerry's talk was so highly compelling and informative, I videotaped it myself and will soon post it to YouTube.

Yves van Gennip: "Was mathematics invented or discovered?" It depends on who you ask. Also, 1+1=2 is not as simple as you think. Is math simply a trip of the mind?

Captain Picard: There! Are! Four! Lights!

.....Vancouver SkeptiCamp was a five-star event, I plan to attend the next one in October.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Vancouver SkeptiCamp 2010 Review

Self Deception: People deceive themselves when it matches their needs.

I was there, took some video and photos, stay tuned for my report tomorrow!

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Vancouver SkeptiCamp 2010 at UBC

Enthusiasts of critical thinking are gathering this weekend at Vancouver SkeptiCamp to celebrate fact-based inquiry and using the scientific method to evaluate claims.

The average IQ of SkeptiCamp attendees is expected to be above the average IQ of the general public. ...Is that a theory, a hypothesis, a conjecture or a SWAG?
Also stay tuned for the Warren Kinsella sex scandal - http://skippy-posts.blogspot.com/2010/03/cheating-sure-is-popular.html

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Ths Sixth Stage of Grief and Loss: Justice by Proxy

Imagine if we had a Dog the Bounty Hunter TV show about stolen bikes. Justice by proxy might be very satisfying for bike theft victims everywhere to see:

How to Stop a Bike Thief is also good.

Monday, March 15, 2010

The Five Stages of Bike Theft Loss and Grief

"My bike is gone! No, that's silly, I have a good Kryptonite U-Lock. Obviously I locked it somewhere nearby and forgot. Whew, that was quite a scare."
"Did everyone on Denman street go blind while my bike was being stolen right in front of them? Sheep! You fucking dumb sheep! If I caught the bastard in action I would end his career and he'd never ride a bike again."
"Maybe if I'd used a better lock - or more locks - I'd still have my bike."
"I'm disappointed, I'm depressed, some stupid jackass stole $1200 out of my pocket.


Friday, March 12, 2010

Glowing Hearts Day Petition Popular Amid Post-Olympic BC Buzz

Vancouver Olympic fans fill Robson street. Photo: bulletproofcourier

It's a slim possibility but many British Columbians like the idea of a new statuary holiday in February, bringing the province in line with Alberta, Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Ontario and Prince Edward Island.

Kate Holmes' Glowing Hearts Day in BC petition is now swelling with signatures after gaining traction in print and TV news media:
You were there. You watched it, you felt it, and you reveled in it. Let us honour our great 2010 Olympic Games, the wellspring of National Pride that we all felt and our TWO Gold Medal Team Canada Hockey Teams, and all our Olympic heroes, by creating a new Provincial Statutory Holiday to be named "Glowing Hearts Day" in British Columbia.

Other Provinces have Family Day, Louis Riel Day or Islander Day, and BC has been wishing for a February holiday too. In order to harmonize holidays with other Provinces, the 3rd Monday of February is proposed.
A day off every year in perpetuity is a fair reward for the massive sacrifice of time, money and inconvenience that BC residents - especially downtown Vancouverites - gave to accommodate the 2010 Winter Games.

Sign the petition
if you live in BC and would like a day off next year on February 21, 2011, and also Feb. 20/2012 (leap year), Feb. 18/2013, Feb. 17/2014, Feb. 16/2015, Feb. 15, 2016 (leap year)...

Thursday, March 11, 2010

B&B Owners Protestant of Gays Face Human Rights Tribunal

River Bend B&B, Grand Forks BC: No gays allowed, sorry deer

When Brian and Shaun asked to stay at the River Bend Bed and Breakfast in Grand Forks, British Columbia, they were told no.

Susan Lazaruk writes in today's Province:
...The Evangelical Protestant couple acknowledged they denied the couple the room, telling the tribunal that to "allow a gay couple to share a bed in my Christian home would violate my Christian beliefs and cause me and my wife great distress" and would be "encouraging something which I believe to be wrong according to my religious beliefs and understanding of Scripture."...
This case is pure crazy, here's why:

If the British Columbia Human Rights Tribunal rules in favor of the B&B owners, shouldn't they also require them to advertise that gays aren't welcome, to prevent future gay callers from experiencing "injury to their dignity, feelings and self-respect"? That's crazy.

If the Tribunal rules against the B&B owners, fines them, and forces them to host gay couples going forward, what quality of begrudging welcome and service could they be expected to provide? That's crazy too.

No one stands to win anything here.

Meantime, the Guy Earle trial is scheduled for March 29. I'll be there to report on it first-hand. I'm presently sketching together the blog, titled Guy Earle Trial.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

From Dubai to Munich to Vancouver Prostitution via Google

The Dubai assassination plot is still making news, so I decided to watch the movie Munich again, where a team of Israeli agents hunt and kill those responsible for the Munich Massacre.

In the film, the protagonist reluctantly rebuffs what appears to be a call girl working a hotel lounge:

Avey gallantly declines the temptation of the local honey trap.

Scorned, she resets her scented sleeve for the next prospect

Wondering how that business model works (do high-class prostitutes commonly work five-star hotel lounges?) I did a Google search for "hookers in hotel lounges" and got this unexpected result:

Google "hookers in hotel lounges" returns map to nearest lounge?

That's more direct than I expected - and very funny - but it presents an interesting issue:

Google makes bank by knowing my search history, which must now include thousands of scientific and educational queries, journalistic fact-checks, blog entries, my bias for clicking on Wikipedia results - they must know the style and context of my search and find habits. So when I enter "hookers in hotel lounges", shouldn't Google know I want to learn about them, rather than where to find them?

Try the same Google search in your city!

More Canadian Babies Needed?

Canadians may have some work to do if they want to avoid this and especially this.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Mexico as a Risky Tourist Destination: Kidnappings, Murders

Taco tourists sometimes get taken. photo: bulletproofcourier

Mexico is off my list of vacation destinations after investigative journalists exposed what appears to be a corrupt faction within the Mexico City police force responsible for kidnapping, brutalizing and ransoming local citizens as far back as 2007.

Dateline NBC's The Desperate Hours follows the case of Eduardo and Jayne Valsecas, who suffered and survived a 7 month ordeal of confinement and torture quite likely carried out - or aided and abetted - by police officers of the Mexico City police force.

But Mexican tourist destinations remain safe, right? Mostly!

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Vancouver Sun Thumped by Readers Over Anti-Evolution Blog

Evolution by natural selection "just one theory of 12" says Sun blogger

Readers responded with scorn and outrage after the venerable Vancouver Sun hosted an online opinion column suggesting Canadian schools rethink the teaching of evolution by natural selection, in favor of "Twelve Theories of Evolution":
"What utter, utter garbage. There are not 12 theories of evolution. There is one scientific theory (ie, scientific fact), with some biologists holding different views about specific aspects of the process. Anything else is just religious garbage. Which is what you'd expect from a religion reporter pretending to write about science."

"This article is a cornucopia of crapola. Perhaps the author should go to university and learn about evolution before attempting to infuse mysticism by manufacturing 'theories'. The author merely shows that he hasn't got the first clue as to what a theory is."

view all 78 comments
Internationally popular science blog Pharyngula featured the story, prompting additional blasts from around the globe:
"High school students have enough trouble learning the standard evolutionary model, throw 11 alternatives in there and they will not learn anything."

"He gets it wrong with the first sentence. The world didn't evolve into being. The world condensed, cooled and then life originated. After that life began to evolve."

"How embarrassing. I never read the Sun when I lived in Vancouver (the first 28 years of my life) but now I'll have to rail against it to family and friends back home."

view all 125 comments
Sometimes the Canadian media errs in presenting "both sides" of an issue. This is one of those times. People who want religion (aka intelligent design) in science classrooms represent a batshit crazy fringe of society who deserve no media attention other than a good smackdown now and then:

It's the scientific method, stupid!