Saturday, July 31, 2010

The Gentleman Will Sit! The Gentleman is Correct in Sitting!

I could never serve in federal government because the anti-logic and hypocrisy would have me going off like this all the time:

Yes he's angry and loud, but everything he says is correct and I applaud his moxy.

Friday, July 30, 2010

PZ Myers: Atheism in the Scientific Battleground

My experience attending PZ Myers' talk at UBC

Mark of the beast! I told Myers the best place to autograph his poster was on his own forehead. Thanks PZ, that's funny on many levels:

It was easy to find the location of Myers' talk from the UBC bus loop:

After following Myers' Pharyngula blog for over two years on the internet, it was curiously cathartic to see him speak in person. Indeed he's just a regular guy, maybe more soft-spoken than you'd think after reading his blog.
Yes, I've heard. Kills men by the hundreds. And if HE were here, he'd consume the English with fireballs from his eyes, and bolts of lightning from his arse...

PZ Myers prepares to shoot lightening bolts from his - no, wait. He's just presenting an excellent talk.

Conditions in the lecture theater were unfortunately too dim (≈25% lighting level) and too quiet (PZ was unamplified) for video and pictures.

Damn, if they'd only leave the lights blazing and stuff a mic up the lecturer's butt, these events would be much easier for bloggers to cover!

So I cracked my knuckles and readied myself to transcribe PZ's entire talk into my laptop using my 120wpm typing skills - very handy when I covered the Guy Earle Trial - but instead decided to sit back and enjoy the talk. This may be my one chance to see PZ speak in person so I wanted to pay full attention.

After posting this entry I'll start jotting down some notes and decompressing my memory of the event to provide a general summary and paraphrase some memorable quotes tomorrow.

e.g. From PZ's opening remarks:
PZ: Is my microphone on? The contract says they can use the audio from this for any purpose whatsoever. But I don't want to end up on Breitbart.
[Hearty laugh from audience]

e.g. From the Q&A:
Questioner: Considering what you do for living, do you feel safe?
[the audience murmurs and nods, "good question"]
PZ: (smiling coyly) Well, being a biology professor and teaching classes...
[audience laughs out loud]
Questioner: Hahaha, no, no I mean THIS (bracketing Myers and his audience with outstretched arms). Being a high-profile celebrity who confronts the follies of and often insults religious people, do you ever fear for your safety?
PZ: Do I feel safe? Hmmm. Let's ask my wife. (Gesturing up toward the back rows) Do you feel safe?
Mrs. Myers: Yes.
[audience giggles softly]
More coming soon, stay tuned.

PZ Myers Speaks at UBC Tonight

UPDATE: My review now online

A biologist and associate professor at the University of Minnesota-Morris, Myers authors the world-popular Pharyngula blog.

The event runs from 7-10pm. I'm heading over there now, stay tuned for pics & video.

Hopefully this won't happen:

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Mary Polak: Peter Meter Permanently Prohibited

Mary Polak, B.C. minister of children and family development puts the kibosh on junk science

It's called penile plethysmography and it's been administered to boys aged 12 - 17 during the past 20 years by BC's Youth Forensic Psychiatric Services as part of their Youth Sex Offender Treatment Program.

On par with rice-in-mouth lie detection and the witch burnings and hand-boilings of medieval times, the accused is damned if they do and damned if they don't:

Alex's re-education: click image for YouTube video.

Vivian Luk, Vancouver Sun:
The tests...involve attaching a "penile plesthysmograph" to adolescent boys' genitals to measure sexual responses. The youths — aged 12 to 17 — were shown photographs of naked or semi-naked adults, children and infants...
To Polak's credit, she quickly snipped the program after learning about the creepy Clockwork Orange nature of penis-measurement science, alongside revelations of a Youth Services medical technician charged with an unrelated sexual offense.

Research by Drs. Barker and Howell1 shows that penile plethysmography borders on junk science (no pun intended) because:

* No standardization
* Test results are not sufficiently accurate
* Results are subject to faking and voluntary control by test subjects
* High incidence of false negatives and false positives
* Results are open to interpretation

1Barker and Howell, The Plethysmograph: A Review of Recent Literature, 20 Bull. Am. Acad. of Psychiatry and Law 13 (1992)

Best Keyboard Cat Impression Ever

Remember Ron Livingston from the movie Office Space and the more recent Defying Gravity?

He's back, this time with a spot-on impression of the Internet's beloved Keyboard Cat meme:

Also enjoy the original:

Please enjoy your day.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

The Gregor Robertson PR Diet: Go From "Fuck" to "Oops" in 14 days

(Who's Next?)
Mayor Robertson and Councilor Meggs almost had matching leg casts

July 8, Mayor Gregor Roberston's open mic gaffe:
Video, audio of Robertson: "Who are all these fuckin' hacks?"
July 22, Red Light Robertson:
The mayor was in the new Dunsmuir Street bike lane on July 22 when he blew through a red light to make a right turn onto Richards Street without stopping or checking for oncoming traffic...
Here's a video featuring bus driver Michele Macdonald explaining how close Robertson came to having matching leg casts with city councilor Geoff Meggs:

So what's the take-away here? Obviously, no one's perfect. Robertson deserves a break on this, especially from his fellow downtown cyclists who have benefited so much from the new bike lanes and those to come. Also, city hall cyclists should be extra careful going forward.

Go Gregor et al., keep it rubber side down eh?

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

PBS POV - Presumed Guilty

Imagine being picked up off the street, told you have committed a murder you know nothing about and then finding yourself sentenced to 20 years in jail...
In the compelling new PBS documentary Presumed Guilty, Roberto Hernández and Layda Negrete gain unprecedented camera access to the Mexican court system as they work to free Toño Zúñiga, a 31-year old man wrongly imprisoned in Mexico City in 2005.

The most poignant segment sees Zúñiga - allowed by Mexican trial law - questioning the witnesses against him from three feet away through a barred window. The exchanges are fascinating to watch and they reveal unexpected results.

The arresting officer is visibly uncomfortable standing in front of the man he sent to prison for 20 years without evidence. His shoulders droop, his head hangs low and he refuses to make eye contact with the prisoner. His face grows beet red, accentuating his alcoholically puffy nose and cheeks. The judge must repeatedly remind him:
"Don't speak to me, speak to him, this is supposed to be a face-to-face."
The primary witness against Zúñiga - cousin to the murdered young man - appears close to tears as Zúñiga asks him to finally tell the truth, explaining that he indeed passed a gunshot residue test immediately after the murder.
"I did not know you passed [the test]" the cousin says. After a long, emotionally charged pause he tells the court and the camera "I did not see who fired the gun."
Unfortunately, his statement was not recorded into the official court record. Why not? You'll have to watch the show to find out.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Anti-Vaxxers are Bad for the Neighborhood

In California, six infants are dead and 1500 people are sick from a deadly infection that is easily preventable by routine childhood vaccination - but only if every child is vaccinated.

From the recent CDC report:
If the rates from the first half of the year persist throughout 2010, California would have its highest annual rate of pertussis [Whooping Cough] reported since 1963 and the most cases reported since 1958...
Why is this outbreak happening? Who's been winding the science and medicine clock backwards by 52 years?
...According to the California Department of Public Health's Center for Infectious Disease, whooping cough cases tend to be the highest in areas where parents tend to exempt their kids from routine vaccination...
That's a nice way to sum up the situation. A not-so-nice but more accurate way is:

Parents who refuse to have their kids vaccinated - and the Jenny McCarthys and (discredited) Andrew Wakefields that champion such ignorance and paranoia - are directly responsible for unnecessary sickness and death in their own communities.

Learn more about the deadly outbreak on Google News.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Celebration of Light Tonight: Spain

UPDATE: Here's my Spain highlight video, please enjoy! Pirotecnia Igual put on an wicked display of super-loud booms & crackles, especially in the grand finale, which was totally awesome:

UPDATE: Here's the crowd in English Bay as of 8pm. Click for high-res enlargement, maybe you can see yourself or someone you know!

Tonight at 10pm, Spain will be shooting flaming soccer balls into the sky. Pirotecnia Igual will be putting on show. Stay tuned!

Meantime check out my highlight video of USA's fireworks last Wednesday.

Darth Vader Robs New York Bank

Maybe he needed money to attend Comic-Con? Or another place where people dress up in costumes and meet to discuss superheroes - the Vatican?

And how long until the Darth Vader Wikipedia entry is updated with this story?

Press release from Suffolk County Police here.

Friday, July 23, 2010

In My Spare Time, I Search for FBI Most Wanted Fugitives

When delivered correctly, that pick-up line yields a woman's phone number every time.

But seriously, Vancouver and southwestern British Columbia are ideal locations for international fugitives to hide out over the long-term: Low-key police presence, local respect of privacy, mild climate, free health care, civil liberties (low chance of "papers please" incidents) etc.

So why not keep an eye out for them? The rewards are in the millions so it only takes one. Here's what I've been working on lately:

Searching for James "Whitey" Bulger and Catherine Greig in Vancouver

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Campaign for Free Expression video contest

The Centre for Inquiry is sponsoring a Campaign for Free Expression video contest:

Being a big fan and advocate of free speech and expression (remember my Guy Earle trial blog?), I must participate. Stay tuned for my entry. Top prize is $2000!

On a related note, I'll be attending this event to see one of my favorite bloggers speak in person, PZ Myers.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

U.S. Fireworks Show Kind of Average

Tonight's Celebration of Light fireworks show by the U.S. was okay I guess.

I didn't feel any of the chest-thumping shock waves I've come to look forward to at these fireworks competitions. Is the 24-inch shell now banned everywhere? For shame. We want big boom!

Nevertheless, Rozzi Famous Fireworks staged a solid presentation with the budget they were given. Please enjoy my highlight video:

Next show is this Saturday @ 10pm, Spain will be lighting up the sky.

Celebration of Light Begins Tonight: USA

The huge fireworks crowd is gathering! Here's my picture of English Bay a few minutes ago (click to explode):

Stay tuned for my YouTube video later! UPDATE: Here it is!

Last year, I filmed Africa's fireworks and caught the police beating on a suspect, just a little bit:

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Painful Arm-Twisting Arrest by Vancouver Police Officer

I filmed this Vancouver Police officer detaining a suspect using an arm-twist outside Mountain Equipment Equipment Co-Op at 130 West Broadway in Vancouver. Kudos to the cop for not using a taser!

"I Write Like" Website: Me = Stephen King, Other Bloggers = David Foster Wallace

I write like
Stephen King

I Write Like by Mémoires, Mac journal software. Analyze your writing!

A new website, I Write Like, analyzes a few paragraphs of your writing and tells you what pro author shares your prose.

Try it out yourself! Visitors can also cut & paste others' writing for analysis, which sometimes yields interesting results. For example:
Lady Gaga's lyrics to "Alejandro" = William Shakespeare.

Mel Gibson leaked phone calls = Margaret Atwood.
I ran comparisons on a few of my favorite blogs and they all came back the same:

BlazingCatFur = David Foster Wallace.

PZ Myers' Pharyngula = David Foster Wallace

NY Times Blogs Freakonomics = David Foster Wallace

Hmmm, I wonder if there's some reason why bloggers I find interesting write like Mr. Wallace.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Amazing Frisbee Catch by Lucky Cameraman

That lucky cameraman is me! While filming some friends playing frisbee on a very windy day at Spanish Banks, I made this unexpected catch:

It makes me laugh every time I watch it. A gust of wind turned the frisbee back more than ninety degrees in mid-air, floating it slowly down to exactly where I was standing with my camera.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Breast Feeding in Public: A Canadian Value

In August 2008, I filmed and posted to YouTube a breast-feeding rally at the H&M store on Granville street here in Vancouver.

To date, the video has received more than 150,000 views and almost 200 comments; many viewers have been critical, flippantly dismissive, or just plain hateful and ignorant.

Amid the ongoing chatter and babble, a very insightful comment on the video was posted today by justanoldman1:
@angelahk28f Guess what... that is what the breast is for, feeding babies. There is nothing wrong with taking the whole breast out. Most of the young girls have half of them hanging out anyways.
The best part of feeding babies in public is that it really pisses off the muslims.
I never thought about it before, but indeed he has a powerful point!

For some immigrants from certain cultures, nothing says "Welcome to Canada, land of freedom and equality" more than a mother breast-feeding her baby in public.


Sunday, July 4, 2010

Dog Eats Glass

Just kidding, it's ice! This puppy dog loves to eat ice! Watch the video till the end and the glass joke will become clear:

Friday, July 2, 2010

HST Profiteering at Vancouver Stores and Retailers?

Today at my "usual place" I bought a pizza slice and can of ginger ale, paying $3.92. Before the HST, the cost was $3.50.

Although the new price seemed higher than it should be, I paid without comment (holding my tongue even while the cashier struggled with a calculator to make change from $4.02. How ridiculous.)

Later, while munching on the hot slice in my left hand, I scribbled some pencil math on a napkin with my right hand, and concluded the price for my pizza & pop had increased by 12%.

What the heck? If a 5% GST on fast food (and other convenience items) is replaced by a 12% HST, shouldn't the net increase be 7%?

What is the pizza shop owner doing? I'm going to start packing my own lunch more often.

I will do more research on this at other places. I really hope I don't have to write headlines like this going forward:

BC businesses fail to pass along HST savings to consumers

BC businesses evil pricing scheme: raise prices 5% in lieu of GST, then add 12% HST

Some BC stores fleecing customers for GST and HST

Mom & Pop store hoses local families 17% tax via HST pricing scam

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Amazing Political Prediction

News junkies following the U.S. Supreme Court nomination of Elena Kagan will be floored at the prescience of Jeffrey Toobin on March 3, 2008:

Good call, Toobin! He predicted Obama's actions 26 months in advance.

Here in Canada I wish we had some idea, any idea at all, of what awaits us over the next 26 months.