Thursday, August 31, 2006

Changing The World With Lightbulbs

These certainly aren't new, but their proliferation is gaining momentum. Walmart has decided to heavily promote Compact Flourescent Lightbulbs (CFL), aiming for annual sales of 100 million lightbulbs (only one bulb per customer that they have). Apparently, the annual electricity savings, should 100 million Americans buy one bulb each and replace one old incandescent bulb, would be enough to power a city of 1.5 million people!

It just got a little harder to hate Walmart.

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Meanwhile, Back In Chavezistan....Part 2

Hugo the Hospitable welcomes Syria into his circle of friends... My favourite line he had regarding counter-weighting 'American Imperialism' was "We want to cooperate to build a new world where states' and people's self-determination are respected." This coming from a man who wants to rule Venezuela until 2031! His reason for the prolonged tenure is his opposition's refusal to run against him in a fixed election, where the people's vote is compromised. So I'm not sure where he suddenly found respect for 'people's self-determination'. Never mind the fact that his best friends are all tyrant dictators.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

A Little Balance With My Biases?

Ok, I must admit, there are religious fanatics in the West as well.

HOWEVER, does anyone think Katherine Harris is gonna strap some plastic exposives to herself and blow up airplane-loads of people to further her cause?

Now This is Interesting...

The Canadian Auto Workers Union, for the first time, is wading into the competition game, proposing a deal to Ford that is designed to attract a product line to facilities in it's operating region, southern Ontario. It actually seems fairly attractive for Ford. I just developed a soft spot for unions. :)

If only they'd make membership optional....

The Dilemma

Do regressing women's rights bother you? Have you heard about the real Imperialism? Ever wonder if there's any enemy of yours that's distorting the truth?

What would you do if you were kidnapped or beaten or forced to convert? Would you blame your aggressors, or blame yourself?

What if this sort of thing happened in Canada? Would we be duty-bound to try to understand the motives of the perpetrator? Would it be just to ignore the link between his culture's doctinal values and his motivation, in the name of multiculturalism?

What should we do?

Terrorist Theatre

Via Powerline, an excellent column by Caroline Glick detailing the psy-ops that terrorist groups are using as successful tactics against the west. Mainly corruption of large media organizations and NGOs.

The Values That Are Shared, But Not Universal

I asked before, do you believe there are any universal values? I hope that I've shown that there are some; innate values. All humans value survival and reproduction; it's what makes us alive, in the same way that other animals are alive. But apart from that, there isn't any set of universal values. Most people have (at least) four value systems that are developed to some degree, but the content of those systems varies widely. Especially aesthetics. Doctrine and ethics are much more culturally distributed, and that's usually why there are nation-states; groups of people who share cultural values living together and hopefully having the desire to protect their values.

But there is a doctrine that has been metastisizing in the west, and it is called moral relativism. It is a firm belief that no doctrinal or ethical value is an objective value; no value is greater or worse than any other. Well, I shouldn't say that too quickly, it is a cannibalistic doctrine, only capable of seeing faults in the doctrine that gave it birth - Liberty.

In fact, indulge me while I skate on thin ice, but I'd venture to guess that the self-loathing that the west currently languishes in is no less an enemy than any silly terrorist running around with crude weaponry.

Consider how a culture like Canada's with it's majority Christian population cannot bring itself to allow Christmas celebrations at many of its schools anymore, because it's afraid of offending someone, but at the same time raises almost no protest over a plan to bring oppressive Sharia law to Ontario! Or, don't blame the criminal, he's a product of society! It's our fault! Or, oh those poor inmates in Guantanamo, they are being detained without charge! We're such terrible people! Never mind that their compatriots like to lop off the heads of the people trying to help build Iraq! Or, oh Britain got bombed because they're allies with the terrible Americans, it serves them right - the 'resistance fighters' are just lashing out at 'western imperialism'!

And that brings us back to the silly terrorists with antique guns... The 'isolated incidents' that are actual terrorist attacks are not worth being afraid of - their means aren't terribly sophisticated, and the attacks should be easily subdued - it's our own self-loathing that I'm worried about.

Sunday, August 27, 2006

Values in Ethics

Ethics: Moral/Immoral, Right/Wrong, Permissable/Prohibited, Virtue/Vice.

Positive or Negative. What should I do, and what shouldn't I do.

When you are poor, you have little care for ethics. If you and your family are starving, you will not care to consider whether what you are doing to provide sustenance is moral or immoral. You'll do whatever it takes to survive.

When you meet your survival needs, you consider aesthetics next. When you study aesthetics through your experiences, you gradually begin to find some things appealing, and some things repulsive. Some things good, some things bad.

When you realize that some things are good, and some things are bad, you wonder why that is the case. You search for answers in doctrine.

Doctrine guides you to act in ways to maximize the good through ethics.

Saturday, August 26, 2006

Friday, August 25, 2006

Global Warming: Cause of EVERYTHING!!!

Ok, this is starting to get just a tad silly. Apparently, global warming is now responsible for the increased size of glaciers! First, it caused polar ice cap shrinkage. Then it caused hurricanes, typhoons, tornados, a bunch of terrible hollywood flicks, and most horrendously, Al Gore!! But this, this is too much.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006


Something that I´ve noticed while in Brazil is the interesting products sold at gas stations. Anyone surprised? :)

Mainly, they´re the same as in Canada, they sell smokes, chips, drinks, chocolate bars, etc., and of course, gas. But one thing that almost every station sells is alcohol. Of the drinking variety sure, but also of the kind that you put in your fuel tank! It´s a product called E85, which means it´s 85% ethanol and 15% gasoline, and it´s actually cheaper than regular gas. Most of the new cars sold here are equipped with a flex-fuel system, which means they can run on either product, so drivers can opt for the cheaper product. There are even some totalflex cars that can also run on natural gas, but can switch to gasoline or E85 when required!

It´s a little unusual for a country like Brazil to be an environmental leader of the world, but it certainly is! But soon, North America will follow its lead: GM will be producing 400,000 cars a year starting this year which are flex fuel, and in fact, certain models starting from 2000 are already compatible. Because E85 behaves very similarly to gasoline, it will quickly become available at gas stations everywhere, because the oil companies won´t have to change any pump systems, they´ll just switch a tank from gasoline to E85, and voila! Instant supply. Ethanol plants are also springing up in Canada, by year´s end Husky Oil will be producing over 250,000 million litres of the stuff, with plans for incremental production over the next several years.

I wonder who will still attend the Critical Mass rallies....

Monday, August 21, 2006

Hezbollah: Terrorists or Misunderstood Youth?

This just in, certain Liberal, NDP, and Bloc MPs want Hezbollah taken off of Canada´s terrorist organization list. Can you hear the sound of my jaw dropping to the floor all the way from Porto de Golhina, Brazil? Peggy Nash, NDP MP, says "that it is just not helpful to label them a terrorist organization.` No Peggy, I guess it´s not. But it´s also not helpful that Hezbollah undertakes terrorist acts on Israeli civilians, or are committed to the destruction of ´The Zionist Entity´.

Borys Wrzesnewskyj, Liberal MP from Etobicoke, likens Hezbollah to the IRA, and says ´´if there wasn't the possibility for London to negotiate with the IRA, you'd still have bombings."´ Well Borys, I think that the IRA had a reasonable struggle and they were not intent upon destroying the state of Britain. They also did not hide behind women and children, hoping that the British would kill the moms and kids in order to create public relations problems for them. Hezbollah is not interested in negotiation, and I think that people have to realize this.

"This is Canada's shame," Ms. Maria Mourani, Bloc MP said. What´s Hezbollah´s shame Maria?

Have no sympathy for the devil.

Sunday, August 20, 2006


Doctrine, the main topic of most of my blogs, is derived from the latin doctrina, which essentially means code of beliefs. Catholicism´s Immaculate Conception is a good example of a religious doctrine, and communism is an example of ideological or political doctrine. You might say that this blog details some of my doctrinal values, albeit not necessarily in a structured or progressive way. A doctrine is something that is used to understand the way the world works, and usually also detail how humans should interact with each other in an organizational sense.

It might seem provocative, or maybe not, to say that doctrinal values only develop in an incremental sense relative to the realization of innate and aesthetic values. That is to say, doctrine becomes more complex with the security of having realized some level of satisfactory survival, and some appreciation of aesthetics. I´d wager that the more secure a person is in meeting survival needs, and the more a person understands things to be either ugly or beautiful, the more likely that person will be to start exploring a doctrine of some kind which can explain how things are, or how things should be.

So given that to be true, innate values are still the keystone to the foundation of all other values, and the development of them. At this point I would like to express a belief that I have, and that is that humans universally value survival, and that this is not a subjective expression; I believe it to be objective fact.

Friday, August 18, 2006

Breaking the Radio Silence

Well, back in Manaus for a few hours, after a three-day trip through part of the Amazon basin. All I can say is wow! We had a great time there, the accomodations were really basic, but the forest is incredible! We saw so many different animals; pink dolphins, alligators, howler monkeys, spider monkeys, tarantulas, sloths, iguanas, a million kinds of birds, etc... We went piranha fishing (they´re delicious but boney), alligator hunting (pictures to follow), saw trees that smelled like peppermint and rosewood, contained milk of magnesia, treat malaria, etc. Man, that´s one dense, diverse place. The temperature got as high as 40 degrees celcius, with enough humidity to make it feel like 60. We´re going to hop on a plane in a few hours, which will eventually get us to Recife for the last few days of the trip, where hopefully there will be an opportunity to relax on the beach and sip on Caperheinas and possibly do some surfing.

Monday, August 14, 2006


My current favourite. I´d have to say that an innate value system is something that all humans share, as we all have to possess one in order to continue living. Survival is not automatic, people must have the ´drive to survive´in order to do so. I´d also like to think that the other value systems don´t get developed unless that one is realized. That is to say, it´s hard to think about beauty when your body is starving.

But once innate values are realized, then suddenly a human has the leisure to think about aesthetics. People spend a lot of time thinking about aesthetics, I think, whether they are considering the beauty of a landscape, a building, an art piece, another human, music, poetry, prose, etc. Of course, although there are many things that many people consider beautiful, each person has some set of values that must apply to an object in order for him/her to call it beautiful.

I don´t think that there is any universal aesthetic value system, nor do I think that all people have a very developed aesthetic value system; but I do think that all people have some sense of aesthetics. Because again, one man´s junk is another man´s gold. But each man has an opinion on the object in question.

Sunday, August 13, 2006

Innate Values

It's hard to argue that humans don't have the survival instinct. Of course, during their lifetimes, some people decide that it is too hard to live, and decide to end their lives . Others still decide that the doctrinal values they hold are more important than their will to live, and become suicide bombers for their cause. But of course, up until the point that their lives end, they find ways to sustain themselves to whatever degree they are capable.

Further, this value system overwhelms any other value system, because it contains the necessities of life, without which no other value system is relevant. So before seriously considering different doctrines, aesthetics, or morals, a person must consider how to obtain water, food, and shelter.

And it could be said that even suicidal people have the innate value of survival, but that they don't possess the integrity to uphold even that basic value until the natural ends of their lives.

Friday, August 11, 2006

Hello from Lencois

Good day. Well, here we are in Lencois. Victoria made it here safe and sound, and we took a 7 hour bus ride to Lencois, in a national park, the name of which I can´t remember right now...Something to do with diamonds...It´s a pretty chill place, a small town of about 9000. It´s our first place away from the coast, but there are apparently alot of fresh-water lakes and springs etc. to go swimming in, which is good because it´s reeeeeally warm here. We´ve got a couple of hikes organized for the next three days, including some caves and waterfalls, multicoloured springs, etc. Should be a good time, hopefully I get some sweet pictures...Ciao

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Four Value Systems

There are four systems of values which are, in my opinion, worth discussing within the context of universality; those are: Innate values (intrinsic values of survival and reproduction), doctrinal values (political/ideological/religious), aesthetic values (beauty/ugliness), and ethical values (moral/immoral, right/wrong). There are two others, which are too abstract to be relevant ever, those are passive values (those which apply to things that don´t exist), and potential values (those which would apply to something that could potentially exist).

It´s easy to say that aesthetics are not necessarily universal among people and cultures - beauty is in the eye of the beholder, etc. One man´s junk is another man´s gold, or whatever.

Innate values are of course the easiest ones to defend as being universal. Humans are biologically all the same, we have a natural need to prolong our experience, whether during life or through to the after-life. We will do anything that it takes to protect ourselves, and our own interests. Onlywhen self-preservation is assured, do we become altruistic in our actions.

The tough ones are ethical values and doctrinal values. The postmodern ethos would have an easy way to answer my previous question, because it would deny objective qualities to either ethics or doctrine, allowing the most horrible perversions of both, and because these perversions have been committed to historical record, it would seem that postmodernism would answer that no, there are no universal values.

I know that there are some objections. To innate values for example: Homosexual couples may not have a desire to reproduce...But is that only because of present logistical issues? Perhaps there are ways to circumvent those issues. To ethical values for another example: A man may believe that it is wrong to kill another man under all circumstances save war or other self-defence, but in a fit of jealous rage might kill his wife´s lover....But is that because he truly lacks value, or because he has not enough integrity to uphold his values? Or perhaps, in both cases, perhaps the individuals in question have these values, but have other, stronger values that override the others. In any case, I may be digressing by raising these objections....

Wednesday, August 09, 2006


Before I make any posts explaining my own views, let me ask my loyal readers something:

Do you believe there are any universal values?

I ask that knowing that most of my open-minded friends will believe that value differences can be explained by cultural differences.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Morro do Sao Paulo II


The first is of, in order left to right, Colin, Ana, Me, Nates, and Sophie. The second is Ana, Me, and Colin. These are friends I met in Rio, and the scene is of a boat (booze) cruise we took off the coast. It was a day of all you can eat, drink, and swim, and it was one of my favourite days in Rio, if not Brazil. These people are awesome!!

Ilha Grande

The first photo is of a group of Capoeiristas demonstrating their art/fighting on the dock in front of our pousada in Ilha Grande. It´s a form of self-defense that african slaves came up with to defend themselves against their masters, and they were able to develop it only because they disguised it as dance! The second is the same dock in daylight, the third is a view of a street in town, the fourth is of Ana and Greg on our balcony, watching the Capoeira.


This is my dog Chester, whom I miss terribly! He´s looking at me with an expression that means, ´why are you leaving me´! See how his left lip is slightly curled?


Assorted photos from Salvador: The first is a colonialist-era building which is slowly decaying - the roof is missing, yet the lower levels still house people, the second is a lighthouse near where we stayed in Barra, Salvador, the last is of a cross made of steel that memorializes a church that was destroyed in the name of ´progress´,.

Photos of Morro do Sao Paulo

These photos are of the beach near Gamboa, a small fishing village about a 45 minute hike from the main town of Morro. You have to walk along the coast, but at high tide, which is when I did it, there is no coast. You must walk in water sometimes chest high with your belongings above your head to get there. But it´s worth the walk, the beach is virtually deserted, the water is calm, and there are two really good restaurants there for when you get hungry. It´s also stunningly beautiful. The walk back is easier, as the tide recedes it leaves behind a small strip of beach that you can walk on.

Monday, August 07, 2006

via the absurd report, todays cartoon...

Sunday, August 06, 2006

I´ve finally found a place where I can upload a few pics, so here´s a couple. Hopefully there will be more to follow in the next few days...The first is a picture of Foz du Iguassu, a really nice one. Sadly, we´re not here during the rainy season, so there´s not as much water going over the falls right now, but it´s still quite a spectacular sight. The second is a pic of Copacabana beach at sunset, with a game of American-style football going on in the foreground.

Brazil - The Land of Surprises

I try not to talk politics too much at home, because an argument usually ensues; one which neither side can hope to win, but with both sides usually ending up frustrated and upset. But travelling is different, because it´s somehow easier to avoid actual debate, and simply learn other points of view while getting to know people a little...

And just like anywhere else, there are many anti-americans, socialists, or non-political people. I´ve even met people that think that George W. Bush is to blame for the favelas here in Brazil; I almost cracked up when I heard that one...

But last night, I had a bit a shock. Greg and I went out with a group of French guys, and a couple of British girls. There were 4 French guys, and I kid you not, they were to a man pro-capitalist, pro-Bush, pro-American, business students. I almost fell out of my chair! Heck, one more Cerveja and I would have!!! I expected to have a slightly altered world-view after this trip, but my God, I did NOT expect to be impressed by the politics of the people of France!! Don´t get me wrong, I have much respect for the culture and history of France, but I must admit I had generalized their politics in a most disrespectful way.

And for that, my French friends, I must apologize. Vivé la France!!

Saturday, August 05, 2006

Morro Sao Paulo

Ola from Morro Sao Paulo! Suddenly travel plans change... We were in Salvador, wondering what was next, and several fellow travellers recommended this island which is a 2 hour catamaran ride from Salvador. It is truly paradise! There are several white sandy beaches, a lively night life, day-long party-boat rides, scuba diving, surfing, waterfalls, friendly people, and trust me, fantastic food!

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Crazy Small World

Funny how small this world actually is. When I was in Rio, a group of us went to the Brazil Cup Football Final, which was the most incredible sporting event I´ve ever witnessed in person. The fans were truly delirious, there were smoke bombs, fireworks, a little tear gas in one trouble section, on-going chants, a over-filled stadium, etc. The right team won, so the crowds were ecstatic, and largely peaceful after the game, although that might have to do with the police helicopters monitoring the exiting crowds with searchlights, etc.

Anyway, my seat at the game was right beside an ex-pat Brit who now lives in Ecuador where he runs an English pub, and the weird thing about this pousada in Salvador, 1500-plus kms away from Rio, is that the same guy walks in here with a pizza last night as we were arriving back from an amazing street festival!! Like what are the odds eh?

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Cuban Crisis

I haven´t been posting anything political during this trip, but I can´t help but make note of this news item. I personally think that Castro is already dead, and that ´his´ written statements were carefully prepared by strategists who hope to make a smooth transition of power to his brother. Ask the hundreds of thousands of Cuban exiles living in Miami what they think of that potential development...

It´s also probably comforting for them to know that his brother Raul is 75, and could kick the bucket at any time as well.


We arrived in Salvador yesterday, after a fantastic weekend on Ilha Grande. Part of me is still there, trying to work out how I can buy my own pousada on that island, where I can live during high season :) It´s an amazing place, filled with beaches, forest, waterfalls, beautiful friendly people, and lots and lots of partying.

The other part of me got to Salvador exhausted after a day of travel that included taxis, boats, buses, and airplanes, at around midnight. We needed a place to stay, and our first choice was booked for the night. We ended up at a reeeeeeeally sketchy place in Barra, a neighbourhood in Salvador. It cost 30 reals for the night for the both of us, which is about 12 dollars Canadian. It was pretty disgusting, after having stayed in such a nice pousada on Ilha Grande. There was a patio on the street where we unwound a little after arriving. We were propositioned by prostitutes, panhandled, etc. But otherwise, after an uneasy sleep, we are ok. We found a super nice pousada today called Ambar, in a better, trendy part of Barra, just down the street from the beach. We´ll stay here for two days or so, and then set out for the countryside around Salvador. Victoria is coming here on the ninth of august, and then we go to the Amazon shortly after.