2014-06-27

[Vegan] Just a little bit

"I brought two muffins from E.  They're vegan, they just have a little bit of honey."
- My adorable father

[General] Friendship Stories

I reckon you know you've made a good friend when you can share some of your favourite cultural pieces and not receive completely blank stares or feel silly.

Recently, I've had fun reciting poetry (from the Lord of the Rings, H.P. Lovecraft, T.S. Eliot, and William Blake) and listening to Tom Robbins read aloud.  I feel like sharing such things requires a comfort between friends that most of my friendships lack.  It also requires a willingness to receive someone else's delight.

Then there's just plain sharing favourite songs.  I get sensitive about sharing my favourites, because it's a bit strange when something you value a lot falls flat with someone else.  I make an effort to find the meaning and joy in others' joys, more so lately than before, which has brought me to new appreciation for the likes of Bob Dylan, for example.  Recently, I'm aware of Little Dragon.  With film, I'm always happy to share Scott Pilgrim vs. the World.

I like to joke that my best friend is just a copy cat.  I help immerse him in the Legend of Zelda and Nintendo, and they go on to become a favourite series and video game developer for him.  I try to recruit him into kendo, and years later he's better than me, keenly investigating the concepts more deeply than I've thought to.  I suggest we play Dutch Blitz, and it becomes a ritual at his house, until the wee hours of the morning.  He once asked what sort of computer I would suggest, and I recommended Apple over Linux or Windows, and now his entire family on Mac users.

But of course, his interests constantly inspire me.  From literature and an appreciation for language and music, to tea and fitness.  Even though we operate under some different assumptions of how the world is, we get along very well, comfortable sharing our interests and respecting them.

Sometimes I make a new friend and they seem resistant to new ideas, to what I have to offer.  They are instantly critical, responding from their history of experience rather than considering, rather than welcoming potential new delights.  I have been like that, set in my ways, shooting down others interests and ideas, and I hope to avoid being like that again.

I adore the comfort found in freely sharing things, with the knowledge that the things you value in life will be approached respectfully and with a fair openness.  Trust and friendship.

2014-06-21

[Microblog] Transient Triumph

My friend Lily wins her first race (as Pink Gold Peach) by sabotaging me (Peach), running me into a truck. ;_;  Recommended viewing in 720p.

2014-06-20

[General] Ontario Pride

Pride Week is next week.   I received this e-mail recently: 
The Honourable Kathleen Wynne, Premier of Ontario, will be raising the Rainbow Flag at Queen’s Park on Monday, June 23rd to commemorate WorldPride 2014. This is a historic moment for the Province of Ontario as it will be the first time ever that the Ontario Government will be raising the Rainbow Flag to commemorate Pride.

Details:
Date/Time: Monday June 23rd, 2014 at 9:00 AM
Location: Courtesy flagpole on the South Lawn of the Legislature
I wonder whether a Conservative government would have done so.

[General] Delusions of Safety

I bought my second Schwinn bicycle mirror today, and then for the second time, returned a Schwinn bicycle mirror within 24 hours.

Today's

Last year's
I bought both from Canadian Tire, and they both have the same problem.  They're droopy, which is actually plain dangerous.  Neither of them hold their placement well, so when I'm cycling and I go to check my mirror, I see pavement.  I have to take my hand and adjust the mirror and fiddle with it until I can see the lane beside me again, by which time I've run into a post or been hit by a truck.

I don't understand why they're sold.  I can't be the only person to notice they don't hold their position and instead become effectively useless and dangerous.  It's not a bicycle mirror, it's an inaccurate facsimile of what the outside appearance might look like.

It serves me right for trying to avoid spending a lot of money on a mirror, though.

Can you recommend a decent one that can stay in a fixed position?  The problem with both is the droopiness in the neck.  The grip on the handlebar was itself adequate.

What harrowing adventures I get into!  At least the bell works swell. :D

2014-06-18

[Microblog] Fragaria

Picnicking with a friend and they pointed out the fragaria on my lawn

Fragaria

[Vegan] Collateral Damage


http://theconversation.com/ordering-the-vegetarian-meal-theres-more-animal-blood-on-your-hands-4659
I think this is useful and important for vegans to read and understand. 

I don't agree with the articles conclusions or some of its inferences, but it is mostly filled with valid points.

An important thing to keep in mind for when you eat plants: when the land was converted into agricultural use, a lot of animals were probably displaced and died.

Similarly, vegans who won't eat honey (of which I am one) need to understand that many of the plants they eat from conventional sources required farmed bees to pollinate them. 

In both cases, perhaps you could get them from organic farms that used wild pollinators, instead.

The article mentions some instances where animals in Australia feed off land not suitable for crop production, so some of the environmental concerns over animal agriculture are reduced.  You're no longer growing several times more biomass just for animal feed, not resulting in multiples of the land or water consumed, or CO2 produced, to produce meat versus comparably nutritious plant matter.  Even in Canada, many smaller farms at least make good use of by-products from plant production, like silage and waste from baby carrot processing.  (Many environmentally-conscious vegans might eschew baby carrots as unnecessarily wasteful to begin with.)  However, many large scale intensive farms in the world are not so friendly, because at their scale they can't afford to be.  They need to bring in food, and they need it to be convenient.

Lots of things to think about.

As a consumer, is it better to choose to indirectly result in animal death (buying corn whose land resulted in many animals dying) versus directly choosing to have a life taken (beef)?  In theory, progress might lead to plant production systems that further reduce or even eliminate unintended casualties.  Traditional meat production can't do that.  (Meat in vitro will be interesting.)

Another side thought: does eating beef spare more lives than other diets?  You get a lot of meat off a single cow, versus a chicken.  What about for a comparable amount of plant-based nutrition?  What is its collateral damage?  Does it average less than a single life?  I would think so.

I should spend some time to specifically determine what a comparable amount of nutrition is.  I can't just say 1kg of beef == 1kg of tofu, after all. :D

[Vegan] Animal Agriculture in Canada

http://www.thecanadianencyclopedia.ca/en/article/animal-agriculture/
A great article discussing it.  It touches on the following topics:
  • production systems (how animal production is split up)
  • animal feeding (what they eat and how)
  • disease (vaccination, antibiotics, zoonoses)
  • hormones (common in US and Canada, banned in EU, science so far claims they're safe)
  • meat consumption
Some neat notes
  • red meat and dairy consumption declining in the Western world since 1970s
  • global meat consumption per capita growing, and global population growing
  • fur production in Canada was apparently declining until demand for exports from China and Russia grew
Working for a government agricultural agency, it's neat seeing a summary of the larger structure of the landscape I work within.

[Microblog] How to Bake a Slant Cake

  1. prepare cake batter
  2. pour into pan
  3. set pan in oven
  4. bake
  5. remove pan from oven
  6. live in a basement with a 15° slant

2014-06-17

[Microblog] Mutually Maturing

Switched from GICs to Mutual Funds for savings today, now that I have an income to save.   I am so risque.

[Microblog] SCIENCE!

http://www.policymic.com/articles/91179/why-magic-school-bus-returning-to-tv-is-fantastic-news-for-women-in-science
Hooray for Netflix!  26 new episodes of the Magic School Bus.

Ms. Frizzle was a major influence in many female friends' decisions to pursue science.  :)

[Vegan] GMO Livestock


http://www.the-scientist.com/?articles.view/articleNo/40081/title/Designer-Livestock/

This article is interesting because it discusses the EnviroPig project.  They mention the euthanisation of the pigs in the experiment at the end.  At least one sanctuary requested they be able to adopt the pigs, but they were killed anyway.

I can understand the desire to prevent genetic modifications from unintentionally spreading through swine populations, if you're concerned of unintended side-effects.  I can also understand the desire to protect intellectual property, so that the millions invested won't be readily exploited by someone else in the future.  (You could imagine a future where the knowledge gained from the EnviroPig experiment went on to be of use in the future, and of profit to its stakeholders.)

I shudder a bit that those desires took priority over the lives involved.  Rather than trust the sanctuary to protect against gene dissemination and allow the swine to live out the rest of their lives somewhere pleasant, it was more convenient and expedient to kill them.

I actually don't firmly disagree with GMOs.  I am wary of the potential for error, potentially catastrophic, as I am with software, and the unintended bugs that surface years later there.  However, in principle, I think GMO is "neat", and clearly advantageous.  In the likely possibility that the human population continues to grow, reaching 9 billion, and maybe some day 12 billion, I think GMOs can play an important part in that, and a more secure part than organic methods.  (If you don't see why that's obvious, please discuss!  I am not saying that GMOs, like nuclear power, are without risk.)

However, I of course disagree with the quotation of James Murray in the article that "If you look at the increasing world population, we essentially have to double [meat] production by 2050."   I am told meat production is more environmentally costly than a plant-based diet, requiring more water, land, producing more CO2, and requiring more time.   (If you disagree, please say!  I can dig up some data on some of those readily; others I still need to investigate more.)

One interesting consequence of genetically modifying animals is its impact on animal welfare concerns.  One example in the article is dehorning.  Their angle is the cost to farmers.  Animal welfare and animal rights advocates take issue with mutilating bodies for convenience.  Genetic modification can obviate that complaint in many ways, reducing the list of possible objections.  You can imagine work being done to also produce animals that are inherently overjoyed to live a confined and limited life, that don't feel connections to their kin and don't suffer pain at separation, that have decreased awareness, that become as dumb as functionally possible, almost as dumb as a plant, an animal that cannot suffer.

That would make it many objections to animal agriculture in the animal's interest  harder to make.  After that, you might be stuck with more philosophical objections, like whether it's right to tamper with the traditional, slowly evolved model of life that harbours intelligence, and create a functional facsimile for our benefit.  I find it easier to consider that by drawing parallels between different animal species, like food animals and human animals.  If it's alright to modify food animals for our benefit, how about modifying humans?  What if we produce humans with minimal awareness, suffering, and self-interest, for some controversial human purposes?  An obvious and prominent example involves slavery: we could engineer hulking, stupid workers that are more expendable, that don't mind abusive hours, abusive work, that don't want for anything in particular.  We could engineer sex workers, designer bodies, simply by removing their traditional potential before birth.  They won't need the same rights as the general population, because they wouldn't understand them, they wouldn't want them.  They'd be like pets.  I'm not about to condone designer humanoids, and I'd rather people just move away from animal agriculture, rather than try to make it incrementally more palatable.

That said, incremental improvements are at least improvements.  I don't think I can be too satisfied with them, though, lest the pressure to move away from animal agriculture as a whole diminishes.  What tiny little pressure I exert.

An interesting point in the article deals with precise genome editing, in particular copying alleles from closely related populations, whose mutations have evolved naturally.  That as opposed to making a modification based on a gene from a more distantly related species, or inventing a new change from theory.  In theory, alleles from closely related animals could be achieved through breeding, but would be more complicated and take more time, but would have the same effect.

I like the idea of precise genome editing.  I wonder what the future of GMO will be.  Whether in another 50 years there will be rich, advanced models that allow someone to specify the traits they want in a plant or animal at a high level and algorithms will derive the necessary genes.  Figure out whether a pegasus is feasible, and how, and then do it.

One sad likely prerequisite to developing such rich understand will be more animal testing.  Imposing upon more intelligent life without its consent to sit confined in cages for most of its understimulated life until we its inconvenient to keep it around and kill it.  I suppose I'm lucky to be born human.

The future is weird.

[Vegan] Thoughts on Life

I'm adding another section: Vegan.  It will be tagged with #Vegan, and titles will typically be preceded by [Vegan], so you can easily subscribe or ignore as you wish.  I'm mostly going to write thoughts as they come up. Feel free to comment.

For some context, I've been vegan for almost three years now.  For me, that means avoiding animal agriculture as best I can, on the premise that it exploits intelligent life, typically for superfluous reasons.  Rather than imposing on other life for our survival, it's mostly done for our pleasure, which is difficult for me to justify.

I've intended on writing about veganism more for a while, but I've lurked, biding my time, until I felt comfortable discussing it more publicly.  Nobody wants to be the annoying vegan who makes insupportable claims and embarrasses everyone. :)

Kia ora.

2014-06-14

[General] Good Times Roll

"When I say 'I', I mean 'we'.  When I say 'we', I mean 'them'.  When I say 'them', I mean not at all I!"
- paraphrase of G.L. Brown

Alistair Summerlee spoke yesterday at a celebration of his 11 year tenure as President of the University of Guelph.  He started his presidency the same year I started my undergrad. 

He quoted a friend of his, G.L. Brown, saying the above, which I took as regarding assignment of credit.  If I say "I", it's really because of us but I'm taking the credit, and if I say "we" did it, it was really all the others but I still want some credit, and if I say "them" it's suddenly something I don't want to steal any credit for.

Summerlee then noted that for all the credit he received, it was really due to everyone else.  He seemed honestly aware of the contributions of others and his own minor role in the universe.  He was also sensitive to the impact of budget cuts on campus, and he acknowledged skepticism behind them.  He overall seemed very human and humble.

They're renaming the Science Complex to the Summerlee Science Complex, which I like.  Some of my friends hate it and him, but I feel like he hasn't been malicious, that he's worked honestly for the benefit of the campus community, so I begrudge him nothing.

2014-06-06

[Genearl] I have malaria

I begin to feel like a more complete human being.

I have an easier time enjoying the world by myself.

I don't need any specific person, or any one at all, to be able to enjoy a nice kayak ride.

I can be home and not lonely.

Yay.

[General] Life

Last night I went to Salsateria for vegan nachos with friends, and then to salsa dance, where I ran into other friends and we all made ourselves look silly.  I think it would be worthwhile to learn how to dance in some style.  I think I like the idea of ballroom dancing, and the waltz, but there aren't many opportunities to waltz these days.

The other day my work went on a field trip to the Haptic lab on campus.  There I got to see a 3D scanner, a high quality 3D printer, a physical-virtual sculpting tool, and a water cutter (which cuts metal with streams of water, moving at 1km/s (yes, 3x the speed of sound)).

3D Scanner

3D Printer

Virtual sculpting; the arm on the pen provides resistance so you can "feel" the virtual object

Various sample 3D objects
I wasn't allowed to photograph actual projects they're working on, since those are part of business deals with malls, space stations, etc.

I went canoeing last week.
Friends in a canoe
I'm going to go kayaking alone this week, I think.

I've finally started playing through the Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword again.  I acquired it around two years ago, but I watched my friend play through most of it, and I've waited for my memory to degrade and to have more time to make it through.

I've started working harder at my second job.  I was letting other priorities bump it a bit too often, and I feel really bad about that.  Mrrr.

I need to stop lying about having a vacuum cleaner.  It's weird the habits we pick up.  I tell myself I'm holding out for a Roomba.

We're learning more Niten Ichi-ryu in iaido, and I'm already looking forward to my next grading in jodo (a year away).  I was going to go do a jodo demo in Montréal, but there is a conspiracy against me going to Quebec, because it turns out a friend's wedding is the same weekend.  Ha!

I'm excited to see The Fault in Our Stars this weekend.  I'd like to go to the simulcast event in K-W tonight, but I know no one else who will.

Finally, I've spent several late afternoons at the Bike Centre.  Whee, self-sufficiency!

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I am aeronautical, vanship-style.  I am olympic and mythical.  I rest on my laurels.