Category: Philosophy

Celebrations in August

Celebrations in August

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The Year of Celebration Continues!

I’ve been crazy busy of late, so this post didn’t go up before August started, mostly because I couldn’t find time to write it. Because it’s so late, it isn’t going to have the same level of detail as the last one, but here’s what I’m celebrating in August.

01 August – World Wide Web Day – surf a little, just for fun, and without feeling guilty about it.

02 August – Ice Cream Sandwich Day – mmm, ice cream

03 August – White Wine Day – a breakfast sort of wine, no?

04 August – Dad’s Birthday (he’s 73 this year)

It’s also International Beer Day – make sure it’s a good one

05 August – Underwear Day – please wear clean ones

06 August – Friendship Day – remind a friend you’re happy they exist

07 August – Civic Holiday – it’s this thing in Ontario to get an extra long weekend. We like it.

08 August – Happiness Happens Day – help it happen for someone

It’s also International Cat Day – different from every day how?

09 August – Book Lovers Day – again, different from every day how?

10 August – Duran Duran Day – possibly the greatest hair band of the 80s

11 August – Mom’s Birthday (she’s 70 this year)

It’s also Play in the Sand Day – even if you don’t have small children, playing in the sand is worth the time once in a while

12 August – World Elephant Day – keep an eye out, they’re smarter than you think

It’s also Vinyl Record Day – vinyl never really went away, but it’s just not integrated into our culture the way it used to be. Nostalgia anyone?

13 August – Left Hander’s Day – it’s not always easy to be left handed in a right handed world.

14 August – Creamsicle Day – haven’t had one in years. It might be time.

15 August – Relaxation Day – ah, if only I had the day off.

It’s also Pythagorean Theorem Day – that piece of high school geometry no one thought they’d ever use, but everyone remembers.

16 August – Sister’s Birthday – let’s just say she’s younger than I am and leave it at that.

It’s also Wave at the Surveillance Cameras Day – am I the only one who doesn’t need a special day to do this?

17 August – Get Smart About Credit Day – it’s never too soon or too late to start.

18 August – Men’s Grooming Day – really, guys, take a little time.

It’s also Bad Poetry Day – release your inner Vogon.

19 August – Homeless Animals Day – ever thought about taking one in?

It’s also International Geocaching Day – download the free app and go find a secret treasure you didn’t know was there.

20 August – World Mosquito Day – not my favourite disease carrying insect, but at least they’re food for animals I do like.

21 August – Poet’s Day – and you should be one of them.

22 August – Take Your Cat to the Vet Day – if you’ve been holding off, now is a good time to ensure your Feline Overlords’ health.

23 August – Ride the Wind Day – get out and enjoy the air in your face.

24 August – Vesuvius Day – on this day in 79CE, Vesuvius erupted, wiped out two cities, and killed thousands. That we still know about this today is a joint tribute to Roman record keeping and archaeological persistence.

25 August – Sean Connery Day – not just the original James Bond, but if that’s what you remember, hum the theme song.

26 August – Dog Day – give yours a treat and take them for a walk. You know, like every other day.

27 August – Just Because Day – do something just because you want to. Make it fun. And preferably legal.

It’s also International Bat Day – mosquito hunters extraordinaire in my neck of the woods.

28 August – Bow Tie Day – make no mistake, they are cool.

29 August – Individual Rights Day – there’s a long history of struggle and fighting for individual rights. It’s not over here, much less in other parts of the world.

30 August – Grief Awareness Day – remember that everyone you meet has lost someone close to them. A lot of us may still be grieving.

31 August – We Love Memoirs Day – your grandchildren might, too. Write down some treasured memories and keep them safe.

It’s also Burger Day – this year, make mine vegetarian.

Be well, everyone.

And celebrate something.

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Error Code: -72

Error Code: -72

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I’ve started making story submissions again. Rejections are a part of that. A big part. And sometimes, they’re because you screw something up that isn’t even related to the story itself.

I made a rookie mistake yesterday on one submission, spending the time to adjust the manuscript formatting to match the requirements of the market in question (“Industry standard”, but with a different font, a specific type of quotation mark, italics instead of underlines) and making sure it was exactly as requested. But my eyes skipped over the line that said they like things anonymous inside the story and to take your name out of things. Oops.

Here’s what I got back only a few hours later:

 

“Dear Lance,

Submission guidelines tell you what a magazine is looking for. If you don’t read them carefully, you won’t know what’s wanted, and you’re saying to the venue that you can’t be bothered to find out.

In our case, we only accept anonymized stories. Your submission contained your name or other personally identifying information (e-mail, address, etc.), and is therefore declined. You may resubmit an anonymized version no sooner than seven calendar days from now.

Sincerely,

Editor Of A Publication I’m Unlikely To Submit To Again”

 

Yes, I made a mistake: I didn’t read things thoroughly enough. Reject the story and tell me to try again. The response I got does that, but it does so with a very passive-aggressive tone designed to make me feel bad and punish me more than just rejecting my story would.

What if I’d been a 16-year-old kid submitting my first story ever and excited about it?

What if I were overcoming an anxiety disorder to submit a story to a magazine I love?

Neither of those things apply, but what if I were a human being? You know, one of the ones who exists and has feelings?

I have to wonder if I’ve just been lucky or if this kind of thing is common. There are old (ancient) rumours that publications and publication groups have blacklists, a file somewhere containing the names of authors they won’t work with for a variety of reasons. This is not my first negative experience in publishing, and I’m far, far from doing this for a living, so my experience isn’t all that broad, but I’m starting to wonder if I need a blacklist of publications. Or at least a grey one for markets I should think long and hard before sending something to.

It’s fortunate for me that the positive experiences tremendously outnumber the negative ones, but that just makes the negative ones annoy me more. For a little passive-aggression of my own, I’ll suggest maybe I should have submitted this story on July 29th instead of July 18th.

Writer folks out there: have you ever received a rejection that seemed designed to make you angry or punish you? I’m suddenly very curious about how widespread this might be.

Be well, everyone.

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Year of Celebration – July 2017

Year of Celebration – July 2017

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The Year of Celebration Continues!

July has some odd and interesting holidays and awareness days. Plus one or two things that are a little more personal. Here’s what I’m celebrating in July.

 

01 July – Canada Day (and Canada is 150)

So it’s Canada’s 150th birthday this year. On this day in 1867, the British North America Act took effect, creating the Dominion of Canada as a separate nation and setting up the basic functionality of the Canadian government system. A sesquicentennial may not make Canada old as far as nations go, but it’s a mark worth celebrating.

 

02 July – World UFO Day

Ever seen a UFO? No, I don’t mean aliens landing to make crop circles. The U stands for Unidentified, as in Unidentified Flying Object, as in an object in the sky that you can’t identify. I saw one as a kid living in Sudbury. Pretty sure at this point that it was a weather balloon of some kind launched from the airbase we lived near, but at the time, it was a distinct dark circle against a light cloud cover, moving just a little differently than the clouds themselves.

 

03 July – Plastic Bag Free Day

While I find the 5-cent charge for a plastic bag at most places has certainly decreased my plastic bag consumption (and data seems to bear this out for almost everyone), I’m moving in the direction of refusal to use them at all. We have a couple of dozen heavy-duty reusable bags, and I don’t mind cardboard from the grocery store when it’s available.

It’s also Disobedience Day. Which doesn’t mean you should go out and break the law or do something just for the sake of being disobedient to some rule or authority. What it does, or should, mean is that you should take the time to break a mould or habit. Take a different route or method to work. Refuse to settle into your normal habits and try something new or twist something into a new path. Disobey your own ingrained ruts.

 

04 July – Independence from Meat

I’m not telling you to become a Vegetarian or Vegan, though if you’re considering moving in that direction, you could look at this as drawing your attention to the idea a little more forcefully. There are health benefits to be found be decreasing the amount of meat in your diet. There are environmental benefits to be found in farming less meat. There are also gains to be made in the number of people who can be fed by farming less meat. Think about it for one day.

 

05 July – Bikini Day

Seriously? This is a thing? How about we celebrate Wear Whatever Makes You Happy Day instead?

 

06 July – International Kissing Day

Kissing has a lot of different levels and meanings. Pick one and kiss someone today. Make sure you have permission first.

 

07 July – Tell the Truth Day

The truth will set you free, but first it will piss you off. I don’t recommend telling only the truth for the entire day, because that isn’t what every situation needs. Does my ass look fat in these jeans? How do you like my son’s band? I just got a new piercing, what do you think? None of these are likely to warrant a strictly honest answer.

But if there’s something that’s been bothering you, that you’ve been keeping under wraps so that it sizzles in your guts, maybe it’s time to come clean and talk to whoever else might be involved, being honest about how you feel and being kind to them.

 

08 July – Video Games Day

Yeah, like I need to find a reason to celebrate this one. Pull out something you haven’t played in a while and revel in the nostalgia it brings you.

But maybe you’d like to celebrate Math 2.0 Day instead. Yeah, I know. Math probably wasn’t your favourite subject in school. But anytime you need to figure out a tip, how long it will take you to get somewhere, how much tax there’s going to be on something, you use it. And you almost certainly use some of the thought processes involved in the course of rational decision making. Don’t be afraid of math. Celebrate it.

 

09 July – French Fries Day

Ah, the lowly potato. A little oil, some properly applied heat, and perhaps some seasoning, and you’re left with some form of fry. Shoe string, crinkle cut, wedge, curly, waffle, or just regular. Add what you want in terms of seasoning and sauce, but don’t be afraid to enjoy some today.

 

10 July – Clerihew Day

A clerihew is a four-line poem making light or fun of a famous person. They’re supposed to be mentioned in the first line, and the poem follows an AABB rhyming scheme with a meter up to the poet. One I wrote in 2007 for our then-Prime Minister:

My greatest wish for Stephen Harper:

That he were just a little sharper.

A few more neurons to realize

He leads a nation.  It’s not a prize.

A little more recent:

President Donald Trump

I wish, instead of tweeting, you’d use that giant lump

Of useless clay between your ears

To allay your self-generated global fears

Okay, I tend towards biting when I write at all about politics.

 

11 July – World Population Day

Noting the anniversary of Day Five Billion which occurred on 11 July 1987. We hit 7.5 billion in April this year. When I was born (at the end of 1970), there were fewer than 4 billion. If you’re keeping track, that means growth is actually slowing down, maybe even fast enough to help the increasing stress we’re putting on the global ecosphere overall.

A lot of the population growth comes from developing nations where there’s insufficient access to contraceptives. This is improving all of the time, but then you can look at how certain developed nations <cough>United<cough>States<cough> are trending and you might find some things to be worried about.

 

12 July – Simplicity Day

Simply put, we have too much stuff. Today is a day to look around and see if there are things you can do without, if there are things you can stop doing, or if there are things you can start, all with the objective of simplifying your life.

 

13 July – International Rock Day

Whether you realize it or not, a big part of the world is made up of rock. There are a lot of different kinds of rocks, broadly fitting into three categories (Igneous, Sedimentary, Metamorphic), and those rocks come in a variety of sizes. Look at a rock, of any size, you haven’t noticed before. Find something to appreciate about it. Think about all of the things rocks have given you. There are far more than you realize.

 

14 July – Shark Awareness Day

Cue Jaws theme song.

Not really. Sharks may be super predators in their element, but they aren’t really any threat to people. The chance of getting killed by a shark is roughly one in 3.8 million. Only 5-15 people die per year from shark attacks. Know how many sharks die from people attacks? Estimates usually ballpark around 100 million. I’d love to put a set of odds on that, but there are no reliable estimates on how many sharks might remain in the world, and isn’t it enough of a horror that we kill ten million of them for every one of us they accidentally try to eat?

Sharks are actually pretty cool creatures, and come in a surprising variety (something to the effect of 450 known species). Find something to like about one.

 

15 July – Be A Dork Day

I’m not going to define dork for you, but we all have dorky things we like or enjoy. Today, do something dorky and fun without being ashamed that you find it fun.

 

16 July – World Snake Day

Snakes are pretty neat creatures and they can be really interesting to watch. We have one as part of our household menageries, a cute little corn snake who goes by the name of Sonic. Affectionate, as far as reptiles go, and interactive in his way, too.

Oddly, it’s also Guinea Pig Appreciation Day. We used to keep a few of those loveable little fur balls as pets, too. Closest thing you can get to a tribble in the real world, right down to the purring.

 

17 July – Hug Your Kid Day

Never miss an opportunity to hug one of your children, the ones that will let you, at least. There may come a time where they merely tolerate it, and don’t want to be touched. When that happens, remember when you could and take your warmth from the memory.

 

18 July – Nelson Mandela International Day

It is easy to break down and destroy. The heroes are those who make peace and build. – Nelson Mandela

Do something today to make a difference, no matter how small, in your community. Mr. Mandela devoted his life to human rights and spent a significant time in jail as a result of this pursuit. That didn’t stop him. What’s stopping you? What’s stopping me.

 

19 July – Take Your Poet to Work Day

I’m taking Piet Hein.

The road to wisdom? Well, it’s plain

And simple to express:

Err

and err

and err again,

but less

and less

and less.

 

20 July – Our Family Day

Assign the days from January 1st to December 31st values from 1 to 365 in order. Add the numbers for our anniversary and the birthdays of all five of us, then take the average. You get 201, which is July 20th.

And today also happens to be Space Exploration Day, the anniversary of the Apollo 11 Moon Landing. I wonder what we can do to get back.

 

21 July – No Pet Store Puppies Day

Adopt a rescue. You’re changing a life.

 

22 July – Pi Approximation Day

For a couple of thousand years, an approximation of Pi was used (accurate to 2 decimal places) of 22/7. So, the 22nd of July. Geek alert.

 

23 July – Hot Enough For Ya Day

It’s been hot enough for me for a couple of months by this point, but we’re far enough into summer that it’s time for people to start longing for the cooler days of autumn or even winter, right? I wonder if there’s a “Cold Enough For Ya” day in January or February.

 

24 July – Cousins Day

Some of us had cousins we played with as kids. Or second cousins, or whatever. Maybe we only have sporadic contact with them at major family events as adults. This is the day to reach out to your cousins and remind them you know they’re alive. Probably on social media since it doesn’t involve all that much effort and you can send a quick greeting. Maybe that will even spark some of them to respond and maybe you’ll talk to each other a little more often in the future. You’ll never know until you try.

 

25 July – My Wife’s Birthday

And if that’s not reason for you to celebrate (and why isn’t it?), it’s Hot Fudge Sundae Day. Mmmm… hot fudge.

 

26 July – One Voice Day (read the Universal Peace Covenant)

One Voice Day is a global movement to unite the world in reading the Universal Peace Covenant, a pledge aiming to bring people, nations, and the world together in peaceful co-existence. Not the easiest thing to contemplate given the general state of international interactions most days. To bring the “unite” into things a little more closely, the idea is for everyone to read it at the same time, 6 pm Universal. That’s 2 pm Eastern Daylight for me. I may record. Here’s a link to the text. Don’t get too hung up on the punctuation.

 

27 July – Walk On Stilts Day

Once upon a time, I could make a set of stilts work. If I had a set of stilts, his would be the day I’d try again. But, and let’s be completely honest, it’s been decades, so there’s some chance of hilarity for the people nearby if I find a set.

 

28 July – Milk Chocolate Day

I like chocolate. Dark chocolate, light chocolate, and just about everything in between. My basic school of thought: dip it in chocolate, it’ll be fine. Unless there’s mint involved. Mint is for toothpaste, mouthwash, and gum and doesn’t belong anywhere near chocolate

 

29 July – International Tiger Day

There are more tigers in captivity than there are in the wild. Some estimates say twice as many. Beautiful giant cats, but the kind you want to admire from a distance. I’d like to keep admiring them, so it would be really nice if conservation efforts were successful in bringing them back from the edge.

Not entirely unrelated, today is Don’t Be A Dick Day, a celebration of Wheaton’s Law, namely, “Don’t be a dick.” Seems like it should be easy, but I see people screw it up all the time. We should all try just a little harder today.

 

30 July – Paperback Book Day

Sometime today, curl up with a paperback. Not an e-reader. I love me an electronic book, but not today. Engage a few more senses and celebrate how many more people got to read and own books because someone figured out how to make them smaller and lighter. Celebrate the explosion of reading and stories throughout the twentieth century because of them.

 

31 July – Uncommon Instrument Awareness Day

How many instruments can you name? There’s a lot more out there than what you see in the typical pop band or high school concert band. Watch a video of someone playing a theremin or a glockenspiel or a glass armonica. Or pick one of your own. Maybe learn to play a few notes?

So there’s the celebrations I’m picking for July. Feel free to find your own.

Be well, everyone. And celebrate.

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Bread and Circuses

Bread and Circuses

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I’m simplifying dramatically, but it works: in ancient Rome, to keep the people happy and ignorant, the rich and powerful would sponsor huge gladiatorial games and give away free food. See, all of the amazing entertainments and things I give you. Are you not entertained? Are you not well fed? Am I not awesome? Do you not love me? Try not to think beyond your own immediate contentment.

In current days, we have professional sports and other entertainments. Some people might lump music stars, movies, television, and so on, in with this. I would tend to disagree, but only partly. Books, movies, plays, music, all of these are forms can have a message. Not every example does, certainly, but each can.

The messages and meanings built into a sports team, franchise, or individual game are simple. Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain. Don’t think. Ignore the world around you. Us versus them.

Maybe that last one has dangerous undertones, but I’ll leave in groups, out groups, and competition for another time.

Sports fans get so wrapped up in their support of the team of their choice. Discussions and arguments aside, the hours involved in watching and research and understanding all of the potential nuances of the game can be staggering. And the energy put into cheering or attending a game can be almost disturbing to those of us who don’t partake.

I live in Canada, so apparently hockey is big. It’s not our national sport, but some people treat it as if it is. I like to make fun of hockey fans sometimes, asking as early as mid-September why hockey season isn’t over yet. If pressed, I’ll mockingly remember that hockey season is never actually over, that hockey falls into the category of ‘how can I miss you won’t go away?’ Pattern: the regular hockey season starts in September and carries through until April, when the playoffs pick up, and those are over some time in early June. At that time, the hockey world transitions into international tournaments. When those are over, networks broadcast classic games from the 1980s and 90s. Those will carry the hockey fans through until preseason training and exhibition excitement at the end of August so that the new regular-season can start in September. Hockey season never ends. How can I miss you if you won’t go away?

There are people who feel the same way about every sport.

In fact, I feel the same way about every sport. I imagine all of the energy, time, and money wasted on professional sports. I try not to weep at what could be accomplished by the same people if they poured the same time and energy and money into things that actually matter.

  • Child poverty
  • Poverty in general
  • Government Corruption and waste
  • Systemic inequalities and racism
  • Abuse of power
  • Abuse of animals
  • Climate change
  • Anti-science movements
  • Class disparity
  • Pollution
  • Religious Control
  • Fanaticism
  • The watering down of education
  • Terrorism
  • Concentration of wealth
  • Water security

and dozens, hundreds, thousands of other things.

But let’s get excited over a hockey game.

Why are we so easily distracted by bread and circuses? What is wrong with the human species?

Stay angry, my friends.

And be well, everyone.

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Happy World Drawing Day!

Happy World Drawing Day!

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I meant to actually draw something and post it, maybe along with the video of my drawing it. Completely ran out of time due to real world commitments.

So, instead, I offer one of my infrequent drawings, this is something I did a few years back for what was then my primary blog at renaissanceninja.wordpress.com. (Which still exists, and I’m thinking about what to do with things there.)

Note the variety of elements. I, the Renaissance Ninja, sitting at my computer writing, a Star Trek delta on the side of the desk. Above me, a picture of the rest of the ninja family. In the background, a saxophone and a telescope. On the wall, a whiteboard with a simple integral, the kanji for “karate do”, a cat, and a musical note. If I were to draw this today, there might be a dog lurking somewhere, too.

Note the straightness of the various straight lines and the curves of the various curved one. Note the wonderful expression of light and shadow and the bold pen strokes to create a pleasing mix of images. Note the effective use of whitespace so everything doesn’t look crowded together.

Note that I can’t draw worth a damn, but I still do once in a while.

Did anyone else draw something yesterday?

Always lots going on, as it should be.

Be well, everyone.

 

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Year of Celebration – June 2017

Year of Celebration – June 2017

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So a few years back, I tried to christen the calendar The Year of Celebration. The idea was to have something to celebrate every single day of the year if I wanted to. I don’t remember if I got bored writing things up, or if I got distracted by some other part of life, or something else, but I don’t think I made it through even half the year. Which doesn’t really explain why I’m starting in June (or with my anniversary in May, which is when I really started but haven’t written about it before now.

Leaving that aside, here are the things I’m celebrating or marking in June 2017

01 June – Say Something Nice Day

Seems easy, right? So why do we need a day for it? It’s a Thursday and I’m probably at work. I’ll find lots of nice things to say, I hope.

02 June – Hug Your Cat Day

Something that should be every day, and probably is for most cat people. Make a special point of it today.

03 June – Drawing Day

Visual arts aren’t my thing. I have problems getting the proportions right on stick people. Still, sometimes it’s fun, right? On June 3rd, I’ll draw something, scan it, and post it.

04 June – Cancer Survivor’s Day

You know someone who beat cancer. Today, remind them that you’re glad they’re still around.

05 June – World Environment Day

Pick something up off the ground and recycle it if you can. Water a plant. Help a turtle across the road. Take a deep breath and think about how clean the air could be.

Veggie Burger Day

It’s also Veggie Burger Day. These come in a lot of varieties from “clearly seaweed and tofu” through to “I can’t believe it’s not meat”. Pick your favourite. Have one.

06 June – D-Day

Seventy-three years ago today, the largest amphibious assault in history marked the beginning of the end of the Third Reich. Something to think about.

07 June – VCR Day

Ah, the humble VCR, with us for far too short a time but whose influence is felt even now.

Running Day

And it’s a good day to go for a run. Especially if it’s been a while. But take it easy.

08 June – Mom & Dad’s 49th Anniversary

But for those of you who might be less interested celebrating my parents’ anniversary, it’s also World Oceans Day. We should be a little more worried about how much crap we’re dumping into them.

09 June – International Archives Day

Be glad there are people whose job it is to preserve things. Some day, you might want to know.

10 June – Missing Mutts Awareness Day

Have you ever had a dog go missing? This was a huge deal for us at one time when I was a kid. We were lucky enough that Alexander turned up a week or so after he disappeared. Not everyone has that luck.

11 June – Abused Women and Children’s Awareness Day

I think the name speaks for itself. That this is an issue large enough that it warrants a day of recognition shouldn’t surprise me, but somehow, it still does. It also offends me.

Ferris Bueller Day (released on this day in 1986)

If that’s a little too depressing for you, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off released today in 1986. That might be depressing in a different way.

12 June – World Day Against Child Labor

How to celebrate this? Take a minute to be sure you don’t by your clothes or other products from companies you know use child labour.

13 June – World Pet Memorial Day

We took in a pair of rescue cats just before our first anniversary and had them until just before and just after our seventeenth. I still miss them both.

14 June – World Blood Donor Day

If you haven’t given blood in a while, this might be a good day to think about it a little harder. Maybe even do it.

15 June – Nature Photography Day

Take a picture of something interesting outside in the natural world. A plant, an animal, a cloud, whatever. Post it.

16 June – Fudge Day

Do you really need a reason to celebrate fudge? I’m sure there’s some around here somewhere.

17 June – World Juggling Day

What might be really funny is if I posted a video of me trying to juggle. I can juggle two things, but that’s not really juggling, is it?

18 June – Father’s Day

Call Dad. Give Dad a hug. Remember Dad. Whatever you can do, do.

19 June – Viking Day

As in the Mars probes. On this day in 1976, 41 years ago, Viking 1 Entered Mars orbit. I don’t remember it. I was only five. But it’s pretty cool to think about the awesome planetary science being done when I was a little kid.

20 June – World Refugee Day

Depending on how you count things, and I “like” UNHCR’s numbers, there are as many as 65 million people in the world who can be counted as refugees. That’s equivalent to the entire population of the UK or France. Tell me again how the world is at relative peace?

21 June – Solstice

Depending on whose calendar you use, it’s either midsummer or the first day of summer. Either way, it’s warmer than it was three months ago on the equinox.

World Humanist Day

It’s also World Humanist Day, a day to celebrate, as openly as your own situation allows you to, that people are more important than ideas.

22 June – Onion Rings Day

So I could probably give up everything fried without too much in the way of regret or problem, and still nom the next onion ring offered to me.

23 June – Take Your Dog to Work Day

I wish. Aside from the fact that my dog is an incredibly anxious Saint Bernard rescue, I work in a casino. He’s not a service dog and the lights and sound would drive him completely insane in a few minutes.

24 June – International Fairy Day

The Fair Folk have, in some way, been with us in our stories for centuries and across dozens (hundreds?) of cultures. Remind yourself of the huge collection of myths we all have available to us.

25 June – Colour TV Day

How could we live without colour TV? The world would be a very different place.

Global Beatles Day

Or, if you want to think a bit about music, remember that fifty years ago today, the Beatles participated in the first ever global transmission broadcast by singing All You Need is Love.

26 June – Chocolate Pudding Day

Mmmm. Chocolate pudding.

27 June – Sunglasses Day

I’m trying to remember the last time I actually wore sunglasses. I used to have a prescription pair, but it’s been a while. I’d love a set again.

28 June – CAPS LOCK DAY

Ah, how to celebrate. Should I post gentle reminders to avoid this key? Or should I take the ironic route and use it all day myself?

29 June – Camera Day

Don’t limit yourself to nature today. Take some cool pictures of whatever you want and throw them up on your social media.

30 June – Meteor Day

Hope for clear skies and spend a little time looking up tonight. Maybe you’ll catch a shooting star as it consumes itself in the upper atmosphere.

So there you have it. Celebrations for June. I do intend to do this every month for a year. We’ll see if I get further than last time.

Be well, everyone. And celebrate.

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Trump? Seriously?

Trump? Seriously?

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Trump1So as a Canadian, I get to sit back and laugh at American politics and how everyone thinks it affects the rest of the world. Newsflash: we don’t care which of your crazy people you elect, because we’re already too worried about the culture bleeding across our shared border.

You see, believe it or not, sometimes it’s tough to hold onto the polite Canadian standard. You have ten times our population, so you manage to put out ten times the pop culture. It’s almost overwhelming sometimes, and while some of it is certainly awesome, some of it glorifies everything we see as being wrong with your society and that in a sealed room of our polite Canadian souls we’re afraid might come to pass on our side of the border. Some of it does, but that’s another discussion.

But sometimes your politics overwhelms regular pop culture and becomes the primary entertainment, and for months now far too much of the culture clogging up the airwaves and intertubes is Donald Trump. Yes, the rest of the Republican candidates would have been train wrecks, but Trump?

Entertaining Scottish insults and jokes about overgrown Oompa Loompas aside, he presents as a bizarre racist caricature of a human being unfit to be put in charge of hanging posters in a convenience store window (which takes a little skill and sometimes market knowledge, believe it or not), and I think most of the world has no concept of how he could possibly have won the nomination of one of your two dominant political parties to run for the highest office in your country. I know I’ve been watching a lot of the high points and I still don’t understand. Based on commentary from political pundits, no one does, except that the Republican base in the US is tired of the establishment candidates. (So is the Democrat base, but the establishment worked better to keep things on their preferred track this time. I’d be surprised if that happens the next time there’s a nomination race.)

But Trump? You guys are just f#@king with us, right?

A lot of us are still holding out a faint hope that he’s working a long game troll to get the Republican party to implode, but if we’re wrong (about the troll, not the implosion), I’m still holding the opinion that he isn’t electable to the general American public. And even if I’m wrong about that (please, no), he’ll be lucky to last a year in office before being impeached or shot.

That’s not a threat, it’s a prediction based on my reading of his personality and your screwed up political system. (And keep in mind that I’m not saying our political system is less broken, it’s just broken differently in ways that might be easier to fix given the political will. Jury’s out on whether we have that or not.)

Now, I know I’m just one voice in the chorus here, that there are literally millions of people who have already asked WT actual F is going on in American politics, but seriously, Donald Trump? I had a hard enough time understanding George Bush getting crowned appointed. Trump makes zero sense.

I’d like to understand. I really would. But I don’t think there’s a set of statements that will clarify things enough to get that understanding with any blend of logic and emotion.

I guess all I can do is settle in for months of sphincter-tightening entertainment, but I have to believe it’s going to turn out all right for you. The other option is too horrible to contemplate seriously.

Good luck.

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Life Lessons From 2014

Life Lessons From 2014

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We should always be learning. I’ve learned lots this year as well as others. But some lessons stand out and sometimes because they were hard to learn or relearn. I have four picks for this year, each learned or relearned or reinforced in a different way.

If someone is wrong on the Internet, it’s not that important.

Rather than telling someone they’re wrong on FB (or Twitter, or wherever), it’s often just as satisfying to comment out loud to yourself without posting. Humans being humans, most people are just going to resent the correction anyway. Make an exception when they’re posing a danger to themselves or others.

If you haven’t got anything nice to say, say something nice about someone else.

There’s something about our modern society that entitles someone’s opinion to be as valid as carefully researched and proven facts. Combine this with the fact that many people think that just because they have an opinion that other people have to listen to it. Throw in a little anonymity on the internet to bleed belligerence through into the real world and you’ve got a veritable douchebag cocktail at work in western society. Try not to contribute to it. Find something you like about someone and say something about that instead.

Do something to make the world a better place.

Anything. Stand up for something that’s wrong. Be kind to strangers, animals, and small children. Pick up a little garbage. Write a protest letter. Be the person you wish everyone could be.

Meet your kids where they are.

They’re still pretty young when they stop automatically coming to where you are and joining in with your interests. Finding their own path is important, but you’ve got to learn to walk it with them, and that’s not always easy. Sometimes it’s bloody hard. But it’s also incredibly important.

Be well, everyone.

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What is it with People and Algebra?

What is it with People and Algebra?

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You know what really gives me that great heaving sigh with the rolled eye balls? People who don’t get Algebra.

How often does something like this pass through your time stream on FB or some other social network:

The three most common lies you’ll hear in your life:

  1. I love you.
  2. We’ll be together forever.
  3. You’ll use algebra in real life.

Maybe:

Why is it important for kids to learn Algebra? Because I had to, and now it’s your turn.

Or:

Another day has passed and I didn’t use Algebra once.

Or:

Algebra: it won’t help you in real life.

Or how about the pie chart that shows a breakdown of real life jobs that use algebra with the entire pie taken up by one colour representing Algebra Teachers.

Irritating, no?

I think it probably comes down to not liking how it’s taught, but whatever the cause, there seems to be a widespread, stubborn refusal to recognize it as one of the fundamental things our whole society is built on.

Yes, that’s right, our whole society.

Anytime anyone has ever created or made something new or better, there has been algebra involved at some point. Smart phones, computers, televisions, filing cabinets, furniture, houses, shoes, underwear, packaging for the bag of cookies in your cupboard, the cookies themselves… everything needed algebra to get there.

Well, yes Lance, but that doesn’t mean that I use algebra personally in my life. I mean, I’m not in a science or technology field, so that stuff is pretty useless for me, really.

Really? Ever have to figure out a tip? Can you get three cups of coffee for that $5 bill? How long will it take you to get where you’re going at this speed? What if you go a little faster? How many strands of Christmas lights will it take to run the whole length of your roof? How far from the door frame do you need to put that nail in the wall so the picture is centered?

keepcalm-love-algebraYou may not call it Algebra, but anytime you need to figure something out and there’s a number involved, you’re using it. Sorry to shatter the world.

Of course, you probably already knew this. If you clicked on a link to read this post, I would say it’s pretty unlikely you’re an algebra hater.

So spread the word. Algebra is a tool for all, not just for sweeping, technological changes of vast importance, but for tiny, incremental problems in everyday life too.

Be well, everyone.

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Experiments in New Knowledge

Experiments in New Knowledge

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So I’m going to try a new experiment for at least the next 30 days.

Yes, it’s a weird time to be starting something like this, but weird is often fun.

Have you ever heard someone use the old cliché that if you learned something today then the day hasn’t been wasted? There are a lot of variations on this:

“A day spent without learning something is a day wasted.”—Anonymous

“Learning is like rowing upstream: not to advance is to drop back”—Chinese proverb

“Live as if you were to die tomorrow. Learn as if you were to live forever.”—Dr. Suess

“When you stop growing, you start dying.”—William S. Burroughs

Plus a gazillion more expressions between and around those thoughts.

Because one of the things I’ve learned about myself is that I’m often happiest when I’m learning something new, I like Einstein’s “Intellectual growth should commence at birth and cease only at death.”

I do tend to have far too many interests, so many that I can’t possibly focus on most of them long enough to actually develop of depth of knowledge in the field. Politics, Astronomy, Mythology, Gaming, Languages, Animal Behaviour… if I don’t stop there, I can probably keep the list going for a couple of pages or more before having to think about it.

As a writer, I don’t think this is a bad thing. Thinking about fiction, the more odd little things you know and/or understand, the greater your experience and the more you can put together to make fun and interesting characters and stories.

But research and learning should be a part of everyone’s life, if only because there are more cool things to know than anyone can every find out. Yes, the Earth is just awesome, so think about how much more awesome the whole universe is.

And I will never, ever see enough, know enough, or understand enough.

WikipediaGetting back to the point, the experiment is this: every day, I’m going to go to Wikipedia and press the “Random Article” link in the upper left corner and read whatever it gives me.

If it’s only a couple of sentences long, I’ll do it a second time.

Yes, Wikipedia has plenty of issues and yes, there’s a lot on there that isn’t terribly well researched or sourced. But there’s a lot that is, and when people find things they’re passionate about, they often have the drive to keep them far more up to date than those old paper encyclopedia sets our parents used to buy and then keep for decades.

Think about this: there are something close to 5 million articles on Wikipedia. In English. Chances are pretty good that the “Random Article” link is going to take me to something I don’t already know, maybe even something it never even occurred to me to think about wanting to know.

The experiment began today, and the link gave me the following 3-sentence stub about Grégory Sarrasin:

Grégory Sarrasin (born on March 17, 1979) is a male freestyle wrestler from Switzerland. He participated in Men’s freestyle 66 kg at 2008 Summer Olympics. He was eliminated from competition by Emin Azizov in the 1/16 of final.”

Interesting but not enough. Click again.

Vernoux-en-Gâtine is a commune in the Deux-Sèvres department in western France.

Even shorter. Come on. Give me something with meat. Click.

Ah, here we go.

Kazuma Ieiri, a Japanese Entrepreneur who, in addition to taking his first big company public, has also been an internet activist, ran for governor of the Tokyo Prefecture, raising money by crowdfunding, built his platform by crowdsourcing, and livestreamed his campaign headquarters. He finished in 5th place out of 16 candidates.

Pretty cool. I wonder what I’ll learn tomorrow.

Be well, everyone.

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