Thursday, 8 August 2013

Ten Thousand!

Short and sweet announcement:

I hit 10,000 visits to this blog this week.

It's not a lot, over the lifetime of the blog, but it's something.

Here's a song regarding "hit count" that any person putting content on the Internet can aspire to:

Thursday, 18 July 2013

Sexist Ads for Video Games

Sexist Ads for Video Games

While browsing the Internet recently, I have come across a series of advertisements for a video game that in my view can most accurately be described as sexist. Here are two examples, although I have come across others:

Sunday, 7 July 2013

Is Somebody Singing?

Is Somebody Singing?

I have recently become enamoured with a project undertaken this past winter by CBC Music, the Coalition for Music Education, and the Canadian Space Agency: a song, sponsored/commissioned by these groups, crafted and performed by the Canadian pop-rock band Barenaked Ladies and (now-retired) Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield. (1)

The treat for nerds, such as myself, is that this song, I.S.S. (Is Somebody Singing?), was recorded while Hadfield was serving a tour of duty on the International Space Station, making it the first piece of music consisting of a collaboration of people on Earth and in space simultaneously.

(Parenthetically, I would be remiss in failing to note the play on words in the abbreviated form of the song's title, matching the abbreviation for the space station itself. To boot, Hadfield himself was the first person to record both a piece of music in space, Jewel in the Night, and a music video, a revised version of David Bowie's Space Oddity, making him unique in the annals of performing musicians.)

But beyond the nerd appeal, I enjoy Is Somebody Singing as a song, that is to say, in my estimation it is a very good song in and of itself. Let's have a watch & listen and then break things down a bit.

Is Somebody Singing?

Tuesday, 25 June 2013

Bait-and-Switch: Arguing Against Scientific Consensus


Arguing Against Scientific Consensus

Author's Note: This is an expanded version of this comment I wrote, with reference to this comment, by a regular commenter and apologist for various forms of purported therapeutic products and services which might more accurately be described (at least in this author's opinion) as "rank quackery".

In politically-controversial (if not scientifically-controversial) bodies of knowledge with large, well-settled factual support, it is a common occurrence to encounter those arguing against those bodies of knowledge, specifically by attacking what would otherwise be the entirely unsurprising near-unanimity - or, as used in the rest of this post (and elsewhere), the consensus - among relevant subject-matter experts.

There are two rhetorical devices that can be used to mount such attacks. The first, which I shall not examine in detail here, is the technique of asserting the existence of a countervailing bloc of subject matter experts, a bloc which is asserted or insinuated to be of some significance as compared to the subject matter experts upholding more mainstream positions. Such is the technique used by the OISM Petition Project (discussed here and here at the climate science website Skeptical Science) with respect to global warming/climate science, or by, say, various forms of creationists with respect to biological evolution of organisms.

The second rhetorical device, which is the subject of this post, is to attack the very notion of scientific consensus among subject-matter experts. Perhaps the most famous such line of argument was made by the late physician, author, and film/TV producer Michael Crichton:

Friday, 1 February 2013

Open Letter to Ottawa Regional Cancer Foundation

Post-Publication Update: Effective the afternoon of February 1st (if not earlier), Bust A Move has dropped Jenny McCarthy from the line-up and replaced her with Tommy Europe. I'll admit I know nothing about Mr Europe, but he's most likely an improvement over Ms McCarthy. (If nothing else, he is not the public face of a crank organization like Generation Rescue.) Here's to one and all who wrote in to the ORCF, the Bust A Move committee, posted on Facebook, Tweeted, and otherwise campaigned to make this happen.

While taking my son to an appointment at the local children's hospital (Children's Hospital of Eastern Ontario - CHEO), I was most displeased to spy, in the newspapers offered at the gift shop, an article noting that Jenny McCarthy, model and actress-turned-anti-vaccine activist, had been invited by the Ottawa Regional Cancer Foundation to participate in their "Bust A Move" fitness fundraiser for breast cancer research (see article describing criticism of this action at the Ottawa Citizen online edition).

So I've decided to write the ORCF and express my dismay. If you're interested, see their contact page, from which the email addresses of the CEO and various marketing folks at the foundation can be contacted. I encourage you to write in if you think it's inappropriate for someone whose advocacy distorts scientific research and denigrates lifesaving medical practices to be taking part in a cancer foundation fundraiser.

Here is the (very slightly edited) text of my email (hyperlinks have been embedded for brevity):

Tuesday, 18 December 2012

Thoughts on the Sandy Hook Shooting

Thoughts on Newtown

The Sandy Hook Shooting & The Shooter

This past Friday, December 14, a 20-year old man fatally shot his mother in the town of Newtown, Connecticut, and then, armed with weapons his mother had owned, attacked the local elementary school, Sandy Hook.

There, he fatally shot 20 students, all from two first-grade classrooms, and six staff. He injured at least one other adult. Somewhere between 10 and 20 minutes after arriving at the school, the attacker shot himself dead. See more details here, if you have not already got your fill.

I want to take the opportunity to post some thoughts on these events and on the reactions I have seen and read elsewhere.

Monday, 3 September 2012

A Quick Peek Under the Covers: Feather Canyons Everywhere

A Quick Peek Under the Covers

Episode 1

Feather Canyons Everywhere


I would like to begin a semi-regular feature on this blog, during which I will review a piece of music and one or more alternate arrangements, settings, or cover versions, as long as they are superior in some respect to the original (or at least offer something interesting the original does not).

If you have any songs you would like me to review, please post them in the comments!


Both Sides, Now

"Both Sides, Now" is a song by Alberta-born singer/songwriter Joni Mitchell. According to her, she was inspired to write the song while flying and reading Henderson the Rain King, by Saul Bellow. (I know of neither the book nor the author.)

Mitchell wrote the song in 1967. It was first recorded commercially by singer/songwriter Judy Collins in 1968, while Mitchell herself recorded it for her 1969 album Clouds. (1)