Thursday, 29 December 2011

Happy New Year

To all who read this, Happy New Year and I wish you all the best.

In this new year, I promise to blog about SQL Server 2012 and also C# 2010, my current foci of interest. I'm deep-diving into both of these, and shall report on my findings, learning experiences, resources I've discovered, and so on.

What I can say for now is that after a hiatus lasting a year or more, I have re-fallen in love with programming. I deem C# a very cool language, and although I'm currently stumbling frequently, I'm growing centimeter by centimeter each day.

Incidentally, I made a resolution, which I've implemented even before New Year's Day. It's quite simple, but admittedly hard to implement. It is this: check your email as Job 2 or Job 3 every day. In my case, Job 1 is to go through another lesson in Mandarin, and Job 2 is to complete another chapter in the book I'm reading about C#. Only after these tasks do I investigate my email.

This approach, I can testify, works! I get stuff done well before the email task, and this is a lovely experience. If you are the sort of person who awakens, makes coffee, and immediately checks your email,  I suggest that you try this alternative approach. Substitute any two tasks for mine, but make checking email Job 3.


Monday, 19 December 2011

Muslim Dress, Genital mutilation, etc.

At least some of the discussion on the niqab and the burka rests on a false premise, in my opinion. To claim that denying women the right to wear either garment, when swearing the oath for citizenship or when testifying in court, is in no way to violate freedom of religion, for several reasons:

a) the most important is that neither garment is mentioned even once in the Kuran, as anyone with Google Books can verify almost instantly;
b) the second most important reason is that state law always takes precedence over religious law: that is the fundamental premise behind the separation of church and state, and to dispute this premise is to refuse to participate in Canadian culture, and to revert to your own culture instead;
c) the third reason is that in Canadian courts of law, one must have the right to view one's accusers. Without this, a witness could wear a KKK hood to court and testify that this or that black-Canadian was guilty of this or that crime, claiming to have been witness to it, completely without rebuttal.
d) I would go further, and say that one ought not to be allowed to enter a bank so masked. I think it has already occurred that several bank-robbers have dressed in this way, in order to pull bank robberies. Those apprehended turned out to be male, without exception, implying that such masks not only prevent identification but also sex-identification.

I am most willing to accept the right of women to dress this way when at home or at the mosque or even when walking down the street. All this is OK by me. But when it involves citizenship, testimony in court, or transactions in a bank or similar institution, this is flatly unacceptable. What good would cameras in a bank do if everyone entered dressed similarly? Anyone with access to eBay can purchase either of these garments quite readily, from dozens of vendors, and any potential bank-robber or home-invader would be well advised to do so. Time was, a ski-mask would suffice, but now such a miscreant can also mask his or her sex. 

I would go further than the existing immigration laws, and require as a clause of the citizenship ritual, an explicit agreement that where one's traditions violate Canadian laws, Canadian laws take precedence, at all times and in all situations. Thus, honour-murders, female circumcision (and I would also include male circumcision, although I am fully aware that certain groups within Canada do not appreciate the extreme violence of this act, typically performed on male children before they can utter a word, but I stand my ground on this point). Either female or male circumcision ought to be permitted, once one has experienced, shall we say, the natural experience; that requires a modicum of adulthood, but after that, one is old enough to realize that assent means acceptance that the action is irreversible, for both sexes. There is no Edit | Undo command in this branch of "medicine" (to use the term very loosely -- what ever happened to "Thou shalt cause no harm?")

I expect that if anyone reads this, I will fall afoul of several different groups, and am prepared to accept their venom. I use that word carefully, because I am confident that there are no rational objections to my take on this. Assault on one's genitals, whether one is female or male, is a far worse crime than rape. On the scale of sexual violence, it is perhaps second only to honour-murder.

Wednesday, 14 December 2011

Neal Stephenson

I cannot express how much I admire this man's creations! Even his first attempt, Zodiac, evinced abundant promise, but then he unleashed SnowCrash, a milestone in s-f, at once prophetic and hilarious and black-humour a-la Thomas Pynchon's "V"; and then came all the others.

I have several book-towers, and within each several shelves. Neal occupies an entire shelf. There is a bit of space for his next works, but so far I have them all, and have treasured each and every one. SnowCrash made me laugh and occasionally cry, too. Cryptonomicon made me dig back into the source literature and study up on the math-history of WWII, and Turing, et. al. The Diamond Age is a masterpiece. This man is a once-in-a-century writer. To be objective, I must say that I was unenthused by Ananthem; it didn't work for me, either on the initial premise or its development. So be it. I'm not about to cast hot irons upon the most talented author of his generation, if not the century. I shall permit his occasional mistakes, and permit him to live. LOL.

There's only one way to save your soul, Neal. I'll do the screensplays and you'll collect Huge Loot for the rights, and it shall be my task to make your books a reality. I think SnowCrash would be the toughest one; let's begin with The Diamond Age, which would obviously require some serious CGI but I'm cool with writing that.


Saturday, 10 December 2011

The Shallows, by Nicholas Carr

The subtitle is "What the Internet is Doing to Our Brains."

Reading this book, I am torn severely in several directions. I accept some of what he argues (the book is dead, our brains have been re-wired by the net to skim not concentrate), but on the other hand I am reading his book very closely with concentration, so that fact defeats his central argument.

Mr. Carr also makes reference to numerous neurological studies, whose sources I shall have to refer before passing judgment on his takes of same. More on this topic shall follow.

For now, let us simply say that this is a seriously provocative read, and I am happy that he wrote it, even though I disagree with many of his opinions. In that sense, he reminds me of Susan Sontag, whose books caused me to disagree on numerous points, but she caused me to consider these points, and to lie awake sleepless pondering them. That's about the finest review I can give a book.

Balls of Steel

This afternoon a wonderful thing happened in my home. My 8-month old cat, named "Mister E.", was confronted with the arrival of my old friend Raymond and his Bouvier, still young but fully grown, and about 10 times the size of Mister E. The latter had never seen a dog before, let alone one that large, but he walked right up and totally fearless, exchanged sniffs with him. I've never been so proud of Mister E. in my life. He didn't hiss or flee or anything -- just walked up and sniffed and said "Hello." Neither did the Bouv react in an untoward way. The whole event went down beautifully. The cat and dog struck up an instant friendship and it was a thing of beauty to behold. Raymond and I were both impressed.

I didn't make this up!

I'm quoting from today's newspaper...

"Recently passed U.S. Senate legislation would make sodomy and sex with animals legal under military law, ending long-standing prohibitions and triggering cries of perversion from conservative groups.
"The bill would repeal Article 125 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice, which states that any person who engages in "unnatural carnal copulation with another person of the same or opposite sex or with an animal is guilty of sodomy."

This most definitely gives me, at least, several occasions to pause:

a) implication that liberals had no objections? And what about Ralph Nader's party?
b) "unnatural carnal copulation" raises several flags, including "natural" vs. "unnatural", "carnal copulation vs. umm?"
c) "or with an animal"... of either sex?