Moving forward

Rather than rewrite this as a blog post, I’ll just let my tweets tell the story:

It feels good to be excited for the future again, instead of ruminating on what’s been lost and dwelling on the past. Onward and upward.

Globetrotter extraordinaire

I’ve been doing quite a bit of travelling lately, and as usual, my blog has suffered for it – but you can catch up with my exploits on Facebook, Twitter, or my relatively-new Instagram account (which I also used as a visual fitness journal during my return to athleticism). But really, I can sum up most of my travels with this one simple pic, taken not far from Bangkok:


Seriously, you do NOT need to be an electrician to know that setup is ridiculous. 😛

Scientists vs. Ideologues

A scientist engages in evidence-based decision making, whereas an ideologue engages in decision-based evidence making. Which one are you?

Do you read a range of opinions and consult evidence from different sources before you make up your mind? Or do you cherry-pick stats and studies that suit your predisposed attitudes, and overlook anything that’s inconvenient to your opinion? Do you let your political identity (liberal, conservative, socialist, libertarian, whatever) dictate how you should feel about something, based on whether it’s a “left-wing” or “right-wing” issue? Or do you look at each issue of public policy independently, and realize that the world isn’t easily divided along a black-or-white dichotomy?

Once you’ve allowed yourself to be told how to feel about something because of what your political identity is, that’s when you stop being an independent thinker, and start being a partisan hack. Life isn’t about good or bad, left or right – it’s about choosing the best (or in some cases, least-bad) option amongst many. Never forget it.

Obligatory Breaking Bad Post: Jesse & Walt as Yin & Yang

After one of the greatest shows of all time ended last night, I’m compelled to add my own thoughts on the show that I’ve so come to love in the past four years (I was a little late to the party). Even though the ending was quite good, it wasn’t good enough to move Breaking Bad into the top spot of my Favourite Shows of All Time (that spot is still occupied by The Wire) but it’s still a very strong #2. Incredible cinematography, fantastic dialogue, gripping performances by all the actors, and characters that were easy to both love and despise at the same time… Yadda yadda yadda, great show and everyone and their mother has commented on it so far. Why not me as well?

The one thing I’ve noticed as I’ve watched the show (and subsequently re-watched it with a different and more critical eye) is the evolution of Jesse and Walt’s characters. It sounds simplistic and I’m sure I’m not the first to suggest it, but it seems like they’ve embodied the concept of Yin and Yang as the show has gone on.

Walt began the series as the Yang – the all-white part of the symbol with the touch of darkness in the centre. I can’t help but wonder if his name (Walter White) wasn’t intended to reference the symbol from the get-go, and throughout the first two seasons, we saw the darkness inside of Walter grow and consume him as time went by. Jesse, on the other hand, represented the Yin – almost completely dark with only a touch of light within him. As the show progressed, we found just how dark Jesse was: we learned that he almost blew all of Walt’s savings at a strip club before buying a heavily-discounted RV from Combo; we watched as he encouraged Walt to kill Tuco even before Tuco went off the deep end; Jesse dumping Badger in the desert after their fight over the mediocre meth they made together. It was hard to see any good within Jesse until he was kicked out of his house by his parents, and he hit rock bottom shortly thereafter.

It feels like the transition point – when Walt became more dark than light, and Jesse became more good than bad – was when Jane died in season two. Jesse had finally reached a point where he cared about someone other than himself, and Walt reached the opposite point, where he cared about nobody but himself. That trajectory continued further and further until there was almost nothing left in Walt that even resembled goodness, and he even gave up his own family to build the “empire” he felt he deserved. Jesse, apart from his eventual murder of Gale (which hurt him badly), saw his trajectory consistently move owards goodness, moving away from the darkness he had once embodied. Even those moments when he wanted to destroy Walt – when he threatened him at the end of Season Four when he believed he poisoned Brock, and when he doused Walt’s home with gasoline in Season Five – he couldn’t bring himself to do it. Jesse even aligned himself with the singular character who most represented justice (Hank) to bring Walt down, even though it didn’t work out the way he had hoped it would.

As the series finally ended, that last remaining bit of light within Walt was on full display, as he saved Jesse from Jack’s gang and helped him escape with his life. Jesse, on the other hand, will always have that little bit of darkness within him, and he tapped into it as he viscously strangled Todd to death – in much the same way that Walt killed Crazy-8 at the very start of the series. The transition was complete, and Walt fully Jesse have reversed their positions as Yin and Yang, respectfully.

Anyways, this isn’t meant to be especially profound or anything, just my own take on the show. I’m sure I’m missing a wide range of symbolism in regards to the true meaning of Yin & Yang, and I’m definitely not educated on the subject. I’m just sharing my own reading of the story and grafting the concept onto it, because I felt it helped me understand the series in a different and deeper way. Feel free to comment if you think I’m on to something, or if you think I’m completely off-base and have no idea what I’m talking about. 😉

Screw you PETA

I wish that the vegan/vegetarian lobby would recognize that dietary choices are inherently arbitrary, rather than moral or ethical. Even the most ardent vegan is still a heterotroph; the only difference is, a vegan eats species without a developed central nervous system. Until vegans learn to perform photosynthesis, they’re still required to consume organic material – usually plants – to obtain the carbon and energy they need to survive.

Now, I’m all in favour of ethical treatment of animals; I don’t eat pork or bacon because I know pigs have the cognitive capacity to understand what’s being done to them, and the other meats I consume (mostly chicken, bison and fish) are free-range or wild-caught. I don’t agree with the way slaughterhouses operate, and I fully support ethical treatment of farm animals, even when their final destination is someone’s dinner plate. But I also recognize that my choice is essentially an arbitrary one, made based on my own preferences and attitudes; I don’t pretend that my choice is inherently morally superior than anyone else’s. Human beings – like all animals – must consume other species in order for us to survive. That isn’t going to change no matter how many gruesome picture of slaughtered animals you shove in our faces. If anything, PETA-type groups are merely desensitizing us to the genuine abuses that are done by less-ethical food producers, instead of encouraging people to purchase ethically-sourced foods. By holding up vegetarianism and veganism as a moral standard, they lose a lot of credibility and lose the chance to alter peoples’ food choices for the better.

So please, until you’re able to turn sunlight into energy using leaves you grew out of your ass, keep your moralistic judgement to yourself. Don’t act superior to me because I eat species with legs, and you eat species with roots. There’s really no fundamental difference, no matter how much you wish their were; we’re a species of heterotrophs and no amount of moralistic grandstanding will ever turn you into a fucking plant.

Scientific Politics

I don’t have beliefs; I have theories, which can always be reinforced, altered or disproven by new evidence.

I don’t have opinions; I have hypotheses, which are based on observations and require repeated testing to remain plausible.

I don’t have attitudes or biases or partisan perspectives; I have responses developed through exposure to previous stimuli, which may or may not be appropriate to circumstances (and may need to be altered in future situations).

My politics is scientific: skeptical, open to change, and perpetually undefined. If I already knew everything about everything, there’d be no reason to ever learn anything new.

Crazy pics from July 8 flooding

Just wanted to put up a few of the pics I took with my phone camera during the flooding, my area was the hardest-hit in the city and some of the pics are absolutely astounding. Sorry about the low quality of some of the pictures, but I figured that showing the magnitude of the flooding was more important than worrying about the resolution of the photos.