Off to Toronto in a few hours to attend the Shahid ali Khan concert (a benefit for tsunami relief). It’s at the Gladstone Hotel on Queen St, and though tickets are sold out, you might be able to get in to the late show at 11pm, so come on down.

Don’t have much time to write at this moment. Just wanted to give my Ottawa readers a heads-up: I’ll be doing a book reading/signing at the main public library on the evening of March 10th. So keep that date open!

Of $50 Haircuts and Busted Smartphones

Where to begin? A bit too shellshocked still from last week’s tragedy to jump right back into the political commentary. How about some frivolous personal stuff?

Here we see a photo of my two crippled Treo smartphones, a 180 and a 270, taken courtesy of the onboard camera of my new toy, the Treo 600. Astute (by which I mean nerdy) readers will note that almost exactly one year ago, I purchased the used Treo 270 from Andrew Currie after my Treo 180 failed. Now the 270 has failed and I have bought an even more expensive and problematic beast. The lesson? I’m an idiot, but you knew that already.

And because I’m an idiot I decided it was time to splurge on a $50 haircut, rather than the cheap-ass $7 jobs I usually steal from the haircutting school near my parents’ house. Here is the result of salon pampering and expensive styling product:

Who said I wasn’t metrosexual enough? Of course you can’t see the actual hair in that photo, so use your imagination and picture me with 50 dollar bills plastered to my scalp.

Aw heck, let’s end on some environmental politics. A famous global warming denier has this to say:

Michael Crichton: “I think there’s only one position, and that is the position that the data leads you to.”

I’m with you, Michael. When the bulk of evidence starts to point toward global warming being a myth, I will happily (honestly and truly happily) join you in your skepticism. Until then, please follow your own advice and be lead by the freakin’ data.

Meanwhile, there’s another planetwide phenomenon upon us —global dimming.

Another Tragedy

A very sad thing happened this weekend when the wife of a dear friend and co-worker, who was apparently an occasional visitor to this site, unexpectedly and suddenly passed away. I cannot imagine a family less deserving of such heartbreak, and I struggle to find some way to help them. At times like this there are no catch-all words of comfort for those left behind. I can only offer the following insight.

About three years ago I was in Bermuda with my friends Sean and Andrew. While there we foolishly rented motor scooters, even though only Andrew had any appreciable experience on any motorized vehicle. So it comes as no surprise to hear that I, ever the klutz, crashed my scooter and suffered a concussion.

Now, in between losing consciousness on the pavement and waking up with a paramedic peering down at me and tasting Andrew’s fingers in my mouth (don’t ask), I have vivid memories of a unique experience. In those brief seconds of blackout I remember long minutes of complete contented timelessness during which I was on a country road in summer with blinding brilliant white sunlight beating down upon me; and with me were the people in the world whom I loved the most. During this period, I knew that I was supposed to be somewhere else, but I was so completely content and happy to be on that road that I didn’t care what was happening in the “real” world.

I’m not suggesting that what I experienced was a near-death experience. I don’t know if my heart stopped. I accept that it’s entirely possible that my “hallucination” was caused by scrambled neurons and/or the subtle play of Bermudan sunlight upon the retinas of my still open eyes.

But all of that is beside the point. When I awoke I no longer had any fear of physical death. I still cling to life with all my might, and I’m terrified of life-threatening situations. But my only anxiety regarding my own death concerns the care and disposition of those I would leave behind; I am otherwise now convinced that the actual process of personal death is not necessarily a traumatic experience, but indeed is the “re-birth” that many traditions teach. I am not a religious man, yet I have personally encountered additional scenarios which reinforce the conclusion that physical death is not the end of the journey.

None of this, of course, helps my friend and his children in the short term. But I hope that, over time, as they come to deal with missing their departed love one, there will be some comfort in considering that death, while tragic, may not be the complete extinguishing of human spirit or potential, but merely its transformation to another place or form.

If anyone has any words of particular insight and comfort to offer my friend, feel free to add them as a comment, as he is a regular visitor.

Relief, Gates, Pies and Probes

We had two marvelous tsunami fundraising events in both Toronto and Ottawa last night. Thanks to all who organized them and who came out to be a part of our efforts. Meanwhile, the crisis gets more complex, with new reports of discrimination with respect to aid receipt: in India, for example, low caste individuals are being denied relief.

Back to Iraq: as many of you have no doubt heard, the US has officially called off its search for WMDs in Iraq. So there goes the #1 (and #2 and #3) reason for the invasion. So why is this not a big deal? Why is this not bigger than Watergate, Monicagate and Iran-Contra put together? Thousands of American lives lost; tens of thousands of Iraqi lives lost; hundreds of billions of dollars spent; America’s reputation deeply scarred; and no one meaurably any safer. I ask again: why is this not a big deal?

Meanwhile, the knuckle-draggers write endlessly about the firings at CBS news in the wake of “Rathergate”. How is that for perspective? This is an excellent comparison between Rathergate and “WMDgate”.

Just a postscript to the Global Warming entry from yesterday… The two biggest and most cited climate change deniers are the late Julian Simon (an economist) and the living Bjorn Lomborg (a statistician). Here’s Bjorn getting a pie in the face:

Simon’s work is already well out of date, so the biggest amunition remaining to the deniers is Lomborg’s work, particularly his bestselling book, The Skeptical Environmentalist. But for any of you eager to cite this “seminal” work, please be aware that it has been refuted repeatedly by greater minds than mine. In fact, there are several websites dedicated to pointing out Lomborg’s errors; here is one of them.

Lastly, let’s celebrate over something, shall we? The European Space Agency has successfully landed a probe onto the surface of Saturn’s moon Titan. This is something I used to fantasize about as a kid. Remarkable to actually see it happen in my lifetime. Can’t wait to see the images!

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