Monday, December 25, 2006

Merry Christmas

It's just past noon on Christmas Day, and things have been going smoothly. The kids were up a bit early, but not as early as they could have been up (although I rocked Hannah back to sleep at 3:00am and Joel stuck his head out the door and asked what time it was).

The children were patient as we waited for Karen's Mom to come. It was great being able to have her with us on Christmas morning

For those who are curious, I got Wayne Grudem's new text on theology, a book on preaching and Senator Hugh Segal's “The Long Road Back”.

Karen has been pulling out the stops on the food. A couple of days ago it was home made vegetable and shrimp spring rolls, eaten with chopsticks. Last night it was homemade turkey meatballs with dip, stuffed mushrooms, fiesta dip with nachos, and 4 types of vegetables. This morning we had raspberry cream muffins before the presents, and afterwards baked french toast, sausages, scrambled eggs, fruit salad and coffee with french vanilla crème. Karen works very hard to make our Christmas's memorable, from the food to the decorations, to the new table cloth. I really appreciate it!

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Big Update

It's been a while since I did an update, and I have a lot to write about. Nothing earth shattering, but lots to write about.

The other day I put a comb in my back pocket so I could comb my son's hair down while we were out. I spend a lot of time walking around the house turning off lights that aren't in use. And I've started to listen to Johnny Cash. In other words I've become my Dad.

I sold off my Nortel stock the other day. Nortel had touched $126 a share, and when it backed off to $70 a share I bought. After all, it can't go any lower, right? In fact it ended up going down to 68 cents a share. This is my reminder that one shouldn't try to catch a falling knife. In fact, it was a five thousand dollar reminder. My broker offered to sell it for a $5 commission. That's what you call pity.

No all is bad on the financial side. To qualify for the Universal Child Care Benefit I had to apply for the Child Tax Benefit. They looked at the records since Hannah was born, decided we qualified at some point in the past and mailed us a CTB cheque and the UCCB cheques from last summer. The total wasn't quite enough to buy a plasma TV, but it's close. Not that we'll be buying a plasma TV; I suspect the money will go into the children's education savings.

I was at the grocery store tonight and saw the new PS3 video game. Amazing graphics. Simply amazing. Not that I'd waste money on one though.

I took Hannah out to Tim Horton's tonight as a special one-on-one activity. She ate one bite of her doughnut and announced she wanted to go to the grocery store.

My goal for the Christmas holidays is to spend some time with each of my children individually. I take them out together quite frequently, but I figure they would like some individual time. Bethany and Joel each want to go to the new War Museum.

As I was driving to work the other day I saw a couple of girls crossing the street. To find out what happened, you'll have to read the editorial in the January issue of Learning at Home, the newsletter of the Rideau Valley Home Educators Association. I might publish it here after it goes out to our subscribers.

I renewed my subscription to First Things magazine. I wasn't sure whether I wanted to or not, but finally decided to go ahead. The Editor is a Roman Catholic priest, and must of the magazine has a strongly Roman Catholic focus. There are actually advertisements for Monasteries. Anyway, I find the Roman Catholic focus to be somewhat oppressive. I think most Roman Catholic intellectuals would be surprised to find out how little the world cares about changes to the Roman Catholic liturgy. However despite all the Roman Catholic content, there is nothing within the evangelical Protestant community that offers the kind of interaction between faith and our society that First Things offers. Want to know about Russia? They publish Solzhenitsyn. Want to know about the American legal system? They publish Supreme Court Justice Scalia. And Catholic Cardinal Dulles has some interesting insights on C.S. Lewis. Every month I have to wade through a bunch of material that disinterests me in order to find the nuggets. But each issue does contain nuggets I don't find among Protestants, so I re-subscribed.

Speaking of First Things, the December 2006 issue had an interesting article on Uncaring Conservatives. It is commonly understood that those with a Liberal worldview are more caring and compassionate towards the needy, while those who have a Conservative worldview are rather heartless. But along comes some research by Arthur Brooks of Syracuse University. Dr Brooks found (1) religious people (who are far more likely to be politically conservative) are far more charitable with their time and money, (2) people who believe the government should equalize income give and volunteer far less, (3) the working poor (who tend to be politically conservative) are much more generous than the poor who are on public assistance, (4) charitable giving is a learned activity reinforced by intact families (and family breakdown is less prevalent among conservatives than among liberals), and (5) Europeans on average are more Liberal and less charitable than Americans. Now remember, this is statistical data so it says nothing about how any given individual will act. But it does make sense, doesn't it? If a person is taught that charitable giving is a personal responsibility rather than a governmental responsibility, and if charitable giving is reinforced by your family and religious teachings, you are going to end up giving more. It's little nuggets like this that make First Things a worthwhile read.

I had lunch with “K” today at work. He has a range of interests as eclectic as my own, and frankly it is a challenge to hold my own in our discussions (which is what makes the discussions so enjoyable and informative from my point of view). Anyway, he took me through the first 110 pages of Stephen Wolfram's “A New Kind of Science”. Wolfram is a well known mathematician. From what I was able to understand of K's description, I predict Wolfram's book will be to the next 30 years what Mandelbrot's fractals were from 1970 until now. Basically it is a new way of exploring and depicting reality. For example, he would depict certain mathematical problems graphically, and see repeating structures. For he might find non-repeating strings and realize that this was related to the shortest possible proof for a problem (i.e. He proved graphically that no shorter proof could exist).

One of the things “K” described (and I don't know if it is in the book or not) was an interesting mathematical structure. Take a square and draw upon it 9 smaller squares (e.g. Take a 3 inch by 3 inch square and divide it into 9 squares each of one square inch). Then cut out the middle square. Now do the same for each of the remaining squares. Now iterate to infinity and you have a structure that has dimensions but no surface area. But that got me to thinking. You could do the same thing with a 3 dimensional cube, and end up with a structure that has size and dimensions but no volume. And if it has no volume, then it would have no weight. And if it has no weight, it could be accelerated to the speed of light without taking on infinite mass. Very interesting. Too bad 3 years of university level math doesn't allow me to pursue these thoughts further.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Carleton University and Free Speech

The Carleton University Students Association just voted by a large margin to withhold their support from any campus group that supports the criminalization of abortion. This means pro-life groups would not be able to use any facilities owned by the student association, receive the types of funding that is routinely given to other campus clubs and organizations, use student owned bulletin boards to advertise meetings, etc. The President of CUSA did say that religious groups who are not specifically organized for the purposes of spreading a pro-life message would not be affected.

Perhaps my biggest concern about this is the fuzzy thinking displayed by these leaders in student politics. I won't assume sinister motives behind their actions, statements and methods; from listening to the President of CUSA on CFRA 580 a couple of days ago it would seem that they just don't know any better.

First of all, the President of CUSA stated that student associations regularly get involved in issues important to students. Apparently he is unable to distinguish between student issues and issues of importance to students. Student issues include quality of education, tuition fees, professional standards for professors and similar issues. However issues of importance to students is a much wider topic, because students live in the same world as the rest of us. This would include global warming, same sex marriage, abortion and rapid transit. For these broader issues it is not the place of student associations to act, because there are already political parties at the municipal, provincial and federal level to address them.

Second, the President of CUSA said students feel strongly about this issue. I should hope so, because it is important. But is it so important that the right to free speech needs to be abolished? Evidently CUSA doesn't understand that in a democracy the majority get their way, but a majority also has the moral responsibility to allow free speech. Just remember that what goes around comes around. The day could come when a majority of the students support some sort of restrictions on abortion. At that point the precedent will have been set and using the same standard, the pro-life groups will be justified in silencing the pro-choice crowd.

Third, on CFRA, the President of CUSA asked the reporter if he would feel comfortable having his money go towards supporting those who are guilty of hate crimes (the implication being CUSA is justified in not allowing student fee money go to pro-life groups). Wow. This one boggles the imagination. First of all, there are students at Carleton University who do not support abortion. So why should their student fees go to pro-choice groups? But looking at the bigger picture, hate crimes are covered under the federal and provincial human rights codes. No, we would not want our money going to support groups that are guilty of breaking human rights codes. But abortion is not a human right. It is not covered by the human rights code (it probably will be some day, but thankfully we're not there yet).

If these student leaders were a bit older, I might assume sinister motives behind their actions, statements and methods. After all, left-leaning politicians intentionally use the same illogical types of statements to influence a fuzzy thinking electorate. The average voter is not trained to recognize logical fallacies, rhetorical tricks and poor arguments. As a result, popular opinion is easy to sway. If these student leaders were a bit older, a bit more jaded, and a bit more experienced an manipulating the masses, I would assume sinister motives. But in the end, I think this crop of student leaders just isn't thinking clearly.

Interesting Software

I came across an interesting piece of software today. It's called "FreeMind" and it's an Open Source tool designed to allow you to harness creativity and thought. It's well suited for brainstorming and informal planning. Have a look at

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

If it was the Conservatives, imagine the outcry!

The newly elected leader of the Liberal Party of Canada holds dual Canadian and French citizenship.

Can you imagine the outcry if the leader of the Conservative Party held dual Canadian and American citizenship? But of course there is a dual standard and the Liberal Party can do no wrong (other than siphon hundreds of millions of dollars of taxpayers money to its friends).

An interesting website for our American friends

I came across this web site today:

It's an official Government of Canada website designed to show our American neighbours what we are doing in the war against terror, and to clear up various errors that keep cropping up in the American media. In general it shows we are good neighbours, helping America in times of trouble, as well as America's largest trading partner. Good reading for our American friends!

Monday, December 04, 2006

Not sure I understand

According to a Russian, who is thought to be a spy, is about to be deported. But I guess I don't understand why. If he is an illegal (without benefit of diplomatic cover) spy, why won't he be put into jail for the rest of his natural existance? If a Canadian was in Russia as an "illegal", getting caught would mean disappearing. But when we catch one of theirs, we send him home (probably at our expense and probably with an apology for having troubled him). I just don't understand.

Friday, December 01, 2006

Software Development

Over the last couple of days I have done what I can to try to get an open source software project restarted. The Project Management application from has been stalled at a wish list for a long time. A couple of us seem interested in restarting things. I've looked at the wish list and made some suggestions for a product roadmap. Participants have until January 14th to add their final comments to the wish list, and then we'll take the next step.

By the way, for those who haven't seen it, OpenOffice is a full featured Office application which can be downloaded free of charge. It includes a word processor, a spreadsheet, a presentation program, a drawing program and a database. And so some of us would like to add a Project Management tool. Have a look at

In other news, I wrote my first Visual BASIC program tonight. I've written some VBA for Excel in the past, and tonight's program is really small, but I do feel a certain sense of accomplishment.