Mars One in the eyes of Islam

Obviously, I pay attention to news about Mars. It’s usually about missions, funding cuts and new discoveries. This past week I learned that the UAE Islamic watchdog has declared that Muslims must not take part in Mars One, as it is against Islam. According to their site, they issues 337,000 Fatwas last year, so it’s a very common practice. At more than 100 a day, it seems they are a very busy agency. According to Wikipedia, a Fatwa is a legal judgment or learned interpretation based on the the teachings of Islam. As I understand it, when something new in the world shows up, it is judged against Islamic Law and then decided upon if it is a sin or not. Traveling to Mars is apparently a sin in Islamic Law.

That doesn’t make me happy. I’m not a Muslim or a member of any organised religion. I do strongly believe that space exploration is very important, so a decry by anyone that it’s morally wrong doesn’t sit right with me. In this case, the voyage has been likened to suicide, and suicide is a Sin, therefore the voyage is against Islam.

I’m not going to argue against Islam, but exploration is not suicide. Suicide is intentionally killing oneself; there argument is that the trip is so dangerous that death is a certain outcome. Two things about that:

  1. Death is a certain outcome of life
  2. The trip does not mean certain death

Life and death are part of the package. Every living thing will die. The risks we take in life can increase the likelihood of dying sooner, but risks also let us live more richly. Everything we do has a risk. Life itself is a risk. So how do we die on Earth? A good portion of it is from cancer, cardiovascular diseases and respiratory diseases. Suicide and accidents are higher in the USA, but cancer and heart are still fantastic killers. Motor vehicle accidents are up there as well, 1 in 84 chance in 2006, but driving isn’t a sin.

The NASA study on radiation says there is about a 5% increase in fatal cancers for every three years you are on Mars. On the flip-side there is no risk of a traffic accident or accidental firearm discharge on Mars. You will be on a strict diet so your chances of heart disease goes down. You can’t drown in the bathtub either on Mars. (1 in 818,015, about the same risk as electrocution.) People die all the time. It’s cliché but not everyone lives a full life. Exploring, pushing boundaries, growing and making new frontiers is how we live our lives to the fullest.

Lets get back to what was said:

Professor Dr. Farooq Hamada, who presides over the fatwa committee, shared the motivation for issuing the fatwa: “Protecting life against all possible dangers and keeping it safe is an issue agreed upon by all religions and is clearly stipulated in verse 4/29 of the Holy Quran: Do not kill yourselves or one another. Indeed, Allah is to you ever merciful.”

Do not kill yourself or one another, that’s the verse. This year, the UAE is creating a law for mandatory military service. The UAE has a standing military force of 70,000 souls; over 5% of it’s GDP used for it’s upkeep. That’s the 5th highest in the world for 2011. If you have control over a standing army, you are preparing to take lives. FULL STOP. Any one of those 70,000 people can be called in to combat and is expected to fight another human to the death. That’s what war is, that’s what armies do.

Mars One is sending 4 people on a settlement mission. Permanent settlement requires people to be alive. No one on the mission is intentionally dying, therefor no one is committing suicide. The fact that you could die an accidental death during the trip is no more suicide than dying accidentally on Earth. Taking risks to live a better life is how we make tomorrow better.

A peaceful path to a brighter future is not a sin.

Baby it’s cold outside

About once a week, I like to have lunch at the sandwich shop by my work. They make fantastic potato soup and their sandwiches always hit the spot. They have a few newspapers around the shop that I’ll flip though while I wait for my food to be prepared. That’s how I found the editorial article in the Calgary Sun. The Edmonton Sun also ran a similar editorial. This level of scientific literacy published in the Sun is a public health risk.

Here are some examples of what I mean by science illiteracy being a public health risk

  • I know a guy who lived to be 80 and smoked his whole life. Cigarettes are harmless.
  • I heard a story where someone was uninjured in a car crash and wasn’t wearing their seat belt. No one should wear them.
  • There was a study that said my kid could get autism from vaccines. It’s not safe to vaccinate.
  • It’s cold outside today, global warming isn’t real.

These blanket statements use point data and extraordinary circumstances to describe an average. Climate change is an average. That doesn’t mean that every day will be hotter than the next. In fact, some places may get colder. It’s a global average. Mixing opinion and fact is dangerous and irresponsible.

So we hear from the environmentalists (loudly and frequently) when a hurricane blows across the Jersey shore or a typhoon roars through the Philippines, but not when thousands of communities across North America, Asia and Europe set record cold temperatures. How come one sort of weather is an indicator of impending climate disaster while mentioning the other is a sign of simple-mindedness?

That’s the sort of intellectual hypocrisy and arrogance Chu is up against

The problem here, is that science can explain the current weather. No simple-mindedness, no hypocrisy. Here’s a video from last year, explaining what’s going on.

From this source, we find out that some places will be warmer, and others colder. Climate Change. (Imagine me doing jazz hands)

NOAA scientist James Overland explains: “When the Polar Vortex — a ring of winds circling the Arctic — breaks down, this allows cold air to spill south, affecting the eastern United States and other regions.”

“This can result in a warmer-than-average Arctic region and colder temperatures that may include severe winter weather events on the North American and European continents.”

The Sun editorial continues it’s opinionated rampage.

There is no evidence severe weather is increasing in frequency. Indeed that past eight years since Hurricane Katrina has seen the lowest level of tropical storms in 70 years. But, as Chu correctly pointed out, you don’t hear much of that; just as there was very little reporting on the fact that this summer Arctic sea ice melted less than at any time in the past decade – perhaps the past five decades.

No evidence? This year Alberta saw the worse flooding in memory. That’s after we set new records in 2005. Do you have a short memory, or are you willfully ignorant? As for sea ice, your comment is misleading and outright false. You can do that, because it’s written in an editorial column. You endanger the public with popular lies.

I’ve met Sean Chu, he’s a nice guy. I’m glad he’s on the City Council and I think he’s got some really good ideas. Sean, please look at the science before you speak. You have an important position; pandering to the scientific illiterate is dangerous and does not serve the public. Please stop.



Dec 6th

Today marks 24 years since the killing of 14 engineers who were studying at Ecole Polytechnic. I have a vague memory of the aftermath from when it happened; candlelight vigils, sadness and anger. I was a few weeks shy of my 7th birthday in 1986 and I didn’t understand exactly what happened. I certainly didn’t  know that I would become an engineer myself. For me, it marked a turning point, an innocents lost moment in my life. The world is full of dangerous people that willfully take lives in anger.

I am very proud to be an engineer. It is a high calling to be an engineer; it takes practice and hard work. It takes humility to understand the limitations of nature and boldness to challenge the limitations of human thinking. It’s a demanding path and requires self dedication and support from others. It’s a difficult path; humanity requires our brights to walk it in order to make the future brighter.

On December 6th, 1986 a man walked into an engineering lecture hall in Montreal. He told all the males to leave the room at gun point. He then began killing the women who had answered the call to walk that difficult path to create a brighter future. The world is a darker place because of his actions; we will never know what these women would have accomplished.

The universe is filled with a vast array of wonders. A very small sub-set of these wonders appear on Earth. The engineer takes these wonders and turns them into solutions to our human problems. There will never be a shortage of wonders or solutions to explore. We need to move forward without hate and explore the universe we call home, hand in hand.  I try to draw light from the darkness that Marc Lépine created that day. I remember the lives he took away. I encourage everyone who can, to walk with me, and answer the calling of the engineer. We stand together against hate and for the betterment of the human race.


Russell Brand vs. Jeremy Paxman

Russell Brand is a very intelligent man. I believe that many of his actions that have been attributed to his comedy are outbursts of extreme intelligence that we don’t understand. Watch this video below.

It’s a fantastic interview where a passionate man tries to instill the same passion unto someone else. Jeremy is so use to the way things are, he doesn’t understand what’s going on. Russell outlines the goals of his revolution, and Jeremy is concerned about how the gears work, rather than where the machine is going. It’s a contrast between how the media frames a story and how Russell sees the world. They don’t line up, and Russell comes out looking better because of it.


Syndicate Wars

The plot is that the world is no longer run by governments, but by mega-corporation. Agents of these corporation battle for control over the minds of the worlds citizen and the worlds resources. It’s a world not unlike the one shown in Snow Crash; with more iron fist in an even thinning velvet glove. Profits come before people and the success of business is the goal. Humans are reduced to cogs in the machine; simple means.

Unfortunately, this is the world we live in, and Canada is a key player. It’s called foreign intelligence gathering activities. Canada is using money that we were told was to be used to fight terrorism and using it to spy on foreign industries for Canadian corporate benefit. These Canadian companies then use this information to win bids in foreign land where they are free to commit human rights abuses that would land them in jail if they did it on Canadian soil. These companies have a long history of doing so, and now they have the backing of the Canadian intelligence agencies to feed them information and to keep growing the Canadian GDP at the expense of the developing world.

Canada is now the enemy; we are the terrorists. We are using military resources to further our economic growth, ignoring the human cost. This leads us down a dark path. It grows resentment around the world for us. We will no longer be welcome in parts of the world. Our reputation is tarnished because we allow this to happen. A $50,000 dollar salary puts you in the top 0.56% of the world. Canada is using it’s power to force the other 99% of the world’s population to provide for us.

We are clearly, shamefully and indisputably in the wrong.

Bullshit jobs

I recently read an article called Bullshit Jobs that very eloquently put into words what I’ve been thinking for a long time. We have the technology to reduce the work day significantly from what it is, instead, it’s the same. Technology has made everything move faster and more efficient.  A single hard drive can store a companies entire filing system and be shared with the whole office at the sometime. And it’s cheap. If robots are stealing our jobs, shouldn’t we be able to sit at home in a Star Trek utopia? If we have all this extra processing power, why do I have to be at my desk for 8 hours? This is a very important question.

Huge swathes of people, in Europe and North America in particular, spend their entire working lives performing tasks they secretly believe do not really need to be performed. The moral and spiritual damage that comes from this situation is profound. It is a scar across our collective soul. Yet virtually no one talks about it.

I know that I only do a few hours of real work. The rest is spent on my phone, surfing the internet, chatting with coworkers and day dreaming of being somewhere else. I would love to show up for my meetings, do my work and go home. I’ll even take the reduced pay. I’d rather be happy then make more money to spend more to fool myself into being happy.

I’ve recently been reading The Element by Ken Robinson. The book is about finding your passion in life; finding those things that you love to do. I don’t know that many people that like sitting at their desk answering emails. I bet they would rather get their work done and spend that time on a task that makes them happy. That was the way it was suppose to be. That’s the way it still could be.

Yet, just this week there is a story of an intern that apparently died after working too many hours. A 21 year old collapsed because of the excessive hours they were pressured into working. In investment banking no less… the most useless job possible in my opinion. If all the investment bankers stopped doing their job for a month, would anyone notice? The stock markets would react, but if no one was watching them, would it matter?

The world has made tasks, jobs and entire industries where their only purpose is to serve themselves. Somehow we’ve come to accept that occupying a chair for 8 hours a day is what work is. It’s increasingly depressing to me to realize all this time is wasted around the globe when we have real problems to solve. The fact that people trade futures; make money betting on what might happen in a made-up system blows my mind.


Russian Gays

Earlier this year, Russia created a new law that will allow them to arrest people who are gay and people who are friends of gays. If you are visiting Russia and you’ve been to a few gay pride parades in Canada, that could land you in jail for 15 days. Even Mr Baird is upset about this. The Olympics are being held in Russian in a few short months, just as professional athletes start to come out as gay more and more frequently in North America. Russia has said the law will be in effect during the Olympics. This has so many repercussions that I can’t even list them.

Unfortunately, once of the repercussions is an apologetic attitude. I’m talking about June Thomasarticle in Slate, titled “Why Gay People Should Be Grateful the 2014 Olympics Are in Russia” Fuck everything about that title. Don’t you dare, for one second, be grateful that a power sees fit to oppress you and jail you for something as trivial as liking the way your beard feels against another dude’s beard. Or grateful that you know it’s going on elsewhere in the world. The text of the article isn’t as banal as the title would have you believe.

Panicking about the Olympics six months before the games begin is a biannual tradition. […] We’re not seeing that kind of concern-trolling in the run-up to Sochi. Western outrage at Russia’s virulently homophobic law is more on par with the long international sports boycott of apartheid South Africa. This is one of those rare cases where outraged individuals and uncomfortable corporations have a shared incentive to raise a stink about something offensive and hateful that’s happening elsewhere in the world.

While she raises many a good point, it’s centered around the idea that we should be grateful there is attention being paid to this hate-law. In some round about masochistic way there is a singular, shiny glitter spec of truth to that. We should be enraged that hate-laws are put into effect at anytime, anywhere. We should be protesting in the streets in anger, not grateful that we know about it.

TTC Shooting

Earlier this week, a young man was shot and killed by police in Toronto. This incident angered many people and there were protests. I understand being angered, but I don’t understand protesting police action in this case. The police were completely justified in their actions. Here’s a synopses of the events. Here’s another zoomed in view where you can clearly see the knife. There are those who believe that threatening people with knives does not warrant swift and possibly deadly action.

Saeed Selvam says “The city’s buzzing. Excessive use of force would be an understatement.” in relation to the police action. I can’t agree with this. A knife is a deadly weapon. Sammy Yatim threatened civilians prior to the shooting. He was uttering threats to the police officers. The police are in place to protect the public, including themselves. The MythBusters do an excellent job of showing that knives are deadly weapons.

If you are prepared to use deadly force against someone, you have to be prepared for it to be used against you. It’s this point that the protesters don’t understand. When you cross a line and threaten others, you forfeit your own safety. While the situation is tragic, when Sammy pulled out a knife he sealed his fate. Let’s not go after the cops on this one. Lets work on preventative programs so it doesn’t get this far again.

Bill C-425

Devinder Shory, a Member of the Canadian Parliament has submitted a private members bill, C-425. He is pushing to have it’s contents enacted into law. Basically, if you are convicted of terrorism, the bill aims to remove your Canadian Citizenship. You blow up a building, you are no longer a Canadian. His website has lots of graphs about how popular this bill is. Over 80% of Canadians agree! Well, 80% of the 1000 they asked. I applaud him on his expert manipulation of data for political gain. However, the implications of this bill are so tyrannical and obtuse, it’s hard for me to see past the glaring deficiencies in his argument.

I would like to point out, that I have a hard time finding his arguments. I see lots of rhetoric and heroic speeches, but very little substance. Anyway, here he is, in his own words.

The real rub I have here, is this statement from his website:

Do you agree or disagree that Canadian citizens who are found guilty of committing acts of treason against Canada – such as an act of war against Canadian troops – should be stripped of their citizenship?

If you are committing acts of war, you are at war. If you are in a state of war, you are trying to kill the other side. That’s what war is. The Canadian Armed Forces exist to force our will on others, or avoid their will to be forced on us. They do this with deadly force. Their job is to “close with, and destroy the enemy” This bureaucratic Political Correctness is silly and is insulting the men and women who sever in our Army.

The word terrorism is a post 9/11 buzz word. It’s basically meaningless. Terrorism is the use of force and terror to accomplish a goal. Basically what an Army does. The Honorable Mr Shory is trying to put our Army of a pillar of ethical justice while claiming that anyone on the other side of the moral line he draws in the sand should be stripped of citizenship. It’s a path that leads to anyone who disagrees with the state to be labeled a terrorist and have all their rights removed. That’s some Guantanamo Bay shit right there. This bill would have changed the outcome of the Oka Crisis, with the government claiming the Mohawk people Terrorists. An act of terrorism against Canada can mean ANYTHING. It translates roughly to “anyone who does something we don’t like”.

I’m not defending terrorism here, but understand that Canada commits acts of terrorism daily in military operations overseas, selling weapons to armies for profit and keeping policies that increase international unrest. Mr Shory is throwing stones around a glass house and doesn’t realize it. War is hell; don’t misunderstand that fact for one second.




Calgary Low Income Housing

A story appeared this afternoon in the news about the rich living in subsidized housing that is meant for the poor. The news story is about renters making over 120K a year and still living in subsidized housing. Omitted of course, is that they would have had to be making much less when they applied. The real story here is the comments on the CBC website.

DonaldMorin Says

I agree, get rid of these people who are taking advantage of less fortunate people who could be living there and getting back on their feet. How dare these people do this, unacceptable

dave777 Says

How does this not surprise me.

Immoral magots are stealing from those in need. And Calgary makes such a big deal on a recent low cost housing. When I first heard of that I got angry and commented that there is likley little need for 1/2 the able people going into governemtn built low rent brand new housing.

Reality is, these places need to be strictly limited to those in real need such as blind, spinal injuries and people that really are disadvantaged. But oh no, just another huge waste of taxpayers money for maggots and lazy government unions.

These people steal precious social dollars from those that really need it.

So why are not union members evicting the high income earners? Like CFIA, not doing your jobs?

Over at the Huffington Post 8tonyryan Says

What do you expect from a province where a recent premier visited a homeless shelter so he could mock, ridicule and insult the people living there because they were homeless and out of work. This is the Alberta Conservative mentality. They exist to serve rich white men only, the less fortunate are to fend for themselves. The Conservatives take care of their buddies, even if it means setting them up in subsidized housing meant for the less fortunate. Absolutely disgusting if you ask me. The rich live off the backs of the poor under this Conservative regime. They have no shame and no scruples. Are you listening, Redford???

The current 2012 Core Need Income Threshold (CNIT) rates for the City of Calgary are:


  •        1 Bedroom         $37,500
  •        2 Bedrooms        $46,000
  •        3 Bedrooms        $53,000
  •        4 Bedrooms        $57,500
  •        5 Bedrooms        $60,500

Basically, we have people who were accepted into the program and thrived under it. They applied for subsidized housing and they were able to increase their income under the program. HUZZA! The system works! What’s getting lost in the story is that these people had to be low income at one point to get into the program. That means it’s not a story of rich VS poor, but poor becoming rich.

The news story commentators and the CBC poll seem to forget that this is a success story. We don’t have people with high incomes getting into these programs, we have people getting into these programs then finding high income jobs. Now that they are successful, we are calling them “maggots”, claiming the system is set up for “rich white men” and that this behavior is unacceptable. Is it too much to ask for everyone to take a breath? We are so quick to throw stones. Somehow, as soon as we cross an imaginary line from poor to rich we are fair game; we are no longer people, with hopes, dreams a fears.

Let’s celebrate the success of our fellow citizens. Let’s create legislation that is fair. Let’s not force people from their homes. Homes that are happy places for them, since it represents the foundation on which they were able to shape their now better life.