Zac Trolley

‘an impediment to peace’

An impediment? Without exaggeration, Israel and Palestine have been discussing peace for as long as I can remember. The impediment in the process that Canada, the US and Israel are referring to is the willingness of the Palestinians to be subjugated. I really don’t see how any action on the part of Palestine could make matters worse. They have no capacity for war, and the only recourse they have against the creeping hostile takeover of their territory is to launch rockets and throw rocks at tanks.
This isn’t a religious or ideological debate as so many people would have you believe. In North America, any negative opinion is labeled as antisemitism. The Jewish people have the capacity to do wrong. Previous suffering and historical caricatures do not vindicate them from evils they are committing today. Both sides have committed violence and continue to. Rational thinking requires us to ignore the hype and rise above placing blame for who is to blame for the most recent attacks.
In 1947, the West Bank and Gaza was set aside for an Arab state. The 1947 UN resolution also created the state of Israel. In 1967 Israel took the West Bank and Gaza by forced and occupied it. What stands out here, is that Israel is an occupying force that has taken territories by force. The people who live in these territories want to throw off their oppressive occupiers and live freely in their own country.
Yes Mr Baird, the creation of a country for the Palestinians to call home will create tension. Manly because it will end at decades old occupation that the international community has white washed and ignored. The Palestinian people don’t want to negotiate until Israel stops building homes for their citizens in Palestinian territory. By opposing the vote Canada shows the world that we don’t want the two sides to have equal footing. The policies of Israel create the tension that leads to violence. By siding with the politics of the current Israeli government we oppose a peaceful resolution.
I want Canada to stand on the side of freedom, not oppression.

Anti-Bully

I’ve noticed that bullying has become a buzz word in the news cycle. Somehow this generation has become more susceptible to bullying and it’s destroying our young people. This alarmist viewpoint is silly. Time and time again reports about rising violence and panic about “today’s youth” turns up to be false when the numbers are checked. If we want to help the victims of bullying, we need to be honest with ourselves. Bullying isn’t new, it’s not a phenomenon restricted to youth and it’s not a human invention.

Dany Morin, an MP for the NDP put forth an open letter about “bullycide” and called it the “most important issue facing Canadian youth” I literally don’t have the adequate words to describe the outright silliness of that statement. Dany describes what bullying is in his essay.

These kids represent the entire quilt that is Canada. Some of them were called weird, loser, or faggot. They have been picked on because of their sexuality, their gender, their language, their religion, their race, how much money they have or whether or not they have some sort of disability.

If this is the most important thing facing youth, Canada is a great country indeed. Don’t misinterpret me, I don’t condone bullying and I don’t think it’s a minor issue. I do however think it’s a common issue and it’s important to see it in a wider view than school yard interactions. My problem with protectionist legislation is that it shields victims instead of giving them tools to deal with the harsh realities of life. We, as a whole, should be teaching our citizens how to deal with bullies. Removing kids from danger teaches them that we can police bad things from happening. We need to teach skills. We need to instill confidence and pride. We need to create values in our society that honors those who overcome adversity, not those who avoid it.

There is a study in the UK that states kids are avoiding activities because of bullies. They don’t want to showcase their talents because of ridicule they face from their less talented peers. When they show the world what makes them unique, the world tries to drag them back down. Dany’s solution would be to crack down on the bullies. Then kids could flourish and follow what ever path they wished in peace! That is until they leave the playground and find themselves in a boardroom. Once they try to bring new and unique ideas to a corporate setting they will be met with resistance. They didn’t learn how to deal with adversity, and bullies are found in more places than the playground. We assume that adults have the ability to deal with bullies, but if they don’t learn as kids, where will they gain this ability? It’s an injustice to cover our future generations in bubble wrap and expect them to flourish when the nature of the universe starts to poke at their soft skin.

We should teach our children to be caring and respectful to people, history and nature. We should also teach them that not everyone they meet in life will do the same. We should give them outlets to vent frustration and activities to keep them occupied so they are too busy to bully each other. Idle hands is our problem. Investing in sports, arts, STEM programs and after school care will reduce bulling and create well-rounded citizens for future generations.

Vile Rat

The news this morning, unfortunately, wasn’t much different than any other day. There was violence in the middle east and a US Embassy was attacked. I really didn’t think much of it, and I suppose that’s telling of the times. We are continually reminded of wars, unrest, famine and destruction between Oceania, Eurasia and Eastasia; or so it seems. After a time it fades into the background. The beings known as humans can adapt to amazing situations and forget the gravity of events as they become common place. As I sat at my desk with a light workload this morning, I started to surf the Internet; I then realised how close to home this attack really was.

We live in an interesting age, where many of us carry on in different realities. We have friends on Facebook that we wouldn’t recognize if we saw them on the streets and good friends we’ve never met in person. We conduct our business via email and carry on with our day to day lives with electronics carrying our emotions and intentions.

Now and then I play a game called EVE Online. EVE is remarkable for several reasons, but one of the main ones is that it all takes place in one universe. What that means is your actions, if they are large and sustained, shape the future of the game. It’s hard to put into words; you have to experience it to understand it.

The game runs on social interactions.

The attack on the embassy claimed the lives of several people, including a very influential EVE player. Sean “Vile Rat” Smith was killed while working in the IT department of the Embassy. And when I say influential, I mean the man created and toppled empires. I didn’t know him, I never had dealings with him. Truth be told I didn’t know his name until I read the news stories. I am aware of his actions however, every player in EVE was affected one way or another if they knew it or not. He touched a great many lives.

As I write this, there are tributes going up all over EVE. Space Stations are being renamed in his honor and players are trying to set up a fund for his kids. This man gave his free time to diplomacy in a game and gave his life for diplomacy in Benghazi. I don’t know what else to say… I’ll let the video say the rest.

Fly safe; Vile Rat.

MSL

In a few weeks the Mars Science Laboratory will land on Sol-3 and begin its mission to search for life. Code named Curiosity; the rover was launched in November of 2011 and has been travelling through space for 8 months. Its mission is to search for life and investigate the Martian climate and geology for future manned missions to the planet.  This is incredibly exciting for a space geek like me who’s been dreaming of living on Mars for quite some time. Curiosity is quite a bit bigger than other rovers and equipped with instruments much more sensitive than other missions. Hopefully NASA will use it to confirm past findings from other missions.

What findings? Well, some people believe life was already found on Mars. You see, data is a funny thing; if you can’t read it properly, you see nothing but noise. As an example, the first exoplanet was discovered using a special technique, and when the data was looked over, it turns out we had recorded evidence of several planets; we just didn’t know what we were looking for.

Back to Viking and its life signs. Turns out, 1 out of 4 tests were positive for life. Now, I don’t know about you, but if I got a positive result on a medical test, I would damn sure check again. For whatever reason, we’ve waited 36 years to double check. The data was also tested based on what we understood of life at the time, and since then it’s grown. (I’m so punny). So, we have new criteria and better instruments. Let’s just hope they don’t land in the desert.

Speaking of landing, Mars has a lot of ground to cover. It has roughly the same land mass as earth. There are many places on earth you could land and have a hard time finding life. However, if I was a betting man I would check where there were signs of life. Again, for some reason we have ignored the giant clouds of methane that are in the Marian atmosphere. Being that methane is a by-product of life, I would think that would be a place to check.

I for one, will be awaiting details.

What would you have me do?

There are a lot of conflicting opinions about what is wrong with the youth of today, but they all agree that there is something wrong. Being a relatively young person myself I take offence to most of what’s being said; and I’m going to explain why with a story.

Let’s imagine shall we that there is a young man somewhere in Canada that just graduated high school and wants to start his life. Let’s call him John. First off, it’s a shame that he’s been taught that real life is somewhere “out there” and not what he’s been doing for the last 18 years. His parents and teachers constantly talk about the “real world” and how he’s not in it, so he’s looking forward to get into it. He’s looking into post-secondary education because he’s been told that’s what he needs to do to be successful. John knows he can’t get a good job with just a high school education. Even though there are plenty of online and self-taught resources John never took a high school class on self-reliance or intrinsic self-worth so he doesn’t know this is an option.

Now, John heard there are great opportunities in Northern Alberta where they are really looking for skilled people and will pay top dollar. He looks into an apprenticeship program, but because his school cancelled shop class, he doesn’t feel qualified. His friends are going to university, so he applies as well. He’s good at memorizing facts for tests so he has good marks but was never challenged so John doesn’t know what he wants to do.

He is accepted into General Studies. He takes a part time job to pay for school, but that only goes so far. He wants to ask for money from his parents, but he’s been told that he shouldn’t be mooching off his parents and that he should leave the nest. Most of his money goes to pay rent for an apartment he’s staying in with some friends.

It’s now becoming hard to make ends meet. John moved back in with his parents to save money and took out student loans to pay for school. All seems well.

Now he’s graduated and looking for work. He’s still with his parents because part time is all that’s available and he’s paying down his loans. He didn’t get the good job he was promised. He didn’t understand what he was supposed to learn in school therefor is missing the soft skills needed to survive. He’s told that he needs to work his way up the cooperate ladder and somehow be outgoing and innovative at the same time. He wants to show people what’s he can do but no one will talk to him until he gets experience.

Meanwhile, there is pressure to move out, so he joins the rental market, putting him further in debt. He gets a cellphone, internet connecting and a nice suit to keep pace with all the other applicants. He’s told that he needs to start saving for retirement and to buy a house as soon as he can but he’s having a hard time paying for food.

Now he’s got a job, starting at the bottom. Management doesn’t understand how well he can multitask so he sits idle most of the day. No one wants to give him responsibility because that would take work away from them. He’s worried about his finances and keeps hearing on the news about consumer confidence and if people stop buying things the economy suffers. He’s given conflicting advice every step of the way. He did everything he was told and ended up going nowhere. He asks himself “How can a family in India making 1/5 of what I do feed themselves and I have a hard time?” He doesn’t understand why the company says things are busy be he has no work. He wants to contribute but all his life he’s been told to wait for someone to give him the opportunity.

What would you have John do, in a world that taught him to wait for opportunities and puts him in a position that reinforces these rules?

The Dragon has landed

As you no doubt heard, SpaceX made history last month by launching the first commercial payload to the International Space Station. Just sit back and think about that for a second; we now have companies sending goods to people that are living in space. The sad part is of course that you may not have heard about it; it seems the event went by without much fanfare. People don’t understand the importance of this event. This is a company that is planning on sending people to Mars. Don’t you people want to go to Mars?

This event is much like the first New York to Paris flight or the completion of a rail road. This opens new doors and new possibilities. Anyone can ship or travel to space. Passenger liners will soon follow. (Most people don’t realize there are already two hotels in orbit.) NASA isn’t building rockets anymore. The Pirate Bay can put their file servers in orbit instead of using UAVs. Want to FedEx something to the moon? It will soon be a reality.

My genuine hope is that people don’t understand what happened, and not that they don’t care.

Life after the Singularity

There are many a nights where I fall asleep thinking of the singularity. It’s been my experience that most people don’t know what it is, so I’ll do my best to explain. Most people have heard of Moore’s Law, the theory that says computers will keep becoming more powerful as time goes on. The idea was introduced in 1965 and has remained true since then. Below is the graph version.

Moore's law

Here’s where the Singularity comes in; the human brain fits somewhere on this graph. At some point in the future, computers will be just as powerful as the human brain. This future point is somewhere around the year 2030. It’s a little later that the Skynet date of August 4, 1997, but this time it’s not a movie. This will happen and it caries real consequences. Take a few minutes and watch this video: Ray Kurzweil Explains the Coming Singularity.

It’s not the even that worries me, it’s how unprepared we are. Joe Public has such a low scientific literacy rate that a two tier class system is fast approaching; a technological sink or swim. Our education system is in no way prepared for this. By the time kids in kindergarten today graduate from college they will be competing directly with computer systems for jobs. This isn’t an exaggeration, it’s already happening. Currently, manufacturing jobs that were typically done by manual labour are being replaced with robots. The singularity makes it possible for computers to have the same effect on the arts, creative writing, inventing, engineering and investment banking. I’m not making this up.

In the next 20 years, computers will be able to mimic what we understand as a fundamental part of being human just as well as they can add numbers now. We can outsource culture to a mainframe in a basement. Again, I’m not making this up; just ask Tupac.

We need to start teaching our children TODAY the skills they will need to survive in this world.

Sugata Mitra has a good idea how to accomplish this. I’ll let him to the talking.

If children have interest, then education happens.

We need to take it a step further. As he demonstrated, teachers do not need to be experts in a certain field to teach that field. The internet is a great resource, but lets have the real experts teach and the teachers moderate. Bring in an artist to talk about perspective. Let a  civil engineer show them why they are learning how to calculate areas and volumes. I know there are bird watching groups, garden enthusiasts and hobby naturalists that would love a chance to share what they do to groups of kids.

Bringing in guest speakers once a month and letting the kids be involved in their learning will change the world. This will teach them how to be independent and critical thinkers. They will learn what is possible today and start reaching for tomorrow. Without these skills they won’t stand a chance.


The people need to know that Friendship is Magic

I was tucked into bed last night, watching an episode of My Little Pony as I have want to do. In this thrilling tale, Apple Bloom, Scootaloo and Sweetie Belle are trying to get their Cutie Marks. They appear when a Pony finds his or her own special talent. They try out all sorts of thing such as farming, sewing, dancing and comedy. They don’t have much success along the way, mostly because they are kids and kids don’t have much expertise. I won’t ruin show, you will just have to watch it for yourself.

The underlying concept and lesson that the show is trying to impress upon little kids is that you need to go out into the world and try out may different things to find out what you love and what you are good at. Makes perfect sense to me; you could be the worlds best watch maker but if you never even know there is such a job you will never try it. But when does a child in North America have this opportunity?

It’s not in K-12, that’s for sure. You are expected to be in lock-step with all the other kids. Show some creativity? That’s an F. Try and be original? Not in the marking scheme. Read ahead? Being a smart ass. Experience is created by failure. It’s just as important to know what you don’t like as what you like. Poor grades are not the sign of poor intelligence, they just mean you haven’t found your passion yet. Mr. Watson said that, I think he knows what he’s talking about.

So where does it happen? At what point do we let our children experience life without consequences? Where do they go to see new things? How do they meet people outside of their social circle? The answer is simply that they don’t. The very existence of General Studies proves that there are people in this world who, after 18 years, have not been shown enough of the world to find what they enjoy doing in life. In our technological world, this is a failing of epic proportions. I mean… .. words fail me.

The government cries that we need more skilled workers and better innovation but High Schools are closing mechanics class in favor of ballet studios because parents don’t want their kids being grease monkeys. Play dates, league sports and summer camp are no substitute for actually learning about yourself. We need to re-evaluate what is means to fail  and learn from it rather that be scared of it. In the Baby Boomers great rush to achieve the “American Dream” they created a situation that leaves the world worse off than before. Now is the time to let imagination and creativity run free, instead we are scheduling every last second of our day. Every little action is recorded online forever. Every purchase affects our credit rating. Our lives are lock-step and any attempt to be yourself is punished.

I wonder what other life lessons kids cartoons teach us that are near impossible to implement in our Jones centric world.

The Student Economy

There has been a lot of noise in the media recently about the student protest in Quebec. Rightly so; it’s an important issue that should get media coverage. However is seems the coverage is mostly biased against the students. Some people believe that the students should get in line and join the real world. I don’t know how marching in the streets, exercising your right to protest and upholding your values is not part of the real world. This sort of action can mean death in parts of the world; that seem quite real to me. The point about the “real world” is an economic one.

According to a devastating story by The Associated Press last week, more than 50 per cent of recent university graduates in the United States are either unemployed or working in jobs that don’t require bachelor’s degrees. They’re more likely to work as “waiters, waitresses, bartenders and food-service helpers than as engineers, physicists, chemists and mathematicians combined.”

Because these students won’t contribute as many points to the GDP as an engineer would they are some how less? Maybe they are doing what we’ve always been told to do, follow our dreams and do what makes us happy. These students could be making lattes by day and applying their degrees by night doing what ever it is they enjoy doing. By measuring their success by their ability to buy and consume; you are turning these students into commodities.  People are not commodities to be counted, rank and file, and judged.

Currently the only way we have to measure value is in dollars. Using this rational these students should pay their fair share in return for the dollars spent. There should be a measurable return on the investment, correct? This doesn’t take into account the person. If they grow up to be baristas, so what? Who are we to tell them how to live? What if they become excellent friends, fathers, aunts, coworkers, role models and citizens? If we are measuring a persons worth on their income tax, we’ve literally lost our humanity.

Yes, the students pay less for education than the rest of the country. So what? They want to keep it that way. They want to maintain their quality of life. Why would the other provinces be upset by that? The only reason I can think of it jealousy. They have it good, we wish we had it good, we want them to have it not so good so we can feel better about ourselves. This abysmal stance on leveling the playing field damages us all. This pandering to the lowest common denominator is not the way I want my country run. I want to live in a place where I’m more than just a potential economic device to be used. I don’t want other people to have to pay more if I pay more. It’s the rest of the country that should be upset that we pay so much more then Quebec.

We had to work a part time job and the next 10 years paying down our student debt, so they should too. That’s the argument? They have something good and we don’t, so they shouldn’t have something good either? I hope you can see the childish undertone to this argument. Yes, there are real financial issues surrounding the feasibility of keeping the cost of education low. Lets talk about that instead of slandering the students.