There is still good in the world.

I’m listening to a first-rate performance and recording of Steve Reich’s “Music For 18 Musicians”. It’s absolutely fabulous still, after all these years.

In any case, I figure if I can subject myself to “The Rite of Spring” at the TSO and have to deal with music that hasn’t any meaningful harmony or structure, the least I can do to achieve balance is imbibe a great deal of music that’s nothing but.

An analogy about tradition.

The difference between tradition for a reason, and tradition for tradition’s sake is this:

You tell your kid not to stand on the top step of a stepladder. It’s not safe. You’re quite likely to hurt yourself. You tell him this. He tells his kid the same things, but doesn’t pass along the reason. His kid isn’t very bright and starts to think that the top steps of ladders are somehow inherently evil. His kids take it a step further and suddenly the top steps of everything are evil. Their kids take it a step further and the tops of things are evil. Eventually no-one climbs mountains or trees, no-one lives in the top floors of apartment buildings, and everyone is wearing a hat so no-one else can see the (evil!) top of their head.

Of course, no-one falls off the tops of ladders, but not because they’re sensible and can tell that standing on the top step is a bit of a silly thing to do. Instead, its because they’ve vilified the tops of things, which is far sillier than standing on the top step of a ladder. It causes untold more difficulties because those who (rightly) go against the grain have to learn the lesson about ladders the hard way.

One more quick note.

Let me say one more thing to cap off my last post about the situation in Ottawa.

I’ve seen a number of emails and Facebook groups basically parroting the Conservative talking points. This disturbs me. As people in general, but as Christians in specific, we’re not beholden to one party or one point of view. We aren’t bound to vote a certain way. We’re in a corrupt world full of corrupt people and organisations, and we’re called to be wise as serpents yet gentle as dove.

I know I’ve already made this point before, but I’ll make it again. Our identity as Christians isn’t tied up in any particular political ideology. You may dislike the NDP or the Liberals for various reasons, and you have every right to that opinion; but you don’t have to dislike them, and you don’t have to like the Conservatives.

One side note: it’s remarkable how few people actually understand how the Canadian parliamentary system works. Absolutely remarkable. Maybe it’s because politics in Canada is generally so very dull or something; I don’t know. Either way… keep in mind that we don’t elect governments in Canada. We elect Parliaments. Whoever can form a government from that Parliament forms a government. In recent Canadian history, the Conservatives has been able to form two minority governments. A coalition government has ever right to topple a minority government. It may seem like a game — doesn’t all politics seem like a game? — but that’s how our system works. And it’s worked well for over 140 years.

Dear Conservatives: Please Stop the Whining

Dear Conservative Party, can we stop throwing the word “democracy” around like a football please? Is that okay? You know how the Westminster Parliamentary system works: You know it’s not about who “got elected” but that it’s about “who can form a government”. If the people had given you a majority you could steam-roll everyone as you please. But the people in their infinite wisdom (I’ll go along with the trope for a moment, but there’s some bile rising here) decided not to. So that means that you get to form a minority government.

Seats in Parliament are what matters, not which single party got the most votes in the election. We don’t have a presidential-style system where the guy rules as long as he gets the most votes. If the Conservatives have the most seats, but not 50% + 1 of the seats, they form a minority government. If the Liberals and NDP get together and form a coalition, they suddenly have more seats and they can form the government. This is called “having the confidence of the House”, and if the ruling party doesn’t have that confidence, then the ruling party falls and is replaced by another party or coalition that does have the confidence of the house.

This is why, for those Canadians who seem too dense to understand this, we have a Governor-General. She’s there to oversee and make judgment on abnormal situations like this. She’s the ultimate arbiter of our democracy… and she wasn’t even elected. Gasp! Horror! She doesn’t have to answer to the people of Canada — she has to answer to the Constitution, the Ministers of the government, and (theoretically) the Crown. (Not to mention that the Senate isn’t elected either. Gasp! Horror!) She’s there so that, for instance, a Prime Minister can’t just dissolve Parliament and call an election every time he gets a vote in the House that he dislikes. You can google the King-Byng affair for a time when the Governor-General did just that.

The Governor-General is going to be making some interesting decisions. But there’s nothing back-door or anti-democratic about the proposed coalition between the Liberals and the NDP. It’s how the Parliamentary system was designed to work. The opposition doesn’t like a heavy-handed minority government, and doesn’t feel like being jerked around for the next three years with a confidence motion attached to every bill, budget, and bulletin that gets tabled in the House? Well, they’re free to topple the government.

There’s nothing anti-democratic about it. And if the people of Canada really feel like this is a bad idea, they’re going to punish the NDP and the Liberals in the next election. Which, of course, there will always be. A next election.

In the meantime, the Conservatives can jolly well stop their whining, and stop their deceitful attack ads. The Governor-General doesn’t make her decisions based on what the people think, okay?

Ubuntu pushes a lot of updates.

Ubuntu pushes a lot of updates. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, except that it uses a lot of bandwidth, and has a single point of failure.

If I’m right, service providers are going to be moving to a per gigabyte approach in selling bandwidth in the next few year (if they haven’t already in places like Australia) at which point bandwidth use might become highly relevant.

In the meantime, we still have updates being pushed from the Ubuntu main servers (generally) unless you specify otherwise. This single point of failure (not to mention bandwidth costs for Canonical) seems a little bit behind the times. Everyone uses P2P apps like Deluge to download files; why should Apt not do the same?

I think what we need is a future-looking new Apt delivery system, but also a future-looking .deb format. Imagine if you could (just for instance; I have no idea if this is feasible or not) download a binary diff and patch your updates on to the existing binaries instead of downloading the entire binary and replacing it. And that’s just what my little brain could come up with.

Imagine also that apt-torrent (or whatever it’s called) is enabled by default and across the internet there are thousands and even millions of seed for every given update over a given period of time. That would be pretty neat, I think.

There is no salvation in politics.

I recently read a screed by some American evangelical group harping on “Obamania”. Their central premise was that we’re expecting too much from this man; politics never saved anyone, and the system isn’t going to start now.

And you know what? They’re absolutely, 100% correct. Obama as a person and as a politician will end up disappointing us, compromising, letting us down, all the things that every politician has done and will do.

But this begs us answer the question: why is it wrong for the left to look up to Obama as a tranformative man, as a way to change things for the better, but it’s okay for the religious right to look at a certain policy or a certain civil servant or a certain elected leader and expect a proposition or a powerful evangelical lobbyist or a political party to bring the change they want to see? Why is that okay?

There are so many churches who have embedded themselves in the Republican Party, wrapped themselves in the flag, and sold their souls to the political process. I personally think they’ve forgotten their real mission, and forgotten what real change looks like. If we’re going to talk about how politics can’t save anyone, let’s not be pointing fingers at the left (who after all this time deserve to have a hero), but instead starting the sticky task of re-evaluating what the church is supposed to be doing.

Let’s start asking questions about how much allegiance one can have for a flag when ones allegiance is supposed to be to Christ; let’s start talking about why Christians favour this party over that party; let’s start at least asking whether or not we’ve forgotten how to be strangers in a strange land.

General Motors deserves to die.

My industry is in large part driven by automotive sales. So when I say that General Motors deserves to die, I say it despite the negative impact it will have on my well-being.

But it really does deserve to die. Much like Chrysler deserved to die (but got government money instead) and now appears to be ready to die again (or more likely get government money instead).

General Motors has been manufacturing cars that are less reliable, less enjoyable, less comfortable, and less well-engineered than its Japanese counterparts for decades now. Decades! They’ve had this long to re-engineer, re-tool, re-design, and re-brand. They’ve had their chance. They’ve made vehicles that fewer and fewer people actually want to buy, and while their Japanese competition have been putting out solid vehicle after solid vehicle, General Motors has been chasing market trends around and failing time after time to actually catch those trends. When the market wants small cars, GM invests in SUVs, pickups, and crossover utility vehicles; when the market wants SUVs, pickups, and crossover vehicles, GM has just figured out that they’ve made a few too many small cars.

Contrast this approach to Toyota, who practically created the hybrid market before oil even reached sky-high prices earlier this year! Toyota is predicting or creating markets, while GM is (unsuccessfully) chasing them around. And while GM tries desperately to re-tool, Toyota has cornered the market.

It must have come as a shock to Toyota when GM announced the Chevy Volt, it really must have. GM doing something before the Japanese? Unheard of. Yet the Volt is still — still! — just a concept car without a marketable prototype.

The one single GM product that could spark some life into its flaccid branding, and it’s not even a production car, or even close. The one thing. All the while GM has to decide what to do with its insane pension and medical load, deal with cratering sales in the US market, production costs that haven’t gone down due in large part to ridiculous collective bargaining agreements with unions who have done more harm (by far!) than good, and a general public who sees them mostly as a cheaper, crappier alternative to the Japanese brands.

I think we got into this mess with a lot of short-term thinking. A lot, a lot of short-term thinking. I think we got into this mess because GM has been chasing the market instead of being the market. GM has never learned how to do something well and keep doing it well. Toyota, who used to be a joke of a brand, has consistently proven that it wants to — even if it’s just perception and not reality, even with that caveat — do something well. Whether it does or not is a good question, but whether or not it does is moot, since people think it does. That’s all that matters.

Honestly, I wouldn’t buy a GM vehicle any more. My wife’s Sunfire is a testament to the general inattentive and slovenly design and manufacturing practices GM is rightly known for: it’s neither fun to drive, nor nice to look at, nor able to drive 10,000 km without something or other failing, nor worth anything at resale. It seems designed by gorillas, engineered by apes, put together by monkeys, and generally not worth two bananas.

If my own GM experience has been that bad, is it any surprise that that the public at large are now voting with their dollars and saying that their experience has been that bad too?

General Motors deserves to die. It probably won’t: the governments of our various countries will prop up the guttering skeleton until Ford, GM, and Chrysler together are a third of what GM was ten years ago, because we as MPD socialist/capitalist countries seem to believe in privatizing profits and nationalizing losses. But at the end of the day GM richly deserves to be consigned to the dust-heap of history, as hard as that may be to see.

I am sick to death of causes and fighting for them.

I’m sick to death of fighting for things. There, I’ve said it.

I’ve stood on the same picket lines as many of you have and held the same sign and fought the same battle… and gotten nowhere at all. We haven’t toppled the abortion edifice. We haven’t changed many (or even any) minds. Look: it isn’t doing any good. We’re not making any progress here.

We live in a post-Christian culture. We really do. It’s no good pretending that the culture we live in is on some sort of axis, about to tip, and if we pull really hard maybe we can make things swing back our way.

The political and social means are out of our hands now. We’re the fringe. We’re the minority. In those realms, our time is past. This is the way it is; get over it already.

It’s time to move on to something worthwhile. Something transformative. It’s time to jettison these old tired ideas that Jesus’ will can be legislated. It’s time to get back to the core of our mission here.

I like to ask this question: How does change come about? What happens when you change your mind? What makes you do that?

For me, I change my mind when I am persuaded to do so; this can take a long time, but like Paul, I can faithfully say that I have been persuaded that Jesus is the Christ. Yet in order to be persuaded of that, I had to hear about it. In order to hear about it, someone had to say it. And in order for someone to say it, they had to believe, but also personify what they believed.

It took a community of believers deeply interested in living the truth to convince me that it was in fact the truth. You know what? I don’t think this is uncommon.

When I changed my mind, I changed my lifestyle. When I changed my mind, a bunch of old stuff went out the window. I got some new perspectives.

There is this dialectic between the heart and the mind, as I see it. If we think something, our actions probably follow; if we act a certain way, our minds follow as well.

This is why I think politics and social change, though important, will never advance the faith. They reach only a certain part of a person. A sign that says that abortion is evil, which it is, does nothing to persuade a heart that life is sacred and it is our duty to protect the weakest members of our society. A sign simple says what it says. A law is meant to be broken. A government agency is a faceless agent of change.

Heart and mind change will do the trick, though. Would a nation of Christian people simply accept abortion as a right? Or that gayness is acceptable or even desirable? Or whatever other issue you could name?

So, yes, I’m sick to death of fighting for things. Is it okay that I simply want to live a life of love instead? I want to love my wife, I want to love my church, I want to love my neighbour, and I want to love God. If that makes me some sort of hippie liberal reject, so be it. I have good company, I think, with Jesus and all.

I know where Obama got “Yes, we can” from.

Seinfeld, season 8, episode 1. Kramer says, “I looked inside myself and found that part of my spirit that said, ‘Yes, I can!’ And now I dominate the dojo!”

Obama, you see, is dominating his dojo. Like Kramer and his karate, he has found that, yes, he can.