The thing about unconscious bias…

16 03 2015

… is that you don’t know you’re doing it!

Google chairman gets called out for cutting off a woman while talking about diversity.

Mashable: Eric Schmidt

Kudos to Judith Williams, who heads up Google’s unconscious bias program for calling out her own boss Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt as well as Jobs’ biographer Walter Isaacson for continually interrupting the United States’ Chief Technology Officer Megan Smith in a SXSW Interactive panel discussion.





Jean Vanier wins Templeton Prize

12 03 2015

Jean Vanier, Canadian advocate for mentally disabled people, wins $1.7M Templeton Prize – World – CBC News.

Jean Vanier, Canadian advocate for mentally disabled people, wins class=" " .7M Templeton Prize - World - CBC News

 

I caught this story on the news last night.
Vanier, founded the first L’Arche community in 1964 when he invited two mentally disabled men to leave their large institution and live with him in a small house in Trosly-Breuil, near Paris.
There are now well over 100 L’arche communities in tens of countries – all celebrating our shared humanity.

 

Coincidentally, I also saw this heart-warming news article yesterday.

Basketball players defend a bullied cheerleader with Down syndrome

 

The most promising thing about it was the age of the three basketball players. Their maturity and willingness to take a stance on the bullying of young cheerleader Desiree Andrews was most encouraging.

 





Faith in humanity

22 02 2015

I’m not big on religion. Any religion. At some level, it’s another name for politics and attempting to control the masses.

Faith though – I can respect that.

Faith is about what one believes. Religion is about people telling you the right way to do that. This story from Norway was lovely. A piece of news about individual expressions of faith.

Coexisting. Can’t beat that, in my view… nicely done, whatever label you choose to wear.

More than 1,000 Muslims form human shield around Oslo synagogue.

IMAGE: EUROPEAN PRESSPHOTO AGENCY, NTB SCANPIX via Mashable





The perfect excuse

6 02 2015

According to the august aunty Beeb, too much running is bad for one. That’s good… my ankle was starting to hurt, and I needed a few days off the circuit, as it were.

The Vancouver Sun Run draws ever closer and my bloody FitBit sneers from my wrist if I dare to even consider watching a drama on TV.

My daily regimen consists of a sprightly walk at lunchtime – weather no matter (this is Vancouver – you’d be a bit limited if you were fussy about the rain). In the evenings I’d been alternating between the gym and a run, followed by walking the dog.

Once my ankle started to flare up (in sympathy with the hamstring and calf cramps that had preceded), I decided that perhaps this “mind over matter” thing had its limits. It wasn’t so much the low level pain. It was the blunt fact that I’m not getting any younger and am well and truly out of warranty now. I don’t think you can get the spare parts any more.

The last few days have seen me and devil-dog having über-long walks in the evening instead, rather than my run. This is much more gentle on my ankle, but I can still keep a decent pace, and it even seems to loosen up my ankle a bit. The added benefit is the hound drops straight asleep as soon as we return.

Anyway – all that just to say that the BBC concurs… too much exercise can be seriously bad for you. As bad as doing none at all! It can cause your body to reconfigure itself (and not just in the abs of steel way). Your very heart muscle can change in response to the extreme strain it’s being asked to work under, and that, dear reader, can be a very very bad thing indeed. So – as in many things, moderation is the key. Of course, sex and chocolate are exempt under royal decree, but it goes for pretty much everything else.

BBC News – Training very hard ‘as bad as no exercise at all’.

BBC: Ice-cream vans never used to be so hard to catch





Well doesn’t EVERYONE poo gold bars?

6 02 2015

CBC: There’s gold in them thar turds

Maybe it’s just me, but the idea that regular sewage – sorry, I mean “biosolids” – contains almost enough rare metals per tonne to pay for the disposal of that tonne seems, well… how can I put this? A load of crap? $350 CDN per tonne?! Where the heck does it all come from? No – don’t answer that. It was rhetorical. Sewage sludge contains millions of dollars worth of gold, other metals – Technology & Science – CBC News.





Sad Story: Durham Loses Its Innocence – BuzzFeed News

28 01 2015

Really sad to read on Buzzfeed about the deaths of three students at my old university over the space of 14 months.

I understand the point of one of the commentators regarding the apparent blame of the victims for their drownings due to excess alcohol. Any death is sad, especially during what should be the most exciting 3 or so years of a young person’s life. It’s easy to say “things were different back when…”, but maybe it’s true.

Obviously river safety should be a concern for the City of Durham as a whole, but I think the student body should look to itself rather than seeking to blame others. Compared to the local population it is relatively privileged and certainly celebrating life to its fullest. The temptations to over-indulge are there, and more intense in today’s culture than ever before.

Of course there’s a chance they might not have died if there were better barriers along the river. Of course the temptation is lower if the price of alcohol is higher and the availability curtailed (the pubs closed at 10:30 when I was an undergraduate there). As far as we can tell though, nobody forced them to drink to the extent they did. Students have always pushed the envelope, but they are supposed to have higher than average intelligence and better than average decision making.

These deaths were tragic accidents, but I feel every one of us needs to take responsibility for our actions and their potentially fatal consequences.

How The Drowning Of Three Students In 14 Months Caused Durham To Lose Its Innocence – BuzzFeed News.





Oh Canada… you ARE silly.

24 01 2015

So I live in Surrey, BC.

It’s just an address, but hereabouts people like to be more specific and say SOUTH Surrey to differentiate it from NORMAL Surrey. The reputation of drugs and associated crime being a little too ungenteel for some. Compared to the UK, even deepest, darkest Newton (area of Surrey) is as safe as houses, but all things are relative and it is comparatively bad by BC standards. White Rock is a separate little city, just a few blocks big, carved out of the very south of South Surrey… and they therefore get the best bit of the beach. If they’d been born separately and merged together over the space of a millennium or so, White Rock and South Surrey would be called a conurbation. But this is North America and the paint is still drying on even the oldest “heritage homes”, so they’re not.

White Rock itself has changed quite dramatically in the 14 years we’ve lived here. Lots of development – some of it vertical (the city limit of 4 storeys – intended to protect the ocean views for all – seems to be negotiable if you are a developer with deep enough pockets… or an interesting photo collection, I suppose). When we first arrived, it was like Little England. Every other person was either an elderly war bride or a recent UK immigrant. Far from the case now, but that genteel aspiration lives on, and by and large White Rock/South Surrey is  a twee seaside town. I was frankly a little disappointed all those years ago. We’d emigrated to the other side of the world and accidentally arrived back in England. The largest difference was realising that we’d also travelled back in time to the late 70s! BC has a disproportionately powerful union culture, but it’s also very polite and friendly.

Recently though there have been a couple of troublesome events. Not least the attempted abduction of a 9 year old girl from the local school playground (not during school session, but even so…).

The latest though? A bank robbery. Yup – a real life bank robbery. At the HSBC (though I currently have little sympathy for that particular brand). Best part though? The disguise was a ludicrously obvious false beard. Did I mention that this occurred about 4 blocks from the RCMP police station? a 750m, 8 minute walk according to Google. Oh dear…

Bank robber with fake beard sought by RCMP in White Rock, B.C. – British Columbia – CBC News.

CBC: White Rock robbery

Google Map’s suggestion of the 8 minute walk the police might have taken…

Google Maps: 750 from bank to RCMP station.

Google Maps: 750m from bank to RCMP station.

EDIT: It seems the police now have some suspects.








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