Music Rules: Because enlightenment no longer does

As a way to vent my frustration at the US debacle…I mean, election, here are five Canadian political songs from the past for your commiseration, since we can’t say enjoyment.  Lyrics (with selected highlights) and links to youtube videos can be found under the fold.

Rush, “Beneath, Between And Behind” (1975)

Rough Trade, “What’s the Furor About the Fuhrer?” (1981)

Bruce Cockburn, “The Trouble With Normal” (1983)

Bruce Cockburn, “Call It Democracy” (1983)

Red Rider, “Lunatic Fringe” (1981)

No, posting Cockburn’s lyrics doesn’t violate of my “no profanities” rule.  I’m quoting him, not saying it myself.

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Ballots Cast: Republican voting fraud (a redundancy)

A woman in New York has been receiving absentee ballots for five years.  For her dead father.  The story is only now making the news because she brought it to their attention.

Queens Woman Receives Deceased Father’s Absentee Ballot

This election cycle is dredging up the pain of the past for one Queens woman.

Michelle Dimino’s father, Anthony Baldomir, passed away in October 2012. Since then, she’s been receiving his absentee ballots for the primaries and general elections.

Dimino has made several calls to the board of elections, even sending her father’s death certificate on more than one occasion, but said he is still on the registration list.

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Blissfully Wed: Taiwan may soon have same sex marriage

Asia is home to four of the seven billion human beings in the world, and not one of the countries in the continent protects the right to same sex marriage.  (We should not say “give”, but protect.  It should have always been there.) In some less than enlightened countries, being LGBTQIA is still deemed a criminal act. Malaysia continues to enforce Victorian era British laws against “sodomy”.  Few Asian countries have pride parades like Taiwan did last weekend.

That may be about to change.  Taiwan’s ruling DPP government is proposing a bill to protect the right to same sex marriage.  This won’t affect me (I’m not the marrying kind) but for many others I know, it’s great news. [Read more…]

Music Rules: Suzi Quatro, still rocking after 40 years

In October 2016, Suzi Quatro was awarded an honourary doctoral degree from Anglia Ruskin University in Cambridge, England.  This goes along with her 2011 induction into Michigan’s Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

If you knew Suzi, like I know Suzi, you’d know how important she is to women in the music business. She was the first woman to front a hard rock band as the primary instrumentalist and songwriter.  She has sold over 50 million records worldwide, yet to most Americans, she is a one-hit wonder (“Stumblin’ In”) or a part time actress (Leather Tuscadero from “Happy Days”).  Her influence on other women to play is beyond measure – Chrissie Hynde, Joan Jett, Tina Weymouth to name but a few.

Lens Flashes: LGBT Taiwan Parade pics, part 1

As promised, here are the first batch of photos from Taiwan’s LGBT Pride Parade of October 29th.  It’s the second one I’ve been to, and much larger than the 2015 parade.

My apologies in advace for the lousy photo quality.  I’m a terrible photographer with a mediocre camera.  They are also reduced in size (1/4 or 1/8th of the originals, now 130kb to 180kb) to make it easier on the FtB servers.


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October, March: Taiwan’s LGBT Pride Parade

Taiwan’s LGBT Pride Parade took place on Saturday, October 29th in Taipei with the theme of Equal Marriage.  It was massive, and probably not an exaggeration to say there were hundreds of thousands of people involved.  Media estimates say 80,000+ people, but I think that’s a lowball number – I know, I was there. There were enough people that it required splitting into a north route and south route, both of which took hours to pass.  (The 2015 parade was also split in two.) [Read more…]

Dress Up Or Dress Down: Hallowe’en costumes

Hallowe’en is and has always been my favourite holiday.  Prior to transitioning, Hallowe’en was one of the few times (if not the only time) of the year when I could let loose and show my real self in a non-judgemental atmosphere.  I suspect the same is true for many other people, for the LGBTQIA community and others.

That said, tasteless costumes were never on my list.  I only time I ever considered a potentially offensive costume, I never went through with it (think “Blazing Saddles”).  One would think that as society becomes more enlightened, offensive costumes would become less popular.

Instead, the bigots of all stripes and stenches see Hallowe’en as an excuse to deliberately insult and be confrontational, to say others “can’t take a joke”, are “over-sensitive SJWs”.  As Niki Massey noted in her final blog post, some people have the gall to publicly and intentionally mock serious issues.  They are only “edgy” if that mean they stuck in a knife and twisted it.

It wouldn’t surprise me if those who defend and excuse racist, ableist and other offensive costumes turn out to be hypocrites, that they call it “inappropriate” to mock military or other uniforms (e.g. a male “sexy firefighter” costume consisting of tight pants, fire coat and helmet; or pink camo print army fatigues).  Odds are, they also defend the policy at conventions like GenCon which say “No military uniforms unless you are in active service”, rules which often don’t allow military cosplay by those not in the military.

If mocking a military uniform is “offensive”, how is mocking people’s lives “not offensive”?  It is a choice to become a cop or a soldier.  A person’s skin colour, disability, sexual identity, sexual orientation or visible appearance are not choices and should not be mocked.

Stealing ideas others write recently, this is a last minute, cobbled together view/thought on which costumes are off limits:

  1. Anything that is part of others’ daily lives or ancestry (i.e. cultural appropriation, racism, stereotyping, ableism).
  2. Anything that celebrates or makes light of crimes past or present (i.e. Nazi uniforms, cops murdering black people).
  3. Anything that intentionally pushes others’ buttons (i.e. topical or political events – no Trump “rape jokes”, no Kim Kardashian robbery references).

I wouldn’t claim this to be all people, it’s an idea that needs improvement and then fine tuning.  But a costume policy for parties and events is as important as an anti-harassment policy.  Or have cosplay conventions already put together good policies through years of experience?

The impetus for this post was a recent Buzzfeed item about a woman with body scarring after an assault by an ex-boyfriend.  She made the valid point that even mocked up bodily injuries or scarring (both a common Hallowe’en makeup effect) can be offensive to some people.  Now I see Freddy Kruger as a questionable costume.

I Spy: Antonie van Leeuwenhoek, 1632-1723

Monday is the birthday of Antonie van Leeuwenhoek, known as the forbearer of microbiology, and for his work in improving Zacharias Janssen’s microscope.  Leeuwenhoek deserves as much credit as anyone for our long lives and health.

Antonie worked like a maven; took
Great care, but left no graven book;
But wrote letters on animalcules
In Royal Society periodicals
So let us raise a glass to Leeuwenhoek


Text Write Off: Information wants to be free

Is this a blatantly obvious solution for college students’ problem?  Or are most colleges blatantly oblivious to the problems they cause their students?

The state of Rhode Island has acted in the best interests of students over the profitability of book publishers by having its colleges use free and open source text books, which include other materials such as video and results of others’ work.  The estimated savings is predicted to be about US$900 per student and US$5 million in total.   [Read more…]

Pipe Dreams: A cheap solution to greenhouse gases or just blowing smoke

Whenever a new story like this appears it’s justified to be sceptical, but there’s nothing wrong with hoping stories like this are true.  Nobody thought ceramics were the solution to high temperature superconductors until they worked.

Scientists Accidentally Discover Efficient Process to Turn CO2 Into Ethanol

Scientists at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee have discovered a chemical reaction to turn CO2 into ethanol, potentially creating a new technology to help avert climate change. Their findings were published in the journal ChemistrySelect.

The researchers were attempting to find a series of chemical reactions that could turn CO2 into a useful fuel, when they realized the first step in their process managed to do it all by itself. The reaction turns CO2 into ethanol, which could in turn be used to power generators and vehicles.

The tech involves a new combination of copper and carbon arranged into nanospikes on a silicon surface. The nanotechnology allows the reactions to be very precise, with very few contaminants.

Siam Silences: Lèse-majesté laws are for finks

Thailand’s king Bhumibol Adulyadej has died, age 88.  He had been a popular ruler who managed to hold the respect and get cooperation from all political sides in Thailand, from military juntas to the corrupt Thaksin Shinawatra, and even the muslim separatists in the south. He was the world’s longest reigning monarch at the time of his death.

Unfortunately, what actually needed to die didn’t.  There’s nothing less majestic than lèse-majesté laws.  Lèse-majesté laws are as obscene, pointless and cowardly as laws against blasphemy.  They serve no purpose other than to silence valid criticism or discussion.  (Simply discussing who will be named the next king of Thailand could be enough to get you arrested, never mind insulting the king or his family.

I have no issue with slander and libel laws protecting royal families the same way they protect the average citizen.  But it should never be illegal to talk members of a royal family or their actions (the 2001 mass murder of the Nepalese royal family by prince Dipendra, the British royals and their involvement with Jimmy Savile and Nazi Germany).  It should never be off limits to discuss the policies or decisions of monarchs (vis-a-vis Bhumibol’s political deals with Thailand’s military juntas).

The only difference between monarchs and gods is that monarchs exist.  Neither deserves special privileges and protections that lèse-majesté and blasphemy laws give them.  If they want to be respected, they should act in ways that will earn them respect, not require police, courts or governments to use brute force and violence to silence people.

Another reason to be annoyed with today’s new: the most popular member of the royal family is princess Sirindhorn.  However, Thai laws only allow for kings.  The Thai government isn’t likely to change the law quickly to let her become queen.

Whims Whimper: Left over ideas, episode 1

Two thoughts that don’t merit a separate post of the own:


October 4th marked the 434th year since the introduction of the Gregorian Calendar.  The system for adding leap years reduced errors in the calendar to within one day every thousand years, and will only be wrong if the Earth’s orbit speeds up or slows down.

I am not entirely a fan.  We still need another calendar reform, to get rid of this “Thirty days hath November” nonsense.  If I were in charge, January to May would thirty one days (155 days in total), and June to December would have thirty days (210, thus 365 in total).  Leap days would happen on December 31st.  It’s simpler, easy to remember, and makes the calendar more consistent.  The only problem then would be technology (e.g. watches, software) that would need adjusting to the new calendar.

On September 29th, the google doodle was for Ladislao José Biro’s birthday.  Biro invented what has become one of the most environmentally wasteful products ever made, the ballpoint pen. Ballpoints are usually not refillable, easily broken, and mostly plastic.

As a left handed person, I especially loathe the ball point pen because it was made to be pulled, not pushed.  The balls jam and ink does not flow properly when writing left handed – a fault of the pen design, not the writer. In the past three years, I have switched back to fountain pens for multiple reasons.  They are refillable and thus less wasteful.  It is far easier to write left handed with a fountain pen.  They add a sense of style and uniqueness, and often get a reaction from people when I take them out to write in banks, offices or even with my students and their parents.