Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Big problem with big media

Today I read about director Amir Bar-Lev's documentary looking at what he alleges is a coverup of the truth surrounding the death of Pat Tillman, an NFL star who quit his professional football career to serve his country as a soldier. In 2004, he died in a "friendly fire" incident - but that was not the initial report, thus the headline The Tillman Story is a scathing indictment of the US government.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

No soup for you! Freedom vs. discrimination

The TV show Seinfeld had a funny shtick about a restaurant that served a really tasty mulligatawny. If, however, a customer didn't approach the server appropriately, the head chef might yell "No soup for you!" and refuse to sell. In fact, depending on the severity of the offense, the "soup Nazi" (as the chef came to be known) might issue bans up to a year in duration! How could this happen in America, the land of the free? Surely I'm free to approach the counter any way I want, right?

In another episode, the character Elaine went to a Yankees baseball home game up in the Bronx wearing a Baltimore Orioles cap. A fan took exception and demanded she remove the hat. She said "No, this is America, it's a free country!"

Back in the real world, recently President Obama declared his opinion that an Islamic group had the right to build a mosque near the site of "Ground Zero" where the World Trade Center towers once stood, saying ""This is America, and our commitment to religious freedom must be unshakable." I, myself, would tend to theoretically agree with that statement...but then I'm conflicted since I have difficulty when, in the name of freedom, the Confederate Flag - with all it symbolizes for both its proponents and opponents - is flown from a state capitol building.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

A contrast and comparison of justice systems

An article I read today reminded me of a situation in Toronto not too long ago. In that situation, headlines were screaming:
Owen Smith, 25, and Wendell Damian Cuff, 25, were charged with the first-degree murder of Abdikarim Ahmed Abdikarim. The Crown, citing insufficient evidence to pass a preliminary hearing, dropped the charges. The victim's family are further pained by the continued suffering in such a sad, terrible loss. I have two kids, and I wouldn't dare presume to know what this must be like for them. Raising a child to end up the victim of a murder - and an as yet unsolved murder at that - is beyond grasp.

The cops are disappointed, thinking they had gathered sufficient evidence that a case was worth putting before a jury. The public is outraged. Another bad guy gets away, it appears.

Yet, as painful as it is for all, dropping the charges was still right.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Resource allocation in education

Two articles I read today speak to the single issue of resource allocation in education.

The first article ("grim graduation rates") mentions, among other things, that New Jersey's higher results are due in part to a deliberate effort to reallocate resources to level the playing field. The suggestion here is that, given a fair shake, black males are not only equally capable, but equally willing to do their part to learn, with higher results to prove it.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Mind the gap

Sharon Otterman, writing for the New York Times (“Triumph Fades on Racial Gap in City Schools”, New York Times, August 15, 2010), noted that
  • Among the students in the city’s third through eighth grades, 40 percent of black students and 46 percent of Hispanic students met state standards in math, compared with 75 percent of white students and 82 percent of Asian students. In English, 33 percent of black students and 34 percent of Hispanic students are now proficient, compared with 64 percent among whites and Asians…

  • …Experts have many theories, but no clear answers, about why national progress on closing the gap has slowed. They included worsening economic conditions for poor families and an increase in fatherless black households, social factors that interfere with students’ educational progress.
"Worsening economic conditions for poor families" is misleading, since there are poor white families, too. And "fatherless black households", which certainly is a factor, is still but a symptom of a range of issues beyond the control of the black household - but that argument is beyond the scope of this post.

It might appear we're trapped in a vicious circle - we're doing poorly in school, so we can't raise our socio-economic profile, and as our profile diminishes, we do increasingly poorly in school. Which comes first, the chicken of better socio-economic circumstances or the egg of doing better in school?

It is impossible to change society in one action, but the OughtThought here is that it is possible for an individual to change one's outlook, and I think StudyRite can help.

Monday, August 2, 2010

To blog or not to blog? There is no question

There are plenty of "is blogging dead?" discussions floating around out there. I've read through some of the arguments either way and think there's a context that's missing in the discussion. 

For the record, I'm of the opinion that blogging is not only alive, and well, but is both necessary and in no ways threatened by other social or microblogging alternatives which really do not compete in the same space at all, if people slow down and think about it.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Nut Allergies, Part 2

Previously, I called for research into how to make peanuts less allergic. It appears it's happening.

A recent Toronto Star article entitled Scientists breeding less allergic peanuts discusses "breeding new strains of peanuts stripped of deadly allergens that could dramatically reduce the risk to millions of people." I would be among those millions.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

A suit that just doesn't fit

Inga Richardson was having a domestic dispute with her common-law spouse Joey Sanayhie one night after drinking, and she jumped out of the moving vehicle he was driving. Ms. Richardson's lawyers contend that Mr. Sanayhie was aware she had previously jumped from a moving boat when agitated and that, as such, he should have been more careful to restrain her before she jumped from the moving car.

I think this lawsuit is absurd.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Elgan the Engineer

"Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he shall not depart from it", says "the Preacher" in the Biblical book of Proverbs, chapter 22, sixth verse.

We search for meaning and fulfillment in life. Discovering our gifts and talents early can be to our advantage - if we follow a path of potential realization consistent with who we really are, we'll "never work a day in our life", because we will do what we love, because it is what we are.

My son Elgan once got the VCR to eject the tape with the remote control - yet there was no eject button on the remote. To this day his mother and I chuckle because it was one of the earliest indicators we recognized - Elgan had a knack for understanding how things work.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Can the Web save newspapers?

This recent article in the Toronto Star suggests I've got to go a little further beyond my previous breakdown.

Comparing news to music is a woefully inadequate justification for a newspaper attempting to charge for its content. iTunes was successful because it listened to what both artists and their fans wanted - for fans to be able to buy as little as they want, not just want the producers pushed. If I like "a song or two," it used to be that I'd still be forced to buy the whole album, or just not buy anything at all. Today, the artist can get a sale because someone can go ahead and just buy a song or two.

Sunday, January 31, 2010

BHM Toronto history - Thornton Blackburn

This 1846 painting of King Street East features Toronto's first taxi cab, "The City" with none other than Thornton Blackburn himself (seated atop) conducting the horse-drawn coach.

Black History Month is for everyone. Each year, we remember the significance of inspiring Black people in history. It is a sadly wasted opportunity if this exercise begins and ends with Marin Luther King, with all due respect to the towering legacy he left. It's further unfortunate if we're left with the notion that "Black History" only happened in the United States. Colonialism distributed Africans throughout Europe and the Americas, and to the furthest reaches of the global diaspora we'll find wonderful stories and rich history.

As I'm in Toronto, we'll look at a few Black people who've had an impact on the region's development, making  contributions as well as just being interesting yet seldom recognized parts of GTA history. A most appropriate person with whom to start is none other than Thornton Blackburn.