On humanity….

January 19, 2014 Leave a comment

Bernard Moitessier set out to on the first race sailing single handed, non stop around the globe.  It is most likely that he would have won the race if he had not, upon reaching the Atlantic, forfeited the race and turned South to head back around again.

Mooring in Tahiti and watching the development of the island, he writes:

          Lots of people believe that the bulldozer and the concrete mixer don’t think.  They’re wrong: they do think.  They think that if they don’t have any work to do, they won’t earn any money, and then their slaves won’t be able to buy the fuel and oil they need to go  on living and go on thinking serious thoughs.
          They think human beings are pretty retarded, still making their babies in joy and love and pain.  Their procreation technique is much more efficient: they work flat out without ever getting tired, and taht means profits, and their slaves hurry to make more bulldozers and concrete mixers which are born fully grown, ready to work without wasting a minute.  And what they think really had is they had better hurry up and get the robot age going before man catches on.                                                                                            (The Long Way, 1971)

Who runs whom?  Do we run our technology? Or does our technology run us?

Metric echoes this idea in “Handshakes”:
Buy this car to drive to work
Drive to work to pay for this car


More leather bags…

January 16, 2014 Leave a comment

Here are the next two bags that I have made.  Both are the same size and style.  The lighter bag was factory finished, the darker bag began as unfinished leather like the first bag.


Tan Bag

Tan Bag


Side View


Flap open


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Rustic Leather Satchel: A how to guide

March 24, 2013 Leave a comment

Recently I developed a desire for a heavy leather satchel or bag to mimic a vintage bag I had seen.  Since I couldn’t find what I wanted in stores I decided to try my hand at making it.  I did a bit of research on where to buy sides of heavy leather (like that of a belt or heavier) and found a store in Toronto that sold such supplies.  Paid them a visit and was a bit overwhelmed that first day; the clerk helping me thought I was a “little bit crazy” to embark on this task without any prior experience in leather work.   I left without buying a thing, but returned the next day with rejuvenated determination to see this project through.  I purchased a couple of simple tools, thread, and a side of 9/10 ounce leather (heavy leather belt style).  Armed with these hand tools, a sharp knife, and a hand drill I set about making a bag.


Raw leather cut to shape for the main section.

Parts of bag cut and laid out

Parts of bag cut and laid out.

Tools: Awl, needle and thread, and rivets (also buckles and rings)

Tools: Awl, needle and thread, rivets, and buckles.

Sides cut.  Hangers riveted with rings and stitched to sides.

Sides cut. Hangers riveted with rings and stitched.

Bag all stitched. Strap riveted.

Bag all stitched. Strap riveted.

Completed bag.

Completed bag.

The whole process was spread out over three days.  There was quite a lot of time spent stitching the sides of the bag by hand.    Holes were all hand punched with the awl, then stitched twice with a simple needle and heavy wax thread.  This was no simple task given the thick and rigid nature of the leather, and resulted in several broken needles.

The final design differs from the original idea I had in mind, and at the last minute my gut feeling called for a last audible to keep the bag as clean and simple as possible.

A larger bag at 18″x12″x7″ it is quite versatile and carries quite a lot.  The leather has darkened slightly with the wax coating I have applied to preserve the leather, and will no doubt continue to darken as it ages, giving it a wonderful patina.

All in all, this project proved to be most rewarding and useful. I look forward to continuing my leather projects.

If you are interested, contact me for more information.

Inflation of high school marks: A false economy

February 12, 2013 Leave a comment

The system of education in Canada has put tremendous pressure on students.  Greater numbers of students flood post secondary institutions in hopes of gaining the requisite qualifications for a job in a particular field.  These post secondary institutions base their acceptance almost entirely on marks (though some also require supplementary essays and letters of reference as well).  The sole focus of senior high school students is marks.  They NEED them to continue their educational journey in hopes of a good career.  The sheer number of applicants to a program means that the minimum averages for a given program become inflated and students need higher and higher averages to even be considered for these coveted spots.

This crucible is exaggerated by the fact that astronomical averages can be bought at private schools, affectionately termed “marks mills”, by students who are known to their day school teachers not to have the skills and abilities to attain them via conventional public schools where teachers feel some moral duty to uphold academic standards.

Ironically, it was the Canadian Universities who fought for Full Disclosure Transcripts of students coming out of high school, which provided them with not only the top 6 marks of the student, but all of their marks from grade 11 and 12 as well as the number of times they have retaken a course to improve their average.  However, these same institutions have continued to accept the marks issued from dubious institutions, further perpetuating this situation.

Moreover, it seems that completion of a post secondary program does not mean what it used to.  Recent grads face staggering unemployment and underemployment.  CBC Doc Zone aired a documentary entitled “Generation Jobless” where they investigated the fact that Canadian post secondary institutions continue to graduate students despite the lack of demand.  This is most apparent in the number of Ontario graduates from Teacher’s College.  Perhaps the colleges and universities simply are not interested in what happens after their program ends, preferring to enrol students, put asses in seats, and laugh all the way to the bank.  The result is a population of young workers deeply in debt, under experienced, over educated, and dissatisfied with their job prospects.

Such a system does students a great disservice.  Marks are not the end goal; skills are the true target.  Marks are theoretically the communication of how developed a students skills are.  However, when students focus only on the marks, and ignore developing their skills and understanding, they have missed the point.  And perhaps they are not the only ones.  What is the purpose of the education system if not to equip our youth with the abilities to succeed in the world?

Given what we know about the prospects of getting a job in today’s current market, it almost seems advisable for a high school student to drop out of school, get a job apprenticing or volunteering in a particular industry when they don’t have any financial burdens, gain valuable hands on experience,  and either work their way up or start their own company?  This way at least they are free from debt, have some money in the bank, and are seemingly no worse off than if they had spent all that time in the education system.

Choice: A Paradigm of Paralysis

January 27, 2013 Leave a comment

Most of us have been conditioned to believe that choice is a good thing in our lives, and that a wide breadth of choice will lead to greater personal freedom and therefore greater happiness.  To a limited extent this holds true.

Certainly the very core beliefs of Capitalism is that consumers should have the right to choose.  The result of this approach is that it creates a consumer driven democracy in which purchases are the ballots by which votes are cast.  In such a system a great responsibility lies in the hands of the consumers, though this power may be largely unrealized.

Social conscience, therefore, doesn’t rest in the hands of the companies.  This responsibility has also been downloaded onto the consumer–if the consumer didn’t agree, they wouldn’t vote for it.  At least this is what basic economic principles hold to be true.  (One must remember, however, that such theories also presuppose that consumers have “perfect knowledge” of the choices they are making, that is to say they are fully aware of all of the factors involved in their choice.  I dare say that is not the case)

Choice can be debilitating.

Consider chewing gum.  Likely we have all deliberated over the bevy of choices laid out near the cash register.  For discussion let’s say that there are 64 different flavours to choose from. Consider what choice you would make?  To make a truly informed decision, you would have to have tasted all 64 flavours.  Assuming you could distinctly recall what each one of those flavours was, you would now be in a position to decide.  It is likely, however, that you haven’t tried all the flavours and so can’t possibly know what you want.  So you guess.  After you have made your choice do you reconsider?  Do you wonder if there was another flavour which might have been even better?  How many other choices are made and then tinged by regret at the possibility that a different choice would have been more satisfying.

Consider the possibility that there were only three flavours of gum:  Blue, Green, and Red.  The choice would be much simpler and the likelihood of dissatisfaction would be drastically reduced, unless you’re like me and always choose blue despite the fact that green is a more pleasing mint flavour.

Chewing gum is a relatively simple task with only one variable: flavour.  Other decisions about more valuable purchases are much more complex with multiple variables and greater consequences for poor decisions.  It is overwhelming to try to make an informed decision about something like a camera and a computer if you are not already an expert in that area and fully understand all of the applications required for your use of the device.

Recently I bought a winter sleeping bag.  It took me nearly a month to reach a conclusion about the bag for me, and there were only three variables to consider: price, weight, temperature rating.  Agonizing over the decision consumed me.  How many hours did I spend pouring over websites and reviews?

This type of preoccupation with choices really inhibits our ability to act decisively.  It impairs our ability to move forward.  It is a modern mental paralysis.


Sandy Hook Shooting Massacre and Political Agendas

January 17, 2013 1 comment

The tragedy of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting reached many of us in a very profound way.  What could be more tragic than a deranged gunman slaughtering innocent children?  It strikes a chord in all of us.

In the weeks since the incident there has been much speculation online about the events of that day, particularly the seeming lack of genuine emotion on the part of those interviewed about the shooting.   Perhaps most notably, the medical examiner appears to be a macabre figure who offers odd answers to the questions he is asked, and seems to guffaw and chuckle at bizarre  times while giving cryptic responses about how good photographers can make anything look real.  One might chalk this behaviour up to as a strange man in a morbid profession and think no more about it.  Further examples of the alleged actors used to portray mourning parents and others are widely available online, and many videos explore these possibilities.  Certainly there has been a recent push by Obama to reform gun legislation.  Allegations suggest that such an incident is quite useful in moulding public opinion in favour of such reforms.

Watching videos on Youtube is a dangerous thing.  What are their sources?  Where do they get their information?
One of the websites mentioned in several of the videos is CrisisActors.org.  Here is what they provide in their own words: “Visionbox Crisis Actors are trained in criminal and victim behavior, and bring intense realism to simulated mass casualty incidents in public places.”  While the website has posted a firmly worded rebuttal of the recent allegations of their involvement in the Sandy Hook Shooting, it does beg the question why anyone would want to hire crisis actors to enact a large scale crisis like the large shopping mall catastrophe, as they describe on their homepage.  If one would like more information they are encouraged to click on a Visionbox link which will take the viewer to an acting guild website offering information about classes one can enrol in, productions and much more.

Whether due to recent traffic on the site or not, all pages for CrisisActors require email verification to view.
One video suggested that CrisisActors was owned by a larger corporation called Vision-Box.  Spelling isn’t communicated through audio, so when I Googled “Vision Box” the site at the top of the search was not about actors at all, but rather about a company whose business was providing personal identification systems (biometrics).  The company’s mission is to “Be the market leader in the design, development, manufacturing and commercialization of computer vision, biometric and electronic security systems.”   This refers to the identification of people based on fingerprints, facial imaging, retinal scans and other such information.  Vision-box offers a kiosk for this purpose.

Is there a connection between the necessity of creating and portraying realistic crisis scenarios and selling equipment designed to track people and ‘secure’ areas?  Perhaps they are opposite sides of the same coin: fear.  One is used to create fear, while the other is used to assure people against the possibility of that fear.

January 16, 2013 Leave a comment

The Grumpy Giraffe

University has typically been referred to as a privilege. This is true, especially in the age where a girl can get shot for wanting to receive an education. The Cooperative Institutional Research Program (CIRP) of UCLA surveyed thousands of “college freshmen” (for those who are not American, “college” refers to both university and college students) on their perception of their own abilities.

Many described themselves as exceptional.

A 2006 study from CIRP showed that modern college students are more ambitious, leading to an “ambition inflation”. This is a more eloquent way of saying “the bigger something is, the harder they’ll fall”. A quick example can be drawn from some American Idol contestants and the shock registered when a judge says that the contestant isn’t their cup of tea.

To be fair, going to post-secondary education (PSE) does require ambition. When I applied to university, I was ambitious to embark on…

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