Hate doesn’t beat Hate

I started to write something the other day. It was going to be about the outrage and the hatred which seems to be everywhere we look these days, it pours out of our television screens and breeds throughout the internet. Everyone is angry about something and even people trying to show support are slammed because they didn’t do it exactly how others think they should have.

I was going to write about the divisions people create, the us and them mentality that is so pervasive today. I planned to talk about Black Lives Matter protesting the Pride Parade in Toronto, wanting to ban police floats. And about the people who shout that we should “help our own first” (whatever that means) when it comes to immigration and Syrian refugees. I was going to talk about how dividing people makes us weaker and only strengthens the problems we want to solve; the fear, the hatred, the violence.

And then shit went to hell again in the United States.

Two black men, Alton Sterling and Philando Castile, were killed by police in suspicious circumstances, and then five police officers were killed and seven wounded by shooters in Dallas during a protest about the police shootings of Sterling and Castile.

And I start to feel that outrage, and even some of that hatred that I was going to talk about, over all these shootings for the people who choose violence over and over again. But mostly I feel sadness that this keeps happening and that it feels like it will never end because people keep giving in to fear, real and imagined, and continue to fight hate with hate and violence with violence.

But hate doesn’t beat hate, it never has and it never will. If we want this to stop we have to make it stop by choosing a different way. Bring people together instead of drive them apart. Remove the divisions, the us versus them, because only then can we come to understand one another and with understanding we remove the fear and with the fear goes the hatred. Choose love and maybe then we can achieve some peace.

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Respect for Trayvon Martin

This is the story of a man selling a gun. That man’s name is George Zimmerman and the gun is the one with which he fatally shot Trayvon Martin. A lot of people have opinions on whether Zimmerman was justified in killing Trayvon Martin. Some believe it was racially motivated and amounted to murder, others think that it was a case of self-defence and totally justified. I imagine there are plenty of other opinions on the case that fall somewhere in between. We’ll never know exactly what happened that night because Trayvon Martin is dead and no one can tell us his story. But when it comes to Zimmerman selling his gun, I don’t think any of these opinions matters at all. Whether he was right or wrong, he made a choice and he killed a young man, and nothing can change that. What we can change is how we deal with the aftermath.

Life is beautiful. Life deserves respect. Two statement with which I hope most of us would agree. Life is incredible in its complexity, from single celled organisms, to butterflies, to elephants, to human beings, and everything in between. Life is also precious and fragile. We as human beings get the unbelievable opportunity to see and know the splendour of life in all it’s variety. And we share the power to preserve or to destroy that beauty.

I’m not a pacifist. If attacked I will defend myself and I believe that sometimes killing is justified. Life is difficult and sometimes there are hard choices to be made. We all must live with the consequences of those choices, right or wrong. But at the heart of it should always be that life deserves respect.

A man is selling a gun. He is leveraging the notoriety of his case and attempting to profit off a young man’s life. Trayvon Martin was a human being with all the greatness and all the flaws inherent in us all. Whether his killing was justified or not is irrelevant. All life deserves our respect, including Trayvon Martin’s. Selling this artifact on the basis of a life lost is undignified and disgraceful. He calls it a piece of American history, and maybe it is, but it is not one on which we should look with pride but with regret.

Am I abnormal or is the rest of the world just crazy?

I went online today and saw a “news” story about how Chrissy Teigen went to dinner and a ton of people somehow equated this to her being a terrible mother and a horrible person. If you don’t know anything about Chrissy Teigen neither do I but it doesn’t really matter, except she had a baby a week ago and then went out for dinner with her husband a night ago, sans baby. And then a bunch of strangers decided this was their business for some reason and got so offended by a woman having dinner that they tried to shame her and make her out to somehow be the worst person in the world. Kudos to Chrissy Teigen for not giving a shit about any of this ridiculousness but stories like these just make me ask who are these people and where do they come from? Why do they care about such insignificant things and with such intensity no less? I just don’t get it.

I like baseball, Blue Jays fan since childhood. I watch all the games, I follow news about the team, own a couple jerseys, and will defend the bat flip to the end, basically I’m a big fan of anything Blue Jays. We are currently 21 games into a 162 game season and I see fans flip-flopping their opinions so fast it makes my head hurt. If they win a game, no doubt about it they’re winning the whole thing, World Series all the way. If they lose a game, last year’s run was a fluke, they all suck, they need new management, pitching, hitting, etc. You don’t even need to know anything about baseball, just basic logic should tell you this makes no sense. Maybe you want to call it passion for the game but since when did passion have to be irrational? I really don’t get it.

Everyone should be able to pee in peace. Seems obvious, or so I thought, until a bunch of people realized they don’t know what transgender means and got afraid instead of trying to learn something. Think of the children, won’t somebody think of the children!, they say in their best Helen Lovejoy voice. Well guess what, it’s not like transgender folks have just been holding it in until now. They’ve been peeing in the same bathrooms as your children forever and the only difference now is that you know about it, which actually makes it more dangerous for them than for your children because now they have to worry even more about your ignorance and intolerance causing them trouble when all they want to do is pee. And if a pedophile wants to dress as a woman to get your child, he could already do that if he wanted to but it doesn’t happen because it’s a really stupid plan to attack someone in broad daylight with a bunch of people around. Oh and if it was such a great idea you’d probably hear about it happening to young boys a lot more than you do because, hey, they don’t have to dress up there, but I don’t hear anyone so worried about the children that they suggest separate bathrooms for kids and for adults. Because it’s not about the children, it’s about fear and ignorance. Just let people pee in peace.

Everyday I see this insanity all over the place, whether it’s hoax articles proclaimed as truth, battles against discrimination (haven’t we done this before, why do we have to fight tooth and nail for every inch of progress?), and pretty much every news article about the American presidential election. When did we forget those old adages like think before you speak, don’t believe everything you hear, learn from your mistakes, and treat others the way you want to be treated.

The definition of sanity is acting in a normal manner but sometimes when I’m awash in all the ridiculousness I wonder, if I’m the only one who’s not crazy does that make me the insane one?

On the Nature of Pain

{A caveat before you read this. Everything, other than this note, that is written here was written while I was experiencing severe pain, sleep deprived due to the pain, and medicated (which is unfortunately not that effective for the actual pain but does add a nice sense of unreality to everything). I wanted to try to give a sense of what the extreme pain feels like (though not the most extreme since coherent thought isn’t possible at that point) while I’m feeling it because it’s a difficult thing to describe, even when it happens really often, the memory is too fleeting to really capture. I’m not sure if I succeeded, it feels like a pale shadow of reality when I read my own words but that may be the best anyone can achieve when it comes to something so personal. Every experience is a little different, this is a collection of writings from three different episodes, so the tone does vary a bit, some lighter, some a bit more maudlin. I tried to leave everything as I originally wrote it during the episode, only editing things which were completely unintelligible. I debated whether to actually share something so personal but in then end isn’t the point of writing, to give an outlet, to share our thoughts and experiences. This is a snapshot of a very specific experience but I hope it may resonate with more common experiences of life.}

Pain bursts like fireworks, the world becomes small, hard to see, hard to comprehend. Everything is there, I can describe my surroundings but it all feels unreal, far away. Pain encompasses everything and becomes the only reality. Connection to the ordinary world fades, barely tethered, an alternate reality seen but not touched. Disconnected, untethered, floating in the world but not really there. As the pain eases, life comes back slowly, becomes more real, but a remnant of discontinuity persists. The pain never really ends just ebbs and flows until another wave crashes over me and I am again lost in the tide.

Maybe the pain is better described as a roller-coaster. It rolls up and down, never-ending, the occasional straightaway where things start to feel stable and then you hit the loopity loop, you’re upside down then right side up, around and around till you want to throw up. Problem with this roller-coaster is the exit ramp is still under construction so there’s no way to stop the ride yet. And every time the exit seems like it might be coming close to a finish something smashes it to pieces again. Hope remains but it has less strength than it used to have. Nothing to do but ride on and endure. I used to enjoy roller-coasters.

As we suffer there is often nothing we can do but wait for the pain to end or, at least, lessen when there is no end in sight. It can seem impossible to continue, as if the pain will take away all that we are and could ever be. There are points where we believe we would do anything to make it end, cut off the offending limb, burn away the source of the pain, anything at all for sweet relief. It is endless torture and in the end it feels like it will destroy us. This is pain, how it winds its way into us, seeks to control our every thought and action.

But is it real? Pain can feel larger than us, larger than life, but it comes from us. We create it, we are its source and its only power comes from us. Pain is a part of us and therefore, by definition, it is smaller than us, only a part of the whole. We endure because we are greater than the pain, stronger even when we feel so weak. Pain is very real but it is also an illusion, it holds only the power over us that we allow it to hold.

James Webb Space Telescope

When you were a kid did you ever look up at the stars and wonder what was out there and how it all came to be? I certainly did and I still do when I get the chance away from city lights. That’s why I get excited about projects like the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST or Webb).

I’m sure most people have heard about the Hubble Space Telescope, named after astronomer Edwin Hubble, which was launched in 1990 and has provided us with some of the most iconic and detailed images of our universe. The Hubble remains in operation but is approaching the end of its life span and is in need of a successor. That’s where the Webb telescope comes in to play.

Originally called the Next Generation Space Telescope, because it is intended to build on the work of the Hubble and will also feature new engineering technologies such as a lightweight, deployable primary mirror which weighs less than Hubble’s mirror but is six times the size, it was renamed in September 2002 after James E. Webb, a NASA administrator who led the Apollo missions.

Webb is a large space based observatory which will operate farther from Earth than the Hubble does, maintaining orbit at the second Sun-Earth Lagrange point. A Lagrange point is a position where the combined gravitational pull of two large bodies, in this case Earth and the Sun, interact to create a stable point in gravitational potential. A spacecraft can maintain an orbit at this point with relatively small fuel consumption since the gravitational forces combine to create a mostly stable orbit. The reason for operating the Webb telescope at the second Lagrange point is because Webb mainly observes infrared light and since heat radiation is infrared, any object that creates heat, including Webb itself, would interfere with observations from the telescope. To combat this problem Webb has a large sun-shield which needs to block light from the Sun, the Earth and the Moon all at once. Being at the second Lagrange point enables the sun-shield to block all these emitters of heat radiation all at the same time and the cold environment keeps the telescope at a very low operating temperature to minimize any interference to its observations. There is one drawback to this orbit which is that, unlike Hubble, the Webb will not be serviceable and will therefore only have an operating lifespan of 5 1/2 to 10 years.

Webb will look deeper into space than Hubble is capable of doing, going further into the reaches of the earliest formation of galaxies in our Universe. We’ll be able to see how galaxies formed and evolved through time, follow the formation of stars and planets, and investigate planetary systems for potential life. We will also be able to look more closely at our own solar system and hopefully gain a deeper understanding of our little corner of the Universe, from how the system formed to closer looks at all the objects in our system, from Mars to Pluto, planets and asteroids and everything in between. Webb will also contribute to many other research endeavours such as dark matter and dark energy research, and will also continue in the footsteps of Hubble by providing images and discoveries to the public. Since Webb images will be in infrared and will have to be shifted into a visible light picture by computer, they will look different to Hubble but I have no doubt they will be just as fascinating and beautiful.

This project is a collaboration between fourteen countries, lead by NASA with significant contribution from the European Space Agency and the Canadian Space Agency. Proposals from around the world will be used to determine observation plans and data will be publicly available for scientists and the general public. Webb has an estimated launch date of October 2018.

Projects like this one are beautiful in more ways than one. They allow us to see further and understand more clearly our Universe in all its beauty. These discoveries help shape us and our place in the Universe, they fire the imagination and lead us onward to deeper appreciation of life, beauty and truth.

What is life without knowledge? Our Universe is awe-inspiring and the more we know, the better it gets.

For more information on the James Webb Space Telescope you can visit the NASA website at:

http://www.jwst.nasa.gov/

Hello, Again.

So, it’s been awhile, how’s everybody doing?

Good?

Great, glad to hear it.

Where have I been? you ask. (I assume; I can’t really read your mind, although that would be really cool; unless it’s just really mundane things like grocery lists and you wondering if you left the stove on, or if you’re secretly a sociopath; things could get weird. I should probably get back to the point, though, this is getting a bit off topic.)

I haven’t really been writing lately due partly to some ongoing health issues affecting my memory and concentration. Because of this it has been hard for me to remember ideas or stick with them long enough to actually produce a finished product, not to mention that the harder I work my brain the more pain I cause myself, literally. All of that can kinda bum me out and make me less inclined to keep trying to write. On the other hand, not writing also bums me out, so it’s been a fight to see which side wins.

So I will no longer be writing anything (except for this, of course) ….

…..

…..

(I know, I know, it’s a dumb joke but it’s my blog and I can do what I want.)

Obviously, because I bothered to write this silly piece in the first place, there will be more articles, rants, and general silliness again coming from the Bat Cave in the near future and beyond. (Because Batman never sleeps! Seriously, it’s like 4am right now, why am I awake?)

In the aim of keeping to that promise, I will be setting myself a goal to post something new every two weeks, going forward. If it goes better than expected I may produce more, perhaps every week, and if it goes worse, well, that would be disappointing (High stakes, I know. Maybe I’ll make myself run laps or something, I could use the exercise anyway, not really big on running, though I guess that’s why it would be motivating? I think I strayed from the point again, really need to keep on that.)

Welcome back to the Bat Cave!

 

 

 

I’m Not a Girl!

One day in the forest there was a little girl wandering down a wide path who came upon an owl perched in a tree and hooting. Finding the sound terribly exciting, the girl began to imitate the hoot as she walked.

“Hoot, hoot,” said she to Owl.

“Why are you making such a noise, little girl?” asked Owl.

“I am not a little girl,” she replied. “I am an Owl, like you.”

“Well, if you are an owl, fly up here and perch with me on this branch.”

The girl tried jumping and flapping her arms but try as she might she could not reach even the lowest branches of the tree, let alone the high branch of Owl’s perch.

“I am sorry Owl, I would like to join you but it seems I cannot fly.” said the girl.

In a grave voice, Owl replied. “In that case you cannot be an owl, for all owls can fly.”

Disappointed the girl ceased her hooting and continued down the forest path until a rabbit hopped out of the bushes and onto the path in front of her. How delightful, thought the girl, and she got down on all fours and began to hop after Rabbit.

Noticing this strange hopping creature following her, Rabbit stopped to ask, “Why are you hopping little girl?”

“I am not a little girl, I am a rabbit. See, I hop just like you.” answered the girl.

“That you do,” said Rabbit. “But you are a strange looking rabbit, where is your fur?”

The girl reached out to feel Rabbit’s soft white fur, then she felt her own body and it’s smooth skin.

“Alas, Rabbit, it seems I have no fur!” cried the girl.

“Ah,” said Rabbit. “Then you are not a rabbit, for all rabbits have fur.”

Disappointed yet again, the girl ceased her hopping and continued down the path until she came upon a monkey climbing and swinging through the trees and across the path. That looked like so much fun the girl decided to join and begin climbing the nearest trees.

Watching this ungraceful girl climbing his trees, Monkey questioned her, “Why are you climbing these trees, little girl?”

“I am not a little girl, I am a monkey and I climb trees like you.” replied the girl.

“You climb but you do not swing from branch to branch, and where is your tail?” said Monkey.

The girl tried to swing but her arms fell short and when she searched behind her for her tail she could find none.

“I cannot swing and I have no tail, dear Monkey, I suppose this means I am not really a monkey?” sighed the girl.

“I am afraid not my friend, for Monkeys have tails and swing through the trees.”

Dejected the girl climbed down from the tree and continued down the path until she came to a small pond and saw a frog ribbiting while sitting on a lilypad. The noise made the girl laugh and she tried to copy it.

“Ribbit, ribbit, “ croaked the girl, and then laughed.

“Why do you copy my call little girl and then laugh at me?” asked Frog.

“I am not laughing at you Frog, I ribbit like you for I am not a little girl, I am a frog and the sound tickles my throat so I laugh.” said the girl.

“A frog you say, you are very large for a frog, however, if you are what you say, join me on my pond, there is a lilypad for you over there.” offered Frog.

The girl tried to sit on the lilypad but she found she was too big and only ended up getting wet as she fell to the bottom of the small pond.

“Oh no!” cried the girl. “I am too big for the lilypad and now am all wet. I am not a true frog am I?”

“It would seem you are not a frog, as us frogs are small and sit on lilypads.” said Frog.

As the girl got out of the pond and dried herself upon a rock, Monkey swung into the trees nearby, Rabbit hopped to the edge of the pond, and Owl alighted upon a nearby branch. Along with Frog in his pond they all pondered the sad little girl on her rock.

“Why are you sad?” asked Owl.

“I cannot fly like Owl for I have no wings, my skin is smooth not soft like Rabbit’s fur, I cannot swing like Monkey without a tail, and I got all wet trying to sit on a lilypad like Frog.” lamented the girl.

“But you are not an Owl, a Rabbit, a Monkey or a Frog. You appear to be a little girl, why do you try to be something you are not?” asked Rabbit.

“What fun is it to be a little girl? Hooting like Owl, hopping like Rabbit, climbing like Monkey and ribbiting like Frog is so much fun. What can a little girl do compared to all that?” asked the girl.

“Ah, but, little girl while I can swing I cannot hoot or ribbit,” said Monkey, “and Frog here can sit on the lilypad but would be a hopeless climber. We all can only do what we are good at.”

“Yes,” agreed Frog. “And you, as a little girl, were able to do much of what we each can do such as hoot, climb, hop and ribbit. You also have long legs for running and swimming. You have pieces of us but are capable of so much more. It seems a fine thing to be a little girl.”

At this the girl brightened and laughed, “Thank you Owl, thank you Rabbit, thank you Monkey and thank you Frog. I was seeing only what I could not do and not the things that I could. Maybe being a little girl is not so dull after all.”

And Owl hooted, Rabbit hopped around, Monkey swung from his tail, and Frog ribbited in his pond while the little girl laughed and played with the animals having grand fun until it was time to go home.