Autism Services Overhaul (Writing My MPP)

Here is a letter I wrote to my MPP:

Doug Downey,

How has your week, and your staff’s week, been going? At the good end of the spectrum, I hope. I read that the PC Government was moving to increase spending on the diagnosis of autism.2 This is great news, and will probably save money in long run if we can identify and support kids at a younger age.1

However, the plan for changing services for kids with autism concerns me. First, it’s not needs based,2 but aged based.1,2 This will result in over funding some kids and under funding others.2 Since it’s based on sending money to parents like the BC-model, this means it will have the same failures as the BC model.1 The money doesn’t cover the needs many children have.2 I’m also unclear how giving money to parents rather than paying for services directly would decrease wait times. There are significant savings to be had with a single payer system or the efficiencies of purchasing in bulk.

It seems this goes against what advocates2 and parents1,2 want. I support provincially funded, expert-led, parent inclusive, needs based treatment for children with autism. Sending an arbitrary amount of money to parents will meet the needs of Ontarioans, and puts too much burden on some parents.

  1. How will the proposed Ford Government model work when the BC model has failed to decrease wait times or costs?
  2. What will you do to ensure parents are able to access services once you start sending their families money?
  3. What kind of oversight do you feel would be required to ensure the treatments and clinics parents spend the money on are effective?
  4. How does changing who spends the money change wait list times?
  5. Whose consultation will you value more? Experts, front line workers, the public or parents?

I hope you will be working for effective solutions on this topic. I look forward to hearing how you will work with the rest of your party to change this policy so it will work for families.

Shawn P. Conroy

Notes and additional reading

  1. Ford government to overhaul autism services, give cash directly to families from The Toronto Star
    https://www.thestar.com/politics/provincial/2019/02/05/ford-government-to-overhaul-autism-services-give-cash-directly-to-families.html
  2. PC staffer quits over what he calls Ontario’s ‘absolutely wrongheaded’ autism plan from CBC News
    https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/toronto/pc-staffer-quits-over-what-he-calls-ontario-s-absolutely-wrongheaded-autism-plan-1.5008594
  3. This time my opening was an intentional joke, unlike my previous email. A strained joke, perhaps. But intentional.
  4. It is the 8th of the month and I have emailed you almost half dozen times. I am feeling it’s overwhelming to keep up with the rate of radical, non-conservative changes coming from the Ford Government. Hopefully this is just a fluke and will settle down going forward.

Health Care Super Agency (Writing My MPP)

Here is a letter I wrote to my MPP:

Doug Downey,

I hope you are in good health today. As you know, information about the so-called health care super agency has been in the press lately. I read over the comments from healthcare workers, advocates and experts. It seems that many believe that removing local autonomy or specialist organizations would be detrimental to the delivery of services.1 Specifically to decrease the speed of adopting more effective or less expensive treatments, to reduce quality, and increase wait times by increasing the bureaucracy involved.

As it stand, I’m opposed to creating this large bureaucracy.

  1. Who will you consult with when determining if this will be a good idea or a bad idea?
  2. What is the timeline of your consultation?
  3. Will you oppose the ministry of health and the legislature if they try to make this change too quickly? (Without proper consultation.)
  4. Do share the concerns of workers and advocates who have seen slowdowns and costly delays when local control is put under a larger central bureaucracy?
  5. Do you share the concerns of workers and advocates who have seen significant delays in treatment advancement of conditions when specialist organizations are put under the control of a larger central bureaucracy?
  6. I agree with conservative hesitancy of central government and desire for local control and consultation. Does this centralization plan concern you as a conservative?

Thanks,

Shawn P. Conroy

Notes and additional reading

  1. Experts criticize Ontario proposal to overhaul health-care system, centralize patient care from the Globe and Mail
    https://www.theglobeandmail.com/canada/article-ontario-government-employee-fired-after-leak-of-fords-health-plan/
  2. The opening sentence was not intended to be a joke. It was my first thought when writing you, but I didn’t change it when I realized it could be seen as sarcastic.

Falling Out with Germs, Guns & Steel and Jared Diamond

I don’t remember how I first heard of the book Germs, Guns & Steel. I was fascinated by it when I read it 8 years ago. It was thoughtful, had lots of data, and built on the history I already knew. I was so inthralled after a few chapters that I started to keep a Google Doc of the main points and interesting ideas in the book. This was around the time I met my wife. We met at a coffee shop. I arrived early and brought that book to read as I waited for her. It was there at a pivotal time in my life.

Summary

If you  haven’t read it, it says there is a significant amount of luck involved with the first steps of civilization building. All people from around the globe are similar, but technology and industry can’t develop until certain environmental conditions were met. This is why some civilizations were able to conquer others worldwide during the European colonial period. Not because people are more or less inventive, intelligent or even aggressive than others, but because some had a head start with an unlevel playing field.

Farming changed everything. But it cannot happen if you don’t have enough types of food at hand to settle and have a complete diet. Using animals as beasts of burden increases your output, but isn’t possible if you don’t have animals you can domesticate. Obviously, you need to be smart and inventive enough to figure it out. But all modern humans are smart, going back at least 70 000 years. That’s not the difference. The resources we could use is the difference.

Why I liked it

I really enjoyed it. It logically explanationed why some cultures ended up with a greater capacity for war. There wasn’t any difference in the people. Time and again he shows that as soon as a society met certain conditions it quickly developed along a similar lines. There isn’t any difference in the people. Only the raw materials they had to work with. It wasn’t outlandish, didn’t contradict what I knew, and appealed to my sense that all people are in some sense equal.

The people of the Americas didn’t have the technology to fight off Europeans. That is why they couldn’t have won. It wasn’t their fault and the victory wasn’t about the Europeans being superior. Every area in the world developed farming as fast as it could. Some just had to wait for it to be possible. And they continued to progress on their own or quickly adopt the technology of their neighbours, as the Europeans did. They became more efficient and many developed larger populations. Eventually everyone would have big cities and advanced technology. It was the world that was unfair.

Unlike the environmental determinist who said geography made people lazy or stupid or value different things, this book said all people were very similar. Some were just more privileged than others.

Why I must reconsider

After, I occasionally found criticisms of Jared Diamond’s book. But of the ones I found, many didn’t say he was wrong but expressed concern over how he worded things. Those who did say he was wrong misrepresented what he said. I even watched a video saying that he proposed environmental determinism, which was a concept used by white supremacists. But the summary of the book didn’t match what I recalled reading. So I dismissed the criticisms.

Years after that I found the list. It was a collection of posts making deep and thoughtful criticism of Germs, Guns and Steel. It points out that much of his evidence is wrong, and we now know many things that contradict his views. This was just over a year ago. It’s a short list with very long articles or posts, some written by actual historians.

As I read through the content I found he made mistakes, errors and had inaccuracies in the book. As I read the criticisms I thought, ‘that’s not exactly right’ and ‘that doesn’t matter’ and ‘that’s just a bad example, the larger point stands.’ Until I felt that none of it stood. That the big picture was also wrong. But maybe it was a cognitive bias that switched me. Do the arguments stand a closer look? I’m not sure.

We have a lot of flawed beliefs about history. There is a well reviewed book called 1491: New Revelations of the Americas Before Columbus. It explains that over the last 100 years we have learned a lot about history, and much of what we were taught is not right. My first major introduction to this was a Cracked article about myths about the founding of America. This clickbait article actually gave me the foundation to understand to accept the criticisms of Germs, Guns and Steel. If I hadn’t previously read that article I might not have realized the myths I believed. I could have dismissed these criticism. It helped prime me for when I came across the list.

Even then, it took a lot of reading. It was a lot to take in. I didn’t have much time, and haven’t been able to go over it again. So I’m not well equipped to make the argument that his ideas about livestock, germ theory and details about conquest were wrong. I must dive back into these criticism. Now that I have a better feeling for the breadth of the arguments I can try to approach them and see if they make the same sense I thought I found a year ago.

Steven Pinker, you’re next. I see a lot of the same red flags.

Full Day Kindergarten (Writing My MPP)

Here is a letter I wrote to my MPP:

Doug Downey,

My last email to you was long. I don’t know what your schedule for returning emails tends to be, but I look forward to your response. However, today I’m writing you on a related but different topic.

Last week Doug Ford wouldn’t commit to full day kindergarten for the 2020-2021 school year.1 This concerned me but my email was already too long. Today I would like to ask about this. I’m aware that Lisa Thompson clarified that there would be ‘full-day learning’2 of some form delivered in some undefined way if and when full day kindergarten is scrapped.

Certainly this alleviates some fears about working parents not having the ability to find affordable childcare if they need to be at work, and the lack of childcare spaces. It also alleviates my fears of turning the pre-grade 1 program into nothing more than childcare. Learning is important and students entering grade 1 with a solid grasp of the fundamentals is required for students success.

I support full-day government funded programs for kindergarten-aged students. I also support full-day learning.

I oppose downgrading full-day kindergarten-aged learning by removing full-time teachers from kindergarten classrooms. I also oppose increasing the ratio of students to teachers in a class. A kindergarten class should have a teacher, a DECE (designated early childhood education) staff and EAs (educational assistants) as required. Do not increase the number of students a teacher is responsible for. Do not replace teacher-led hours with non-teacher hours in the classroom.

Doug Ford specifically said that the budget must be cut to balance the books.1,3 But last year he campaigned on a ‘middle class’ tax cut that would mostly benefit the rich.4 In the fall, the Ford Government put forward a tax cut for low income earners that was criticized because it wasn’t as much help to earners as the scrapped minimum wage increase.5 Doug Ford said everyone would have to make sacrifices5 but that doesn’t include requiring businesses to pay a livable wage or to pay their fair share  to provide for the vulnerable and underprivileged.

Also, studies have shown that good education by qualified professionals working together reduces government expenses.8 Solid full-day kindergarten saves social costs, avoids many social problems, helps prevent future educational costs by addressing issues early, increases tax revenue through employment and adds to the economy.9 Full day kindergarten is an investment and preventative measure to save taxpayers money8,9 with a return on investment of approximately 100%.10 That doesn’t even count the economic benefits.

  1. There are already too many students per teacher now. Do you support maintaining the current ratio, or even reducing the number of students at the kindergarten level?
  2. Will you support full day teacher-led kindergarten instruction?
  3. Will you listen to education experts and teachers first and foremost when making your decision?
  4. Doug Ford referenced cutting the budget to deal with the deficit. Have you considered tax raises?
  5. Did you vote for the tax decrease in the fall?
  6. Has the Ford Government considered closing tax loopholes so the wealthy and corporation pay an amount closer to their base tax rate?
  7. If balancing the budget is so important, how do you justify tax cuts that reduce government revenue?
  8. If everyone must make sacrifices for the budget, how do you justify giving people tax cuts at all?
  9. How will we pay for increased educational and social services needs if we reduce teacher-led hours?
  10. How will we maintain or increase our educational outcomes/successes if we reduce teacher-led hours or increase the number of students a teacher leads?

I look forward to your response,

Shawn P. Conroy

Notes and additional reading

  1. Ford government says full-day ‘learning’ will stay, but it won’t necessarily be kindergarten from The Globe and Mail (Video)
    https://www.theglobeandmail.com/canada/video-doug-ford-wont-commit-to-future-of-full-day-kindergarten/
  2. Doug Ford government says full-day learning is here to stay in Ontario from The Toronto Star
    https://www.thestar.com/politics/provincial/2019/02/01/ford-government-says-full-day-kindergarten-is-here-to-stay-in-ontario.html
  3. Ford government says full-day ‘learning’ will stay, but it won’t necessarily be kindergarten from CBC
    https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/toronto/ford-government-says-full-day-kindergarten-will-remain-in-place-1.5002881
  4. Reality check: Who will benefit from Doug Ford’s promised tax cut? from Global News
    https://globalnews.ca/news/4202540/ontario-election-doug-ford-tax-cut/
  5. Ontario PCs slash spending and oversight, unveil tax cut and new LCBO hours in 1st economic plan from CBC
    https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/toronto/ontario-pc-fall-economic-outlook-cuts-tax-lcbo-1.4906718
  6. The Winners And Losers Of Ontario Premier Doug Ford’s Spending Cuts So Far from Huffington Post
    https://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2018/12/21/doug-ford-cuts_a_23624751/
  7. Ontario Tories promise low-income tax cut, scale back political fundraising rules in first fiscal outlook from The Globe and Mail
    https://www.theglobeandmail.com/canada/article-ontarios-fiscal-update-projects-deficit-at-145-billion-as-province/
  8. Understanding and Addressing Workforce Shortages in the ECEC Sector (2009) from Child Care Human Resources Sector Council
    http://www.ccsc-cssge.ca/sites/default/files/uploads/Projects-Pubs-Docs/2.9-WFS_LitSocioExec_Eng.pdf
  9. Early Years Study 3: Making decisions, Taking action from Margaret & Wallace McCain Family Foundation
    http://ecereport.ca/media/uploads/pdfs/early-years-study3-2011.pdf
    Figure 4.3, Page 67 (PDF page 82)
    By Hon. Margaret Norrie McCain, J. Fraser Mustard, Kerry McCuaig
  10. That’s 100% profit. Not breaking even, which would be an ROI of 0%.
  11. I really am sorry this email is so long. It didn’t start out that way.

Class Size Hard Cap (Writing My MPP)

Here is the letter I wrote to my MPP:

Doug Downey,

I hope you and your staff are doing well in this sudden cold weather. Although I have not yet heard back from my email earlier this week, I do have some pressing concerns I would like to bring up here.

I have two children that will be starting school soon. One this year, and the other in a few years.  I was relieved when Lisa Thompson said that no decision has been made to remove the hard cap on kindergarten class sizes.1 But the fact that it’s an open question is very distressing.2 There are reports from around the world that too many students in a class is dangerous, such as Nordic Science has reported.3 These show health problems for both teachers and children. Already in Ontario the Hamilton Spectator reports the noise of large kindergarten classrooms is at dangerous levels.4

Some Studies, like from DIW Berlin, show that low class sizes are critical in increasing educational outcomes.5

As written by the Globe and Mail, there are other serious concerns about increased class sizes, especially at the kindergarten level.6 Children who fall behind cost a lot in remedial support. Children without enough full time adults in the room at every moment will have increased injuries and damage property. And that’s assuming none of the students are trying to cause problems.

  1. Too many kindergarten students in one class will increase noise levels to an unsafe amount. Do you think this is acceptable for our children or for government employees charged with their care?
  2. Do you believe that to protect students, class sizes at all education levels should have a hard cap?
  3. The Canadian Teacher’s Federation reports that violence is increasing in classrooms across Canada.7 Do you believe too many students in a class is leading to unruly behaviour, accidents, bullying and occasional assault and battery among effectively unsupervised children is increasing?8
  4. Educational success is linked to fewer students in a class. Will you fight for smaller class sizes lead by at least one teacher? Perhaps more support like designated early childhood educator (DECE) and educational assistant (EA) staff, as needed.
  5. Ontario now integrates more students with special needs in the classroom that were not allowed in class room 50 years ago. Do you believe we must support both the mainstream students and the students with special needs with more support? Specifically, with designated early childhood educator (DECE) and educational assistant (EA) staff.
  6. There are often trade-offs when trying to cut expenses. If you cannot cut expenses without sacrificing the education and/or safety of my children, will you continue with the current system, or will you cut spending?
  7. Studies show increased class sizes will lead to more students falling behind. If we increased class sizes at later grades, how will remedial studies be administered? Won’t that cost more?
  8. Ontario’s students are well regarded across North America. That is why Google and Microsoft hire directly from our universities, and have campuses here. Our success is because of the hard work of very qualified staff. Teachers must have two degrees including a B.Ed. EAs and DECEs are likewise also well-educated to fill their roles. Will you fight to keep these resources are available to all students across Ontario?

Thank you for your time. I hope to hear from you soon.

Shawn

References

  1. Ontario education minister says no decisions made yet on removing class size caps
    https://globalnews.ca/news/4884438/ontario-class-size-caps/
    Global News
  2. Class size, teacher hiring part of new education consultations, leaving one teachers union wary
    https://www.thestar.com/politics/provincial/2019/01/23/class-size-teacher-hiring-part-of-new-education-consultations-leaving-one-teachers-union-wary.html
    The Toronto Star
  3. Kindergarten and preschool workers report more hearing problems than others
    https://www.thespec.com/news-story/4872842-how-many-kindergarten-students-is-too-many-/
    ScienceNordic
  4. How many kindergarten students is too many?
    https://www.thespec.com/news-story/4872842-how-many-kindergarten-students-is-too-many-/
    The Hamilton Spectator
  5. https://www.diw.de/de/diw_01.c.584970.de/themen_nachrichten/kleinere_klassen_koennen_zu_besseren_leistungen_in_den_faechern_deutsch_und_mathematik_fuehren.html
    DIW Berlin
  6. Removing caps on class sizes is a failure of both education and economics
    https://www.theglobeandmail.com/opinion/article-removing-caps-on-class-sizes-is-a-failure-of-both-education-and/
    Globe and Mail
  7. Lack of resources and supports for students among key factors behind increased rates of violence towards teachers
    https://www.ctf-fce.ca/en/news/Pages/default.aspx?newsid=1983998942&year=2018
    Canadian Teacher’s Federation
  8. ‘It’s not reasonable’: Ottawa teachers dismayed over move to revisit class sizes
    https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/ottawa/teachers-class-sizes-consultation-1.4954930
    CBC

Schedule 10 Removal (Writing My MPP)

Here is the letter I wrote to my MPP:

Doug Downey,

I’m glad to see my MPP is on the financial transparency committee. Transparency is important to democracy and I suspect you feel the same way. What is the main goal of this committee?

It’s pleasing to see that Steve Clark announce schedule 10 will be removed from Bill 66. I have other concerns over the bill and see the public debate reflecting those concerns. Please take a conservative approach, rather than making radical changes to how business is done in Ontario. I do not believe in elevating business interests ahead of everything else.

Shawn

Apparently, BBM lies

BlackBerry Messenger is now a multiplatform messaging service. However, it has some distinct limitation that I would have never known about had I not been able to actually use it on my own phone. By design your history is not saved on BlackBerry servers for what I assume are security reasons. Also, you cannot be logged on to multiple devices at once. This is important because the way BlackBerry Messenger was designed it would be too hard to be able to see which devices it has been delivered to and if it has been read.

It could have been designed differently, but these are the choices BBM made with their particular goals in mind. There are other ways to have read receipts on messages. (Delivered can get complicated.)

However, I was in a situation this week that highlighted problems with this design and shortcuts BBM developers took. I sent a message to a friend on Monday. He got it on his phone, but apparently didn’t use his phone on Monday. He bought a new phone on Wednesday and logged in with BBM. I sent him a message about the new phone and he responded. I also noticed that my messages from Monday were marked as read. I knew that messages don’t transfer between phones: If I’m on Hangouts I can see my whole message history (unless you turn off the feature or set a conversation to off the record), if I’m in ChatOn it can load any messages in the last two weeks. But BBM acts as though it clears the messages from its servers and will not send older messages to your new phone. So I asked if he had actually gotten those messages.

He had not. The messages were lost. Yet, they were marked as read because he had seen the most recent message and my BBM phone assumed that all the messages before the last one had been read by my friend. I find this to be appalling. I thought BBM was better engineered than that. Is it possible this is only a shortcut on Android phones? Maybe. But it’s pretty damning, I think.

Since I consider read receipts to be one of the most important features of BBM I feel rather betrayed by the fact that it is missing. Also, I find the Android up fast, but complicated. I would also rate it higher if it was using the Android interface guidelines rather than BlackBerry 10 or whatever design guide they used for the app.

Psst! Your agenda is showing! Cosmos & Bruno

When people become obsessed they begin to see everything through one lens. For example, people who are against the gay will see ‘the gay’ everywhere. And worse, they attribute it to the Gay Agenda. This makes for the comical situation of anything remotely not anti-gay becomes part of an overwhelming gay conspiracy to destroy straight families and upset the fragile balance of hetrosexuality. Those with an agenda see anything that doesn’t mesh well with their agenda as being part of the anti-agenda. Black and white. There is no middle ground. And facts often fall to the wayside.

Consider Hank Campell’s review of the first episode of Cosmos:

Then suddenly we get a claim that Giordano Bruno is responsible for the concept of the universe – because he read ‘banned’ books. Lucretious wasn’t science – there was no scientific evidence for his claim that wind caused earthquakes or worms spontaneously generated – it was philosophy, and his book was not rare in 1600 AD, people were also not martyred for reading it, and yet we get told a philosophical belief in infinity was what got Bruno into trouble.

Having watched the first episode already, I was quite amused by this. The segment being discussed clearly showed that Bruno got these ideas from already banned books. How Campell can claim that he is responsible for the idea is odd. Though it did seem to imply that after Bruno came to believe the universe was infinitely big he did populate it with stars and planets. I don’t know if this was an idea unique to Bruno or not.

Campell clearly tries to discredit the idea that the book was banned. Was the book universally banned, all copied destroyed, and was housing it a crime? No. But the book was officially blacklisted by at least one church:

The Jesuistic Florentine Synod banned Lucretius, confessing that schoolteachers might be tempted to teach De rerum natura because of its gorgeous Latin, but sentencing those who did teach it to eternal damnation, plus a fine of 10 ducats.

The book was clearly banned in schools in 1516. It is a banned book. If that definition is good enough for the American Librarian Association it’s good enough for me.

Campell in the same paragraph also slammed Cosmos by saying that Bruno’s position wasn’t based on science, it wasn’t based on evidence. It was merely a philosophical thought experiment. Neil deGrasse Tyson is going to regret when he said otherwise when he said:

Bruno was no scientist. His vision of the cosmos was a lucky guess, because he has no evidence to support it. Like most guesses it could have turned out wrong. But once the idea was in the air it gave others a target to aim at, if only to disprove it.

Oh, he didn’t say otherwise. In fact, he pointed out exactly that. I’m beginning to think that Campbell didn’t really watch Cosmos. Or, he let his hypersensitivity to the conflict churches have had with religion get in the way of seeing what was there.

Why has Bruno martyred? By now it should be clear that Campbell it speaking about what he thought he saw, and not what Cosmos actually showed. In Campbell’s Cosmos we are told that he was killed because he read the wrong book and because he thought there were planets and stars outside of our solar system, and for no other reason (emphasis mine):

his book was not rare in 1600 AD, people were also not martyred for reading it, and yet we get told a philosophical belief in infinity was what got Bruno into trouble.

It’s an immediate disconnect for people who know science history because it smacks of an agenda. I instead object because it is flat-out incorrect. To claim that Bruno promoted the concept of the universe, a “soaring vision”, despite persecution, while simultaneously being hired over and over by the institutions we are told were oppressing him, makes no sense. That segment of the show makes it sound like he was a devout Christian tormented by reason rather than what he was – a cultist who engaged in confirmation bias to pick and choose anything that matched his beliefs.

Bruno’s “science” was never mentioned during his trial, he was on trial for being a cult worshiper. He only took up the cause of Copernicus because he believed in the Egyptian god Thoth and Hermetism and their belief that the Earth revolved around the Sun, not because he had perceived anything radical. Galileo rightly dismissed most of Bruno’s teachings as philosophical mumbo-jumbo. Bruno was only revived as a ‘scientist’ and a martyr for science by anti-religious humanists in the 19th century.The church didn’t even bother to ban his writing until well after he was dead.

In reality the charges upon which Bruno was convicted were as follows (emphasis mine):

  • holding opinions contrary to the Catholic faith and speaking against it and its ministers; 
  • holding opinions contrary to the Catholic faith about the Trinity, divinity of Christ, and Incarnation; 
  • holding opinions contrary to the Catholic faith pertaining to Jesus as Christ; 
  • holding opinions contrary to the Catholic faith regarding the virginity of Mary, mother of Jesus; 
  • holding opinions contrary to the Catholic faith about both Transubstantiation and Mass; 
  • claiming the existence of a plurality of worlds and their eternity; 
  • believing in metempsychosis and in the transmigration of the human soul into brutes; 
  • dealing in magics and divination.

He was charged for assert things against Catholic dogma and doctrine including the existence of other planets like Earth. What did Cosmos actually say he was convicted of?

You are found guilty of questioning the holy trinity and the divinity of Jesus Christ, of believing that God’s wrath is not eternal and that everyone will be saved, and asserting the existence of other words.

The segment in Cosmos in question here noted that his views of the universe were a minority of charges against him, as it was in fact. But in Campbell’s Cosmos these facts were never mentioned. If I watched the documentary he watched, I might agree with him. But since that documentary was never made I cannot see it.

Instead, when Campbell says “It’s an immediate disconnect for people who know science history because it smacks of an agenda” I wonder if it isn’t Campbell who has an agenda of downplaying any conflict between churches and individuals with religious belief and science as a body of knowledge. Many people participated in the same Charge against Cosmos. And for years I’ve heard people make the same claim. There is no conflict between science and religion. And any time you think there was wrong, you are wrong.

Perhaps he is like one of these people who go around saying that Galileo was not sent to jail for his beliefs. This is true: he was sentenced to house arrest. This doesn’t change the fact that Galileo was persecuted by a church because of his beliefs that were out of line of that of the church in question at that time and politically he was annoying the church. But the fact is that his belief that the Earth was the centre of the universe was what he was specifically asked to recant. Another tactic I’ve noticed is apologists noting that Joan of Arc was not killed by the church. This is also true. The church merely supported the killing and convicted her in their own court. But civil authorities carried out the sentence. In both cases people are misleading by splitting hairs. The fact of the persecution remains.

He is so driven by the agenda that he missed a point of the segment, and of the history of the church’s persecution of science: In almost all cases they are persecuting other religious people. This is not religion vs science. It’s people who cling to doctrine and dogma attacking those who do not. Bruno was religious. As was Joan of Arc, Galileo and Copernicus. In the three Cosmos episodes that aired each one has included a religious person who pushed science forward. In some cases they were attacked by other religious people for what they believed. I see religion as neither being cased as the villain or the hero. Rather, questioning versus idoeology.

I did not see this segment as an attack on religion. But Campbell seems so obsessed with it that he thought it was, and was unable to see what was actually before his eyes.

Art Collection of the Obama’s circa 1996

Back in 1996 the New Yorker posted these interviews that included photos of the Obama’s apartment.

Some people were a little confused about what the works of art surrounding them were. I thought it might be fun to actually look them up.

The first picture frame on the left contains two images of classical Thai dancers put together:

  1. 12″ x 24″ Thai Temple Rubbing – Black Musician Playing the Traditional Ranet Ek (Thai Xylophone)
  2. Thai Temple Rubbing – Black Classical Thai Dancer

The middle picture frame contains an image from Ramayana, an ancient story from the Cambodian culture. It’s a rubbing from an actual stone carving. This is a scene just before the good guys get the upper hand. Important in any good story.

The final picture frame is hard to see but looks like more dancers or musicians like the first one.

The statue on the side is probably some African statue. What is very interesting is I heard some people say that it’s a Voodoo-Santeria idol. Of course, Voodoo and Santeria are completely separate religious traditions and have nothing to do with each other.

Speaking of misinformation, I also saw it said that the picture frame in the middle showed the devil, which is clearly incorrect. And the one on the right was supposed to have Masonic symbols. And I certainly cannot see any. Besides, it clearly look Thai as I said above. Sadly, those who are likely to believe conspiracy theories just reposted such misinformation without even looking at the images which don’t show what they say they do.

I could tell right away. The devil? Nope, didn’t look like any Christian or Jewish type of art at all. That was the first clue. And I didn’t see anything Masonic or New World Order in these pictures at all. Of course, the one on the right has a lot of glare. So they may be there. But they just as equally may contain some writing that says ‘Shawn is always right.’ You cannot prove it doesn’t!
So, no Voodoo-Santeria idol. No images of the devil. And no Masonic symbols. What a let down. Instead, it’s just a bunch of cultural reproductions from around the world, just as you would expect educated and wealthy people to own. (And did you see the prices? Some are not that much to buy.)

I found some useful information over at IBA and Cosmophobia when I did a little research on this image.

GreenGeeks limitation – What you should know before web hosting

I have been using a dedicated web host since my university days for multiple websites. Eventually I switched service providers. And even tried to switch again. That’s when I realized there were bad service providers, and worse providers. The worse was HostPapa. All the bells and whistles, but a provider built on a foundation of sand.

I had mixed feelings about HostPapa going in to my short time with them. But the reviews online were so polarized and from such bad looking websites that I wondered if they were legit. In the time between starting to research Canadian web hosts and the time I switched to HostPapa for 30 hours, I got an account with GreenGeeks.
See, I was shedding as many sites as possible from my account. I wanted them all cleared out so my account was my account and I didn’t want any of these charity cases on my site. This one site was ran by an organization that could actually have their own server. But what I did instead was get the GreenGeeks account and bill them for my time and money. They then issued me a tax credit for my work. Essentially I donated it to them and got a tax write off.
My time with GreenGeeks was okay. The server times were mediocre. The sites went down for a minute or two sporadically. About the same as my analysis of HostPapa and even iPage. More importantly, customer service was immediate. I never had to wait more than about an hour, unless I opened a ticket to billing in the middle of the night.
For a ‘race to the bottom of the market’ web host like HostGator, JaguarPC and HostPapa I thought GreenGeeks was pretty good, and Canadian.
Then I tried to leave. Oh, they didn’t give me any trouble about leaving. But I wanted to download my cPanel backup. They don’t allow that. Which means I cannot download a file, and restore it on another cPanel website in a way that easily preservers all the data:
  • Files have to be (zipped and) transferred manually, via FTP.
  • Databases have to be exported one at a time, manually, via phpMyAdmin. Then you have to manually create each database and import them to the new host.
  • Database users? Cannot move those. Have to make sure you have kept records or can find them out. Apparently, someone on this site had automatically created some databases with some software installs. So I had to make sure I found all the web apps and edit their configuration files to find the passwords.
  • Add on domains? You have to re-add all of them.
  • MX and DNS records? You have to remake all of them.
  • Any email on the server? They didn’t tell me how to transport that. I would be able to do it myself, but what about all my users?
  • Mailing lists? Dido.
  • Server logs and usage? Gone. (Luckily, we are using Google Analytics.)
So this makes it a pain to move away from them. But here’s the kicker: it also makes it harder to move to them. Oh, maybe they will restore from a backup from the previous host. But I have no way of doing this. And I don’t know if this is allowed or not.
Took what could have been an easy day for me, and made it a mess. I’ve transferred the databases and am transferring the files as I type this. You see, I was so dissatisfied with web hosts, and I was already hosting other people’s sites that I decided to become a web host reseller. That means I charge people to use my server, which I sublease from another company. This means I can provide top notch service that doesn’t have as many outages and a full support team, but as I buy in bulk I can pass the savings on to small and mid-sized website.

So I’m transferring it to a new cPanel account I created on my own server. Manually. Because they suck.