Jim Taylor's Columns - 'Soft Edges' and 'Sharp Edges'

To make Comments write directly to Jim at jimt@quixotic.ca

 

10

Mar

2019

Imaginary games with imaginary money

Author: Jim Taylor

It just vanished -- $190 million. But was it ever there?

            The $190 million was in crypto-currency, controlled by a Canadian firm called QuadrigaCX. The best known crypto-currency is probably Bitcoin -- an imaginary currency invented, appropriately, by an imaginary person who used the name Satoshi Nakamoto,just ten years ago.

            QuadrigaCX, once Canada’s largest crypto-currency exchange, was founded by Gerald Cotten, a resident of Nova Scotia. Only Cotten knew the encrypted passwords required to access the company’s digit assets.

            As I understand crypto-currencies -- and I don’t -- they’re supposed to be an unhackable way to store wealth. It can’t be touched by governments, banks, or internet thieves, because its security depends on a “block chain” of computers, all of which have to be convinced that a transaction is legitimate before it can go ahead.

            When Cotten died, his crypto-keys died with him. Hmmm…Maybe you can take it with you?

 

Comments (0) Number of views (160)

8

Mar

2019

Unauthorized, unofficial, but real

Author: Jim Taylor

When you put a hundred or so teenagers together for a week, anything can happen. When you put them together 24 hours a day, in study sessions, discussion groups, singing, doing sensitivity exercises, attending meetings, and sleeping on the floor of a (separate) gyms, emotions can get overloaded. 

            So it was, back in 1982, at what was called a Youth Forum in Montreal. 

             Because it was a church-run event, we had worship services. Not everyone attended. 

            Towards the end, we put on a replica of John Wesley’s Re-covenanting Service. In the style of Wesley’s time, it provided an opportunity for personal confession of our sins and shortcomings, followed by the laying on of hands for healing and absolution. 

            I thought it would simply expose the young people to the customs of an earlier tradition.

            I was wrong. As the 30 or so young people attending came forward, knelt, and confessed, tears flowed abundantly. 


Comments (0) Number of views (155)

3

Mar

2019

Symbolic gestures can make a difference

Author: Jim Taylor

I wore a pink shirt last Wednesday. Pink is not my colour. It makes me look like cotton candy with a beard.

            But Wednesday was anti-bullying day, so I wore pink.

            It feels like a futile gesture. After all, what difference will it make if one old man wears a pink shirt for one day? School yard bullies won’t see it at all. Neither will patriarchal males in India and Africa who think of women as something inferior, to do with as they please. Nor will my pink shirt influence the behaviour of egocentric rulers in Riyadh or Moscow, Washington or Damascus.

            Short answer -- no difference at all.

            So why bother?

            I hear that response often, when I get into discussions about the state of the world. 


Comments (0) Number of views (208)

27

Feb

2019

Beyond human perceptions

Author: Jim Taylor

I’ve never heard a snowflake fall. It must make a sound, even if, as an Asian parable says, a snowflake weighs “Nothing, or less than nothing.” And yet there must be a point of contact, and with it, a sound, however slight. 

            Even if human ears are not sensitive enough to hear it. 

            I can’t hear a worm, burrowing through moist soil towards a dew-dappled lawn. But a robin can. 

            A dog can hear a whistle way above my frequency range; at the other end of the frequency scale, elephants use a sub-audible rumble to communicate with other elephants out of sight over the horizon. 

           In her book, A God That Could Be Real,author Nancy Ellen Abrams explores some implications of our human limitations. We can only comprehend things that fall within a certain size range, she asserts, relative to our own size. 


Comments (0) Number of views (180)

24

Feb

2019

Haiti’s woes as a parable

Author: Jim Taylor

Rioting in the streets of Haiti makes good video; the reasons for the riots don’t. 

            It’s been 40 years since I was last in Haiti. Recent news reports suggest that no much has changed. Haiti is, and was, a poster child for the effects of poverty and corruption. For at least a century, Haiti has been the poorest country in the western hemisphere. 

           Inspired by the revolutions in America and France, the Haitian slaves revolted -- the first successful slave rebellion anywhere in the world. Haiti became independent in 1804.

            But in one of the recurring ironies of history, Haiti’s black masters proved just as brutal as the French had been. Since independence, Haiti has had 32 coups.

            News reports blame the current riots on corruption in government. That’s too easy an answer. Every Haitian government has been corrupt. The only debate might be over which one was least corrupt.



Comments (0) Number of views (324)

20

Feb

2019

Faith in something, not only someone

Author: Jim Taylor

“Ah yes, I remember it well,” Maurice Chevalier warbled in the musical Gigi. And then immediately proved that he didn’t remember it well at all.

            I remember a gathering of about 30 people at am Anglican retreat centre north of Toronto, to thrash out the policies that would guide a United Church committee for the next few years. Like Chevalier, I remember it, but not well.

            The one thing I remember for sure was the summation by Terry Anderson, then professor of ethics at the Vancouver School of Theology. Terry had been brought in as something called a “theological reflector.” His job, he explained, was not to influence us. It was to identify the theology he observed in our discussions and debates.

            And what he said has stuck with me ever since:

            “What the United Church really believes in is not any statement of faith or doctrine. What the United Church believes is that if it follows the right process, if it brings together the right mix of individuals, from the right mix of regions and interest groups, they can’t help coming up with the right answer.”


Comments (0) Number of views (206)

17

Feb

2019

Loss of privacy marks societal change?

Author: Jim Taylor

I bought a Fitbit a couple of weeks ago. It tells me things I never thought I would want to know. How many steps I’ve taken each day. How many hours I’ve exercised. How many stairs I’ve climbed – 35 floors worth, apparently, the result of living on a steep hill some 300 feet above the lake. 

            And my heartbeat, of course. (At my age, I need constant re-assurance my heart is still beating.) My Fitbit tells how many times it’s beating per minute, right now. Also my average heart rate over the last week. And the highest it went.  

            Each week, Fitbit congratulates me on my progress. So far, I’ve received three award badges. Obviously, my little black wristband relays information to an anonymous computer somewhere.

            I can’t help wondering how many other people also know about my heart rate, my exercise hours, and my sleep habits. 



Comments (0) Number of views (178)

13

Feb

2019

The yin and yang of social movements

Author: Jim Taylor

On Thursday, our mountain ash tree was burdened with bright red berries. Globular blobs of berries hung at the end of every branch, weighing the branches down, bending the twigs.

            By Saturday, the tree stood bare against a grey sky.

            The Bohemian waxwings had returned. Every year, about this time, they come back. Maybe the timing has something to do with the birds’ migration patterns; maybe it depends on fermentation within the berries themselves. Whatever the reason, the waxwings show up in their thousands.

            They start as a distant smudge on the sky. The smudge grows larger, becomes a coiling, roiling, boiling ball of dust motes, displaying the infinite possibilities of fractal math. And then whoosh, the birds arrive in a mighty flitter-flutter of wings, ravenous as a plague of locusts.


Comments (0) Number of views (185)

10

Feb

2019

CPR crash leaves difficult questions

Author: Jim Taylor

We’re not getting the full story about the CPR train crash just east of Field, in the Kicking Horse Pass.

           According to reports, Train #301 had been safely stopped for over two hours before it started down the hill towards Field. It could not have been stopped without its airbrakes working.

            While it stood still, a new operating crew took over.

            And then, unaccountably, the train started to roll. “It was not anything the crew did,” senior investigator James Carmichael assured the media. “The train started to move on its own.”

            That seems to contradict the basic laws of physics. As Isaac Newton theorized, centuries ago, things do not move on their own unless a force is applied to them.


Comments (0) Number of views (181)

6

Feb

2019

When the masks come off

Author: Jim Taylor

I was walkin’ along, mindin’ my business, when I spied a man sitting on a park bench, staring out across the lake. I was going to pass by, but he said, “Hi, Jim.”

            I recognized the voice, even if I hadn’t recognized the back of his head. It was a neighbour, Derek. 

            Some impulse led me to sit down beside him. I thought he might like some company to stare at the lake. 

            He wanted company, but not for that purpose. “I lost Charlie last week,” he blurted. 

            Charlie was the kind of dog I once thought of scornfully as a “small furry object suitable for punting.” A low-slung, yappy, bundle of hyperactivity. That was before I knew Charlie personally. Charlie was always up for a walk, a game, a cuddle. 

            And he had been Derek’s companion for ten years. 

            For half an hour, as we sat on that park bench, Derek poured out feelings about his relationship with Charlie. I think he needed to. Talking helped fill the hole that his furry friend had left. 

            Or at least it helped him map the edges of that hole.


Comments (0) Number of views (205)
RSS
First234567891011Last

Tags

"gate of the year" #MeToo 150th birthday 1954 1972 3G 9/11 A God That Could Be Real abduction abortion Abrams abuse addiction Addis Ababa adoption Adrian Dix affirmative action aging Ahriman Ahura Mazda airport killings Alabama albinism albinos Alexa algorithms Allegations Almighty Almighty God ALS alt-right altruism Amanda Todd Amazon Amherst analysis Andrea Constant Andrew Copeland Taylor anniversaries antidote Ants aphrodisiac apoptosis App Store Archives Ardern armistice Armstrong Art artifacts astronomy atonement atropine Attawapiscat attitudes attraction audits authorities autism automation autumn B.C. election B.C. Health Ministry B.C. Legislature B-2 baby Bach bad news baggage Bahai Banda banning books Baptism Barabbas barbed wire barbers Bashar al Assad BC BC Conference Beans bears beauty Beaver Beethoven beginnings behaviour bel-2 belief systems beliefs benefits Bernardo berries Bible biblical sex birds birth birthday birthdays Bitcoin Blackmore blood blood donors boar body Bohr bolide Bolivia Bolivian women bombing bombings bombs books border patrol both/and bottom up Bountiful Brahms brains Brazil breath breathe breathing Brexit broken bubbles Buber Buddha Buddhism Bulkley bulldozers bullets bullying bush pilots butterflies butterfly Calendar California Cambridge Analytica. Facebook cameras Canada Canada Day Canadian Blood services Canal Flats Canute caregivers caring Carnaval. Mardi Gras carousel cars Carter Commission cats cave CBC Cecil the lion. Zanda CentrePiece CF chance change Charlie Gard Charlottesville Charter of Compassion Checklists checkups chemical weapons Chesapeake Bay Retriever Child Advocacy Centre child trafficking chivalry chocolates choice choices choirs Christchurch Christian Christianity Christine Blasey Ford Christmas Christmas gathering Christmas lights Christmas trees church churches circle of life Clarissa Pinkola Estés Clichés cliffhanger climate change clocks close votes coastal tribes coffee collaboration collective work colonial mindset colonies Colten Boushie Columbia River Columbia River Treaty communication Communion community complexity composers computer processes conclusions Confederacy Confederate statues Confirmation confusion Congo Conrad Black consciousness consensual consent conservative Conservative Party contraception Conversations conversion therapy coral Cornwallis corporations corruption Cosby Cougars counter-cultural Countercurrents courtesy courts Coventry Cathedral CPP CPR CRA Craig crashes creation creche crescent Creston crime criminal crossbills cross-country skiing crucifixion crypto-currencies Cultural appropriation cuneiform Curie curling cyberbullying Cystic Fibrosis Dalai Lama Damocles Dan Rather Danforth dark matter darkness Darren Osburne Darwin data mining daughter David David Suzuki de Bono dead zone deaf deafness death deaths decision decisions Definitions Delhi Dementia democracy denial Denny's departure Depression Descartes despair determinism Devin Kelley dew dawn grass Diana Butler-Bass dinosaurs discussion dissent diversity division divorce dog dogs dominance Donald Trump Donna Sinclair doorways Doug Martindale Dr. Seuss dreaming dreams Drugs ducks Duvalier dying Dylan Thomas earth Earth Day Easter Eat Pray Love Ebola eclipse economics Eden editing editing by committee Edwards-Sawatzky Egypt eight-track tapes Einstein either/or election Elizabeth Gilbert Ellithorpe email embassy emergent emotions encryption English Entropy epiphany epitaph Erika van Oyen erosion Esteban Santiago eternal life eternity ethics Ethiopia Eucharist eulogy evacuation evacuation orders Eve Evelyn Glennie Every Note Played everything evil Evolution expectations experiment extinctions extremes extremism eye for an eye Eyes Facebook faith False Creek fascist fate fear Fedex feel feminine hygiene Fentanyl Fibonacci Field figure skating Fire fireball fires First Nations Fitbit flirting flooding floods floppy disks flow chart flow charts flowers fluency flying Flying objects fog Folk sayings Food Bank forensic Forest fires forests forgiving Four Pests campaign fracking franchises free free speech free will freedom friend Friendship friendships fruit fundamentalism future Gaia games Gandhi Garbage Garrison Keillor Geese genes genocide Gerald Stanley Gerard Manley Hopkins Ghomeshi girls glaciers global economy global warming go north God gods Golden Golden Rule Goldilocks good Good Friday good intentions goodness Google Google Play government Governor General grammar gravity Great Barrier Reef greatest story green Green Eggs Green Party Greta Thunberg Gretta Vosper grief Grinch Grounded Group of seven groups growth Guiado guilt guns Habits hackers Haidt haircuts Haiti Hal Niedzviecki handshake Harari harassment Harjit Sajjan harmony Haskins hate Hawaii health health plans hearing hearts heat heaven Heisenberg Hell helping herd instinct heroes heroin Higher Porpoise highway hijacking Hillary Clinton Hinduism history Homulka Honduras honesty Hong Kong hope Horgan Horton hospitality houseflies houses Huawei human rights Humboldt hummingbirds humour Hunsberger
Copyright 2019 by Jim Taylor  |  Powered by: Churchweb Canada