My avatar across the web: a photo of my feet in grey-white socks and brown sandals.

Ben Babcock

I read, write, code, and knit.

24 Articles Tagged with “philosophical ruminations”

  1. Goodbye, Battlestar Galactica

    Well here we are, the end of an era. Battlestar Galactica is over, which has made a lot of people very angry for various reasons.

    Spoilers ahead.

    I'm too young to have seen the original Battlestar Galactica when it was on television, and I never watched the reruns. I'm not into it. The "reimagined" series ignited my interest, however, and I've watched the show since its miniseries became the backdoor pilot for a new television series.

    To this day, my favourite episode remains "Kobol's Last Gleaming", the first season finale. It represents the best aspects of Battlestar Galactica's storytelling techniques: the high stakes conflict, the spiritual and ethical themes interwoven into the story, and of course, the effortless use of the episode's score to enhance the most emotional moments of the episode. Tonight's finale was cast in a very similar vein to the first season finale, which is probably why I enjoyed it so much.

    The show has received massive amounts of criticism in the last half of this season. To be fair, the Writer's Strike caused the last season to be split in half, placing much more tension on the mid-season premiere than the writers had originally intended.…

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  2. The Underappreciated What-Ifs of Life

    I do not like hard candy. I've been aware of this fact for a long time now, but it's at the forefront of my mind after consuming Ricola cough drops for the past few days to assauge my sore throat.

    Hard candy's just not worth the effort. You have to tease the flavour out of it, sucking at it as the surface slowly melts away onto your tongue. And if you suck too vigorously, as I'm wont to do, you can sometimes swallow the candy. While the danger of choking is hopefully minimal, the experience is seldom pleasant. I was reminded of this fact today when my mouth unilaterally decided to swallow a cough drop.

    This got me wondering, what if I did like hard candy? Which aspects of my personality would need to change in order to result in me liking hard candy instead of disliking it? I suspect that my preference is some sort of hard-coded anti-choking prejudice buried deep within my genome, or perhaps the irrational result of a quirky neuron flickering on and off within the recesses of my brain. In any event, the fact remains that my dislike of hard candy is a subconscious response…

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  3. Hate the hate

    For the second time this year, anti-gay group Westboro Baptist Church is planning to come to Canada to stage a protest, and people want to put a stop to it.

    Every time this sort of controversy comes up in the news, I have to stop and consider it carefully. The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms (Section 2) guarantees us the following basic rights:

    • freedom of conscience and religion;
    • freedom of thought, belief, opinion and expression, including freedom of the press and other media of communication;
    • freedom of peaceful assembly; and
    • freedom of association

    At the same time, however, we also have legislation in place to protect people from hate-crimes and hate-speech. So the question is, do anti-gay groups like the Westboro Baptist Church violate this anti-hate legislation? And regardless of this first question, are we violating their rights to freedom of opinion, freedom of expression, and freedom of association? Freedom of peaceful assembly is a separate issue--whether or not this group is "peaceful" is subject to debate altogether, and I would probably say that they are not.

    I like to pride myself in being open-minded enough to truly believe in free speech for everyone, even if I…

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  4. Everything (Will Be All Right)

    I shouldn't be up this late. I'm going to bed. Really, I am. However, there is one advantage to staying up this late: infomercials.

    Think what you like about infomercials. I think they're annoying, sure. But open your mind for a moment and listen to those infomercial hosts--don't listen to what they're saying, but how they're saying it. As I write this, YTV has started to air the Magic Bullet infomercial with "Mick and Mimi." It's probably a combination of his accent and his enthusiasm, but when I close my eyes and listen to Mick explain how the Magic Bullet is the answer to all my food-related problems (and some non-food-related ones), I can, for a brief moment, feel reassured that everything in this world is all right.

    So praise the Flying Spaghetti monster for His noodly gift of infomercials. They are truly a blessing! :D

  5. The hypocrisy of age ratings

    Let me begin by saying that I don't support age rating of books (i.e., saying "this is for ages 8-12, this is for young adults, this is for adults..."). However, when you look at how we rate our other content by age, it seems hypocritical, does it not?

    Games and movies receive official ratings that state whether or not the content of those products is suitable for a certain audience. Sometimes, the law enforces these ratings. That means if you're under 18, you can't get into an R-rated movie (without an adult). But you can go and buy a book that may have the same graphic scenes as an R-rated movie, and the cashier at the store doesn't stop you. They don't card you. (At least, they didn't card me when I was under 18.)

    Seems like we have a double standard here. I know, I know: books aren't as "visual" as movies or games. Reading about mass violence or sexuality, reading a curse word, that isn't the same as seeing and hearing it. Well I think that insults the average reader's imagination. And even if it doesn't compare to graphical depictions, wouldn't a book's descriptions, if done well enough,…

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  6. This is your brain. This is your brain on books.

    Every day I find myself becoming more of an autodidact whose primary goal is to propagate knowledge. Seems like a pretty worthy goal for a set of self-replicating DNA, no? After all, that's all we--everything in the universe--are: information, in one form or another.

    My thirst for knowledge is perhaps my most consistent trait as far back as I can remember. I loved and continue to love to read. When I first got MSN (because I was jealous of my younger brother), the next step I took was to learn HTML so I could create my own website. From there it ... sort of snowballed :fear: (as this site evidences). The Internet is an autodidact's dream: a nearly limitless, ever-updating source of information. Thanks to Google, Wikipedia, and the Oxford English Dictionary, I can learn the answer to most questions or the definition of a word (still not sure about that whole group of groundhogs issue, however). I read sites like Lifehacker regularly, learning about subjects as varied as technology to productivity to cooking. The Internet's vast potential for education is enough to make me love it, despite of its drawbacks that some critics use to declare technology…

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  7. The normality of self

    Pretentious title, no? This is actually just something that occurred to me while having a bath (baths are great that way).

    I don't know which particular set of neurons collided to produce this aspect of my personality, but I've never been one to concern myself with body image--mine or anyone else's. Physically I'm rather lucky in that I lead a sedentary lifestyle but have a high metabolism and a slim build. So I'm very tall and rather thin. If I were more physically active, I might actually be fit and perhaps develop some muscles, but those same neurons decided that I would prefer to sit in front of a glowing screen and push electrons about while writing blog entries discussing the pushing of those same electrons.

    Where was I? Oh yes, body image. I've never been particularly concerned with my body image. However, since I bike to work during the summer--an increased level of physical activity--I started thinking about how this would affect my body. In the bath tub I looked at my thighs and thought, "Wow, are my thighs really that big?" :ermm: That thought made me think about body image, and I realized that I don't know if…

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  8. Please remember to breathe

    If there were one thing I would change about myself, it is the fact that I lack the ability to inhabit the moment. I am constantly and consistently thinking only of the future--not necessarily the distant future, more usually the immediate, next-couple-of-hours-or-days future. And I find that this drains me more than is necessary.

    Summer is supposed to be time off from school to relax, but present-day economics throws a wrench in that model. Students instead usually must arm themselves with resumes and hunt out at least one (if not more) summer jobs in order to pay for schooling, residence, food, gas, and whatever expensive habits they have acquired since they had enough money to buy expensive habit-forming items.

    I'm one of the lucky ones. I don't have to pay for schooling, residence, or food. All I need to take care of are my expensive habits,((i.e., buying DVDs and miscellaneous computer stuff)) and sometimes gas, although my dad is pretty generous in that area. Otherwise, I'm just saving my money for when I will need to pay for school, when I'll need to start renting an apartment or put a down payment on a house or anyone of those expenses…

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  9. Rhythm? What's that?

    I woke up today to Lauren knocking on my door, telling me that her mom wanted me to go see a doctor about my eye. -_- So against my will I acquiesced, although I'll admit it's probably for the best anyway. I went to see an optometrist, Dr. Henry, who was very nice. He gave me free samples of eye drops and an ointment and said that if I needed a follow-up visit next week, he wouldn't charge me for it. So I survived my foray into the American healthcare system. :P

    Later that evening, Lauren had some of her friends over for a games night. We played Taboo with Nisha and Jessica--I've never played that before, but I really enjoyed it. I got to listen to lots of fun stories from Jessica too. :D Michelle, whom I met yesterday, arrived about twenty minutes later. She joined us for a second game of Taboo, then we went downstairs to play DDR. Now, I'm exceptionally bad at DDR. I'm not great at much in life, and DDR--or any form of dancing, actually--ranks pretty high on this list. Part of it is a distinct lack of regular practice; if I actually…

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  10. Contact

    You're scanning a room full of people. Suddenly, there it is. Your eyes have caught those of another person, maybe someone far across the room. For a moment, you stare at each other. You wonder: is he staring at me? Am I staring at her? Which one of us started this? Then, just as quickly, you lose focus. You resume your scanning. The moment you shared collapses in on itself, and the night goes on.

    In other news, Harper is suing the Liberal Party for libel. Only in Canada, eh! :D

  11. There must be magic

    Now, what I want is, Facts. Teach these boys and girls nothing but Facts. Facts alone are wanted in life. Plant nothing else, and root out everything else. You can only form the minds of reasoning animals upon Facts: nothing else will ever be of any service to them. This is the principle on which I bring up my own children, and this is the principle on which I bring up these children. Stick to Facts, sir!

    Mr. Gradgrind, Hard Times by Charles Dickens.

    Sorry Mr. Gradgrind, but I refuse to believe in a universe based entirely on fact. The universe can't be based only on fact and science. If it were, why would we have emotions? Why would we feel terrible half the time and ecstatic the other? Why put ourselves through so much pain and trauma? If the universe were based on fact, we wouldn't need this. We could be moist robots going about with logic and reason. But we aren't. And to me, that means that there's something out there logic and reason cannot explain. Our emotions are our ways of navigating that which we can't quantify. And that's magic.

    I had an awesome day today.…

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  12. Cognitive dissonance strikes again

    We all do it. A celebrity--actor, athlete, whoever--appears on our television screen and tells us to do something, to support some cause, to buy a product. Because, you know, they use the product or support that cause, so we should too.

    When that happens, I just like to remind myself that these are the same types of people whom we vilify for leading immoral, hedonistic lifestyles of sex, drugs, and rock 'n roll. We condemn these people for those actions and then turn around and succumb to marketing ploys that appeal to our admiration of these same people.

    It's just another facet of our wonderful brain that we're able to reconcile such contradictory value judgements. ^_^

    Anyway, I have to go purchase more things that a celebrity tells me will change my life because it changed theirs too. And they'd never lie to me for money, right?

  13. Holidays: paradgim shift or just lazy?

    For a moment today, I was almost able to forget that it was Halloween. Not that I have anything against Halloween. In its present incarnation it's a charming way for kids to dress up, express their imagination, and of course, collect as much Canada as they can. And really, if you can't count on candy in a democratic society, then what is my government doing with all those tax dollars?

    Somewhere between this year and last, however, I've lost my connection to the Halloween spirit. It might have fallen between the couch cushions--I'll check when I get home. I haven't trick-or-treated in a couple of years, and I don't do the party thing. So there's not a lot for me to do for Halloween. I'd dress up, but I don't have many costume ideas, and I'm too lazy to put effort into creating an excellent costume. I do admire those who take the time. On campus here we've got someone dressed up like Waldo (as in Where's Waldo?) and a pair of carebears. ^_^ Occasionally I worry that this lack of Halloween participation is a sign I'm losing my will to be imaginative and expressive and am slowly turning…

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  14. Just sort of disconnected

    Not in the literal sense (yet), but in a metaphysical, vaguely sort of philosophical manner of speaking. So many little things have intruded upon the scope of my life that I find myself adrift without a schedule, without priorities, attending to tasks as they pop up or as they flag me down with little urgent signs that threaten to bludgeon me if I don't take care of them.

    We're moving into a new house across on Friday, so the past few weeks have been a whirlwind of the cardboard box variety. The primary inhabitants of our house are now cardboard cubes that contain stuff from the soon-to-be former occupants. So tomorrow we finish everything up and then Friday the chaos continues. Hopefully we should be installed and connected to the Internet the same day, so I will only be absent for the time it takes to move boxes, unpack, and then collapse in the heap of empty cardboard and sleep for a few days.

    Unfortunately, university has not provided the satisfaction of which I dreamed four months ago. Most of it is...easy. There are some hard parts, of course, and it is bound to get harder. Second year will be…

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  15. Universal warming

    As I've said previously, I'm tired of the repetitive fearmongering being done in the name of our "global warming" crusade. It's another example of herd mentality exacerbating a crisis that it is supposed to be solving. Last century it was nuclear weapons, this century it's global warming.

    Well wake up people, and stop being so selfish! After all, we are not the only planet in this universe. There are many other planets out there that are heating up. In fact, I've "discovered" a dangerous new phenomenon that must be stopped! Universal warming.

    Here's how it goes. We constantly produce information. Information is useless without transmission; it only becomes usable when conveyed from one state to another (i.e., from person to person). Transmitting information requires energy. As energy is used, entropy in the system increases. To demonstrate, take talking for example. If you talk about something, you are transmitting information. This means you are increasing the net entropy of the universe. Everything you do increases entropy, unfortunately.

    Why is entropy bad? Because entropy is the tendency of a system toward increasing disorder. As entropy increases, the amount of usable energy declines. Eventually we'll suffer the heat-death of the universe and the…

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  16. Class of 2007

    School is not over yet; exams have yet to come, but tonight I went through the complicated tribulation of the graduation ceremony and emerged (although somewhat tired) unscathed. The ceremony was long, and at times dull, but it was an interesting experience nonetheless. I cried when our teachers sang, because not only did they sing well, but I thought about all they've done for us during our schooling. It's part of the reason I'm going into teaching, I think--not to sing, but just to affect others' lives in such a profound manner. I've been lucky to have a great number of dedicated teachers who do more than impart facts. They've supported me and shaped me as a person. Similarly, valedictorian Cassie Graham's speech was moving and flawlessly delivered. I mean, Dr. Seuss?! That alone deserves mucho kudos--there are very few people wiser than that man, and the quotation that Cassie chose was spot-on. But it was much more than that. It was personal. There was something in there that let everyone stop and nod and say, "That was me."

    It was surreal, in a sense, as I walked away from the stage, proceeding out the auditorium doors and into…

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  17. The death of culture

    Often you'll read one critic or intellectual or another say something along the lines of how Hollywood is destroying the movie industry, creating cheap flicks at the expense of "art" and "culture". And as much as I am sometimes tempted to agree with this cynical evaluation of our entertainment industry, I can't bring myself to jump on that bandwagon. I just can't.

    I have observed that more movies are "packaged" these days. What are "packaged" movies? Well, these are the hits that look and feel like the director simply sent in a form from a mail-order catalogue--he or she filled out the title and main characters, and the company sent back a pre-packaged movie: special effects, music, etc. Movies like Pirates of the Caribbean, Harry Potter, and--especially with its third installment--Spider-Man are packaged blockbusters.

    Are packaged movies inherently evil? Does it make a movie bad? Of course not. I like each of those three movie series above--although none of them are particularly spectacular--but they aren't moving and they aren't cathartic. And sometimes you need that. Sometimes you don't need a purging; you just need some action, some humour, and some explosions. The only reservation I carry is…

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  18. The rules of war

    For the past week we've been watching The Patriot in history class. The movie is moving in some parts. There are incredibly tender moments, like when Susan finally speaks to her father and breaks down just as he's leaving again. That part almost made me cry. Unfortunately, the latter part of the movie lacked that same emotional fervour, simply because I was too busy laughing.

    And this is through no fault of the director. The movie was very accurate. I just can't get over how silly warfare was back in that time.

    Everyone arranges his- or herself in nice, neat lines. Then the two sides march forward. One side fires, reloads, while the other side fires. If you get shot, you get shot. It is, as Mr. Nowak puts it, "gentlemanly warfare". And watching it on a television makes it look so absurd! The melée part with bayonets and swords isn't so bad. But just the initial firing of musket volleys looks so ridiculously polite that I completely understand why guerrilla warfare surged in popularity afterward. Sure, you had to clean your uniform more often--but at least you were alive.

    So that got me thinking. Some current rules of…

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  19. Urban nature

    If I look out my bedroom window, I can see spring arriving in the pond that used to be my backyard. The snow--which is actually now semi-frozen ice--and the ice proper beneath it is melting, flooding entire portions of my backyard. The end of a little ice age.

    Bits of autumnal debris slowly raise themselves up from the muck: leaves and branches, planks of wood. Hey, look, a shovel. The meltwater flows around these objects, pooling at the depressions in the yard. It flows around the garage too, and the wood and barbecue sheds. This microcosmic clash of human urbanity and nature strikes a chord in me, because it demonstrates how much humans have shaped the face of the Earth.

    If I look up from the ground, straight ahead, I can see the houses behind mine, the ones across the back lane that face outward to another street. And beyond them, more houses. Two or three storeys high, that's all. I don't live in a crowded metropolis like New York, nor a sparsely-populated rural area like Kakabeka. And that makes the subtle distinctions even more refined, because I'm at that midway point, where we've built up our suburbs, but nature…

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  20. Did You Know?

    If you haven't seen it already, you need to watch Karl Fisch's Did You Know? presentation. My history teacher showed us the version by Scott McLeod (which removes the school-specific slides).

    You can watch it on YouTube, and I encourage you to do so. It's quite impactful. At first glance they might seem just like statistics, but take a moment to just consider the ramifications of the statements. We have moved from a local society to a global village in a few hundred years.

    The frightening thing is that we are showing no sign of slowing down--as a species, we are continuing to progress at a geometric level. As a graduating student who is about to enter the "real world" of university, employment, and life as an adult, the idea that careers and our level of information exchange may be radically different in ten years is disconcerting, to say the least.

    We have also discussed the nature of memory in class as well. Medieval peasants had incredible memories; they couldn't write down information, so they had to remember it. Nowadays, we can find information through a variety of resources. Of course, the amount of information that we use has…

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  21. The Ultimate Question of Life, the Universe, and Everything

    Millions of years ago, a race of hyper-intelligent, pan-dimensional beings who manifest in our dimension as white mice built the second-greatest computer ever to exist. It was called Deep Thought, and it was given the task of calculating the answer to the Ultimate Question of Life, the Universe, and Everything. Deep Thought, after 7.5 million years of computation, discovered that it was, in fact, 42. The problem, however, was that no one really knew what the Question was, so the answer was out of context.

    Of course if you've read The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy you already know this. If you haven't, then you are a worthless strag and should read it, because it's a pretty good book. ;)

    Lately I have been meditating upon the meaning of life and why we're here. If you think about it, our mundane life is pretty much meaningless. Why do we go to school? To get educated so we can get a good job. Why do we get a job? So that we can make money. Why do we make money? So that we can spend money on things we need to survive. Why do we survive? Well, because it's what…

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  22. Little injustices

    Imagine shooting a film of your life using two cameras. One is set to a permanent closeup of you. The other one is set to the widest possible angle, covering the span of the entire universe, although still focused on you. There are reasons why we can't fathom the entire nature of existence.((Panasonic just doesn't make a big enough lens.))

    No one is perfect--no one can be perfect. Everyone makes mistakes. And everyone sees everyone else make mistakes. And everyone sees everyone else seeing everyone else make mistakes. Everybody is always watching you watch other people. YouTube, MySpace, and reality television haven't changed any of that; they've just made it more overt. It's always been there.

    But what happens when you consciously commit yourself to being imperfect? Is it laziness? Or is it a slip from one rung of the ladder to a new low? That is, what happens when you see a little injustice--nothing big or earth-shattering, nothing life-destroying--and let it slide? What happens then?

    This happens all the time. People see other people making these little mistakes, and for one reason or another, consciously let it go (as opposed to the mistakes no one notices). Little choices spiral…

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  23. Smoking v2.0

    Smoking is bad for you. This should not be news, since we know it has been bad for people for a very long time (even if we didn't want to admit it). Second-hand smoke is also bad.

    Now, the entire premise behind smoking is to ingest nicotine, no? (I realise that the tactile experience of smoking a cigarette may be important to some people, but let us set that aside for the moment.) Surely there must be better ways to get that nicotine fix.

    Why hasn't some sort of big evil corporation developed a sports drink or something similar which contains the quantities of nicotine needed by addicts? It would be way more convenient than cigarettes: one could drink it anywhere, whereas smoking is becoming increasingly prohibited. One still gets their nicotine fix, so they don't have to do those difficult things like, oh, say, quitting. And, of course, the tobacco companies can still make money, just on sports drinks instead of cigarettes. It's a win-win-win scenario.

    The debate over the morality of stuffing one's lungs with smoke will not go away anytime soon. I have no problem with someone smoking if they want to do it; that is their…

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  24. Our perfect world

    I've been rather single-minded about finishing my novel lately, and as such I've noticed that my posts here are becoming more narratives about my life (which is, frankly, very boring) instead of interesting glimpses into my mind (which is slightly less boring). So consider the following.

    I don't really like Disney all that much. I find Disney a souless corporation with humble beginnings. That said, we owe Disney a huge debt of gratitude that few movie studios could claim. Because Disney has done over the years something spectactular, something that I've just realised is really amazing.

    I look at society today and see an overemphasis on transitory values, mostly because we are a materalist society. This focus on materialism is at the cost of spirituality. Even religion is a materialist world nowadays. We put more stock in the numbers on our bank statement than we do the worth of someone's actions or words. Kind of cold, really.

    But it isn't always like this. When children are growing up, they are taught that lying is wrong, not to steal, and to share with others. Somewhere along the blurry line between prepubesence and adulthood, these wholesome values get lost, replaced by the…

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