Colin Ferguson | SciFi, Toronto and other rants on

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Tuesday, October 25th, 2011

I’m somewhat surprised that Europe isn’t doing more to boot out members of the Eurozone who never should have been there.

Much of Europe is set up on the fudge – rules are agreed, voted on by national parliaments and then ignored if it doesn’t fit what governments want to do.  Many countries struggled to meet the EU targets even before the financial crisis in 2008.  The EUropean Commission, (the real power in Europe) sent notes privately saying “bad boys!” to those who were above 3%, then when the Commission was ignored, they went nuclear – they sent notes publicly saying “bad boys”.  The writing was on the wall for the Euro at that time — if governments couldn’t hit the targets when times were good then what could they do when they were bad?

I recall at the launch of the Euro, I was living in Europe.  BBC interviewed me to see if the UK should join the Euro.  I answered not a chance!  I like Europe and thought it was a great place to live, but there is no reason in some countries with finances, and that can bring everyone down.

And lo and behold I was right.

Since 2008 public deficits have rocketed across the continent. Greece’s public deficit in 2009 stood at 12.7 per cent of GDP.  Since the Euro went live, France hasn’t once hit the target for deficit – always over 3%.

So the fudging of politicans a decade ago is being paid for by all of us.  German taxpayers, along with everyone else, has to be prepared to bail out countries that never bothered to build a civil society where you can trust government to (broadly) do the right thing.  They could trust government to do the wrong thing, the selfish and corrupt thing.  So everyone else did, ensuring they took what they could and paid as little as possible.  Eventually those chickens came home to roost.

It’s a matter of trust. If you can’t trust your fellow citizens you’re better off not building a real society.  Go the libertarian way and do the minimal.  Government only works if the society works.

If I can figure this out, that Greek and French debt is riskier than Dutch and German debt than you’d figure out banks could too.   The problem is they couldn’t, or at least it was profitable for them not to.  Now their gambles are coming in poorly and they are so big they want the governments to step in and bail them out.

The governments shouldn’t be bailing out Greece they should be making it default and if a bank has too much exposure then the governments should take them over, and ensure that any remaining banks have double digit reserves.  Without, of course, loopholes.  If that can’t be done, then reducing the size of banks is the only option.

So in the end, what do you think the odds are the Germans are going to see that money back?  I’m advising any German friends to take their income tax just “invest” it in online gambling that’s legal there.  It’s the better return than saving accounts.

Thursday, September 15th, 2011

So the Summer of 2011 is soon officially ending. People were desperately shouting about the end of summer weeks ago. But it wasn’t.

The weather has remained reasonably good. Today is cooler but next week seems low 20s and sunny. Great weather by any account.

I’m sorry that your kids had to go back to school, and folks whose jobs related to that had to work again, but really you having to start work again isn’t the end of MY summer.

Technically that happens late next week. And heck, that’s only in Canada. The tropics never really see the end of human temperatures, and heck, the south is just getting into their spring now.

Get your travel boots on — great weather awaits!

Monday, March 14th, 2011

Thanks for all the birthday well wishes!  I hope to see you all soon, or if not, at least Instant Messenger :)

Cheers!  Colin

Thursday, January 27th, 2011

Recently, I wrote a blog post on Mindfulness Courses in Hamilton.  I liked the course but I didn’t like the MP3s that came with it.  Or rather I liked the content of the MP3s but not the tone of the otherwise brilliant speaker.  Since that post, I’ve been asked about what I am using MP3 wise that I do like.  I think I’d like the same MP3s if they were just presenting in a more engaging way — in fact I have heard a variants of these MP3s like that.

But beyond the course there are other MP3s out there that I like. So here is my shortlist of 2 Meditative MP3s in my iPod that rock my socks.  Well, maybe not rock, but perhaps mellow my socks on a really tough day.

MP3 For Passive Meditation

One Hour Meditation : : $16 MP3 Download.  This is a passive meditation where  it just happens to you while you listen.

I really liked the one hour meditation with rain.  It’s led by a woman, and her voice is gentle but walks your body through 10 minutes of muscle tensing/relaxing, then 50 minutes of working through the body part by part. By the end, even a really tense person should be jello.  I’ve listened to that again and again.  If I was listening from bed, having just woken up, I skipped the first 10 minutes as it wasn’t really needed.

It comes bundled with a few other MP3s for stress relief and deep sleep.  They might work for others but they didn’t resonate with me as much. 

MP3 for Active Meditation

OM Unplugged – Guided Meditation : Around $15 from Amazon.  This is an active meditation.  You work on your breathing, and mindset to get into the right groove.  I would not have been able to do this and get much out of it a few months ago, but now that I’ve done a Mindfulness course, I understand how to meditate a lot better.  So now, it’s something I can use very well. 

The voice is Victor Demko’s.  Victor is a long time practitioner of Meditation who has produced other Media for meditation. This is his first work that I know of showcasing him actually guiding the meditation. It seems he knows what he’s doing.

If you get them and have comments, let me know here!

Wednesday, January 19th, 2011

I took a course on Mindfulness the past fall.  Mindfulness is all about being more in the present moment – in thought, action and sensation.  It’s great for those of us who tend to live in our heads and think into the future.  It also helps those who “rummage in the past” as it’s often said.

The creator of the modern Mindfulness courses is Jon Kabat-Zinn.  He’s a Western Doctor who took Eastern viewpoints/meditative practice and codified them into programs to assist his patients. His first patients, as I understand, are those who had long-term pain or terminal illness. There was little more that western medicine could do for them.  So changing the viewpoint on the illness was the only “cure” available. Evidently  it works.

It’s since been rolled out to other cases; for me it’s about managing stress.  But others have it for depression etc.  It seems that it may not take you from your bad state to a great state alone, but it helps.  Where it really kicks in is when someone is in a good state…it helps them stop falling BACK into that state.

Personally it works great.  It is a commitment for an hour a day (at least) for 8 weeks, plus a full night once a week during that time.  And, of course, integrating it into your daily life thereafter.  The hour during the week would include listening to the MP3s daily, plus doing stuff like trying to be more conscious of a specific action that day such as say brushing your teeth, or eating or whatever.  That’s worked well; I really do taste my food more now. I did give up on being mindful brushing teeth though; it’s too early or late in the day! :)

One that really worked well was the 3 minute meditative break 3 times in the day.  That’s just solid idea anyway no matter if you follow his system or not.

Lots of Health Facilities put this on as do individual meditative practitioners/therapists.  I did my Mindfulness in Hamilton with Susan McBride.  Classes for any of them tend to start Spring, Winter and Fall.

My Experience: Classes were great.  At the same time as I was doing this, I was getting help from a Naturopath for my burnout.  Together they worked great; a few months later I’m feeling better than I have in years.  Life is good.  I’d honestly put it at 80% naturopath, 20% mindfulness. But I think the mindfulness will be useful ongoing for the rest of my life. I noticed too that when I meditated in the later part of the course, it was easier and got deeper each time.  I can see why folks really integrate this into their lives.

The real downside is that Jon Kabat-Zinn’s voice is terrible.  I realize that meditation should be about insight but his delivery is so monotone that it just doesn’t work with me nor with the others that were in my group.  And since you listen to MP3s by him each day it can get wearing.  When the teacher, Susan, found similar material by other speakers I found that really good.

Note: Mindfulness meditation isn’t about relaxing per se; that’s what I expected walking in but really it’s about being more awake, and more conscious of your body.  I and the others in the class, I think found that they needed to do a little relaxation work first, so that they could get a benefit.  After all it is just about impossible to run into class after an active day and be able to instantly be in the space to properly meditate.

Sunday, December 26th, 2010

I was lucky enough to spend Christmas Day with my family.  What a great group of people the extended Ferguson Clan is!  I realise that it’s rare to have such a great family where get togethers are simply fun events with no strained relationships etc.  that I hear of being more typical.

Now that’s done, onto chilling and games days during the break!!

Thursday, November 25th, 2010

A decade or so ago Bhutan said they’d start tracking GNH…that’s Gross National Happiness for those on the outside of that lingo.  Well at the time it sounded like a snow job to me. I mean that the government realised it can’t boost material wealth so why not focus on something where they can more easily fudge the numbers?

I’ve grown a bit since then, and not just in girth.  I realise that salaries in London, UK are twice what they are in most parts of Canada.  That doesn’t make them twice as happy.   In fact more likely to be less happy as their uber-salaries get them much smaller places so they can’t recover from the city stressRead the study there or you can just trust me on this one…

Anyway, my personal growth has me realise that when implemented well GNH would be a very positive thing that governments can do — in good times and bad.   Including some level of prority for what actually makes folks happy into decision making could really shift how goverrnments provide services.  It’d have to be some fiendishly complex analysis as humans wants, desires and joys change depending on where and what they have, but it’s just clever.   During WWII, for example, most folks were not happy. No shock there.   What is shocking is that once Europeans had some security, then had enough food to eat, plus some basic shelter then they were no longer unhappy due to physical wants.  At that point happiness was found to be all about socio-economic rankings relative to your neighbours.  We’re such relics of our evolution.

Anyway, this knowledge is common place amongst eggheads, and so maybe it’s time has come.  After it’s something that countries with low growth prospects and downsizing governments may be able to use to their advantage.  Know of any of those?  *ahem* oohhhh Hi UK.