How exactly am I supposed to react when I hear about the particularly brutal gang rape and murder of a 23 year old medical student in India?

There is, of course, the obvious stuff. There's horror, sadness, and anger mixed together. There's also a certain amount of incredulity. I like to give people the benefit of the doubt and I have a hard time imagining that anyone is capable of this kind of thing.

If I'm honest with myself, there's a kind of smugness too, because you think that sort of thing doesn't really happen here. And, to be fair, it doesn't - at least, not on the scale on which it happens in certain other parts of the world. I think it's fairly non-controversial to say that being a woman in Canada or the U.S. is safer than being a woman in India.

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Part 1: A Brief History of Desmond, as it Relates to Linux

I've been using Linux since about 1998, when I started my first "real" job at PCI Geomatics. At the time, most of PCI's workstations ran a version of Red Hat Linux. The standard setup revolved around FVWM and Emacs.

I did not find Linux easy. But it was fun.

I installed Linux for the first time in 2000, on a computer I built from scratch (my first one). It was Red Hat 6.2. That installation was not what you'd call "smooth", but I did eventually get it working.

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I don't really consider myself Canadian.

Of course, that's kind of a lie. It does say "Canada" on my passport, so there's that. If you ask me about my nationality, I'll say I'm Canadian. If you mistake me for an American, I'll politely correct you. I mean, everybody's got to be from somewhere, right? And I'm from Canada. So I guess that makes me Canadian.

But I don't feel "Canadian" in the same way that many people feel, say, French or British or Indian (or even, dare I say it, Quebecois). My place of birth doesn't form a big part of my personal identity. The nationality of my parents takes up even less head space - I don't consider myself Italian, for example, despite the fact that my mother was born in Sicily. I've never felt a strong desire to go "back to my roots". It rarely occurs to me to care very much, beyond a fondness for lasagna and rapini.

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Over the last couple of years I've put together what I consider to be a fairly impressive home bar, and I've spent much of that time experimenting with various cocktails.

There are people in my social circle for whom mixing drinks is a bit taboo. When I say that I use Calvados) or Cognac in a cocktail, the first reaction I usually get is "What a waste!"

I disagree. My guiding principle with regard to cocktails is that you should use good quality liquor that you'd have no problem drinking on its own. Calvados falls into this category, and so does Cognac. It doesn't have to be the really expensive stuff, but it should at least be middle shelf. The idea of making a cocktail out of foul tasting gut-rot in at attempt to mask the taste is anathema to me. When a cocktail is well made, the extra ingredients enhance rather than mask the taste of the main liquor.

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Have you ever wondered why the separation of church and state is good idea?

I'm assuming, of course, that most everyone in my immediate social circle actually thinks it's a good idea, though since I read about that fiasco involving the mayor of Saguenay, this assumption is perhaps on shakier ground than I would have liked.

But, assuming that I'm correct, have you ever sat down and actually thought about why you think it's a good idea?

I've noticed at least two schools of thought among my friends. Some of them are simply anti-religion. They look at, for example, the Catholic Church's history of child abuse, or the practice of sati, and they conclude that the separation of church and state is a good idea for much the same reason that the separation of murder and state is a good idea. Religion is bad and the less it has to do with public life, the better.

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I can never seem to blog in a timely manner. Lots of things in the world happen which I feel are deserving of comment, but my comments always seem to come a few months after the fact.

Take that recent Daniel Tosh incident, for example. He makes a rape joke during one of his routines, gets heckled by a female member of the audience for it, and then proceeds to suggest (jokingly, I can only assume) that some males in the audience rape her in retaliation.

So far, all we have here is a guy being a dick, which is nothing new. What makes this particular example of extreme dickery somewhat different, however, is that the woman in question complained to friend, who then proceeded to voice her displeasure via her Tumblr account. The whole thing snowballed from there, ultimately resulting in a public apology from Tosh.

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I started this blog 4 years ago, got a few entries in, and then promptly shut the whole thing down when it got overrun with spam. I have now resurrected it, using a new version of YAWT written in python which, for lack of a better name, I shall call YAWT 2.0.

At some point, I hope to write an article on the features of YAWT 2.0, but for the moment I'm just happy this thing is working again. Somewhat working, anyway; comments are still deactivated until I figure out how to do it properly.

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In the past, I've commented on France's ban of the niqab, noting in passing that the distinction some people make between religion and culture (emphasizing, for example, that the niqab is a Middle Eastern cultural tradition rather than a specific Islamic law), is irrelevant to question of whether a woman has the right to wear whatever the hell she wants in public - including, of course, a niqab if that's what floats her boat.

At the time, I more or less glossed over what I thought the actual distinction was between culture and religion, so with that in mind I'd like to expand a little on these thoughts and make the further claim (not so very controversial, I think) that the line between religion and culture tends to be blurry at best and, at worst, damn near non-existent.

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I'm a bit late to the party on this one, but last year France started fining women who wear the niqab in public, in defiance of a recently passed law banning religious face coverings in public. From the article, other countries (Belgium, Italy, Denmark, Austria, the Netherlands and Switzerland) are planning similar legislation.

The article is noteworthy, not only for the content, which is informative, but also for the handy reference at the bottom explaining the difference between hijabs, niqabs, burkas.

(According to the article, hijab is a generic name for a headscarf, a niqab is a veil the covers the face but not the eyes, and a burka covers the the entire face and body, leaving just a mesh to see out of)

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Debates about the relative merits of Toronto versus Montreal are rarely level headed. Each city has its champions and its detractors and, unfortunately, the loudest are often the least objective, having only ever lived in one city or the other, but not both.

I've lived in both, for extended periods of time, so I feel I'm in a better position than many to dispense some useful observations on Canada's two largest cities.

Observation #1: Toronto is much bigger than Montreal, and feels like it, too

On a warm day, you can walk lengthwise from one end of downtown Montreal to the other without really breaking much of a sweat. You'd be hard-pressed to do this in Toronto. The situation is made more extreme by the fact that a large chunk of the island of Montreal is taken up by an airport. So the amount of usable space in Montreal is even less than the size of the island might suggest.

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