Bharat’s pocket scraps – Making room edition

Making room, making political noise

Illustration, mostly greenish, of Bharat looking into the lens of a camera and holding up his thumb, almost like he's sizing us up.

CRA loses court challenge to its political-activity audits of charities

An Ontario judge has pulled the rug out from the Canada Revenue Agency’s political-activity audits of Canadian charities, ruling the Income Tax Act infringes on the constitutional right to free expression.

Okay, this is a game changing decision in Canada. Laws governing “charities” are outdated in Canada, and this particular rule limiting political activity to 10% was particularly arbitrary as it was too vague and left openings for persecution based on selective and subjective enforcement. How will this affect who registers as a “charity”? Will political advocacy groups try to benefit? So many things to consider.

Read CRA loses court challenge to its political-activity audits of charities

Making Room

Recently the City of Vancouver pivoted their planning for RS (“single family”) and RT (“duplex”) neighbourhoods from downzoning, to slow the pace of teardowns to adding infill as an incentive to to keep older buildings through extensive renovations, to now proposing the Making Room program

This is an epic post about housing and planning in Vancouver, specifically its new program, making room, that aims to increase housing in low-density neighbourhoods. I can’t summarize, go read the whole thing. The first figure drew me in, the sheer number of spare, unused bedrooms in Vancouver, all tied up in single family houses, amazing. But, there’s so much more, just read it! Also, the author does all their analysis in R and posts the code on Github. What’s not to like!

Read Making Room

Fish oil for a healthy heart ‘nonsense’

Taking omega-3 fish oil supplements is often touted as a way simple way to protect your heart – but experts say the evidence that it does any good is flimsy at best. Cochrane researchers looked at trials in over 100,000 people and found little proof that it prevented heart disease.

Eat food, not much, mostly plants, Michael Pollan’s simple (istic?) guideline still sticks with me. So, fish, good! fish oil, don’t bother. I don’t take any supplements, I don’t think they’re very useful unless you have a specific and diagnosed deficiency.

Read Fish oil for a healthy heart ‘nonsense’

The public doesn’t trust GMOs. Will they trust CRISPR?

For one, CRISPR is academic where GMO is corporate. The technology was born at the University of California Berkeley and the Broad Institute at Harvard and MIT. Most of the GMO crops we eat were created by Monsanto. It’s also transparent where GMO is opaque. The scientists developing CRISPR are making information about the technology and its applications public in a bid to avoid the kinds of accusations the agriculture industry faced of sneaking GMOs into the food system.

This article has some good ideas, mostly involving open and participatory decision making, let’s see.

Read The public doesn’t trust GMOs. Will they trust CRISPR?

Creating God

For Shariff and other researchers who study religion through the lens of evolution, religion can be seen as a cultural innovation, similar to fire, tools or agriculture. He says the vibrant panoply of religious rituals and beliefs we see today – including the popular belief in a punishing God – emerged in different societies at different times as mechanisms to help us survive as a species.

I enjoyed this podcast because it gave me structure around how I think of religion. I’ve “evolved” from my “all religion is bogus and evil” dogma of my 20s to a more nuance acceptance of this powerful cultural force that shapes so many people. This research helped me understand why.

Read Creating God

Why Nuclear Power Must Be Part of the Energy Solution

In the late 16th century, when the increasing cost of firewood forced ordinary Londoners to switch reluctantly to coal, Elizabethan preachers railed against a fuel they believed to be, literally, the Devil’s excrement.

A long defense of nuclear power. My biggest complaint is that it’s way too expensive, and the author glides past costs in the second to last paragraph. Given the ever dropping price of solar power, the argument for new nuclear remains weak.

Read Why Nuclear Power Must Be Part of the Energy Solution

Also, I’m back (ish) on twitter after a while, and while I find ways to automate my twitter posts for this blog, just read them here . Highlight: Road rage isn’t a thing, it’s just violence , don’t excuse violence by bringing an inanimate road into the discussion.