Saturday, 30 June 2007

Happy Canada Day, Eh?

Not that many Canadians seem to know much about what being Canadian means - except the new ones of course

Nearly 40 per cent of Canadians against dual citizenship: poll

only a quarter of Canadians in the 18 to 34 age range were against the concept, compared to 50 per cent of Canadians aged 55 and older.

So to those Canadians of my age who object to my dual citizenship I say "thrrrrp"

I have a British passport because I was born there and I lived there for the first 40 years of my life.

I took Canadian citizenship because I was tired of paying Canadian taxes and having no say how they were spent. For as long as I can remember I have been a political animal, and I did not like being disenfranchised. By the way, I have now been here so long, I no longer have a vote in Britain. However, as far as I know it is not possible to renounce British citizenship, nor do the Canadians currently say I should. So I shan't, and if they insist, I will seriously think of going home again.

I was also spending a lot of time abroad earning money for Canadian companies and helping the Canadian balance of payments stay healthy. But if anything happened to me abroad, the Canadians would not have come to my aid. And when you go to places like Iran, that can be a bit of a disturbing thought. They looked very oddly at my UK passport when I got to Tehran airport.

This is of course a knee jerk response to the bungled Lebanon evacuation. So much for Canadians much vaunted sense of compassion for their fellow human beings.

A similar attitude seems to be infecting "Canada's new government" which, I heard on CBC this morning, is considering reducing its aid budget even further - under the guise of concentrating on our neighborhood - i.e. abandoning some of the poorest and most desperate countries in the world in Africa, where we haven't made much difference, for Central and South America. After all, we have been so successful in Haiti, haven't we?

Friday, 29 June 2007

Mika Brzezinski of MNSBC rips Paris report

I am with Mika and I think her male "co-hosts" should be ashamed of themselves for not showing some solidarity.

The world is going to hell in a handbasket and the media are obsessed with celebrity stick insects

Thursday, 28 June 2007

Wednesday, 27 June 2007

Monday, 25 June 2007

Saturday, 23 June 2007

Nudists go back to Eden

Would you Adam and Eve it as nudists go back to Eden

Thousands of nudists saw 'nature as nature intended' when the Eden Project in Cornwall opened its doors to naturists as part of Nudefest 2007, a weekend of activity organised by British Naturism.

And that's all folks. The Observer blew it. What an opportunity for a photo feature. Would have out sold Spencer Tunnick.

(UK) Milk moves from bottles to the bag

Milk pouches have caught on in Canada

Not in this part of Canada they haven't. I don't have any data but casual observation suggests that on the shelves tetrapaks and plastic jugs carry about half the market each. With a very small percentage going to Avalon dairy who stick to traditional, and very heavy, glass bottles.

We bought milk in bags in Ontario because everyone did - and the price of the large multipacks made it economical to do so. I do not recall if we had blue boxes in Scarborough in the late eighties. And the pressure on the GTA's landfills was terrific.

Now the plastic jugs get recycled. I doubt the bags would. And anyway, aren't plastic bags a problem too?

Thursday, 21 June 2007

Smokers to be prevented from fostering young children

The guidance has won the backing of the British Association for Adoption and Fostering. It already recommends all fostering and adoptive placements should be in non-smoking households.

Why limit this to fostering and adoption? This should also become an issue in determining child custody. Parents who smoke endanger their children. Their children's health suffers from second hand smoke and children of smokers are more likely to become smokers themselves. In determining fitness, the courts should examine how much the parents actually care for their children. Far too often the assumption is made that mothers are the better carers, and most fathers have battles to try and maintain access after separation let alone custody after divorce. Women who continue to smoke show that they are not willing to change their habits to protect their children.

And from the Observer a new piece about parents being advised about smoking at home - now being recognised as a real problem

Wednesday, 20 June 2007

Easy supper

Another in my occasional series on "not cooking" - this time with a distinctly local flavour. The spring salmon are running with limited openings. So I managed to get a piece of locally caught salmon fillet. I got a little sprinkle of seasoning on the top, popped it under the broiler, while I boiled a few local nugget potatoes (they do not need washing or peeling). The tomatoes could be local but are almost certainly imported from Mexico despite the BC sticker and, of course, the broccoli will have come from California.

But the piece de resistance is the bowl of local strawberries. The farm market where I bought them had some sliced California strawberries so people could compare both taste and the colour. Our local berries are dark red - all the way through! The taste is superb and the berries need nothing more than a quick wash and hulling - nothing on them at all.

Canadians to get reprieve on U.S. passport rules

About bloody time too. After months of line ups and delays at passport offices, and threats to the economy of border towns. And with absolutely zero effect on security. Every terrorist has a drawer full of false passports and identities. Equally silly is the no fly list introduced this week, which has been a complete failure in the US and which Canada only introduced to meet US demands.

The only good thing to come out of this is the attention it has thrown on the total incompetence of the passport office in Canada and the prospect of both a ten year rather than a five year passport, and more streamlined requirements for guarantors. Like you don't need another one just for a renewal!

"I want to underscore how serious a crisis this is... This is inexcusable," said Republican Senator David Vitter, a member on the Senate foreign relations committee.

"It is just another example of the complete failure in government."

Yes, that's right. Republican senator.

Monday, 18 June 2007

Full inquiry into RCMP is needed

Trenchant opinion piece from the Star, written by James Travers

Here's a sample

With depressing regularity the RCMP wanders to the dark side. It has burned barns, dipped into federal sponsorship funds, spied on political parties and blinked at internal wrongs. Connect those dots and find two common denominators. One is an unstable relationship with politicians; the other is a cultish, xenophobic cohesiveness that thwarts oversight and reform.

At times, the RCMP bows to political pressure while more frequently hiding its tracks from its elected masters. Asia-Pacific protesters got the rough 1997 ride Jean Chrétien's handlers wanted while both the Arar and 1981 McDonald inquiries measured the distance between truth and what ministers were told.

The result is a poisonous mix of pragmatism and fear.

This should not need saying

You do back up your hard drive, don't you? Frequently and on a regular basis?

Thought not. But you know you should. The only reason I am posting this is the computer my kids use crashed over the weekend. It appeared to be a simple corruption of the boot.ini file but I was unable to fix that. It turns out that the hard drive is totally fried.

It seems to me that hard drives have become less reliable as they have become bigger and cheaper. Either that or we are keeping machines longer as the technology leaps are getting less and less significant (the law of diminishing marginal returns in economist speak). Certainly I am aware of many more hard drive failures now than I was some years ago when they tended to be much smaller.

On the other hand I bought a stand alone hard drive that can be made accessible to all the machines on the network and I still use that to back up my machine. Sadly I no longer live at the same address as the kids and they do not have their own back up routine.

Saturday, 16 June 2007

What You Should Know About Iraq

The web page, which I came across while stumbling, is addressed to Americans. But it is important that everyone know this information.

I would have liked to see these assertions dynamically linked to their source material. Not that I doubt them for a moment, just in terms of the need to convince people that this is all indeed the well documented truth

Anti-Hillary dirty tricks war hots up

Conservative groups and political figures are planning a film, books and a concerted media campaign to demonise Clinton, who is already one of the most polarising figures in American politics.

I have already seen one of the first shots. From one of the greetings card companies. (No sorry I don't recall which one: at the time it didn't occur to me to suspect a right wing conspiracy.) This was simply a picture of Hilary seated in the oval office with the presidential seal and a nameplate prominent. And when you opened the card it read "See - there are scarier things than birthdays."

RCMP needs major shakeup: federal investigator's report

The RCMP needs major changes to its governance and culture, a government-appointed investigator said Friday.

This arises from complaints from officers who were concerned about their pension and insurance fund.

Earlier this spring, RCMP officers and staff told a parliamentary committee they had unearthed abuse of the pension fund. They claimed that senior managers responded to their concerns either by punishing whistleblowers, or blocking investigations into the accounting irregularities.

Their allegations followed studies and investigations that began in 2003, responding to allegations that there was nepotism in hiring, doubtful expense account claims and improper contracts in the $12-billion RCMP pension plan and insurance fund.

But it seems unlikely that RCMP commissioner Giuliano Zaccardelli will actually have to pay any penalty for any of this. He has already resigned.

I had to try this

A silde show of my photos on flickr. 50 images picked by flickr as the "most interesting"

Created with Paul's flickrSLiDR.

Thursday, 14 June 2007

Canadians' stadium gets natty face-lift

Picture from Klaus

The Georgia Straight with important news for those who have found the experience of the "prettiest ball park" a bit of a let down. The food is going to be better and you will get more beer for the same price.

Good. A long overdue improvement, thanks to a longer lease for the new owners.

If only Nat Bailey still had the concession.

And the hot dogs and the bratwursts will be a heck of a lot better, we think.

Yeah but it's the burgers that need the most work. Can't you get White Spot in?

Wednesday, 13 June 2007

Another good reason to switch to Linux

Windows users are being urged to install the June package of security patches from Microsoft.

This story comes from the Beeb . The patch should have downloaded automatically yesterday if you use Windows. Most of the time I now use Ubuntu, but since I still have Windows on this machine, I do make sure it is kept up to date. Except yesterday, the automatic downloading went wrong. Several times. I kept getting a message telling me that one of the patches had failed to install itself. And then it did it again, and again ...

The patch was huge. Of course, automatic updates don't tell you this, or why it has not installed. You have to figure that out for yourself. The only way to install it, I found, was to uninstall OpenOffice to free up some space on the C: drive (I reinstalled it on D: which has more space)

Ubuntu is free. It is faster than Windows at everything I do, can do nearly everything I want it to. All the software is free too. Loads of it. And you don't need to be a geek. It pretty much looks after itself. And it does not need 200MB of space to make back ups either!

Art taken to the streets

"It's not often that you come across a Caravaggio or Van Gogh while walking around London's Soho, but for the next 12 weeks, the National Gallery is taking its masterpieces to the streets. In a bid to give the public a taste of the collection, the gallery has hung life-sized reproductions around the capital. Each painting is framed and accompanied by an information plaque, and passersby can phone a number for an audio guide of the works. Here's how Londoners reacted to the famous works on their doorstep ..."

Hay fever impairs exam performance, study finds

The Education Guardian

Can I have my first class degree now please?

The charity Education for Health, which commissioned the study, said it showed that hay fever was not a trivial condition, and that young people and healthcare professionals should take the symptoms seriously.

Some of the problem is ascribed to antihistmaines that make patients drowsy. I would have said that not taking antihistamine (which is what I did) but spending at least 10% of the time blowing my nose was the real problem.

Saturday, 9 June 2007

The Beginning by Jim Rees

The seats are full, the crowd is hushed.
We shuffle nervously in our seats,
Shifting our feet, waiting anxiously
For our names to be called
The spotlight gleams on us and we bask in it as if it’s the morning sun,
For this is truly a new morning.
This is our moment.

As we wait, our lives flash before our eyes,
as if it would before death,
but today, it’s before birth.
Every sense in our memory suddenly hightens to new degrees.

We remember the tinny ring of the bell, on the first day of kindergarten
We remember the strange, acrid smell of the finger paint
We remember the feel of the coarse, sandy gravel between our fingers after we narrowly avoid being tagged.

We then flash back to five years ago when we did this before.
The same nervousness, the same insecurity of the next step.
Then we remember the first day of Grade 8.
The ponderously long halls, the intimidating new faces,
Which we know are just as panicked as we are.
Then, we felt the feeling that washes over all of us
(and for each of us at a different time):
“It’s all gonna be OK”.

Now the rest of these five short years flow into our subconscious,
Like water filling a basin:
The late night studying with our friends where we did everything but.
Flying out of our houses at breakneck pace,
once we realised we set the alarm clock an hour late.
Our glorious triumphs, our soul crushing defeats,
And our sudden, swelling feeling of redemption,
Once we realise we can recover from the blows we just faced.

But most of all, our thoughts turn to those who were there for us the most.
Our comrades who fought along side us in the most intimidating battlefield we have known.
The laughter we’ve shared, the shoulders we’ve cried on.
The people who’ve taught us, and who we’ve taught
That family goes far beyond blood.
The people who are no longer our friends-
They are now our brothers, and our sisters
And they share a bond with us whose flame will never flicker out.
It will continue to burn as long we live.

We cannot see what lies before us, as the path is still foggy
And our torches can only show us so much.
Fear swells within us when we think of travelling this road blindly.
Then we think of all we’ve been taught, all we’ve prepared for.
And that same feeling from grade 8 washes over us all over again:
“It’s all gonna be OK.”
For we are now inches away from that door at the end of the tunnel
We’ve been striving twelve years to reach.
And above it reads two words:
“Exit Here”
And “Enter”.


Our daydream is over.
We rise to go to hold what we’ve been craving for so long.
Our ticket to a new world where anything is possible.
Our eyes sweep over the crowd:
We find our siblings with a look of wondering how it all went so fast,
our mothers blubbering into a handkerchief, “that’s my baby!”,
and our fathers with a look of unmistakable pride in their eyes.
We’ve made it.
We’re here.
And now, we are ready for our lives to begin.

Top Court condemns ripping up contracts

Vancouver Sun Saturday June 9 2007

Canada's highest court has in effect enshrined collective bargaining as a constitutional right protected under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

This is very important. And should cause Gordon Campbell to pause and re-examine some of his assumptions about what a provincial government can do even though it has a dominating majority in the legislature.

Tearing up collective agreements is not one of them any more. The lowest paid workers int he health care system - the cleaners, and cooks and laundry workers, lost their jobs and to get them back had to apply to work for private, profit making companies. To allow for those profits and cut costs, wages fell dramatically. And so did health care standards. Oddly enough, clean sheets, decent food and clean rooms turned out to be quite important to patient health. Something that had obviously never occurred to the BC Liberals, or the companies they awarded contracts too.

But mostly this is about right and wrong. And it was obvious, even if you know nothing about the health system or labour law, that what the Liberals did was manifestly wrong. And that is what is wrong with Gordon Campbell. He has no moral compass.

Thursday, 7 June 2007

Tuesday, 5 June 2007

Star Wars again

Steve Bell cartoon from the Guardian

Don't listen to what the rich world's leaders say - look at what they do

Take the thousands of Filipino children who die every year courtesy of the formula milk corporates, backed by US lobbying

George Monbiot
Tuesday June 5, 2007
The Guardian

Trenchant condemnation of a disgusting practice that should have been stamped out years ago. I wish Monbiot had included the names of the baby formula companies in the Philippines (though they are not hard to guess) so the rest of us could boycott their other products and either sell our shares, or go to the next shareholders meeting and make a nuisance of ourselves. If you belong to a pension fund or have an RRSP you can also pester the fund managers to get out of this business. It makes the cigarette and drug companies look like good guys!

Vermont secessionist movement gains support

John Curran, Canadian Press
Published: Tuesday, June 05, 2007

You couldn't make this stuff up.

This has a wonderful "Passport to Pimilico" air to it.

Frank Bryan, a professor at the University of Vermont who has championed the cause for years, said the cachet of secession would make the new republic a magnet.

"People would obviously relish coming to the Republic of Vermont, the Switzerland of North America," he said.

"Christ, you couldn't keep them away."

I note that they want independence, not to join Canada. Oddly whenever we in the west talk about leaving Canada the option to become the next State always seems to top the agenda. I am not sure we need Vermont. Though in the spirit of geographic tidiness there's a big chunk of Maine that should be ours - and at least the Alska panhandle if not the whole state. In conversation on just this topic yesterday, someone said to me he wants Point Roberts as well but that's silly. Where would we go for cheap gas?

Monday, 4 June 2007

Women in Western Art

The video morphs between the faces of women in famous paintings. Many I recognize some I don't. Could be a quiz.

But what I really noticed is how rare the smiles are - and how rewarding

The case for the Death of Copyright

Normally I would post a link and add a comment

Given what he writes I thought I would save you a mouse click

Note that the Vancouver Sun has copyrighted this piece. If Jacob Tummon suffers from me "publishing" it, I would be very surprised. But I would not be surprised to hear from the Sun.

The case for the Death of Copyright

Jacob Tummon
Special to the Sun

Monday, June 04, 2007

It has been said that intellectual property law has an unfortunate tendency to "disable critical thought."

Nowhere is this more apparent than the reasons proffered for copyright in the Internet age, including the refrain that "copying is tantamount to stealing." That flatly is not the case.

The morality, economics, and practicality of laws dealing with physical property do not hold for the intangible works covered by copyright. With finite physical property, scarcity is inescapable; with digital representations, scarcity does not apply. It is therefore not surprising that reasoning premised on this false analogy yields a law in the best interests of content creators ("content creator: means artists, musicians, writers and so forth.)

The ostensible justification for copyright is that it provides attribution to the original creator and serves as an economic incentive for creators who can license the use of their work to make money, provided someone is willing to pay.

The latter point deserves careful scrutiny as the vast majority of creators do not earn meaningful incomes through copyright. Moreover, there are viable models for creators to earn income from their work which do not depend on copyright. Sponsorships, ticket sales, T-shirt sales and commissioned works are obvious longstanding examples.

Canadian musician Jane Siberry offers her music on her website using a "pay what you can" system, but a guideline shows the average price customers have paid per track. The result is an average price higher than what one would pay through iTunes. There are also similarly clever business models for novelists.

Embedding advertising or product placement within a TV show or movie is another viable means to pay for content. Budweiser produces its own TV-type shows on its website Bud.TV. Budweiser's motive is worth noting for its prescient thinking: "If we don't start playing in this digital game now we're going to be playing catch-up for a long time. And this is an industry that can't afford catch-up," explained Tony Ponturo, Anheuser-Busch's vice-president of global media and sports marketing.

Nor is proper attribution dependent on copyright. Tort law, through causes of actions like defamation and passing-off, could be wielded to prevent someone other than the original creator from claiming authorship, and also the original creator being credited with an altered version of the work. Incidentally, plagiarism in an academic setting is currently enforced independently of copyright.

Trademarks and patents are other areas of intellectual property that do not depend on copyright and would continue to exist in the absence of copyright.

That copyright isn't needed for attribution or economic incentive is not the whole story. There is a body of work, in all areas covered by copyright, which requires the elimination of copyright to flourish. DJ's making mixed tapes is a simple example.

Consider, with the means available through modern software, the splicing of video to say nothing of novels; a freeing from the constraints of copyright would invariably lead to an explosion of works being altered, transformed, improved, and ultimately morphed into new works.

The lack of such creative works is a not insignificant cost of copyright. This repressing effect can be damaging to the promotion of political and social expression and greater productivity.

Copyright was originally created as a means for government to exercise censorship after the advent of the movable type printing press. Given this origin is it not surprising that copyright is not intellectually coherent.

Stephen Breyer, now a judge on the U.S. Supreme Court, wrote as an academic in the 1970s on the weak case for copyright, asking why the work covered by copyright should be treated differently than other actions that produce value far beyond what they get remuneration for, i.e. the person who invents the supermarket, the person who clears a swamp, a schoolteacher.

The truth is that copyright has traditionally, and to this day, served primarily the publisher's interest and not that of the creator or the public -- it is not derived from natural justice.

Irrespective of moral and economic dimensions, the deathblow to copyright will likely come from the Internet itself. Due to the nature of the Internet, and anonymizing technologies in particular, the practicality of attempting to enforce a pre-internet copyright regime through the Internet is a road that we as a society should not go down.

Canada has experience with laws that engender widespread violation: Consider prohibition in the 1920s. A law violated so brazenly is more than meaningless -- it undermines the effectiveness of the legal system generally.

Over time, the Internet will increasingly expose constraints on text, pictures, and videos for what they are -- arbitrary and outmoded. In the meantime, it makes sense for Canada not to pass copyright laws that are more restrictive and invasive.

Jacob Tummon is a recent graduate of the University of British Columbia's faculty of law.
© The Vancouver Sun 2007

Spencer Tunick in Amsterdam

A picture from the Guardian that is not one of the master's. If you do a search of Spencer Tunick on flickr you will get over a thousand images taken by other people at these events.

There is no doubt we cannot resist looking at naked people. What I think is important about the image I have directed you to is that it is much more realistic than most internet imagery of naked women. Or indeed the commercial idealization that we have become accustomed to. Only 8 women in the world are supermodels (that's one of those made up statistics that is probably not literally true but wonderfully satisfying). The rest look like this. We should get used to that idea and this should not be remarkable. But the sort of people who require women to be covered will not understand this. And the taliban are as bad as the American religious right in that regard. And the latter have more influence. Only in America would a flash of nipple create such a stir.

New London Olympic logo

It is meant to embody four key "brand pillars" of access, participation, stimulation and inspiration.

Really? Well I am glad you told me because I would never have guessed from looking at it. I don't know why but it looks vaguely fascist to me. Something at least two other Guardian readers also noticed

Guantánamo Bay case thrown out


The whole basis for holding people at this camp has been dubious from the start. The treatment of the prisoners has been shameful, and is the sort of thing that used to be used to throw scorn at the "evil empire". Now the "land of the free" treats people worse than the dictatorships.

Two stories I have found so far at the CBC and the Guardian - but the CBC did not register on the "top stories" list on my google home page

Omar Khadr is a Canadian, and would be treated here as a juvenile for crimes committed when he was 15.

Saturday, 2 June 2007

Do you dig Gothe?

Jurgen that is. On the radio. "My station" CBC Radio Two. Disk drive 15:00-18:00 MF

Pete McMartin
interviews him and fortunately shuts up about himself for a change and lets the man talk.

The idea that Jurgen will retire soon is unthinkable. How will we all get home then? I predict an increase in road rage in every Canadian metropolitan area - and Michigan too!

The Right to Life and Death

Brother of deceased Jehovah's Witness says religion shouldn't be a factor
at 11:17 on June 2, 2007, EST.

MONTREAL (CP) - A former Jehovah's Witness, whose brother died after refusing blood transfusions, has collected 5,000 names on a petition which calls for doctors to be allowed to intervene medically regardless of the patient's religious beliefs.

Jonathan Lavoie says his brother died needlessly after refusing blood transfusions while being treated for an intestinal tumour.

Jean-Claude Lavoie, 26, a devout Witness, died last December.

I found this story on my Shaw home page
so that is where the link points.

It is disturbing, and it is only one man's opinion. BUT his brother decided to die. For whatever reason, the court's accept that competent adults have the right to refuse treatment. Of course, if someone knows that death is near, and will probably be very unpleasant and prolonged, we do not recognize any right to ask for treatment that would end their life easily and quickly, though we do this for our pets readily enough. Or even farm animals that are not useful anymore. Like the man said "They shoot horses, don't they".

The idea that freedom of religion does not extend to choosing not to have medical treatment is abhorrent to me. But so is the insistence that I, or my brother, cannot chose an easier exit. And I most certainly cannot help him to do so however competent we might be. The idea that Johnathon Lavoie has, that we become as children when we enter hospital, is untenable in a free society. But if we are going to be consistent, choosing to die may be a something a rational person could do - including asking someone to help.

It took my brother four days to die, after the tumor in his brain finally prevented him moving any part of his body. He was able to breathe, but not drink, nor communicate. I cannot imagine how it felt being trapped in an immobile body for four days. I can only hope that the people looking after him knew enough about pain management to ensure he did not suffer. But my dog, who also had inoperable tumors, was given a quick, peaceful and merciful release and I was there when she went. It wasn't easy for me but it was easy for her. I cannot help but think that my brother deserved better.

Friday, 1 June 2007

This is True

It started off as an email newsletter. Then it became a web page. Now it has added video.

I have been been reading the newsletter for some time, but I think the video adds something - the clips he finds to illustrate the pieces. Well done, Randy

Tanning at Kits Beach

I posted tanning at kits beach this picture on flickr this morning.

I thought long and hard about it before I did. I took it yesterday at Kits Beach. I had already posted some scenic shots, one of the restaurant, another of HMCS Edmonton. Muted response as usual. This is not my usual style - well, not on flickr anyway. I liked this image for a number of reasons but I did not want to offend anyone.

I got 95 views within three hours, and went to #7 on my "most intersting" link. So obviously it is too good to keep to just one place. Maybe it will bring people to read my blog. What do you think?

Up date June 20

It has now over 1100 views on flickr - far more than any other picture I have posted there. And the effect on this blog was minimal. Mentioning Spencer Tunnick, on the other hand brought them in droves.

What to do to the boss's Jag

I used to car pool, with a guy who's other car was a Jag. I always used to mutter "rich b*st*rd" every time we saw a Jag - just to annoy him. It was that kind of relationship.