And when I'm sick...

I go home and learn some more.

Today something has shaken me again but before I mention that, there are a couple of other things worth sharing with you all...

A friend of mine recommended the Kite Runner. I got up to a certain point and stalled but then read through to the end. For anyone who wonders what anybody ever saw in Kabul as a place to live, read this book and weep for a land that got strapped onto the rack when I was in High School and has only had the rope tightened since. This is not an easy read, but I think I understand Afghanistan a little better than I did.

Some time ago, I came across a link to Alexander Mayer's site -- I don't remember where. At that time, I viewed his introductory presentation and downloaded the two longer lectures as well. And there they sat. They're heavy on the math -- not so much so that I couldn't follow them, I just needed a bit more time and attention than I could give to them at that time. Friday I was off sick and went through them. I think he's on to something... I wonder what a "real" astronomer / cosmologist thinks, but I'm inclined to believe he's solved the Red Shift problem in an acceptable way. (I also liked the Michael Crichton speech it linked to -- not because I doubt that global warming is happening, but warnings against all kinds of junk science are always worthwhile.)

By the way, Mr. Crichton, I would link to the version on your site, except that your webmaster added some really stinky javascript to the page which I don't want to inflict on my readers -- resizing the browser window in the a way appropriate only when accessing things from your website's speeches page.

Today, I was struck by an interview with James Carroll on NPR regarding his book House of War. What touched me the deepest was the story of his father assigning him to take his mother and brothers far away in case he was kept inside at the Pentagon. Next to that was his father's assertion that if we didn't, as a race, find new ways to resolve disputes, that he felt we would not survive to the end of the 20th Century. That guess has proven wrong but it shows that we've all been living with war for far too long.


Real Canadian #4

If you see a Canadian in a Tim Horton's taking a pull on a double-double and sighing, "Just like back home...", why not turn around and ask what sport the founder, "Tim Horton", played. If he or she doesn't know, or calls it "ice hockey", as opposed to just plain, "hockey", you may not be talking to a Canadian. On the other hand, the younger generations may not remember #2 and his contributions, especially to the Toronto Maple Leafs and the Buffalo Sabres.

Canada vs. Kyoto: Both win?

Canada is getting a bad rap these days for the current government spurning the Kyoto Accord -- when in actual fact it was the last government's abundant rhetoric and sparse action that have brought us to the current pass of appearing as a US-style Kyoto scofflaw. In the midst of all this, a Canadian company, Iogen, may be showing a creative way forward with a neutral-or-better carbon footprint: using a combination of waste-straw and fancy enzymes to produce ethanol. Couple that with hybrid-fuel cars that can burn 80% eth and we may have another way out of the crunch that's surely coming whenever we pass the peak of oil production.


Never in the US but at America's behest? You bet...

An alarming story on the Register about widespread collection of employees' biometrics in a centralized database. So many warning whistles here: in India, you can't work in a certain class of job without being in the registry; it includes biometrics -- to guarantee the identity of the workers (how soon will chipping be mandatory, too?); it's "Self Regulatory" which gives the collective of American Überemployers plausible deniability (reminds me of chilling effects, self-censorship and the Chinese baidupedia); there is no privacy, no shield from failed relationships with former employers for the workers in future. How would we like the same things to happen here in Canada (or other countries of the wealthy west)?

This is obviously a response to Western consumers' unease with service orgs in the developing world having access to our personal details. Coupled with a bit more apathy and there's nothing preventing this from becoming widespread everywhere, for any and every possible job with even minimal responsibility. I know... it's going to come anyway, eventually, but I'd rather it didn't happen at all and not any time soon: not even in my kids' generation.

Skype Out competing harder

I just went past skype.com looking at my balance (less than €1 for the second time since I started) and I was surprised to see that they're offering free calling to all numbers in the US and Canada until the end of the year. Probably, they're feeling the pressure of the various VoIP offerings here and they're trying to fight back. Sometimes the customers win...


Mistaken, amused -- and a thinner razor than I thought

So, I went back to Neil Young's website and he is still playing the album. He must have been getting slashdotted on the week-end. And speaking of slashdot, it's interesting to hear the micro-kernel vs. macro-kernel debate being rehashed. At least it would be if (a) someone had mirrored all parts of the conversation or (b) realworldtech.com hadn't gone down in the first place. Finally, it comes out today that a single juror was enough to prevent Moussaoui's execution. Unless this individual is sought out and assiassinated, we'll probably never know who it was, but whoever you are, thank you.


Living With War -- Online No More

I tried to listen again on the week-end and Neil's taken the album down. Good advert, though. I'm more likely to buy a new album by any artist today than I have been for a long time.

Won't need no shadow man to run the government
Won't need no stinkin' war...

Moussaoui: The real flip-flopper

Didn't I say Moussaoui might change his mind over time? It's all so sudden that the immediate explanation is "I don't like my sentence -- I wanted to be a martyr." But perhaps, just perhaps, the contents of his memo asking for a new trial is evidence of exactly how non-acculturated to the west communities of Africans are in Paris. It might even be a measure of the justice gap between the French system and the British one (together with its logical descendants, including that of the US).

We in the west get pretty cynical about our governments, our courts system. We've seen, often enough, things that feel like travesties, legislated injustices, people who get let off that shouldn't, people who are punished that shouldn't. But at the end of the day, the system we have in Canada, the systems in Britain, the US, Australia and other post-British countries allows for the most credible attempts anywhere on the planet for real justice to be done. We should appreciate it more than we do.

It's too bad Moussaoui didn't know what to expect. But perhaps if he had, he wouldn't have been available for recruitment by al-Qaeda in the first place.

Note to Zac: take more than your Qu`ran with you into the supermax. You'll need more than one kind of thought to keep you from going utterly nuts in there.


I've never been a fan...

But I have to applaud fellow Canadian, though expatriate, Neil Young. In the first place, thanks for leaving Canada in such a way as to give my favourite Canadian poet/guitarist a platform. But today, thanks for giving voice to a paradoxical rage that's being felt by many: how do you vent something that makes you want to stop the killing? Neil's given us a way. Thanks, Neil. You may be crazy but at least you're human -- and Canadian to boot!

I wear my shadows
Where they're harder to see
But they follow me everywhere--
I gues that should tell me I'm travelling toward light
I guess something you sang made me remember that
I guess I'm saying thanks for that...


Real Canadian #3

If you see a "Canadian" skiing somewhere (or doing some other winter activity) and he or she is wearing a particularly chic woollen hat, if you say, "Nice touque you're wearing," and you get a blank stare, you've bumped into another impostor. Incidentally, "touque" is pronounced to rhyme with "Luke", as in "Use the force, Luke".

Two Near Misses

The world dodged two bullets yesterday. I was amazed to see mention of this earthquake here no more than 20 minutes after it occurred. But I was relieved to see the associated tsunami warning called off within after a 60 cm wave showed up at the nearest shores. Perhaps the Boxing Day tsunami of the other year has at least resulted in some kinds of co-ordinated tracking Next Time; as in yesterday. Good job, folks.

In the evening, I was on my way to a taping of a locally-produced television program when I heard that the Moussaoui verdict had been published: Life with no parole. I was relieved to see that 12 ordinary men and women decided that justice would not be served by making Moussaoui a martyr. Perhaps, just perhaps, twenty years from now Moussaoui will have a different view of the events he wanted to be involved in (but wasn't competent or reliable enough to be). I'll admit, it's unlikely, but you must admit that it's not impossible. And now he won't be a martyr, something that could only have resulted in more bloodshed, if it had occurred: "Blood calls out for blood", so a little less blood shed is probably a good thing, by default.

I grieve for his Mom back in France -- any way this works out (Moussaoui stays in US and she moves there, just visits or not; Moussaoui is transferred to France) she's lost almost all the comfort a son could be to her. But at least she won't have to deal with a picture of her executed son used to recruit more jihadis. Time to go back and read the play Twelve Angry Men again, maybe, and speculate what it might have been like in that jury room.


Real Canadian #2

Canada has a senate. Some Canadians don't even realize that becuase unlike Senates in other countries, it's not (yet) elected. It works more like the House of Lords in the UK although appointments to it are more like political patronage than the way the Lords typically functions.  If you ask Canadians how they voted in the last Senate elections, unless they're from Alberta (where they've experimented with recommendation-by-election), there's only one right answer: "What Senate elections?" Any other kind of answer means you've got an impostor on your hands.

Iran and Sanctions?

According to CNN, "the US is confident of Iran sanctions". I wonder if that confidence extends outside the Bush Administration and those who serve "at the pleasure of the President"? What ace in the hole can they have with regard to Russia and China?

I've said before regarding India and Pakistan that their acquisition of nuclear weapons was what earned them respect on the world stage, which led to a cessation of hostilities in Jammu & Kashmir. Now Idon't want any nuclear weapons, let alone more of them in more people's hands but the results were there for all of us to see.

So now, Iran wants respect -- not to mention another source of energy. And China and Russia desperately want a way to look like they're a counter-balance to what is perceived as American bullying without themselves looking belligerent. And they're going to fail to veto Security Council sanctions against Iran? Somebody's dreaming here.

I have only one thing to mention to the US: what happens when you attack a tyrant? He becomes a hero in the eyes of his people. Then you have to destroy his country to depose him. Remember Saddam and Milosevic and find some other way to "deal" with Ahmadenijad than finding another "coalition of the bought" and sending in your invincible military machine. This is not a game of Risk. People's lives and the longterm habitability of large pieces of the planet are at stake.

Budget Eve in Canada

(written yesterday)

Tomorrow the Canadian Federal Government is issuing a new budget. The various spins before the fact are amusing. In the run-up to the last federal election, the Conservatives tried to cast themselves as a different breed of politician in so many ways: floor-crossing is slimey (David Emerson is now International Trade Minister), we need more accountability in parliament (the new accountability act apparently gives civil servants whole new ways of evading "Freedom of Information Act" requests), we'll start rolling back the GST (small retailers are asking that it not be done immediately because the change will be so expensive).

And in the middle of it all, the Softwood Lumber trade war is probably over and the loonie is higher than it's been since I left high school -- will that affect my job (negatively)? And America gets a dry run of life without (illegal) immigrants. What a time it's turning out to be.

Trying to get back to regular posting

I have not found it easy to keep posting to this blog, despite the fact that all kinds of interesting things have happened since my post on stupid constitutional tricks. Things like the Canadian Election, the joint declaration of Ahearn and Blair on the future of Northern Ireland, the turmoil in Nepal, the Iran nuclear controversy, revolving doors in the the US Presidential  staff roster, the exit of the Vancouver Canucks from the Stanley Cup Playoffs before they start (and Marc Crawford's dismissal), the advance of the Vancouver Giants to the WHL finals, and now a final end to the Canada-US softwood dispute and the Canadian dollar is as high as it was before I got my driver's license.

I'm going to try again. There's all kinds of interesting stuff happening, in every corner of the world and sometimes I feel the need to get up and say some'at about it. Like Sam Sullivan, Vancouver's mayor travelling to Ottawa this last week; and giving harm-reduction (in an approach I'm not entirely comfortable with) a further chance. I heard him quote (un-footnoted) a study in Switzerland showed that when you give people the drugs they're addicted to, 10% wind up quitting outright really soon thereafter? I wouldn't have believed it but if it's true, that kind of result is worth at least a little bit of a try. And if you do it, primarily for prostitutes who are walking scared after the Pickton story came out... The weak and relatively defenseless need something. Maybe this isn't the best answer, but if it's better than the one they've got now, I wonder.

Oh well, enough for now. Gotta get back to other things...