To Friends Who may be Using Gizmodo, LifeHacker and other services...

This story came through on slashdot on the weekend, stating that Gawker  had been compromised.  Gizmodo and LifeHacker are among the compromised password sets (as are Kotaku and io9):

'Our user databases do indeed appear to have been compromised. The passwords were encrypted. But simple ones may be vulnerable to a brute-force attack. You should change the password on Gawker (GED/commenting system) and on any other sites on which you've used the same passwords. Out of an abundance of caution, you should also change your company email password and any passwords that may have appeared in your email messages. We're deeply embarrassed by this breach. We should not be in the position of relying on the goodwill of the hackers who identified the weakness in our systems.'

If you don't understand this story, perhaps it doesn't apply to you. So don't worry about it. I know of at least one reader who does use these services.


Trying Chrome

I have been trying Chrome out for a few months now but ultimately, I'm walking away because it lacks a simple feature that I find needful while others (the seriously visually impaired) find it absolutely crucial. I can't over-ride page fonts with user fonts in Chrome.

Somebody please let me know what setting I've missed if it's already there. Somebody please let me know, too, if a new version of Chrome includes this feature.

Despite the potential for search-traffic analysis and Chrome sending my address-bar contents to Google after every character, there were lots of things to like about Chrome and I could be tempted to come back. It seems all browsers are doing that now anyways, with no option of turning it off. My objections are purist, possibly to the point of Luddism: it's a text-entry field, for pity's sakes! Kindly wait until I hit return before sending it anywhere.


If you use Linux

With the purchase of Novell by the Microsoft-backed Attachmate, it is imperative that users of -- especially large users of, as well as users of large numbers of systems running -- Linux consider the final dispostion of 882 patents formerly held by Novell, and considered by some to be covering elements of Linux.

I point to this article from groklaw, and encourage you to consider the deadline imposed by the finality of the sale. Members of the Open Invention Network will be held to have a license for those patents by Novell at least until January 23 and in perpetuity after that for those who were members at that date.

So far as I can see, joining is as simple as subscribing to their newsletter, which you can do through their "Contact Us" web form. If this is not enough, then as soon as I find that out, I will post a follow-up to these instructions at that time.


Headline puzzles -- moment of redemption and Puzzle #N0

I am content. I've gotten my headline-puzzle-maker script working. Here are the results:


For the record, I am from Greater Vancouver, BC and these headlines are from a recent issue of our venerable (some would say stodgy) paper, the Vancouver Sun (quite a different paper from the Calgary, Edmonton et al. varieties, let me tell you! Not even our other rag, "The Province" descends to such depths).

I will post an answer in two weeks or so. If you need help brute-forcing the headlines, try the applet at this location (thanks to The Phoenix Society for their link). If you need an introduction to solving headline puzzles, try this document (also from the Phoenix Society). Happy solving! Feel free to create your own headline puzzles and send them to me -- you can use my tool if you want.


Haiku #27

Cultural distances:

Today's slashdot poll
Means quite different things
Based on your locale.

Haiku #26

Excessive adverbs
Detract from the gravity
Of important words.


Headline puzzles -- moments of shame

Some years ago, I tried to put up some headline puzzles. They seemed a cool idea but I wasn't equal to the task of generating them by hand. It took way too long and I always suspected the result of being wrong.

This fall, under the guidance of the guide given at the Phoenix Society, I wrote a python program that produces headline puzzles and I looked back at the puzzles I had generated. They were so, so wrong. There are parts that are clearly correct but they were not right. So... I'm going to get one of my guys to use my script to generate a puzzle for me to solve and once I've solved it, perhaps I'll start posting puzzles here once again.

Given that it'll be a program generating them, it should be easier to get them out regularly, and it'll be a simple matter to get them correct. Thank you, Phoenicians. I appreciate the straight-ahead directions you posted on your website.


Riddle for a Friday Afternoon

Q: How many iPhone users does it take to change a light bulb?
A: Nobody knows. There isn't an app for that yet.


Český Sen -- what a hoot!

I watched Český Sen with the family this evening. And laughed. And cried. And had sober thoughts. Imagine a jingle that ends with a choir's mellow crooning:

It will be a big bash
If you don't have the cash,
get a loan and scream,
'I want to fulfill my dream!'

It's funny, sad and sobering all at once. And I can heartily recommend it. I hope the people who got camera time have recuperated from the experience.


Haiku #25

So much to learn but
so little time to learn it:
that's what frustrates me.

Haiku #24

The story behind this one is too long for this space. Written for all those thus vaccinated: may the vaccination expire soon!

Nothing vaccinates
Any heart against truth like
its caricature.


Open Letter to Carole James and the BC NDP

Dear Ms. James,

Three-letters have become a tub to thump in BC right now: HST. As many other BCers do, I oppose it, too, not necessarily because I think it's bad policy, rather because this government had no mandate to bring it in -- in fact, if anything they had an anti-mandate. And I am appalled to see Mr. Vander Zalm acting as though the referendum against it is his baby or something. He, if anything, is even more corrupt than this government, or indeed any other of the last eight former premiers of BC. If we are to have a once-and-future premier, is this is choice to give anyone hope?  Pfui.

But there is another three-letter acronym that is even more important and will make your next mandate overwhelming if you adopt it: If you will promise to bring in the STV election reform in your first term in the legislature no seat in the province will be safe for the Liberals.

The number 1 thing I want for my province is neither your party's policies, nor specifically those of the current government. The number 1 thing I want for my province is transparency and elections that are not run on the basis of collectivized fear-mongering. ("I can't vote for what I really want because it'll let those Other Guys get power and that would be the Most Awful Thing" -- I've heard these words during every provincial election of my adult life. Pfui, again!)

In the next provincial election that collectivized fear-mongering will undoubtedly grant your party an overwhelming mandate -- who knows but that enough Liberals can be recalled on the current rage to give you a mandate in midstream. But such a mandate will only be temporary no matter what you do because the winds of fear will swing. The best legacy your next government can give the people of BC will be elections that may never yield another majority but that will teach our politicians to play nice and force them to do it in the open more than has ever been done: STV.

I don't want police raids of the legislature any more than I want Bingogate. ICBC and HST may both be equally good as long-term public policy -- if sometimes onerous in practice. But I'd like these choices to be made after public consultation and not as the result of back-room deal making and ignoring the chorus of dissenting voices because a 60% seat mandate trumps a 40% popular vote.

I have never voted NDP and I am not planning to as of yet. But if you promise this one thing, I promise to do something I have never done before: vote NDP. And I am sure that many, many others would strongly consider it. My MLA has about as safe a Liberal seat as any in the province but I am sure that not even the Kelowna ridings will be safe for Liberals if you will make this one pledge, that the 2017 campaign will be an STV election.


Arthur N. Klassen
address, etc....


HST in BC: Jon Kesselman asserts, I rebut

In the Vancouver Sun for today, Jon Kesselman wrote in support of the HST. I posted this to the digital edition of the paper but it doesn't seem to be sticking there, so I'm cross-posting it here:

Opponents of the HST are accused of being hysterical, ignorant and blindly acting in opposition to their own interests but such name-calling is not helping this debate in the least.

Decrying lack of transparency is not hysteria. Objecting to politicians turning 180 degrees from a not-very-well-publicized answer during a campaign is not hysteria. Alarm because governments are listening to some elite economists instead of the voters who sent them to Victoria is not hysteria.

Notwithstanding that Mr. Kesselman's remarks may be the last word in wisdom on the HST, the failure of the government to walk through this reasonably and transparently is serious enough that I will sign the petition and vote against the HST -- and in doing so, I will object in the strongest possible terms to anyone who calls it hysteria.

Fears that HST will drive more of the economy underground are well-founded. Whenever I deal with an independent contractor whose services are taxable under the GST, I still regularly get quoted a cash price -- clear evidence that collecting, tracking, paying and being rebated the GST is unacceptably burdensome to the lower end of the economy. The HST will only make this worse. If opposing HST can be construed as hysterical, cheerleading for it can just as easily be construed as naive and out of touch with ordinary folks. I don't see Mr. Kesselman dealing with that risk, at all.

As for the savings of business that will be passed along to the consumer once they begin to flow, did any of these savings result after the GST came in? I don't remember the price falling and I expect the businessmen to pocket the difference again when the HST arrives. That's what happens to savings passed along to all businesses at the same time. That may be cynical, but it's not hysteria.

PST, whatever its ills to B2B commerce in BC are, has the compassionate, enlightened, valuable exemptions on groceries, books, school supplies and childrens' clothes. GST has no such exemption -- one of the reasons I still oppose it -- and HST will not either. Maybe this exemption no longer has value to BC's families but if that's the case, they should come under public scrutiny and widespread debate before we turn and walk away from them. If opposing HST is hysterical, supporting it strongly can be construed as heartless, uncaring and ignorant of the needs of the least well-off families of the province.

Of course these families will receive HST rebates (which will, hopefully be at least twice what the GST rebates are now) but that requires the knowledge that the rebate should be applied for and the freedom to save up that rebate to apply to the no-longer-tax-exempt necessaries that need to be bought every week of the year. Anyone who knows such families understands how unreasonable it is to believe that this "no addded burden" for greater benefit. Unawareness of this segment of society isn't just heartless and uncompassionate, it's willfully so, and therefore an even more culpable condition.

Maybe HST is better for the province. The way the Liberals are bringing it in and imposing it on us is even more heavy-handed and anti-democratic than the introduction of the GST was under the over-sized majority enjoyed by the Mulroney government. If the government of British Columbia thinks this is such a good idea, the time to convince BCers of this is before negotiations with Ottawa began, not as the regimen is about to be imposed on us in a manner that is impossible to escape from for a period of five years.

This is not the mandate they earned in the last election -- in fact, given one (to my knowledge) campaign-trail answer before the last election, the mandate runs the other way. Scrap the HST and make sure we want you to bring it in or as surely as Bill Vander Zalm and the NDP are the most unlikely of political allies, I will sign this petition and vote to defeat the current HST when the question is put to me.


More articles by Gwynne Dyer

A bunch of new articles have been posted by Gwynne Dyer. Everything here, from "The 2010 Question" onward is new. I just finished reading it. I couldn't agree with the final sentence more, and I desperately hope that sanity will prevail to prevent the same outcome as the earlier ignorance in the face of similar questions.


What I Want from My MP

To the Hon. Mark Warawa, Canadian Member of Parliament for Canada:
cc the Rt. Hon. Stephen Harper, Prime Minister of Canada:


I'd like to bring this article from the BBC's website to your attention:

It includes a 42 minute excerpt from the British House of Commons which I found very interesting, not so much for the content of the debate (which is interesting) but for the number of stern questions Labour backbenchers posed to a minister of their own government. The outline of the clip is as follows with comments from Labour MPs in bold:

Statement: David Miliband (Lab.), Foreign Secretary
Rebuttal: William Hague (Cons.), Shadow Foreign Secretary
Counter: 14:15 David Miliband (Lab.), Foreign Secretary
19:00 Ed Davey (Lib. Dem.), Foreign Affairs Critc
21:14 David Miliband (Lab.), Foreign Secretary
23:30 Diane Abbott (Lab.) Hackney North
24:30 David Miliband (Lab.), Foreign Secretary
25:38 David Davis (Cons.)
26:45 David Miliband (Lab.), Foreign Secretary
28:45 David Winnick (Lab.)
29:33 David Miliband (Lab.), Foreign Secretary
30:45 Julian Lewis (Cons.)
31:22 David Miliband (Lab.), Foreign Secretary
32:17 Keith Vaz (Lab.)
32:46 David Miliband (Lab.), Foreign Secretary
33:12 Douglas Hogg (Cons.)
34:07 David Miliband (Lab.), Foreign Secretary
35:10 Dari Taylor (Lab.)
36:01 David Miliband (Lab.), Foreign Secretary
36:20 Andrew Tyrie (Cons.)
37:12 David Miliband (Lab.), Foreign Secretary
38:21 Jeremy Corbyn (Lab.)
39:02 David Miliband (Lab.), Foreign Secretary
39:44 Henry Bellingham (Cons.)
40:03 David Miliband (Lab.), Foreign Secretary
40:52 Paul Flynn (Lab.)
41:14 David Miliband (Lab.), Foreign Secretary
41:53 Martin Linton (Lab.)
42:16 David Miliband (Lab.), Foreign Secretary

Especially scathing were the comments from David Winnick (at 28:45) and Diane Abbott (23:30), no less those of the MP representing the riding where Binyam Mohammed's family resides, Mr. Martin Linton (41:53).

I don't recall the last time a non-cabinet member of a Canadian ruling party did that sort of thing and I think it's a sorry lack. Several times now I've sent you comments about the ACTA legislation that keeps bubbling up in the House -- and I'm sure I'm not the only Canadian to complain to his or her Conservative MP about that measure. When will you MPs stand up for the concerns of your constituents against your own Primer Minister and Cabinet? We elect you. You! for crying out loud. So please start thinking of things from your constituents' point of view and show some spine.

Again, on my "pet issue", I ask you: Do YOU want your children or their friends to be criminalized by not necessarily well-founded accusations leveled at them, not to a due-process-bound law enforcement agency, but to their ISP? accusations not made by individual Canadians, or even Canadian firms guarding the interests of Canadian aritists, but by large American conglomerates? The American DMCA and laws of its ilk (like ACTA, as the leaks have helped to inform us) are headed in that direction. Will you be complicit in stripping away our freedoms like this? Don't be. Again, show some spine!

And Mr. Harper, if there's one thing you can do for the welfare of all Canadians that will put paid to the ongoing whispers that you're scary and people can't trust you, it would be to shrink the offices of Prime Ministerial power back down toward the size they were before Pierre Trudeau's tenure in office and to put the power back in the hands of the MPs, the committees and ultimately the people. I recognize and appreciate the intentions you have of reforming the Senate: make it more accountable. But even before you do that, work to reverse the structures that turn a newly elected MP's loyalty away from his or her constituency where it ought to be, and toward caucus and to cabinet where (valid!) concerns about his or her career drive them to place it. That would be a worthy goal, and one that all Canadians would grow to appreciate.


Arthur N. Klassen


Haiku 23 -- Sober Second Thoughts Always Timely

In response to this story from the BBC:

Vegetative states
may mean other than was thought
of Terri Schiavo,


Driving while yakking bans make how much difference?

Today I feel a little vindicated. Now let me be a little freer tomorrow, please -- but I know better than to hold my breath. According to this article, cellphone bans reduce the use of cellphones while driving but they make no difference to the accident rate. Well-intentioned law, disappointing results.

I was discussing this with a co-worker in a hallway this week and s/he implied that the wholesale ban on cellphone use is an unavoidable expansion of a wish to ban reading and writing text (SMS or e-mail) while driving. While these things weren't on your phone, a ban was unlikely. Now that they are (not to mention music, games, streaming and stored video, etc.), they can't just ban some hand-held activities, they've gotta ban them all.

Is the law really as coarse-grained as all that? I've often said that laws will always get something wrong because they're unavoidably using a large brush: you can't paint the Sistine Chapel with a tool made for a "lick of paint". But a grain this coarse? I wouldn't have believed it. If anyone knows about this, I'd appreciate hearing from a horse's mouth.

This co-worker went so far as to say that police (in BC) will not be ticketing people who are talking on phones, only those they see holding them and staring into them. I don't plan to tempt that differentiation (and I suggest nobody else do so, either) but I am intrigued. And I still say the law is unjust so long as there isn't some kind of exemption for people travelling at less than some threshold (I'd suggest 40km/h, but I could live with a lower figure) in a traffic line-up.


Google facing censorship in China

When I read this blog entry from google about a change to their policy in China referred from the Register. I wondered aloud about how this would play out: how big is Google in China. Here's a Chinese guy's opinion: not too much.


Some programming links and Haiku 22

This morning on Hacker News, an item called Three blog posts I'd love to read (and one that I wouldn't) caught my eye. Of course, the article was more interesting than the posts about it. The three wanted blog posts were
  1. What I learned from Language X that makes me a better programmer when I use Language Y
  2. Something surprising that you probably wouldn't guess about Language X from reading blog posts
  3. My personal transformation about Idea X
The unwanted post was "Here's why such and such [is truly lame]."

But it wasn't the article that got my attention so much as the follow-on conversation. Don't get me wrong. The article mentioned a couple of books that I think I'm going to want to take a look at some time (The Little MLer and The Seasoned Schemer) but the follow-ons to point one were interesting:

What I Learned from Haskell that improved my C++ was of special interest. Recently, I watched a couple of videos about Haskell from Channel9 (you don't have to install Silverlight to watch them) by Erik Meijer and some of the functional aspects of Haskell and Erlang seem really interesting, especially immutability and how that enables parallel evaluation.

I've also used Python here and there -- even using it to teach programming to my sons, so "How learning Python made me a better C++ programmer" was also really interesting. His contribution was a change in orientation towards using templates and boost. There was a commenter who echoed the prejudice I've seen (and complied with, to the point of echoing) at my current job against using Boost, too. The very next comment was a good balance point. Some of these prejudices made sense once upon a time, but it seems to me that the compilers have gotten a lot better than they used to be.

Jamie Bullock's follow-on to this second article (although the link mentioned on ginstrom didn't work well) was also interesting: "What I learned from Python that makes me a better programmer when I use C". Both of his comments, on readability and on better algorithms, are things that are also worth remembering.

But a Blog post should be about more than pointing at other people's words. So let me finish off with yet another Haiku:

Others can teach you
More about your field than might
At first glimpse seem clear


Thanks for Speaking Up

(cc to my own MP: the Hon. Mark Warawa, MP for Langley
and to the responding cabinet minister: the Hon. Tony Clement)

Hello Mr. Angus,

I was reading one of my usual sources of news, this morning and I came across this piece which included a link to an exchange between yourself and the Hon. Tony Clement. I wish my own MP had the fortitude to stand up to his own party on this issue. Failing that, I wish some other candidate who had the courage to speak up thus had a ghost of a hope of unseating him. You may not be my MP but on the subject of Copyright Law and the insidious ACTA-inspired legislation that keeps trying to get through the Canadian parliament (in the face of a mix of strong opposition and apathy) you are representing me and my interests, along with the interests of younger Canadians everywhere, just fine. Keep up the good work.

The derisive and dismissive way in which Mr. Clement referred to Michael Geist's columns in response, not dealing substantively with any of the issues Mr. Geist raises, reflects badly on the competence of the minister and on the openness of whatever process he claims to have pursued with Canadians.

I have little hope, ultimately, that this bill will be prevented from passing. On issue after issue, at level after level (provincially, federally and even municipally) I feel less and less that our forms of government are "by the people", that they are devolving into more and more autocracy, are more and more controlled by not-even-Canadian moneyed interests. I am pretty sure that the big legislative battles on this issue have to be fought and won elsewhere, ultimately, but how I wish it were otherwise. I can see my liberties slipping away one after another and I am sad that my children and grandchildren will be less free than my parents were and they won't even know what they're missing.

Keep up the good fight and inspire some of your colleagues, regardless of party affiliation to do the same.


Arthur N. Klassen


Pulling over to place a call

Well... we have the latest Nanny-State law in place and I'll obey it. No more cellphone talking while driving. What a stupidly intrusive law.

I know. I know. I'm flying in the face of "best informed opinion". I agree with parts of BC's law, anyways: texting (even reading texts!) while driving actually is mad. And I'll agree that there are drivers who shouldn't drive while talking. Most of them shouldn't drive while breathing either, not to mention that I've seen them drive while applying makeup, while reading the newspaper, while drinking coffee and eating a hamburger -- and sometimes all at once, too! Apparently other things have been seen in the driver's seat, still more absorbing than that.

If you think I'm being a pig-headed fool, let me show you where the oinker-faces really are: when I'm stuck in a rush hour lineup, to tell me that I shouldn't talk on my cellphone even then, that's pig-headed. That's tyrannical. This law shouldn't even have been considered before the invention of Star Trek transporter technology or at least before the absolute banishment of rush hour lineups -- or at the very least, there should be a rider added that says if you're in a stop-and-go traffic area that doesn't exceed 40km/h or whatever... get my drift? I know I haven't a hope in asking for the outright repeal of this invasion of my freedoms, I'm only asking to be trusted to act responsibly in managing my otherwise less than manageable schedule in the use of a cellphone during unavoidable delays.

But today I feel a bit like I'm going to get a bit of my own back. I've hit on a small piece of civil disobedience to go along with my unwilling compliance to this restriction on my freedoms. If I need to stop to use my phone and there's a fire hydrant by the road, that's where I'll do it. I won't park in front of a fire hydrant -- no, that would represent a safety risk in case of a fire in the area, not to mention that it'll draw a ticket -- and my suggesting that you should do any such thing would be counseling to commit offenses, also something I don't want to do. I'll only stop there. If I'm not parking, only stopping for a brief chat on the phone, I don't see how that should be citable. Still, I'll keep my ear open for approaching fire trucks (and ticket writers) while I'm doing it.

So, if you have a stupid law like this in your jurisdiction, why not consider doing the same thing.