Disclaimer: I am a Canadian, so I do not have a dog in this race; except we are your nearest neighbours (nearer than México in two minor ways only: longer border, no local outcries for a fence) so if you systematically self-destruct, it'll be bad for us, too.
Support for Ron Paul by the young and sometimes geeky has intrigued me for some time. Is it a result of reading Ayn Rand? Is it because his ideas seem so much more sensible than so many others? Is it because he does not appear beholden to any lobbyists? Is it primarily because he wants to end drug Prohibition? Possibly all of the above.
But it's also confused me because a number of the things Ron Paul wants to do away with are things that help the young find their first footholds -- things like student loans (or even grants). When I read this headline, I thought for just a second that perhaps Dr. Paul wants to throw open the universities for all, call a full education a civil right that you get to take advantage of based on merit. But I dismissed that thought before I saw the rest of the post, and I was right to do so. My response: his analysis may have some truth in it but it's so simple as to be suspect, in my view. On balance, like much of what Ron Paul says, it's too simple to be right.
Whoever thinks Ron Paul is cool, whatever lobby groups he is not beholden to, make no mistake: the über-rich and powerful wish his ideas well because their adoption would entrench and deepen the growing class divisions in America and put an end to the American dream as anything but that: a wistful dream of what expectations used to be.
Something is rotten in the way the US is going these days. For instance, in my lifetime, before 2008, I had never heard a leading politician in the US say of their president from the opposing party that they wanted him to fail. Whether you agree with Mr. Obama or not, that attitude on the part of any member of your government is pernicious. I'll stop there because the list of things going wrong is so long (most of them decades in the making) as to make this too-long post ridiculously so.
But Ron Paul is not the answer to those problems: his ideas (and incidentally those of the Tea Party) are only going to help the rich get richer and inherit the meek (and the not so meek). Do yourselves a favour, folks, and elect leaders that remember what they learned in Kindergarten (without forgetting all the things they learned since) and value their neighbours over hard lines -- internal neighbours, of course! I wouldn't advocate that you would elect the people I, your Canadian neighbour, want you to elect. I'm just confident that if, overall, you voted in line with your interests (and that may take a lot of thinking to figure out who's going to serve those best) and do well, then you won't become neighbours that we have to fear from across that longest unarmed border in the world.
be good to each other, folks...ank
One of the geekiest: I have been a professional software developer for 25 years now (with no plans to join management any time soon) and I generally understand technology trends and can navigate my way around new stuff that arrives as and when etc. etc. On the other hand, I have been a devoted practitioner of contentment, shunning the bleeding edge to make my family's budget work reasonably well.
Not so much: I actively practice contentment. I know about the bleeding edge but I don't live there. I only got a cellphone six years ago, and it was only in the last year or so that I upgraded (I call it a downgrade in some ways) to a smart-phone. It's a phone for crying out loud, my third one, and there are features from my first phone that I still miss. I don't need the extra charges of a data plan. I don't need the extra distraction of all those apps and games. Weather happens, my wife and kids are great company and there are so many books to read (and yes, I still love the feel of paper in my hand) so although I enjoy my smart-phone (it's an android), I'm not really a zealot for one, or for the platform that I chose.
Every now and then, though, someone will ask me "android or iPhone?" and I don't quite know what to say. A lot of them aren't techies and don't know how much they ought to care (for my sake and those like me) about freedom. All they want is a smart-phone that will do what they want, beautifully, seamlessly and not exorbitantly (although they're probably all willing to pay more day-to-day than I am).
This week, though, I saw a pair of answers to this problem which I present to you. I wish everyone would choose anything but the iPhone because of this article from CodingHorror. I totally get why many to most people, especially the non-technical ones will choose the iPhone over other options because of this ZDNet article. I, too, have had to do parental tech support. And often enough, it's been cleanup tech support when some misfortune, small, large or unintentional (on the part of the perpetrator) has befallen their tech.
So I don't want to serve only at the pleasure of the King but my parents will probably never want to use an Android either.
- No mathematics is patentable
- All software is mathematics
- Therefore no software is patentable.
The best article so far is behind a paywall at IEEE but the abstract here tells you all you need to know without getting lost in the details. The sapphire strand is being used as a place to hang a real high-temperature semiconductor that uses Yttrium, Barium, Copper and Oxygen. The results keep a low temperature more easily and are superconducting at microwave frequencies and 77 K (around the boiling point of Nitrogen -- "high temperature" in superconductors is different than "high temperature in weather).
To: the Honourable Member of Parliament for Port Moody-Westwood-Port Coquitlam, Minister of Heritage and Official Languages, Mr. James Moore
Regarding: Michael Geist's story on leaked cables
After this story, the only credible thing for the Canadian government to do is to write new copyright legislation that enshrines the public good above all other considerations, declares anything edging towards DMCA unconstitutional and restricts the length of copyrights to the limits that were in place before Steamboat Willie's copyright was first just about to expire.
This is a shameful way for a government of Canada to behave. I am disgusted. There are more important moral issues to be disgusted or happy about but if this is one of the "smaller" things, how can we hope your government to do right in the greater things?
Arthur N. Klassen
If you need help finding your MP's contact information, get in touch...
I am of two very distinct minds about it as I e-mailed to a friend who asked my opinion...
My first response to harmonization was that when you say you're not considering it (though papers later come to light proving that you were), you don't just ram it through the legislature because of budget conditions or "competitiveness" concerns, not without a protracted public debate first. With that kind of a reversal better to run a referendum then and there. Or if you really believe it's so important, call an election over it. That's the honourable thing to do.
My next response was anger over surrendering made-in-BC policies, such as no sales tax on books, groceries, school supplies and kids' clothes: simple, common-sense, positive social policy that comes cheap at the price, even if some claims are fraudulent (and I know some families did routinely claim all stationary as school supplies).
But in hind-sight, and with the experience of the FST to GST transition, I think I actually want the tax to stay. I certainly don't want the Zalm back in BC politics.
And it's never just what the consumer pays as tax that's the problem. What does it do, over all, to the market? I didn't buy the "prices will come down" rhetoric over the GST but it proved to be true for certain classes of goods (big ticket items that we don't notice at the grocery store every week) and promises to scrap it proved treacherous. Are we primarily consumers? or citizens? or neighbours?
Is the pre-HST system fundamentally fairer and less complex for those of our neighbours who run businesses? Maybe not? Well then, despite the feel good of spitefully turning over the tax because it costs us (admittedly more than a few pennies) more than it did, maybe the right thing, the neighbourly thing to do would be to keep the tax. This is about what's best for us, not just for me.
Whether we like it or not, bringing in the HST had consequences which will have further consequences if we try to unravel them. Businesses (especially small ones) have had to bear chaos-costs to bring in the HST but now it's here, and in the long run, it's probably an idea whose good will eventually become self-evidentially, even if it takes another 10 years. (probably less). Should we triple the chaos that the businesses (especially small ones) have to undergo, unrolling the tax now (x2) only to bring it in eventually anyways (x3)? I don't think that's a good idea, even at the x2 level, whether you the harmonization is a good idea or not.
Congratulations, James, on your overwhelming victory in our riding.
As I said on the phone to you during the recent election campaign, I oppose ending the per-party subsidy from my taxes. Given that my choice for MP does not ever get to parliament, that subsidy is the only outlet that my federal vote currently has, so taking this away from me is muting my political voice, mine and those of anyone who doesn't believe the large political parties serve their interest. Your party has the power to do it, the votes to do it, perhaps it even seems properly frugal. But you are taking away part of my political voice and that is very unneighbourly, very un-Canadian of you.
In a time when declining interest of the young ought to be the gravest long-term threat to our form of government, anything which pushes those at the margins of its processes out beyond the distance of audibility is something that should not be done.
Please step back from this first sign of the neo-Thatcherism I was fearing would result from your election victory this spring.
If diversity in the Canadian parliament matters to you, perhaps you would consider writing something similar to your MP, especially if Conservative, cc-ing a similar group.
Part way into the campaign -- and I don't remember if this was before or after I heard about their popularity rising in Québec -- the thought struck me that if Québec ever stopped voting for "sovereignty" they would be the most natural, consistent NDP voters the country has ever seen. The Parti Québecois is about as socialist-leaning as any provincial branch of the New Democratic Party. I get the impression that it's part of the political culture there that the government is supposed to be there for its citizens, like the "Democratic Socialist" parties of Europe. And that's the biggest story that happened on May 2 this year.
The Bloc Québecois, the herald of separatism in Ottawa, is all but gone, at least for the moment. If the newly elected NDP MPs come to the end of their terms without self-inflicted bullet wounds to the feet, we may have seen the beginning of the end of Québec's 100-year dalliance with departure. I hope so. And the beneficiary was... not the Tories, not the still-discredited Liberals. No, it was the other natural party of Québec: the NDP. And as Chantal Hébert pointed out toward the end of election night, Stephen Harper has an almost Chrétien-style majority. 40% or so of the popular vote, domination of Ontario and significant other areas, and yet, unlike Chrétien, not benefiting much from vote-splitting to win many of his ridings.
Two leaders were knocked out of parliament -- the senior of the four, Gilles Duceppe of the Bloc, an honourable competitor to the end and Michael Ignatieff of the Liberals -- but one notable new leader joined them: the ground game in Saanich-Gulf Islands elected the first member and the leader of the Green Party. The Greens' popular vote dropped across the country -- but not as much as might have been expected -- because the now Honourable Elizabeth May made the strategic decision to focus on her own riding. So at the cost of a few percentage points -- that may not mean anything if the now unstoppable Conservatives decide to end public funding of political parties -- the Green Party of Canada now has an elected Member of Parliament.
For my part, I have been voting Green for a few election cycles, partially in protest since I have never lived outside sock-puppet-for-conservative ridings, partially in support of a wider variety of voices. But my biggest reasons are twofold.
On the one hand, the big parties don't care about the little guys, none of them. Not even the perpetual third-brother in federal politics, the NDP. In my view, government's first priority should be protecting the weak from the predations of the strong, whether strong, rich individuals, strong, violent individuals, large ethical-compunction-free corporations or even, as they've often become bands of thugs as well, trade unions (although it was a long descent from their one-time important function).
My other reason is that wise husbandry of our environment is imporant -- not in fear of some still-controversial bogey like "Global Warming" which still has deniability in many quarters -- but just because taking good care of your neighbourhood is what good neighbours do. And we're neighbours, all of us. Of each other, as Canadians, of the other nations of the world, of our floral and faunal co-inhabitants, and we owe it to our neighbours not to wreck what we share. The Conservatives are beholden to the big forces of commerce. The NDP are too cosy with big labour. The Bloc just want out of confederation. And the Liberals only had a "will to power" left before the electorate took a lot of the wind out of their sails: self-evident with the presence of two former NDP premiers in their caucus (change of heart? or opportunisim?). Only the Greens even begin to consider the larger future for its own sake and that of its inhabitants, our grand-kids. And that's a voice I want to have at our national table, though I had no hand in sending Ms. May there.
On environmental fronts, too much effort has been put into regulatory hammers to force choices this way or that. At the end of the day, those are just new tools to impoverish people by other means. What we need is better education, broader research and more cross-border co-operation to produce the kind of world-wide energy production and distribution revolution that will make everyone, everywhere comfortable and secure in the supply of all the necessities for a livable existence for themselves and their children. I don't know if even the Greens have such a large vision but they're closer to it than anyone else on the Canadian landscape.
So... that's what happened in our National Election, from my point of view, and those are my hopes for what comes next. I'm not holding my breath, but for now, I think I'd be content if our new government went against its own grain and cut down the size of the Prime Minister's Office to pre-Trudeau levels and to re-empower the cabinet and the Commons committees to prevent their government from becoming a neo-Thatcherite nightmare. Are you listening, Mr. Moore? Mr. Harper?
In one sense, this is for automobiles a little bit like the transition for Diesel- to Diesel-Electric traction for railways -- but it goes farther than that. Diesel-Electric traction is still internal combustion. Professor Müller talks of his device as "contained combustion" and it seems to be useful with limited modifications for deriving power from a wide variety of fuels from liquids to gases, he even mentions Hydrogen.
And the simplicity of the thing! Cool. But without the transmission, the cooling system or a large lubrication system, I wonder how happy the auto makers would be to see this begin to become popular...
oh, and yes... I'll probably post some "back-fillers" on other energy-use stories that have caught my attention over the years. The innovations have been amazing.
Bjarne Stroustrup who first developed C++ and continues to be involved presents this FAQ, in case anyone is interested. I'll be reading it.
Today was such a moment when I read Cringely's latest column: I told you so. When I first read (in his earlier column) the story mentioned today, it struck me as the most rational reason why Steve Allen left Microsoft when he did and ultimately in the way he did. And now we get the full-colour Paul Allen's-eye view of the scenario, almost as though he lifted that portion of the story from Cringely's column.
Cringely has had some other interesting things to say about the earthquake in Japan, the resulting tsunami and the downstream results. Add his RSS to your reader. You won't regret it.
Hey, politicians: you want my vote? Pledge never to bring another DMCA clone into the Commons and I'll vote for you, despite my strong disillusionment with the lot of you.
The CBC has put up an interesting "political compass" which puts my views far, far away from all the parties in our election (and indeed reflects the results I got when I took a similar quiz at politicalcompass.org... hmm. I wonder if the CBC got permission to use the phrase?) but tells me that I am closest to one of them. I was surprised until I saw the relative distances they were speaking of: I was about 5% closer to one than the other but in both cases their views were quite wildly far away from my own.
Oh well. It was interesting to see their analysis of the parties along a familiar pair of axes, and the quiz was interesting as far as it goes. Canadian voter! Knock yourselves out! Take the poll and figure out where you would stand.
This A.M.: "Battle for B.C. Tory quest for a majority could be determined here"
In a word: claptrap. Two more words: poppycock, horse-hockey.
So long as Québec belongs near-exclusively to the Liberals and the Bloc, B.C. is irrelevant and any rhetoric to the contrary is nonsense.
The issues haven't changed much. It's being called "Historic!" because <gasp!> the government fell when the Prime Minister was found in Contempt of Parliament. But let the blood pressure drop: it was on a party line vote that wouldn't have seen the light of day under circumstances we usually call normal. Corruption there may have been, but it still doesn't come anywhere close to HRDC (look for the name "Pierre Pettigrew" in Jane Stewart's wikipedia article) or the Sponsorship Scandal.
One thing is certain: this election will not be decided in BC or Alberta, probably not even in Québec or the Maritimes. Nope, 905 will continue to dominate. We're sure to have another hung parliament with the Conservatives at the front, unless those Conservatives can capture the vote- and riding-rich outer Toronto area. I predict. I do not prefer. Here's my take on our leading politicians (in alphabetic order by surname).
Gilles Duceppe, Bloc Québecois: The senior of the current four leaders, he has run a well-informed and serious caucus. They have been notable to me in that when I have written e-mails to my MP, a cabinet minister, and the shadow ministers from the other three parties, the critics from the Bloc have sent me the most cogent, replies. My message to Québec (chanted): Nous avons besoin des vous; vous avez besoin des nous. So I oppose the ends for which the Bloc stand but with a shadow cabinet like that, I would be tempted to vote for them notwithstanding.
Stephen Harper, Conservative: After all this time, he's still a wonk. You have to admit that he has managed his minority parliaments very skillfully. But his facial expressions still look unnatural. One headline in the Vancouver Sun this week asked if he had maneuvered the opposition into calling this election for him: with popularity rising and not having to pay any price for foisting an election on people who don't want one this time, one could argue he has nothing to lose. For my part, though, he looks too much like Margaret Thatcher to suit me and I fear that Canada's enviable social safety net will only suffer more if he is granted a majority government. Campaign finances are also likely to become more American as a Conservative majority is likely to do away with proportional funding from taxes and may with the same stroke take spending limits off, too.
Michael Ignatieff, Liberal: He may have been born here but he has spent the bulk of his adult life in other countries, especially the USA. The Conservatives have driven this point home in repeated attack ads but it sticks because it's true. He has written to Americans as though he were a fellow American and then, after spending all but fragments of his childhood in Canada he returns and asks us to vote for him as our Prime Minister? If the were the US, his lack of residency would disqualify him from running for president. 'Nuff said.
Jack Layton, NDP: After all these years, he still feels like an over-achieving Toronto City Councilor. The NDP were on the ropes when he took over their leadership and he hasn't helped their fortunes much. In my view, he is too closely allied with big labour (which can be just as oppressive in its own way as big business) for me to view him as a fit guardian of my interests. Also, he hasn't a hope of gaining more then twice as many seats as he currently has -- which would still leave him in charge of a still-all-but-invisible rump.
Elizabeth May, Green: Desperately trying to get even one seat with a popular vote equivalent to the one that gives the Bloc 50 ridings in Québec, she's come out here to BC to try getting into parliament from one area the Greens might actually succeed from. I'm not in love with Green policies, either, but in my Sock-puppet-for-Conservative riding, I have voted for her party as an investment in a more diverse legislative future.
I am a disillusioned voter. I see confrontation and multiple dualisms ("my way good; their way bad") going on and all the while the legislators have forgotten that government should be there to protect the little guy from the big guy, first and foremost: from the large multinational company with enough money power to enrich or impoverish at will, without concern for the results, from the large labour union that has become more concerned with power than protecting the worker, despite their noble beginnings (if you've never belonged to a union as a Canadian worker, as I mostly have not, you owe it to yourself to visit the Crowsnest Pass area between Fernie and Lethbridge to see what it meant for the unions to look out for the workers' interests, for instance), from criminal gangs and other bullies, and even occasionally (but only occasionally) from ourselves.
But if we don't get involved, if we don't at least vote (with or without clothespin attached to our noses) we resign what little chances we have to affect our country as we might want to see. What policies would I like to vote for?
How about these for a start?
* more commitment to education
* more commitment to scientific research into a much wider array of energy alternatives (not just the current fads like wind and solar, how about a Canadian project investigating polywell fusion? or more support for Burnaby's General Fusion?)
* stronger commitment to the Canada Health Act -- and strengthening it into the future
* re-direct the Gas surtax back into Transportation infrastructure (especially mass transit) within the general area where it is collected
* stronger commitment to peacekeeping and independence from American agendas, including going back to a made-in-Canada refugee policy
* aggressive trade development with nations other than the US -- nothing against the US, but our trade surplus becomes a deficit when you remove our sales to the US and that makes us unacceptably vulnerable to every downturn they experience: This is nothing more than a sensible hedging strategy
* national security of supply -- if we are not self-sufficient on our own supplies for dailyl staple commodities, especially food, we may become vulnerable to nonlocal price shocks, and in any event, our resource-use footprint will be higher than necessary. Also, our resources should go first to supplying our own needs and foreign capital should not be permitted to have a controlling interest in any vital supply chain from our resources to our citizens: water, food, energy (all forms), telecommunications and so on
One party is beholden to big labour, others to big business and none will support this kind of hybrid platform. If they did, I could support them gladly. Until they do, I have no clear choice for any election.
About six months ago, a colleague introduced me to the podcast from Software Engineering Radio, specifically mentioning Scott Meyers' interview regarding C++0x. When I saw that it was Episode 159, I decided to go back and listen to the rest of them: my travel times can be long, auditory input is good in the context of multi-modal commuting and more training in any form is always a good thing.
So now I've listened to the first 50 -- nearly the first 70 by now, actually -- and it's time I should mention my impressions. Here they are:
- Given that the first episode is over five years old by now, these pod casts have aged quite well. The approach of sticking to just one topic for an hour-or-so or less allows for many things to be covered reasonably and well without becoming ponderous.
- And where a topic can't be exhaustively covered in that time frame, going back to it again and again also gives the opportunity to cover them well.
- Further, not necessarily going back to a large topic sequentially, again and again has kept the collection, so far, from being ponderous in that way either.
- I found the rationale for choosing to podcast in English despite the fact that the original podcasters are all German speakers amusing: especially the part where most Germans wouldn't understand them because of their strong regional accents. On the question of accents, I was occasionally tempted to write a note about pronunciations, of "meat-ah-model" for instance, but five years on, someone else seems to have put in a word or two and it's been metamodel, properly for some time. My condolences go out to any ESL speaker to get English pronunciation right the first time. It's crazy to keep so much of our linguistic history alive in our orthography, but I digress.
- Occasionally I have been put off (a very little) by blanket statements about how some thing is wonderful in Java, or Ruby, or with Spring or whatever whereas "you just can't do that in ..." C or especially C++. Particularly, when it comes to memory or object management (or indeed management of any kind of resource) stating that "it's just so hard in C++" again and again struck me as naïve about C++. Admittedly, it may be easier to do bad things in C++ (which has been my favourite language for about 10 years) but by the same token, it is often more possible and indeed cleaner to do the right thing in C++ than in Java, for instance. I have just begun using Java and I find the constant use of the acquire-try-doSomething-finally-release idiom really clunky. In C++ I would create an auto-release object around what I wanted to acquire and the destructor (whose invocation time is known precisely) would take care of releasing it at the point I would choose, without further ado. And Java is somehow better at that point? As for memory leaks, my impressions are that when Java programs leak, the leaks can be far harder to find than in otherwise well-written C++.
- This being put off has gone the other way as well: along with denouncing what I find useful, the podcasts have sometimes praised things which when I have met them seem wrong-headed. In the Java work I have begun to do, I have been exposed to Spring's dependency injection. After hearing it praised so highly in the podcasts, I was disappointed to see that it was essentially a way to acquire the use of something implicitly, without the costs of instantiation and management being exposed to me. It's all very well to say "@Component" or "@Autowired" about some piece and have it magically instantiate at the right time and the right place, but it strikes me as the kind of thing that would encourage sloppy practices rather than make good practices easier. But to each his own. With the way that Java mashes up the interface with the implementation in an individual class, I can see the benefit of pushing away these details. I've just seen so many people do all kinds of things without understanding their costs that I am not by default convinced that this is the right approach.
- At times, I have also been struck by the blind faith placed in garbage collectors (which have admittedly gotten a lot better since I saw someone showing off Smalltalk's wonders in the mid-80s) while conventional memory management, especially in C and C++ is maligned: inherently leaky etc. etc. Ten years ago, this would be a relative criticism that stuck but with good class library support (such as that in a modern version of Boost, for instance, with a good modern compiler) the explicit control given to these things through reference-counted pointers, auto pointers, strong and weak references etc. seems to me to be preferable by far to the periodic holiday that, for instance, my Java-based cellphone goes on at the mercy of its need to collect the garbage. Others may disagree, and indeed, I have said enough in the last three items to spark several religious wars. Don't get me wrong: I'm not saying that Java, Ruby or Spring are always "wrong" and C++ is always "right". I suppose I have fallen prey to the temptation to defend C++ to the death when hearing it falsely accused from other quarters. Add a grain of your favourite salt at this point and long live the free exchange of ideas!
- At the time it was posted, one podcast was described as an experiment in a hands-on how-to in using meta models in developing a simple Java component. Even on a bus, far from a keyboard, this sounded interesting and one of these days I'd still like to sit down and test drive what they were talking about while listening to it again.
- In the mean time, there have been many VERY profitable things to hear on the pod casts: discussions about various agile approaches to software development, basic topics (error handling) and more advanced ones (concurrency, ultra large scale systems), daily-use ideas (refactoring) and arcana (internals of GCC, C++0x and Corba -- all with people who actually knew what they were talking about!) as well as interviews with folks (whether as well known as Grady Booch, or not) whose ideas and/or tools we have been depending on for years: it's an impressive collection and has been profitable. I expect the rest of it will be as well.
Thanks, guys, ever so much, even as I finish with one more tiny critique: the ID tags of the MP3 files are occasionally very inconsistent, claiming, for instance to be by firstname.lastname@example.org or @se-radion.net but perhaps that, too, is something that has been taken care of in a more reliable way since the episodes I am currently listening to were put out four years or more ago.