Friday, November 5, 2004

AISH Forum

I attended, and spoke at, today's forum on AISH (Assured Income for the Severely Handicapped) - which was put on by various folks, including the Disability Action Hall (who I've been supporting and periodically working with for the past few years).

With all the attention AISH has finally been getting, it has been wonderful to see people unanimously acknowledging that the real issue is that people can't survive on the woefully inadequate funding that AISH provides. It seems very likely that we're going to get at least one good thing out of this election - better support for AISH recipients. The public won't accept less (I hope).

One of the people at the event commented to me afterwards that a point I raised, in my speech, really stood out for them. I had repeated something I've been saying to a lot of people during this campaign (and in my work with anti-poverty groups before going political):
Support programs for low-income Albertans are not costs - they are investments. They are investments that pay back in the long run if we genuinely attend to, and meet, the needs of, disadvantaged people. The only real costs are those we incur when we fail to ensure the well-being of every Albertan.
Every time someone has to choose between food and rent.
Every time someone becomes homeless.
Every time someone's health problems aren't treated.
Every time - is a cost to our society, every time is a failure to live up to our responsibilities.

I also took some photos at the AISH Forum.

(Copied from my election blog.)

Thursday, October 28, 2004

AISH needs to be increased - not attacked

So many of us have been deeply angered by the Premier's comments on AISH - it's amazing he could say things so ignorant.

The priorities of this government are laid bare - preventing people from getting the supports they need.

We should instead focus on the stark reality that low-income Albertans are not able to meet their basic needs - food, clothing, shelter - even when they manage to go through all the hoops to get the full support available from the provincial government. Everyone I know on AISH or SFI has to resort to charities like the food banks to survive.

Instead of talking about the Premier's focus on imagined 'cheaters', let's ask the questions of why is the government choosing to fail those at the bottom of our society when we have record, multi-billion dollar, surpluses? Why is the "Alberta Advantage" only for Alberta's Advantaged?

(Copied from my election blog.)

Tuesday, October 26, 2004

My first day of door-knocking

Today was my first day of door-knocking as a politician.

It was neither as strange or hard as some of the stories I've heard about other people's campaigns over the years. Everyone I got to speak with was quite nice, and many seemed genuinely interested and supportive.

It was actually invigorating both in terms of getting some exercise and building my optimism that we can actually win this campaign. In an area where one would expect there to be a lot of Conservative Party supporters, I had many people tell me they voted Green federally and were glad there's a Green candidate running provincially.

Special thanks to Alan who headed-up today's door-knocking - it was a great way to get things started.

(Copied from my election blog.)

Sunday, October 24, 2004

Election Call Tomorrow?

All indications point to the next provincial election being called tomorrow. That would make November 22nd election day.

Four weeks.

That's such a short time - it's going to fly by. In four weeks I could be an MLA. What a jarring realization that is. I'm now entering a process that could radically change my life (and hopefully help change things in my community for the better).

I think the biggest challenge I face in this election is convincing potential voters, especially disenfranchised voters, that I'm a credible and viable candidate. While the odds favour the incumbent, winning the vote is a very real possibility for my campaign. I believe that if we can get non-voters in Calgary Buffalo to recognize that possibility, they will be much more inclined to vote.

No one likes to feel that they are wasting their time. Voting when the outcome is thought to be a foregone conclusion is probably one of the biggest factors in potential voters not participating. But, the simple math of it is that in the just past municipal election, candidates needed less than 20% of the potential vote to win - and even much less than that in many cases. Some of the races were won by close to just 100 votes.

(Copied from my election blog.)

Tuesday, July 20, 2004

Support needed for the Calgary Sudanese community

As if they weren't already dealing with enough horror and tragedy, the local Sudanese community is now faced with the tragic killing of 8 year-old Bomkoth Deng, a Sudanese boy in Calgary, this past weekend.

Bomkoth's family needs financial support for the funeral, and the community as a whole needs our support as they struggle with this tragedy.

On behalf of my colleague Peter Both, local activist and close friend of the family, I'm collecting cards, letters and donations (please include a note with donations). You can drop them off at my work: Arusha (106, 223 - 12 Ave SW; call the office first to make sure someone's there: 270-3200, 270-8002), or contact me for other arrangements. Please try to have them to me by the end of this week.

Cheques should be made out to: Nyakong Pal

I'll also be setting out a card at Arusha, starting this afternoon, for people to sign with messages of condolence. I'll try to have it there until Friday.

Arrangements are still being worked out for the funeral and memorial services. I'll let you know if there are any events that we should attend to support the community.

Thanks,
Grant Neufeld

(Copied from my postings to the Wayground Blog.)

Saturday, July 17, 2004

Darfur, Sudan: Genocide

Genocide is happening right now.

But, because they want to ignore their responsibility to the more than a million Sudanese people who are being subjected to murder, rape, displacement and other crimes against humanity, the leaders of the world (who similarly failed the people of Rwanda) refuse to acknowledge that genocide is taking place. If they did acknowledge it, then they would be obliged - not only morally and as human beings, but - under international treaty they would have to take measures to stop it.

Just like they (we) failed to do for Rwanda.

If we can get just one country, perhaps Canada, to formally declare that "genocide" is taking place in Sudan, that will create a treaty obligation in over one hundred countries to intervene in Sudan.

Canadians, please contact your Member of Parliament and demand that the genocide in Sudan be formally acknowledged as "genocide" (you may have to dig to find their local contact info because the government's website hasn't caught up with the recent election results yet). Free postal mail can be sent to any member of parliament to:

House of Commons
Parliament Buildings
Ottawa, Ontario
Canada
K1A 0A6

(U.S. readers please refer to your House of Representatives.)

Wherever you are, sign-up online to attend a local Sudan Peace Meetup in your community. This is an opportunity to connect with other people who are prepared to work for peace in Sudan.

Extensive information and news on the situation and efforts to force intervention can be found at the "Sudan: The Passion of the Present" blog.

Seen at of, by and for: Please - zephyr teachout.
(Copied from my postings to the Wayground Blog.)

Protest tactics - taking unexpected spaces

One of the things that made the mass actions at the WTO meetings in Seattle, 1999, so successful was that the "powers that be" didn't expect the space to be taken that way. Now, they fully anticipate such actions at every summit, convention, etc., - so our effectiveness is much diminished from the heights of Seattle.

Maya Schenwar has written an article looking at ways to continue to put activism in unexpected places, and in unexpected ways.

Seen at AlterNet: WireTap: Lights, Camera, Action....
(Copied from my postings to the Wayground Blog.)

Thursday, June 24, 2004

The Public Library Rocks My World

The services provided through the website of the Calgary Public Library are getting better and better. Whenever I hear of an interesting book or cd now, I just pop over to the site and, if they have the book in their catalogue, I put a hold on it right away.

But the cool 'secret weapon' is the Sugest a Title form where card holders can suggest books, music cds, audio books, videos, etc. for the library to acquire. I just had my first successful suggestion go through (Saul Alinsky's "Rules for Radicals") - so the system definitely works.

I usually have about 6-12 things on hold at any given point. Some arrive at my local branch within a day or two - some of the more popular items have taken up to half a year to arrive (I think I started at about four-hundredth in line for Michael Moore's "Dude Where's My Country?" when I put a hold on it).

The nice thing about having lots of books on hold, and some of them taking a while to show up, is that I always have interesting new things show up for me to read.

As an activist, I see public libraries as a cornerstone of real democracy. The importance of the egalitarianism of making access to knowledge freely available cannot be overestimated.

Since funding support for libraries is largely determined through usage measurements - I try to make extensive use of the library's resources. Rather than buy books (even if I eagerly want to read something), I now prefer to wait for it from the library. With that, I get not only the joy of reading, but the satisfaction of knowing I'm doing my bit to support these essential institutions.

(Copied from my postings to the Wayground Blog.)

Tuesday, June 22, 2004

Alberta Social Forum

I'm working with the organizing committee of the Alberta Social Forum. We're planning the next Forum for February of 2005.

I'm also hosting the website for it on Wayground.

(Copied from my postings to the Wayground Blog.)

Thursday, June 17, 2004

Bike-transported street printer

For his thesis in "design & technology" at the Parsons School of Design, Joshua Kinberg has developed a bicycle mounted, laptop controlled, printer that sprays messages on sidewalks/streets which he intends to use during the Republican National Convention at the end of August.

The project is aptly titled "Bikes Against Bush".

This is just the sort of thing that could set a person's mind to thinking.

Seen at Boing Boing: Dot-matrix bicycle printer.
(Copied from my postings to the Wayground Blog.)

Monday, June 14, 2004

Green Party has full slate

The Green Party of Canada is only the fourth federal party in Canadian history to run a full-slate of candidates in an election here.

I'm voting Green in this election, and ask that you consider doing the same, please.

Seen at CDM: Green Party of Canada Runs Full Slate of Candidates.
(Copied from my postings to the Wayground Blog.)

Tuesday, June 1, 2004

Rant on cooperation and factionalism in activism

I had a bit of an email chat with an activist from another part of Canada today. The discussion was mostly 'business', but I commented at one point about the insufficient cohesion/communication between local (Calgary) activists/groups.

My correspondent replied:
Drag about the cohesion thing - too many communities divided already.
That comment triggered a rant on my part:

We're not so much 'divided', just not actively connected. The new Activist Network collective are still struggling to get things moving forward, and - separately from that - some groups are not bothering to tell others what they've got going on (which is an eternal source of frustration for me).

After all these years, I still firmly believe that the most critical thing we have to do as "activists" is to keep talking with each other. Regardless of ideological or tactical differences, we must maintain the dialogue if we are to have any chance of succeeding in the long term. Most of us seem to at least be "pro-democracy" (real, participatory, democracy - not the elected-dictatorship crap of the dominator culture). Isn't dialogue among diverse interests the very foundation of democracy? Shouldn't we try to embody the goals we strive for?

It's particularly frustrating when it's super-easy to just add some addresses to the Cc/Bcc list on email when sending out meeting/event/action notices. I understand and respect the need for keeping things to a "close circle" when there are issues of surprise actions or illegal/c.d. actions - but those are a fraction of a percent of the activism that goes on in this town.

We have everything to gain by working together, and nothing to gain by dividing. Yes, it's incredibly hard work to work in mass movement - but that work is necessary if we're going to make real long-term change.

For me, it's like with politics/government. If you want something easy, with minimal work, it's called fascism. If you want democracy, it's hard work almost every day of your life. Speaking as an almost religiously lazy person, I think democracy is more than worth the work.

Sadly, some of the most needed work in movements right now is "anti-factionalism". It seems to me that there is a frequent lack of recognition for one of our most powerful tools: compromise.

The word compromise has been framed as negative for most people. In the dominant culture of individualism worship, compromise is presented as a diminishment of the individual - a taking away from what the individual needs/wants. In reality, when approached fairly and with honest intent, compromise is the best possible outcome. It gives us the maximum positive results while minimizing harm.

In the consensus approach to democratic process (an approach that seems to be hailed by a growing number - if not the majority - of activists these days), the optimal outcome is compromise. Many groups seem willing to apply this within their internal organizing; does it not make sense to apply that across movement(s)?

The majority of my own work has been focused on building connections across diverse interests, ideologies & tactics (e.g., Activist Network) and preventing factionalization (e.g., G8 ACT, Peace Calgary). Thankfully, there hasn't been any notable factionalism in Calgary yet, but I intend to be here if that day comes, too.

Probably the biggest challenge we face as activists is recognizing that some of what we struggle for will be lost. We won't win every individual struggle. If we individually cling desperately to our own interests, our own issues, our own priorities - we risk losing the whole. It's only when we come together, and find the powerful compromise amongst our individual efforts to form the whole movement that we may be able to achieve the fundamental goals of global peace and justice to build a sustainable existence for all.

(Copied from my postings to the Wayground Blog.)

Friday, May 28, 2004

CBC exclusion of Green candidate

On the Eyeopener this morning (Friday, May 28), at about 6:45am, they hosted a debate between candidates in the Calgary South Centre riding that included only the 'Conservative', Liberal and NDP candidates.

The existence of the Green party candidate was only mentioned by the announcer at the end of the segment.

I just called CBC and left a message expressing disappointment at the exclusion of the Green candidate, Philip Liesemer, and called for them to give him time to make up for not being included, and to ensure the inclusion of Green candidates in all further election coverage.

Feedback to CBC Calgary can be made to (403) 521-6000.

Please spread this message and ask folks to phone the CBC to insist on inclusion of the Greens. If they get a lot of calls, they will give more coverage.

Please do the same with any media who do not give fair coverage to all candidates. Let's not continue to let the media get away with telling us who the "real" candidates are.

(Copied from my postings to the Wayground Blog.)

Monday, May 24, 2004

Excellent Web Design Process

"Design Eye for the Usability Guy" goes through a rather boring website and details the steps to turning it into a very effective design.

The same principles can be extended to many other media, too.

Seen at Boing Boing: Design critique of Jakob Nielsen.
(Copied from my postings to the Wayground Blog.)

Friday, May 7, 2004

Mothers' Day for Peace

"Mothers' Day" was not meant to be the season for a Hallmark-led frenzy of tokenistic consumerism in a false honoring of our mothers. It was a radical call to counter the culture of violence and war.

Here is the original "Mother's Day Proclamation" by Julia Ward Howe (1870, Boston):
Arise, then, women of this day!
Arise all women who have hearts,
Whether your baptism be that of water or of tears
Say firmly:
"We will not have great questions decided by irrelevant agencies,
Our husbands shall not come to us reeking of carnage,
For caresses and applause.
Our sons shall not be taken from us to unlearn
All that we have been able to teach them of charity, mercy and patience.
We women of one country
Will be too tender of those of another country
To allow our sons to be trained to injure theirs.
From the bosom of the devastated earth a voice goes up with
Our own. It says, "Disarm, Disarm!"
The sword of murder is not the balance of justice!
Blood does not wipe out dishonor
Nor violence indicate possession.
As men have often forsaken the plow and the anvil at the summons of war.
Let women now leave all that may be left of home
For a great and earnest day of counsel.
Let them meet first, as women, to bewail and commemorate the dead.
Let them then solemnly take counsel with each other as to the means
Whereby the great human family can live in peace,
Each bearing after his own time the sacred impress, not of Caesar,
But of God.
In the name of womanhood and humanity, I earnestly ask
That a general congress of women without limit of nationality
May be appointed and held at some place deemed most convenient
And at the earliest period consistent with its objects
To promote the alliance of the different nationalities,
The amicable settlement of international questions.
The great and general interests of peace.

Seen at Alternet: 'In the Name of Womanhood and Humanity...'.
(Copied from my postings to the Wayground Blog.)

That about sums it up

A "press conference" by Mr. Bush (current White House occupier) in Flash. Very, very, honest... [snicker]

Seen at Metafilter: Why choose the lesser Evil?.
(Copied from my postings to the Wayground Blog.)

Wednesday, May 5, 2004

Online Sign Language Video Training

The American Sign Language Browser is an online dictionary using video clips.

They passed my test of having the first word I thought of ("weird" - one of the main signs I still remember from when I studied ASL).

Very cool. Very handy. Permanently in my bookmarks.

Seen at Boing Boing: Sign language video glossary.
(Copied from my postings to the Wayground Blog.)

Great ideas for Halloween

These are some amazing costumes. I'd love to do something like this for the Eve of All Hallows.

Seen at Boing Boing: Funny trompe l'oeil costume.
(Copied from my postings to the Wayground Blog.)

Tuesday, May 4, 2004

Media vs. Democracy

[this is from a posting of mine from an email discussion that's been going on between a bunch of mostly U.S.-based computer geeks.]

To my mind, one of the greatest anti-democratic tools used against us is the media. By the simple act of exclusion, they prevent any but the "selected" parties/candidates from having an opportunity to win.

For example, there are about a dozen national political parties in Canada that have "official party status". Of those, only four receive media acknowledgement (except in rare newspaper articles referring to "fringe parties"). A recent web-poll by one of our dominant national 'news' corporations asked the question "If the federal election were called today, who would you vote for?" with the choices being the four parties they consider "real". There wasn't even an "other" or "none of the above" option.

In the most recent city council election in Calgary, there were nine or ten candidates for mayor. Of those, the local media "selected" for us four candidates that they decided were 'real' contenders - giving virtually no coverage to, or even acknowledgement of, any of the other candidates (who happened to not be in the pockets of rich developers).

I would love to see "equal time" laws for elections. If any candidate for a public office is given media coverage, all other candidates for that office must be given equal time of equal prominence. Otherwise, the media is telling us who to vote for - which is not anywhere near democracy.

Sure the free-market/libertarian view would contest us forcing the media to cover candidates they don't want to. Tough. Media is power. And an extremely unbalanced and unequal power in our current societies. With power comes responsibility. Either the media fulfills that responsibility and we have a chance at democracy, or the media gets to do whatever it wants and we continue to have authoritarianism.

(Copied from my postings to the Wayground Blog.)

Monday, May 3, 2004

Funny Christian anti-porn video

There's not much I can add to this - just watch it (available in QuickTime and evil Windows video formats).

Seen at Boing Boing: More anti-porn online propaganda videos.
(Copied from my postings to the Wayground Blog.)

Friday, April 23, 2004

Alberta's provincial government makes a good decision

I hope you were sitting down when you read the title of this entry.

As much as I despise the practices, policies and corruption of our provincial government, I'm quite willing to admit when they do something right (as opposed to 'Right(-wing)').

They are putting in place requirements - and support - for mandatory second-language learning in Alberta schools.

The province will make support available to school jurisdictions for "Cree, French, German, Japanese, Mandarin, Spanish, and Ukrainian". The jurisdictions will have authority to decide which language(s) they offer to their students, and will also have the option to develop and offer other languages ("such as Hebrew, Arabic, Polish or Portuguese").

Without question, my biggest regret about my own education is that I grew up monolingual. It's the thing I most wish I could change about my schooling.

I've long said that "if I were Prime Minister" I would make tri-lingualism mandatory in our schools: One of the dominant European languages (English, French), a language that actually comes from this place (Cree, Ojibwe, etc.), and any other language (Mandarin, Swahili, Latin, whatever). This move by the Alberta government is an excellent first step in that direction.

Seen at CBC: Province to mandate second-language studies.
(Copied from my postings to the Wayground Blog.)

Thursday, April 22, 2004

Poem: Your Fault

Can this poem forgive me
for being left unwritten
so long?

Will this poem forgive you
for the ages it has spent
unread?

Has this poem come to late
to turn the tide
and rouse your mind?

Will this poem stop to consider
all my questions
or even just one?

Does this poem have any answers
or can it find them
or make them?

Will this poem forgive me
for sending it into the world
alone?

(Copied from my postings to the Wayground Blog.)

The Apology Line

Those who know me well are generally pretty aware that I'm a bit of a junkie for 'alternative', obscure and weird magazines. Back in the early 90's I came across an issue of 'Apology' magazine. It was a wonderful collection of confession transcripts. The confessions were recorded on a phone 'Apology Line' and ranged from the banal to the extremely disturbing.

I had never heard or found any further trace of the project (I admit to not doing an indepth search), but would still remember it every once in a while. The magazine is now long gone from my collection (some forgotten soul borrowed it but never returned it - grrrrr) which is particularly disappointing since I never found another copy.

The apology project provides a little background, some samples, and the hope of preservation of the 15 years of work Allan Bridge put into it.

Seen at Metafilter: The Apology Line.
(Copied from my postings to the Wayground Blog.)

Revolutionary Knitting Caravan

The Revolutionary Knitting Circle is going on a road trip.

We're planning to meet with revolutionary knitters in Alberta and B.C. in late June.

Sign-up now to join the tour, or host us in your town.

(Copied from my postings to the Wayground Blog.)

This Blog Moving

I'm sort of retiring this personal blog, and shifting my blogging to a new group blog ('moblog') hosted at the Wayground site.

You can also view just my postings to Wayground, if you want to continue to read just my narrow perspective.

Tuesday, April 20, 2004

Prisoners' creative writing destroyed

Update: It's now being reported that the prisoners' writing was not destroyed.

This gets me angry. Because a prisoner in Connecticut, who's been in a creative-writing course in jail, has won an award for her writing - the prison decided to erase the hard drives that the writing of the 15 women inmates in the course were kept on. This means that "up to five years of work" has been destroyed.

This is a prime example of how the U.S. prison system is not interested in giving their slaves inmates a chance to escape the cycle of poverty. This particular case (like so many others) may serve to dishearten the inmates and discourage them from trying to better themselves. So much for "reform".

Seen at Boing Boing: Prison wipes creative-writing class HDDs after student wins PEN award.
(Copied from my postings to the Wayground Blog.)

Monday, April 19, 2004

The Electric Company Digital Archive

It's been a long, long, time since I watched The Electric Company or listened to the old album. Now a digital archive has been created. Talk about flashbacks.

Seen at Boing Boing: Electric Company video and audio.
(Copied from my postings to the Wayground Blog.)

Wednesday, March 31, 2004

Maybe the christians' god was fibbing...

It seems the oceans are rising faster than previously thought. This is being largely attributed to the rapid melting of glaciers from "global warming".

The water from the glaciers is fresh water, which further disrupts the ocean ecology.

Tuesday, March 30, 2004

Dead Oceans

The Independent reports on growing 'dead zones' in the oceans.

Stop and take note of your vision of the world right now. When those who survive look back, that will be the proverbial "what we were thinking" as we watched the single biggest period of mass extinction in the whole of human existence.

E-Voting is bad - get it?

How E-Voting Threatens Democracy is a lengthy report by Kim Zetter for Wired.

Seen on Boing Boing (they had lots of interesting stuff today).

Action Comics #1 scanned online

Action Comics #1 from June, 1938 — the first appearance of Superman — has been scanned and put online. The comic is fairly beat-up, but still readable.

Seen on Boing Boing.

Mocking Social Networking

Small World [QuickTime] is a video where this guy comments, in humorous mocking tones, about Friendster and other Social Networking websites.

Seen on Boing Boing.

Seussian Geek Talk

This question just posted on a chat reminded me of Dr. Seuss:
How do I initialize a member on a base class
from an initializer on the derived class?
When I told him about my interpretation of his question, the author retorted:
I do not like C++, Sam I Am!

Tuesday, March 23, 2004

Stencil Graffiti Art

Banksy is a London-based graffiti artist specializing in stencils, who has done some amazing work.

Seen on Boing Boing.

Tuesday, March 16, 2004

Low-Income Banking Project

Today I launched the Low-Income Banking Project.

This has come out of my election campaign for the board of directors of First Calgary Savings & Credit Union. In my campaign I received tremendous support for my low-income banking proposal. While the force of inertia has prevailed at First Calgary (all 3 incumbents retained their seats on the board - not surprising in a city that has about a 98% rate of return for incumbents), the forces of change in the community are coming together.

(The extremely strict campaign rules prohibited me from publicly discussing it while the election was on. Otherwise, I would have done a bunch of blogging about it.)

Saturday, March 13, 2004

Missing Biblical text discovered?

The Gospel of Debbie” presents an eye-opening perspective on the Jesus story.

Seen on Metafilter.

Wednesday, March 10, 2004

Darn, they beat me to it

Actforlove is an activist-focused dating website. Why would I even bother going ahead with the “Hot Luvin’ Activist: For people who take the political personally™” project now?

Seen on Boing Boing.

Tuesday, March 9, 2004

I've overhauled my personal website

I've finally finished designing and implementing my new personal website.

This is a major overhaul - the biggest since I set up my first vanity page over a decade ago.

Friday, March 5, 2004

Brick comes in colors

I have a feeling that Richard Morton’s Lego Color Guide is going to “come in real handy.”

Seen on Boing Boing.

A schooling alternative

The Hudson Valley Sudbury School reminds me of something I read a few years ago about “anarchist schools” where there is no imposed structure for learning. The students define their own learning paths in a diverse group (young kids through late teens), with the support of adults.

My own high school experience was sort of a hybridized version of that and a regular high school. We didn't have classes, but still had specific course assignments and studies that we pursued at our own pace. There were also opportunities for extended projects (I was in a Winnie The Pooh play that toured elementary schools for a couple weeks).

HVSS seen on MetaFilter.

Thursday, March 4, 2004

Some plausible reasons why school is bad

In his essay Why Nerds are Unpopular, Paul Graham describes his experiences growing up as a nerd in suburban public schools — and suggests some reasons why bullying, cliques, and popularity hierarchies are so prevalent. There are also some follow-up responses to questions.

John Taylor Gatto wrote an essay, The Six-Lesson Schoolteacher, that presents a different perspective.

I wish I had done this...

Mr. Rogers Graffiti.

Wednesday, March 3, 2004

Movie font fun

A couple of short games/quizzes that test your recognition of letters from movie posters: Movie Alphabet Game 1 and Movie Alphabet Game 2. (If you know what U and Y are in the first game please let me know - I'm stumped.)

A fun little waste of time.

Tuesday, March 2, 2004

U.S. trying for 'two-fer'?

Haiti is not the only current target of U.S. 'intervention' in the western hemisphere. Things look set for another U.S. backed coup in Venezuela in the near future.

Hopefully enough people in the world will soon recognize that when the U.S. says words like "democracy" and "freedom" they actually mean imperialism and corporate slavery.

Democratically elected (in the real sense, not the U.S. sense) Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez apparently has.

Monday, March 1, 2004

Blogging as an anti-social force

In Blogging Off, Whitney Pastorek presents (in a fun ranting way) some of her experiences of blogs as a socially destructive force in her life. She's a non-blogger who sees blogs as taking away friendships and human contact. Worth a read by anyone involved in, or curious about, blogs.

Peace and Knitting update

The Calgary 'Peace Knits' banner is coming along quite nicely. We're scheduled to do a bunch of the finishing stitching this Saturday at the peace banners & placards work fest. I think we're down to about ten squares (out of 66) left to be done/assigned.

All this is in preparation for the March 20 Global Day of Action. In Calgary, we're gathering at Memorial Park at 1pm, then marching to Tompkins Park where there will be a rally & speakers.

Another month, another U.S.-backed coup

The U.S. government has apparently backed (or perhaps even led) yet another coup - or regime change.

This month's lucky contestant is Haitian president Jean-Bertrand Aristide. He's won a free abduction trip to the Central African Republic - with a complimentary U.S. security accompaniment. There, he can relax in illegal confinement quiet and comfort, free from interrupting telephones, knowing that the hassles of running a government have been stolen are behind him.

Coverage

More Coverage (added March 2)

Friday, February 27, 2004

Funky image link button borders in CSS

If you're using a functioning modern web browser (e.g., Mozilla, Safari,...), the graphics at the bottom of this page will "pop-up" with "3D" borders when you move the mouse cursor over them, and will "press in" with reddish "3D" borders when you press the mouse button on them.

This effect is done entirely in CSS - not JavaScript.

Basically, when an image element "img" is directly contained by an anchor (link) element "a href=...", I assign it a 2 pixel border:
a[href] > img{

margin:2px;
}
Then, for when the same image element is being "hovered" over, I drop the margin and replace it with a 2 pixel-wide border. The border is black, except for the top and left which are white - to give it that "3D" look.
a[href]:hover > img{

border:2px solid black;
border-top-color:white;
border-left-color:white;
margin:0px;
}
Finally, for when the mouse button is down (being pressed) on the image, I change the border color to a light red, with the top and left color being a dark red.
a[href]:active > img{

border:2px solid #F99;
border-top-color:#900;
border-left-color:#900;
margin:0px;
}

Heavy innuendo on old kids' show

The Innuendo Episode of Rainbow [16MB MPEG] is a nasty bit of business (definitely nsfw). There's also a transcript of the whole naughty thing available.

Seen on Metafilter.

Thursday, February 26, 2004

Help save "Angel"

Angel, my current favourite television show (and I don't even have a television) is being cancelled by the WB tv network.

There's an online petition to save the show and a postcard campaign for the show. These campaigns are targeted at either having WB change their minds to renew the show, or to have the show picked up by another network (such as UPN which picked up Buffy after the WB dropped it a few years ago).

Please support these campaigns - if for no other reason than to ensure I still have a reason to visit my friends and family who have televisions.... [insert smiley here]

Scary animal stories - or yet another reason why I'm glad to be vegetarian

Personally, I fundamentally oppose genetic modification. My general rule is that we shouldn't do things that we aren't sure couldn't lead to mass destruction (e.g., messing with nuclear power, messing with genetics outside of extremely secure and isolated labs) or that we don't know how to clean up after (e.g., nuclear power, introducing modified genetics into the wild).

Further to that, Stephen Strauss reports that an important story, about experimental GM pigs being accidentally mixed in with food livestock feed, was largely overlooked.

Thanks to buddy Glenn for forwarding this.

On framing the provincial finances

A CBC news report on the Alberta provincial budget surplus opens with:
Higher than expected oil and gas revenues will help the province record a surplus of $3 billion this year....
That makes it sound like everything is great, that we're a super-rich province, and that we've got more than enough money for everything.

The reality is that we have a rapidly growing homeless population, healthcare and education spending have been slashed, our resources are being given away, etc. The reason there's a surplus is that money which should be spent on the health and future of our province, of the people, is being greedily held back by the provincial government.

But the framing of the CBC report paints right over that reality.

Problems in activism

The following comes from part of an email I recently wrote:
I have long figured that since a big part of what we [social justice activists] are doing is asking those with power and privilege to question their beliefs, what they are doing and what they have, we must always do the same of ourselves.
When an 'activist' takes an ideal, a method, a process, an ideology etc. as an unquestionable given or absolute, then we have a problem.
The most common problem I see in activist organizing is when people place the interests of an organization before the ideals or purpose for which that organization was set up.
Anyway, I'm starting to rant so I'll leave it at that.
Observant readers will note the lie in the above: I'm always ranting, so to say that "I'm starting to rant," is patently untrue.

Thursday, February 19, 2004

Science is being suppressed in the U.S.

The Union of Concerned Scientists have released a report on the Bush Administration's suppression of science in policy process and decisions. Now a group of "60 leading scientists--including Nobel laureates, leading medical experts, former federal agency directors....," have issued a statement signing-on to the report and calling for an "end to scientific abuses."

Thankfully, the statement and report are receiving some media attention (Scientists: Bush Distorts Science, Bush 'bending science to his political needs' Scientists accuse US of manipulating research, Bush administration fudging data, top scientists warn, Scientists Challenge U.S. on Scientific Distortions, Scientists Accuse White House of Distorting Facts, Laureates say Bush is twisting science)

Here's hoping the people of the U.S. overthrow their dictatorial regime before it finishes wrecking our world.

Wednesday, February 18, 2004

Now there's an idea - knitting cafes

The idea of knitting cafés gets me excited. The social space of a café, combined with a knitting boutique.

My favourite quote from the article: Knitting is the new yoga. How about: Knitting is the new black.

Tuesday, February 17, 2004

Knitting in the news

The Knitting Revolution continues to draw media attention. The Calgary Herald has published Shelley Boettcher's interview with me in an article titled "Knitting goes Revolutionary: Activists make their point with needles".

Wednesday, February 11, 2004

Can you understand this?

A selection from a recent chat:
Grant: Maybe I should be going to bed or something, but I can't remember the octal for chmoding the sticky bit on a directory.
3:20 AM
M: i'd man chmod, i don't remember it either
M: but i think you mean g+s
Grant: Ah - I didn't realize there was a letter constant way of setting it. I've always used the octal in the past. Thx!
S: I eschew the octal
Grant: I do, too, except when I don't know an alternative.
Grant: And am too lazy to dig through the man.
Now, if you understand that, you're either a certified geek or in some sort of otherwise mind-altered state. Really, it does actually make sense (it's about setting what happens when a file is added to a particular directory/folder on a computer).

Tuesday, February 10, 2004

Crazy busy

Things have been crazy busy - even by my standards - for the past couple weeks.

Video production, newspaper publishing, web development, survey development, watching the extended edition of The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers, working on an activism-related project I'm not allowed to discuss publicly until sometime next month, meetings, knitting, dealing with email, studying Macromedia Flash, studying Adobe After Effects, watching old episodes of Buffy the Vampire Slayer (a friend has been loaning me the various seasons on DVD), reading magazines, fantasizing (and dreaming) about Lego, went to a rave (and am still a little sore from overdoing it on the dance-floor), laundry, ignoring my dirty dishes, upgrading a bunch of Mac's at home and work, setting up a bunch of new (on my systems, at least) and updated server and database software, ... and probably other stuff that my currently fatigued brain isn't recalling offhand.

Like I said, crazy busy.

Tuesday, February 3, 2004

Not good

Fortune magazine, of all places, is reporting the very real possibility of an extremely rapid massive climate change/collapse - perhaps within the current generation.

Bush limiting 9/11 investigation?

Bush to 9/11 Families: 'Enough Already', by Bill Berkowitz, explores some of the non-cooperation by the Bush regime with the 9/11 investigation. In particular, the failure to grant any of the additional time requested by the commission heading the investigation.

It may just be electioneering (the delay could bring the report 'too close' to the November election), but it also leaves open questions about whether there might have been complicity or a cover up by the regime.

How come...?

Ramblings from a recent online chat:

How come it's the future and none of our comptuers have a proper self-destruct sequence?

I wonder how many *nix users are growing up not learning how to debug config/make/install procedures these days?

Wednesday, January 28, 2004

Unresolvable argument

It occurred to me a couple days ago, amongst my random mental ramblings, that the 'abstinence' argument for preventing unwanted pregnancy is unresolvable.

The problem is this:

Creationists believe that a 'God' created us. For those who believe that sex is a sin, they believe that, like any other sin, it is a weakness that we can choose to overcome if we are 'godly' enough.

Those of us who recognize the likeliness of evolution as the source of humanity also recognize that that evolution has optimized us for sex in general and procreation in specific. The instinct to procreate has evolved to be the strongest natural force in human will. It's why even the wisest, most knowledgeable, most intelligent people can succumb to 'passions' no matter the consequence.

That's why 'evolutionists' recognize the need for measures that acknowledge the inevitability of sex in order to reduce the risk of unwanted pregnancy, disease transmission, and non-consensual sex. To 'evolutionists', abstinence is not a viable solution as it will fail in the vast majority of cases.

Creationists won't accept the evolutionary will theory. Their belief that all human behavior can be made subservient to the individual's "devotion to God" makes them impervious to any arguments in favor of non-abstinence-focused approaches.

Tuesday, January 27, 2004

Dear Lego Imperial Star Destroyer, Will You Marry Me?

My beloved Lego Imperial Star Destroyer,

Will you make me the happiest geek in existence and be my betrothed? I long for your companionship, your partnership, your eternal presence in my life.

In all my long years I have never beheld a being so glorious as you. A glimpse of your beauty fills me with ecstatic glee. I can dream of no greater bliss than your touch.

I know that we can't have children of our own, but we could always adopt. I can't imagine a child that would hesitate to shower you with their love and affection. They couldn't help to see, as I do, the beauty that comes from deep inside you and radiates so brightly from your every feature.

I know you have a checkered past, that you've let yourself be sold to anyone willing to pay, but I know that isn't who you really are. I see the inner calm and peace you bring. I feel the kindness of your heart, the warmth of your love. It doesn't matter to me what you've done or where you've been, all that matters is that we be together.

You have my eternal devotion.
Please be mine.

Please, say yes.

Sunday, January 25, 2004

Curing car pollution

About a month or so ago, I read an idea about how to address car pollution (maybe it was in a book by Jane Jacobs?).

The idea was to require car manufacturers to move the exhaust pipe to go into the cabin of the car, instead of outside the car. Very quickly, a solution would be found for the pollution coming out of cars.

It's not at all unfair. It's against the law to litter and car exhaust can easily be described as a form of litter. In fact, it's also a form of assault (a very slow and drawn out assault, but it does cause harm - eventually fatal).

The more I've thought about this idea, the more sense it makes. I can't see anything unfair about it, either - whereas there is much that is unfair about the current policy and practice of allowing pollution from cars.

I figure that if we said to the car manufacturers: "In three years, you will not be permitted to have any pollutive emissions from new or refurbished cars," that they would very quickly come up with a solution.

Saturday, January 24, 2004

Voices from the Days of Slavery

Voices from the Days of Slavery: Former Slaves Tell Their Stories features audio recordings from former slaves in the U.S. The recordings were made between 1932 and 1975.

Friday, January 23, 2004

'Peace Knits' Banner

The Revolutionary Knitting Circle is participating in the global peace actions for March 20.

As part of our participation, I've put together a printable (PDF) pattern for a knitted banner that says "Peace Knits". I don't know if other cities will be using the pattern, but in Calgary we've already started. If you can knit (or crochet) a square, please contact me to sign up to work on the banner.

Thursday, January 22, 2004

Urgent Amnesty appeal for Sudanese woman

Amnesty International is calling for urgent support to prevent "the flogging of Intisar Bakri Abdulgader" which is currently scheduled for January 23 in Sudan.

Alberta Green Party Leader speaks

Because the Calgary Dollars NUTV video shoot wrapped up earlier than expected, I was able to pop by for the last half of George Read's discussion at the University of Calgary. George was elected leader of the provincial Green Party in Alberta back on November 1 at the party convention in Red Deer (which I attended).

George has been responsible for a transformation of the Green Party locally. It has become a party I can actually back which is something I had not expected given my experiences with the party in the early 90's. Back then, I became extremely (to put it mildly) frustrated with the immobility of the party. 'Consensus' was being used (not necessarily deliberately) to prevent any forward movement. Individual agendas seemed to dominate the party.

My work with the Green Party here back in the early 90's contributed greatly to my first serious "activist burnout", and left me with a very sour attitude toward the party.

Over the past couple years, George - who I've known for many years outside of politics and activism - has been gradually convincing me that the party is finally on track for making positive change in this province. I now see it as a vibrant, progressive and active political movement here. The party has become something I actually want to be (and now am) a part of.

The biggest problem I see for the Greens is getting people to recognize that the party is not just about the environment. Yes, the party holds the environment as the most critical issue (since if it is destroyed, we all die), but the party has a broad range of policies and plans for the spectrum of issues and areas that any group which seeks to govern must deal with. From the military to social services to electoral reform, and so on. There is also a strong recognition of the interconnectedness of most issues. Poverty, war, racism, etc., are environmental issues.

Calgary Dollars - NUTV video shoot day

Yesterday was a very busy day for me. The biggest chunks of it were spent with the video shoots for the Calgary Dollars psa/ad that we're doing with NUTV.

Amazingly, the four scenes all went very quickly and efficiently. I'm so used to creative endeavors always running much longer than expected that it's quite shocking when something is finished on time (or even early, as in this case). Big kudos go to Chrissy (camera) and Kaitlyn (direction) who did the bulk of the work at the shoots today and made my jobs as production assistant and Calgary Dollars liaison very easy.

Editing is set for this weekend, so it might even be ready for broadcast next week.

More blog resources

I've updated my list of blogging tools and resources.

My buddy 'frymaster' pointed out Geeklog. Like Movable Type, it's software (using PHP, MySQL) that you install on a web server (unlike a number of the free blog hosting services that don't require you to have server space). It looks to be very feature rich (in the positive sense of that phrase), with user access management, commenting, custom themes, plugin extension support, stats, calendaring, and more.

Buzznet is another free blog posting site. What distinguishes it is that it is focused on photologs (photo blogs).

The Guardian's Weblog guide provides a lot of resources from the basics of "What is a weblog?" to instructions on how to build a weblog. How Blogs Work, by Marshall Brain, is a quick introduction to what blogs are and how to set one up with the free Blogger service.

Wednesday, January 21, 2004

Activist Diary: CBC Learn @ Lunch - Poverty and panhandling

Today I attended the CBC Calgary's Learn @ Lunch on "Poverty and panhandling, how well does Calgary cope with its people living on the edge?". The topic is hot in Calgary right now because of city council's endorsement of a new panhandling bylaw - one that will not work.

The event was packed - they had to bring out extra chairs and benches and there were still people standing. What was particularly positive was that there was not one person out of the hundreds there who said anything to put down panhandlers. In fact, all of the discussion accepted that panhandling is a symptom and that what needs to be done is to address the problems that it is a symptom of.

Those problems can be summed up with one word: Poverty.

Some things in our society that are encouraging/sustaining/growing poverty include the immense shortage of affordable housing, the lack of sufficient timely health care for treatment of addiction and other mental health issues, and the extreme lack of political will to take on poverty.

A point I made during the question & comment period was that we have things like the "War on Terror" and the "War on Drugs" - but those are just targeting symptoms, not problems. What is needed is a 'war on poverty'. Such a 'war' would include 'assaults' on the housing shortage, 'battles' for health care, 'raids' on oppressive services, and much more 'combat' against social structures that sustain and encourage poverty.

It's been said that some people feel threatened by panhandlers. The real threat is poverty.

Tuesday, January 20, 2004

World Social Forum

There is a ton of interesting stuff coming out of the World Social Forum in Mumbai, India.

One frequent theme is the harm that corporations are perpetrating throughout the world. For example, Coca-Cola's operations in:
"... Colombia, where company-paid paramilitaries have been killing union leaders and activists at the Coca-Cola bottling plants, and India, where the company has not only bought up most of the major local brands but is mining so much water that local residents don't have anything left in their wells."
—Daina Green in Mumbai: hot and dusty, colourful and busy.
Arundahti Roy is cited as calling for a campaign targeted at the corporations (Haliburton, Enron, etc.) that are engaged in the pillaging of Iraq's economy. Proposed actions include occupations and shut-downs of corporate offices around the world - but especially in the U.S.

Another big focus coming out of Mumbai is Iraq. There is apparently a lot of connecting and discussion going on there amongst peace activists from around the world.

Interesting, too, is the ways in which the extreme diversity of participants is being supported. At least 13 languages are being supported through a network of translators supported by low-cost, open-source based, computer systems.

Thursday, January 15, 2004

The Christian Bible as IRC transcripts

"The IRC Bible" will probably only be funny if you're familiar with online chats. If you are, it's quite funny and bizarre. Like this choice sampling:
* Eve has joined #Eden
<Adam|zZz> w00t!!1
* Adam|zZz is now known as Adam
<Adam> ASL?
<Eve> newborn, female, eden!
<Adam> omg! me too, but male
<Eve> omfg! you're nekkid!
<Adam> so what! your too!
<Eve> lol
* Jehova sighs
<Jehova> bbl
* Jehova has left #Eden
Seen on MetaFilter.

Oops, there goes the world.

I saw this great quote in a buddy's email signature:
The most likely way for the world to be destroyed, most experts agree, is by accident.
That's where we come in; we're computer professionals. We cause accidents.

Drugs and Activism

[This is a draft essay on why drugs are an enemy of progressive activism.]


A lot of people (far too many) associate activism with drug use. This comes out of the whole "counter-culture" and "rebellion" modes that most of the attention getting forms of activism are wrapped up in.

Drugs have been (wrongfully) associated with rebelliousness because of the extreme measures taken to prohibit their use.

One consequence of this is that many who seek to be rebellious mistakenly turn to drugs as a mechanism for acting out their rebellion and trying to gain a feeling of being part of the "culture of rebellion".

This plays right into the interests of the dominant powers, the governments, the corporations, the oppressors.

Drugs are one of the most effective tools of oppression available:
  • Pimps get young girls and women hooked on drugs to create dependancy and make them more open to exploitation.

  • Governments ship drugs into ghettoized neighborhoods to maintain a lower class and/or to destabilize communities that are threatening the status quo (such as the U.S. government's shipping of drugs into black communities).

  • Drugs are deliberately associated with 'alternative' cultures to convert communities' revolutionary energies into self-indulgent, individualist disconnection. Former CIA researcher Timothy Leary's famous line "Tune in, turn on and drop out" can be understood as a call for the revolutionary movements of the 60's to stop focusing on community and society, withdraw from engagement, and stop trying to improve the world for anyone but yourself.

Drugs bring a person's focus onto themselves and their own experience. They are a deeply anti-social activity. While many drug users would argue that they socialize through their drug use with others, the experience typically does not foster any real social development. No communities are built from drug use. No systems of social support come out of the application of drugs. There is no benefit to community or society.


Let me make clear that I am not a prohibitionist—experience has shown that that approach simply does not work. Regardless of what laws (including death penalties) are in place, people will use drugs. The only purpose criminalization serves is increasing criminal activity in the form of the organized crime that thrives on the illegality of drugs.

A far more practical approach is to regulate and license drug use. Providing safe, regulated, spaces for drug users will reduce negative health impacts (and not just for the users) and the socially destructive activities that surround drug use in a criminal culture. It also provides more opportunities for treatment of addicts and drug use prevention.

Wednesday, January 14, 2004

Reading: Slaughterhouse-Five

A few days ago, I finished reading Kurt Vonnegut's Slaughterhouse-Five.

I haven't read a lot of Vonnegut's novels, so I was surprised to find the character of Kilgore Trout whom I remembered from Breakfast of Champions. Curious about this connection, and whether the character occurs elsewhere in Vonnegut's writings, I did some searching and found that there was also a connection with The Sirens of Titan - the distant planet Tralfamadore (I thought that name sounded familiar).

Now I'm wondering if there are other connections across his writings...

Saturday, January 10, 2004

The Emergence of Blogging

Lately, I've been doing a lot of reading around blogs, as well as listening to Christopher Lydon's fascinating series of 'audio bloggings'.

I've been finding myself explaining what a blog is to some of the people I know. It strikes me as a similar feeling to the days before the emergence of email and the web when I was explaining those things to the people around me and working to increase access (BBSing, freenets) and participation.

A question I've been asking myself lately is: What differentiates blogging from the 'traditional' web? I think there are a few key factors.
  1. Ease of Use.
    Just as word processing and desktop publishing made it significantly easier to publish to print, blogging makes it significantly easier to publish to the web. It takes no - or extremely minimal - technical knowledge of formatting content for the web (html) to publish a blog.

  2. Ease of Sharing.
    Sharing what you publish on a blog is as easy as giving out the web page link (URL) for your blog. But, in addition to that, the past couple of years have seen the emergence of protocols (RSS, Atom) and easy to use tools for syndication and gathering (NetNewsWire, et. al.) of 'content' on the web. This is allowing for the rapid spread of ideas and information in ways that traditional publishing and syndication simply could not reach.

  3. Ease of Feedback and Multi-directional Dialogue.
    Blogging currently seems to take some aspects of traditional web publishing, and some aspects of email & message boards, to form a new thing that is part publishing and part dialogue.

    The ease of publishing and syndication allows for people to use their own blogs to respond to, counter or elaborate upon anyone else's bloggings. Not only that, but 'trackback' tools allow for connections between bloggings across diverse blogs to be traced and made explicitly available through the blog.

    There are also various tools popping up to support comments/feedback directly onto blogs.

Something particularly exciting has been the application of this open, extended, dialogue medium to politics. The ability of a blogged campaign to genuinely engage the grassroots in not only participating, but also directing an election campaign, is immensely exciting to me.

I think, too, that we are seeing the emergence of blogs as a new medium. One test of whether something is a new medium is the extent to which making analogies to other mediums fails to express the full scope of it. While blogs have aspects of journalism, diaries, traditional websites, message boards, etc. - none of those (or even the sum of those) fully expresses what a blog is.

I'm not going to venture any predictions as to the future of blogging. The chaotic and surprising history of technologies and social transformations makes foreseeing often a matter of dice rolls. What is clear to me is that blogging is the latest in a series of tremendously powerful and empowering technologies that will deeply affect how we communicate.

In the 80's and early 90's I was BBSing a lot and could clearly see that email could be a valuable tool for activism and for building social understanding & connections. What I couldn't see was how that would actually come about. I found myself training people, one by one, on setting up their modems and accessing BBSes. When the internet finally reached 'the masses' in '94, I was amazed to see the radical transformation, and the fulfillment of that potential I had struggled with for years.

The work I'm doing on building and promoting blogging (and related) tools now feels a lot like what I was doing back then.

I do not doubt that it will be tremendously exciting to find out where blogging takes us over the next decade.

A sad day, indeed, for the beloved brick

It's being reported that Lego is discontinuing it's robotics line (Mindstorms), as well as it's tie-ins (Harry Potter, Star Wars, etc.). Those three are my favorite lines outside of trains and the plain-old standard brick.

I'm a very sad Lego junkie today.

Reading: Ethics for the New Millennium

There's nothing new about Ethics for the New Millennium by The Dalai Lama. But, it is a good exploration/reinforcement of 'the golden rule' that is shared by almost every religion (and probably most formal secular ethics): Act with love, kindness and compassion for all others.

One of the points that stood out for me was the comment that the reason the media spend so much time focusing on violence and destruction in our society is that those things are news, whereas acts of kindness are so commonplace that there's nothing 'newsworthy' about them. He takes from this a reinforcement of his belief that kindness is normal, commonplace, and that the vast majority of people want, to do good.

The other point that interested me was that, with the broad decline of religious practice and learning, the study of ethics and morality needs to be integrated into public/secular education. He argues that our educational systems were developed in contexts where religious study was an active part of society, so schools didn't need to fill that role.
"Secular educational systems were developed at a time when religious institutions were still highly influential throughout society. Because ethical and human values were and still are generally held to fall within the scope of religion, it was assumed that this aspect of a child's education would be looked after through his or her religious upbringing. ... Although the need is still there, it is not being met.

Friday, January 9, 2004

My Schedule

I've posted my calendar (iCal link) of (public) events in iCalendar format.

You can access it using programs like Apple's iCal on Mac, or the cross-platform Mozilla Calendar.

My calendar consists mostly of stuff like activist events (such as the Revolutionary Knitting Circle) and the occasional fun thing (Lego events, important holidays like April Fools,...).

Envy is not one of the sins I like

Lego's Master Builder Search is only happening in the U.S. That's a big frustration for me here in Canada. Getting paid to play with Lego is the ultimate dream job.

One of the applicants has posted a totally exciting report from his first interview session for the job. "Envy" is putting it mildly, for my part.

Who do I lobby at Lego to get them to open a Canadian branch?!? (especially if it's in Calgary!)

Seen on Slashdot.

Wednesday, January 7, 2004

Birth control for men

Ever since attending a session on birth control at the CBCA many years ago, I've been frustrated by the extreme lack of options for men to participate in birth control. The choices available could be summed up in two words: Condom, vasectomy. (Three words if you're religious - add "abstinence", an unrealistic option for most people.)

Now there's talk of a male version of 'the pill'. Frankly, the pill (female or male) really bothers me. Messing with the body's chemistry like that (using hormones) has some potentially nasty health side effects. However, for a lot of people, that's a better risk than risking unwanted pregnancy.

The thing is, now there's an apparently safe - and extremely effective - method of birth control for males that has been developed by a doctor in India. It's a single injection that can be set to last for 6-15 years and has had a 0% failure rate in studies conducted over the past couple decades. It's also safely reversible. The only side effect noted in the studies has been short-term swelling at the injection site immediately following the procedure.

But, there's a catch. The evil (yes, I use that word too much, but this case is unquestionably true) pharmaceutical industry doesn't want to bring the procedure to North America. Apparently, the one-time estimated $500 cost per injection is a threat to their expected profits from the potentially thousands of dollars annual cost of a male hormonal birth control pill per user.

Far from advancing the cause of human health, the pharmaceutical industry are showing themselves as, yet again, being solely in favor of creating 'consumer' dependencies regardless of the cost to people and society as a whole.

Tuesday, January 6, 2004

Creating new/better blog services

I have a number of ideas for blog services I'd like to implement. Especially better versions of some of the tools out there (blog comments, blog rolls, blog rss generation) since most of the ones I found are 'sub-optimal' in my view.

This has come out of spending the past few days exploring the range of blog tools currently available.

Any thoughts, suggestions, on blog tools/services you'd like to see created or improved?

And Grant said, let them have voice!

I've added comment links to this blog, so you can leave your mark on what I've said here. I'm using the free Blog Comments service for this.

Please let me know if you have any troubles with it.

Monday, January 5, 2004

Tools for Blogging

Over the past couple of days, I've been familiarizing myself with the variety of tools (mostly free) for blogging and doing stuff around blogs. I've put a list of all the blog-related tools I've found up on my archive page.

Here's the quick summary to set up your blog:
  1. Consider using a Creative Commons license for your blog content, instead of the usual (restrictive) intellectual property restrictions.

  2. Setup your blog on Blogger (use their BlogSpot service if you don't have a webserver handy).
    Or, use Blog Drive to setup and host your blog.
    Alternatively, if you can install custom software on your webserver, use Movable Type (which has built in functionality that covers the following steps except for the last).

  3. Add support for user comments with Blog Comments.

  4. Add metadata to your blog template with using BlogMatrix's metadata tool.

  5. Add a blog roll using BlogRolling.

  6. Add an RSS feed using BlogMatrix's RSS feed tool or BlogStreet's RSS Generator.

  7. I would say add your blog to the Blog Tree, but they seem to have been suspended by their isp.

  8. Add your blog to directories and aggregators:
That's all it takes to be a well set up blogger. Now you just need to think of something to write...

Sunday, January 4, 2004

Social Software ideas

Matt Haughhey has posted a collection of ideas for useful social software. I especially like his third idea: "Collaborative consumed media".

Far from all being doom & gloom

The Christian Science Monitor has an article about the growth of peace in Africa.
"For the first time in five years, no major wars are roiling the continent,..."
It's incredibly heartening and encouraging to realize that peace really is possible - and that it's happening.

"Emergent Democracy"

Blogging luminary Joi Ito has written an essay titled "Emergent Democracy" which discusses democracy and totalitarianism and points to the role of technology - especially weblogs - in the push toward direct democracy.