Friday, December 09, 2011

You Might be a Canadian Triathlete

If you've ever had to thaw your swimsuit before putting it on,

you might be a Canadian Triathlete

If your shampoo gives your scalp that great tingly feeling because of the ice crystals,

you might be a Canadian Triathlete

If your standard issue race gear is number, timing chip, and bear bells,

you might be a Canadian Triathlete

If you smuggle gravel onto the indoor track just to get that 'trail-run' feeling through the eight winter training months,
you might be a Canadian Triathlete

If you credit your latest PB to a startled, grumpy beaver,
you might be a Canadian Triathlete

If you freak out while doing laps because something is following you, but you just aren't used to feeling your toes,
you might be a Canadian Triathlete

If replacing the chain on your bike means the snow chains,
you might be a Canadian Triathlete

If you have ever felt the need to Google the effects of jogging in Yak Traks,
you might be a Canadian Triathlete

If the extra weight from blood you assumed you would lose to mosquitoes throws off your first States race,
you might be a Canadian Triathlete

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Seriously, Though, Who AM I Going to Call?

Yesterday a friend phoned me in moderate need and since I was right in front of my computer (I an concerned it is becoming part of me) I figured I could oblige. I Googled to see what the nearest police station was to my friend's location. Simple, right?
In my quest to simply find the closest station, keep in mind I could do this calmly from the safety of my desk, not desperately on my smart phone, I Googled

Police Bonnie Doon
Police Bonnie Doon Edmonton
Police Station Bonnie Doon Edmonton
Police Stations Bonnie Doon Edmonton
Police Station near Bonnie Doon Edmonton
Police Stations near Bonnie Doon Edmonton
Police Edmonton
Police Station Edmonton
Police Stations Edmonton
EPS Edmonton

To my dismay none of these resulted in pointing out any police stations. The results varied from the unstaffed and purely training oriented Police Recruiting Center downtown, which I'm pretty sure was a restaurant last time I passed it, to the Milarm Retail store because they were listed as providing police equipment.

I am disappointed that something this important, finding a police station, can not be found with the most simple Google searches. Is there a magic phrase I am missing? (Police Bonnie Doon Edmonton Please) I don't want to tell the police how to do their jobs but I'm going to: it might be useful for them to clean up their online presence.

Perhaps if I had the Siri system I could simply scream at her and she'd find me a police station. Or singing lessons. Either way.

It appears the magic words were "Edmonton Police Locations"! Try to remember that, everyone!

Monday, November 28, 2011

Honorary Baby Steps

I was not going to post today - this week is finals week and I find myself drowning- but then I read this post by The Reformed Patriarchy Whore, and decided to post my own baby steps into feminism as well.

This past Friday I was giving up my turret, that I work in every night every day of the week, to the weekend worker, who had been in the turret occasionally before and had been trained in it. As I let him in the door he said something that I have forgotten since and I responded that "I knew everything." he chuckled and said that "Of course you're supposed to; You're a woman."
Feeling incredibly annoyed, I controlled myself enough to give him a blank look and say that we should "ride right past that", and launched into a business-like description of anything he needed to know about the turret for the weekend. I made sure he was all set and took off for the night.

It might sound like an overreaction, but consider this; this person had been employed for about three months - I have been working at this job for four years. Further to that I am explaining to him how to do this job. I don't appreciate being patronized in this fashion, especially when I will need to assume a management capacity in coming months. Ordinarily I am the type of person who just chuckles, regardless of whether I consider it funny, and ignores it, but I have noticed that this tends to spiral out of control into working dynamics that I don't like. So here's to setting a line and nipping it in the bud.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Wildcard Weekend: Well Done, Sister Suffragette!

Did we forget this? Did we ignore the gift that was given to us? I wish I had wanted to be Missus Banks more as a young girl; seems she did some pretty serious butt-kicking.

Friday, November 25, 2011

A Nuclear War can Ruin your Whole Day

As someone who has a vested interest in knowing if there is someone out there targeting women, one thing I cannot stand from the media is crying wolf. Maybe it was just a slow news day, or maybe the good people at the news agency just really want to make sure we all stay safe and secure with a man guarding us, but either way it just dampens my alarm about the real psychopaths targeting women, assuming it's just more crying wolf.

Further to this point, what exactly is the criteria for designating a 'targeted attack'? Two women have been attacked, and so it was concluded that the attacker was targeting women, and the media responded by interviewing women in the area to make sure they were properly frightened. If it had been two men, they would have called it 'a series of attacks', but since they happen to be women, they are 'targeted'.

This is because being a women is considered a novelty. The most obvious place to see this, and possibly the place where it started, is in Hollywood. Think of an action movie that stars a group. If it isn't all men, there usually one black guy and one woman. Because being a woman is an interesting novelty - something that defines an individual. A man, well, that's just a normal person, but a woman, that's a woman.

Anyway, what I am laboriously getting to is that I haven't felt entirely safe (except at work - guns do that) since the discovery of the Russell Williams case, and so if the media is going to alarm my concern that some misogynistic asshole is trying to stage a sequel here in the City of Champions, they better have solid gold proof.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

A Dear Loss

I am sad to report that my Grandpa, Kenneth Haywood, passed away peacefully on Monday. He was a fantastic businessman who never let success go to his head. He stayed grounded and empathic even into his retirement, remaining active in the Rotary Club, building a school in Malawi, and championing the Auto Theft prevention movement. He and my Grandma, Sheila Haywood, were often found jetsetting around the world, enjoying life. The staff at Grey Nuns Hospital and St. Jospeh's Auxillary were caring and patient with us, even when we had to steal chairs from pretty much everywhere to seat his well-wishers.

Grandpa was often quiet, content simply to connect people and watch the magic. Family gatherings were often characterized by him snoozing gently in a chair while we surrounded him, chattering like pigeons. Although he would often get up and wander off suddenly, deciding by some internal clock that it was time for bed, he made sure we all had the chance to say Goodbye at the end. That consideration and patient interest in everyone he met are the traits that I will remember him for, and hope that I can emulate in my own life.

Thank you for everything Grandpa. You changed more than we will ever know.

Monday, November 21, 2011

For Whom the Road Tolls

One thing that I have always hated is reading polls that tell me what Canadians want. Especially when I disagree; it makes my opinion look less important. As if I am some radical, wild card with my novel notion that I shouldn't have to pay for things I have already paid for. Like roads.

Apparently, thanks to an online survey of Canadians (my first thought, 'how do they know it was all Canadians?') at least 50% of us would support road tolls. The article paints this solution like a miracle cure saying it will, "ease gridlock and shorten their commute", "get rid of gridlock in our cities", "reduce strain on roads and increase overall efficiency", and "encourage drivers to take public transit". Read that last one again, "encourage drivers to take public transit". What they mean by that is the want to put the squeeze on drivers, to make driving less pleasant and so make transit seem more pleasant by comparison.

The problem is for those of us unwilling or unable to take transit, we feel the squeeze anyway. One commuter surveyed said he had added $1,200 to his annual driving costs. This, at a time when filling up at the pump can be harrowing. Just like that guy who advises lonely men to 'tactfully insult woman to bring them down to your level', it is ridiculous that we should be threatened into taking transit. We should find a way to enhance the transit system until people genuinely want to use it.

The other tactic that is suggested by tolls is that people will find alternate routes, and thus "Ease gridlock". Ignoring the fact that the major roads, the ones eyed for tolls, are the ones that are fully equipped to handle that much traffic, this plan is not going to be effective because with gas how much it is, it is not worth it to divert because the extra gas money will sink you anyway.

I really want to tag this one under "stupid ideas", but I will settle for just learning how to counterfeit coins in case I ever run into a road toll in the great country of Canada.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Tweeting Asterisks

It's long been obvious that we hold our members of parliament to a higher standard than our regular chums, especially in the House of Commons. It is with this higher standard in mind that we approach the situation of MP Pat Martin, whose name is so close to Paul Martin's that every time I read this story I get a little thrill that Paul has beefed up.

The event in question, of course, is the use of profanity in a tweet issued while Mr. Martin (the Pat one, not the Paul one) was sitting in his place in the HoC. He was frustrated with the budget proceedings and so tweeted that; "This is a f--king disgrace ... closure again. And on the Budget! There’s not a democracy in the world that would tolerate this jackboot sh--." in another tweet he invoked the phrase "god damn". When he was called out for his foul mouth on twitter, he replied "F--- you." which has earned him some Internet cred, but not so much admiration from the populous.

The detail that I feel makes a difference that is often glossed over in the press is that the tweeter who 'called him out' did so by saying he expected a foul-mouthed socialist to capitalize the word 'budget' but not the word 'god'. It may not make a difference to some people, but to myself, the fact that he was being criticized for not being religious does make a difference. The main criticism was not about his language, but about his lack of respect for another tweeter's God.

As for the debate about his language, it seems ridiculous to claim he should not be allowed to write profanity on twitter while in the House. Either he can write profanity on twitter or he can not. The tweet is not magically going to change because his physical location is one place or another.

Personally, I don't care what kind of language politicians use, just so long as their message is not obscured. In this case he was simply expressing distaste with the budget proceedings, and that came through even more effectively because we all gasped and thought, "Bad words!" But let us not obscure our message. He did not cuss out a citizen who was criticizing his language or politics, but one who was commenting on his religion.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Leaking the Leaks

Imagine this; you've been scanning the files available on Wikileaks all afternoon, whether for interest or just boredom, when you get up to take a quick bathroom break, taking your cellphone to play some angry birds. Halfway through your constitutional, however, you receive a phone call, which you answer, despite being on the toilet, you gross person.

It's an automated voice, tonelessly telling you that your Internet provider has been notified that you have been found on Wikileaks. The voice continues on to tell you that you may be fined $2500 if you are convicted of looking at government files, then gives you a chance to record a defense.

What would you do?

Answer? Hang up. It's complete garbage, propagated by these idiots, Prankdial, in the hopes that they could make a quick buck, although where exactly they acquire the money from is pretty vague. (Maybe in your haste to lodge a defense you blurt out your credit card detail and SSN?) The site includes such gems as "Why you callin' my boyfriend?" and the phone call from the ring saying "seven days" which I'm not going to say would make me pee myself, but I still check the TV for well water stains and that bitch is about 8 years, 4 months, and 12 days too late. The uncomfortable thing is that they can also impersonate the RAAA, claiming you've been found guilty of piracy, and could be fined some exorbitant amount.

Let alone how offensive some of these recordings are, playing on stereotypes and other offensive depictions, I can't understand how impersonation is illegal, but this is legal. I can't wait for the day when someone is actually contacted by the authorities and ignores them because they believe it's just a prank. Or more likely, someone just tries to ignore them and claim that they thought it was a prank. Fun is one thing, but is this really something we should tolerate?

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Yet Another Sacrifice

Although I have often enjoyed them, I always feel slightly sad about pictures of gravesites. It has been considered rude to photograph graves, but that tradition has gone by the wayside in history, as have many niceties that unfortunately became inconvenient for our own selfish purposes.

One further thought on this is the publicity of soldiers' gravesites. It almost seems that their final sacrifice was their privacy in death, is to remind us of the heavy cost of war. It is doubtless that most would have no qualm about our publicizing their gravesites, but it is just another thing we give them no choice about.  We will remember them.

Wednesday, November 09, 2011

If We Like it, Then We Better put a Ring on it

I hate being led by the nose. I hate being offered shiny baubles to distract me from something that has started to smell. Most of all I hate when the shiny baubles are only a tiny fraction of a giant pile of gold that is currently sleeping under a smiling dragon.
Just recently Edmonton held a giant forum to discuss the proposed, now confirmed, arena that would cost an additional 100 million that we do not exactly have. Although it was not unanimous, the feelings of the city were apparent; No arena. Not with the current financial plan that was laid out. When the provincial government, the people we had planned to ask for 100 million dollars, reneged on a 92 million that was allegedly promised to us for a new museum (whether actually or by simply implying they would pay and then changing) I, for one, reevaluated my assessment of the probability that the province would 'chip in' to zero. But the arena progresses.

So now, in the Edmonton Journal, we are offered a choice; Would we like to finish the Anthony Henday, the celebrated ring road encircling the city that even Yours Truly has used in the past 24 hours? Or would we like to finish the LRT that has long been a source of embarrassment for a city our size? We have to pick one. Maybe we should just paint two balls, white and black, then let Mayor Mandel pick one from a bag?

How about both? Is that an option? Can we have both internal and external convenience when it comes to transportation in the city? Especially when you consider the Arena would be considerably hampered by a lack of effective transportation to and from the site. Apparently not. Truth be told, I retain a fondness (bafflingly and in flagrant defiance of the evidence) for our Mayor, but I really believe he needs to step back from this arena deal and revisit it in 5 to 10 years when we have the ability to travel around our city without busting a blood vessel. This is not a case of having my cake and eating it too, this is a case of having a plate and some utensils to eat my cake before making the icing. Otherwise it's just going to be a huge mess.

Monday, November 07, 2011

The Mother of Hubris

The story on the CBC is pretty convincing; the majestic Golden Eagle, which has long graced our skies (the only territory it is not endangered in), has come under threat. The birds, which are listed as in a 'sensitive' condition by Alberta Fish and Wildlife (a word which here means "please stop using them for tennis"), have been dealing with a severe lead poisoning issue. The Wildlife Rehabilitation society of Edmonton has been forced to euthanize five in the last year from severe levels of lead in the birds' blood.

The society believes the lead comes from spent cartridges left by hunters during the hunting season. A quick search on google shows this is a common belief throughout the pacific northwest with numerous studies documenting the issue. A phone call to my source confirmed the use of soft lead for hunting species such as grouse or other small game, but not big game such as deer or bear. And although it is rare for a wounded animal to get away and provide a movable lead feast for other carnivorous animals, it is common that lead pellets miss their target and are left to move swiftly into the food chain.

Although I had begun this story with the plan to discredit the society's theory and supplant in the theory that it was the birds' habitats atop lead-lined telephone wires that were causing the poisoning, the overwhelming evidence, such as the California ban on lead shot that heralded in a dramatic drop in wildlife lead poisoning, points to the fact that it is a big problem.

So why don't more hunters choose non-lead shot? The fact is that it is just not available for purchase in small enough sizes for use. Whether this is due to non-demand or some sinister plot to make Golden Eagles endangered, the fact is this is a perfect point for the government to step in and get its 'regulating on'. So although it is pretty embarrassing to gear myself up for a story, only to be completely stymied, it is better to get the issue out. Maybe the money we save from disbanding the long-gun registry could be used for providing non-lead alternatives.

The title refers to the fact that Athenian Aeschylus, "the father of Greek tragedy" was killed when an eagle dropped a turtle on his bald head, thinking it was a rock. 

Wednesday, November 02, 2011

Jacking the Sound to Noise Ratio

With Remembrance day coming up the usual slew of once-a-year politicos come out of the woodwork to voice their opinion on wars and the military in general, sometimes in the mast passive-aggressive, tasteless way possible.

An 86 year old veteran who volunteers his time to sell poppies arrived at one of the iconic poppy boxes that are endemic this time of year to discover someone had stuffed a political cartoon underneath it. The cartoon mimicked the old Herman cartoons (thinking of them reminds me of my wonderful great grandmother's basement) and contained the text,

"May I suggest that we declare war, invade and rob another rich country with an army of hired killers, soldiers that is, like we did in the past to Germany and a dozen other countries."

A sentiment so awkwardly written that I am left wondering if we are all being trolled. I mean, it takes a lot of bravery to stuff a bit of paper underneath a box instead of confronting the octogenarians that service it, (not to be ageist) and obviously a lot of commitment to have done it twice; what kind of person could possess these qualities? Only the most die-hard, staunch anti-war protester.

In case there is any doubt left at this point in my writing career, let me remove all doubt: I absolutely support people's right to freedom of speech. In making this statement, however, the protester removes the objection from war and places it on objecting to soldiers. Pretty much everybody agrees war is bad (Mm-kay?) Few positive effects came from it, and by and large, it's a last-ditch effort for achieving goals. But soldiers are a different story. Having soldiers does not imply violence. Being a soldiers does not imply being violent, or even pro-war.

When making your statement obfuscates the more well developed and relevant messages, you can't be surprised when people want to collar you. Not 'the man' but your fellow protesters. You ruin our credibility, and make it difficult for people to find the best message to support their goals. It's like what happened to feminists. Their message became more and more confused until now only the bravest call themselves feminists, since to do so invites ridicule. If the anti-war/anti-violence movement wants to keep it's tread, it must guard against mixing the message with anti-soldier sentiments; to do so would spell it's downfall.

In activism, the medium is the message, and the message from this 'activist' is perfectly clear: "I'm a joke"


Monday, October 31, 2011

Dig Within

While looking around into the Chinese coin discovery that was logged in the Yukon I discovered the full report on archelogical digs in the Fort St. James area. It's an impressive read with some killer maps if you have the time, but if not, here are some concerns I found.

Along with an interesting look into the methods and processes that they use at the site, there were some concerns about the effectivness and the reliability of the method. It seems there was inconsistancy in labelling a location a 'high' likelihood for artifacts (both of archeolgical sites and something called culturally modified tree locations). This led to communication break down as it was unclear why some had been marked high probability, while equivalent ones elsewhere had been marked moderate or lower. I can support the need to allow for the personal discretion of the investigator, however, it should not be so severe as to call into doubt the efectiveness of the report. These reports are used to predict the impact of industry development; if companies think the information is useless, they will be more inclined to dismiss findings that may make development difficult, and valuable archelogical sites could be senselessly lost.

The company also contacted both relevant industries and First Nations bands to gain their feedback on the method. However, out of nine First Nations the company contacted a full four of them simply did not respond to the minimum email and letter (some were even phoned). Of the remaining five, three groups reported they did not know the method existed, one commented on its use, and one group said they would not use it because "went through Apollo", meaning Apollo forest products, a large company who works in the area. To compare, of the eleven companies the organization spoke to, all were familiar with the model, but a few said they did not prefer to use it. This is incredibly disheartening since the bands had helped to develop the method when it was first created in 2003. The report speculates that a high management turnover rate contributed to the process being lost, but again, in cases where archeological relevance is concerned we are missing a valuable ally in the bands. The report mentions later including "sensitive First Nations data", but if the company had not been so diligent about contacting the bands (indeed, we are still missing the information from four of the relevant bands) this information could have been lost.

If this company's experiences with First Nations bands is typical there needs to be a closer look into interactions between companies and bands. Without a proper channel for discussion there will be more animosity and difficulty, building resentment until no progress can be made for anyone.

The title is a quote from the venerable Marcus Aurelius: "Dig within. Within is the wellspring of Good; and it is always ready to bubble up, if you just dig."

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

This Post has 22 Theories

Marg Delahunty! It's me, Pun'd it.

Although there are few things I would point to as decidedly Canadian, one of the few is the oddball political humor of This Hour has 22 Minutes. Years ago my family could be found watching the series together, laughing ourselves silly over even such simple things as the introductory warning that heralded in the show. (My favorite was in reference to a massive snow dump that left Toronto phoning the army for help, "Warning: Center of Universes should have better snow removal.") It was lighthearted but informative, and I have no doubt it is partially responsible for both the country and my own interest in politics.

One of the best skits the show would engage in was Marg Delahunty, warrior princess, who could be seen in her red uniform and plastic sword, charging up to politicians to lampoon them for anything they felt the public deserved to discuss. It helped show us that politicians are human and available, not some great head in a tower, passing down commandments from on high. Sometimes it even made us feel a little better about legislation that maybe didn't proceed as we had hoped, a great salve in the sometimes insensitive world of politics.

Recently, however, Ms. Delahunty approached Toronto mayor Rob Ford for a bit of light ribbing that backfired when he hid himself in his house and phoned 911. To be honest, it was perhaps imprudent to approach Mr Ford at home, although whether he was alone (the crew had resolved only to approach him if he was alone) or his daughter was present, who he claims fled "freaking out" into the house (One wonders what she will do when Halloween rolls around), is under debate. Has he never been approached by reporters at his home?

Although I hope the crew decides to avoid approaching people at their private residency, I sincerely hope that they do not discontinue their activities. Without this bit of fun I cannot imagine what would happen to the state of political interest in this country. Mr. Ford should learn to lighten up and take what comes his way. No one is free from political scrutiny, no matter what outfit it wears.

Monday, October 24, 2011

He Blinded me with Status

Is it not odd that a man who was once a strong contender for 'most powerful man in the world' is now under investigation for criminal activities? But this dialogue never happened, could not have begun to happen, while he was in power.

George W. Bush, once the president of the United States, is currently the suspect in an investigation into allegations of torture by his order from when he was in power. It is apparent he is even aware of these allegations, when he cancelled a private speaking conference after learning of the Center for Constitutional Rights' plan to prosecute, and takes steps to avoid being arrested, which also indicates if not an admission of guilt, at least a lack of confidence in his innocence.

What is frustrating in this case is that nothing was done while Mr. Bush was in office. Nothing could be done. There is a case to be made for public security, but why are there no systems in place to account for this? Are we to just accept that the president enjoys immunity from prosecution while in office, excepting cases that may provide interesting fodder for trashy tabloid mags?

Alternately, what will we discover once our own officials leave power?

The least of which is likely to be a case involving deportation of a Canadian citizen. If nothing else can offend people, ignoring Government issued documents by simply waving their hands and insisting they 'made a mistake', should certainly do it. I can understand the desire to get rid of criminals, but ignoring their birth certificate and passport to facilitate dumping them in a foreign country is not a viable option.

It is possible this is a threat to scare the individual into behaving properly, but the important aspect of a threat is that it must be achievable. If steps have been taken that convince this man that the government could actually seize his passport and birth certificate, then 'deport' him, then we have a problem.

Friday, October 21, 2011

As the State, So the People

Earlier I have spoke of the institutional policy of Canadian exploitation indicative by Homeland Security's pedophile website, and the repercussions such a policy holds for Canada. But lately, we have discovered the worm goes deeper. As we should have suspected when an institutional policy of exploitation of Canada exists, it can be guaranteed that the belief will 'trickle down' to more casual exploitation.

The Scouts issue in the states is the most apparent issue of this. A quick reading reveals the cavalier attitude with which the scouting program treats sovereign Canadian soil. In 1976 Turley is released from a state hospital after kidnapping a child and being deemed a "mentally disordered sex offender". He is released after being ordered to return to Canada, and only report if he returned to the States. That is correct, they felt they could dump their trash up here with no repercussions.

Three years later he molested three boys while at a camp. When one of the victims reports the abuse, the problem is solved when Turley packs up and goes home to Canada. The magical land where children don't exist and can therefore not be abused. True to form, after this incident Turley packs up and moves to Victoria where he molests more children.

Perhaps you are unconvinced; This could all be circumspect, blown out of proportion, or incomplete information. When confronted about the 'perversion file' that Scouts maintained on people like Turley, Scouts executive Buford Hill said, "'I don’t remember what we decided, other than we didn’t want this person on our staff. Hopefully, he went back to Canada and that was their problem.'" I would like to press the point that this was not a guarded communication where their shady backroom policy is brought to the light of day, this is a boldfaced statement to the press. He is so confident that this view is mainstream that he offers this up to preserve the Scouts good name - to show they did something about this predator. Apparently the Scouts' 'youth protection efforts' only applies to American youths.

Just as a psychological aside the report mentions that this man lives in Alberta but is 'reformed' by a sex offender program and quotes him saying, 'Rick Turley today is a caring loving person who just wants to stay below the radar.' That's right - he refers to himself in the third person when speaking about how he is reformed. This typically indicates a disconnect from the statement. He doesn't believe he's reformed, and neither do I. A persistent, reckless offender like Turley is unlikely to be 'treated' without chemical castration, and even then, not completely.

Personally, after this incident, the finding that Scouts America occasionally traded information with Scouts Canada about violators is cold comfort. If such Anti-Canadian sentiments can be gleaned from one report, you can guarantee the issue goes further in private. 

The title is not meant to imply that all Americans believe these things, but that a state institutional system can influence the common person's beliefs. 

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

That's Free Enterprise, Friends

I think Albertans knew that Premier Redford would have a bit of an upward climb to defend herself in the beginning, not only because every politician does but also because her sudden second-place win means we didn't have the time to work around to the idea of her being in power, and society does not move quickly.
What we had not realized was that this climb might be fabricated by a false 'call to action' by an opposition leader.

Suncor's Firebag work site in Fort McMurray allegedly let go of approximately 200 workers and replaced them with cheaper temporary foreign workers, which had been approved by the government when Suncor claimed they could not find appropriate local workers.

The NDP's leader Brian Mason is now calling on Premier Redford to step in and resolve this situation but it seems like he is setting her up for a fool's errand. If she steps in to have the worker's passes revoked she will be seen as anti-immigration and anti-business, if she fails to, leaving the situation alone, she loses the base of public support that put her in the office.

Now, while I am not particularly fond of unions, in this case it is clear they have egg on their face. They tried to demand wages that were obviously too high, and they were outmaneuvered by the company. This is not any different from the usual squabbles of hiring union or non. What would the union have done if the company had hired non-union Albertans? There is no point to belonging to a union if they cannot negotiate these situations without resorting to crying for the government.

On the other hand, the company has screwed themselves over in this situation. Should they ever attempt to return to the unionized employee this has seriously damaged relations to the point that any sensible union would rake them over the coals on the next contract negotiation. The company can't count on the government rubber-stamping these workers again, after this outcry, and the temporary workers are just that, temporary. This was clearly just a power-maneuver to give the business extra clout in further negotiations, but by escalating to sway public opinion the union has already gotten the upper hand.

In essence all that Premier Redford needs to do is wait. Further applications for workers won't  be approved and the union and business will be forced back into their playpen to learn how to play nice. She should not have to micro-manage business interactions, but they should re-examine the application process to hire temporary workers. But that should be it. She's got a province worth of bigger things to deal with.

The title is from a quote by Barbara Ehrenreich: "That's free enterprise, friends: freedom to gamble, freedom to lose. And the great thing -- the truly democratic thing about it -- is that you don't even have to be a player to lose."

Monday, October 17, 2011

Protesting 101

With the Occupy movement likely reaching the peak of its trajectory, the time has come to take a serious look at the effectiveness of 'large gesture' protesting.

Especially in Canada, lately, we have seen some large 'statements' but their effectiveness is in question.
The Occupy movement boasted around 2 to 3 thousand in Toronto, 1 thousand in Edmonton and Montreal, 4 thousand in Vancouver, and even Charlottetown boasted 125 people. But with the object of protesting (businessmen) actively coming by to give verbal support and kudos, does it lose its sting? As I have mentioned previously, the disparity of wealth is much less severe than in the States, and so the aim of the movement is fractured between supporting the 99%, supporting the protesters in the states and protesting to have former president Bush arrested when he comes to visit. As is usually the case, the Onion has said it best regarding these cases. The largest sign that the protests are not being taken seriously is the fact that they are being allowed to stay. If the government perceived these protests to be a threat, and therefore effective, they would be taking steps to eliminate them, even as little as forcing them to pack up their tents. This protest has a set end date: the first snow-fall.

Remember the House page who stood in the middle of Parliament holding a sign that said "STOP Harper"? Despite the loss of her job, and subsequent job offer by American film-maker Michael Moore, it is arguable whether or not she achieved any sort of progress. Sometimes the goal of a protest is to draw attention, as we shall examine in a moment, but the bulk of her message was simply an opinion; that Harper is bad. Without an added fact to back it up, or draw attention to, such a stand will not sway anyone's heart or mind. This is reflected in the fact that she has since dropped off the radar, without so much as a tremor in the shield of the Conservatives.  

A better example of a large 'impact' protest is the recent Trojan horse that graced Parliament hall's front doors. It was built to draw attention to Canada's interest in the European Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement, which they believe could erode Canada's sovereignty and put us at a disadvantage in negotiations. I must confess this whole thing has flown under my radar for eight talks, amazingly, and it is now in its ninth and final round of talks. I find it unlikely that Canada could benefit from tying itself to the European market right now, given that everyone is so anxious to be tied to us, but the horse's point was effective - I'm curious now. That's the way to do it.

The mark of effective protesting is walking the tricky line of not telling people what they should think, but perhaps what they should be thinking about. That way people are not being led or strong armed into an opinion, something that can provoke the opposite reaction so strongly that sometimes I suspect that page had been hired by the right to make all opposition look like nutcases (Not to imply she looked like a nutcase, but certainly that someone who opposes her message would feel she did).Given the limited time and attention people reserve for processing activism, we should really aim to maximize the air time available to present the most effective message.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Occupy Bush

The Occupy Canada movement is starting to build momentum, but the issue of the 99% seems less compelling on our soil, our GINI coefficient (that measures the equal dispersal of wealth) is much lower here (0 indicates perfect equality, 1 indicates complete inequality)
Canada is in a position, however, to strike a decisive blow for solidarity and justice. It takes place on October 20th. Occupy Wall Street is meant to send a message to the 1%, and we have the chance to send a message to our politicians. They cannot do as they like. They are there because we allow them to be.

On to the logistics of the protest, however, a recent video has been making the rounds showing a police tactic that is changing the nature of protests from the inside.

I have to say, it seems Gandhi was right. The police are embedding officers into protests that escalate typically peaceful protests into riots, which the police can use force to shut down. This tactic is completely undone if the protests stay nonviolent. Realizing how difficult this can be in a protest situation (we are a mob creature) but the answer is to stay seated. No matter what. It cannot be subverted if it cannot be incited. Protesters should shun anyone who stands within a protest.

Society's fascination with zombies and post-apocalyptic situations makes sense now. We have become aware that we don't have a consciousness and we are working to change that. We are restless.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

A Bush in Hand

When I read Amnesty International's recommendation that Canada should arrest George W. Bush and have him tried for war crimes including torture, I giggled. It sounds a bit like an Onion article, similar to the one where Canada invaded the States (because they had reason to believe they were harboring weapons of mass destruction). But after reading it I realized they were serious. They want us to risk a major international incident just to bring George to heel.

Maybe we should though.
Perhaps it will force them to start taking us seriously. Recently the Department of Homeland Security came under fire for posting a website depicting Ontario as a safe haven for pedophiles, and offering to set up a 'vacation'. When pressed on the ethics of this move, the department shrugged and said that they had 'informed Windsor police about it'. The ruse resulted in four arrests but there is no known number to how many people read the site, then chose an alternate means to travel to Canada for this purpose. To use us as bait clearly demonstrates how little they care for our safety and sovereignty.

Perhaps it will force them to start seeing us differently. The Federal Heritage minister has a goal in mind - to educate all Canadians about the war of 1812. Personally, I think the best way to do this would be to give Kate Beaton an unlimited budget and unrestricted access to all forms of advertising within Canada, not to mention the good it would do for morale, but I digress. The States is apparently honoring the war in their own fashion; by claiming they won. SPOILER ALERT: They didn't. As George Orwell pointed out, "Who controls the past controls the future. Who controls the present controls the past." It's time Canada control its present. History is an integral part of our growing identity and we cannot allow it to be altered by someone else with an agenda. 

But enough daydreaming. After the Good Fences issue, there is certainly no way we would arrest Mr. Bush and run the risk of an international incident. But I like that there is a hint, even a wiff that we might do it. I like that we're talking about it. Because that means, somewhere, in America, on some agenda, there is a bullet point that deals with 'how to negotiate with Canada'. It might just be an emergency back-up plan, they might not even believe we'd do it, but it's there. I feel warmer just knowing it.

Friday, October 07, 2011

Don't Need a Receipt for the Doughnut

I have applied some brain power over the last little while to figuring out some product that I could sell to make a living as an entrepreneur. Inspired by the story of Terracycle's CEO (affectionately called "Worm Boy"), I tried thinking of a surplus material  that was being wasted available for me to use in some other fashion, much like Terracycle used old coffee grinds to feed the worms that produce their fertilizer. The answer came to me while I was at work one day, changing a receipt roll from an ABM: The roll.

The rolls must be changed out when they come too close to the end, however, this typically leaves a generous amount of paper still back on the roll that can't be used by the machine. These rolls are conventionally thrown out, since we lack any other disposal option.  Imagine how many times we do this a night, and you can imagine the kind of resource I was thinking of - I just needed to find a way to capitalize on this; perhaps break it down to make into more conventionally sized paper. Needless to say, I hit google for the answer, but what I found was a huge surprise.

Most ABM receipts, in fact most point of sale receipts, contain bisphenol A or BPA for short. The stuff they made a huge push to eliminate from water bottles is present in doses from 10 to 30 mg every time you purchase a scooby-doo slip 'n slide. That dose doesn't mean much, by itself, but further research is being done with the lowest observed effect level at 50 mg/kg/day. From a retail perspective, that means a salesperson who handles around 100 to 300 receipts a day is ingesting a statistically significant amount of BPA. Someone like myself, who is exposed to old receipt paper that has begun to degrade, thus speeding up the expulsion of the BPA, can be exposed to even more, especially under the conditions of excessive sweating (and sweating is what we do best). Add in the fact that "Mechanical handling of bisphenol A can cause formation of dust", i.e exactly what occurs in the ABM that we are breathing around, and we have the potential for a lot of exposure. BPA dust has been shown to cause upper respiratory irritation. (I am far too mature to point out that aerosol exposure to BPA caused rats to experience "decreased body weight, perineal soiling from urine and porphyrin-like material around the nose and eyes".)

Some of the effects of BPA exposure, as documented in lab rats in quantities around 50 mg/kg/day, include: lower body weight; liver, kidney, and bladder effects; and increased uterine glycogen levels at as little as 5 mg/kg/day. On the positive side it is most emphatically NOT a carcinogen, which means it might be the only thing that won't give you cancer. It is also readily excreted from the body however, it is excreted in the form of straight BPA, which raises the problem of build-up in the water supply, much the same issue as estrogen from birth control excretions.

Although there has been much discussion about BPA in the mainstream media, there has been almost no discussion about BPA's presence in receipt paper, and the hazards presented to those who deal with it, despite the fact that Japan voluntarily replaced all their paper receipts with non-BPA paper (true, they replaced it with BPS, a cousin of BPA, but we'll deal with that later.)
Finally, If this sounds dire, please bear in mind this information came from the people selling BPA, and draw whatever conclusions you like.


The title is from Mitch Hedburg: “I bought a doughnut and they gave me a receipt for the doughtnut... I don't need a receipt for the doughnut. I give you money and you give me the doughnut, end of transaction. We don't need to bring ink and paper into this. I can't imagine a scenario that I would have to prove that I bought a doughnut. To some skeptical friend, 'Don't even act like I didn't get that doughnut, I've got the documentation right here... It's in my file at home. ...Under "D".'”

Wednesday, October 05, 2011

A "Very Significant Discussion"

Hey Victor? I think we should buy a new car.
A new car? But you don't have a license, we only need one car.

I know, but I just think it'd be really cool, you know? We'd have somewhere to put that Oilers bumper sticker.
Is that the only reason you want it? Because we could use that money to fix the flooring. 
No, I don't want that, it's boring. Besides my friend said she'd give us half.
Half is good, I guess. Where will we get the rest from? 
I don't know - We could ask mom and dad?
Didn't their basement just flood?
Honey! Come on! I want one!
If you're so set on this, why not a truck? We could buy a heavy duty truck?
No I want a car, just like the one we have, but blue ... with gold rims!
What does your friend want for the half she's going to give us anyway?
Well, she gets to keep it at her place, but we can totally have it for four weeks!
A month?
A year.
This is ridiculous! Why do you want this all of a sudden?
Look, the salesman said we had to do this by the end of the month or it'll be too late!
Have you ever heard that and not been swindled? It's just a pressure tactic. Besides we don't even want it - this month or next. We can't afford it and that's that.
You can't stop me! I'm buying it whether you like it or not!      
We just renewed our vows; aren't we supposed to decide these things together? 
Look, I have to go; It might already be too late. We'll talk about this when I get back with the new car! 

Sunday, October 02, 2011

Wildcard Weekend: Summer Months

Congratulations to Ms. Allison Redford, Premier-designate for Alberta! I am so happy I just want to kiss every Albertan I see today! To celebrate, I offer Dear Reader the most beautiful wrap-up of summer ever. I suspect in years to come when I am sad I will watch this and be happy again. It reminds me of every wonderful moment I've ever had, even those completely unrelated to summer.

Summer feelings from sebastien montaz-rosset on Vimeo.

Friday, September 30, 2011

Ammo Doesn't Spoil

It is considered 'in vogue' lately to joke about the zombie apocalypse, even permeating into the commercialization and marketing world, which is the absolute last place to accept anything new, for fear it might be 'controversial'.

But let us be honest, and make no mistake, the zombie apocalypse will not be zombie-fied.

A small town of 2,300 apparently had a large mob storm the hospital, intent on freeing one of their own who was inside after clashing his vehicle. The trouble started when two large parties got out of hand, and the entire police force of 20 officers was called to respond to the crowd of 70 - 80. Imagine a town like Edmonton; the officers would have the ability to arrest and detain every single person present. Situation contained. But in smaller towns like these, when enough people get together, it turns into a sort of 'mad max' situation. It's not like the officers can put everyone in the one to two cells most small communities boast.

Why should this matter at all?
Well, in this age of the Internet location is no longer king. The situation will likely develop until such time that the deciding factor in where a family settles is the company. When people can band together with their own kind, invariably we'll run into larger and larger mobs, relative to the town size that can accommodate it.

Moral of the story?

The 'zombie revolution' we're all joking about is just a public-consciousness prediction about the global revolution that is forthcoming when we return to a tribal lifestyle.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Alberta's PC Leadership Debate - Global News

The three contenders for the leadership race duke it out live on Global TV. Again, in case you've forgotten, they are Doug Horner, Allison Redford, and Gary Mar.

So the format is similar to the last one; one minute opening statements, 20 second question, one minute to answer, 30  seconds to rebut, then open to full debate and closing. Typical stuff. I always find it is a shame that they never address the issues that really matter such as how long one should be permitted to cry after a devastating question. I do like the subtle hint from the host that he will suplex anyone who goes over their allotted time.

Opening volleys
Doug Horner: Guys, this is about leadership. I've already put up with Ralph Klein, I can totally wrangle this province into shape.

Gary Mar: Thanks for coming out folks. We're here to pick the province's leader, and that's me. We need to support kids, seniors, jobs and all that other crap. I'll be totally good with money, I promise. Vote for me.

Allison Redford: Our healthcare rocks, but I'm going to make it better. We're going to be smart about spending money for education and healthcare. I'm tough. Come with me if you want to live.

First Question: Gary Mar you support rich people buying better healthcare, why don't you just support a better healthcare system overall?
GM: We can improve our system, and I'm committed to that. In other parts of Canada, others have a better system and we could too. It's legitimate.

AR: If we want to commercialize healthcare, it will no longer be a private system. We need to improve the system without undermining it from within.

DH: This public/private debate is overshadowing the real issues. We need to start paying for the complexity of patients rather than the number thereof.

GM: Primary healthcare has worked really well; Doctors working with teams of people for better access, but the funding hasn't changed and we've been bleeding the system dry. We need to deal better with diverse issues.

DH: If we don't change the 'gatekeeper' mentality, it will always suffer. it shouldn't be just about doctors.

AR: If others were as good as Doctors, this would be enacted, rather than being constantly debated. We need family care clinics.

GM: family doctors already cover the majority, let's just add more doctors.

AR: The primary care networks suck. No one knows about them.

Question two: Mr. Horner, there are unanswered questions about how you've botched our current healthcare so badly, why are you not ordering an inquest about this?

DH: The system is good to those within it, the problem is getting in. It's outdated. The clinics are still private businesses. It's based on volume rather than quality. There is a fundamental problem.

GM: The quality council is great, they ensure transparency. Their mandate could be extended to deal with individual issues.

AR: I called for an inquiry. The council also had an option to be independent but it isn't.

DH: That's true. We should give them more power. We need to publicize the results of the RCMP investigation into queue jumping.

AR: An independent quality council would allow us to have an objective discussion about healthcare.

GM: If people wanted that, they had the opportunity to bring it up while they were in cabinet...

Third Question: Ms. Redford, after the education cuts, you promised more money, but the teachers want even more, would you give them that?

AR: Absolutely. Money is no object. If we just give teachers everything they want, everything will be better.

DH: Not this crap again. if we deal with the labor issues, then we just need more equipment and we're set. Our plan for success should dictate the budget.

GM: We're so awesome I would also give them money, and also plan budgets for the future.

AR: This needs to be urgent because our system is suffering and we could fix it immediately since we can't squander a whole year.

DH: We make decisions based on the percentage, we should be making them on our goals.

GM: Hey, you guys were there, why did you squander the opportunity to stop these cuts?

DH: So were you, eh?

GM: The point is that any money we give them would come from somewhere else. We just don't have it right now.

AR: We want change, however we have to do it.

DH: If you don't rearrange the money, it's just business as usual and that sucks.

AR: People want to know who they can trust. It's me, by the way.

DH: I wont change. I'm committed to that.

Fourth Question: Mr. Mar, A lot of people waffle on commitments. Didn't you say you'd reject the severance allowance, then take it?

GM: I just did what everyone does. I only said I would defer it, I never said I didn't want it. At least I told everyone when I took it.

AR: If I  said I wouldn't, I wouldn't.

DH: You said you would do something then did not follow through.

GM: I only said I would defer it, and I did defer it. Besides, I was entitled to it.

Announcer: Do you respect taxpayers money?

DH: Of course, I respect money too much to waste it.

AR: It's also about respecting the money. And Albertans.

GM: I agree. No one does not respect tax money, but the only money the government has is taxpayer's money.

Fifth question: The Oilers and the Flames; if they needed new arenas would you support that?

DH: That's municipal stuff. They can deal with that. We do support sports teams but we don't want to step on city toes. We trust them.

AR: That's true. They're important, but the municipalities need to stand on their own and make their own choices.

GM: I think Edmonton's arena is pretty cool. It'd be good for Calgary to have one too. We shouldn't give them money for it though.

AR: Seriously, that's municipal stuff. We can't go there. We just sling money at them and ignore them.

DH: The sustainability fund should filter out stupid requests, but we should loosen it's requirements so the cities can have more money. The arena is pretty good, isn't it? But, yah, that's city stuff.

GM: Totally city stuff.

Announcer lady: So what if the MSI is not big enough to cover something, would you add more to cover the loss?

DH: We've already said we would. We need to start re-evaluating the fund, maybe even sorting out the big cities for special treatment.

GM: I'm different. The current system is weird; we should just not take the education fund from the cities; we could just let them keep it.

AR: That's going to encourage inequality, and ignores the bigger discussion about goals for the province and cities.

GM: That's true some people would get less. They could just tax more.

DH: That's a terrible plan. The current funds work fine.

GM: The locally elected governments should just tax and use that money for stuff. It'll cut down on the bureaucratic expense.

Sixth question: Ms. Redford, have you dropped the ball regarding our international image with the Oilsands?

AR: It's the premier's job to get ahead of these issues. It started over three years ago. We have great standards and research but we need to tell people about these things.

DH: We make our living off the land. We need to be transparent and tell the world about our behaviour.

GM: Lots of the oil in the U.S is from Alberta, so they must like us. People actually DO support the oilsands, they just won't act like it. 

DH: It's not just the states. It's also about the rest of the world's market.

AR: Doug's right. Europe doesn't like us right now. Alberta needs to be proactive like the west.

GM: That's true. Even though we don't sell that much to Europe (Ahem.) but they might influence China.

Question seven: Mr. Mar, if you had to cut taxes, what would you cut to balance the budget?

GM: We want to be leaders; we should be fiscally responsible. We need plans. We don't need to cut anything, but nothing can require more money than it is getting right now.

AR: We've been too free with money. We need to follow our commitments. That will help us balance.

DH: We need to plan and be transparent. We need a bigger tax base.

GM: Few countries, except us, are truly self-sufficient. We have the world by the short and curlies because we produce food, we should abuse that.

AR: We should talk about what we 'want' and what we 'need'.

Announcer: Ms. Redford, who is number two on your ballot? (The answers to this question actually demonstrate everything I hate about political debate answers.)

AR: Why would I put a number two? I'm going to win. But I guess Mr. Horner because he sounds just like me.

GM: All six original candidates were so good; everyone is really cool. I'm not going to say who I'd pick for number two.

DH: Allison, you're really awesome, but I promised I wouldn't show favor. It SHOULD BE OBVIOUS who is my pick.

Closing statements.

AR: How we make decisions matters. We need trust to make change. We should be better; use our money to be better. Please vote.

GM: We'll listen and be a champion.

Here is where my connection died and reset the debate for the 14th time. I was not going to sit through the inane 15 second commercial they had at the start of the debate even one more time so I finally gave up. I am sorry, Mr. Horner, but your closing statement gets no air time.
Good luck everyone and don't forget to vote.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Historic Civil Disobedience isn't What it Used to be.

As everyone who reads the blog is familiar, I have a stance on the oilsands. The stance is this: Piss off. It's our damn oilsands and if we want to run them, or shut them down, or keep them open for the sole purpose of wearing bitumen on our heads like some sort of T-zone ruining crown, that's our damn right. I rankle every time someone from America shows up with a little sign and a song in their heart. I clench my fists every time some big shot director schedules in time away from making Pocahontas rip-offs to come down here and tell us 'hicks' what's-what. What is worst is every time I have to read some news article about how mean and bad we are for continuing to use resources that are well within out rights to use, as if anyone on the planet, ever, has deliberately NOT taken advantage of an extremely lucrative situation.

Alright, now that I have that out of the way, I'll admit, since the use of the oilsands causes environmental issues we should probably consider other people's opinions, but on our time, not when forced down our throats from the parliament lawn. Or so the media would like us to believe.

The CBC, who I had previously trusted, wrote this article about a protest on parliament hill that sounds formidable.  Phrases like, "Several hundred people flocked to the Hill" and "The event featured more than 20 environmental and indigenous organizations and boasts the support of a dozen Canadian celebrities." descriptions of protesters jumping barricades and pictures of a large crowd of security (police, RCMP, etc.) were interspersed with sound bites like, "Protest organizer and Greenpeace Canada spokesman Peter McHugh promoted the event as 'a historic mass act of civil disobedience over the tarsands,' ."

Did you get that? Historic.
Sounds like shit just got real.

However, since I was unable to wander over to Ottawa for the day, I checked out the webcam. (Well, to be precise, stole the screenshot from Small Dead Animals.)

The 'massive crowds' must have stepped away for a quick brunch, I guess. Just in case you think this was before or after the 'protest', this is Sept. 26th - 12:43pm, two and three quarter hours after the protest started. We had bigger crowds on Canada day. Keep in mind, of course, this includes reporters, security, and people off getting their lunches.

It seems we cannot even trust our own media to tell us the real story regarding the oilsands and the public support thereof.

Friday, September 23, 2011

"Free Hats for URLs", says CIRA

The CIRA is taking an important first step into internationalizing the Internet for Canadians soon. Although currently accents are all considered the same domain, for example versus fą, this new policy will differentiate between these names, and allow them to be separately registered.

Some people are concerned this will lead to phishing, even though the CIRA has identified this problem and is already taking steps to prevent it. As some 'net savvy individuals have already pointed out, the URLs render in typable format, for example www.pàypà turns into, and insist people should be paying attention to the domains they type anyway.

The last objection raised is that people won't be able to type these alterations and so the sites will end up dead in the water. But those who have, presumably, the greatest interest, will be the most likely to have a french accented keyboard, and so will not notice the problem.

The process they plan for the launch includes a "Sunrise" period to allow existing registrants to register alterations of their domain name, and will run for 12 weeks until opening up to the "Landrush" period, in which domains are issued on a random basis. After this process ends they will be issued on a 'first come-first serve' basis.

It's an important step in acknowledging the fact that Canada actually does have two official languages, and helps the Internet become less Americanized. To be honest, though? I'm just excited about having a domain with Umlauts in it.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Coffee and Tobacco; Complete Repose

I was first made aware of the disparity in attention to questionable substances in my first year of university. My psychology professor went off the rails discussing how he could not understand why people go to a party to drink a depressant (alcohol), he capped it of by triumphantly slamming the board with his hand and hollering,
"Have a damn coffee!"

The idea has stayed with me ever since, and has recently risen to prominence in the media again.
Bill C - 10, known as the crime omni-bus, is proposing to increase the maximum sentence for production of marijuana from 7 years to 14 years. That means someone growing a plant in their basement could serve 2/3rds of the time that Anders Behring Brevik (The mass murderer in Norway) will serve. It also means that marijuana production convictions can no longer be given an absolute or conditional discharge, which is considered beneficial in cases where the public is not at risk. This change is simply because the maximum sentence is now 14 years. The cases themselves have not changed one tiny bit, but the courts are now forced to see and respond to them differently.

Compare this to the minor developments surrounding cigarettes. Despite being highly addictive and dangerous to one's health, they are still widely available. The only substantial differences to their control has been the prohibition of smoking in public buildings and the restriction on advertising. There has been no change to the actual product or people's view of it, just change to the way the non-smoking public is presented with it. 

In another case energy drinks are becoming more highly controlled. Instead of energy drinks they will be labelled "Stimulant drug containing drinks", include a warning about cardiac irregularity, and may move to be sold only in pharmacies.  This in the face of drinks that are typically about the equivalent to a tall coffee or two cans of cola. Coffee and espresso drinks, of course, will not need such warnings, despite the fact that it is the same stimulant and since it is normalized, it is easier to overdose on. 

Compare these restrictions and developments to recent developments made against alcohol, despite the abysmal drunk driving record Canada holds, or to issues surrounding the obesity epidemic, where I have never seen a label warning people about the dangers of the high sugar or calorie content in a food.  These dangers have become 'normalized' in our society and so to introduce changes would be seen as unusual despite the fact that we know more about them now than we did before. Changes are good, apparently, just so long as they don't interfere with 'NORMAL' people; let the delinquents suffer, we have our rye.

The title, "Coffee and tobacco are complete repose" is a Turkish proverb.

Monday, September 19, 2011

PC First Ballot Results

It is not often that I will argue in favor of streamlining procedures - there's something about bogging everything down in nonsensical garbage that appeals to my inner procrastinator - but the PC leadership vote is definitely one of those times.

Since the top candidate, Gary Mar (Gary. Mar.) failed to garner at least 50% of the vote there will be a second vote on October 1st to decide between the top three; Mr. Mar, Ms. Redford, and Mr. Horner. What I don't understand is why they did not simply include the option for a second choice. I have no math to support it, but I suspect that it could have made enough of a difference to save us the multiple election obnoxiousness.

In fact, if I were to put my Paranoid Pants on for a moment, I would even suggest that the process was intended to favor one candidate over another...

I have tried to maintain a non-partisan stance for this blog but in the face of this development, I will cast aside the veil. Mr. Mar's campaign is running on two strengths: selling memberships ("My job is very clear over the next two weeks, I've got to get out there and sell more memberships and our team is going to do that.") and appealing to emotions (Albertans working on Albertans). This stance completely benefits from the extra two weeks to sell memberships (His volunteers were even accused of selling memberships illegal) and the sad fact is that people who are motivated by emotions, rather than rationality, are more motivated to get out and vote multiple times and more motivated to push their views on other people (passion begets passion). I can make no secret of the fact that his rude treatment of the debate announcer bothered me.

Ms. Redford, the next most likely candidate, is running a campaign based on intelligence, something I suspect even the other candidates know; there were several points where Ms. Redford silenced the room just by speaking, a privilege the other candidates were not afforded. She was the most effective at deliberately answering questions put to her, although I suspect this will not help her in the campaign since actually answering questions in politics is 'not done'. The two weeks will be useful for her to get out and start knocking on doors to sway folks over, but will make it hard to maintain her original voting base, since the brain does not motivate people to get on out and vote with the same intensity as emotions do. To be honest, she is my choice of candidate, and perhaps the threat that she may not win might be enough to push people like me to the voting booth.

In my opinion, the difference between these candidates is who we want to become. So far the "Angry Albertan take-back-what's-ours" stance has not served us very well, and I think Mr. Mar is promising more of the same, but using more people and money to do it. As Ms. Redford has said, "We're going to keep talking to every one of our supporters and make sure people know change is possible." In essence, she's the candidate we deserve, but not the candidate we want.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

CBC's PC Leadership debate: Part 2

Despite heavy opposition from the weather, gorgeous blue skies and just a hint of breeze, I managed to push through the next section. Just remember that; I stared at old guys in suits, rather than work on my tan, just for you.

Ted Morton's question: How will you make sure we Albertans get our fair share of the oil revenue?

We need to control our environment in the north. Growth is the key. We will do so through the land stewardship act.

DG: It's not fair -We need the right balance, jobs, environment, and help.

RO: It's not the stewardship act - that can control the revenue too much. Development needs to come through repeal of bill 36 and proper infrastructure.

TM: We need improved activity in the north, since we're global now. Bill 36 must be good because industry supports it.

AR:  It's ultimately about community and programs, we need to manage these better so we feel proud and successful, regardless of our actual share.

(Gary mar talks over the announcer) That's not it - it's about being competitive. We need to undo the royalty change that happened four years ago (was boo-ed at this point)

Doug Horner's question: How will you make sure government is open, transparent and accountable?

These issues are critical so we can engage our citizens. It is not our job to have great ideas, but to lead and let citizens have great ideas. We can't do it without you or without showing you what we're doing. Not just in finances, but also decision making.

DG: There is a tendency to withhold info, and lead the people to the decisions we want them to make.

GM: We're already open on electronic tools, town hall meetings. We should use live streaming.

DH: Connection should be in person too, a live dialogue.

RO: Why haven't we been open? 4 members here, who have previous been in, will uphold the status quo, if you want that.

AR: We need a long term policy plan; there must be dialogue. I will hold cabinet ministers accountable to conversation with the public.

TM: I plan to strengthen the auditor general to reduce government waste and scandal.

(Was reminded by the announcer the question was about openness, reminding him he had been in the news lately for reason similar)
TM: That wasn't me, that was Frederick Lee (his legal name).
AN: (laughs)
TM: I am working with the privacy minister, on the case about internal communication. I have email.

Announcer asks the people who have been on cabinet, "Are emails shredded when you resign?"

AR: The next day after resigning the accounts have been closed. I never considered it before.

DH: It's true, the emails are either transferred to the new person or deleted. Relevant ones may be saved.

TM: how do you shred email?

AN: We know what they mean.

TM: All emails are achieved. Every thing's documented. It would be illegal, a FOIP issue, to wander out with confidential paperwork.

RO: I just want to know why were there confidential emails and a pseudonym? I think you were disenfranchising metis people about their rights.

TM: I was repeating legal advice, the same you get from a lawyer.

Allison Redford's question: Why, in a wealthy province like ours, are our class sizes expanding and we are reducing the number of teachers. What are you going to do about it?

Eliminate the cut. Classrooms matter. Why are we making these decisions based on a fiscal imperative, rather than our values?

DH: We need to change our view; need to budget for the outcome that we want. Not a cap. Teachers need to be honored, and given resources. (applause)

RO: So why were the members not making this argument when they were making policy? Don't sign contracts you can't uphold.

DH: That's what I'm saying. You voted for it too.

RO: You were deputy premier!

DH: That's why I hate this!

GM: We end up like this because we don't have adequate long term planning.  (talks over announcer) It seems like terrible planning.

TM: I proposed a $2000 tuition credit for post-secondary students.

Next Question to Rick Orman: This week we welcomed 6000 students who could predict their tuition thanks to the tuition freeze. Will you maintain this freeze as premier?

I can't say if we will or not, but I know that institutions need funding. I plan to give them a long-term funding structure so they can stabilize.
GM: Absolutely I would, I will also look at student financing. No more parental income requirement. Look at housing situation.

DG: I would totally get rid of it, it just limits the money that goes to post-secondary institutions. I would rather give students more loans then offset their income tax.

DH: Students need the money upfront, and the cap is reasonable. We could allow the students to take part in this decision. I agree with RO, which surprises me, it's not just about tuition. We could use digital textbooks to save money and such.

AR: We need the cap to establish predictability for students. We do need incentives to keep graduates here but we need predictability more.

Friday will wrap up the whole debate, with some single question directed at individual candidates that all are invited to answer. 

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

CBC's PC Leadership debate: Part 1

After having burned out for a week, trying to get back into the swing of writing posts, while resuming classes and working a double shift, was pretty arduous. In fact, I did not really believe I would even get one out. But then I started to watch the debate. Bless the candidate's little hearts, they have motivated me to write. They were hilarious to watch; squabbling, talking over each other, ignoring the moderator, and failing to answer the question in the best tradition of politicians everywhere. To be frank they (*wipes away tear*) taught me to believe in politics again.

In case it isn't painfully obvious I have abbreviated the candidates' names to their initials for brevity. The announcer even dipped in so far that I felt the need to give her the title AN, since she becomes rather involved. So the actors are; Doug Griffiths: DG, Doug Horner: DH, Gary Mar: GM, Rick Orman: RO, Ted Morton: TM, Allison Redford: AR, and the announcer: AN.

The phrase, "Tories at forty" feels wrong for some reason that I can't put my finger on, but we don't dwell on it long since CBC leaps right into the questions with a blisteringly pandering query, "Why should you be the next premier?" The candidates are afforded one minute each.

RO: Talks about the two levels of leadership experience he carries: business and government. He believes that people will value his experience. He also says he can identify good ideas, make discussions about them, implement them, and communicate the outcome, which could prove to be tautological; if he doesn't win, obviously running was not a good idea to implement.

GM:  He also talks about his experience as various ministers but also pledges to be a champion for Alberta and have a passion for the province.Also his family has been here for a hell of a long time, before 1905 when we were still part of the NWT, but that doesn't necessarily mean anything.

DG: plays on his youth by saying he understands the youth vote and will be someone the province can rally behind to leave something for the next generation. I don't want to be mean, but 38 is only a 'youth' in politics. If you attempt to claim youth outside that arena, people will look at you funny.

TM: Gets a bit off track after saying the next 40 years should be as good as the last 40, then discussing how we are leading Canada's economy, but comes to roost talking about how the north is the new frontier.

DH: He plans to shake things up by redefining the party by the existing principles, (is that really redefining?)but he wants to unify for decision-making, improve our presence on the global stage, invest for the future with energy and healthcare to make a make a province people stay in, because as we know emigration is killing us.

AR: Back to business as usual, talking about her experience, while saying she wants a good province to raise her family in.

People were invited to write in with questions. Each candidate drew a question at random, then had forty-five seconds to answer it before it was opened for panel discussion. Gary Mar picked the first question: Should Albertans be given more opportunity to pay for faster healthcare?
He responded that he is a strong supporter of our healthcare and is strongly in favor of a public system but we can find other delivery methods. He wants to restrict care locally and mentions Albertans working on Albertans, a point that only works if there is no one present to call you out on your bigotry.
AR: No, what Albertans want is care for all people equally.
GM: So you won't allow people who want to pay, and have been doing so, to continue?
DH: We should never focus on a private system without a solid public system in place first.
TM: Sure, but we can still have a private system that's publicly paid.
DG: We need to make some real substantial change.
DH: We need to explore other delivery methods - emails etc. without focusing on 'in person' treatment.
GM: We do need a strong public system, but there are other options. This could be a resource to use.
DH: There are better ways to do that (rather than private) We should open to other types of healthcare professionals, such as nurses, etc.
TM: We could keep the public system but allow more private delivery, why not?
(I was discussing this question with Victor when he wondered what a 'publically paid private system' would be. He settled on the idea that everyone would pay it but only rich people would get it.)

Doug Griffith answered the next question: How will you make sure there are enough public, long-term care beds for seniors?
He says it's a matter of priorities; 'there are other opportunities but this is long term care. It is important to do this rather than leave people in hospital beds.' which is not really an answer, but if I started to expect actual answers from politicians I'd be lying in bed clutching my wubbie after two days.
RO: Long term care facilities are expensive to build. So we would use old government lands like inner city schools to build facilities..
GM: There will be more seniors in the future. We need to commit to better senior care now like home care, etc.
AR: The practical problem is defining service and support. We need a better healthcare model. moving people less. We need to have the authority to 'rein in' Alberta healthcare (She received a second round of applause here - did she bring her own audience section?)
TM: We need to let seniors stay home by allowing a property tax deferral.

I was hoping to  include more questions, since this is scarcely a quarter of the way into the debate, but the next question revolves around the Land Stewardship act, and so I want to do some reading up before writing on it. I'll be back Wednesday, when a member of the panel gets booed.

Saturday, September 03, 2011

Wildcard Weekend: Everyone's Surprised!

I found this video at some point in the day, liked it so much that I copy and pasted it into a new blog post, then got so distracted by the rest of the day that I have forgotten what it was. So I figured I would just post it anyway and then we could all be surprised. 

Friday, September 02, 2011

Doug Griffiths: The Average Award-winning Teacher

When I first found his site, oddly the second link rather than the first on google, I had to double check that it was not the home shopping channel, since the top right said "6 easy steps to help" and included the number 1-855-GO-GRIFF. Then I noticed he had only three policy sections and I decided I didn't care if it was his site or not, I was using it anyway.

He presents his theories in three short videos, and includes this gem at the top,  
"If you have heard him speak at one of his hundreds of community building events, you will likely understand his values and principles clearly"
It places the burden of finding and understanding his policies on the reader, rather than on him, the onus to present them.

Community Development Policy
I'm not sure I agree with his opening sally that success globally doesn't matter if each of our communities is not successful, sometimes it can be the other way around. He wants to focus on four pillars to build strong communities; Education, healthcare, economic development, and quality of life. he talks about balancing our weaknesses amongst each other, but that's not a plan for a community; humans can't care about an entire huge community in the same way they care for their close family. There's a really pandering moment where he pauses in his speech, delivered while sitting on a back porch, to tousle the hair of a chubby cheeked little boy drinking a glass of juice. I had to stop for a minute to check for my insulin shot. I was going to base this post simply on the strengths of his video, but since the only information I could glean was, "strong communities are good, mmkay?" I simply have to crack open his policy document and have a gander.

All right so, he wants to clearly define each government's responsibilities, give healthcare and education power to the municipalities, encourage communities to work together, and find a way to stop paying municipalities. I'm not sure why this man wants to be elected to the provincial council if he is going to dissolve it all. At least he points out his criteria for success; too bad it's 'bigger communities'.

Fiscal Responsibilities
While nonchalantly checking his mail, he lets us know that provinces need to know where money is coming from, and where it's going. Dude, it's coming from the people, and going to ... the people. That wasn't so hard.
He tells us that we take in 12 Billion in taxes, but spend 39 billion elsewhere (healthcare taking 15 billion of that). He makes it seem like this is a dire situation, then says we rely on things like property taxes and fuel taxes and, since we take money from the federal government, we rely on other people. The two options he feels we have, then, are to 'blow up' the programs or to leave things the way they are (I must confess, I favor this option). He calls the other payment options (property taxes etc.) are 'good fortune', but I don't understand why he feels this is different from personal and corporate taxes. This is, though, the first time a candidate has focused on how much money we get from the federal government, rather than banging the table about how much we give them.

So the policy manual breaks this down into: refilling the heritage savings fund, fund non-essential services with service fees and donations, talking to Albertans about the province's money, not making drastic changes with the spending vs. revenue dynamic, reforming the corporate tax structure to keep it the same, reducing welfare programs, and getting Albertans to solve their own problems. That last one is my favorite; we are such a bunch of big babies about not doing our own healthcare. One further thing I want to point out is that he advocates spending money on infrastructure during recessions, which I fully support but tends to be unpopular since it looks bad (see. Obama's stimulus package).

Education Policy
I love being in the homestretch after only three sections.
He points out that during his tenure as a teacher no-one ever said that Alberta spends too much on education; shame he never learned about sampling bias. The whole education = good video is topped off with some off-putting finger shaking at the end. It's really unsettling.

The same old tune, not even brushed up; Support teachers, meet educational needs, stable funding.
He does suggest rewarding good behaviour for teachers, and opening community schools, to encourage a bit of spice. His ideas about revamping the CALM (career and life management) course, establishing mobile shops, and fostering other curriculum delivery methods seem to suggest he might be better suited as minister for education, rather than premier. 

Anyway, that's all for Mr. Doug Griffiths, which is pretty concise. To be honest, since everyone is saying the same thing with only minor variations, the vote should be pretty tame and will likely come down to who has the most friends. I can't wait.

Oh my goodness. Hold the phone. I just found his section titled, "Why Doug?" which, if you insert a comma, sounds like a heart-filled plea. In this section he includes all the reasons we should vote for him, entwined with compelling pictures of himself in rolled up sleeves and clip-on microphones. "No sales pitches or hype" he says, "100% Volunteer" (yes, but is it from concentrate?), and "Father of two young kids". I have to go apologize to Mr. Canadian Pun'd it because I think I was just suckered into reading some guy's dating profile.
See you all next week! Don't forget; September 17th!

Thursday, September 01, 2011

Doug Horner Throws in One More, FOR FREE: Part Two

When I lunged into the second half, with renewed vigor, I got completely derailed by one word that took me a half an hour to recover from: Mavericks. I kid you not, he says the people of Alberta are mavericks. I'm not sure if I want to make a Palin joke or a Top Gun joke, either way poor word usage.

Innovation & Entrepreneurship
The first policy actually grabbed me right from the start: Teaching entrepreneurship to kids in the K-12 system. I really like this idea as, typically, starting a business seems quite daunting without instruction, and so those who would like to start one tend to wait until age tempers them. This with his mentorship program, venture funding program, and increased funding for engineering programs, could turn out to be highly successful at boosting the innovation in our province. The only part that confused me was the plan to "liberate the latent intellectual property that resides in universities to the free market for adoption and commercialization". Does he genuinely think that if there was some easy way to extract money from anything in the university, that the university wouldn't have exploited it already? Or is he talking about kidnapping professors?

Expanding Population
He provides a bevy of interesting immigration policies, that run the range of good to bad. Programs to encourage successful immigration are good, negotiating directly with the federal government for a tailor-made immigration program could be good or bad, and funding an Alberta equivalency program in foreign countries so that people can graduate directly with Alberta approved education is downright terrible. The cost would be significant, while the result would be either negligible interest or the burden of providing equivalent education for anyone who wanted to work anywhere in Canada. The only way it would be effective is for doctors, since we are so desperate it would be worth it almost regardless of cost. 

Brand Stewardship
This whole section reads like a mash-up of a kid's third grade introduction and that time a down-and-out day trader slept on your couch for a month, even though you tried to help him find work with your sister's former roommate as a receptionist. It waffles between throwing our 'stories' in the world's face and asking them for help with our problems and networking, with a soupcon of redecorating our foreign offices thrown in. I think the best approach right now, considering our negative press, might be to just lay low and negotiate directly with business partners, ie. people who don't give a crap about how 'nice' we are, they just really want to get paid.

Building Capacity
The main goal stated in this building capacity section is to promote development of government officials and other people who work in the public sector. He plans to remove 'self-imposed restrictions' such as hiring freezes, but even though I am not familiar with all the various reasons for the freezes, I am pretty sure they serve some purpose. Aw, who am I kidding? The man said the golden words, " Enhance Alberta’s post-secondary programs focused on public policy and provide opportunities for meaningful employment in public organizations". He could have drooled the rest of the section into a Mondrian of phlegm and I'd still like it.

Excellence in the Arts
I am unsure what occurred recently, but the over-emphasis on courting the hippie-liberal vote has me standing amazed and stupefied. Sometimes it makes me so proud to be an Albertan I can almost overlook the bumper sticker I saw the other day that read, "My truck was built with wrenches, not chopsticks". (True story. I even had my collapsible chopsticks a foot away; I could have grabbed them and given her the finger and she would have known EXACTLY why I was pissed, but I was at work and apparently that kind of behaviour is 'unprofessional'. TL;dr Being a grow'd up still sucks.) Stable funding for the arts foundation for three years, connect businesses with the arts, encourage community arts; it's like a dream! Oh, be still my fluttering heart.

Direct Communication
There are three sections he promises within this section, I'll disseminate them in order of least to most funniest. The least funniest, of course, being his plan to pass down an itemized priority list so everyone is on the same page vis a vi the gameplan for the province. It's a good idea to put everyone on the same cloud nine, but the problem is less that people don't know, and more that they disagree on the order of priorities. The second funniest is that he plans to tell everyone of all the decisions that were made and the reasoning behind them. This back and forth, informing everyone of all moves, is going to bog down the process worse than a pound of butter in a vegan. The funniest point is that he plans to say what he'll do, and do what he'll say but, of course, in order to believe that, we first must believe that he'll do what he says, ie. doing what he says he'll do. It's delightfully intrinsic.

Empowering Seniors
To be honest, I'd be surprised if most seniors managed to make it this far in his policy program - I aged about fifty years just reading this saga. He aims to separate seniors care from healthcare, which would be a sensible move that I believe would empower seniors but would also cost millions in taxes, let alone the millions required to boost the blue cross healthcare provided and force seniors to take advantage of every service they are eligible for (Note: that is not hyperbole. That is his policy). The mentoring and couple's housing are great ideas, but there is simply too much money required for a sector that never returns a profit (and, to be honest, should not be expected to)

Principled Governance
I suspect that this man might be just rehashing the same thing over and over: This whole section consists of communication, openness, and opportunities. The same principles brought up in the direct communication section. Perhaps he has two different campaign managers?

Structural Effectiveness
Let me break this down really nicely:
1. Make departments work together.
2. Find out what these 'Inter-tubes' are.
3. Run thought experiments in case of zombie apocalypse.
4. Make the provinces work together.

Top 100 Employees
It may be just my waning patience, but the final section reminds me most of a kindergarten class: Ideas, community, healthy environment, progress, and being a role model.

More glurg and sugar everywhere, but to be honest there are some good ideas underneath this candy-coating. I would like to actually meet Mr. Horner in person to get a better idea of his personality, especially when he promises to "Do what he says and says what he does". A noble idea that stronger people have lost in the face of the furnace that is provincial politics.