Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Earth Hour Brantford

Like the year previous I and my daughter went down to Harmony Square to celebrate Earth Hour. Of course I took my camcorder and recorded the proclamation as read by the Town Crier and the countdown to 8:30PM

The crowd wasn't as good as last year, I suspect the cold weather had much to do with that. Even though the crowd was less, I would say, just in my travels, it seemed people had turned off their lights in solidarity with the entire concept of Earth Hour.

The result for Brantford, as reported in the media, was a 5.6% decrease in energy consumption for that time period. This is about half what it was last year, so there seems not to have been the same enthusiasm and interest. I should point out there is a move to have an "Earth Hour" once a month on the last Saturday. I would say that the young people behind the move have a good thought, I hope people will agree and do something on a monthly basis or at least make a decrease in energy consumption and making the carbon footstep a little smaller.

I wonder if Earth Hour is becoming one of those targets for all sides. After all, it could be viewed not just the symbolic gesture of lowering consumption and being made aware of the fact that ultimately we are simply stewards of this planet we call home. We have borrowed it from the previous generation to hand it over to the next.

Earth Hour is being criticized by some as being one of those fluffy acts of environmentalism, you know it makes us feel good that we have done something, without actually doing something. It is a gesture which might be an empty gesture at worse. It could be seen in the same light as recycling. Please understand I do recycle, I try to be faithful with my recycling, separating my paper and cardboard from metal and plastics. Why I say that it because there are other ways, after all, when did I say I want all those products packed in plastics. Especially those things in plastic that take specialized knifes to cut open. Who officially called that a smart idea, do we need to be so crazy with packaging. So Earth Hour, we turn off some of the lights, sit in the dark for one hour and feel we've done something good for the Planet.

Perhaps we need to look beyond the immediate and consider what it all means, the main webpage has this:
Earth Hour started in 2007 in Sydney, Australia when 2.2 million homes and businesses turned their lights off for one hour to make their stand against climate change. Only a year later and Earth Hour had become a global sustainability movement with more than 50 million people across 35 countries participating. Global landmarks such as the, Sydney Harbour Bridge, The CN Tower in Toronto, The Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco, and Rome’s Colosseum, all stood in darkness, as symbols of hope for a cause that grows more urgent by the hour.

It reminds us we need to do something. It's one act that lowers energy consumption for an hour, but it makes us think that we can consider the fact we don't need to use as much energy. I know one crank suggested a lot of the planet already 'celebrates' Earth Hour because their energy consumption is like their income, next to nothing. Is it simply an act by the West to pretend we care when we really don't?


Is it the first step towards a change in the way we treat the resources of the planet and its environment? I wonder that Earth Hour is the proverbial first step for in the 1000 mile march. It got to start somewhere and some place. However, if we simply get complacent and say that's all we need to do, then it is a failure.

The old saying still holds true: "Think Globally, Act Locally". We need to do more to lower the carbon emissions. I know there will be some who scream "Climategate", well put me on the side that believes we are doing damage to the Planet and we can cut down our consumption of the planet's resources. It is happening by the way, things are starting to get better, bit by bit, but there is still more.

Earth Hour reminds us there is the grassroots desire to do more. What needs to happen is get leadership to see this and get with a climate treaty that does work and not this cap and trade nonsense. Lowering emissions and carbon means just that, not making a deal with another country: 'you keep that tree up and I don't have to stop driving an SUV'.

Earth Hour is a good idea, but let's not get stuck on just doing that.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Clevr is Clever

I've been trying to do some work taking panorama photographs. With software it is possible, then I found Clevr. It seems to be a great website and application to take a group of photographs to make one very nice panorama.

I went to the website, downloaded the Adobe AIR desktop application and started joining the photographs.

Once joined, the results can be downloaded to the computer or to the website. There the panorama can be viewed through its viewer. With the viewer one can examine the result.

Panorama of Kreative Khaos on CleVR.com

CleVR is impressive and I can believe it will be a useful website.

I've got to admit, using AIR is easy and I will do amazing work with my camera and this site. Before the south side of Colborne is changed, it might be a great way of preserving the building through film rather then watching it completely disappear.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Good News on the Environmental Front

I suspect environmentalists don't get invited to too many parties. After all, its hard to have someone over to drinks and hors d'oeuvres when they will only sit there, or stand and remind you how bad things are going and the fact the we humans are on the verge of destroying all life on the planet. This is not a fun group. I mean you try to get to them to commit to a date and all they tell you is , 'why bother, the world will end soon'.

Today, I am pleased to comment about some good news that I discovered recently in my readings.

The first is from BBC News and it has to do with forest loss. It seems that there are attempts to change this and while there is a long way to go, it seems deforestation is starting to slow. The lead paragraph of the article states:
The world's net rate of forest loss has slowed markedly in the last decade, with less logging in the Amazon and China planting trees on a grand scale

There are marked signs of recovery; for example, China has begun a process of massive forestation, which is better then massive deforestation that's for sure. I suspect China has learned a hard lesson on the dangers of moving fast into industrialization without concern.

The Food and Agricultural Organization reports that:
Brazil and Indonesia, which had the highest loss of forests in the 1990s, have significantly reduced their deforestation rates. In addition, ambitious tree planting programmes in countries such as China, India, the United States and Viet Nam - combined with natural expansion of forests in some regions - have added more than seven million hectares of new forests annually. As a result the net loss of forest area was reduced to 5.2 million hectares per year between 2000 and 2010, down from 8.3 million hectares annually in the 1990s.

The world's total forest area is just over four billion hectares or 31 percent of the total land area. The net annual loss of forests (when the sum of all gains in forest area is smaller than all losses) in 2000-2010 is equivalent to an area about the size of Costa Rica.

Obviously, there is still work to do, Brazil, while slowing down, still demonstrates a attitude towards cutting timber from the Rain Forest at an alarming rate. The land is cleared to provide room for livestock and crops, as well as exploration and exploitation of mineral wealth in the region. Mining does cause a great deal of destruction. Still it is good to see there is a slowingn down of the rate, perhaps as things develop this may be reversed the Brazil will actively end the cutting down of the Rain Forest and leave it alone.

The report points out that the reforestation program of China will end in 2020, however that's not to say if the results are positive, it won't be renewed and even more land will be reforested. As well, one has India and Vietnam engaged in the same program.

Another problem is Africa, it still suffers greatly from deforestation and I suspect there are problems from the expansion of the Sahara, encroaching south and killing the forest, as well as deforestation that is uncontrolled because there are, in some regions, no effective government to police these matters.

Still this is good news. After the disaster that was Cop Out 15 it's good to see things are beginning to improve on the planet. One might say we have a long way to go, but still let's celebrate the victories where they are and encourage ourselves to think we can actually do better.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Ann Coulter, Freedom and the University of Ottawa

It all started with a letter:
Dear Ms. Coulter,
I understand that you have been invited by University of Ottawa Campus Conservatives to speak at the University of Ottawa this coming Tuesday. We are, of course, always delighted to welcome speakers on our campus and hope that they will contribute positively to the meaningful exchange of ideas that is the hallmark of a great university campus. We have a great respect for freedom of expression in Canada, as well as on our campus, and view it as a fundamental freedom, as recognized by our Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

I would, however, like to inform you, or perhaps remind you, that our domestic laws, both provincial and federal, delineate freedom of expression (or “free speech”) in a manner that is somewhat different than the approach taken in the United States. I therefore encourage you to educate yourself, if need be, as to what is acceptable in Canada and to do so before your planned visit here. You will realize that Canadian law puts reasonable limits on the freedom of expression. For example, promoting hatred against any identifiable group would not only be considered inappropriate, but could in fact lead to criminal charges. Outside of the criminal realm, Canadian defamation laws also limit freedom of expression and may differ somewhat from those to which you are accustomed. I therefore ask you, while you are a guest on our campus, to weigh your words with respect and civility in mind. There is a strong tradition in Canada, including at this University, of restraint, respect and consideration in expressing even provocative and controversial opinions and urge you to respect that Canadian tradition while on our campus. Hopefully, you will understand and agree that what may, at first glance, seem like unnecessary restrictions to freedom of expression do, in fact, lead not only to a more civilized discussion, but to a more meaningful, reasoned and intelligent one as well.
I hope you will enjoy your stay in our beautiful country, city and campus.


François Houle
Vice-recteur aux études / Vice-President Academic and Provost
 Université d’Ottawa / University of Ottawa
550, rue Cumberland Street
Ottawa (ON) K1N 6N5
 téléphone / telephone : 613 562-5737 
télécopieur / fax : 613 562-5103

The Provost had some issues with Ms Coulter coming to his university and spewing her usual right wing rant.

Let's talk about opinion: I am not a fan of Ann Coulter. I have read one of her books but I found it so full of full of that I can't bring myself to read any more of her trite. The problem I have with her, besides being a right wing whack job is that she uses the fears of people and exploits them. She uses the tools demagogues have used throughout history and she's really not that profound a speaker. A few minutes listening to her, or reading her, get all the information you want.

Then the University of Ottawa decides to get involved and then she becomes a martyr of free speech, free expression and freedom as a whole. Even though she would be glad to take away personal liberty and freedom from people she viewed to be not like her. That includes Moslems, Liberals, Immigrants and any one who disagrees with her.

She responded to the Provost:
"Now that the provost has instructed me on the criminal speech laws he apparently believes I have a proclivity (to break), despite knowing nothing about my speech, I see that he is guilty of promoting hatred against an identifiable group: conservatives," Coulter wrote in an e-mail to the Ottawa Citizen on Monday. The Citizen had requested a telephone interview with Coulter but instead received the e-mail from the author.

She questioned whether every speaker booked at the university receives a similar warning, or just the conservative ones.

"The provost simply believes and is publicizing his belief that conservatives are more likely to commit hate crimes in their speeches. Not only does this promote hatred against conservatives, but it promotes violence against conservatives,"

Now she is going to wrap herself as a victim of political correctness and overweening government censorship of Conservatives such as herself. She will say the problem is the fact she is a CONSERVATIVE. That may be the reason but even is she is a right wing nut bar, she should be allowed to speak. Those that don't want to hear her message have the freedom to be some place else on the time she plays. As well, they have the right to stand outside of the meeting place and complain about her words and opinions, that too is called 'freedom of expression'. Now, pulling the fire alarm is an act of vandalism and that should be denounced. That was wrong. She should be allowed to speak because when she does people will recognize her as the vapid lunatic she truly is.

The idea that she spews material that could be considered 'hate crime', is not true. As many have pointed out, while Canada does have laws against hate crimes, the bar as articulated by the Supreme Court is so high that only the most egregious speeches and words fall under that definition.

Now she is the poster girl of oppression. She will milk this for all its worth. Just what we need. She will comment on this again and again. She will tell people what sort of country Canada is, well in some regards she will be correct.

In fact its already started:
Since I arrived in Canada, I've been denounced on the floor of Parliament... My posters have been banned. I've been accused of committing a crime in a speech that I have not yet given. I was banned by the student council -- so welcome to Canada!" Coulter lamented.

"I would like to know when this sort of violence, this sort of protest, has been inflicted upon a Muslim -- who appear to be, from what I've read of the human rights complaints, the only protected group in Canada," she said.

"I think I'll give my speech tomorrow night (in Calgary) in a burqa. That will protect me."

Witty isn't she. I must say that the best way to respond to Ms Coulter and those who would shut her up is the words of Evelyn Beatrice Hall:
I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it,'

To say that does not mean you agree with her opinion, but rather you believe she has the right to express them. The thing is, when she speaks, she reveals her ignorance. She needs to speak early and often.

But that's my opinion.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Banksy is Right

I was reading Adbusters in the local library. It's one of the things I like to do when I'm there. It's a great magazine and has some interesting articles. Usually the main articles are the ones that are thought provoking, but as I read the most recent issue there was a quote from Banksy. As you probably know, he's a graffiti artist of a great deal of fame. His works are now found in a number of cities around the world.

Let me quote him, and you can find the quotation at the website Wreck and Salvage:

People are taking the piss out of you everyday. They butt into your life, take a cheap shot at you and then disappear. They leer at you from tall buildings and make you feel small. They make flippant comments from buses that imply you’re not sexy enough and that all the fun is happening somewhere else. They are on TV making your girlfriend feel inadequate. They have access to the most sophisticated technology the world has ever seen and they bully you with it. They are “The Advertisers” and they are laughing at you.

You, however, are forbidden to touch them. Trademarks, intellectual property rights and copyright law mean advertisers can say what they like wherever they like with total impunity.

F*** that. Any advert in a public space that gives you no choice whether you see it or not is yours. It’s yours to take, re-arrange and re-use. You can do whatever you like with it. Asking for permission is like asking to keep a rock someone just threw at your head.

You owe the companies nothing. Less than nothing, you especially don’t owe them any courtesy. They owe you. They have re-arranged the world to put themselves in front of you. They never asked for your permission, don’t even start asking for theirs.

The overall theme of the magazine was Altermodern. It seems we are now out of postmodernism and now a new era has begun, an era that:
Altermodern, a compound word defined by Nicolas Bourriaud, is an attempt at branding art made in today's global context as a reaction against standardisation and commercialism.

As I read the quote I have to admit I thought "Banksy is brilliant". Consider what we see, advertisement is based upon our inadequacies. We are not perfect, in fact modern day branding confronts us with our imperfections and mocks us because we do not fit the standard of perfection that is declared by companies such as the Gap, or United Colors of Benetton

This leads to the question, why do we allow them? I know that advertisement is based upon the notion of inventing a need that doesn't exist and filling that need with a product no one actually wants. Which still doesn't answer the question, why do we let them? Wny do we allow them to bombard us with these messages. Why do we allow them to fill our public space with their abuse?

So as I think of the questions I've asked, I can only come to one conclusion: Banksy is Right.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

More from Monday

So for this blog I decided I'd post some of the video I shot. There was three speakers, unfortunately I started too late for the first but wised up for the other two. Sadly I totally messed up Lloyd Alter's name and organization. Sorry about that.

The third speech was by David Bornstein:

As you can hear, David's speech did get the crowd fired up for the march. Seems there is some discrepancy on what is being reported and what is the reality.

So the issue is still before the city. There are supporters on both sides of the issue; those that feel the face of the city will be marred by the image of the south side of Colborne as it is right now and those who feel this can be the area of revitalization.

Monday, March 08, 2010

Demonstrate to Save the South Side

A Facebook Group announced that at 5:00PM this Monday, there was to be a demonstration to bring attention the unwanted demolition of the south side of Colborne Street. If you follow any of the links I've posted in the various blogs, you will note that the destruction is not a slam dunk as it once was viewed as such. In fact there seems to be a groundswell of action and attention. It's not that people are for the ending of the south side, probably because there seems to be some cracks in the plans that were once thought of the new reality are falling by the wayside.

I had the privilege of walking down the street to see what was going to happen. I did bring my trusty Insignia digital camcorder to take some videos and photographs of the demonstration. I noticed things are changing along the street, it seems those involved in the demolition have started to perform the deed:

A good group had shown up by the 5 o'clock hour:

The message is clear, there has to be a better way. The answer to the south side is not to raze it all, but to consider the alternatives. As one speaker said, it is better to renovate and restore.

My plan is to post some of the videos I shot tomorrow.

For more information, follow this Facebook group.

Peace all.

Thursday, March 04, 2010

Googles has a Picnik

The technology press has been all over the news of the latest Google acquisition: Google has purchased the most excellent photo editing site Picnik. Since the announcement on the first, there has been article after article announcing, discussing and attempting to bring understanding of the event. The question, why did Google do it? I guess one answer could be, they've got the money to do it and so why not. But seriously, Picnik is a fun site, I've used a number of times, it is simple to use and you can do so much, even with the free account. It has been pointed out in the article by PCMagazine, it is one of the first sites to bring photo editing to the cloud. As we know, the cloud is important to Google, they want to make cloud computing as the next step with the computing experience. The thought is that no longer will you need to store anything on your computer's hard drive, you can put it all on the servers which are owned by Google, or some other service.

The purchase, according to Brian Axe, one of the product managers was:
"We're looking forward to collaborating closely with [Picnik] to improve the online photo editing experience on the web," Axe concluded. "In the meantime, we encourage you to head to Picnik, import some of your photos from Picasa Web Albums, Flickr or Facebook and try your hand at photo editing in the cloud."

According to the blog posted on the Picnik site:
And all this leads us to today’s exciting news: we’ve just been acquired by Google! What does this mean for Picnik? It means we can think BIG. Google processes petabytes of data every day, and with their worldwide infrastructure and world-class team, it is truly the best home we could have found. Under the Google roof we’ll reach more people than ever before, impacting more lives and making more photos more awesome.

What does this mean for you Picnikers? Nothing is changing right away, but Picnik now has more potential than ever before. The team that built Picnik from the grass up will continue making advanced and powerful photo-editing easier, more intuitive and more fun, so stay tuned to hear about all the cool new stuff we’re working on. We want to thank you all for being great users, pushing us to grow and do big things. So thank you all for your continued support, and Happy Picniking!

They are quite pumped about the whole thing, the 20 staff members will remain working on this project from their office in Seattle. They will now be employees of Google, I suspect with stock options. The purchase price has not been announced. It can be safe to assume it was a boat load of money.

As I said, I've used Picnik for my own photo editing, both prints I have uploaded and also since it is the editor of choice of my other favourite site Pikchur. When I go to edit a photograph, I click the button and Picnik launches. I hope that doesn't change, while Google wants integration with Picasa, I'm not quite a fan of Picasa. I'ved used it, and I know anything I post to this account goes to Picasa. I've got too many other places to post photographs I suppose.

I hope Google stays true and doesn't change anything with Picnik. Keep it as it is, this is why it was purchased, it doesn't need much in the way of change.

What do I want to say? To the people of Picnik good on you. You know have a lot of money in which to further refine develop and make your site the place to go for photo editing. I hope you had a real fun Monday after the announcement was made, you deserve a very nice dinner for all the hard work you've put into the site.

Tuesday, March 02, 2010

A Dark Day?

First of all, let me say to the party or parties involved with the posting of the sign: why didn't you do that before I was downtown taking some photographs? I would have gladly included that in my blog posting from yesterday.

With that said, there is a groundswell of interest in what may or may not happen with the south side of Colborne Street. Today the local paper carried an article regarding a letter from the Ministry of Tourism and Culture. There is some concern now being expressed at Queen's Park about the demolition of the south side of the street. The opening paragraphs expressed this interest:
City officials are trying to get to the bottom of a surprise letter from the Ministry of Tourism and Culture, hoping it won't present another unexpected "bump" in plans to demolish 40 buildings on the south side of downtown Colborne Street.

The letter, from Chris Schiller, manager of culture of the ministry's culture services unit, informed the city that the ministry has taken an interest in the city's demolition plans and requests that it conduct a full assessment under the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act of the stretch of properties slated for imminent demolition.

According to the letter, obtained by The Expositor, the assessment is to include a "thorough heritage evaluation ... prior to any demolition of the properties noted to satisfy that there is no provincial interest in these properties."

The letter also requests that the city carry out an archaeological assessment "required" under the province's regulations for determining archaeological potential -"prior to any ground disturbances and/or site alterations."

I suspect, among other things, the city leaders must be getting frustrated that there is now all this interest, when for so many years none was being expressed. It seems only when the City has decided to expropriate the property and them come up with the idea of tearing it all down, that people are now coming out and saying the South should be saved. I do confess even written a blog or two about the south side as well.

Recently, a blog regarding the downtown showed up in the Spacing Toronto website. This site is the online presence of the great Canadian magazine "Spacing", for which I do have a subscription to, at least I do remember renewing it, I'll have to check. The article, written by Nigel Terpstra is entitled "Brantford's downtown destruction". Even thought the article features a photograph of part of the north side of Colborne, which was pointed out in some of the comments, Nigel does make some interesting points. He writes:
Both the mayor and the town’s councillors seem to believe that developers will flock to the newly vacated space, but the chances of this happening are slim. Furthermore, when the older structures are torn down, the individual parcels of land upon which they stood will be too small to be developed on their own and will therefore be bundled into bigger and more profitable tracts. The buildings which will be built on these new lots will also be larger and will contain fewer opportunities for individual retailers to establish themselves, changing scale of the street completely. It seems therefore, that what we are faced with is less the surgical removal of a specific set of structures in an effort to revive a larger precinct, than the clear cutting of three blocks at the whim of a pro-development city council.

It is simple enough to say the council is simply pro-development and does believe the notion that the best thing to do with the old is tear down and construct something brand new in its place.

It has been pointed out by many, the south side was not devoid of life, there were shops and restaurants, some that survived years in their location. They had built a strong and loyal customer base and brought some people into the core.

They thrived despite the environment which was not the healthiest.

The response of the City has been to seek clarification and to understand. The same article in the Expositor pointed out none of the properties have ever been declared heritage property, meaning they have been changed.

So what happens now? That is the good question. I wonder if the Ministry responding to pressure, or do they want to ensure all is being done according to the rules. If they are interested in considering the preservation aspect, will they release some money for restoration?

So I ask myself the questions:

1) is the only answer to the problem, raze and rebuild?
2) is the University the panacea to all the ills, or a part of the solution, an important part indeed, but still part.
3) how can the city ensure that the downtown is the fun place to be in Brantford
4) how to bring about the critical mass of people consistently downtown so there is reason for business to become established.

When there is something happening, people do come downtown. The challenge is not only bring people for the special events, but ensure they think of coming downtown when they want to do something.

Monday, March 01, 2010

Buzz Off, Buzz

As you know from reading some of my past blogs, I do enjoy the social aspect of Web 2.0, to use some of the language all the cool kids use. I am now back on Twitter and understanding it a lot more, for example I was able to follow what was happening at the Olympics simply by following the various Olympic based hashtags, so I knew when Canada had won a medal and the nation certainly did win a lot of them. I'm also on Facebook and post a lot there.

If I can go back to Twitter for just a moment, I do understand it and know why it is so popular and has such great press. Just recently it was reported people post something like 600 tweets a second or 50 million a day. That is an amazing number of tweets and while it has also been pointed out a very large majority of them are dumb, the classic "eating popcorn in my beanbag chair", or "today the cat horked up a hairball". There is some good news aggregates happening and the information that can be posted and read is quite amazing, especially if you follow the trends of the day. If something happens that is big, it's going to be on Twitter.

As for Facebook, its for friends and family isn't it? It's where you can post some news, photographs and videos. I know there's a lot of those games, such as Mafia Wars and FarmVille, things I have managed to avoid, thank you very much. So its good way to keep in touch with others and pass on information.

One of my other favourites if Pikchur. it's a good place to post the photographs and send it to all the sites I frequent. It does make life easy for me.

I could go on, Brightkite, Plurk, all places I hang out to post and interact.

As you can expect, when Google announced Buzz, i was interested. When the announcement was made I immediately went to gmail and waited for it to show up in my inbox, or at least on the side of my account. After all, another social network, one simply can't have enough of those.

The information was posted to a google blog with this as part of the pitch:
Google Buzz is a new way to start conversations about the things you find interesting. It's built right into Gmail, so you don't have to peck out an entirely new set of friends from scratch — it just works. If you think about it, there's always been a big social network underlying Gmail. Buzz brings this network to the surface by automatically setting you up to follow the people you email and chat with the most. We focused on building an easy-to-use sharing experience that richly integrates photos, videos and links, and makes it easy to share publicly or privately (so you don't have to use different tools to share with different audiences). Plus, Buzz integrates tightly with your existing Gmail inbox, so you're sure to see the stuff that matters most as it happens in real time.

Yup, waited and when it showed up I quickly got it going in my gmail account. I could go into a long explanation of it, but just follow this link to PCWorld. It lasted a week. After that time, I decided to read up on how to get rid of Buzz.

Yes that is right, I am not using it right now. The reason I had was not the security or privacy concerns that some have pointed out in posts and articles. I simply found it too noisy, which is interesting because that is the one thing Google wanted to avoid. it was too much and very confusing to follow. I didn't care to much for how it was set up and the fact that Buzz was clogging up my inbox. There was also the fact that so many people were following me and I wasn't sure where they were coming from or why did they want to follow me. Not that there is anything wrong with having people following me, but I discover it becomes too much if there are too many following. That is what caused me to give up my first account with Twitter.

There is the privacy issue as well, Molly Wood had a very informative post in her rant about Buzz.

Buzz is no longer a part of my gmail account. Does this mean I'll never use it. I don't know, perhaps in a month or two I may venture back and discern if it has improved. If it has, I may use it in a limited way, if not, I won't use it again.

That is my google blog for today.

You can follow me on all those social network sites I have links to, see you there.