Friday, December 31, 2010

Happy New Year

It's been a fun 2010 blogging. Here's hoping, wishing and praying that all will have a tremendous and bless 2011.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Christmas Eve Thoughts

With Christmas only a couple of hours away as I write this, I thought of a few things to describe the season.

First of all, its great to have the family together tonight. Well, most of them, one is visit wife's in-laws. It's also great to watch Isabelle enjoy the season.

Christmas Lights always look good. In my neighbourhood a lot of people decorate, it does add the color we need in the season.

As for Christmas Kettles, it was a bit of a silly season. With some bell ringers complaining to the LCBO through emails about having to sit outside, or between the doors. Really, have any of these people stand out on a kettle in some place like Prince George BC? Now that can be cold.

Then there was the whole Harry Potter or Twilight controversy. Calgary Salvation Army decided not to distribute those type of gifts. Interesting, Edmonton gave them out, I wonder if that had to do with the fact Calgary said 'no'. Locally, the Brantford Salvation Army (Wyndfield Community Church) decided to distribute the divil's toys. It's a case of 'whatever'. I could go into a long discussion about Harry Potter, and yes I have read all the books and seen most of the movies. But that's not the topic of this blog.

Speaking of movies; A Christmas Carol with Alastair Sims and the classic cartoons, such as Rudolph or The Grinch who stole Christmas, or even A Charlie Brown's Christmas do not get old or tired, ever.

Tomorrow will be the giving of gifts and the eating of even more turkey.

To all, a Merry Christmas

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Mark Zuckerberg, Person of the Year

His face now adorns the cover of Time Magazine, in a way it has been an amazing year for Mark Zuckerberg. To be named the "Person of the Year" is a singular honour, one that recognizes that this has been one of the major newsmakers of the past 12 months. While some have wanted the title to go to Julian Assange, and have accused Time of playing it safe, it may have been a situation of peaking far too late. When you think about it, while Wikileaks has been in the news for at least the last half of 2010, it is doubtful many in the mainstream would have recognized the name until the recent leakage of the US Embassy Cables. Plus let's be honest, would Time risk the wrath of the governing elite? The cables are simply gossip, what is more interesting is the leaks about the banks. Now that is something all of us want to read. If there is any truth to the rumours that prove the banks were in collusion and in their greed and overarching stupidity, let the economy collapse, it should be like the closing scene of Johnny Mnemonic, when people burn down the building of Pharmakon Industries. It's fitting since Pharmakon was busy hiding the cure to NAS, probably for more money.

NAS or Nerve Attenuation Syndrome is characterized by:
Causes uncontrollable seizures at complete random. It is apparently caused by the overload of electronic interference present in the film.

So what about Mark Zuckerberg? One has to agree the scope of Facebook is daunting, its growth is amazing, and the fact that it has faced competition and has ignored them all, as if they don't exist. Which is probably true in a way. Their only 'serious' competition is Diaspora, and that seems to be very slow in coming to the field of play. Will it be a worthy competitor, will Google bring out its social network? Hard to say, if you notice, Google has been running into some problems when it enters other fields, consider Google Wave and Google Buzz. However, can they turn it around with Google Me? Probably not likely.

What does it mean for Mark Zuckerberg to be given this honour? Some suggest it is more to do with the fact that Time has a nice deal with Facebook. They have been playing nice with Time, so give them some recognition. One person wrote in the comments to the main article:
Zuckerberg was voted Time's so-called person of the year because Facebook offers Time a lot more potential upside than Wikileaks. Time can get eyeballs and demographic marketing info on users from FB. And possible advertising partnerships. Assange's Wikileaks does not offer this.

Time has a Facebook button so people can link stories from the site to their FB accounts. And like many news websites now, Time encourages readers to use their Facebook or other social media login credentials to post comments. Time gets access to people's info from Facebook when they login to Time via their Facebook account.

Choosing Zuckerberg was unethical given Time's relationship with Facebook. Saying that Zuckerberg's company allows people to connect in a new, empowering way is disengenuous and cynical. The point of FB is to make money on advertising and suck people's demographic info out of them for the advertisers and content partners such as Time.

Is it a case of old media recognizing new media?

Or perhaps it is a case of a brilliant PR strategy being played out to absolute success.

Let's go back about a year ago. If you can remember the early part of 2010, Facebook was beginning to be hated. It has been growing but certainly it did reach a fever pitch early this year. One article I read was called, "I hate FB; Lots of Reasons to hate Facebook". The big reason for hating Facebook had to do with privacy, the company was always changing privacy settings. When a change was made the complaint was the default was 'everybody', and to change your privacy setting became an exercise in extreme patience and understanding confusing directions. It got so bad that people were threatening to leave Facebook. At one time Leo Laporte left Facebook. He was one of many who threatened to pull out.

Then there was the movie "Social Network", it was supposed to be a true hatchet job on Mark Zuckerberg, portraying him as a low-life sleazebag who stabbed people, including his best friend, in the back to be rich. Mark, at first would not see the movie, in fact the release of the movie is what probably catapulted him to the Person of the Year status. For here is the true reason, it's not so much the acceptance of new media, or even new social media by old media, it's a case of some good old fashioned PR.

First he appears on Oprah and gives a sizeable donation to the schools of New Jersey, then he gets all folksy with Oprah, allowing the cameras into his home. The effort was to show the humanness of Mark, that he wasn't a total jerk or heartless scumbag. It was obvious from the Oprah interview that a lot of training went into it and coaching. It was a far better interview then the one he did with Sarah Lacey, which has been called a total disaster. Later on Mark gets to sit down and interview former President George Bush.

Just recently he also pledged to give away half his fortune to charity.

So a masterful job of spin when you think about it. From a person who was reviled to one who is considered a really nice guy once you get to know him, it was a truly impressive transformation.

It could be thought of that he is not deserving such an honour. To be honest, his company has grown in influence, and while he has made a few blunders along the way, he has managed to recover. Now people are returning to Facebook and the rest of us are still posting pictures.

So in the end, congratulations Mark, you worked hard and you deserve it.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Is President Evo Morales Right?

While the news from COP16 is still good, in fact one article announced that even the USA and China have signed the accord. There was one voice that raised a great deal of concern and criticism towards the Accord and that was President Evo Morales of Bolivia. His concern has to do with the agreed goal of allowing the Earth to warm up to 2C above what it was a century ago. He asks the question:
According to the proposals from some powers, they are happy to put forward measures that would lead to an increase of 2 degrees Celsius and some think even of increases to 4 degrees. Imagine what our planet would look like with an increase in temperature of 2 degrees or 4 degrees, given that at 0.8 degrees we already have serious problems in the world

There has been a lot of discussion over this goal. Some believe it is attainable, others think we may have to warm up the planet a bit more, to 4C before we can see the result of cutting back the carbon emissions. Regardless of what happens today, we shall experience a temperature increase, because it will take some time before the effects of what is in the atmosphere now are demonstrated, from what I read there is a bit of a lag. The goal is 350 ppm of CO2 in the atmosphere. For most experts this is the safe number, if it goes higher, there is concern. Right now is 383 ppm, so there is concern. At the website, there is a discussion page which gives the science behind the number. So the concern is we are already on the way to missing the target. Of course the other problem is that it is the average temperature increase, which means the potential for fluctuations within that average. For example, the hot regions of the planet won't experience much more of a temperature increase, its hot enough all ready. That means for the average, the northern and southern areas will get hotter still. This probably will mean; changes in weather patterns, and everything moving north or south. While some think its a great idea that Canada will get warmer, it also means problem if there is melt of the permafrost or if the muskegs begin to dry up, for in both scenarios, it will mean even more carbon released into the atmosphere.

To continue some of the thoughts of President Morales:
We came to Cancun to save nature, forests, planet Earth. We are not here to convert nature into a commodity. We have not come here to revitalize capitalism with carbon markets.
He has a concern with the carbon trade- that whole thing that allows one nation to pollute if another promises not to develop. He truly believes it must be equal. It is not one nation that has problems, it the entire planet.

He also stated:
I am convinced that if presidents take on their responsibility, not to certain powers such as multinational companies, but instead to peoples and social movements, we can advance. Why don’t states here go to the Peoples’ Summit in Cancun, and listen to the concrete proposals of social movements who come here in representation of the victims of global warming? Why don’t we agree to a global referendum; take the historic decision of practicing global democracy, submitting ourselves to the demands of the people struggling against climate change and for life? If governments don’t act, it will be the people who will force their governments to act.

So by writing this, am I now opposed to Cancun. No I still am optimistic. We are living now in a time when things are happening. The window of opportunity has now slammed shut, we've got to do some major reacting to what is going to happen and hope that our actions today will have a positive impact.

One thing that must be remembered, but never counted upon, is the Earth has an amazing ability to heal. If we start dropping our carbon emissions, and Cancun is an important step, it's not the whole step, but a small step nonetheless, then perhaps the globe will forgive our folly and begin to cool down. I'm sure we'll get kicked in the teeth a few times before it happens, but those might to our ultimate advantage to never be so stupid again.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Modest Success at Cancun

The news came to me in a Twitter from Elizabeth May:
Breakthrough! New texts circulated. Plenary reconvenes. Way better results than expected. Some more negotiating to be done. #GPC #COP16

Then later the news came, a agreement was reached. Reuters reported that a modest deal was reached. A modest deal, well after the debacle of Copenhagen, any deal is a good deal. At least it means the world governments have finally gotten together to at least make a serious decision to deal with climate change.

At least they're discussing the issue and promise to do a few things, establishing a green fund, for example. As well, its good to see some of the detractors of Kyoto, such as the USA and China are getting on board. Of course the reason could be one of self-preservation, climate change is beginning to effect life on this planet. China now faces problems that will only grow worse. They needed to consider that this is a closed system, and they can't continue to pollute.

What was nice about this meeting was the transparency. Copenhagen collapsed when 'secret' deals were revealed through leaks. This got everybody angry and guaranteed nothing would happen. However today, the agreement was sent around. It sounds like a long day but a successful one.

Is it the best that could have been achieved, probably not- there is still that needs to be done. Ultimately it must be said, a deal beats no deal. At least there is a framework. Now comes the hard part, getting things to turn around.

Perhaps deals are best done in sunny climes.

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

John Lennon: Working Class Hero

Remembering that today, 30 years ago, John Lennon was murdered.

If everyone demanded peace instead of another television set, then there'd be peace.
You're all geniuses and you're all beautiful. You don't need anybody to tell you who you are or what you are. You are what you are. Get out there and get peace. Think peace, live peace, and breathe peace and you'll get it as soon as you like. Okay?

War is Over! If you want it.

Monday, December 06, 2010

Saudi Money backs Terrorism

The normal reaction to that sort of headline would be to shrug your shoulder, think 'wow, obvious' and move on to the next article about Lady Gaga. Well, that's unfair, Lady Gaga is probably following the US Embassy Cables.

This Cable actually makes some interesting reading, especially when a person considers the dates. This sentence and following was highlighted by the Guardian:
Despite this presence, however, more needs to be done since Saudi Arabia remains a critical financial support base for al-Qa'ida, the Taliban, LeT, and other terrorist groups, including Hamas, which probably raise millions of dollars annually from Saudi sources, often during Hajj and Ramadan. In contrast to its increasingly aggressive efforts to disrupt al-Qa'ida's access to funding from Saudi sources, Riyadh has taken only limited action to disrupt fundraising for the UN 1267-listed Taliban and LeT-groups that are also aligned with al-Qa'ida and focused on undermining stability in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Let's go back a few years ago, the then President of the United States, George Bush was beating the war drum stating a military action against Iraq was both imminent and necessary. He and his allies, such as Tony Blair gave two very compelling reasons, at least to any one who wanted to believe them, the first was, Iraq was an unstabilizing influence in the region that wanted to expand its control and could do so since it had 'Weapons of Mass Destruction'. The other reason, and when I use the word 'reason', you can replace it with the word 'lie', was that Iraq was a major player in the attack of 9/11.

The proof of the lie in the former is the fact after some seven years, no weaspons, no proof of the existence of such weapons have been found. The latter was easily disproved and this comment in the cable makes it clear that the funding for Al-Qada was never with Iraq, but with the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. So another argument that the invasion of Iraq is illegal and therefore those who were involved in the planning and bringing about the invasion are guilty of war crimes. If you have to lie to justify an action that involves the murder of hundreds of thousands of innocent people, then that is a war crime, a crime against humanity. I know the actual number will never be calculated, but why quibble over a few thousand?

Now for his trouble, Julian Assange faces harrassment, the possibility of arrest, detention and then what happens can only be imagined and shuddered. Or it could be nothing will happen, there's too much light on him, to quote that line from the movie "JFK". If he was to suddenly disappear, or be arrested and tossed into a jail, there would be such an outrage that any government foolish to do it would face a great deal of wrath from the world at large. Hopefully they would realize to do anything to Julian would make him a martyr. Let's face it, the charges against him are a joke. It wouldn't surprise me if they seized his computer we would have about the finding of child pornography on them. Why? To further discredit him.

However, the backlash has begun. People are standing for freedom on speech and the right to read. While a lot of the cables is rather gossipy, it's still information and information needs to be free.

Support Wikileaks.

Sunday, December 05, 2010

Take a Bullet for Assange

Like you I've been riveted by the releases of formerly top secret cables from US Embassies around the globe. The revelations have been very shocking and earth shattering. I have learned that Muammar al-Gaddafi has a smoking hot blonde Ukranian Nurse, Nicolas Sarcozy is sensitive about his height, the real ruler of Russia is Vladimir (Batman) Putin, Iran and North Korea are both ruled by nutbars,and the the CBC broadcasts sitcoms that feature unflattering depictions of Americans. The latter is shocking, I honestly feel sorry for that poor person who had to sit and watch some of those shows. I understand that CSIS uses CBC sitcoms rather then Waterboarding to gain confessions.

For the trouble of publishing all these top secrets, Wikileaks is being accused of risking lives, in fact one State Department Official stated:
Philip J. Crowley, the U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for Public Affairs, told CTV's Question Period Sunday that the Internet whistle-blower site has harmed the careers and even the safety of innocent people.

"Julian Assange is wrong and has really done great damage … in exposing these classified documents he is putting (our) sources at risk," Crowley said.

"We have reached out to people around the world with whom we interact and have warned them about the potential ramifications.

"We are going to be watching this closely."

Crowley said at the very least some U.S. diplomats may have to be moved to other posts as a result of documents released by WikiLeaks.

"We may well have to reassign some of our diplomats and a couple of our ambassadors," he said. "There's no question that this has done substantial damage."

Yes, moving can be trying but to the best of my knowledge no one has actually died from packing things in cardboard.

Mr. Assage is being portrayed as a anarchist, which is one step away from being declared a terrorist.

Then there is the arrest warrant for 'sex crimes'.

It could be argued that it has been embarrassing for the US Diplomatic Corps, they will no doubt face snickers from other diplomats. There has been a lot of spin going on but the real answer to all of this would be for someone in the State Department to stand up and say to all the diplomats from other nations, 'yeah, like you don't say the same thing about us'. Let's face it, this is not news, this is everything everybody knows.

So why is it people such as Prof. Tom Flanagan at the University of Calgary wants him assassinated? I think there is a couple of reasons, one is that governments have always felt its there right to keep secrets. They keep secrets from their enemies, their friends, their allies and their people. They live in secrets and they don't like it when those secrets are exposed. The only time they like secrets exposed is when they release them, the famous "the Ship of State is the only one that leaks from the top", scenario.

The second has to do with the fact the world is now filled with very petty politicians. We are a long way from what I want to consider the last golden age of the Statesman, this is when giants such as Ronald Reagan, Margaret Thatcher, Mikhail Gorbachev, Brian Mulroney and Nelson Mandela commanded great respect. Whether you liked or supported any of those people you have to admit they were individuals of vision. They saw the world beyond their mandate and had a world view that drove them to do things like end apartheid, end the Cold War and bring about a relatively strong era of peace. They had a great vision, they also could possess a rather self-deprecating sense of humour, think Reagan, "Honey, I forgot to duck" after being shot. Now we have small minded politicians running the world, people who can't see beyond the next election. Such people are more involved in their own comfort. legacy and hold onto power. Such people also do not possess any sense of humour. They are more interested in remembering every slight, every insult and filing it all away for later use as a mean of extracting revenge. This is what we face. Wikileaks comes along and hits them all in the face with a big custard pie.

It's no wonder Julian Assage is being attacked. To all this I say, as I opened my blog post, we all should be ready to take a bullet for him. He is not only exposing secrets and bringing about light to darkness. He is doing his best to help justice.

And this is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. John 3:19

Saturday, December 04, 2010

Hancock's Hill, Brantford

It's always appropriate to name geographical features after famous individuals, you think of Mount Everest, Mount Logan to name a few. Or you think that a catchphrase can be thought up to register an opinion about a certain act of a politician, Seward's Folly ( the purchase of Alaska) comes to mind. Often when the deed is perceived to be a monumental blunder, the name quickly becomes the act of infamy which follows said person to the grave, even though it may be proved to be a brilliant act, usually long after those responsible are dead.

Today I took a walk down Wharf Street to look at Hancock's Hill, the slope that was once the south side of Colborne Street. I thought of a few things, namely the fact that a meeting I attended in which the now retired mayor of Brantford, Mike Hancock gave a 'state of the City' address. He spoke, as it was one of his last official acts of all the challenges that he faced as mayor and some of the successes and a few not so successes he had experienced. One fact he brought up, and I know I've mentioned this in tweets and comments, was the demolition of South Side of Colborne. I know its still a sore point to those who worked so tirelessly to preserve it and a sore point with those who didn't care for the work of those who tired so tirelessly to preserve it. I suspect most of us simply walk down Colborne Street and shrug our shoulders. After all, what's done is done. Perhaps in a few years we shall look back and agree it was a visionary act, it was what needed to kick start Brantford into the 21st Century.

I will grant you that.

Still one statement made by Mayor Mike was that he thought the slope or hill would make a great toboggan run. Yes it is possible to envision it. I can see the children of Brantford making their way to Colborne Street, sleds in hand and racing down with all the energy and joy of childhood. You can almost hear their squeals of joy as they come down at breakneck speed, and then you can hear the screams of fear and the moans of pain, when they run into the cast iron fence at the bottom.

Yes I will grant you, it's not cast iron, but its still a fence. Mind you there's one at the top so that pretty well ends the toboggan run aspect of Hancock's Hill.

So what can be done. I know there has been some opinion about putting picnic tables up either at the top or bottom for people to enjoy a picnic and the view of the river.

As I stood there, gazing up the Heinbuck's Slope

part of Hancock's Hill, named for the plucky little store that was one of the last structures razed,

I kept thinking about 'sunflowers'. Now I don't want to encourage anyone into doing anything illegal, this is only for entertainment purposes only, but don't you think a little seed bombing of the slope with sunflower seeds, and zucchini seeds might be a nice thing, come the spring? Imagine a slope of bright sunflowers- it would be perfect, being a south facing slope.

What a lovely sight.