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From the Hill
· Joseph Heath argued in 2001’s The Efficient Society that Canadian society is about as optimal as it gets. This idea is not completely crazy, even when one loathes the gang currently in charge. This week I made a rare visit to Ottawa, took pictures, and thought about Canadian-ness ... [1 comment]
· The politics start with whether you say “tar sands” or “oil sands”. Whatever you want to call them, they’re up in Northern Alberta. Observers of American politics will have noticed the Keystone XL project, which would take the sands’ crude oil south to Texas. Northern Gateway, the Canadian version, would carry crude west to Kitimat on the Pacific coast for export to Asia; it’s in the news because the public hearings start next week, with thousands queued up to offer opinions. I’m generally contra, and increasingly optimistic ... [7 comments]
· I usually ask for a window seat, and try to have some sort of camera handy. I’ve been flying since I was very young and I’m not young any more, but I’ve never tired of taking pictures through airplane windows. I get the occasional raised eyebrow from the other frequent flyers sucking on their Bloody Marys, but I can take it ... [2 comments]
· On July first, Canada Day, we went down and took in the big show at Canada Place; fun was had. We’re officially and as a matter of record here in Canada supposed to be about multiculturalism and any idiot can see we’re multiethnic, but that doesn’t actually mean we’re eating off different tables or listening to different tunes ... [6 comments]
· Canada has long been a telephone oligopoly: Rogers, Telus, and Bell Canada; Canadians generally feel that prices are high and service only so-so. Now we’ve got a new mobile player, Wind Mobile. I signed up as soon as they got to Vancouver, at least in part for reasons of ideology; competition is a good thing. So far, Wind looks like a good thing too ... [4 comments]
Had It With Harper
· In Canada we’re about to enter our fifth year of Conservative (AKA “Tory”) minority government under Prime Minister Stephen Harper. They’ve been uninspiring and not terribly likable, but reasonably competent; enough to stay out of real trouble with the voters. I’m no Tory but I’ve mostly been “well, whatever”. No longer; it’s time to bounce these bozos and see if we can do better ... [13 comments]
· Yes, last week we had a Canadian election. Not much changed, so it wasn’t a very satisfying experience. For the first time, I’m warming up to the notion of tinkering with our voting system ... [22 comments]
· I was going to write about the Burma Campaign’s Dirty List, naming the Canadian companies there and suggesting they get off. But little bit of Web research seems to show that of the five companies named, Ivanhoe Mines, Jet Gold Corp, and Leeward Capital have already bailed from Burma. So, assuming those guys aren’t lying, good on ’em! [4 comments]
· Today I spent nine (9) (no, that’s not a typo) hours in line to apply for a passport ... [17 comments]
· I’ve been doing less technical writing here recently, the kind of stuff about the Web and Sun and so on that I think is why most people come visit. I think this is because I’m getting deeper into the Sun internal ecosystem; morphing from a wild-eyed guy cruising the halls muttering radical ideas about REST and Ruby and RSS, to being up to my elbows in some skunkworks and products and communications programs. In an ideal world this should result, down the road, in some really meaty pieces in this space. In the interim, I can post pictures and report on the camera market ... [5 comments]
· James has been appointed to the Order of Canada, and about bloody time. Not only is this well-deserved, but as far as I know, it’s the first time that a computer technologist has made it in. I have nothing against the dancers and insurance executives and philanthropists and hockey players currently inhabiting the Order, but the construction of the future is in some large part in the hands of the engineers; and this needs better recognition.
· So the Liberals picked the pencil-neck geek with the bad hair, and his acceptance speech wasn’t very good TV. Still, he’s kind of appealing, he’s real smart, and he knows how the system works. That cynical old lizard Chrétien gave a darn good speech, I thought. Harper, Dion, Layton, Duceppe; there are lots of countries whose citizens are looking at worse choices. [7 comments]
· In Canada, we have three significant political parties. The right-wing Conservatives (Tories) occasionally get to form the government (like now, for instance). The centrist Liberals are sometimes called “the natural governing party” and have definitely spent more years in office; at the moment they’re in opposition after getting a well-deserved spanking from the voters over a nasty little corruption scandal. Then there’s social-democratic NDP. The Liberals are currently having a convention to pick their next leader, quite possibly our next Prime Minister. Tonight we had the big speeches from all eight (!) candidates and the first ballot. Probably of interest only to Canadian-politics fans ... [5 comments]
A Canadian Evening
· That cold has now struck down ¾ of the family, so we stayed inside this afternoon and evening, and watched Hockey Night in Canada [home, Wikipedia] which is pretty central to who we are here ... [3 comments]
· I’ve always cared about Remembrance Day; never been to war, but I’ve lived close to a couple and seen what happens when the wrong people win one. But here in Canada, those memories are growing dim; my uncle Allen Scott died in the Netherlands in 1944, but the number of people with even that direct a connection to what we still call “The War” is growing smaller (and I just came back from a pleasant visit to Germany, hanging out with our former enemies). That was until this decade. Now, our young people are falling in war in Afghanistan; these ones, I mean. I’m touched to see that some of them are having their identities immortalized online; thanks to whoever’s doing that work. The bad guys in Afghanistan are really genuinely bad; I don’t think there are many of us who object to taking them on, or to trying to give the long-suffering Afghans a leg up. Lots of Canadians are worried whether what we we’re trying to do can be done; and it doesn’t help that our work in Afghanistan makes us a nominal ally of one side in the botched, duplicitous, brutal war next door. Whatever; Remembrance day is—or should be, anyhow—becoming more relevant, more vital, more central. But the troops that are important are the ones who are alive and working; if you’re a Canadian you can send ’em a message; I assume other countries have similar systems. [Update: What Rob said.] [5 comments]
Canada Day Fireworks
· The only substantial show in Vancouver this year was at Nat Bailey, the minor-league ballpark ten blocks from home, much written-about in this space. Since Canada’s birthday is also my son’s we took him along and let him stay til the end to see them. They aren’t the world’s biggest fireworks, but the intimacy you get in a little park like that is hard to beat, and nothing improves the enjoyment of the fireworks experience so much as having a kid along. Now I’m going to waste your bandwidth with six different fireworks pictures, none exhibiting any photo-realism ...
The Toronto Bombers
· This story has Canadians shaking their heads. It turns out that it was a sting, the police supplied the 3 tons of ammonium nitrate that you could use to make a McVeigh-style bomb, only bigger. The Toronto Star has a story (it’ll probably vanish behind the paywall) that introduces each of the people charged. They turn out to be mostly suburban, mostly Canadian; two of them are actually in jail after pleading guilty last October to sneaking a couple of guns across the border. For a moment I wondered if the cops were going overboard, encouraging a bunch of wannabe-jihadi wankers; but then I realized that these are demographically an awful lot like the bunch that blew up the London Underground; so it’s probably an example of good policing. Even if we manage to stop the bleeding in the Middle East, some ethnic group somewhere in the world is always going to be oppressed and getting beat up; let’s hope the future bombers living among us are as clueless as this bunch.
Bad Canadian DNS Theatre
· If you value your freedom of speech, and you’re in Canada, don’t use “cadns.ca” as a registrar. It turns out that someone set up a site satirizing pathetic, doomed, Liberal leadership candidate Joe “Drug Money” Volpe, at YouthForVolpe.ca, and one of Volpe’s goons arranged for cadns.ca to pull the domain name. The site’s been mirrored here, but you have to follow Canadian politics to know why it’s funny.
· Oh my goodness gracious. We had an election here in Canada last month, and the Conservatives (“Tories” for short) threw out the Liberals, to the general satisfaction of an irritated populace, but failed to get a majority in Parliament, to the general satisfaction of a cautious populace. My own riding, Vancouver Kingsway, had been held by Liberal David Emerson, a seasoned private and public sector executive who’d been parachuted in but won it fair and square, and has always been in the cabinet; he held the seat for the Liberals last month. This morning, we awoke to the news that he’d “crossed the floor”, joined the Tories, and been rewarded with a senior Cabinet post. This change subtly shifts the combinatorics of power in parliament and will be very useful to the government. The country in general and my neighborhood in particular is pretty flabbergasted. I got my jollies when I picked up my morning coffee and some TV news crew was waiting outside asking passers-by what they thought. I spluttered, telegenically I hope, if they run it and anyone sees it, let me know. Canadians in search of some political snickers and a historic but imperilled document can read on for more ...
· I voted early this morning; we’ve been living in this neighborhood long enough that I recognized some people over at the poll, hung out and chatted for a bit. It felt good. I think that what’s happening today here in Canada highlights the single essential thing about democracy; I wrote about this almost three years ago, but it’s worth saying again: I don’t particularly trust “the people” to pick the right policies or even to pick the right leaders. I do, however trust them to detect the condition that the government has been bad and needs to be turfed. Which we, today, are apparently the process of doing. Frankly, I think it would be OK to pick the next government by random selection, and we probably wouldn’t do that much worse than the current electoral crap-shoot. The important thing—the only thing that really matters—is that we retain the right to throw ’em out in a peaceful and orderly fashion, at our sole discretion and for any reason. There are a lot of people in the world without that right. It’s the one that all the others flow from.
· Our politics haven’t historically been famous for gripping drama; after all, the national motto is “Peace, Order, and good Government”. But the current edition is getting really interesting. I’m neither terribly enthusiastic nor disillusioned about our political system, a typical first-past-the-post Parliamentary elected dictatorship. One thing, though, is absolutely wonderful: our elections are over in a few weeks. The current edition, with the Christmas break in the middle, is unusually long. I had to feel sorry for the politicos out campaigning in December; not only is the weather brutal, but in most of the country, most of the voters were busy getting ready for Christmas and thus totally not paying attention. If you want to follow, I find that journoblogger Andrew Coyne provides a good vantage-point on the campaign. What’s happening is that the Liberals, often regarded as the Natural Governing Party, have fallen behind in the polls. The Conservatives (“Tories”) have done poorly in recent elections because the Liberals successfully painted them in scary GOP-clone colours, creating fear that they’d privatize healthcare, ban abortion, oppress gays, end gun control, get us into Republican wars, and shut down immigration. They were helped by the fact that the Tories had a few outspoken dinosaurs who apparently wanted to do precisely those things. This time, there are two big differences. First, most of the country is really, really irritated at the Liberals for their long-time culture of insider patronage and for recently having been caught engaging in overt bribery and kickbacks. In fact, if they hadn’t been doing a reasonably competent job of running the country, they’d be on their way to the political graveyard. Second, the Tories have their right-wing crazies firmly under control and are sounding level-headed, sensible, and un-radical. It looks like the voters may well give ’em a chance. Mind you, there are still 16 days of campaigning and a lot can change.
Hockey and America
· I managed to catch a few of the games in the just-completed World Junior Hockey Championship. If I’d been more organized I might have been able to go to some of them since they were right here in town, but hockey turns out to be excellent HDTV fare and it was terrific entertainment. While we won the final 5-0, that wasn’t fair to the Russians, who were a strong, fast, skilled team; they had at least as much talent as the Canadians. I think they were out-coached; plus our goalie Justin Pogge, whom nobody’d ever heard of before, went into brick-wall mode in the first third or so of the game, against a mere human there would have been two or three or more Russian goals. Anyhow, once you got past Canada and Russia, the other really good team in the tournament was the USA. And here’s what’s weird and disturbing: the mostly-Canadian audiences were actively cheering for anyone playing against the US, and occasionally booing the Americans. Granted, economically-literate Canadians are mad at the US for egregious NAFTA abuse, and we’re terrified of the consequences of our neighbor’s lunatic fiscal and trade deficits. And of course, from the mushy Canadian cultural centre, Dubya and the neotheocons seem like beings from an alien planet. While, like most Canadians, I disapprove of many actions of the current US administration, like most Canadians I also like most Americans. And it’s just moronic to take out political gripes on a bunch of eager, dedicated, young athletes. But having said that, if there were any doubt that the USA has a major public-relations problem, booing hockey fans a half-hour over the border should dispel it.
· As I (very safely) predicted a couple of weeks ago, the Canadian government fell today and we’re looking at a January election. You have to feel sorry for the candidates who, most places in the country, will be slogging through the snow and sub-zero temperatures; but not that sorry, it’s long past time we had this little catharsis. As I was scanning the coverage today I ran across the blog of Monte Solberg, an Alberta Tory of whom I’d never heard, but who gives the political narrative in an unforced, flowing, insider’s voice; he’s a natural. I was a little intrigued that it’s not obvious at all from his web-site which party he represents. On the other hand, it’s tough to see a guy this unaffected and natural being real comfy associating with a plastic on-message droid like Stephen Harper.
Canadian Politics — OK
· Well, finally. As I wrote back in May, we’ve had a highly unstable political situation for the best part of a year, with the governing minority Liberals emitting a strong aroma of entrenched corruption, but the opposition not (quite) summoning the will to take ’em down. Well, now all three opposition parties have said that they won’t support the Liberals any more; while they’re squabbling messily, chances are we’re going to have an election in January. The NDP, who were supporting the government in order to win social-democratic legislative points, now say they aren’t happy with the Liberals’ health-care offers, but I suspect that they’ve decided that the general public is so mad at the the Liberals that the costs of being in bed with them outweigh any policy benefits. It should be an interesting election. On one hand, the Liberals were caught red-handed stealing millions. But on the other, they’ve actually been pretty competent; unemployment and the national debt are down, we’re not bogged down in any overseas wars; people feel pretty positive about our involvement in the Balkans and Afghanistan. Me, I think we have to dump the Liberals if only to preserve our self-respect, but I can’t imagine we’ll get a very long-lasting result. That’s OK, elections are cheap and bearable, compared to the alternative.
FSS: Snowy Rainbow
· Friday Slide Scan #10 is a bit of a mystery, the file was in a folder labeled “Ontario” but it really looks to me like a winter shot of Long Beach in Pacific Rim National Park. Which I would highly recommend as a tourist destination to anyone ...
By Tim Bray
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