31 July 2009

Facebook, We're Through

Started the process to delete my Facebook account on July 16. Ergo, after the Facebook-imposed deactivation (cooling off) period of 14 days, it was deleted on July 29. Yesterday, because people insist on linking to stuff on the damn site, I thought to try it again and created a new account under a new name... and have just begun a new 14-day deactivation period to get rid of that one too.

Why am I so out of sorts with Facebook? Well, it's not for everyone.

I've no patience with sites whose 'interactive' components fail to be interactive. With my second account, as I'd experienced on occasion with the old one, I couldn't get the damn photo tool working properly, even after 24 hours fiddling with it; and I design websites and am knowledgeable about how these things SHOULD work. Then NoScript and Firefox discovered some of FB's scripts to be suspect. One of those scripts caused my MAC (!) to hang - three times. If FB can do that to a Mac, whose operating system is more secure than Windoze, then bye-bye! (I'm as bad as any doting mother when it comes to my mini.)

Never could see the benefit of Facebook, but like a good little lamb I followed the herd. It's really not for people like me, though. I'm interested in learning, so I value exchanges of information about current events, science, tech, etc. Facebook isn't so much about that, not nearly as much as, say, Twitter.

Then I never could get into the hook-up-with-friends aspect of the site, a concept on which Facebook was built - An introvert with 65 'friends'? It challenges credibility - or with playing follow-the-leader and hurrying to sign up to 'participate' in online protests. Blogging about issues of immediate, pressing concern, yes. But just adding your name on the latest issue-of-the-hour Facebook page? The peer pressure implicit in such requests wasn't appreciated.

Maybe it just comes down to Facebook better serving the outgoing social butterfly and Twitter the quiet, loner type. But Facebook, you and I are through. For the sake of your myriad fans, may you Live Long and Prosper!

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29 July 2009

More Phone Problems UPDATE

SOLVED. See end of post.

It never ends. First there was Staples, way back when. Then Google AdSense. Then this online retailer or that one - all of whom make the telephone field in their web forms mandatory.

Now it's RBC (Royal Bank of Canada).

Monday, I received my new 'chip' Visa card. It bore the following instructions.

Before you use your new chip card:
1. Know your PIN. [Not a problem]
2. Call to activate from your primary phone number. [Problem]

I send this message from within my RBC online account, under their subject heading VISA Products:

Received my new Visa chip card today with the sticker advising to "call to activate from your primary phone number." I haven't a phone and therefore haven't a 'primary phone number'. How do I activate my new card under these circumstances?

The reply I received:

Dear Ms. Ocean:

My name is Brad, and I'd be happy to assist you with your inquiry concerning our activation procedure.

I'm sorry for the confusion--I want to assure you that you don't need a landline in order to activate your card. However, you do need to call from the primary number we have on your Visa profile--which is (250) 748-8095. This is the number you last had both your Visa file and your RBC client profile updated with; our automated card activation system will need your call to come from that number in order to validate your card and make it ready to accept charges.

Thanks for contacting us, Ms. Ocean, and I trust I've cleared things up for you. We'll be happy to help you again if there's anything else you d like to discuss.

If you prefer, you can call us any time at 1-800-769-2512.

To which I respond:

In my initial message, I stated "I haven't a phone." How is that not clear?

At one time, I had a phone. Now I don't. Therefore "I haven't a 'primary phone number'" and my question still stands: How do I activate my new card under these circumstances?

I swear these people DON'T READ.

And yes, I'm dirt poor and have a Visa card whose balance I maintain at zero. Yet it wouldn't surprise me if, despite my flawless payment record and a high credit rating that I'll be denied its renewal because I no longer have a phone.

UPDATE: This time the squeaky wheel, perhaps oiled by my blogging & twittering about it, produced a satisfactory - and fairly prompt - response. My latest Visa card has been activated, after a verification process that didn't involve a damn phone.

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Moving Forward on EI Reform

Can we change the ribbon colour to yellow now?

Apparently, "the blue-ribbon panel on employment insurance reform that saved Canadians from a summer election is not going well."

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Vancouver Approves Laneway Housing

But property owners must rent out their converted garages, not sell them.

About 70,000 single-family lots across the city are eligible to add the new homes, which can only be built in the area usually reserved for a garage, and only used as rental units.

On a standard lot, the laneway houses can have up to 500 square feet of floor space and be up to one and a half stories high. The idea was promoted by former mayor Sam Sullivan as part of his eco-density initiative.

Tiny houses, they're the way of the future; and they're not just for renters.

Come on, Duncan! What's stopping you from following Vancouver's example? Laneway housing NOW.

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Federal Infrastructure Dollars: Should feds "monitor" how spent?

There's a conversation happening on Twitter between two people, an orangey-red Liberal and someone who likely fits best with the old Progressive Conservative label. (Gosh, I miss those PCs!) The conversation was prompted by a link to this article from The Canadian Press, tweeted by a third person, another Liberal I suspect of the purple or blue persuasion:

It's not up to his government to closely monitor how money intended for road, sewer and other projects is actually spent, suggests the federal minister in charge of infrastructure.

The federal government's main role in distributing the nearly $12 billion in cash it announced in the 2009 budget is to make sure the money gets out the door, says Transport Minister John Baird.

"It's not big government's role and Ottawa to centrally manage everything," Baird said when asked how his department is monitoring spending.

"What our job is is to provide funding, to see that it's matched and to see that things move quickly."

On this issue, I agree with Baird.

Provincial and municipal governments are elected by voters. How many voters and whether they've a true mandate to govern, given our electoral system, is a separate issue.

Regarding "stimulus" dollars for infrastructure funding, the federal government has the role of reviewing applications received from provinces and municipalities and then approving or disapproving those applications. Once applications are approved, that should be the end of the federal government's role with respect to how the money is spent.

To "monitor" the spending, as was suggested by one of the tweeters, smacks of paternalism and doesn't respect lesser governments' rights and responsibilities to govern their own jurisdictions. In other words, it fails to respect their autonomy. Further, to monitor these transferred funds suggests an assumption that without such federal 'oversight' the governments may not spend the dollars as they claimed they would. Yes, it was the federal government's insistence that it approve each and every project and that municipalities provide matching funds, but that's irrelevant to the point.

No question, a corrupt government or members within a government might spend infrastructure money contrary to that stated in its application. But then, the government in question must answer to those who put it there, the voters.

That the federal government would monitor spending by approved applicant governments not only insults all provincial and municipal governments at once, it insults voters. If any shady business happens, the latter will deal with it and more effectively than any federal intervention would. The closer people are to a government, the greater their influence on it.

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Oh, the Rapture!

No doubt said with serious and earnest face: "Lets [sic] face it Atheism is bankrupt so they have to indoctrinate young children."

That comment came in a discussion over at Rapture Ready, about Camp Quest, a new secular summer camp for youth in the US.

Out of their own mouths, people of certain rigid faith testify to their failure to exercise their 'God-given' reasoning faculties and the natural curiosity they were born with as children. I mean, how 'bout checking out the FACTS first?!

PZ Myers, over at Pharyngula, expands on the wacky discussion.

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28 July 2009

Living Alone vs. Living in Companionship

This photo says it all.

Although I've tried to express the issue in several posts on animal companions, pets and homelessness, that image says it best.

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27 July 2009

Well, boo hoo hoo

There are plenty of good reasons for objecting to BC's new Harmonized Sales Tax which is to be introduced next year. This isn't one of them:

"Builders and consumer groups say [the HST] is a 'disaster' that will add $36,000 to the cost of a new $800,000 home."

If you can afford a brand, spanking new $800,000 house then you can afford to pay an extra $36,000 in taxes.

That money could go toward helping house other taxpayers whose income rules out their ever being able to afford to buy their own home. Among these people are those who serve you in the stores where you shop, in the car dealerships where you buy your fancy cars, in the places where you book travel arrangements or go for all-day pampering or push a little ball around in a beautiful environment not accessible to the rest of us.

The things you buy most of the people who serve you cannot afford for themselves.

For you, $36,000 is peanuts. For ten percent of the rest of us, that amounts to four, or more, times our annual income.

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21 July 2009

Stop Blaming Young People

Aaron Wherry (Macleans) notes this article which is of the ilk, as he puts it, "Why don't the kids like the politics?"

It's refreshing to see someone like Wherry alluding to the unfairness of identifying young people as politically disengaged and blaming them for the erosion of our democracy.

Not voting doesn't translate into being apolitical. Not voting doesn't mean being uninvolved in one's community or not caring deeply about the issues affecting it, or one's country, or the globe.

Young people are not alone in turning their backs on the ballot box. They've a lot of company. All parties have moved themselves into the mushy middle or right (as the 'middle' also moves right), thus leaving a whole segment of the population no longer able to identify with any of them. With our system of voting having been designed for two parties, if a voter doesn't support either the Liberals or Conservatives, he or she will never have his or her views meaningfully represented in government. Oldtimers, not just young people, understand this.

No wonder voter turnout continues to fall. No wonder polling numbers remain static. All parties are fighting over an ever-decreasing pile of votes, which results in an increasing percentage of it representing diehard party loyalists. The situation therefore becomes a matter of whether the typical Liberal or Conservative voter will vote for the other this time or next. If either chooses NDP or Green instead, they know they've no hope in hell of having their votes translate into meaningful representation. If these voters live outside Ontario or Quebec, again they can forget about meaningful representation, unless
  • they voted Lib or Con and
  • their party choice ended up forming government and
  • their MP is of that party and
  • their MP was chosen to be a well-placed member of the cabinet.
(The Bloc is a special case because of the size of population it is capable of representing.)

There's a silent, steady movement of resistance happening in Canada. It's time for others to wake up and stop the blame-game. The situation of eroding voter turnout will remain until first, the blaming and bashing of non-voters ends and second, politicians, journalists and members of the still voting population start listening to non-voters with respect and an intention to learn. Non-voters can tell them why close to half of the electorate no longer votes and what to do to turn things around. That last is key and relies on a solutions-based, NOT a problems-based approach.

[Cross-posted at NADER]

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19 July 2009

Of Rights, Shelter & Government-Imposed Classes

This post is in response to MetisRebel's Survey THIS Homeless Medication.

The issue of pets touches me personally. Many people who live isolated lives, by choice or otherwise, have animal companions. A number of them, in turn, are extremely poor.

For those with animal companions, their lives may well depend on that association. Pets can help the lonely or the isolated maintain their humanity. The animals are someone to come home to, someone to care for, someone who appreciates their human's affection and ministration. The presence of an animal can be the only thing left that mediates between life and death.

Trapped in a province that allows property owners to deny others' rights they themselves have, in a province where less than 1 in 20 rental units are pet-friendly, I am paying over 70 percent of my income to stay in this bachelor apartment. With the cost of rental units soaring and the vacancy rates plummeting below two percent, nothing else is available.

BC's Residential Tenancy Act essentially supports at least 12 different classes of people. Listed in order of those having the most to the least rights in terms of housing or shelter, they represent people who:

  1. own their own home and have property they rent out.
  2. own a freehold home.
  3. own a strata home.
  4. singles or couples who rent and have no children or pets. This group has choice among 100% of rental units available.
  5. couples who rent and have children.
  6. single people who rent and have children - unless they are known to be on welfare, in which case they join group 7.
  7. renters who are non-white, openly LGBT, or are members of other groups that are targets of discrimination.
  8. people who rent and have animal companions.
  9. street people with children - more likely to be sheltered than 10, 11 or 12.
  10. street people living on their own who are not known addicts.
  11. street couples - shelters often separate the pair.
  12. street people with pets - shelter almost always denied the animals.

As to the welfare of homeless animals, I've not seen any animal with a street person who is other than cherished and cared for - see, e.g., these photos of a 'homeless' community.

I'd choose living on the street with my companions than give up either of my cats in order to be housed. Their companionship is essential to my health and the continuance of my life.

ETA: Firefighters recognize the importance of animals, as evidenced in this story just reported in the Victoria Times-Colonist.

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I think I'm in love

Well, not really.

But the social justice issue which comes closest to my heart is homelessness, and the books and films that draw my greatest favour are science fiction. So imagine my joy i) on discovering the person who wrote this beautiful piece on homelessness, ii) on finding her writing over at Homeless Tales, and iii) on reading that her latest post is titled 'The SciFi of Homelessness'.


Through a comparison of two science fiction TV series, Farscape and Battlestar Gallactica, MetisRebel makes points about homelessness that are rarely considered by anyone other than those affected.

As I've said before about this writer, she's a treasure. I encourage you to visit Homeless Tales. Go there with an open mind and prepared to reject all that you've been told. Read what MetisRebel and others have to say. Learn about homelessness from the experts.

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17 July 2009

Google AdSense: Poor need not apply

... because they won't get paid.

From an email I received in May from Google Adsense:

In an effort to protect the accounts of Google AdSense publishers, we've starting using automated telephone number verification to ensure that your information is accurate and up-to-date. As a result, you should see a Required Action on your Payment History Page to 'Please verify your phone number' after you log in to your account. To initiate this process, click the 'Please verify your phone number' link and follow the instructions.

I haven't a phone.

My response at the time? Bye-bye AdSense.

Thought that was the end of it...

UPDATE 1 - May 12

AdSense is back! Had to go start the process of closing my AdSense account, which got Google's attention. For the reason for closing the account, I wrote: "Your policy excludes very low-income bloggers, including those living on the streets, the very people who could most use AdSense income. I haven't a phone."

Google is sending me a PIN by snail mail, so I can verify my account that way. Why the hell they didn't include that option in their original 'Please verify your phone number' message I've no idea, except to suppose they're as oblivious as most other people are - including the vet, local retailers, the manager at my doctor's office, all creators of online submission forms who make the telephone field mandatory...

As I told an online friend, who tried to help me with this, I get weary trying to educate people about this kind of thing. It's depressing to be reminded of one's own marginalization, which makes it that much harder to fight back against the assumptions which marginalize. There are times I just can't push myself to do it. But thanks to the gentle support of my friend, this time I pushed back and with good results.

UPDATE 2 - Bye-bye AdSense - Today, July 17.

Went through the process of PIN verification and STILL the phone verification notice has not come off my account. Which means PIN verification was a useless exercise.

So once again I began the cancellation process with the hope that SOMEONE at Google AdSense would HELP with this problem.

Well, good luck with that!

NOTHING but the same old stupid response. I am instructed either to complete the verification process - in other words the respondent didn't READ my reason for proceeding with cancellation - or to submit a form accepting that I won't get paid what I am owed.

Google AdSense owes me $14.58. But I won't get it because I haven't a phone and cannot verify having what I don't have.

So went ahead and submitted their stupid form to cancel without payment.

Am angry, frustrated, in tears, and incensed by societal assumptions which forever are placing barriers between those who have and those who don't.

... and I've just received another auto-reply to the effect that I can NEITHER cancel my account NOR get paid. I'm in an auto-reply nightmare and of course, because I haven't a phone, there's not a hope in hell of talking to a REAL LIVE PERSON.

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13 July 2009

Ten Rules for Good Health

If you're lucky, you will be able to follow them all and live a long, contented life.

  1. Don't be poor. If you can, stop. If you can't, try not to be poor for long.
  2. Don't have poor parents.
  3. Own a car. [Or live in a community that provides excellent, affordable, public transportation.]
  4. Don't work in a stressful, low paid manual job.
  5. Don't live in damp, low quality housing.
  6. Be able to afford to go on a foreign holiday and sunbathe.
  7. Practice not losing your job and don't become unemployed.
  8. Take up all benefits you are entitled to, if you are unemployed, retired or sick or disabled [and hope the eligibility criteria aren't designed to prevent 60% of applicants getting the benefits they paid for].
  9. Don't live next to a busy major road or near a polluting factory.
  10. Learn how to fill in the complex housing benefit/asylum application forms before you become homeless and destitute.

From Social Determinants of Health: Canadian Perspectives.

I would add: Don't have experienced long-term child abuse, or be a member of a minority, or have a disability, or be a woman, or...

ETA: See also this side-by-side comparison of conventional vs. social-determinants tips for good health. My thanks to subscribers of the SDOH listserv for sending me this list. It's my understanding it has been circulating since 1999 and was originally conceived and distributed through email by Dave Gordon, Townsend Center for International Poverty Research at the University of Bristol.

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11 July 2009

The colours take my breath away

They surround a shed which could as easily be converted into a tiny house. What a gorgeous setting! Sigh...

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09 July 2009

Tube Steak

Test tube, that is. Coming soon to a grocery store near you, meat that is designed in Petri dishes then transferred into large vats to grow.

Rapidly evolving technology and increasing concern about the environmental impact of meat production are signs that vat-grown meat is moving from scientific curiosity to consumer option. In vitro meat production is a specialized form of tissue engineering, a biomedical practice in which scientists try to grow animal tissues like bone, skin, kidneys and hearts. Proponents say it will ultimately be a more efficient way to make animal meat, which would reduce the carbon footprint of meat products.

Researchers can currently grow small amounts of meat in the lab, and have even been able to get heart cells to beat in Petri dishes. Growing muscle cells on an industrial scale is the next step, scientists say.

So, for all you meat eaters out there, here is a way to eat animal flesh and be able to say that you are no longer contributing to animal cruelty or environmental degradation.

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07 July 2009

Arizona Senator: Earth 6,000 years old

For real. On tape:

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It's highly unlikely to see mushrooms in the summer season around here, but the past weeks a few brave specimens have popped up around the boles of a number of the larger evergreen trees. Their arrival indicates that rain is on the way, for reasons still unknown to mycologists.

Agaricus Agustus, also known as 'The Prince' is a highly-prized edible variety, if you can get to the mushrooms before fly maggots invade their tender flesh. They are a relative of the kind you find in some grocery stores, sought by food junkies.

Seeing these large-topped fungi prompted me to grab my camera and put pen to paper.

Woodland Den

The ground surrounding this wee cottage
Are strewn a minefield of mushroom montage
Each step set anywhere must first explore
The delicate condition of the forest floor
For fungi frolic rain plashed and cool
A few pretentious, more yet minuscule

They burst the earth in hues abundant
The odour off them robust and pungent
Therefore, place your feet so gently when
You go strolling in this woodland den.

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06 July 2009

Meat-Free Monday

Okay, Okay, I know I go on a LOT about a meat-free diet, but the proof shows up in our bodies. Eating without ingesting animal flesh is definitely beneficial to our health.

[T]he fact that eating meat leads to heart disease, cancer, diabetes, obesity, and lethargy, I'll skip extended analysis of these facts, other than to say: When Johns Hopkins, Columbia, the American Dietetic Association, and dozens of other health organizations argue that the less meat you eat, the better off you'll be, it's worth listening to them.

To get you started, two well-known Public Health schools in the USA are promoting a Meatless Monday campaign. It is a positive step in the direction of overall health for each individual and the entire planet.

[S]cientists tell us that if all Americans switched from eating chickens and pigs to eating beans and grains for just one day per week, that would stop as much global warming as if everyone in the U.S. shifted to ultra-efficient Toyota hybrids (which is the weekly equivalent of using 12 billion fewer gallons of gasoline). Of course I have to point out the obvious: If we all stopped eating animals completely and shifted to vegetarian foods, that would save 84 billion gallons of gas per week (and all the troubles that go with that kind of consumption).

Today is Monday. Today is the day to eat a meat-free diet. If you have already committed to one-day-a-week of meat-free eating, now is the day to add another. Your body will thank you, Mother Earth will thank you and all the animals that were not slaughtered to supply you with their flesh will thank you.

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05 July 2009

Have You Seen My Childhood?

... a song by Michael Jackson that I'd never heard before, which has become my instant favourite. It's haunting, evocative, especially for anyone whose childhood has been far from ideal. I've not seen MJ as expressive in any other video.

Have you seen my childhood?
I'm searching for
The world that I come from
'Cause I've been looking around
In the lost and found
Of my heart
No one understands me

They view it
As strange eccentricities
'Cause i keep kidding around
Like a child, but pardon me

People say i'm not okay
'Cause I love such elementary things
It's been my fate to compensate
For the child
I've never known

Have you seen my childhood?
I'm searching for
That wonder in my youth
Like pirates and adventurous dreams
Of conquest and kings on the throne

Before you judge me
Try hard to love me
Look within your heart
Then ask

Have you seen my childhood?
People say I'm strange that way
'Cause I love
Such elementary things
It's been my fate to compensate
For the childhood
I've never known

Have you seen my childhood?
I'm searching for that
Wonder in my youth
Like fantastical stories to share
The dreams I would dare
Watch me fly

Before you judge me
Try hard to love me
The painful youth
I've had
Have you seen my childhood?

Makes me wonder if all the surgery wasn't about trying to find a white ideal, but about trying to stave off becoming a man, an adult. MJ wanted to be the child he never was, to never grow up. That would account for his Neverland Ranch, surrounding himself with children, his bewilderment at sexual abuse charges ('sex is for adults, not children'), a diet which kept his weight and musculature down, surgery that reduced the size of his features....

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Monument to "Victims of Communism" Planned

The Harper government is planning a monument to "victims of Communism." (Note capital 'c'.)

Three years ago, Jason Kenney - then secretary of state for multiculturalism, now federal Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism - says he met with the Czech and Slovak Association, who brought him to a small memorial for communism's victims they had built in a private Toronto park. It was a Christ-like figure crucified on a hammer and sickle. "I said to them, sort of half jokingly, 'Any chance we could move this to Ottawa as a national monument?'" he recalls. "They said, 'That's a brilliant idea, why don't we do that? Why don't we create a monument for the victims of Communism in Ottawa?' And we immediately got to work."

Harper waxed enthusiastic in his support:

"I would strongly support the idea of such a monument to recognize the 100 million people who died violent deaths under communist regimes, as well as those who escaped these totalitarian regimes to build new lives in Canada." He suggested it belonged near Ottawa's war museum, "ideally" to be unveiled in time for the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall, this November.

Way. To. Go. Harper! Canada's current resident of the PMO supports the erection of a monument for victims of a political ideology of which there are several variants. Might we also erect a monument for victims of neo-liberalism? How 'bout market capitalism?

There is so much confusion of terms in that quoted National Post article it has fogged up my lenses and I've gone cross-eyed.

Help! Is there a doctor (of logic chopping) in the house?

ETA: Ah huh! The good doctor answers my call. I recommend people read his post.

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Church Flies Gay-Pride Flag

This atheist has always had a soft spot for the United Church of Canada. Here is one reason why.

A church might not be the most likely place to see a gay pride flag flying, but that's exactly what's happening at the James Bay United Church.

The church, part of the United Church of Canada, raised the rainbow flag in honour of Pride Week, which ends today with a parade downtown. It's the first year the church has decided to display the flag.

One of my few fond memories of childhood involves the UCC. As a foster child, I attended craft classes in one of their lovely old stone churches in Toronto. The people there never, not once, tried to indoctrinate me. As a result, I felt welcome.

One memory is of being in an upper room, my head bent to my task, and the sun shining through a narrow leaded window on my right, lending comfort, light and warmth. That day, I relaxed long enough to paint and to let go of some of the unhappiness and stress I always carried with me.

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03 July 2009

Cool New Firefox Extension

... called Dispute Finder, helps you find alternative views on any given issue, including the ability to rank the quality of arguments on all sides.

Here's a video of how it works:

You can get the Firefox extension here.

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About Those Acronyms

Ever wondered what an acronym used in an article meant and searched, in vain, for its written-in-full introduction?

The Tyee, at least, has got the message from frustrated readers. For your morning smile, go read Rex Weyler's hilarious article.

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02 July 2009

Parliamentary Games

James Travers lists ten reasons why Parliament no longer serves the people. Among them:

Happiness here is reducing complex problems to a bumper sticker. "Do the Crime, Do the Time" resonates, but it doesn't make Canadians safer any more than cutting the GST made us noticeably richer. Keep it simple, stupid, is the rule, not the exception. So stick this on your subsidized Suburban: "Don't just vote, think."

I've a better suggestion for that bumper sticker: "Think, don't vote."

Only THEN, provided enough of us choose NOT to vote, will politicos start to worry about their legitimacy to govern. Only THEN will politicos get serious about accountable and representative government.

We need to turn our backs on the whole lot of them and the system they've managed to despoil.

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Vatican to Probe US Nunneries

Over the past three decades, the number of nuns in the US has dropped from 180,000 to 60,000. So what does the Vatican decide to do about this? Investigate orders that have adopted a modern lifestyle, including allowing nuns to wear regular garb and engage in professions previously taboo.

The Vatican is quietly conducting two sweeping investigations of American nuns, a development that has startled and dismayed nuns who fear they are the targets of a doctrinal inquisition....

The more extensive of the two investigations is called an Apostolic Visitation, and the Vatican has provided only a vague rationale for it: to “look into the quality of the life” of women’s religious institutes....

The visitation focuses only on nuns actively engaged in working in society and the church, not cloistered, contemplative nuns....

The investigation was ordered by Cardinal Franc Rodé, head of the Vatican office that deals with religious orders. In a speech in Massachusetts last year, Cardinal Rodé offered barbed criticism of some American nuns “who have opted for ways that take them outside” the church.

Given this backdrop, Sister Schneiders, [a] professor in Berkeley, urged her fellow sisters not to cooperate with the visitation, saying the investigators should be treated as “uninvited guests who should be received in the parlor, not given the run of the house.” She wrote this in a private e-mail message to a few friends, but it became public and was widely circulated.

I hope the Cardinal's ambitions succeed. That would only hasten more women turning their backs on Catholicism and the Vatican.

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01 July 2009

Cons do unto DFAIT what they did unto SWC

Recall when the Harper Conservatives began changing the language - and thus mandate and eligibility criteria for grants - used for Status of Women Canada? These changes were seen on its website and other materials, and heard in any references the Cons made to the department. Words like 'equality' were erased.

Well they've not been idle when it comes to the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade either.

DFAIT insiders tell Embassy that since the Conservative government took power in 2006, political staffers have directed rank and file Foreign Affairs bureaucrats to stop using policy language created by the former Liberal government.

"There are phrases you are not supposed to use," said one Canadian diplomat, on condition of anonymity. "Anything that smacks of the previous government is totally verboten.

"There is this tendency, almost like a knee-jerk reaction, to discount or ignore or change whatever it is the Liberals did and let's put a new Conservative face on it," he added. "There's a whole range of words and expressions that are being depopulated out of the documents, and are replaced with ones that are more to the [Conservatives'] liking."

Chief among the forbidden phrases, multiple DFAIT insiders have told Embassy, are "human security," "public diplomacy" and "good governance." Preferred key words include "human rights," the "rule of law," and "democracy" or "democratic development."

When you change a language, you change a culture.

The Cons are transforming Canada one word at a time.

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