Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Top chef uses iPod for Recipe Downloads

New Zealand Lamb has now developed the first ever realtime recipe, for free video or audio download.

Prepare meals with perfect timings along with super-chef Peter Gordon on your iPod.

Available for free download at www.TheUltimateLambSandwich.com.
Contact Lisa Holden Tel: 020 7734 4455. Email: lisah@attenborough.net

Mmmmmmmmm, my lunch seems pale in contrast.

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Thursday, February 23, 2006

We Are The Jurassic Beaver!

This CNN article fills this Canadian with pride. Sure it isn't really directly related to the beaver, and sure it lived in China, but any 160 some odd million year old Beaver like creature throwing Science into a kafuful is reason for this Canuck to be reminded that "We Are The Beaver." Which of course brings up the Ye Olde(tm) Arrogant Worms whose concert I recently (well a month ago) attended, and have really been meaning to blog about, I even said I was going to do it here.

Soon I promise!

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Java Puzzlers: Traps, Pitfalls, and Corner Cases By Joshua Bloch and Neal Gafter

I just finished reading Java Puzzlers and thought I might try and collect my thoughts and write them up in some coherent form. First off, I found the book to be an enjoyable read; I don't think I have so thoroughly enjoyed a piece of technical writings since The Mythical Man Month by Fred Brooks, or perhaps Effective Java by Joshua Bloch. Bloch and Gafter's writing style is light, and effective, then don't belabour the obvious, nor glaze over important details. At times they stare down difficult topics with tongue firmly planted in cheek, they go so far as to offer a special appendix on their site that explains some of their puns and pop culture references.

At first glance the book appears to be an exploration of the more esoteric portions of the Java Language Specification; neither interesting nor particularly useful beyond novelty. While it would be practically impossible to use this book to solve a particular peculiar problem you are having, it is not intended to be used in that manner. Instead the book provides a fresh way to present AntiPatterns.

Each of the puzzles the book uses to explore the language comes in the following format:

The problem is either in the form of a piece of code or a request for you to write a piece of code to solve a particular simple problem. You are then left to divine what the program will do.

Naturally, and intuitively you will have deduced this is what the code will do, or this is the piece of code you were to write. Inevitably you are wrong, by mid way through the book you come to expect you are wrong and start second guessing your instincts, your second solution is still wrong. Don't sweat your ego, this is the point of the book, while the Java Language usually behaves, there are areas of the spec that would leave Kernighan & Ritchie sweating.

Real Solution:
Truth is revealed, and enlightenment comes, and we move on. This section explains in detail, and with references what is going on, what trick they trapped you on, and what change to the code would make it behave they way you expect (and likely would desire.)

Lessons for Developers:
This is the real diamond in the rough, if you follow the given advice you will keep your code out of the troubled spots. This isn't to imply that your post Java Puzzlers will be free of bugs, but perhaps those bugs won't fall into the subset of nearly impossible to identify. It is left as an exercise for the reader to create impossible bugs to puzzle themselves with. For those familiar with Effective Java, many of the patterns/antipatterns of this lesson section are reiterations from that book. As evidenced by the existence of this these mistakes are often repeated, so repetition of the solution can't be resented.

Lessons for Language Designers:
While less useful for us lowly developers, these lessons are very much patterns/antipatterns for language designers. Those of us in the coding trenches can only hope that they glean something from this section.

At the end of the book, they concisely summarize the developer lessons into a handy appendix. This appendix could easily be stapled into any developer guideline, or best practices document. Long after you finish the book, this set of lessons is a take away you can apply again and again in any application.

While this book is probably of greatest value to a Java Developer, many of the Antipatterns are language agnostic. The style really engages the reader, hopefully resulting in more knowledge retention then the typical technical read. Additionally the challenge style of the book may aid a developer in preparation for their Java 2 Programmer Certification, although I would recommend this as a study secondary source only. Finally, those with passing interest in the language, or with a history in it, while not actively developing, may get a kick out of it. I hope I have intrigued at least one person into picking up a copy and giving it a read, now that I have returned the library copy, I intend to pick up a copy from the bookstore for my personal shelf.

On a side note...
While clearly neither the core content nor particular educational value the book is filled with a few extras. For formatting reasons the book has many large white spaces, these are left to make sure you don't cheat, and think about a problem before reading ahead to see the solution. Instead of leaving the space blank, or filling it with such witty content like "This space has been intentionally left blank" or "This space has been intentionally left blank, ironically it isn't" the spaced are filled with graphical illusions. In addition to the illusions there is an interesting appendix discussion them.

Who is winning the console war?

Found this link a while back and it has been sitting in my draft bin since the 13th. So I figured I would publish it (there is a lot of good stuff in the draft bin these days.)

Anyways, my take on this, from a shareholder/corporate/profit perspective Nintendo is still doing great, and in a lot of ways that is what counts. Don't get me wrong, I like my XBoxes, but when you are a company whose only business is the video game business its important to do that business well, and apparently Nintendo still does.

I for one am hyped about the Revolution, I keep hearing all sorts of names attached to it, including the guy in charge of Halo, and rumors of a price tag that does not require selling children into slavery. The DS has out performed all expectations, and I know I still use mine.

Anyways, I thought 1up did a good job here, so I'm spreading the link, and just publishing something before everyone thinks I've disappeared.

Monday, February 20, 2006

Literacy Limps Into the Kill Zone

It's always interesting when one any persona takes a stand, especially when that stand is from the top of a soapbox. When the persona is an editor of a significant news outlet, and the target of his vitriol is his colleagues, and their effect, well, the results are down right literary.

It's rare for a journalist to admit to the power the wield, rarer still for them to condemn it, it strikes me as odd that I have found two such articles recently.

In this episode we join Tony Long, copy chief for Wired News, as he explores the English language's decent into the droppings collection apparatus (aka the shitter.)

Tony has a point, and while it is partially directed at inane blog writers, like yours truly, it is accurate. He explains that much of the problem started with the ease and speed of communication. As we effortlessly fire our messages across the ether, we not failing to think about the linguistic repercussions of our writings, we are failing to think about our writings all together. What we create he relates to other (non-fecal) bodily waste.

But it's not enough to simply vomit out of your fingers. It's important to say what you mean clearly, correctly and well. It's important to maintain high standards. It's important to think before you write.

With a liberal helping of blame and recrimination Tony admits that he is willing to allow English evolution, provided that evolution doesn't dismantle the expressiveness of our great language. He makes a specific note that I hits close to home for me, and that is about technical jargon. While I encourage a thorough reading of the article, I thought I would share out of concern for the horses.

Eternal vigilance is required to nip these encroachments in the bud. While tech jargon might be very useful among engineers and programmers, it should stay among engineers and programmers so as not to frighten the children and the horses.

After all is send and done, I do agree with Tony, and that is the English language is a very fertile field for ideas to germinate and grow into all manner of flowers and trees, things of beauty, and complexity, or simple elegance. Unfortunately, that field has become overgrown with weeds.

Thursday, February 16, 2006


I know this is old news for most of the intrawebnetosphere, but podcasts are great! Succinctly, a podcast is an audio (or video) program which is published to an RSS feed. (Really Simple Syndication.) All of this is just fancy for XML document that points to a file. What's great about it, is you have this homebrew radio/tv stream out there, and a lot of great content. There are a lot of great tools to make podcasting easy to consume, iTunes being the one I use. From iTunes I subscribe to an RSS feed, and it automatically downloads and syncs new episodes to my iPod. Pretty great.

Anyways, I'm not here to reveal the ancient mysteries of the intrawebnetosphere, you all know the fung shui of the http. I'm just here to complete my end of the podcast social contract. You see, pod casters, like bloggers, are exhibitionist. They like to be seen/heard. So as an enjoyer of their broadcasts, I am beholden to share the podcasts I partake in with the world, or at least my little slice of the sphere. So here are the ones I listen to, with direct links to the feed, the itunes link to the feed, and links to the home page, and maybe commentary. I will, on an on going basis update a new podcast section in the right hand nav. Of all the links in the nav, this is a link for you, not me, so enjoy!

This Week in Tech (TWIT)
weebSubscribe via iTunesXML for RSS aggregators and podcast clients
This is the UltraGeek(tm) podcast, featuring, well ultrageeks, talking about ultrageeky things.

CBC Quirks and Quarks
weebQuirks & Quarks Podcast feed
Host Bob McDonald waxes scientific with a host of guests from universities around Canada and the world.

They Might Be Giants
weebSubscribe via iTunesRSS
This one is, well its TMBG, which by their very nature is weird, but I like it. The first episode is a must have for its stirring reprise of Triangle Man.

Barenaked Ladies
weebSubscribe via iTunesBNLBlog Podcast Feed
Technically, I just found out about this, so I am prognosticating is wonderment, I'll let you know how it works out. This is just further evidence to the bands internet preparedness I alluded to earlier

Tiki Bar TV
weebSubscribe via iTunes
JonnyJonny serves up Dr. Tiki's prescription for what ails you. Drunken foolery ensues. Technically I don't watch this on my iPod, but that is because mine doesn't do video. Still a must watch!

Well to steal a line from Leo Leporte from Twit, "another blog post is in the can." (apparently this does not mean the garbage...)

Freaky - The human Chimera

Very interesting. A woman who has a single body formed from TWO distinct embryos - Thus has two different gene sets in her body!!!

From a sight whose name is damninteresting.com here is something that is, well.... Damn Interesting! A women who is a Chimera, now the article points out, (things which my lovely wife has told me) that Chimera's do exist in the wild. This form of Chimera is just extremely rare, as organisms are more complex, this type is more likely to end in miss carriage. I think the best part of the story was how they discovered she was a chimera. Essentially her children were being genetically tested for a potential kidney donation, when one of her three daughters found out that she didn't share the same mother with her sisters. The mother on the other hand was distinctly sure of pregnancy and subsequent birth. One can only wonder the reaction if the genetically absentee parent was the father.

Damn... Interesting!

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Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Microbiologist for a day

As I mentioned here I recently went undercover as a Microbiologist to see what that culture was like. Now when I say culture, I really mean cultures of bacteria. I had a fun day at the lab with Erin this weekend, helping her get some tedious tasks done so she could focus on her work. I also got to grow these HappyFunBugs(tm) aka B. Subtilis.

Ski team utilizing Marvel-esque futuristic body armor

"A futuristic flexible material that instantly hardens into armour upon impact will protect US and Canadian skiers from injury on the slalom runs at this year's Winter Olympics." Looks like costumes for the next Marvel movie to me.

Wow reactive armour for people, this is great! The article further mentions possible applications in flexible ballistic protection. The world of materials science is pretty neat, I think I am in the wrong engineering discipline :)

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A Break From our Regularly scheduled Content to Bring you Hockey Hero Vindication, Grezky Style.

Article from the Winnipeg Sun that tells the truth, there is no Wayne Gretzky story, he has no involvement, and no one saying he does. Except the trial by media. Leave him alone!

Monday, February 13, 2006

From the band who was ready for the Internet, before it was the Internet, BNL Presents: iTunes Originals - Barenaked Ladies.

Barenaked Ladies, off the road from their last tour, are off recording a new album at Steven Page's house. Now I sincerely doubt that Steve's "garage studio" is anything but a state of the art recording facility, but it brings back the nostalgia of young bands and parents basements. For the creative types, I imagine it's a convenience that allows for 2am inspiration to become art as opposed to lost (although I'm sure it also creates a mass amount of terrible things that are blamed on the Chinese takeout leftovers he snacked on a 1am.)

Now albums take time to produce, and I'm not going to be the one to get in there with a flail and tell them to make music faster, they have a creative process, and it works. What they have done, is continue to show how internet savvy they are, and producing a stop gap measure to sate the music hungry masses.

To digress a moment, I have alluded twice now to the bands technological awareness, and I want to explain. The first is a little more tongue and cheek, and that is the bands name, if you can think of a name of a successful band that generates more hits on the internet, by accident, then Barenaked Ladies, then that band can have these accolades, until that band comes along, then my kudos goes to BNL. I remember the early days when the band was not aloud to play the New Years Eve concert in Nathan Philips Square because there name was too controversial. For those of you who have no idea what the band looks like, they are neither bare, naked, nor ladies. In fact they were 5 average looking young guys who were a little overweight. Now they are 5 average looking middle aged men, who have a little less hair, and a little less waist line. By definition, they are the typical Canadian Superstars, which is to say, they can go out into a crowds, ride the subway, take their kids to soccer, and nobody notices, or at least nobody starts a flash mob and rip their clothes off. So there controversial name, which is probably the driver of a lot of incidental traffic to their web site, was just the first of the internet savvy things they have done. Since then they have been on the edge of slurry of internet trends, offering news groups, chat rooms, concert listing, fan club, blogs, media clips, music videos, and download exclusive songs and albums.

That brings me back around to my topic, so at first BNL started offering live concert recordings from their website, so you could go to their concert, have a great time, then go home and a couple days later download a copy of the concert you attended. Now BNL as taken it a step further and produced an exclusive internet only album and Apple has the exclusive rights to distribute it through there store. The album, iTunes Originals - Barenaked Ladies, is one in a series of exclusive albums offered on the iTunes store. The album is all new recordings of some classic songs; the track list represents a cross section of their discography, as well as something that will show up on the upcoming album. Interspersed between the tracks is banter between the band members (mostly Steve and Ed) discussing the history of the bands, and the various tracks. All in all a great album, filled with great anecdotes, and acoustic versions of a couple of my favorites songs (For those who don't know, I am a big fan of the acoustic sound, so this was a treat for me.) All this for the low price of $9.99, a price model that I'm a fan of, as I will mention in the upcoming rant mentioned that will be linked to from here.

So fans of the band, who are jonesing for something new, check out their work in the iTunes store, and BNL, keep up the great work!

Blog Blast February 13, 2006

Welcome to Blog Blast 02/2006, this semi-regular post style has been used in the past here, and here as a way to force myself to set a blogging agenda, and then fulfill it either in one train trip, or at least over a short period of time. So the agenda is as follows (note the links are broken until I actually fill them in.)

Now that I have given you a list of topics, I am bound by the social contact of the blog, to either deliver, or not deliver as I see fit! (insert evil laugh) Well I will quit wasting time talking about what I am going to blog and blog it!

ps If this all comes out deranged, and unreadable, it is because it is about 35 degrees on the train right now, and I'm melting, and seriously wondering how the people around me are still wearing their coats)

Bottled water, a natural resource taxing the world's ecosystem

"Even in areas where tap water is safe to drink, demand for bottled water is increasing, producing unnecessary garbage and consuming vast quantities of energy,"...Although in the industrial world bottled water is often no healthier than tap water, it can end up costing 10,000 times more

I've been thinking this for a long long time, I'm glad a scientific institution have made this statement. Although, I'm sure that sentiment has been made a million times before.

I would like to point out, sometimes, when you are out in public, and your really thirsty, and there isn't a fountain near by, purchasing a bottle of water is appropriate. I think this should be a final resort, not the mass consumption of bottled water that currently happens. If you can pick up a bottle of water on the way out of your house, then you can fill up a refillable water bottle instead. If you are picky about your water, then buy a water filtration system, or get a water cooler with those refillable 20 gallon bottles.

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Thursday, February 09, 2006

Drum Roll Please

After much alluding, and misdirection, I hope this isn't a denouement, but may I present,
I have in fact made these myself, with some help from the knitting professionals (Erin and her mom.) They are really really warm, and exceptional goofy!

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Coast of Araska: Secret project

Coast of Araska: Secret project
Okay okay, I really promise, this tonight I will put the pictures up. They are looking pretty great!

They?!? I've said too much!

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Plan to charge businesses for e-mail triggers outcry

Looks like my post, Funny Filter Business, wasn't the only one crying fowl about this AOL/Yahoo email charge. The CNN articles quotation says it best:
"It's taxation of the good guys with cash, and it does nothing to help the good guys who can't afford the cost or to deter the bad guys who spam anyway," Matt Blumberg, CEO of Return Path, an e-mail services company, was quoted as saying in USA Today.

What worries me is AOL's response that the money generated would be used improve their anti-spam filter, which plays right into my thoughts on purposly making the spam filters pick off legit mail, to boost revenue. I'm glad someone as main stream as CNN picked this up.

Heroic Send Off for Police Dog

This may seem a little macabre, but I saw this on CTV and thought it appropriate to highlight. There are many animals that 'work for a living' the save lives, the help the blind, they server and protect, they entertain, and many other assorted jobs. In the case of police dogs, whose jobs put them in harms way, we often take for granted that the animal is not only keeping the peace, but replacing a human officer in a dangerous situation. They put their lives on the line, and when one of them falls in the line of duty, it is very easy for the animals colleagues to transpose themselves into their shoes (paws) and realize that it could have easily been them that died. So for the very reason we honour our fallen human officers, it is important to honour our animal ones.

So Nitro, Good Boy!

Monday, February 06, 2006

Secret project

I mentioned a reveal of my secret project tonight, but alas no dice. Tomorrow for sure !

Funny Filter Business

I found this on google news and I must say I am a bit dismayed.

A brief synopsis:
AOL and Yahoo will charge senders of bulk email $0.01 USD to send emails to its clients, and guarantee those emails will not be blocked by its spam filter.

The article which reads like PR copy states that
"But both sometimes catch legitimate mail in their nets, which has been a source of frustration for senders and recipients alike.

To those like myself I find false positives to be more annoying the false negatives, but it reveals a flaw in the bulk filters, not is the responsibility of the filter designer to fix, not the email recipient or email sender.

Now I understand the sentiment of this system, and that is the cost is negligible to a business with a real customer list, compared to the cost to a spammers million client list. For a business $0.01 per mail is negligible to when compared to may have hand mailed advertisements at $0.50 plus the cost of printing, envelopes and internal handling. Compare that to a company who relies on a spammer to do their bulk mailing all willie nilly. A quick googling reveals that the cost per bulk mail can get as low as $0.0002 / recipient. The 50x increase in cost is nothing to sniff at, especially when the average response rate from those bulk mailings can be as low as 5% (again quick google search revealed that number, but it was a bulk sending company claiming that response rates were that high, I'm rather suspect of that.)

So in theory.... those companies we are in business relationships with will pay this small fee to the company, whom we pay to deliver mail to us, reach their established customer base. No problem here, peace of mind for all right? Our companies will pay for our most important mailings like our statements, but maybe test their luck with marketing information.

The problem, and there is a problem, is that such a model encourages Yahoo to make a Draconian spam filter that blocks everything. Why should Yahoo let non-spam through for free, when it can charge for it? How long before personal correspondents have to pay to get through? Aren't I already paying for Yahoo to get that mail to me? Now will I have to pay the companies I deal with more so that they can pay Yahoo to deliver that mail? I only see the customer suffering in the long for this decision.

There is a spam problem, no doubt about that, but the model is flawed, sadly I have to admit it is the first good idea for solving the problem that I have heard in a long time. Ahh DARPA-net you grew up and left the lab long before your protocols were ready for the real world.

Top Liberal Defects for some reason or another.

Members of parliament represent their constituents; at least that is how a democracy is supposed to work. Defections in the House of Commons are not unheard of, or all that rare, but they are usually a little less random, or apparently greed driven.

It is perhaps not unfair to ask for a plum position when you cross the floor, as you run the risk of castrating your political career, but usually a floor crossing should happen not because of what is being offered, but in spite of it.

Historically, defections occur over political ideological differences, and often make the difference between the Government falling or key legislature being passed. (Defections either to bring the government down, or pass legislature.)

Last summer, the Belle of the Tory party (Belinda Stronach) crossed the floor (the house of commons being divided such that the party(ies) that have formed the government on one side, and the opposition parties on the other, with a space separating them, aka the floor.) to avert the fall of the Liberal government by supporting a controversial same-sex marriage bill. Much furor and ire was raised, as well as debate. People questioned if she was abandoning her party, her values, or her constituents. In the end it was up to the people of the memorized Aurora riding to decide, and they supported her decision by reelecting her under her new party in the recent federal election.

So today, with the announcement of the new cabinet, it came as a shock that David Emerson has crossed the floor to the Conservative party. What baffles me is the timing of the whole issue, why now? Parliament hasn't even been in session yet, there are no contentious issues on the table, and the Liberal party is to busy picking a leader to even bother trying to take down the Government, so why cross the floor?

Perhaps he thought that he had a strong mandate from the Vancouver Kingsway riding? Nope, it was a contested riding all right, but between the Liberals and the NDP, not the Conservatives. Which really begs the question, is it fair to Vancouver Kingsway to have their votes thrown in their face like this?

Now the question of why he made the move might have been personal greed, but I wonder if the Tories were fishing for possible converts. You see, the numbers from the election fall such that the Tory/NDP coalition government holds 153 of 307 seats, or 49.83% In other words, all votes fall to either the official opposition, the one independent* or the national traitor party to uphold. From an optics (public opinion) point of view, it is important that the ruling party be able to rule, and the opposition party resist the ruling party, so that bills passed by the House of Commons are well debated at shaped to fit the Canadian identity. With the way the seats lay, for the Government to be effective, it would have be forced to court the Bloc Quebequois, no nationalist leader wants to do. So it is very likely that Harper and his team went fishing for a likely Liberal, to give their party the strength it needed to forge and effective government. What's more, if the Liberal party wants to have an effective run as an opposition party, I wouldn't have been surprised if they helped give Emerson the nudge. Especially considering the riding that he defected from, a strong left leaning riding; it will not be unsurprising if the Liberals sweep it back into the fold next time around.

Anyways, that is enough political speculation for the day. If I'm lucky, I'm going to finish my as of yet unblogged about project tonight, and get it posted for all to see.

*The one independent seems to me like a mockery of the election process. He is an unaffiliated, outspoken, shock jock from Quebec. Could you imagine if Howard Stern was elected in the States? He will probably be ineffective, and has done nothing but separate another riding of Quebec from having an effect on Federal politics.

Friday, February 03, 2006

You win this time Mr. Martin

[I found this in my drafts, apparently I forgot to edit it and publish it, so better late then never here it is. This is a first in series of reviews I plan based on my pre-review post from before Christmas]

So, George R. R. Martin, and his Feast of Crows, was late enough to irk me. (As I'm sure it irked many fans.) Its lateness was starting to feel Stephen King's Gunslingerish. When it came out, it was only half a book, half a very very big book, making it in fact larger then your average one book. The reason for this was publishers ability to physically print the book came into question, as it stands the behemoth has pages made of onion skin, and is still thicker then your average hardcover. (It does not exceed the ISO bear ergonomic size guidelines, but only barely, eh BooBo. [As I am editing this 3-5 weeks after initially writing it, I'm certain this was a lot funnier the first time, the kernel of this joke has something to do with the fact either ISO or some other standards board has a set of ergonomic size guidelines for products, in regards to humans.])

When George decided to split the book he had two choices, he could make Feast of Crows Part 1, and Feast of Crows Part 2; where he cuts the book in half along the temporal axis. Instead, George shimmied his plots about, so that half the characters had there whole story told. Fortunately the points of interaction in his story are local wise very disparate, and so this could be done without revealing too much of what you weren't seeing.

To say the least, I was appearing about his choice, but it was his choice, and I can't really change it, so in my opinion doesn't matter. For the record, now that I have read it, he made the right choice.

In approaching this book, I was concerned that I would be lost in the twisting maze of plot. I had reread the whole series prior to the published publication date over two years ago, only to find out within days of the published publication date, that the published publication date was utter bunk. In protest, I refused to re-re-read the books, I figured sure fire if I did that again, the book would magically vanish from my shelf for another two years just to spite me. So head first into his story I dove, and it tenderly caught me, and pulled me into its twisting curves most masterfully.

Since most of my friends, and family haven't read the book yet, and most of them will at some point probably read my copy, I will avoid spoilers. What I will say is that the long wait was worth it!

Martin wrote a phenomenal book that captivates its readers, and pulls you along. At times you find your self screaming at the book demanding justice for your beloved characters, or comeuppance for those you loath, Cersi, I hate that witch! As always each chapter focus on one character's point of view and as always you are put behind that characters eyes, and see it through them. This of course makes their pain all the more visceral.

Without given much away, he has taken to a slightly different naming on his chapters that works well. In this case his characters are evolving, and the chapters which used to (and still primarily) are named with the name of the character they feature, "Cersi", "Jamie", etc. Yet he strays a little bit naming chapters with names more befitting the characters present evolution. Looking back at previous books to demonstrate instead of hinting at the content of this, a chapter might have taken the name "King in the North" as opposed to "Robb" at such a time when Robb called his banner men to him, and set off to avenge Ned Stark (Dammit, George, I didn't see that one coming, I really didn't, after you killed Ned, I knew you for the monster that you were!)

Continuing on my parenthetical rant, Martin did an interview with The Star (that link will probably die,) where he likened killing characters to football, and being all suspenseful. I tend to agree that it makes for a better book in the long run, but when he does kill someone you really like it really gets you emotionally. This works both ways, in one of the first two books when he pours a pot of molten gold over the head of the sniveling wretch of a boy king you are very very satisfied!

So Martin once more has written a great book, and while an evil part of me wanted reason to complain, other then it being late, I can't find one. So, Martin, if you are searching the web, and find this site, know that you have a fan, and know that you better write more!

Freedom of Responsibility?

Today I will be talking/ranting about a number of sacred freedoms that people will die for, and most certainly fight for, or at least fight about. If you can't get the vibe yet, this is not going to be pretty, so duck out now if you wan.

First off, let us enumerate some freedoms for the people, as specified by the Universal Declaration of Human Right (UDoHR), of which most free, democratic nations ascribe to in one fashion or another.

From this document, we will be working with
  • Freedom of Speech
  • Freedom of the Press
  • Freedom of Peaceful assembly
  • Freedom of religion

Free speech
One of the most frequently referenced rights is described in Article 19 of the UDoHR, it states:
Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.

Perhaps it is my naivety, or my own misunderstanding of US constitutional law, but I'm pretty sure this also covers "freedom of the press" so a little more digging, and it turns out that the US puts it in one shot gun declaration itself. So here she is, the First Amendment:
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

If you are having any difficulty understanding that, I found a helpful annotated definition here. I don't want to get bogged down here with bias or discussion (that will come later) so moving briskly along:

Freedom of Peaceful Assembly
Article 20 of UDoHR: states:
(1) Everyone has the right to freedom of peaceful assembly and association.
(2) No one may be compelled to belong to an association.

The pesky constitution covers it all in one amendment, so no comment here.

Freedom of religion
Bring out my friend the UDoHR, it states in Article 18. :
Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; this right includes freedom to change his religion or belief, and freedom, either alone or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship and observance.

Pretty straight forward that I may believe whatever I wish and I may practice those beliefs without fear of persecution. The US takes that one further and ensures that my government must act in a religion agonistic manner preventing discrimination, or perceived discrimination caused by inequitable treatment of different religious groups.

Now as a proud Canadian, I would be remiss in my reporting if I neglected to mention the Canadian Charter or Rights and Freedoms. Not withstanding the 'not withstanding' clause, it is a pretty weird document. The Charter asserts that an individual has the right to a number of fundamental freedoms, within reason. For example, freedom of speech and of the press means you can pretty much say anything you like, but if (and I am lacking the right verb/tense here) produce hate speech, you have exceeded the reasonable limitations on your freedoms. Anyways, the charter shotguns your rights as eloquently as the US Constitution does, so have a read:

2. Everyone has the following fundamental freedoms:
a) freedom of conscience and religion;
b) freedom of thought, belief, opinion and expression, including freedom of the press and other media of communication;
c) freedom of peaceful assembly; and
d) freedom of association.

I think I have covered my basis pretty well; you are all now informed of your human rights, now I want to talk about human responsibility. First, let me tell you a tale, straight from the news, and into your home.

A European News paper publishes a editorial cartoon that depicts the Islamic Prophet Mohammad wearing a Turban which is in fact a bomb (I believe there is implied or explicit Nuclear implications as well.) You can see stories about the comic here but out of respect, I will not directly link, nor post it. Out of respect? Absolutely, this comic was a slap in the face of devout Muslim's and on a number of levels. Although I strongly feel that one should be able to take political satire at face value, and as a comic image of global issues, that doesn't give satirist carte blanch to trample all over someone's feelings.

Why was the comic so offensive? Well two reasons really, the first I think anyone individual who has religious beliefs can relate to, and that was the depiction of a key figure or symbol of your religion used in a profane manner. Imagine Jesus dressed up as a priest being charged with pedophilia. Or an individual dressed as a ninja using the Star of David as a ninja. If you are secular, take an important iconic piece of your self identity and vilify it; how about a personification of the American Constitution oppressing and taking the rights and freedoms away from someone. Any of these images may upset you, as something you hold dear, and important to your identity is pilloried and profaned.

To top this insult with more insult, imagine how you would feel if your religion forbids any imagery, positive or negative, of that iconic figure. My understanding (loose as it is) is that it is forbidden to make an image of the Prophet Mohammad, this rule was put in place to prevent idolatry by insuring that Mohammad would not be raised or deified by exuberant, but miss guided devotees.

So we have profane imagery, and we have forbidden imagery together in a piece of political satire, and what does it produce? A whole bunch of angry Muslims, one is left with the question: does this surprise the artist or news establishment?

The answer apparently is yes. Let me establish that in spite of this comic being forbidden by Islam this doesn't prevent the comic's artist, nor his paper from producing and publishing it, arguably it is in bad taste, but he has the right. What right? Why Freedom of Speech, Freedom of the Press, and Freedom of Expression of course (how quickly we forget our primer.)

But Geoff, if the artist and paper were well within there universal rights, how dare the people become offended? Well, Geoff, I'm glad you asked. The rights governed by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights are, well universal...
Everyone is entitled to all the rights and freedoms set forth in this Declaration, without distinction of any kind, such as race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status. Furthermore, no distinction shall be made on the basis of the political, jurisdictional or international status of the country or territory to which a person belongs, whether it be independent, trust, non-self-governing or under any other limitation of sovereignty.

So... those people who were offended, and expressed their offence were well within their rights to do so, what a great world we live in* where we have such great universal rights. They exercised a little Freedom of Expression, and some Freedom of Peaceful Assembly, and got a whole bunch of "up yours" in response.

After the initial out pouring of offense by members of the faith the world over, the artist and paper might have ended things quickly. They may regretfully have realized they put a burning hot poker on a very sensitive area, apologized for the oversight, and everyone could have walked away mollified. Sadly, the opposite happened, those parties responsible for the comic defended their right to freedom of the press, buy enjoying that freedom a little bit more. They vilified protesters as censors, and refused to back down form their position.

Without going into the timeline in detail, things have gotten way out of hand. The papers continue to spew about their rights, and the extremists are pouring out of the wood works in the Middle East threatening violence against those responsible. At this point I'm inclined to reinforce that there are a large number of perfectly rational, and justifiably angry Muslims, who are peacefully protesting, either in direct protest, or boycotting. Sadly, there is the extremist element of the culture, which is willing to hurt or kill for this insult. I strongly disagree with them, they are deplorable cretins, the type who want to fight just to fight, and have gone too far.

Where this brings me, is to my point (finally.) I strongly believe in the rights set forth in the UDoHR, they are well thought out, and were hard fought and won over generations of oppression of our forefathers. World War II in many ways was about protecting the rights of the Jewish people from their oppressors. The American Civil War was about a country fighting itself to protect the rights for all, not just the few. We should never take these rights for granted, but truly we have the right to take them for granted if we like. Right now I'm liberally exercising my rights; in fact the very core of the internet is built on the tenets of free speech, and freedom of the press. Yet in spite of an individual having the right to do/say something, there is no right to Freedom of Responsibility.
We are responsible for what we do and say, we may exercise our freedom of speech, but if in exercising our right to expression, we insult or offend, we have no guarantee of forgiveness or absolution. In simpler terms, if you insult a friend, he has no obligation to forgive your insult, nor remain your friend. In fact their right to not continue to associate with you is protected. This responsibility seems to have been forgotten in our age of litigation, but I will remind everyone of the old adage "reap what you sow."

In light of these global events, I would like to propose a Universal Declaration of Human Responsibility, the terming of which will require some thought, but the spirit is as follows:

You are responsible for your actions.

As follow up, I also found this great article on The Star.

*The Universal Declaration of Human Rights is not a binding document, and there are many places in the world where such rights are oppressed. This is a deplorable situation, but one that may be rectified in my life time.

Comment moderation

I turned off that pesky comment moderation, comments will now show up right away. If I get spam I will delete it, but I get less spam then legit comments, and it is too time intensive to process the many to prevent the few. So comments for all!

Ontario Library Association - Super Conference

Okay, Librarians, you guys have thesaurus, please come up with a better name then Super Conference, it is just plain boring!

As I was walking Through the MTCC this morning I was like "Hey a library conference, that's hip, I wonder what they think about the internet, blogs, pod casts, wiki and all these wild and crazy new information streams." Many of the sessions I walked past had interesting titles, until I got to this last one. It was so horrifyingly bland I had to flee in terror here it is in all its glory:


Kim Turner, Library Services, Imagine Canada; Deborah Woods, Deborah Woods Consulting; Brian Bell, Director, E-services, Oakville Public Library.

Explore the major features and functions of the unique 211 system (3-digit number assigned in 2001 by the Canadian Radio-television Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) for access to information on community, government and health services) based on 23 years of research and development by professional information and referral providers. Learn how it can assist in organizing complex databases of community services, the organizations that provide them, and the target populations for whom they are intended.

The horror, the horror!

Potter Fans Rejoice

Always good news is Potter news, the fifth installment in the Potter movies begins filming on Monday, and with filming about to begin, CNN has an article about the some of the new actors, including Imelda Staunton as the defense against the dark arts professor Dolores Umbridge.

Yes, I'm padding the blog with fluff, but worry not there is a big post coming, it just needs to get cleaned up, it was a little too stream of consciousness, and not enough stream of spell checked consciousness.

Wookie Down

The post I made last night was about a hilarious blog, or perhaps it was a very serious blog, I'm not certain, as it was in the native tongue of the Wookie. Its back up now, but I have to wonder when blogger points to a blogspot blog in their blog of note category, and then blogspot takes it down for bandwidth reasons. Seems counter intuitive. Anyways it is back up now.

Thursday, February 02, 2006

So I was in the middle of something much more interesting when...

I looked at the Blog of note and found this: http://rrrrrrrrrrrrrnnnnnnnnnnhhhh.blogspot.com/

All I can say is RRrrrrrnnnnnnhnhhHHHHH

Garage Storage Construction Complete

Finally, my embarrassment, I am incapable, it appears, of cutting melamine straight. Boo melamine!

Garage Storage Construction - Complete

Here in all their majesty, and slightly laden state, are my new shelves! Hooray!

Garage Storage Solution - Complete

So here is my nifty Winter Ski Rack. When you want your skis at hand, but not in the way. The summer rack is coming... in the summer :)