Archive for November, 2010

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Tuesday, November 30th, 2010

Fantino found Vaughan wasn’t a walk in the park,

The Liberal win in Winnipeg is important to mark,

Ignatieff  needs to lead from the left or disembark.


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Monday, November 29th, 2010

Is Babel going through a youth movement?

Councillor Nuttall wants in on the moment,

Ward 10 voters will want to have comment.


#106– Surviving the communications age, part 8.

Sunday, November 28th, 2010

If there was ever a major divide between generations in our society, it is the division caused by the cellular telephone.  If anything could convince seniors that the world is passing them by, it is the prospect of getting carpal tunnel thumb from texting.

You think: Good God, why not talk to the person?  Why is texting taking over from talking?  You would swear that people developed texting so that they could still make out in bars where you are unable to hear a damn thing. And why do they put a poor quality camera on this cell phone when I have a perfectly good digital camera?   Is it so the news media will no longer need photographers or professional camera operators?  People with cell phones must do the crime scene photos and recordings for free.

Have we reached some point in human evolution that we believe we do not need direct contact with other people?  The human race is never going to continue this way.

Is texting making it easier for us to send our tweets to Twitter?  And as for facebook, any senior knows that if we think we have more than five friends, we are deluding ourselves.

Frankly, this whole social media business must be for pre-adolescents.  Later in life they will learn that nothing will ever replace the wonder of looking into the eyes of someone to whom you are sexually attracted over a cooling cup of coffee.

And as for the loneliness of blogging?  Hah.  It is still more fun than self abuse.  People not only read your musings but it seems there are people out there who count your typos!

But back to cell phones.  We hear that Canadians think they pay too much for their cell phone.  If you think that, then stop using it every ten seconds of the day.

Having recently ended a three-year contract for $25 per month, in favour of just $15 per month, it can be noted that it need not be all that expensive.  The grandsons have been told that Grandpa’s cell is in a ‘no text’ zone.  They have also been told that cells are for emergencies only.  If you want to talk to Grandpa, he is always delighted to talk on his land line.  You can talk for hours there at no additional cost.

You still shake your head when you hear that there are people who forego the delights of land lines, in favour of only using a cell.  The last operational vestige of our civilization is the land line that is connected through a 24-volt direct current from a central office to your household.  It is a priceless life line that saves lives in many disasters.

Conversely, cells fail.  You forgot to charge your battery.   Power lines are down.  There are too many causes of cell failure.

And you can still refuse to walk around with a thing stuck in your ear and talking to yourself.  It is neither dignified nor do people give a damn about your side of the conversation.  Just leave a message on our land line.  We will get back to you.

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Saturday, November 27th, 2010

Some say Quebec has too much corruption,

Steal from the blockhead’s is the direction,

It is a time-honoured Quebecoise tradition.


#105– Surviving the communications age, part 7.

Friday, November 26th, 2010

Driving a Ford product the other day, I was waiting at a stoplight and happened to look down at the console between the front seats.  There was a small metallic plaque attached to the console that said: Powered by Microsoft. Those are frightening words.

Microsoft is an unusual company.  It has been written about many times.  Some of the writers have been in awe.  Others have written disparagingly.  Both types of writers are correct.  You cannot help but to stand in wonder at a company built on bluff and chicanery as was Microsoft.  The product that brought the company into prominence in the computer industry about 30 years ago was pitched to IBM for use on its new personal computers and then purchased from another company.  The product became known as the disc operating system (DOS) and it built an empire.

Microsoft has grown into a giant in the computer industry and has a reputation for releasing its products before all bugs have been fixed.  It apparently wants its customers to find them.  It is a company that often seems to prefer buying its competitors rather than creating its own products.  It is a company that sells obsolescence to its customers to protect its future sales.

It is this obsolescence that makes the words Powered by Microsoft of concern in an automobile.  This vehicle uses software programs that were already obsolete when it was purchased.  It means the software programs installed in the computer chips in the vehicle are based on programs written as much as 30 years ago.  Newer programs are based on the older programs.  New is written with pieces of old.  It is a design flaw that is eating at the computer industry.

But it is also the design flaw that creates billions of dollars worth of new business for the computer industry every year.  It is the business of replacing hard drives that become corrupted and the computers that surround them.  It is also the business of writing updated operating systems, applications software, peripheral drivers as well as the operating controls for your auto’s climate control, brakes, radio, ignition, lights, telephone, back-up warnings, global positioning system and the list keeps growing.

And if you think your automobile is becoming too dependent on obsolete software, you might not want to fly the unfriendly skies.  The modern airliner is so full of outmoded, unsafe software programs, it is mindboggling.  As a pilot once explained while showing off the latest computer programs in his cockpit, “We will soon be here just to make the cabin announcements.”

Surprisingly there is little impetus today to correct the growing problems with this obsolete software use.  Programs by various computer industry companies that were launched decades ago continue to gather dust.  Simplified operating systems have been designed and remain curiosities instead of the basis for further development.  Cheap memory and the ease of layering more code on top of old code dooms new development.

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Thursday, November 25th, 2010

Our merchants are in a litigious mood,

And it’s the city that’s gonna get sued,

They’ve got Babel’s roads so screwed!


#104– Babel is ill served by its Member of Parliament.

Wednesday, November 24th, 2010

Having mentioned the inadequacies of Babel’s MP more than a few times in the past, the point should be quickly made that this is not just a rant.  And, as my wife has asked me nicely to not refer to him as ‘that a**hole,’ I will try to be a little more courteous.

I will do it because this is serious.  The sad story has to do with something known as the national command centre.  This is a Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) initiative that politicians have mainly ignored for the past quarter century.  I bring this up because a prototype national command centre was temporarily in Babel earlier this year.  Babel is an ideal locale for this centre on a permanent basis.  The cost of having it here temporarily during the G8 and G20 summits was probably enough money to purchase the facilities and pay for the centre’s first year of operations.

The first time I heard of this initiative was about 25 years ago.  I was standing at a window in a very large room at the Alta Vista Drive headquarters of the RCMP in Ottawa.  The person I was talking with was the officer in charge of the identification section.  I pointed to a street about 200 metres away and said: “If a criminal had somehow found a bazooka, he could park over there for about a minute and easily destroy the centralized police records on 2.5 million Canadians and probably kill every person in this room.”

That was when the rationale of the national command centre was discussed.  Those records and their now computerized locations are nowhere near as vulnerable today but Canada still does not have a secure site for an outside-of-Ottawa national command centre.  With growing terrorism threats against North America, the need is more urgent.

What the national command centre would provide is a secure repository for critical records, a command centre for military, police and emergency services needed in case of a natural or man-made catastrophe that requires immediate multi-facetted interdiction.  The centre would coordinate military response with air, naval and ground capabilities as well as all police services and emergency services, depending on what is required.

Babel is an ideal location for this centre as it is close enough to Ottawa for inexpensive secure communications.  It is easy to move key personnel to it when needed. It is close to major ground and air military resources for area defence.  It has multiple reliable communications networks.  It provides good living accommodations for a highly trained staff and the technical support people.  The city offers excellent training and educational facilities and a highly rated hospital.  It is far enough away from the U.S. border to not be caught up in an event against that country.

Babel made even more sense earlier this year with the G8 in Huntsville and the G20 in Toronto.  That is why facilities were rented in Babel at a very high price, equipped and staffed for an amount that has been variously reported as $14 million and $27 million, depending on who might be asked.  One suspects that the variance in the figures is that one includes personnel and operating expenses and the other does not.

But where was Babel’s Member of Parliament while Babel housed the national command centre?  Maybe he was at hockey school, honing his skills.  Maybe he was busy ordering more grey flyers to put in Babel mail boxes in a desperate attempt to get re-elected.  What we do know was that he said nothing about making the national command centre a permanent installation in Babel.  Mind you, what would be the point?  Nobody listens to him in Ottawa anyway.

While it would certainly be better for Babel to have a more intelligent and politically capable Member of Parliament, you would think that someone in his party could kick start the guy to make something happen.  Babel deserves better.

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Tuesday, November 23rd, 2010

Canada’s sex trade workers must have the right,

The choice to give or to sell is for what they fight.


#103 – The cost of politics keeps rising.

Monday, November 22nd, 2010

There have been a couple challenges to the comment in the Babel Manifesto that American politics are corrupt.  If you ever need proof of that claim, you should read the New York Times insight into the cost of a vote in the November 14 issue.  The Times was complaining that in the U.S. mid-term election this month, candidates were spending  an average of more than $40 per vote.  How times change.

Back in the beginning of the 20th Century, in Canada, it was commonly believed that the cost of a vote was a $5 bill, a mickey of rye whiskey or ten minutes with a hooker.  Then they gave women the vote and costs started climbing.

It was in 1968 that a Toronto steel tycoon complained to his friends at his club that inflation was serious as it had cost him $79,000 to buy a seat in Canada’s Parliament for his son-in-law.  Sitting in a meeting with that son-in-law when this openness was being discussed, I quietly commented that I thought the campaign cost more like $85,000.  He agreed but added that he did not get money from just one source.  Mind you, with the very high turnout in that election, his cost per vote in that riding was less than $3.

It was the year before that I had spent about $12,000 (a little more than $1 per actual vote) on a provincial campaign in the same area.  How much more it would have cost to win, is hard to judge.  We lost by less than a thousand votes.  It was not just the vulgar amount of money the opponent spent but the cost of the criminal charges that were brought later against the overly-partisan returning officer in the riding.

It might be foolish to suggest that politics is squeaky clean in Canada today but you rarely see the wholesale corruption that Americans seem to take for granted.  Creative accounting by Harper’s Conservatives has caused more than just raised eyebrows in our federal politics.  There also seems to be no upper limit to the amount of taxpayers’ money that Harper’s people are willing to spend on their re-election, before the election is called.

Provinces do their own thing on election expense rules and my experience is limited to Ontario.  If the rest of the provinces have rules as clumsy as Ontario, we are all spending too much on accountants to try to keep things organized.

And since municipalities are creatures of the provinces, municipal election rules are the poor stepchild.  In the recent municipal election in Babel, explaining the rules was made more difficult by the fact that the people explaining and enforcing them rarely understand them.  And in an age when people are getting away from using cheques, candidates are supposed to only accept cheques for donations.  Cash is a no-no but credit cards can be used through the candidate’s web site.  Ontario’s municipal donors are limited to $750 total donations to one campaign but, strangely, there is no limit for the candidate (up to the spending limit).  Mind you, each candidate has to report all donations and expenses after the election and you are only permitted to expend about 90 cents per potential voter.

It all makes our municipal elections penny ante compared to the American mid-term figures.  The final reports are not in from either but a best guess in Babel shows an overall expenditure by all mayoral candidates combined of close to $4 per net vote.  That is about one tenth the estimated figure in the American mid-term elections.

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Sunday, November 21st, 2010

America wants to become a gated community,

Interfering in the world, yet seeking immunity.