I Love This

Well, there's been some controversy lately about the decision of a Toronto Judge to move their courtroom's Christmas tree to a back corner - my favorite response to it is this one from Tarek Fatah, founder of the Muslim Canadian Congress:

"It's so stupid. I'm at a loss for words. The judge should take a trip to the rest of the world. Christmas is celebrated by Muslims in many countries -- they should ban political correctness, not Christmas trees. If people are offended (by a Christmas tree), I'm glad they're offended. I think it indicates a serious mental disorder when people want to bring down other people's happiness."

I love this - my favorite part is where he says that they should ban political correctness, not Christmas trees - I expect overdone political correctness ends up offending more people than a Christmas tree.


The Premier is giving me free money!

Well, it appears Shawn Graham's Liberals are following through on their election promises, and giving all New Brunswick students attending university full-time at a New Brunswick public university free money. $2,000 to be precise. I'm happy ...



Foxtrot is going weekly ... no more daily Foxtrot, as of next year ... :'( ... I'm sad - Foxtrot is the greatest ... get it while you can at www.foxtrot.com.

Editor's note: In my grief I forgot to mention (if there are any uninitiated) that Foxtrot is only the greatest, geekiest comic strip currently published on a daily basis.


Serious coverage, serious event, somehow coverage verges on ridiculous

Perhaps its just the word "vomit" but this article ... it just seems funny in a deadpan "I wasn't trying to make it funny" sort of way ... here's an excerpt:

A northern New Brunswick fish plant has been fined $16,000 for dumping dead herring into Shippagan Harbour and for releasing smells so foul they caused people in the village to vomit.
The odour was so awful it made people living and working in the vicinity sick enough to vomit. They couldn't go for walks and had to keep their windows and doors closed to keep out the smell

(Of course, I'd likely be less amused if I lived there ...)


Forget Disneyworld, come to New Brunswick

Disneyworld may be the "happiest place on earth" but New Brunswick is the "happiest province in Canada", due to a recent survey. So, to those of you who want to get out and go West, why would you want to leave? It's happy here, and not so much out West. And, if you happen to have moved here from the West (or Nova Scotia, the saddest province in Canada), now you know why. So, come one, come all, to New Brunswick, the happy province :-D !!!


Good conversation day

I had good conversations today with my former English teacher, and the younger brother of one of my best friends from elementary ... who moved half a continent away ... how strange, but wonderful. Good night.


Reports of my calculator's death are greatly overstated

Well, the good news is that my calculator isn't dead - the light fixture in my room is just too dim to light it up (I hadn't noticed). I took the calculator to class today, and, lo and behold, it works fine. I did take it apart last night, just to see if there was anything wrong with it (admittedly, it would have to be blatantly obvious - I'm no electrical engineer), but it was working before then anyway. I mean, what self respecting guy can resist the urge to take apart a calculator to try and fix it? All the ones I know would definitely try it. So, good news, my calculator works - yay! Bad news - apparently I live in a cave (it's dark - before I aired my room out my housemates said it smelled like something had died in there (again, I hadn't noticed - must have been used to it)) ... ahh, the joys of university life.

Oh yes, and speaking of electrical engineers, apparently Rowan Atkinson (who played Mr. Bean) has a masters degree in Electrical Engineering - who'd a thunk it?

Oh Danny Boy ....

I had a faithful servant of 4-plus years die on me yesterday. It was a very sad day. My trusty Casio fx-260SOLAR bit the dust. The logic isn't gone, but the solar panel just isn't pushing electrons as well as it used to. Seeing as it only works within a few feet of a 100W bulb (with a completely clear line of sight) it has ceased to be of use in most settings, and I must retire it. Goodbye Mr. Big (from the scrap of a chocolate bar wrapper taped to the back), I shall miss you.


Changes to the CTV Broadband network

In case you don't know, CTV puts a lot of its shows up online for free access and viewing after they've aired them - I watch Corner Gas every week, and it is good - anyway, they updated the interface on the "CTV Broadband Network" (their name for the feature). The good news: it looks good, and appears to work well. The bad news: I couldn't get it to work on Firefox 2.0 - they apparently have an "ActiveX plugin" for Firefox (although I'm pretty sure that Firefox doesn't do ActiveX), but it wouldn't download/install for me, so I'm not sure that it works ... curses - to get my humorous Saskatchewan goodness, I have to open up Internet Explorer (in its crazily rearranged (but supposedly more secure) 7th version) ... Its an entirely different rant, but I expect power users will hate Vista, because of the new interface revisions, which have moved absolutely everything to new and unfamiliar locations (and buried our beloved advanced features) ... ok ... rant(s) over ... until next time ...


The amazing "Beast of the Field"

The "Beast of the Field" got into our garbage again last night ... my roommates and I figure its some sort of mid-sized animal - it must be a fair size to defeat all the safeguards we've put on the garbage can. The can is sealed, we have a rock the size of a large hardcover book on top, and two folding metal chairs leaned up against it on the sides that aren't covered by the corner of our deck. ... and yet, the Beast of the Field still manages to get the garbage can tilted over and open, and strews our garbage all over the deck ... if we're lucky though, the super-hot green curry my roommate tossed because he deemed it too spicy for human consumption will upset its stomach ... one can hope ...


I thought competition was supposed to help the consumer

Well, apparently Microsoft has signed a deal with Universal Studios to pay them a royalty on sales of its new Zune music player. This is in supposed compensation for the pirated content that is often loaded on mp3 players. This is NOT good for consumers - it gives all the studios licence to charge all the music players and services more money - ultimately costing consumers more money ... strangely, the Apple monopoly on internet music services and music players has been holding prices down for the consumer, because if content providers want market access, they have to go through Apple and play by their rules ... Microsoft's Zune ploy is an interesting development, and it'll be interesting to see where this goes ...

The whole Christmas/holiday thing

Well, its started again - I saw an article on CBC.ca today about Wal-Mart and a few other retailers are re-emphasizing the term "Christmas" over "holiday". In some senses, this makes sense - things like the ever present "holiday tree" are a bit ridiculous - do the other holidays use a tree? It would be analogous to calling the menorah a "holiday candlestick" I'm sure Jewish people would disagree with that, and it wouldn't even show equality/respect to members of other religions (as is the claimed motivation for "holiday trees"), because they know that the menorah is Jewish, and need no part in it. On the flip side, there is a place in using a generic term to greet customers, for instance, as some (if they are overly touchy) would be offended by being wished to enjoy a holiday that they don't celebrate. Anyway, that's enough on that - the whole issue is ridiculous anyway ...


I guess its easy to be best when you're only

One thing: I don't think Microsoft has ever made another "iPod competitor", so its easy for the Zune to be the most promising

This is the most promising iPod competitor we've ever seen from Microsoft and could be a digital music player that gives the whole industry a run for its money.

(This is PCMag.com's summary of their Zune review)

The Remembrance Day Post

Odd, I always thought the poppy was a completely Canadian thing - apparently its British too though - interesting. Just one thing I thought was strange - I just heard this year about white "peace poppies" - this idea strikes me as very strange, as they are very controversial. Odd that the peace poppy reduces peace ...


A lot of hype, rather less substance

New Brunswick is fighting the good fight for the environment - at least in a small push on the automotive front. MLA's and their deputies are no longer allowed to buy SUVs or full-sized pickup trucks, unless they are hybrid or meet stringent emissions guidelines. However, hybrid trucks and SUVs are mostly environmental hype, with little fuel economy benefit over their standard variants. They are also shifting 20% of the provincial fleet (trucks, school buses and the like) over to alternate fuels like ethanol - this seems like a better move for the environment, but will likely get less press. (Although, it may get rather expensive ... where do you get ethanol in NB?)

Who says Microsoft always copies off Apple?

I found an instance of Apple copying off Windows for once - in the new test build of Mac OS X 10.5 Leopard, the biggest new feature is - drum roll please - advanced parental controls. Now, similar parental controls have been in Windows Vista since early betas ... this seems like Apple playing catch up for once. Interesting.

Editor's note: The part about the parental controls is in the third block down in the linked article

We welcome our primary-colored overlords

I was reading some highlights of an interview with Eric Schmidt, CEO of Google - apparently Google is challenging the constitutionality of the Patriot Act - here's Schmidt's take on it:

"We will do whatever it takes to follow both the law and the principles. We have a system of law and we won't win everything but we're going to try very hard and we will follow the decision of a federal judge. There is clearly going to be somebody who tests the limits of the Patriot Act and its an important constitutional issue. If we don't like it, we can replace the people that have made those laws."

Did Google just say they can replace the people that made the Patriot Act - I mean, he was likely making a comment about the democratic process, but still ... they don't have that many employees - today, the Patriot Act, tomorrow, the world!


The NDP are toast: Part III

Well, I've decided to make my "The NDP are toast" series a trilogy (here are Parts I and II). A recap of my first "NDP are toast" article (from Sept. 2):

My prediction: the NDP have one of the worst showings in their party history in terms of popular vote, do not elect a single MLA, and fold soon afterward.

During the election, the NDP had their worst ever showing in a New Brunswick provincial election, failing to elect a single MLA. Now, Allison Brewer has resigned as leader, saying she cannot afford to continue working full-time as a volunteer - the NDP now has no leader, next to no money, and will have a hard time obtaining either after their abysmal showing in the last election - sounds like, for all intents and purposes, they have folded ...


We need more moderates

I was reading this article about an American identity for Islam on the International Herald Tribune, and was quite glad to see it - we need more moderate voices from religion (all religions) - I think its a horrible shame that Christianity and Islam are too often represented in the media by their radical fringes - people like Fred Phelps or Osama bin Laden. I wish these men and women trying to make an American Muslim identity all the best of luck.


Poor Ted

The International Herald Tribune has a very good article on the Ted Haggard issue - here is a quote from Haggard himself from that article

"The accusations that have been leveled against me are not all true, but enough of them are true that I have been appropriately and lovingly removed from ministry. I am so embarrassed and ashamed. I caused this and I have no excuse. I am a sinner. I have fallen."

Thank you Ted - hopefully now he'll be given a chance to get on with his life.


Really good web Sudoku game

I just noticed - CBC has a really good web-based Sudoku game - best I've seen - if you're an addict, you can play it here (but don't tell your boss/significant other/ect. you found it here - I sure don't want them mad at me that you never get off the computer anymore ...)

For all my Gamer friends

The French government is recognizing video games as cultural products ... well some may say this is motivated by mere financial considerations (like the ability to get around EU anti-subsidy laws), gamers everywhere will surely be glad to know that their obsession is finally recognized as cultural. I can just see it now "But Mom, my Nintendo is cultural education - isn't that more valuable than multiplication homework?"

I Pity the Man

So, the whole Ted Haggard thing ... I pity him - anyone, even a pastor can succumb to sin, and since he had such a high profile, everyone knows now. I commend him for finally coming out with the truth (albeit ambiguously) apologizing, and distancing his own fall from the larger Church. All this is what needed to happen. That said, I wish he'd started with the truth - it would look so much better on him than the flip-flopping he did, and I wish he'd make a full confession and get it over with ... his reputation is already completely destroyed, and if he would take personal responsibility for his actions (all of them, so he can't be smeared later with more allegations), and apologize, the show of (painful) honesty would garner him some respect, something he desparately needs, and a chance to finally get out of the public eye and spend some quality private time rebuilding his life. As public as his life has been, he is ultimately just one man, who has fallen spectacularly, failing his own beliefs and standards - he needs forgiveness, and an opportunity to sort his life out, not a media circus.


Ridiculous Money-Grubbing Trademark Lawsuit of the Day

The Universal Tube and Rollform Equipment Corporation, who own the domain www.utube.com, are suing YouTube for inadvertently directing extra internet traffic their way, so much that their servers crash. This is completely ridiculous, as they would have sued earlier if YouTube was really making a difference - I heard about this on the Google Watch blog, and the third commenter, Russ, seems to have the most reasonable view on the matter.

This sounds just a bit like "internet tubes"

I must know, why is it the US Air Force that becomes the country's defender in cyberspace? Is it because it has the word "space" in it, and someone who didn't know any better figured the air force should be there? The press coming out of the USAF sounds like they almost think they can use the bomber unit on the base where cyberspace command is being placed to defend their cyber-assets ...

Air Force Secretary Michael Wynne, speaking at a military communications and intelligence conference, said U.S. vulnerabilities in cyberspace included financial networks, satellite communications, and radar and navigational jamming.

"The capital cost of entry to the cyberspace domain is low," Wynne said. "The threat is that a foe can mass forces that weaken the network that supports our operations."

Found on www.pcmag.com


Who IS this guy?

As an update on my recent post, apparently this Australian cleric is no stranger to contentious remarks - I found this article here as a follow up ... very strange (Oh, and forget what I said earlier about coherent arguments - this guy seems like a Muslim Fred Phelps - and he's Australia's most senior cleric ... oh my)


One more random post

Well, I figure since this has been my most prolific blogging day in a while, I may as well cap it off with one final post - I have invented a word - it is convoluted and glorious. The word is "pok" It comes from the phrase "Piece of Crap", acronymized to "POC", and phonetisized. It is a great and glorious word, and is useful in sentences like "My Aliant DSL modem is an annoying pok!" - Please remember, use, and spread the gloriousness of pok. Thank you very much, and good night.

Editors note: Oops, forgot pronunciation - pok rhymes with dock, sock, block, clock, ect. I did not put in the "c" because pok is NOT a "four letter word" and is perfectly acceptable to say in front of your grandmother (if she reads this blog and understands it :-) )

They are coming ....

The little Norwalk bugs are coming for us all - FEAR! One of our own UNB students has contracted the Norwalk virus and since recovered, and the University has sent out three health bulletins in the last week. On the one hand, it seems like an extreme response ... on the other, I really don't want Norwalk ... sounds most unpleasant.

Why "Computer Science" is a Misnomer

Ok, this is just a pet peeve of mine, but the terms "computer scientist" and "computer science" seem like misnomers ("computer scientist" especially, has struck me as odd since the first time I heard it). Computer Science implies the study of computers, as political science is the study of politics, social science is the study of society, ect. However, I would argue, that, though you do need to know about computers to study computer science, the computer itself is not the focus. If you are focusing on the computer itself it becomes computer engineering. Computer science, by contrast, is USING computers to solve problems, which are usually in other fields. The computer is merely a tool. (This position comes from my overview of CS textbook (Invitation to Computer Science: Java Version (3rd edition) by Schneider & Gersting)). Calling the field "computer science" then becomes like calling carpentry "hammer science". So - another term for computer science ... I would suggest "computer logic" except "logic" means something different in a computer sense ... "computer analytics" perhaps ... something else? I mean, perhaps this is just personal bias, but I always thought that computer science was closer to math than science anyway, so one would expect the name to reflect this mathematical nature - the computer as a tool can be used in many different disciplines, (science, yes, but also business, the arts, the social sciences, ect.) very similar to the tool of mathematics.

No Comment ... well, maybe

Came across this online - thought it interesting enough to pass on ... Australia just seems like an atypical location for a Muslim cleric to be saying insensitive things. His (amended) argument seems coherent (I said coherent not correct), but he picked an extremely poor analogy.

Senior Muslim cleric in Australia has apologised for his comment that Muslim women who did not wear the hijab headdress looked like "uncovered meat" and were inviting sexual assault.

Sheikh Taj El-Din Hamid Hilaly said he had only intended to protect women's honour and that comments had been taken out of context in a report in The Australian newspaper.

The Australian quoted Hilali as saying: "If you take out uncovered meat and place it outside on the street, or in the garden, or in the park, or in the backyard without cover, and the cats come to eat it ... whose fault is it, the cats' or the uncovered meat's?"

"If she was in her room, in her home, in her hijab, no problem would have occurred," he said in a sermon last month to mark the Islamic holy month of Ramadan, referring to the headdress worn by some Muslim women.

However, the comment has caused an uproar in Muslim communities worldwide.

Leading Muslim women had called the comments repulsive.


Microsoft vs. Security Vendors

So, apparently Microsoft's controversial PatchGuard technology, which is to be included in the 64-bit edition of Vista, doesn't even guard the kernel against unauthorized access. One security company, Authentium, has released news that they have hacked through the system to maintain their kernel access, rather than wait for Microsoft to release its API's to security vendors. I support Microsoft on the issue of PatchGuard - anything that makes Windows more secure is a good thing, and the security vendors shouldn't be complaining if PatchGuard will work - they exist only to fill gaps in Microsoft's security - in a perfect world, extra security would be unnecessary. For one, if Microsoft has to include these extra API's to provide kernel access to the legitimate vendors, how long will it take the hackers to get their hands on it? You just can't lock that type of information up, and say "this can only be used for good". The extra attack surface to the kernel is not a good thing ... still, it appears that PatchGuard is ineffective anyway, so we'll still need external vendors to fix Windows' security features even ... brilliant ...


Nice to see this is getting attention

Hmm ... UNB made the news again, this time for not having an accessible campus - its true - I am lucky enough not to be disabled, but I wouldn't be attending UNB if I was. There is a young man in a wheelchair in one of my classes, and he's perpetually late, likely because he probably has to go halfway around campus to find a route that uses ramps, not stairs, to get up the hill. There are large numbers of rooms that simply cannot be reached without using stairs, and many other places where one would have to go far out of their way to find a path without stairs. I would agree with the writers of the CBC article that the university could, and should, be doing more to make the campus accessible.


How on earth did that get there?

Wow - piece of weird news of the day - there have been a couple recent (admittedly small scale - look here and here) instances of brand new mp3 players selling pre-loaded with, not new music, but viruses. How do you get a virus on a mp3 player straight from the factory? Is there an inside man or something in the factories loading this thing for the fun of it - how would it happen? If anyone has any ideas I'd be glad to hear them.


Glad I didn't want to use Aero Glass anyway ...

Microsoft Watch has found a rather interesting bug in test builds of Microsoft's new Vista operating system:
Among the wrinkles still to be ironed out of Microsoft's Windows Vista before the long-awaited client operating system goes gold is the tendency of Vista's shiny new "glass" UI to balk at Java-based applications.

In eWEEK Labs' Vista tests, most recently with the post-RC1 Build 5728, Aero Glass has reverted to the sans-translucence, sans-3D effects, plain old Aero interface each time we've launched a Java-based client application.

Hmm ... so does this mean if I run a command line program for my Java homework, it won't work? Or does it just apply to programs with a GUI? Very odd in any case. One would think that someone would have fixed this earlier ... they're supposed to be sending final code to enterprise customers in about two months.

45% WHAT!?!?! That's nearly half!

Wow ... I just read that some estimates say that 45% of adults in New Brunswick cannot read at an acceptable level (4th paragraph of this article) And we wonder why all the youth are leaving ... if the adults currently working the jobs in NB can't read well, literacy is obviously not a requirement for their jobs ... and if basic literacy isn't a requirement for such a significant portion of the New Brunswick job market, local youth who are more educated are over-qualified for so many of the jobs in their home province, and thus go looking elsewhere for a job suited to their qualifications. In related news, New Brunswick's death rate has surpassed its birth rate - combined with the outflow of workers West, the population is declining rather rapidly. Good luck Shawn Graham, and your next few successors as well - we need a new economy here.


Commercialism Everywhere

Intel is working on an ad format for its Viiv (rhymes with five, not leave) platform. That means that if it ever becomes popular, your expensive media PC and large screen TV can be used to ... serve you more ads! Yay! I mean, we obviously don't see enough already ... In addition, you know they'll be really annoying, because the company Intel is working with on this is the same one that gave us the McDonald's "I'm lovin' it " campaign. Yet one more reason not to watch TV.


BREAKING NEWS - Military Coup in Thailand

Though there isn't much news out yet (and may not be for a while - the press has been locked down) there has been a military coup in Thailand. Without firing, a leading army general has occupied the capital, suspended the constitution, and set up martial law. The organization forming the government is known as the "Council of Administrative Reform", and pledges alliegience to the king. They claim they intend to hand power back to the people and re-establish democracy in short order, once they have re-written the constitution to de-emphasize the executive branch, the powers of which they claim the deposed Prime Minister abused. The burning question in this situation is whether or not the PM had a true mandate to govern. His party had swept the last three elections with massive support, but the opposition parties had boycotted the last election, and no Parliament had been set up, as another election was pending. There had also been massive rioting in Bankok (the capital) leading up to the coup against his party, which is popular primarily in rural areas. This is a situation worth watching, as we have yet to see whether what just occured is the removal of an over-reaching Prime Minister, or a power grab by the King (who is personally quite popular).

Fallout from the Provincial Election

Ok, the big NB provincial election is over, and besides the fact that a different party is in power, not much seems different. The NDP are toast (remember, you heard it here first :-) ) - they did not win a single seat, and the leader, Allison Brewer, was not even in contention for her riding of Fredericton-Lincoln with 17% of the popular vote. She plans to stay on as leader, but I still expect, barring any major event, that the New Brunswick NDP will wither and fold within the next three elections.
In more main sections of the news, the results of this election are almost the reverse of the last results, in 2003. Though the Tories got slightly more of the popular vote, the Liberals won a small majority of the seats, 29 to 26. Their election campaigns were quite similar though, so it shouldn't make much difference to the average citizen. Students, however, should be happy, as Liberal leader Shawn Graham pledged quite a bit of money to education, including a $2,000 bursary to first-year university students. Other election pledges were a 3.8cent/Litre cut to the provincial gas tax, money for Saint John harbour cleanup, and a more generous support formula for nursing home residents.
The main pieces of news from the PC party is that speculation of a move to federal politics for leader Bernard Lord has been re-opened, now that he is no longer Premier. He says this will be a family decision, and also that he will consult his (slightly reduced) caucus. Also, former Speaker Tanker Malley is out. Apparently the constituents of his Miramichi-Bay du Vin riding decided that his theatrics in the last legislature were more for the benefit of the former-bus-drivers-turned-MLA's in his riding than for the good of the general population. Good for them.


The longest undefended border in the world?

I found a little piece of news today - apparently, the US House of Representatives has passed a bill calling for a security fence on their border with Mexico, and another on the northern Canadian border. If the Senate and the President ratified that bill without removing that provision, we would no longer have the longest undefended border in the world, as there'd be a fence across it. It won't likely pass, but its worth watching.


Del Spooner v. 1.0

I found a neat article on PCMag.com about a bionic arm that has been made that can sense nerve signals and convert them into the appropriate movement - it still has a way to go before we get the bionic arm of Will Smith's character from I, Robot , but its a start.


The Pope is a Wise Man

Pope Benedict XVI made a speech today on the impacts of secularization on religion. He seems to be right - the biggest threat to religion today is those who believe that all truth can be found scientifically, which rules out religion, which is, by nature, supernatural and not subject to scientific examination. I've posted some excerpts of his speech here: (from the fine folks at the International Herald Tribune)
"Put simply, we are no longer able to hear God - there are too many frequencies filling our ears," he told the crowd at a former airport on the outskirts of this city where he once served as archbishop. "What is said about God strikes us as pre-scientific, no longer suited for our age."
"People in Africa and Asia admire our scientific and technical prowess, but at the same time they are frightened by a form of rationality which totally excludes God from man's vision,"
"They do not see the real threat to their identity in the Christian faith," he said, "but in the contempt for God and the cynicism that considers mockery of the sacred to be an exercise of freedom and that holds up utility as the supreme moral criterion for the future of scientific research."

New WTC Design

They just released the new tower designs for the World Trade Center site in NYC - its good to see they are starting to fill in the skyline again - and the new designs look modern and recognizable. I'd say this is a good thing.

--[Editor's note: I tried to post a picture of this, but the computer was being uncooperative - just click the link and view the original article if you want to see]

Microsoft Playing Hardball with the EU

Ahh ... Microsoft and its legal troubles - its doing a monopolistic thing now, and getting back at the European Union for its pesky anti-trust regulations by threatening a late European release date for its upcoming Windows Vista operating system. This late release date is, of course, to make sure that their operating system doesn't include any features that would constitute an uncompetitive use of their OS monopoly. Of course, this won't help the situation any - its annoying enough to make the government mad, but not enough of a lever to change the situation. I see yet more sanctions coming.

Microsoft Market Grab

In other Microsoft news, they are selling their Xbox 360 console at a deeply discounted rate in Japan, in an attempt to increase their market share in the country, where their first Xbox was trounced by the rival SonyPlayStation 2 and Nintendo Gamecube systems. I wonder how much per system they're losing on these discounts?

Freaky Tech Fashion

Shaw Kaake, a Chinese electronics buff, has created a strange merger between electronics and fashion. The Egokast is a video screen belt buckle, designed to play random film clips and/or loops as a conversation starter. Very strange - the designer's main caution was "Some people might be a little uncomfortable with everyone looking at their belt. It's sort of an unusual place for people to be staring at."

Poll: Do Computer Geeks Hate Computers?

Hey folks - I just finished setting up my first wireless network, and the experience was frustrating enough to further convince me that my theory "All Computer Geeks Secretly Hate Computers" is true. So, seeing as I know a few more computer geeks now, I'd like to ask you guys what you think of my theory. Please weigh in in the comments. Thanks,


The NDP are Toast, Part II

As a follow up to my previous post about the state of the New Brunswick New Democratic Party's election prospects, I'd like to add another article I found today. Allison Brewer, the new leader of the party, will not participate in the French language TV debate. She is not fluent in French, and asked to be allowed to participate using simultaneous translation, but was denied. New Brunswick has a large francophone population, and this development will severely damage the NDP's chances in any francophone dominated ridings. If she cannot speak French, it limits her appeal to francophone voters, because how can she truly be expected to understand their issues if she can't understand their language? As well, if no one sees her at the debate, her already scanty press coverage (due in part to there not being much news to cover) will become even less, limiting the number of people she can reach with her platform. All in all, more bad news for the NDP.


In a tragic, but not completely unexpected event, Steve Irwin, "the Crocodile Hunter" is dead following a stingray's barb piercing his heart while he was shooting a documentary. He will be greatly missed in Australia, but people have seen this coming for years, as he would pick a dangerous animal (snakes, crocodiles, ect.) tell the viewers "this is the wrong way to handle this animal, it is highly dangerous" and then proceed to do it anyway ... Rest in peace, mate.

Maclean's University Survey Failing

I just started my first week at my new school, the University of New Brunswick, and I was e-mailed a message that UNB is following many other schools in pulling out of the annual Maclean's university survey. The survey is a tool that has been used to rank Canadian universities for years, and is (was?) fairly well regarded by potential students. This has changed with the large scale university pullout - the school's main beefs are that the rankings are general for the entire school, instead of focusing on faculty, and inaccuracies in statistics gathering (small sample sizes for instance). Generalizing would work better in America, but in Canada you tend to apply more to the faculty more than you apply to the school (my acceptance letters all read along the lines of "The faculty of Computer Science is pleased to welcome you to [insert school here]), leading to an inaccurate picture of the school. These schools are not just angry at being low on the lists either. The University of Toronto, one of the first to withdraw, was ranked first in its category in last year's survey. (Interestingly, Maclean's still has links to the university ranking pages on its homepage)

Roughly half of the universities included in the last survey have withdrawn, listed here with their rankings (by number of schools in their classification - eg. 3/11 for the third ranked school of eleven - there are some ties) in the last survey: University of Toronto (1/15), McMaster University (11/15), University of Ottawa (12/15), University of British Columbia (4/15), Simon Fraser University (3/11), University of Alberta (6/15), University of Calgary (14/15), University of Lethbridge (13/21), University of Manitoba (15/15), l'Universiti de Montrial (7/15), Dalhousie University (13/15), Brandon University (16/21), Brock University (14/21), Laurentian University (19/21), l'Universiti de Moncton (15/21), Trent University (8/21), Carleton University (8/11), Concordia University (8/11), Queen's University (5/15), University of Windsor (11/11), York University (10/11), University of Western Ontario (not sure), and University of New Brunswick (7/11).


Under Construction

If any of you use the "Labels" feature, I just completely overhauled it ... I have a tendancy to endlessly tweak things, but that pane (now named Sections) should stay pretty much the same from now on, because its getting really tedious to edit all the posts one by one to change the labeling scheme. If you are looking for any older posts, you can still use the archives (I haven't changed those) or the search box at the top. Thats all the changes for now though, so you can rest easy ;-)

University Funding

I was reading an article how Shawn Graham, leader of the provincial Liberals, is promising a $2,000 grant to first-year undergraduate university students, starting this month!!! I hope they win and do that - no government, at any level, does all that much for university students, so it would be a welcome change. We need it, given that tuition rates are still outpacing inflation - they rose 5.8% this year in New Brunswick, to an average of $5,328 a year for undergraduates - both those numbers, by the way, are the second-highest of all the provinces. (That article is worth reading, and has quite a few interesting statistics)

The Provincial NDP are Toast

Well, there is a provincial election going on here in New Brunswick, so I figure I should weigh in on it. It is early in the campaign yet, and not much has happened, but I can already tell, that, without Elizabeth Weir, the NDP are done. Their new leader, Allison Brewer, has had plenty of time to prepare for an election since she was raised, and yet was (and still is) behind the Liberals and the Tories in releasing her party's platform. She has spent most of her time stumping in her own riding as well, focusing on getting herself elected over her parties goals. Admittedly, she needs to get into office, but without a strong party vision, she may have trouble with that (especially because the other parties are running a very strongly leader-focused campaign). On top of this, the NDP is not even able to run candidates in all 55 ridings. I'm no political science expert, but even an armchair politics-watcher should be smelling the blood in the water. My prediction: the NDP have one of the worst showings in their party history in terms of popular vote, do not elect a single MLA, and fold soon afterward. They were, for all intents and purposes, a one-woman party under Ms. Weir, and her successor does not have the personality to pull off a similar feat. We shall see


Bad Advertising Idea of the Day

I was reading an article about a new portable media player soon to come out called the "Gravel In Pocket" Did no one think that the acronym for their system is now "GIP"? This is even worse than Windows Media Player, aka WMP (pronounced "wimp" if you're in a hurry).


Hitler in India

Interesting article on the International Herald Tribune site. Apparently Hitler isn't viewed quite so negatively in India as in the rest of the world. Quite an odd read, even if it may just be the Tribune (like the restaurant in the story) drilling for publicity.

Jack Layton advocating Military Deployment?

Jack Layton, leader of the federal NDP is saying that Canada apparently has the military capacity to send a contingent of peacekeepers to Lebanon - I thought the NDP was against military deployments. Please someone tell me why he is doing this. (Found here on CTV)

The Americans have it Right on "Pocket Change"

Well, the toonie is ten years old, and I've decided the Americans do it better. In Canada anything less than five dollars is change. That seems like too high a threshold for "pocket change" (unless you work in a convienence store or Tim Hortons) - the American system of using one and two dollar bills [oops - they discontinued the two] seems much more usable, if more expensive. Anyway, personal preferences aside, they refreshed the toonie design, and it looks good, so as long as they don't change the five to a coin too, I'm cool. (If they wanted to save money on currency they could just eliminate the penny).

Editor's Note - Edited on 08.30.06 for clarification and fact-checking


New Survivor season

Well, I heard a bit of news about the new Survivor season which inspired me to let off my first rant on this blog. Apparently they are planning on dividing the teams this season along racial lines. This is wrong. They are sure to play up the racial tension between teams to boost ratings. They claim it is to avoid having the standard "token two black people" but seriously - I expect them to pick contestants who are, if not racist, then liable to be - it would be good for ratings to have the blacks bashing the whites bashing the Hispanics bashing the Aisians before and after competitions. Is this what "entertainment" has come to in our culture? Centuries old pointless feuds? Consider the other times they have differentiated the teams along some clear line - men and women, young and old, for instance - there has been some negative commenting on the "other" group - and those aren't even very divisive splits. Racism, however, will be a split for as long as there are separate races, yet CBS is ecouraging this ... it just doesn't seem like a good idea. Hopefully they prove me wrong.


Corporate politics?

Dell recently recalled a bunch of laptop batteries (because a few of the laptops were exploding - if you have a Dell laptop made within the last few years you ought to check if it's safe), the cells of which were made by Sony. Even though it was a fault in Sony's manufacturing process, Dell was getting most of the bad press. However, Apple recently issued its own recall of Sony batteries. This is just a hairbrained theory, but I almost think they may have done it to discredit Sony. Since two manufacturers have recalled the batteries, they have ceased to be referred to as "exploding Dell batteries" and are now "exploding Sony batteries". Sony competes much more directly with Apple in the computer market, whereas Dell computers are targeted towards a much different audience. Dell is Wal-Mart, Sony and Apple are more higher end and artsy. Apple's recall thus points more negative press towards its more direct competition, making Apple look better by comparison. It could be crazy, but then again, that could be what they were trying to do.
(there's my conspiracy theory for the day)


Neat cellphone idea

I was reading on PCMag.com today, and some people have made a cellphone prototype that uses a touchpad to combine screen and inputs. Makes a lot of sense, given that it lets them have both a bigger screen and more space/flexible layout for the buttons. I'd ask why no one had thought of it before, but they say its going to be rather expensive, so it was probably ridiculous before now.

Huh?!?!? Microsoft fostering competition?!?

Microsoft is offering space to help the Mozilla folks make Firefox, their browser, work on Vista (as well as Thunderbird, their e-mail client, but the browser has significantly more market share). I really want to know WHY on earth they would do this. No one would notice if MS didn't invite Mozilla to their developer conference, and the fact that they did just makes no sense. Firefox has made one of the most successful challenges to Microsoft's market dominance in years, stealing 15% of Internet Explorer's pageviews in just 2 years. Microsoft is overhauling IE for the first time in years, and I wonder why they would help the competition for their new browser. I have only a few ideas on why they would do this. 1) It's highly unlikely, but they could give the Mozilla coders deliberate mis-information, resulting in Firefox for Vista having inferior performance. This is more a crazy conspiracy theory than anything else - it would be too easy to discover, and too hard to actually accomplish (where is the line between code that is slow, and code that is non-functional?) 2) Microsoft could want something to point to as a symbol when the anti-trust folks come around again, suing them for abuse of their monopoly. This seems the most likely option I can think of. 3) Or maybe Microsoft really is committed to fostering competition. History would contradict this view though, so very few people would be that charitable towards MS.


Why Suicide Bombs?

I found a link to an interesting argument by a guy called Haim Harari about the reason for suicide bombings, and general unrest in the Middle East/Muslim world. It seems to make a lot of sense. I'll quote an excerpt here, but the full article is quite worth reading.

So what is all the fuss about suicide killings? It creates headlines. It is spectacular. It is frightening. It is a very cruel death with bodies dismembered and horrible severe lifelong injuries to many of the wounded. It is always shown on television in great detail. One such murder, with the help of hysterical media coverage, can destroy the tourism industry of a country for quite a while, as it did in Bali and in Turkey.
What is behind the suicide murders? Money, power and cold-blooded murderous incitement, nothing else. It has nothing to do with true fanatic religious beliefs. No Moslem preacher has ever blown himself up. No son of an Arab politician or religious leader has ever blown himself. No relative of anyone influential has done it. Wouldn't you expect some of the religious leaders to do it themselves, or to talk their sons into doing it, if this is truly a supreme act of religious fervor? Aren't they interested in the benefits of going to Heaven? Instead, they send outcast women, naïve children, retarded people and young incited hotheads. They promise them the delights, mostly sexual, of the next world, and pay their families handsomely after the supreme act is performed and enough innocent people are dead.
Suicide murders also have nothing to do with poverty and despair. The poorest region in the world, by far, is Africa. It never happens there. There are numerous desperate people in the world, in different cultures, countries and continents. Desperation does not provide anyone with explosives, reconnaissance and transportation. There was certainly more despair in Saddam's Iraq then in Paul Bremmer's Iraq, and no one exploded himself. A suicide murder is simply a horrible, vicious weapon of cruel, inhuman, cynical, well-funded terrorists, with no regard to human life, including the life of their fellow countrymen, but with very high regard to their own affluent well-being and their hunger for power.

Thanks to the crew at Dvorak Uncensored for finding this. There seems to be a good conversation shaping up in their comments section too.


Dim-Wit Dolphins?

I was reading an article online that just wrecked one of my favorite sci-fi books. Startide Rising by David Brin is about a starship crewed by genetically modified dolphins. However, apparently, according to at least one scientist, dolphins are dim-wits and thus wouldn't crew spaceships. Such a pity ... it was a good book too.


Random fact of the day - 08.18.06

I was reading this article online and found this interesting fact at the end. Apparently Canada is the third-largest producer of diamonds in the world (by value). Who would have thought? I figured diamonds all came from Africa. You learn something new every day.


Hello World!

Hi folks. Just set myself up a blog, so I figured I better post something on it :-) That aside, I figure I'll just put random stuff here, so check back later if you like random stuff. Oh - and I named the blog after a line at the end of Titan A.E. Cool movie. They named a planet Bob in the movie, so I figured I could use the same name for a blog. Till later,