Society is Dead, Long Live Liberty

O 2020, thou harsh and cruel year.

I won’t recap all the things that we’ve been trying to live through this year, those are matters for history books and YouTube videos. What we’ve all experienced is unlike anything the world has seen since the 1920s, an era that most of our current population has no memory of, and regards as little more than topics for … well, history books and YouTube videos.

But it’s been more than a pandemic, more than Black Lives Matter, more than political instability. In 2020, we came to realize the death of common civility.

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How to fix the Calgary Board of Education

I’ve been wrestling with the Calgary Board of Education for a couple of years, now. And it’s not for anything complicated. To be honest, all I have is a simple hope: to have my children go to a school where they don’t have to worry about if they’re staying in the school, or if there will be a school at all. Note that this is a “hope”, not anything more concrete…
Over the last couple of years, I’ve come to realize a few nasty things about how the public education system works in this city. The internals of the CBE are highly secretive (finding out who is actually in charge of certain things is about as easy as learning the inner workings of CSIS), and so intensely political that decisions appear to be made utterly at random, against student interests. None of this seems to go through check-and-balance because … well, there’s no accountability to anyone, nor does anyone take responsibility.
As a result the CBE, as a whole, is failing. And that needs to change.
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What Canadian politicians have forgotten

[It should go without saying that this is an opinion piece: my opinion. It may not be yours. Politically, I’ve been centre most of my life. Today? I genuinely don’t know.]

Alberta has entered another provincial election, our fifth since the beginning of the millennium (that’s every three years, on average). And in Alberta, a province of wealth and entitlement, that means the old guard fending off competitors who dare lay siege to the castle, replete with feces-slinging (we’re well past mere mud), ethically-laden promises, and scare tactics, from all sides.

Canada is also heading down the road to a federal election, which by schedule we will see this fall. We will likely see the same slinging and fearmongering, not only because the same mentalities are at play, but because we’ve been witnessing the preamble for several months, now.

And all of it has shown one thing: that our politicians have forgotten about Canadians.

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Votes don't split, Justin Trudeau

Dear Mr. Trudeau,
First off, thank you for putting yourself on the line for leadership of the Liberal Party of Canada. Names notwithstanding, the act is one that is necessarily of self-sacrifice, since the job of leading is often thankless, rarely appreciated for what it delivers, and may very well likely make you age before your time. It is the call of duty that is more admirable, that you would take on a responsibility that most Canadians would prefer to avoid. It will be refreshing to have a younger perspective on what has become a party bogged down in its past mistakes, real and perceived, and how that party could be transformed into something more relevant.
It is that relevance of which I am concerned. I am currently sitting in Calgary Centre, awaiting the outcome of a by-election. It’s been an interesting contest, and to some degree, has become even a microcosm of what we’ve seen across Canada. The same messages, the same tactics, and the same mistakes. It will be a turning point, of that I have little doubt, even if (regrettably) the “status quo” is maintained — there are lessons to be learned, here, Mr. Trudeau. And a very important one to which you need to pay very close attention:
Votes do not “split”.
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Royalties on Alberta Oil Sands

For those of you who haven’t caught wind of this, Alberta’s in an election again. It’s a fairly depressing event, as I’m realising that I’m actually having to consider the Less of Two Evils and lean towards the incumbent PC just to avoid the potential idiocy of the upstart Wildrose.
Anyway, one topic that’s come up a few times is the issue of royalty rates that companies pay to extract oil from the oil sands. The NDP (who’ll never see office in this province) want to raise the rates, the Liberals waffle, and both the PC and the Wildrose are adamant that the rates not change. It got me to wondering: are our rates even remotely fair?
To paraphrase Adam West’s Batman: To the internet!
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Canada: You're about to lose your freedom

I’ll keep this one short folks, I promise.
Do you use the internet (even watching videos on YouTube and Facebook counts)? Do you use an iPod/iPhone/iWhatever? Do you watch downloaded movies? Are you a student (or thinking of going back to school)? Then you’d better pay very close attention, because your beloved Federal Government under Stephen Harper is about to pull the rug out from under you.
If you somehow missed the bruhaha over the United States’ failed SOPA bill, you cannot afford to miss Canada’s attempt at the same thing. We’re very close to passing bill C-11, a bill sponsored by big media (notably movie studios, the music industry, and publishing giants) who want to control the way you access your music, TV, and books. They want this control because they are unable to cope with the digital economy, and want the Government to create laws that heavily restrict your actions, and impose ridiculous punishment.
Now I am no expert on these things, but I read someone who is: Professor Michael Geist of the University of Ottawa, the Canada Research Chair of Internet and E-Commerce Law. (I mean, really, could you possibly get anyone better?) He has written some excellent articles on just how bad C-11 is — and has been very clear on how it could be improved so it’s not so terrible. (The Government, to no surprise, is not listening.)
I offer you the following from Geist’s blog. The intros here are my paraphrased summaries of the articles.

And he also visited with Strombo on the CBC to talk about C-11. It’s less than two minutes, and it explains just about everything. Even if you don’t read the above articles, you really should watch this video.
In short, our beloved Government is refusing to adopt the perspective that they represent the Canadian people. They are preferring to listen to corporations and corporate associations, and worse still — foreign corporations who have no business dictating our laws.
Okay, so what do you do?
First, sign up with OpenMedia’s petition. It only takes a moment, and every single little bit helps. (SOPA died in the United States because the vocal backlash was loud enough.)
Then, can I suggest sending the following text to the Rt. Hon. Stephen Harper ([email protected]), the  Minister of Industry and Minister of State (Agriculture) Hon. Christian Paradis ([email protected]) (he’s the Minister putting C-11 forth, and hence is responsible for our impending nightmare), Nycole Turmel ([email protected]) (she’s our official, albeit interim, Leader of the Opposition), Hon. Bob Rae ([email protected]) (our most experienced elder statesman in Parliament), and your Canadian Member of Parliament.

Dear Gentlemen and Madams,
I am writing to express my deep concern regarding Bill C-11, now put forth in our Parliament.
While I am very much aware of the need to address copyright laws within Canada to ensure that they meet international agreements, the terms and conditions being put forth in C-11 appear to be overlooking the needs of the Canadian people, both in the present and in the future. These terms go far past those required by international agreement, and introduce unnecessary restriction and overly  punitive  damages.
The proposed conditions are being driven primarily by corporations, and are also heavily influenced by foreign governments and foreign corporations who have no right to comment on Canada’s laws. The Canadian Federal Government is supposed to stand for its people, yet we are being considered last in this process.
Please stop the blind approval of this damaging legislation and reopen it to Canadian legal experts who have offered wise and just opinion on how C-11 could still address the needs of Canadian law while not imposing unnecessary (and unfair) restrictions on law-abiding Canadians.
Most sincerely,
[Your name here. Please use a real one.]

2011, A Year In Review

I like long years. Really. Yes, I complain about when things seem to drag out far longer than they should, or if I’m busting my arse far harder than I think I should. That’s part of being human, no? In the end, though, I like long years because I get to look back and not worry about how quickly time has flown by. Time should never fly by quickly — it means I’ve missed something, and … well, darn it, I just hate missing things!
This last year was a big one for me in one major way: it was a redefinition of my professional existence. Since the end of 2009, I’ve transformed from a professional manager to a … hmm … well, my title (however formal it needs to be) is “Solutions Lead”, but that belies a lot of what I do every day, and just using “web developer” or “programmer” — even with a “Senior” prefix — completely understates the reality. This year was really about taking all the skills and knowledge I’d acquired as a leader, and merging that back into my day-to-day development practices.
And that, as the saying goes, was only the tip of the iceberg…
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Canada's Two Political Parties: Conservative, and Other

It’s Federal election time here in Canada. Which means it’s a fast-and-furious stream of incoherent messaging all tantamount to white noise as the various political figures attempt to sway Canadian passions (which are, at best, as politically frigid as Winnipeg in February).
Adding to all of this are, new to this run, a number of social media-style services all helping to add “information” (and likely being more like more noise to the signal) to help people align themselves with the political party of choice. I came across one, recently, and suddenly realised that despite the fact we have five major political parties vying for seats, they’re really only divided two ways.
Which means you either vote Conservative, or you don’t.
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An argument for wired city council

As little as a hundred years ago, North Americans lived (generally) in towns and (much smaller) cities, where it was possible to know your elected representatives personally, meet with them, and have a person-to-person chat. In the years following, our representatives have been accused more and more of being “disconnected” and “out of touch” from their constituents, as the towns and cities grow, and the number of people in a given district rise well past the point of “manageable” by a single person.
The biggest problem is not really the number of people — it’s the time councillors need to connect with them all, while still doing the job for which they were elected. In a physical sense, it’s nearly impossible. Some have turned to the internet to help bridge the gap, using technology to connect.
Allow me to show you an example, which I experienced today…
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Suggestions to our political "leaders"

We’re barely a week into the 2011 Canadian Federal election, and it already feels like a month. I suppose if there’s one good thing about elections up here, it’s that they’re short — none of this near-two year campaigning that goes on south of the border.
Already, the various political parties are … well, failing. I’m rather stunned how fast that happened, actually. You’d think they’d actually try to get out a message first, but they stooped to mud-slinging pretty much out of the gate. Yeah, real positive way to foster respect and attract voters, folks…
So I feel that, as a Canadian with some significant sense of civic duty (and certainly more than enough know-it-all-ism), I need to offer up some suggestions to our so-called “leaders” (read: I choose not to lay insults as they are neither interesting nor constructive) if they have any hope of inspiring Canadians to vote for them … if at all.
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Dear Canada, grow a backbone!

Well, Canada, we’re in another pickle. The on-going “me, too!” power struggle that has dogged us for five years is now going into Round 3, thanks to a non-confidence (read: get enough people to whine the ruling party out of power) vote. In just over a month, we’re back at the polls, likely to do what we did last time, and the time before that: Make no decision whatsoever.
I dunno what it is, but we Canadians seem to really love to not rock the boat. We don’t want heavy-handed politics, but we also want our cake and eat it, too. We want our health care, dammit, but we don’t want to pay for it. We want to leave our lights on 24/7, but please don’t raise our energy bills. And above all, we still want to be the “Nice” people in North America.
Let’s face it, folks, we’re a bunch of pansies.
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Greed kills innovation

I was sitting at my kitchen table, poring over recommendations I’m writing for my client (partially communicative, partially CYA), when I had one of those sudden thoughts: I need tea.  While I was drinking my tea — a pomegranate green tea, if you must know — I had one of those epiphanal moments when something becomes radically clear.
Greed kills innovation.
It’s short, it’s simple, it’s sure to raise the ire of a lot of people, but it’s also a major problem we’re seeing lately, especially in internet technologies. It’s a problem that’s dogged humanity for generations. And it’s getting worse.
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Copyrights are the new Colonialism

The late 16th Century was the dawn of the British Empire. England had triumphed on the seas, and had set its eyes on colonising the New World (before its enemies did). Patents were issued, companies were founded, and flotillas of ships dispatched to every corner — known and unknown — of the planet in the name of Queen/King and country. Colonies were born out of determination, slavery, and blood extracted from those too weak to defend themselves from British will.
In time, a phrase was born: The sun never sets on the British Empire. Great Britain’s influence extended far beyond its native shores, its power unquestionable. A few thrived under the colonial system, but the majority — the people living under colonial rule — were marginalised as being little more than the ignorant masses; significant numbers suffered horribly.
It’s really no wonder that the Empire collapsed under its own weight.
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How to win the next Canadian federal election

Dear Honourable Michael Ignatieff MP,
I recently read a CBC article where you made public a video of Rt. Hon. Stephen Harper in less than a positive light (http://www.cbc.ca/canada/story/2009/09/10/ignatieff-harper-speech.html). The article, including references to the video and a few comments from yourself, aimed to effectively attack Rt. Hon. Harper’s character and credibility. While this action may very well be justified in terms of raising awareness to the Canadian public, I (and likely many other Canadians) see this only as a prelude to what will likely be the fourth federal election in as many years.
What you have before you is a problem, Hon. Ignatieff: you might be right, but Canadians are going to hate you for it. We’re going to hate you for doing exactly what every other politician running for a major office has done for the last quarter of a century: make the election personal.
Canadians pride themselves on multiculturalism. We happily point to the different patches of our country that identify themselves as being distinct and unique. These are not faults, but are facets of a jewel that would not shine any other way. Along with those facets come — as an absolute requirement — differing perspectives, attitudes, and personalities. In effect, it ensures that no two people will approach the same scenario in the same manner.
You must remove personalities from the equation. All that mudslinging achieves is to showcase pettiness and desperation. If all you have to bring up is someone else’s poor judgement, it makes us all wonder what you can bring to the table. It does not matter what Rt. Hon. Harper has personally said, regardless of how inflamatory those comments may be. Your position should be a higher one, not of a tattle-tale elementary schoolyard child, but of the correcting teacher who directs a class to overcome a poor decision.
The Conservatives have something in their favour that the Liberals do not: since coming into power in 2006, the Conservatives have not made any serious mistakes — things that would normally cause Canadians to vote differently. That is a level of inertia that the Liberals — and you, as their leader — need to overcome.
You have another inertia to overcome as well: Canadian political apathy. As you may recall, the 2008 federal election had the lowest turnout in Canadian history. If you wish to turn the tide, you have to encourage everyone not just to perform their civic duty, but be engaged in the direction of their country. That is a task that no Canadian political leader is willing to, at the risk of being attacked by the others. However, this is a risk you’ll need to take.
And you need to take that risk to the west. I’m sure you saw the electoral map from the previous election (http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/7/72/Canada_2008_Federal_Election.svg) — the west is a sea of blue, and your party acquired only seven seats. Alberta, in particular, love their Conservatives — attacking Harper will only lend sympathy rather than turning a tide. You need to appeal to the Western Canadian, and have them feel that Western Canada is as important to Canada as Quebec has been in previous elections.
So, how? I don’t presume to preach to a politician, author, professor, and journalist. Instead, I would like to talk to you as a fellow Canadian. You don’t need to tell us what’s wrong with other politicians — you need to tell us what’s wrong with us, with our nation, with the things that we hold as dear and true to our identities as toques, beavers, hockey, and the maple leaf. And then inspire us to help repair those things, so that we become part of the solution, so we don’t just hand our problems to our government and expect everything to be fixed.
We do not need promises or assurances. We need truths, no matter how hard they might be to hear. We need to be told — plainly — what has to happen. We need to be told that even the difficult is possible, and that hope isn’t just a word. We need to believe. We need to want.
Ignore Rt. Hon. Harper. Ignore Hons. Duceppe, Layton, and May. Rise above them. Rise above the petty bickering. Make your message speak for itself, and speak to Canadians. Make us believe that you have a vision that means something more than merely acquiring office. If we are to go to the polls again, we have to know it’s for a good reason, and not because of a political spitting match. If you can bring faith back into Canadian politics, you may also bring greater enthusiasm and support.
Sincerely,
Geoff Sowrey

Dear Honourable Michael Ignatieff MP,
I recently read a CBC article where you made public a video of Rt. Hon. Stephen Harper in less than a positive light. The article, including references to the video and a few comments from yourself, aimed to effectively attack Rt. Hon. Harper‘s character and credibility. While this action may very well be justified in terms of raising awareness to the Canadian public, I (and likely many other Canadians) see this only as a prelude to what will likely be the fourth federal election in as many years.
What you have before you is a problem, Hon. Ignatieff: you might be right, but Canadians are going to hate you for it. We’re going to hate you for doing exactly what every other politician running for a major office has done for the last quarter of a century: make the election personal.
Continue reading “How to win the next Canadian federal election”

Is the world really dying to see results from the US election?

Maybe not the entire world, but certainly the wired world — the people online. All day, ever since I logged on, I’ve seen Tweets, blog posts, momentiles, and the like about people who are absolutely dying to see the results from the US election.  
Most of those people want to see Obama win. (Or at least those are the ones I’ve seen.)
I wonder, is this the most-watched election of all time (I say that because it likely is) due to Obama (and his chances of winning) or because of social networking bringing everyone out into the open?  
There’s a thesis in this, I’m sure…

Conservatives win the next Canadian federal election!

This isn’t a predictive headline, folks. This is truth. The Conservatives will win the election in October. I, as an Expat, can’t vote in it, but that doesn’t mean that I don’t take at least a sense of interest in it. Or stock in the fact that the Conservatives are finally getting what they wanted the last time: Complete control.
For the last two years, Canada has been living in the most blessed of political states: a minority government. As close to having the car in neutral as it gets. It means the least chance of political scandal (the “ruling” party doesn’t want to make mistakes that’ll haunt them come election time), and the opposition enjoys a place of perceived power as they get courted by the ruling party to help push through votes.
Well, that’s all coming to an end now. So brace yourself, Canada — things are likely to get worse.
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The IOC is living in a dream world

As I was skipping through my various feeds this morning, I came across the following quote from Jacques Rogge, President of the IOC:

Jacques Rogge, the president of the International Olympic Committee, said the Games would “help the world to understand China, and it will also help China to understand the world.”

I think we need to send a team into the IOC’s fantasy world and extract them, because they’ve clearly (and totally) misunderstood the situation.
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An open letter to Jim Prentice

Dear “Honourable” Jim Prentice,
Allow me to express my sincerest feelings when I say you are responsible for fucking over the Canadian people. This bill you are introducing this morning — likely as I write this very post — is not for the benefit of the Canadian people.
Not one bit.
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Is America ready for Obama + Clinton?

I love American politics. It’s my form of WWE — all the cheers and jeers with all the spectacle to go along with it. One day, I think the American presidency will go the way of the President of the Galaxy from Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy and be little more than a distraction from the real power.
Heck, it could be like that already, for all we know.
Today, it was announced that Hillary Clinton would be willing to consider a Vice-Presidency with Barak Obama as top billing. But here’s a thought: Are Americans ready for this?
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There was an election?

Yep, believe it or not, there was an election in Alberta yesterday. Provincial. New MLAs, new premier (in theory), all that jazz. In most provinces, it’s usually time of actual change — old regimes are voted out, new ones come to power, more scandals (from different angles), and (this is the important part) an opposition party that actually has some teeth.
But this is Alberta. Nothing ever changes in Alberta. The PCs being in an overwhelming majority is like the sun coming up in the morning.
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A bullet train in Calgary?

I just came across a rather … well, odd article on CBC.ca. It’s a blueprint for 2018. Apparently, the Calgary City council thinks that there should be a bullet train from here to Fort McMurray.
Someone’s been sniffing oil fumes too much, methinks.
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Colbert no longer for President

Okay, yes, everyone’s heard about Stephen Colbert‘s run for the presidency. Those of you who watch his show regularly (sadly, I do not; though Alex is becoming a massive fan) know what Colbert is like. Perhaps not the most serious — or informed — person to be on the ballot.
And let’s be sure we’re talking here — he was aiming to be on the ballot in South Carolina. But the Democrats down there decided to throw him off.
Big mistake.
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Poor performing US President = strong Canadian dollar?

Oh, I’m gonna get in some hot water for this one…
So the other day, I heard a comment that the Loonie was the highest it’s been since the early 1970s. About the time Tricky Dicky was in the Oval Office.
That made me wonder a little…
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