Gordon Lightfoot

Something weird happened in my head over a quiet weekend. I put on the radio hoping to get news or weather, instead got Gordon Lightfoot singing “Black Day in July”.

You can find a version of the lyrics here.

This particular sentence touched a nerve: why can’t we live in peace
But the hands of the the have-nots keep falling out of reach

So, back in 1968 Lightfoot understood about the 99 percent and the one percent, or one-tenth of a percent, and inequality.

This is the same Lightfoot that brought us the Canadian Railroad Trilogy. I heard this a very long time ago, in Yorkdale, when there were coffee shops and cheap lodgings in that area. It was in Riverboat, a basement-of-house location, a small room. With Lightfood were, as I recall, Red Shea and I think ?Brian? Stockfish. (I feel really dumb not being sure of this, as the latter’s grandfather actually gave me a couple of guitar lessons. I should remember the name, eh?)

Apparently the Trilogy was commissioned. I heard it for the first time live. I was particularly impressed by the neatness of its conclusion. Lightfoot owned the room.

So, hats off to Gordon Lightfoot: championing the creation of Canada, and about two years later, lamenting the destructive elements eating away at North American society. And that’s just two of his songs.

This is not just a budget bill

The NDP have promised to use every possible tactic to stall the federal government’s budget bill. This is a good thing.

The bill is an omnibus bill. This is a bad thing. The NDP tried to get the bill broken into smaller pieces, each to be voted on, but the ruling conservatives were able to block that effort.

Large, complex bills are an American tactic, imho, that is being adopted and adapted by Stephen Harper. In the USA bills will include “earmarks” which are funds appropriations that pay for projects, generally in the federal district (riding in Canada) of someone whose vote for the overall bill is wanted. For example, the Army Corps of Engineers has, I am told, no budget. It is all funded by earmarks.

In the Great US Bank BailOut Bill, there were something like three earmarks per legislator.

So, imho, The American Way is to add stuff into a bill to get votes for the main cause. Stephen Harper has added a new twist: add stuff into a bill that would not look that nice if it were in a bill all by itself. Once a bill runs over 400 pages (this one does) nobody can be expected to read it properly, nor can we expect decent summaries in our news outlets. The sheer size of the bill, all going in or out on a single vote, means a clever Prime Minister can put things in there that he doesn’t feel like defending. He then can cut debate short and force the whole pile into law.

The litany of extras in this bill beggars the imagination. Weakening of environmental safeguards is one item. Attacks on charities is another.

So, after you check out these and other sites (google budget bill Canada, eh?), you will perhaps ask yourself a dumb question:

Are the NDP doing the right thing in opposing this bill? If you think they are, are you doing the right thing in helping them, by writing your MP and newspaper? This bill is going to pass exactly as written, unless some very strong voices actually jolt our Prime Minister out of his complacent certainty that he can do this to us.

George Stroumboulopoulos

This is a sympathy post. George Stroumboulopoulos is a talk show host. He’s been moved from an hour show to a half hour show.

That half hour show will be shown twice.

The reality here is, all our TV programming is done absolutely as cheaply as possible. The production quality of the news program’s ads for itself far exceeds the news content quality of that news program. On one occasion I recall they interviewed grade eight students on some event that they knew nothing about. It was just social studies. When I find myself watching the news, I play a game: to find the clip most often repeated during the hour. I think the record is five times, and it happens occasionally.

So, following this trend of cheapness versus content, G.S. becomes one hour of air time by re-airing a half hour.

I don’t know what you call this, but I call it “the economy of stale”.

Sorry, George. You deserve better than this.

Mask Ban

The police are trying to get a law passed that would make it a major offence to wear a mask if a demonstration turns into what is deemed to be sufficiently like a riot for them to decide that it has.

I find this both amazing and hypocritical. At the G20 police wearing riot gear, including helmets, removed their identification and, as videos and hospital reports have shown, behaved in some cases as badly, or worse than, the black bloc. (Disclaimer: I have no interest in, and no sympathy for, the black bloc. Topic for another post.)

The fact that other officers around the, er, interesting police individuals, could not identify them either is just lemon icing on a sour desert. I recall it took a Rosie Dimanno to find full-face pictures of some of these police persons of interest. I don’t recall which detective school she attended. Maybe she just searched the Internet for pictures and videos.

So, the police force that thought it was appropriate to kettle hundreds of peaceful demonstrators, and remove their own ID badges, will now decide when wearing any form of concealment implies criminal intent.

Does anybody else have a problem with this? Am I totally out of touch with reality?

Bag Tax

In the city of Toronto, anyone buying anything in a store must pay five cents for each plastic bag they get with their purchases. Supposedly this covers the cost of disposing of these bags. I submit that this is nonsense.

I occasionally buy something at Tiger Direct. Before the Bag Tax, I would get a very decent, strong, large plastic bag with Tiger Direct advertising on it. This advertising would work, because I or my spouse would use the bag until it was getting tatty, and then probably line a wastebasket with it.

However, once the bags were forced to be paid for, the Advertising departments lost control of the bags and their quality, and the number crunchers seem to have taken over. So, a vendor who could afford to deliver a really nice bag for free, now needs to deliver a bag that definitely is not worth five cents. Every store is using crappy bags. The LCBO stopped using plastic (you can still get paper, for nothing) – we use one of these bags to hold recyclable containers, and we must have had it for years. The bag tax guarantees that the newer bags are flimsy, and thus will go into recycling or garbage after one or two uses.

Now for the dumb question: who gets the bag tax, and what is it applied to?

Some, er, errors in the Saturday Star

In reporting on the Robocalls during the Federal election, the Star claims to be quoting expert testimony that the messages sent by a specific IP address were all definitely sent from the same computer. I think this is incorrect for at least two reasons.

  1. The IP address assigned to me, by my provider, appears (from the Internet) to be the IP address of any machine connected on this side of their cable modem. If I have a router, I can have several machines all of which will appear, on the Internet, to be that same IP address. (The machines would all have unique, local-LAN IP addresses here which the router would translate both outgoing and incoming using a table to match request with response.)
  2. It is conceivable that a machine on the Internet could insert a message spoofing the originating IP address. Normally this is not useful as the general case of Internet use is, request, followed by response. If you request for someone else, you don’t get the response. However there are protocols that do not require a response. I have it in mind that some of the Black Hat packages used UDP, which is User Datagram Protocol, and it does NOT require a response (and is not using anything like error checking or timeout either, eh?). Two machines using UDP could, in principle, talk to each other (by sending to the correct IP addresses) while totally spoofing the apparent source IP addresses. I admit this is unlikely to be the case when ordering robocalls. It apparently can be the case when using compromised botnet computers.

It appears that Conrad Black got back into Canada with no special help from any politician, that it was a totally normal civil servant paperwork event.

In a letter to the editor, I think I saw the claim that when WalMart came to Canada they kept all the staff (unlike Target, who appears at some locations to have bought the lease, not the business, and will turn all the staff out as the deals mature). I beg to differ in the WalMart case. In our immediate neighbourhood there was a Woolco which WalMart bought and converted. It was announced that all the staff would keep their jobs. It was also announced that the store would be open 7*24.

My wife used this store quite a lot, and reported that only one of the original clerks was still on cash in the store. Apparently the others were all assigned to the midnight shift. After enough of them quit, the store reverted to normal operating hours. Then they moved it to a larger location. I believe the entire staff was turned over. It just took them awhile to cause it to happen.

My point: don’t believe everything you read (including here, eh?).

Back from South America

It was quite the trip, our longest in years.

Manaus, Brazil; Amazon Jungle Lodge; Rio de Janeiro; Iguassu Falls (both sides); Buenos Aires. Extra days in BA and in Manaus. Fabulous trip, exceeded both expectations and budget {8;^>}. Kudos to Globus for marvellous experience management. Carps at CIBC for not knowing, and apparently now not caring, that ATMs won’t accept my debit card in Brazil. This made funding, er, interesting. But we overcame, thanks to some help in changing USD to BRL.

One thing I learned on this trip is about me and my camera. I am never going back to a lesser machine. While my specific camera is a Panasonic GH1 with the 14-140 zoom lens, this is not really a specific product endorsement. What I learned is how to use some of the features, and how to overcome difficult situations. Animals in cages? Manual focus. Odd lighting? Electronic viewfinder, exposure bias. Sudden movement (objects into the image)? Electronic viewfinder, one-second review: take it again. Stabilization? lots of tricks, using railings, higher ISO, whatever. I have shots under 1/6 second that are sharp at 100% (and some that are not, eh? take it again.)

My wife’s camera is pretty good, takes very sharp images, but has an optical tunnel viewfinder with limited exposure information and so-so framing accuracy. The extra features on my admittedly much heavier and larger machine are what make the difference.

I’m waiting for (Probably Olympus) a camera with similar capabilities and rainproof. They almost have one now, but it’s screen neither articulates nor folds flat, both of which features I use. And its zoom range is not, for me personally, ideal. But this is coming: a camera of equal capability with rainstorm sealing. I will get one when it exists, if I can afford it.

On the trip I also used an Olympus Stylus 780. This is weather sealed, 5x zoom, image stabilized. I used it in the rain on the boat, in the fog at the statue of Christ the Redeemer, and at one part of Iguassu Falls where it was, er, pretty wet. Normally this one is only used in very bad light; this time it was merely wet, not dark. The images are pretty good, considering I’m more or less guessing by the horizon (could not really see the LCD very well) and holding it in the hands-out pose you’re forced to use when there’s only the LCD as viewfinder.

If I had weather sealing in my main camera I’d use it everywhere.

Meanwhile the blog resumes.