If you think it hurts now…..

Get there. See it. An Inconvenient Truth is a must-see film. It’s
not a seat-edge gripper, but it’s probably about as good as you can get
for communicating our impact on the planet, and the path that we’re
following with ever-increasing speed. You owe it to yourself and more
importantly the next generation to see this movie. The science is
extremely well supported and accurate. The message is clear and well

Let’s set the stage. I’m no luddite, and while I support the Green Party
platform and party, I don’t advocate going back to horse and carriage
and unplugging the power stations. (In fact, it’s a balanced,
sustainable approach that the Green Party advocates that draws me to
them.) The fact remains is that we’re actually incredibly wasteful of
the energy we use. Vast amounts aren’t used for the purpose we target,
but feathered off as heat, or inefficient power to do far more than we
really need. I admire efficiency in its many aspects, and I believe that
it’s films like this that should illustrate just how inefficient our
society is, and how much room there is for improvement.

As Gore states in the film, quoting a context long in our past, “We are
entering an era of consequences”. We need to act to head off an era of
decimation and upheaval. We have the ability to begin to mitigate and
manage our impact, but first we need to be aware of it, and motivated to
act. I believe that this film is the vehicle for the majority of people
to achieve just that. Please, show you have a more open mind than
President Bush and his staff, who sit in complete denial of our impact
and footprint, living for today without planning for tomorrow. Theatre
listings are at ClimateCrisis.net.
If you go, pledge to go via the link banner on the right, and
then, tell your friends, take them with you. Awareness is that critical
first step that we can all participate in.

Trigger Points

Well, after a very enriching and quick trip to Germany and back with A
Band of Outriders for a music Tatoo in Hannover, I’ve come across a very
interesting blog that seems to have flashpointed a few thoughts that have
been rumbling around my head and slowly gestating since the advent of the
DMCA south of the border.

Before I go there, I’d just like to say as I’ve now left the Outriders
for a second time, due to family commitments, to all the great friends
and fellow musicians in that group, thanks for the best two years of my
musical hobby in my whole life. The band is evolving through great
people and great leadership, and is light years ahead of where it was
when I left it the first time. Keep it up! I’m cheering for you from the
stands now!

Back to the topic that fired up Bloged on this, Matthew Russel was
blogging on
DVD fair use over at O’reilly
, and it comes to mind that just as the music
industry has slowly started to see that the distribution mechanism was
hindering sales, and that the piracy issue was actually a cry for relief
from stupid packaging and wasteful distribution networks (my opinion,
doubtfully theirs), the motion picture industry is going to get hit a
thousand times harder in the next few years, and it’s more likely to get
mortally wounded. Here’s my thinking:

The points Matthew made in his article are pretty solid I believe, and
there is a sense of “rightness” that contrary to the opinions of the
MPAA, RIAA and other publishing associations, most of the
dollar-weilding consumers out here in the real world adhere to. We will
pay fair money for fair product and fair use. That’s why iTunes Music
Store took off and the iPod is populating the planet’s pockets – because
we DO own a lot of music, and we want it to be with us everywhere, and
thankfully for the music industry, and for Apple, they get that the
majority of us will NOT hand it out all over the place for free. We know
it’s wrong, and we respect the ARTISTS that created it.

The MPAA and their ilk in the movies aren’t quite as free-thinking as
the musician-spawned recording industry is. They are very big-business,
big-dollar corporates that see any piracy as some sort of personal
affront. But read what Matthew wrote. If I OWN the DVD, I should be able
to take advantage of my technology and transfer it to my laptop on hard
disc and watch it without taking an inherently more fragile medium of a
DVD with me. As long as no other party uses the DVD while I’m using the
copy of it, the spirit and intent of the law is upheld. The letter of
the law in the warning is violated. Basically, I am inconvenienced and
held in contempt by this industry because I paid for the product and
don’t like being bound to the disc when I have other options.

The reason this will cascade more violently on the studios is because
independent studios are actually more respected and have more visibility
than the indie labels in music. Those indies are moving forward faster
in both realms, and it’s possible that one or a group of them will go
ahead and give a fair-use license on their media, and in doing so garner
a ridiculous amount of press attention. “We support the rights and
ability of our customers to enjoy our works in a lawful and respecting
manner, and will not restrict them or their freedoms in doing so when
they support our creative works.” Probably run that through a PR firm
and make it less wordy, and the studio goes up a few percentage points
in market share from being forever associated with the good guy
backdrop. Like Apple with the burning policies for the iTunes Music
Store, allowing the use, ripping, burning and such for personal use,
with minimal but fair protection schemes, they are seen as treating us
with respect. Like Dave Matthews posting a defeat to the copy protection
of the CD on his site, there is a powerful message in this action. A
studio could become a major player with that sort of public sympathy and
respect. The MPAA is pushing back harder than the RIAA ever did with the
secure-channel and broadcast flag aspects, and it just treats us all as
criminals and defeats our ability to use our own products, content and
technology that we purchase in more effective and innovative ways for
our own enjoyment.

It’s Big Brother telling us what to do and how to do it. I hope a lot of
the indies get together and start a “Consumer First” coalition that brings
the mindshare up on this and gives us a hero for our rights to support.

The Alberta Windfall

Well, here we are again. The difference? Paul Martin surprisingly enough.

Alberta, lucky as we are in having a whack of oil under the ground, has
a almost obscene surplus this year. And a lot of that cash is going into
the infrastructure of the province, as well as $400 cheques to every
resident of Alberta. Wow. I’ll admit it, we’re pretty lucky.

But now the “majority of Canadians” as our media puts it, wants a piece.
As many Canadians know, that means Ontario and Quebec want a piece of it
primarily, as that’s the majority of the population. The difference is
that Paul Martin, unlike Pierre Trudeau, has a sense of fairness. The
NEP was supposed to balance, in that cheap energy went east, cheap
manufactured goods went west. Well, nice idea. Only implemented the
first part and flipped the west the bird while he was at it. Paul
Martin knows the division of responsibility, cost and revenue, and
respects that, rather than rewriting the priniciples of federalism to go
with the commodity prices. Thanks Mr. Martin. But there’s more to it.

Hold the phone fellow Canucks. You already get a piece. You get the fed
transfer payments which none of us complain about in Alberta, we’re
happy to help out and be a big part of Confederation. Unlike a chunk of
Quebec, who would as soon take the money and make a new nation. Also,
the oil that’s pulled out of the ground isn’t just in Alberta, but the
Feds DO get a cut of the pie. As does the nation as a result. All the
money the oil companies earn gets taxed, the gas and oil they sell gets
taxed, and the whack of oil off the coast of Newfoundland (which has a
debate separate from this entirely) is mainly Federal profit. So you’re
getting your share. Before you get more than that, lets take a look at
what we’ve also put up with over the last decade before this windfall

Major cuts in infrastructure for schools, health care, roads, transport
and services. We told our government, get rid of the debt, and they did
exactly that, and every single Albertan took it in the teeth for that,
and as a result, we’re out of debt. We got out quickly thanks to higher
oil prices, but we got out because we stopped spending a lot of money.
Now we get to rebuild the infrastructure in a hopefully responsible way.
This is the reward for the sacrifices we made to have responsible
budgets. We’re still lucky, but the luck was also coupled with fiscal

I don’t judge all the benefits Quebec residents get via the very
different government system they have at the provincial level. I don’t
begrudge (too much) all the Federal contracts and handouts that go to
the big population provinces where the majority of the votes are. We
deal with it, and know that this country is a lot more than money and
porkbarrelling. Apparently some people think that all the profit should
be shared regardless of law, rights or earning it.

Tell you what. Put a plan together for a national fund that benefits all
the citizens equally, and is forward thinking, and is based on science
and industry. We have enough cultural programs and cash flowing there
for now at the national level thanks, and it’s mostly in the east. Make
a plan for bulking up the centres of excellence in our universities, get
a plan for diversifying us off of oil so we can export it as well as
more sustainable technologies.

Then we’ll talk about each province investing in our future. Not
just adding cash to unbalanced deficit-ridden budgets.

And on that note, Mr. Klein, thanks for the cheque, but we should look
to that renewable diversification ourselves, so we can lead the next
wave of energy supply and technology as well as the current one. Using
oil to fund the next generation seeds of that industry is just a great
and lucky coincidence waiting to be taken advantage of.

Perfect…. They Don’t Suspect a Thing

A friend of mine forwarded me a bunch of interesting research around
global warming and solar activity correlation over the years. Much of it
appears to have decent science and legitimate correlation behind it. He
then also forwarded me an
interesting link
to what can best be described as a far right-wing
American blog.

Let’s be clear. I’m not a left-wing activist. But I have kids, and I’d
like them to live in and experience a healthier world than the one I’ve
grown up in, and here in Canada, that world is pretty good to begin
with. But our modern society is still rooted in some pretty bizarre
ideas of what progress is.

So essentially, this blog (this post by Timothy Birdnow) dismisses
global warming as unrelated to CO2 levels being released into
the atmosphere. And then he extrapolates, from his limited frame of
reference and perception, that the Kyoto accord is designed to cripple
and limit the US economy. Uhhh….. ok. Sure. Whatever you say.

Let me propose an… alternate reasoning for Kyoto. Let me, in my
naive and optimistic way suggest it’s rooted in sustainable development,
and perhaps in the thinking from the very, very excellent book,
Cradle to Cradle.
So if you think along the lines that perhaps global
warming is not the reason, but simply being more efficient, effective,
and causing less of an impact through our industrialized society might
be the core reason, then you arrive at an alternate situation.

The world will move to sustainable development with or without the US,
despite what they may believe. Already, Europe is arguably ahead in some
ways for renewable energy. What Kyoto is doing is pushing everyone to
make a leap forward, and like it or not, we are very, very good at
creating and using oil and gas. So moving over to any other source will
take time, and to get started, you do need a fairly solid nudge. Global
warming may or may not be a factor, but there’s acid rain, oil prices,
air quality, energy security, and a large number of other aspects that
Kyoto actually assists. The point is that it reduces the consumption and
consequently the reliance on fossil fuels.

So let’s say it’s a really blundering attempt to cripple the US economy.
I for one can’t think of a single reason to even want to do that,
but let’s just assume that’s because I’m Canadian, and I like a lot of
the people down there. So let’s say the US doesn’t follow Kyoto. What is
likely to happen?

Well, some of the US is still pushing forward (a million solar roofs in
California) and such, so it’s not like they won’t have some capability
in new energy. But the expertise, the core competency and the best
capabilities in the production, generation, and manufacturing of these
systems will be in those Kyoto adherents, and in the countries that
manufacture for them. Those countries will enjoy less smog, less acid
rain (well, in areas not close to the US and others), and a lower cost
of energy over time than the US will. Let’s face it, if we get more
efficient fuels, and specifically fuel that has lower initial cost like
wind, solar, tidal and others, the cost of the energy will eventually
get below the cost of today’s fossil fuels. At that point, the Kyoto
adherents will be in a better economic position and likely have a higher
quality of life than the US will at that time.

Now this is based on some big assumptions, some fairly major
extrapolations, and a bit of thinking. So by no means is this a solid
prediction, just a possible scenario. So think what you want. I like
the idea of Kyoto, as there’s a small chance of that wish for my kids
coming true.

Well if it’s patent infringement, it’s environmental destruction as well….

Alright, that’s it. According to this
, the state of today has changed such that you can’t refill an
ink cartridge (in the US) if it is marked as “single use”. Doing so puts
you in breach of contract and…. patent law?!?!?

Well, let’s assume that the wonderous special interest protecting court
system has this down, and that this law sticks. If that’s the case, then
I would contest that putting such a restriction on a product, by
forbidding it from being reused/recycled, imposes a deliberate
environmental impact. It’s one thing to design something to be
disposable, and assume that it won’t be recycled or reused, but this is
forbidding the product from being reused or recycled. In essence, using
the law to create a product that must be fired into the recycle

With all the computer manufacturers getting mangled with recycling and
disposal fees, I think this makes it pretty clear that printer
manufacturers need to be levied with the same, if not a heftier,
penalty. There are circuit boards in these print heads, and all sorts of
mini-controllers, and I’m sure with them some hazardous waste and heavy
metals as well. I personally feel the practice is moderately
reprehensible due to this legal lockdown on both economy and limiting
the crap we throw away.

I will stick with the Canon printer I have for a few reasons. Quality,
double-sided printing, and the fact that the ink is cheaper due to the
print head being separate, and not getting a new one with each print
cartridge. As well as all separate inks. For reference, I use a Canon
Pixma 5000 printer. Nice printer, great resolution and all that. I don’t
use it enough to worry about the ink cost, this tirade is purely about
the almost monopolistic protection these companies are after. Rubbish.
Compete or file for bankruptcy. This is utter nonsense, and I’m quite
disappointed in the US courts on this one. Hopefully it won’t get across
the 49th parallel, but then Canada might have a new trade fight on it’s
hands with our southern neighbours, being a gray market ink cartridge
trade. ;-)

Podcasting a fad eh?

Wow. How the media is doing everything to get air and mind time in and
around the whole iPod and Apple. Now podcasting, having hit the top of the
media meme and stampede within a year of debut, it’s now accused of waning
as quickly and thinning ridiculously rapidly to only a few elite ‘casts.

Wow. Again. How the heck is that news? That’s what always happens, but
with the normal myopia defined by what I believe to be western thinking
of “winners” and “market leaders”, these same reporters probably don’t
think that we can have more than the top two auto companies in the
world, or more than one computer operating system, or to bring the
analogy closer to home, independent music labels and specialty markets.

Podcasting is going exactly where the music industry is going, but with
a bit of luck, will also give rise to vectors of content review that
aren’t major labels or media outlets, and point the way for the
post-MPAA/RIAA world in having independent review “clusters” giving
reviews of content along the lines the editor likes. Then you find an
editor you have similar taste to (or perhaps multipler editors, and
possibly through an editor-directory for yet another meta-organizational
layer) and that gives you a recommended list of content to check out and
possibly subscribe to.

Hopefully the rich diversity will survive as well as it has in the music
industry. iTMS features some indie labels in the Canada store at least,
and I tripped on the group “A Northern Chorus” which is fairly mellow,
but melodically and rhythmically intricate to a good extent, and having
a very cool and blended sound. Very neat stuff. iTMS just had them as an
indie feature. That’s a start.

Another aspect is multicasting…. if anyone remembers the old “Geek of
the Week” multicasts out of MIT, tag me an email at dallas at hockley
dot ca. That’s another idea around blogs and podcasts coming together
that’s running through my head. Live blog debates online via multicast
with a question period. Dynamic seminars…. why not?

Patently Absurd

Well the news of Kodak succeeding in patent litigation against Sun is
burning around the web. Between this one, the Eolas plugin patent, and the
simple fact that it is as much as impossible to do a patent search on
software with any level of thoroughness, the industry is heading for rough
seas in my opion (excuse the nautical references. The Perfect Storm is on
A-Channel right now).

The more of these idiotic perversions from the convergence of invention
and justice that I read, the more I come to believe that like so much of
the legal system, society and business has outgrown the intent, and now
the letter is argued without regard to application, effect or intent.

To give some context, the lawyers have learned that you broaden the
claims of the patent as much as possible to ensure the widest coverage,
and to strengthen the patent for litigation. The claims are detailed
enough to pass the patent office examination, and the system feeds on
itself. The interesting part is the patent office is so far beyond
ability to determine novel and non-obvious work, that it’s literally
become defeated by the system that gave rise to it.

It’s now fairly standard practice that programmers are told not to look
at all, and indeed to completely avoid getting any information or ideas
from pattents. This is actually be best defense at this point, in
addition to getting them to grind out patents themselves as a defense

It’s funny, but that whole “get a patent chest to CYA” was founded on
the idea that it would be a software company going after a software

Kodak is not a software company. The house of cards is falling.

The root of the problem is that these industries (and here I’m not just
talking software) that are driving their areas of knowledge forward are
so large that the idea that a novel invention will only occur in one
place is almost ludicrous. There are too many people, too many companies
moving far too fast to make the idea of a patent office tenable. Or

Another contrast. Originally, patents covered ideas and protected the
inventors to recoup the costs of development. Plus provide some reward.
Those ideas were able to be leveraged directly to advance other
projects, and the royalty was worth the price to produce the product
that derived from it. The patents in question in these cases are barely
ideas. They aren’t techniques with implementation that novel or complex.
They aren’t worth it. A successful patent that had some value was RSA.
The licensing however was almost completely outrageous, at over $10,000
starting. It actually stifled the industry it could have caused to
flourish to much quicker. Security suffered in software under the 17
year moratorium that supported it. The online commerce software has
exploded since the expiration of the RSA patent. It could have done so
much earier with more open terms.

The point with RSA is that it was a specific, detailed implementation
that was of significant value to the products guild with it (web
browsers). It wasn’t a vague implementation philosophy that would be
arrived at by anyone experienced in software development.

Software innovation is at risk. Our judicial system is ill-equipped to
chart the course, and our politicians are funded by the companies
building up these vaults of patents. The law is not in the interest of
the public or the country or the economy at large. It is again in the
interest of a few that support the election of people that will support
those narrow interests.

Perfect Storm has a very sombre ending. Hopefully we can avoid that sort
of ending in the software patent saga. The weather charts don’t look

Mad Cows? What could POSSIBLY make them angry?

Seriously. There’s a trade war in which Canada is as guilty as the US of
reacting like a bunch of crazed nitwits. Statistically, we should have put
trade embargoes on cars, electrical applicances and probably shoelaces.
All of these things have likely directly caused more deaths directly than
CJD in bovines has caused casually via vCJD.

We’re talking 100 people worldwide have contracted it (according to
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign)
http://w3.aces.uiuc.edu/AnSci/BSE/Index.htm Tripping down the stairs on
untied shoes probably has KILLED more people than that. I’m not
trivializing the effects of this disease. It is an extremely
debilitating, fatal neurological disorder that takes a terrible toll on
the people it does affect. The level at which it is being used in
political rhetoric for everything from the protectionist ban on cattle
imports by the US vs. Canada, Canada vs. Japan, etc., is completely out
of proportion to the direct effects. Organic food groups are up in arms
over the steroid growth hormones, and are weilding CJD as the phone book
to beat us about the head.

The hormones don’t cause, transmit or affect CJD in cows. The most
provable source is the consumption of spinal and brain tissue of
infected cows as feed. This is a cost-saving measure used in the past
and now banned in most countries. I’m no medical expert, but sporadic
CJD in humans accounts for 85% of the cases. From what I’ve read, vCJD
(as opposed to sCJD) is the primary BSE bovine vector into humans.

Most of the research I did was via UIUC, as well as a bit more browsing,
newscasts and paper bits. It’s not in depth, but for my satisfaction,
the risk of this disease is EXTREMELY low. It’s not impossible. But if
you regularly follow the herd across the street without looking at the
traffic yourself, your risk of leaving this worldly realm early is a lot
higher than leaving it via BSE.

All I really want to point out is that people should look into the facts
on this issue. Don’t listen to the rhetoric from either the pro-beef or
anti-beef industry, or any other special interest group. There are many
responsible scientists trying to solve this problem, with significant
research in place already. Then you can decide whether you will keep
eating beef as I have, trusting that the odds are with me, and not
wanting to live in a bubble the rest of my life. The risk is low.

This is one chance I will take based on the facts as I understand them.

And now for something completely different…

At risk of being accused of publicity mongering, I’m going to wade in on
the whole civil union issue.

Laying some groundwork, I am a heterosexual, and married within a
church, and have kids. Additionally, I know and have friends who are
homosexual. None of them are currently in an official or contractual
union of any kind. I have no objections to the concept of equality
before the law. If the union of a same sex couple proceeds through legal
channel, and rights and obligations are all entered into under civil
authority as is done in marriage, then the economic benefits and legal
rights should accord to any couple, regardless of composition. I suspect
that polygamy may raise itself in awareness as this proceeds. As may a
number of other non-traditional unions. But we’ll stay with the matter
at hand of same-sex unions, assuming two people.

I do have an objection of calling it a marriage. Why? Because it is
different. It’s not necessarily better or worse, and obviously I have my
biases. I do have a serious issue with the tendency of today’s society
to turn everything plain vanilla and base it all on the eyes of the law.
A same sex union of two people is different than that of a heterosexual
couple. This is based on the nature of men and women being different. If
that wasn’t the case, it’s unlikely there would be such a divergence in

A same-sex couple has a different viewpoint than a traditional marriage,
at a very fundamental level. Marriage is a religious union in history,
and has a long social history. A same sex union is a new aspect in our
society. If we paint it with the brush of marriage, it will be judged
against marriage. Any unique aspect of the union, or major difference in
the philosophical nature of the union will be lost in the jumble of some
sort of “which one is best” competition. If we can unify the legal
aspect, and preserve the uniqueness of both styles of union, within
their distinctive moral frameworks, I think we would be better set to
enrich the society over time, rather than reducing everything to more
legal framework, lawsuits, and rule by law.

That seems to me a soulless society of the future, and I’d rather that
we not allow that to happen. The goal should be to celebrate the
differences, rather than to bury them, hiding prejudice behind legal

Expose the prejudice, and confront it head-on, and conquer it.