Archive | February, 2011

Are the arguments for UBB just BS?

23 Feb

Peter Nowak seems to think so. And I’ve got a HUGE crush on Peter Nowak. Huge. But let’s just pretend that’s not going to affect my opinions.

Honestly, I’m not going to be able to state the arguments against usage-based billing (UBB) for the internet any better than Nowak did when he talked about the 10 myths from usage based billing supporters. I suggest reading his article, especially if you’re not sure what the whole debate is about in the first place. He gives a completely biased view of the subject, with a nicely balanced selection of links that, if clicked upon, will give you all the both-sides-background information you need.

I’m obviously against UBB. I think it’s just plain dumb and greedy. Yet the media seems to be torn. So, the question comes, why?

Why the hell should we switch to UBB?

Is it, as claimed by the Financial Post, that “we must face the reality of the super-heavy user, who threatens to impact the Internet experience of all customers. Approximately 15% of users consume the vast majority of our bandwidth at peak periods — and most of them are customers of third-party ISPs. We estimate that these users represent less than one in 50 of the total Internet customer base in Canada. In other words, it’s almost certainly not you.”

Which, among other random numbers the Financial Post decided to spout in this article, has no statistical backing and has not been proven–at all. As one reader commented, “Break out the popcorn, the National Post are officially running two Entertainment Sections now, though notably, this newly anointed section section [sic] specializes in pure fiction.”

An editorial in Canadian Business discusses how the large ISPs are having a bad business model forced on them (there’s a terrible hamburger metaphor used), yet seems to forget that UBB would effectively neuter business models for internet start-ups. Concepts like Hulu or Netflix are basically impossible. And it fails to mention that even after all the money these large ISPs are losing by investing in infrastructure and giving handouts to the smaller ISPs, companies like Bell reported a 13% profit increase from 2009 to 2010.

Still not making enough money guys?

Don’t worry, I’m sure that you can still make some profit on media sales. Like, for example, Maclean’s, which seems to prefer advertising for parent-company Rogers than actually writing a piece of investigative journalism. And admitting in the article that you’re owned by Rogers doesn’t mean you’ve just written something unbiased. That’s like Hitler announcing, “I hate the Jews,” and then assuming his announcement now gives him the right to go ahead and commit genocide. Just ’cause you admit it doesn’t mean it’s okay.

But I digress.

“The internet should be fair–not free–to everyone” is Maclean’s opinion on the matter. Yet the internet–especially considering the duopoly of Bell and Rogers–is neither fair nor free in Canada, so I’m not sure exactly what point Maclean’s is trying to make here. They seem to be saying that if one uses lots of internet, one should pay more. It’s like any other utility, right?

Well, no, it’s not. Again, Nowak says this better than I can, but the point is that it’s not like we’re running out of internet. It’s not a finite resource. Once I use it, it’s not gone. It is, for all intents and purposes, limitless. Unless we randomly run out of ones and zeros.

So, no. It’s not like a utility at all actually. Yes, money is needed for delivery, but we’re already paying that.

In the end, it boils down to the last point on Nowak’s list and the thing that has been on my mind since the first time George Stroumboulopoulos told me about the whole UBB thing: no other country in the world seems to need UBB, so why the hell does Canada?

I’m left wondering exactly what the arguments for UBB actually are.

Does anyone know?

And please, make your voice in this matter heard before April 29th:

Ottawa, Ontario
K1A 0N2
Toll-free telephone: 1-877-249-2782
Fax: 819-994-0218

Sign the online petition that’s been provided by Open Media.

And don’t be afraid to harass Minister of Industry Tony Clement:

Industry Canada
Office of the Honourable Tony Clement
Minister of Industry
C.D. Howe Building
235 Queen Street
Ottawa, Ontario K1A 0H5

Come into My Lair, Said the Clock to the Fly

17 Feb

I know it doesn’t quite have the same ring as The Spider and the Fly, but I’m pretty sure you get the idea. Or maybe you don’t. Wanna get the idea?

Check out the fly that's stuck on it!

Looks pretty odd, don’t it? And I bet you’re thinking, “Hmmm…I see sandpaper, and I see a fly on said sandpaper. Below aforementioned fly and paper appears to be a digi-clock. What’s the dealy-o?”

Actually, you’re probably not thinking that at all. Whatever. Watch the video anyway so that I can talk about robots after:


I’m kinda tripping balls about it actually. And every single person who’s seen the video or blogged about the technology has said pretty much the same thing (and I agree):

Uh, don’t you think we should have made them vegetarians?

The geniuses (/mad scientists who will see the death of us all) behind this and other sweet shit are James Auger and Jimmy Loizeau who head UK-based design group Auger-Loizeau. These guys are weird enough to be my new heroes. Check their stuff out.

Speaking seriously though, all kinds of people are jumping on this biomass bandwagon, including the Pentagon which appears to have commissioned a biomass-eating military robot from Robotic Technology Inc. (RTI) called the Energetically Autonomous Tactical Robot.

Yeah, no joke. It’s called EATR.

And although they claim that their robot is vegetarian–after the run-amok rumours to the contrary published by Fox–I find it hard to believe that a robot built for the military, to be used specifically in battle situations, isn’t gonna eat dead bodies. Yes, yes, moral blah blah blah, desecration of the dead, something something respect, yada yada yada war crimes. Whatever. AS IF a robot that FORAGES FOR ITS OWN FOOD isn’t gonna feed on an energy source like that.

Plus, you can’t file war crimes against a robot. Not yet, anyway.

If you want a little more info on the science, check out this site.

If you want a little more info on what the future will look like, check out this site.

Vertical Farming

15 Feb

Design for the Dragonfly Vertical Farm in NYC

I remember someone telling me once that if we put the entire population of the world into a space the size of Texas–and we could with the proper application of urban engineering–and used a small portion of land for farming purposes (and all became vegetarians), the rest of the world could be left very close to untouched, other than for perhaps scientific purposes or ecological recreation. Biodiversity would flourish and all our sustainability issues would disappear. Until, you know, a meteor hit us or the world went blind and the triffids escaped.

Now, apart from the obvious impracticalities of this system (i.e. good f*cking luck), this actually seemed like a pretty neat concept to me. It was original at least. And I’m a huge fan of leaving the earth to its own devices as I’m fairly convinced that the earth is a big girl and can take care of herself. It’s a pipe dream, however, and not sensitive to things like the volatile nature of an opposites-by-leaps-and-bounds cultural melting pot.

Yet it was the concept of thinking impractically that really got my mind moving.

And in that spirit, I give you Vertical Farming.

Now what exactly is vertical farming, you may ask–if you were too lazy to click the above link, that is. Well, it’s exactly what it sounds like: farming that’s vertical. In a bid to reduce things like carbon emissions from transportation, the waste that inevitably occurs when shipping food long distances, and the cost that’s associated with both the former and latter, an idea has been put forth–build up. And a number of places have already jumped on the concept, Singapore and Toronto being two of the first. (You can check out a picture gallery of vertical farm designs and current “living walls” at Environmental Graffiti.)

From what I’ve been able to gather, Dr. Dickson Despommier appears to be the leading expert on the matter. His website, The Vertical Farm, has some great videos (although I’m including the main intro video in this post) and designs, as well as sort of one-sided “learn more” section and/but a pretty sweet blog. I actually seriously recommend subscribing to the blog. It’s super informative.

There are, of course, arguments against the system. The amount of energy needed to artificially light these structures for even plant production could potentially be astronomical. And this idea has never actually been put into practice–it’s all theoretical at the moment. The Economist has a very good article that neatly lays out the benefits and potential drawbacks, as well as introducing alternative concepts like VertiCrop.

Now, to me, both of these issues–lighting and practicality–are not really the main issues. Lighting, and I’m aware that I’m simplifying here, can probably be solved by a brainstorming session with some creative engineers and a couple of years. Practicality can be solved in a very practical way: Build it. If it doesn’t work, you’ll know. Then fix the problems and try again. It’s called the scientific process. Obviously start small and move up, but the system is in place for solving this kind of problem.

The real problem, as I see it, is what we are going to do with that extra space. Now, in places that actually need this sort of technology–places like the UAE or Antarctica–this issue probably isn’t gong to be something that comes up. But when utilizing it in places that don’t necessarily need the technology, but want it–i.e. China or India–what are they planning to do with all that space they save? Because if you’ve got national parks on the way, or sustainable housing developments planned, then call me up a stripper ’cause we got ourselves a party.

But I feel safe in my assumption that those things probably aren’t going to be happening. China hasn’t exactly got the best track record for making environmentally responsible choices. I’m not saying they’re totally hopeless. A 10% reduction in plastic bag waste since 2008 is pretty damn remarkable. But this is the exception in China, not the norm. So if that extra space is going to end up being used for another Three Gorges Dam, then I’m not really seeing what the practical use is. Well, you know, other than feeding people.

I guess I feel that feeding a population that is ever increasing, and feeding them sustainably, is a great move for the survival of the human race’s reproduction race. It’s just maybe not such a great move for the survival of anything else. We’re treating a symptom with this technology, not the illness. It’s a very Western-minded approach to medicine. Oh, you’ve got a headache? Here are some painkillers! Of course you can keep drinking coffee and working ten hours and day and sleeping five or six hours a night and not having enough sex. We’ve got these magical pills for you so that not only will you not realize how big your problem is, you won’t even know you’ve got a problem.

The technology is great, and it’s an amazing step in the direction of truly living sustainably, but it’s the sidekick, the supplement, the start of the beginning of the preliminary idea. A step in the right direction, but not the whole trip.

What do you think about vertical farming?


14 Feb

There’s a lot of stuff white people like. I in particular got pegged by Wes Anderson, grammar, and Banksy.

Given, all of those things are awesome. I mean, I watched Bottle Rocket in 1994. (This is where you realize, according to SWPL, that I’m cooler than you.)

And who doesn’t love catching someone screwing up to/too? If you’d lived with sisters like mine you’d derive a sick kind of pleasure from mocking grammar mistakes, TOO (see that Kate?).

The Banksy one just about made me piss myself, especially after having seen Exit Through the Gift Shop. Well, more like after reading the comments left by IMDB users who don’t seem to understand that it’s a statement, not a work of art. And no, those thing are not necessarily synonymous.

But the true glory of SWPL was revealed to me in a stunning stage-stealer last night at the spoken word open mic at Loft345.

Let me back up.

It started when, after hearing a banshee-like shriek of horror, a good friend came galloping over with tears practically carving their distress through his beard. It turns out that there had been a TEDx conference in Guangzhou–where we live–only a few months ago. This, for both my friend (who will henceforth be referred to as “Nathan” for brevity’s sake) and I, was a serious blow to the success of our lives because, obviously, one of our life goals is to attend a TED conference. AND WE MISSED IT. And not only did we miss it, IT WAS FREE. For those of you who aren’t that well versed in the TEDverse, these conferences usually cost something like $4000 to attend. Yeah, it’s expensive, but I’d be instantly prestigious and HIGHLY intelligent if I ever got to go. Plus, I might get to meet Al Gore.

Anyway, spoken word commenced. La la la, speak speak speak, etc etc etc–wait! Another friend (brevity–>Lum Lum) gets to the stage. Lum Lum almost shits herself whenever she has to talk in front of people, so we tend to heckle her and get the most out of it. Last night, however, she punched us all in the gonads.

“#134,” she began, “of stuff white people like: The TED Conference.”

We almost died.

Check out the whole article here:

#134 The TED Conference

And check out Exit Through the Gift Shop:
(the movie is much better than the trailer)

Parrots, the Universe, and Everything

11 Feb

If you know me, you know that I’m partially (fully) in love with (obsessed by) Douglas Adams. Actually, there’s a very good possibility that you don’t know that, but you do now.

I’ve been obsessed with the books for years and just about knocked my mom over when the preview for the movie first showed. Given, I thought the movie was an unmitigated piece of junk the first five times I saw it, but it eventually grew on me. Learning that Douglas Adams had a hand in writing the screenplay helped. I’m elitist like that.

And now, years after his death, he speaks from the grave. Technically speaking he spoke before the grave, but let’s worry about time-space later. For now I’d like to share this amazing talk he gave at the University of California, Santa Barbara shortly before he expired.

And here’s the preview that I beat my mom up over:

Insert the theme from…

11 Feb

Whichever news show it is that you prefer. Although Fox is banned. Well, you can use Fox, but only if you do so ironically.

This is my blog (ta da). I think the whole point of this blog will be about ideas. Given, that’s in a way the point of most any blog (other than those bloody lol-catz ones), but I’d like this blog to be an expansion of that idea–an idea of ideas if I may be so permitted.

And seriously, I’ll punch the next person who sends me a lol-catz link. They are neither cute, funny, nor ironic. Sadistic, yes, but I’m more of a masochist which means I’d have to be sending them to myself for there to be any value.

So, ideas. It seems I always sit down with people and talk about the cool stuff that’s happening in the world. And yet it never seems enough. I want to know more. I want to share more.

Ta da.

I case you’re wondering, this is the theme that was playing in my head:

 Various Artists – Mighty Mouse .mp3
Found at bee mp3 search engine