xkcd

31 Mar

Recently (i.e. the last fifteen minutes) most of my friends have been getting xkcd comics posted on their Facebooks. From me. It’s a comic of “romance, sarcasm, math, and language.” Pretty much everything required to keep me entertained.

I’ve collected here a few of my favourites:

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The Vote Toss

29 Mar

But I'm voting Green.

I’m not particularly politically inclined. Or, at least, I never used to be. I remember turning 18 and telling my dad that I wasn’t going to vote. He promptly proceeded to haul my ass to the voting booth, forcing me to exercise my democratic right to bitch. What does that mean? It means that if you don’t vote, you don’t get to bitch. You had the option of making your voice count, but you didn’t, so tough luck asshole, I’m not interested in your whining.

Seriously.

To this day I have no patience for people who don’t vote, especially now that I’ve been living in a country where people aren’t given the option.

Still, I didn’t exactly know much about what I was voting for. I didn’t mind the Liberals, didn’t know much about the NDP, and tended to strongly dislike the Conservatives, but I liked most of what the Green Party had to say, so I usually voted Green. I even voted Green in the 2006 federal elections when most people I knew blasted my decision to “waste [my] vote” by not voting Liberal to keep the Conservatives out.

And so began a battle I have been fighting ever since, namely, the defence of my belief that you should vote for who you truly want to be in power. Anything less and—similar to not voting at all—you don’t have a right to bitch. Almost everyone I know, including my closest friends and family, told me how stupid I was. Did I really think that Green could possibly win? Why was I wasting my vote on a non-starter when I could be putting my vote to good use by keeping the Conservatives out? THEY were going to vote Liberal. At least THEIR vote would count for something.

Lot of good that did.

We now have another election coming, and I continue to stand by my convictions. And so I answer the question so many asked me over five years ago: Do I really think that Elizabeth May is going to be the next prime minister? Not bloody likely. But having a couple of Green MPs couldn’t hurt. And like that proverbial snowball, once people start to believe that Green is a true option, more and more people will make their honest choice at the polls.

Because seriously, if every person that sat there and harped on me for “throwing away [my] vote” actually voted the way they wanted, things would look a lot different in Canada.

In fact, they might even begin to look like Germany. Germany, who on Sunday showed a 24.2% result in Baden-Württemberg and a 15.4% in Rhineland-Palatinate for Green. As Spiegel Online International put it:

“…the country’s political landscape experienced a profound shift over the weekend. Germany is no longer a country firmly in the hands of the SPD [Social Democrats] and the CDU [Christian Democrats]. As of Sunday, the Greens have crashed the party. And before long, they might be sending out the invitations as well.”

This announcement came on top of my best friend—and loudest adversary in the vote-tossing debate—posting a blog entry in which he not only did a complete 180 of opinion, but actually denounced people who voted “for the lesser of two evils”! I added that exclamation mark because he hates them.

(Note: I love my best friend very much and he’s already laughed at the hypocrisy of his blog post after I did my best to scream at him over gmail chat. He’s one of the smartest people I know. He was bound to get there in the end.)

And so I’ve realized that things are changing. People are changing. They are opening their eyes and coming to the conclusion that this f*cking sucks. What we’ve been doing doesn’t work and when things don’t work, you need to stop what you’re doing and bloody well fix them. And if fixing them doesn’t work (as it obviously hasn’t), then it’s time to try something new.

Even if you are one.

I’m not saying that Green is the answer, but using your vote to represent your voice is a bloody good start. Vote Liberal, vote Conservative, vote Green, vote NDP, vote Independant, vote Bloc Québécois if you absolutely must, but just vote.

May 2nd my Canadian friends, May 2nd.
Get off your rat’s ass and vote.

You have to listen to Banksy.

UPDATE: The lovely Jo Jorgenson directed me over to an SFU site dedicated to elections info. Part of it discusses voter turnout and why our numbers seem to be dropping. It also touches on two of my other pet issues: education in Canada and whether or not it properly prepares students to become citizens of our country (i.e. teaching them about the different parties and what it means to vote); and whether we should make voting compulsory like Brazil and Australia. In regards to the second issue, an Ekos poll done in September 2009 found that 49% of Canadians support compulsory voting. I’d love to know who those 49% are. I’m one of them. You?

Hero of the Day: Max Valiquette

7 Mar

Dear Max Valiquette;

My hero.

Imagine the following statement as being slightly less serious than it sounds, with a touch of adoration and a sprinkle of exaggeration, whilst not going too overboard on either:

Marry me.

Yes, I’m aware that you don’t know me. And if you ever actually find this page (note my use of the first conditional here), I’ll probably melt into a puddle of wicked embarrassment. To be honest, I don’t even know if you’re already married or not. Maybe you have kids. I don’t actually know much about you as a person at all. Maybe you’re an alcoholic. Maybe you like men. Maybe you’re an alien-lizard. I wouldn’t know and, currently, I don’t really care. I’m prepared to spawn your alien-lizard hybrids if they will embody your awesomeness.

Here’s what I do know about you:

You have an amazingly clean, accessible, honest, and funny website.

Here was your last Twitter post, which was very possibly the thing that prompted this whole post:

“Sorry for swearing but fuck me gently with a chainsaw DAVID CHANG IS OPENING TWO RESTAURANTS IN TORONTO!!!”

Here is you being awesome on Speakers’ Spotlight:

In closing, you are my Hero of the Day. If you feel like marrying me, I’m all in. I do warn you, my heroes change often, so I suggest jumping on this offer whilst it’s on the table. I live in China, but I’m sure we can work around that.

Our hybrids will be beautiful.

Why I’m Not Married

5 Mar

HA! I bet you thought you were gonna learn something interesting about me, didn’t you? Nope, I’m just gonna talk statistics again.

Kidding!

But seriously. I’m 25. I wouldn’t classify myself as physically beautiful, but I’m most certainly cute. I believe myself to be an internally beautiful person. I’ve got lots of love, I accept people for who they are as much as I can, my hobby is laughing, I’m almost dysfunctionally non-confrontational, I enjoy the bedroom, and I like to think of myself as quite intelligent (shut up Nathan). I’ve got some bloody good qualities.

Given, I’ve got some pretty crap ones, too. I’m a procrastinator, I’m terrible at dealing with money, I turn into a bit of an argumentative bitch when I’m too drunk, I occasionally drink too much, I suck at keeping my room clean, I can be incredibly intolerant towards people I love, and I’m quite vindictive and petty when the situation warrants. Sometimes even if it doesn’t.

In the end though, I’m not such a bad person (shut up Nathan). I think (hope) that my good qualities outweigh (or at least slightly nullify) my bad qualities.

Yet–I’ve been single for almost 10 years.

Yup, you read that right: 10. Not a typo.

I’ve been “involved” with people, and there have even been some people that I’ve truly cared about or had emotional investments in. But I haven’t had a “boyfriend” in 10 years.

So, what’s the deal?

Now before the feminists rip my head off and turn it into a march banner, let me just state that I haven’t been unhappy. In fact, I’ve been quite the opposite. One of the reasons I’ve been single for this long is that I haven’t needed someone else. I’m perfectly happy the way I am, and unless you’re going to up my level of happiness, why the hell would I change this state of affairs?

But it does make me stop and question myself from time to time. Really–because 10 years is a pretty freakin’ long time.

And this is where Tracy McMillan and her article in the Huffington Post come in. Aptly and/or stingly entitled “Why You’re Not Married”, McMillan presented the piece as an over-the-top, true-but-not-totally-true, brutal thump of honesty. The reaction was a little extreme (as I’m sure McMillan meant it to be), prompting an interview with the writer herself.

In the interview, McMillan points out that her article was meant to be satire, but I almost feel robbed by this assertion. Screw that! Her piece was brilliant, brutal, and bang-bloody-on. I almost peed myself laughing it was so funny.

Check it out. And I will tell you: one of the points most definitely explains my singledom.

What about you?

Amy Chua: A memoir, not a how-to

4 Mar

Amy Chau with daughters Louisa (Lulu) and Sophia

For those who haven’t been keeping up with the Amy Chua controversy, I’d suggest turning to any woman around you who looks like a mother, mentioning either that Chinese mothers are superior, or that Yale professor who published the essay about parenting, and watching said woman explode. It’d be funny if it wasn’t so tragic.

If you really don’t know what it’s all about, I’ll explain. No, there is too much, let me sum up: Amy Chua wrote a book called The Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother. Ta da!

Okay, not quite, I know.

Amy Chua wrote a memoir. That memoir had an excerpt published. Now people are losing their minds. Although, I must admit, quite a few are keeping them. Just in the wrong places. One blogger who hadn’t even read the book yet decided to make some serious assumptions by creating a parallel between herself and Chua’s children. The tone of the post quickly reveals that the author hadn’t even read an interview with Chua or her children, never mind the actual book she was blasting. However, I need to get off my horse on that one as my first/gut reaction wasn’t much different. I just showed restraint in blogging. I believe this is where the word “neener” gets repeated once or twice.

Growing up and moving on.

All right, let’s start by not forgetting that Chua was already an internationally acclaimed author by the time she printed this, her third book. Her first, World on Fire: How Exporting Free Market Democracy Breeds Ethnic Hatred and Global Instability, was praised by both the Economist and the Guardian in 2003. This woman can write. I may not agree with all her ideas–and others would agree with me–but she is talented, gutsy, and, you know, a professor. I’ve only got Wikipedia to back me up. She’s got a piece of paper with the word “Harvard” on it. Actually, she’s got two pieces of paper with that word.

She even goes as far as to use the term “Confucian filial piety” in her writing, which just about blew my mind. Now, for those who are not familiar with Chinese, there is a word–孝顺 (xiàoshùn)–for which the closest English translation is “filial piety”. This is a word that is pervasive in the Chinese language and, by parallel, Chinese culture. I know it intimately as it comes up again and again when teaching English to Chinese students, and the confusion I see after explaining to them that there isn’t a regular-usage word for that in English is frustratingly repetitive.

Wikipedia gives a pretty good definition of filial piety:

“In somewhat general terms, filial piety means to be good to one’s parents; to take care of one’s parents; to engage in good conduct not just towards parents but also outside the home so as to bring a good name to one’s parents and ancestors; to perform the duties of one’s job well so as to obtain the material means to support parents as well as carry out sacrifices to the ancestors; not be rebellious; show love, respect and support; display courtesy; ensure male heirs, uphold fraternity among brothers; wisely advise one’s parents, including dissuading them from moral unrighteousness; display sorrow for their sickness and death; and carry out sacrifices after their death.”

If anyone can give me a one-word adjective that explains all of that, and which we use in our daily conversations, I’ll bake them a cookie.

But moving back to Chua. When I first heard about the book (and before reading it), I was outraged. Here was this woman, basically abusing her kids as they grew up, ripping away their childhood, and claiming that it was in THEIR interest? How dare she! The outrage, the injustice! The opinions of a 25-year-old, childless Westerner were not only offended, they were accusatory. How dare she.

And yet, they were opinions fuelled by media bias, my own misgivings about Chinese parenting (don’t even start on me unless you’ve lived here), and the media. Oh wait, did I say the media twice? Let’s leave my horror at Chinese parenting aside for the moment as, a) I’m just as horrified by Western parents, and b) I’m childless and therefore not technically allowed to comment on parenting skills without sounding like a complete idiot. So that leaves me with the overstressed point of The Media. Because, let’s face it, the media lost its shit when the Wall Street Journal published its article, controversially entitled “Why Chinese Mothers Are Superior”. Just imagine the explosion my poor expat mind had over that one.

And that’s exactly what happened to everyone else. The Wall Street Journal published an excerpt. The excerpt was a selection made, as claimed by Chua herself, without prior approval and with the mind to cause upheaval. As Chua states:

“The Journal basically strung together the most controversial sections of the book. And I had no idea they’d put that kind of a title on it. But the worst thing was, they didn’t even hint that the book is about a journey, and that the person at beginning of the book is different from the person at the end — that I get my comeuppance and retreat from this very strict Chinese parenting model.”

Some people even seem to have failed to read the subtitle:

“This is a story about a mother, two daughters, and two dogs. This was supposed to be a story of how Chinese parents are better at raising kids than Western ones. But instead, it’s about a bitter clash of cultures, a fleeting taste of glory, and how I was humbled by a thirteen-year-old.”

Does that really sound like a how-to-book on raising the perfect child?

I’ll admit some parts of the book scare me. The no-drink, no-bathroom, no-food piano/violin practices. The lack of fun. The screaming. The abusive nature of some of the criticisms towards her children. But this book reads as a coming of age story, not for the kids, but for the mother herself. Hell, even the kids support her. Sophia (the eldest) went so far as to publish an open letter to her mother in the New York Post, and both kids spoke with the Guardian about how much they appreciate and support their mum.

And let’s face it folks: her kids are successful. And happy. And balanced. Well, so it seems. We should probably check back in a few years, but for now, they seem to be sailing just fine. Chua has a very good point when she says that children are happy when they succeed, when they excel, and when they have confidence in their ability to face and overcome adversity. I may not agree with some of her methods, but her results and her motivations are hard to argue with.

More importantly, and the thing that people keep forgetting, is that this book is a memoir. Chua in no way claims that the “Chinese mother” is any better than the “Western mother” (both of which are terms Chua admits she’s loosely defined). This isn’t an “I’m right, you’re wrong, be like me” manifesto. This is the story of a woman who changed, a woman who saw her life crumbling around her, got the crap scared out of her, questioned everything she had done, and then went ahead and did one of the most Western things possible–she exposed herself and all her flaws to the world.

Personally, I thinks she’s bloody brave. She made a lot of mistakes, like everyone does, but was willing to look at herself and question whether or not she was the one that needed to change. In doing so, she became an even bigger role model for her children.

I prefer my mom, but I think Amy Chua did okay.

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:

CRTC
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
Canada
613-995-9001
Email: Minister.industry@ic.gc.ca

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:

HOW FREAKIN’ CRAZY IS THAT?!

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.