Tuesday, November 30, 2004

The President comes to town

Are we taking this whole President's visit thing too seriously? I mean really, he's just coming to chat. And yet our security forces have created the largest security operation in our history (according to one news report) to protect one man. Hmmm...Does anyone deserve that?

The CBC is doing an interesting item all day today. This link will take you to a blog from Ottawa reporter Paddy Moore, who's walking around Ottawa with a blackberry and a camera phone, filing constantly. It's kind of interesting, although he seems to always be struggling to find a decent place to see what's going on. Not too exciting, but worth a look.

I guess I should be more excited about all this, but somehow, it just seems like so much nonsense. Sort of a case of everyone taking themselves way too seriously. I can't help but compare what's going on today to what is happening in Kiev. There, thousands of people are milling about, with police virtually nowhere to be seen.

Speaking of Kiev, Salon.com has an interesting item comparing the way that election fraud is treated in Ukraine with what's happened in Ohio. Take a look.

The War on Women

The Globe and Mail's Stephanie Nolen wrote about the plight of women in the Congo last weekend. I wanted to provide a link to her story, but the Globe now has a paid subscriber policy, and this article is now only available to those with "Insider Edition" subscriptions. I don't have that...nor, I suspect, do many of you. What a shame, because Nolen's story is worth reading.

Nolen is an astonishing reporter. Her work from Africa has been without peer in the Canadian media, at least, as far as I am aware of. And her newspaper, the G&M, deserves praise for funding her activities. Her travels around Africa, and most recently, the Middle East, are always interesting. In fact, the whole Globe foreign correspondents group deserves kudos.

Anyway, Nolen's articles on the travesties that have befallen the Congo in the last decade are sobering reading. If there is a hell on earth, this would appear to be a good candidate. What has been done to the citizens there during the seven-year civil war, and in the months since a "peace" deal was reached...words fail me. Especially the horrors inflicted on the women. Nolen's brave reporting is without embellishment. She wraps up the truth and delivers it in clear, precise tones. You are left as the reader to form your own judgements. I can only imagine the personal hardships that she has gone through to interview her subjects. She hints at it occasionally, but never dwells on it. Yet it must be an amazing story on its own. I hope she tells it one day in more detail.

While the first story is no longer available in the free edition, the second and third of her four part series are on the website. (I'm not sure how long these links will be active.)

Wednesday, November 24, 2004

Sask scenes for the holidays

Well...perhaps not just for the holidays. The CBC in Saskatchewan puts out a package of card each year, with the images supplied by their loyal listeners. Here's the link to this year's version.

Disclosure note: I was one of the esteemed judges this year, and I'm happy to say that all of my picks made it into the final 12. As you'll see, the range of photos was pretty impressive. And be sure to check out the rest of them. There's pages and pages of really interesting stuff, all contributed by listeners of the Morning Edition in Saskatchewan.

One interesting thing I noted was how few of the pictures had any people in them. Seems like Sask people really like that big sky country, and they're sure in love with the landscape. For all those Ontario folks who ask me what's so attractive about my home province, I think I'll just point them to this picture gallery.

Tuesday, November 23, 2004

Kevin Sites' dilemma

I'm sure you saw the story last week about the U.S. Marine who shot an unarmed Iraqi in Falujah. It caused a lot of commentary from both pro- and anti-war types. But here's a story that you probably haven't seen or heard. This is the story of what happened that day in the mosque, told by Kevin Sites. He is the reporter who filmed the incident. It's told in his personal blog, in the form of a letter to the Marines he was with that day.

Since the story came out, Sites has been painted as a crusading anti-war activist, implying that his decision to release the tape was the wrong one. Listening to him talk about the conflicting emotions the story raises is instructive. It's also a vivid example of the stress that war reporters are under every day.

Read it yourself. It's instructive. In war, there are no easy answers to complex questions.

Monday, November 22, 2004

Just how "Real" is the Internet?

Usability guru Jacob Nielson has some interesting thoughts on where the Internet is taking society. He calls it "Undoing the Industrial Revolution."

Nielson is one of my favourite writers about the Web and all things to do with it. He's been at the forefront of many of the design revolutions that have turned the medium into the useful one it is today. I find his arguments interesting, provocative and sometimes "way out there." But his record speaks for itself.

At any rate, my new business is one of the ones that he's talking about. And I like to think that I'm staying at the forefront of things...even if my day-to-day experience makes me wonder sometimes...

Saturday, November 20, 2004

Dog bites and what to do

I've always been a bit ambivalent about dangerous dog laws. On the one hand, I do agree they're necessary. There are dogs out there that shouldn't be allowed. But how do you decide? One breed might be bad, but individually, some dogs might be worse than others. On the other hand, any time the state wants to arbitrarily make a decision that infringes on people's rights -- censorship, obscenity, morality, etc. -- my instinctive reaction is caution. I don't trust those kinds of judgements.

Last week, we had another attack by a pit bull here in Hamilton. Fortunately, no one died, but a little boy and his mother were seriously hurt. It's lending fuel to the Ontario government's efforts to ban pit bulls. So this article by Jon Katz in Slate is timely. He looks at the issues of dangerous dogs in his usual, considered fashion and ends up in a place that might surprise people who know him.

As an owner of two large dogs, I know how tough it can be these days to find places to walk them without worrying about how others will react. Not only do I have to keep an eye on them to make sure I don't miss any of their daily droppings (lovingly collected in my little plastic bags) I also have to avoid having them run over to "greet" other dogs and people in the park. I never know how people will react.

Things would be a lot easier if the dog park was closer. There's one in Burlington, but it takes 20 minutes to drive there. Here in Hamilton, we've got baseball diamonds and soccer pitches coming out of the ying yang, but let your dog run free on one of thse and the bylaw guys show up in a heartbeat to slap you with a $100 ticket. It doesn't seem fair somehow...and it's making criminals out of a lot of dog owners.

Wednesday, November 17, 2004

This has to be quick...

I’ve been looking at some stuff on-line that extolls the benefits of speed. High speed. Whether it’s information or inventory or your connection to the Internet, speed is good, and faster is better. No argument there, right?

Well...I’ve got to pause for a second to consider this. I am a proponent of high speed communications. But I don’t know whether faster is always better. I’m also a bit of a fan of the new “Slow” movements that have sprung up, dealing with food, mostly, but also life in general. I know I’m a big fan of the slow pace in Mexico that I experienced last year. But on the other hand, I love the speed of modern communications. I like being able to instant message my daughter at university and chat in real time. Heck, we could even have visual links, if we had a camera.

This post doesn’t have a point, or a resolution. It’s just something to consider. Here's" a story from Fast Company that extolls the virtues and the wonders of Dell’s zero tolerance for inventory. They build 80,000 computers a day, yet they often have as little as 2 hours worth of inventory on hand. It’s interesting.

For another take at the benefits of speed, consider this Wired News story about bloggers making no apologies for running things that conventional media didn’t want to touch. This issue concerns the US election, and the fact that some bloggers started running exit poll information on election day. As it turns out, the information wasn’t right...leading to some interesting results.

I point to these stories because they both centre on speed and raise the question of whether it’s always a good thing. As an editor, I know the value of letting a story or a report sit for a bit, before I give it that final once-over. I usually find something that needs some work. But in today’s work place, that’s a luxury that most of us don’t have. Of course, some will argue that I can always go on-line and correct something that turns out to be wrong. But what about the people who look at it before that? How will they know that I’ve changed my mind, or that some of the information they read, and perhaps copied, forwarded, or printed, is wrong?

No answers today...just grist for the mill. Comments?

Friday, November 12, 2004

What is blogging, anyway?

I’m often asked “What is a blog, really?”

“Well...” is often my reply. It’s an easy question, and a tough one. At it’s simplest, a blog is like an on-line diary, with the words just pouring forth. But a blog can be more complex. Blogging can be an adjunct to conventional reporting, or in opposition to it, or supporting a particular point of view, or holding forth on an issue that other, more conventional means of discussion, might not allow.

I used to be a reporter. In fact, I still am, although I’m not getting paid to do that now. I’ve also worked as a communications consultant, a photographer, and a host of other occupations, some of them relevant to what I do now, some of them not. I’m a freelancer now, working for other people to build their websites, update their communication plans, help out with their media relations, work on the messages to their employees — I like to think I do it all. And some of it I talk about in this blog.

But a lot of what I write here is personal — my own feelings and thoughts. I ask questions that I don’t expect answers to and I offer answers to questions I haven’t been asked. But it’s my blog and I can write what I want. However, my mixing up my consultant’s work with my personal interests sometimes gets me confused. So I’m investigating either starting up a second blog or separating this one into different topic areas...I’m not sure which is the more appropriate route to take.

But this is a new area of writing, and there are people who want to talk about it and explore its potential. So last week, a group of people gathered for Bloggercon III, to explore the meaning of blogs. Online Journalism Review’s Staci Kramer has written an excellent overview of the conference. You should take a look if you’re interested in this subject.

Thursday, November 11, 2004

God's Law

I got this from a friend of mine. We don't know who wrote it originally, but
it raises a lot of important questions. So I thought I'd share it with all
of you.


Dear President Bush:

Thank you for doing so much to educate people regarding God's law. I
have learned a great deal from you and try to share that knowledge with
as many people as I can. When someone tries to defend the homosexual
lifestyle, for example, I simply remind them that Leviticus 18:22
clearly state it to be an abomination. End of debate.

I do need some advice from you, however, regarding some other elements
of God's Laws and how to follow them:

1. Leviticus 25:44 states that I may possess slaves, both male and
female, provided they are purchased from neighboring nations. A friend
of mine claims that this applies to Mexicans, but not to Canadians. Can
you clarify? Why can't I own Canadians?

2. I would like to sell my daughter into slavery, as sanctioned in
Exodus 21:7. In this day and age, what do you think would be a fair
price for her?

3. I know that I am allowed no contact with a woman while she is in her
period of menstrual uncleanliness (Lev. 15:19-24). The problem is, how
do I tell? I have tried asking, but most women take offense.

4. When I burn a bull on the altar as a sacrifice, I know it creates a
pleasing odor for the Lord (Lev. 1:9). The problem is my neighbors. They
claim the odor is not pleasing to them. Should I smite them?

5. I have a neighbor who insists on working on the Sabbath. Exodus 35:2
clearly states that he should be put to death. Am I morally obligated to
kill him myself, or should I ask the police to do it?

6. A friend of mine feels that, even though eating shellfish is an
abomination (Lev. 11:10), it is a lesser abomination than homosexuality.
I don't agree. Can you settle this? Are there "degrees" of abomination?

7. Lev. 21:20 states that I may not approach the altar of God if I have
a defect in my sight. I have to admit that I wear reading glasses. Does
my vision have to be 20/20, or is there some wiggle-room here?

8. Most of my male friends get their hair trimmed, including the hair
around their temples, even though this is expressly forbidden by Lev.
19:27. How should they die?

9. I know from Lev. 11:6-8 that touching the skin of a dead pig makes me
unclean, but may I still play football if I wear gloves?

10. My uncle has a farm. He violates Lev. 19:19 by planting two
different crops in the same field, as does his wife by wearing garments
made of two different kinds of thread (cotton/polyester blend). He also
tends to curse and blaspheme a lot. Is it really necessary that we go to
all the trouble of getting the whole town together to stone them (Lev.
24:10-16)? Couldn't we just burn them to death at a private family
affair, like we do with people who sleep with their in-laws (Lev.

I know you have studied these things extensively and thus enjoy
considerable expertise in such matters, so I am confident you can help.

Thank you again for reminding us that God's word is eternal and

Keeping the memory alive

I did something today I’ve been thinking about for years. I went to the Remembrance Day ceremony here in Hamilton.

I’ve often thought of attending, but over the years, I haven’t. Why? I couldn’t say for sure. It’s always been a special day for me. I’ve often watched the ceremonies on TV. But I have only attended an event a couple of times in my life. Of course, I went to special events when I was in school. I don’t remember too much about them, but I know we would listen to a veteran talk about his experiences and we’d spend a couple of minutes in silence. Not complete, of course. That’s too much to ask of school kids.

This year it will be 10 years since my Dad died. And I find myself thinking about him a lot these days. At this time of year, I think about his time in the service. He went overseas in 1943, just after his wedding. And he was away for almost three years. He was in Europe, but he didn’t see much fighting. He was an engineer, and his job was coming along after the infantry and helping to rebuild the roads and other infrastructure that were destroyed in the liberation.

He never talked much about those years. We have some stories and some mementoes, but there’s not a lot I know about what went on. And I don’t think that Dad ever attended a Remembrance Day ceremony. At least, not while I was around to remember. I’m sure he did after the war. But it wasn’t something he talked about much. Now I find myself always thinking about what he was doing when he was my age and it’s a strange feeling. In some ways, I think I’m becoming like him...in other ways, we’re quite different.

Today, I found my mind wandering during the service. I was surrounded by a lot of people, yet I was alone. I live in this city, but I don’t know anyone. It is always strange to wander through a crowd like that and not recognize anyone. I wonder what it was like for those young men so many years ago to be sent to a foreign country and asked to make the ultimate sacrifice for their loved ones back home? Looking around at the faces today, I wonder whether we’ll ever see that kind of selflessness again. The world has changed, no question.

I’ll close with a short tale from the ceremony today.

One man told us about attending a conference in Windsor, Ontario, in 1994. He was there with his friend, a man from Scotland, who had suffered a stroke and was unable to move half of his body. They went down to the cafeteria for breakfast. Another man was sitting at a table by himself. So they asked whether they could sit with him. When their breakfast came, their small talk turned to shared experiences. The man telling the story said he could tell the other was an ex-serviceman and so he asked him which service he had been in. It turns out the man had been in a Tank brigade and had served in Italy during World War II.

“So I asked him, if you could meet one person from the war, who would it be?” our speaker told us. It’s a question he often puts to veterans, and he says it usually brings out an interesting story.

“That’s an easy one,” the other gentleman told him. “I would want to meet the man who saved my life, and the life of every man in my command. He was a small Scottish engineer. I was in command of a tank group and we were preparing to cross the river at a low point, where a lot of tanks had crossed the day before. But before we entered the river, this little Scot came running over, shouting at us not to move,” he said.

“There’s a German gun hidden in the trees on the other side, and they’ve been picking off everyone that goes into the river all day,” the little man told him. “Just stay put until we find another crossing.”

“I’ve never forgotten that guy. And if I had the chance, I’d give anything to shake his hand and thank him properly for what he did that day.”

At this, the stroke victim put his spoonful of corn flakes down. “Well, you’d better just go ahead and shake my hand now, because you may never get another chance,” he said.

Hard as it may be to believe, those two men were brought together by fate fifty years later. And for the next five years, until one of them died, they were inseparable. Quite a story.

I remember.

Tuesday, November 09, 2004

Proud Papa -- Canadian Champion Edition!

I had meant to post this earlier, but I couldn't find an Internet connection...but the news from Montreal is all good for Jaime. Jaime and her three team-mates won the lightweight women's Four event at the Canadian University Rowing Championships, which were held this week in Montreal.

The weather was cold and windy, especially on Saturday. But Sunday was a better day. But none of it made any difference to Jaime. Her boat won their heat on Saturday and easily outdistanced their competition on Sunday. What a great race to watch.

Go here to see a complete report on the weekend activities. Now, I've got to run, 'cause we're heading back to Toronto today.

Thursday, November 04, 2004

Rowing Update - Latest Proud Papa edition

It's been awhile since I've mentioned what's happening with rowing around here. Well...Jaime (my oldest daughter) is now at the University of Victoria, where she's continuing to row every day. And doing very, very well. She was chosen to row in the Varsity Lightweight Women's 4, which is very impressive for a freshman!

So this weekend, Jaime and her team are in Montreal for the Canadian University Rowing Championships. And of course, the rest of us here in Hamilton are heading down to watch and cheer. It will be a lot of fun for Jaime, especially because she'll get to see all her rowing buddies from around here. We're all very excited, and so what if the water's frozen, there's snow on the ground and we can't feel our fingers? Hey, that's what rowing is all about, right?

Jaime has a digital camera, so if I get a chance, I'll upload a few pics from the weekend's activities. I've set up a Flikr account in order to be able to add some visuals to my blog, but I haven't tried it out yet. This will be a good chance to give it a go.

In the meantime, Jaime had a regatta last weekend in Victoria, called the Head of the Gorge. She had a lot of fun, and rowed in a double (with her Australian partner, who's also in the Four with her in Montreal) and a quad, with the same women she'll be rowing with in Montreal.

If you want to see them, this is Jaime (on the right) and her doubles partner, and this one shows Jaime (2nd from the right) and the others all dressed up in the Quad. Oh, and if you're wondering about the uniforms, don't forget it was the day before Halloween!

Wednesday, November 03, 2004

Let's just all chill out

It's time for Canadians to take a valium, or something. The reaction this morning to President George Bush's re-election seems a little out of proportion here in Canada. There was a lot of "holier-than-thou" comments form Canadian pundits, who love to like to think they know a lot more than Americans. Let's just face facts here. For all that Canadian media and pundits think they know what's best for everyone else, the American people have spoken. And they spoke pretty clearly.

There was a record turnout and they voted for the President. Period. Sure, there's a big split in the country. But the system worked. The people had a vote, and they used it. Let's just move on...

The hand-wringing among the Democrats and plenty of others will begin immediately. Here in Canada, Stephen Harper immediately started trying to accuse the Liberals of being anti-American. Same old, same old. Canada doesn't look particularly sterling right now, not after the way we ran our own election just a few months ago. And in the good old USA, Canada doesn't rate a mention. I don't think there's many issues that Canada will have much impact on in America for awhile.

Canada used to be the land of two solitudes. Now, it looks like America is splitting into two pretty distinct camps. And the rise of the evangelicals is a real phenomenon. Just what the continuing impact of their power will be is still to be determined. But it's going to be significant, at least in the short term.

So let's just chill out, and see what happens. It's going to be an interesting next few months...

Top Ten Punchlines to Dirty Election Jokes

Today is election day in the US and I can’t believe the kind of crap that’s about to go on in the polling stations across the country. What a way to have an election. If this kind of stuff happened in any other country, the US would refuse to recognize the results...but that’s the way it is in a “mature” democracy, I guess.

I might have more to say on the election process as the day continues, but I’ll probably wait to see what happens.

In the meantime:

I came across this list on <a href=”http://andrewcoyne.com/archives/004032.php “>Andrew Coyne’s blog</a>...from the Letterman show.

I haven’t had much to say about the US election for awhile, but I couldn’t resist sharing this little gem.

Top Ten Punch Lines to Dirty Election Jokes   Â 

From The Late Show w/ David Letterman:
10. "With a poll like that, I'm suprised he can gallup at all."

9. "She starts chanting, 'four more minutes! four more minutes!'"

8. "That's not the voting lever, but don't stop pulling."

7. "This isn't how it looks -- I'm just joining a third party."

6. I prefer Bush, but I don't know who I'll vote for."

5. "So that's where Katherine Harris was hiding the Al Gore votes."

4. "Unfortunately, his margin of error was plus or minus three inches."

3. "Get used to it, honey -- we live in a swing state."

2. "I thought you had trouble maintaining an election."

1. "I saw your sister with Mary Cheney -- there was no sign of Dick."