Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Project Serve HIV/AIDS and something about hockey.

This past reading week I participated in the Project Serve Canada HIV/AIDS program. My group spent the week busily learning about HIV, and preparing presentations for a local high school. HIV is a complicated global issue that affects our brother and sisters in Guelph and around the world. No, HIV/AIDS does not ambiguously affect "Africa"; but it does affect certain African countries at an alarmingly high rate (see South Africa, Swaziland, Namibia etc).
Grade school sexual health education in the province of Ontario has failed many students; "What goes where, and how" is often all that students are left with after 4 years of physical and sexual education. Any efforts we can make to improve sexual education for the next generation is definitely a step in the right direction. One of the main messages I have taken from this program is that, "any individual's sexual health is everyone's sexual health". And similar to hockey, you have to protect yourself. If you feel responsible enough to enter the global sexo'sphere, the minimum you can do is protect yourself and your partner.

In a similar but totally unrelated matter:
Sidney Crosby (a.k.a. Canada's top NHL export), has been sidelined for almost two months from concussions. The brutal physicality of the NHL reaches a new low when the league, players, and team owners can't protect their biggest money-makers. Sidney Crosby generates millions for his sponsors, the Pittsburgh Penguins and the NHL. And now he is sidelined and useless. Hopefully, Crosby can come back into the game at his former level, but his future potential is still up in the air.

Therefore, concussions in the NHL are like having unprotected sex. The league is taking a gamble on the health of their players; much like wearing a condom, more needs to be done to protect the head of an NHL player. Maybe make the penalties for blind side head shots more strict or enforce the rules more. I don't know. Just do something to protect Crosby's brain from punishment.

Anyways, I'm not a big hockey fan. I like to watch shows where people showcase things for judges. And speaking of showcases, the Project Serve Canada Showcase, is this Thursday March 10, at 5:30 in UC 442. Come check it out! (here is the event on reg) If you were thinking about doing Project Serve in the future now is a great time to find out more!!

Monday, February 21, 2011


What happens when everyone's favourite dictator Muammar al-Gaddafi needs to go into hiding? He goes under the disguise of Raffi, everyone's favourite childhood singer. He mostly goes to Venezuela.

Now seriously. Following suit of Tunisia and Egypt, Libyans are staging mass demonstrations in an attempt to oust leader Gaddafi. Gaddafi seized power in 1969 from King Idris, in a military coup.

Can we expect Libya to follow a similar transition of power as is underway in Egypt? Probably not. Unlike Egypt, Libya has massive oil reserves and a much smaller population (80m vs. 6m). As a result the GDP per capita is double that of Egypt. Literacy and education levels are also higher in Libya compared to Egypt. But unemployment is much higher in Libya... I don't know the implications of all the differences between Libya and Egypt. Read a book about it, if you're really interested...

The only point of the differences is to show that the "arab people's movement" will not play out in the same fashion as it did in Egypt. Gaddafi's response to the protests has been much more violent than that of former Egyptian President, Hosni Mubarak. Already, more than 200 civilians have died in the protests, due in part to the government firing live rounds into crowds, and using fighter planes to bomb protesters. Libyan soldiers seem to be much more active in protester suppression than the Egyptian soldiers were. This is interesting because both governments require mandatory military service from civilians.

Two Libyan fighter pilots who refused to bomb protesters made an unscheduled landing in Malta; they are asking for political asylum.

In regards to my drawing above, there have been rumours that Gaddafi has fled to Venezuela. But Venezuela and Libyan officials both deny it...

Sunday, February 20, 2011

wind blows. apparently.

I love the way wind bites my face as I walk to school. It stings a little, mostly in the recesses of my nostrils. Sometimes when I step outside first thing in the morning, I am afraid to inhale because the cold air burns my lungs as they adjust to the outside temperature.

Wow, that has nothing to do with anything.

Ok, so this past week the Ontario Liberal leader Dalton McGuinty put the kibosh on off shore wind farms. A minor component of Ontario's renewable energy strategy was placed under a moratorium, due to a "lack of research on the health effects of windmills". People living in close proximity to windmills report nausea, dizziness, and headaches. The Premiere's election campaign has been met with fierce "Anti-Windmill" resistance, mainly in the form of NIMBYism. Other provincial parties claim the premier's move to stop offshore windmills was purely political; meaning it was only to garner votes. Who Knows?

I can see how the loud whirring of a windmill may cause irritation. But dizziness? You'd either have to stand really close, or be constantly staring at it to get dizziness. Maybe just put the windmills far away from densely populated areas? How close do you have to be to a windmill in order to be affected? Is the constant low frequency being emitted a problem? I don't know. There is some legitimacy in the "windmills are bad for you campaign", but there is also legitimacy in the "let's use more renewable energy campaign"

We must find a compromise. Who would least benefit from renewable wind energy? Would it cut into the profits of natural gas suppliers? How would 1000 windmills per sq. mile affect aquatic life? Does the value presented in offshore wind power outweigh the environmental and social upset?

I wish Canada would follow the reported success of Holland's wind power generation. But even in Holland , the land of the windmill, there has been a negative response from townsfolk who live with windmills.

Here are some news articles:

Saturday, February 19, 2011

hack attack

The government's IT security apparently stood up to hackers' attempts at stealing financial information this week. Computer security systems were alerted of the attacks, and prevented access. Treasury Board President, Stockwell Day claimed that no financial records were compromised. The attacks, originating from servers in China, come right before the government tables its budget. Naturally, Chinese officials deny any involvement.

Budget Safe After Computer Attack - National Post

Another reason to fear a robot uprising!

Have you heard of that computer on Jeopardy? Well its name is Watson, and it is the brain child of IBM's David Ferrucci. Watson represents a pinnacle in "deep analytical programming" because it has the capability of processing unstructured data and interpreting human language. Hopefully, this is one step closer towards an affordable robotic vacuum system that changes its own bags (bagless perhaps?). That is just a pipe dream.

More seriously, it has applications for interpreting knowledge based industries and doing the jobs of people. Imagine if a computer could scan through millions of medical textbooks, and interpret the meaning with as much accuracy as a human. It would mean the computer could understand subtleties in human speech and derive meaning from words rather than 1s and 0s. Finding a job just became more difficult.

On another note. How boring is watching a computer beat people at Jeopardy? Really boring. I mean seriously, computers are already smarter than humans. When I have a question about something, I type it directly into Google. The answer is usually in the top 5 pages. Whoop dee dooo!

Now they just have to solve the meaning of life. Let a computer mull that one over.

Bev Oda ties a "knot" in her political future... This is "not" a laughing matter...

* There is not supposed to be any intentional resemblance to a phallic symbol in the case of my drawing's nose. It just turned out that way and I realized after...

Well, it has been a long tumultuous week but now midterms are over. So much has happened since we last met. But don't worry. I've prepared a rundown of all the major issues and connected them to real life student issues... or at least I tried...
Bev Oda does (not) tell the truth ft. KAIROS

This week, Bev Oda falsified government documents resulting in 7 million dollars denied to the aid agency "KAIROS". Members from the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) along with Bev Oda signed a contract recommending the cash, but the contract was later doctored. Here's what it looked like:

You can't change a contract after its been signed. Duh. Let's relate this to sleazy landlords. I know there is a great bunch of respectable and responsible landlords out there. But for comparisons sake, let's just use the sleazy ones. Let's say you found a sweet apartment above "Doogie''s downtown. You're so happy because "Doogie's" is your favourite place (work with me here), and now you won't have to ride the "Magic Bus" home to the south end. You signed the contracts agreeing to $450 a month for a sweet bachelor/bachelorette pad and you're enjoying the luxuries of living downtown. But wait!
2 months later you get a knock at the door and it’s the landlord! He says, "Excuse me, but you're not allowed to live here. I never agreed to lease this place to you!” And you say, "ummm, but we signed the paperwork!” All of a sudden the landlord pulls out a copy of the agreement and this is what it looked like:

The landlord says, "I've found someone else to rent to. You need to get out!” You'd be super man right?
Bev Oda claimed she didn't know who inserted the word "not", then she blamed a government aide, then she finally admitted to doing it herself. The opposition is calling for her resignation from parliament, while the Conservatives have defended her. I wonder if Bev Oda was used as a scapegoat for a higher-level bureaucrat. Was she instructed to deny KAIROS' funding? What was her motive? Who knows? Such a blatant lie, as doctoring governmental memos, is beyond most people, even MPs. I don't know, it's just something to think about. To complicate the matter, Jason Kenney claims the monies were denied due to KAIROS' position on Israel. F.Y.I. In a semi-unrelated topic, it is also Israeli Apartheid Week the first week of March (1-7) in Guelph. If you would like to learn more about the issue's surrounding the Israeli-Palestinian conflict click here. There are lots of great events planned downtown and at the University. No matter your personal stance, check it out!
What does KAIROS do, you ask? They are a collection of religious groups united in promoting human rights and sustainable environmental management. Seems reasonable. Anyways, a Cabinet Minister blocked some of KAIROS' funding with falsified documents and now there is a scandal.
here are some articles:

Monday, February 14, 2011

Mubarak Steps Down, Facebook is for Democracy! (and lurking)

The world is changing. And I'm not talking about midterms...We awoke on Friday to Egypt's leadership stepping down, and handing power over to the military. The Egyptian people have made their wishes very clear, after 18 days of protests and riots. President Hosni Mubarak has resigned, and fled to his home in Sharm el Sheikh; marking change across the Middle East and displaying the power of a collective people.

The revolution was partially attributed to the spread of information via the Internet. Facebook and Twitter sites helped rally people and spread media attention. Social networks allowed millions of Egyptians to join the protests without any central leader or coalition. So, when your not paying attention in lecture and flipping through Jessica's "Spring Break 09'" photo album on Facebook, just think: You are using a powerful tool of democracy... maybe Facebook is not a colossal time waster after all. maybe not.

In any event, now is the time to celebrate the victory of the Egyptian people as they start to rebuild after the protests. Currently the military is in charge (don't worry guys, it's funded by USA's aid). The Supreme Military Committee is expected to start ushering in a new age of rule, including elections in the fall, and suspending the Emergency Measures Act.

I don't know how the transition will occur. Who knows what tomorrow brings? The only wish I have for Egypt is that the people themselves decide how to be governed. Us folks in the West must support the people's revolution. Egypt is the entrance to the Middle East; it is the social, economic, and political pivot, around which the West gains influence into the Arab world. We must not be quick to throw up assumptions of some fundamentalist Islam group taking power. Egyptian's have lived in secular peace for decades, why must people bring up possible negativity towards Israel? The current young generation of Egyptians, the ones protesting, have never lived in war with Israel. Muslims and Christians, have lived in peace for decades in Egypt, why should we have reason to believe this will change? Please, attached a positive face to Egyptians, I do not believe Egyptians will not tolerate a theocracy. But, I urge you to formulate your own ideas, and get more information. I am by no means an expert on anything.
Will the victory of the Egyptian people spark a domino effect across the world, spreading to the countries with leadership less than democratic? It started with Tunisia, and then spread to Egypt, who is next?

Lastly, while Obama makes a very eloquent speech about Mubarak stepping down, Stephen Harper makes a comparison to toothpaste...

"In my judgment there is no going back, I think the old expression, there not going to put the toothpaste back into the tube on this one..."

here's more context of that quote: Opposition Criticizes Toothpaste Remarks
It's a silly statement, but I don't think it actually means the government is so "out-of-touch" on foreign affairs. For better or worse, the government knows what it's doing. They are pretty smart people, they just may not share your motives...
(P.S. midterms. consume. all. my. time....)

Photo from Associated Press

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

TSX + LSE = bff (best friends forever... or maybe not)

Have you ever been to the Guelph Farmer's Market? It's a really great place to buy food and supplies, and it's wonderful to meet the people who work so hard to put food on the table. A lot of farmers come together to sell eggs, cheese, bread, fruits, vegetables, milk, meat, basically everything you need to fulfill your caloric and nutritional requirements. Now, let's pretend the Guelph Farmer's Market specializes in fruits and vegetables; they'll still sell everything else, but now they have a focus on things that grow in the ground.

There is also a similar farmer's market in Waterloo, which is a bit bigger and specializes in meat products (think free range hens, organic sausage, etc, etc).
So, these two markets are functioning just fine in their respective towns. They open up on Saturday, sell for a few hours, and then close up for the week. If you live in Waterloo and want something from the Guelph Market, you have to go through the hassle of driving to Guelph (or ride your bicycle), and let's pretend the Guelph Market charges a "fee" for out-of-towners to buy from their market (adding to the hassle).

I'm sorry if this is really confusing so far; I'm building toward something here...

Now, let's pretend the two markets built a high-speed subway between them, and removed the "out-of-towner's fee". You could shop at both markets at the same time, with little hassle and with ease.

Now, to convert my analogy to real life...

The Guelph Farmer's Market represents the Toronto Stock Exchange (TSX), but instead of specializing in fruits and veggies, they specialize in resource stocks (mining, lumber, energy, etc). The Waterloo Farmer's Market is like the London Stock Exchange (LSE), who specialize in commodities (things we buy).
The Toronto Stock Exchange and the London Stock Exchange might merge. These are two separate markets, where companies sell shares in their companies to buyers. Each marketplace is owned and operated by a company, who regulate the transactions. Sort of like the security guards at the farmers market who ensure no one gets ripped off, and the landlord who rents the building to farm vendors. The company that controls the Toronto Stock Exchange (TMX Group) and the company that controls the London Stock Exchange (LSEG) might merge into one HUGE Trans-Atlantic market. If the TSX and LSE merge, it would be the single largest resource trading market in the world, and the 8th largest stock market (like a farmer's market selling 6 trillion dollars worth of stuff).

How does my analogy of the "out-of-towner's fee"and the high-speed subway work? Here's how:
-Joining the TSX and LSE makes new products more easily available to prospective buyers on each side of the pond. LSE investors would have easier access and more accessibility to Canada's resource stocks, and vice-versa, TSX investors would have easier access to the LSE's companies.
-From a corporate perspective, it will become easier for companies to generate investment (supposedly), from a large pool of investors.
-It will raise the profile of companies on the TSX, mainly the small to medium sized companies who currently don't have a large profile in Europe and Asia.
-By creating a single market with uniform rules, the efficiency of trading increases.
-The time zone of the LSE is better matched with that of the Asian markets.
-The LSE would increase the amount European and Middle Eastern capitol available to TSX investors/companies.

Despite the positives, there are several political issues to consider...
-The Conservative's industry minister, Tony Clement, has not taken a stance yet. Instead, he will consider a financial review (any transaction over 299 million is subject to government approval). Remember when the government blocked the take over of Potash Corp by BHP Billiton in October last year? Free market Capitalism vs. protecting national interests.
-In 2008, the Montreal Stock Exchange (MSE) merged with the TSX. Maybe I'm just so out of the loop, but I don't hear much about Montreal's derivative based stock exchange, just two years after the merger. It definitely became overshadowed by the TSX. How will the role of the Montreal Stock Exchange change after this merger with the LSE? The CEO of the MSE has argued the proposed merger will be beneficial for the MSE, but will it be beneficial for Canadians?
-The TSX is Canada's largest marketplace, do we really want this national institution subject to foreign control? Obviously, this is just another trend in the globalization game, but is it something we want?
-Will Canada lose sovereignty over its security firms? Probably, because it will be regulated in London, rather than the Ontario Securities Commission.
-The Provincial security regulators already say "NO" to a federal regulator, so why the heck would they allow a foreign regulator?
-Will transferring ownership of the TSX jeopardize the financial stability of the Canadian economy? Canada has emerged from the recession in far better shape than the UK, and most other G8 countries. Perhaps, it's best we continue to look out for ourselves...

Personally, I don't think the merger will go through; after all, the Conservatives blocked the sale of the CANADARM and the sale of Potash Corp. I apologize for my over simplification of the matter; below are some links that will help explain the issue:

A Perspective from London:

Monday, February 7, 2011

What is more catchy: B.o.B's "Nothing On You ft. Bruno Mars" or the Quebec Liberal attack ad?

Do you remember the Conservative smear ads, a couple of weeks ago? No doubt you remember that creepy voice, and the creepy red background? No? Ok, heres a link, and another link to refresh your memory. Anyways, the Liberals have responded with there own "attack" ad in Quebec. It is by far, the funniest political attack ad I have ever seen. The whole thing is one long Quebecois cartoon, featuring someone kicking the world, someone with a noose around their neck hanging, and a tractor running over a man. All drawn with cartoons worse than an episode of South Park. Here's the link for the Liberal's smear ad. Even if you don't speak French, the childish cartoons tell the story.

This ad is so funny. Personally, I wish we had more political ads like this in Ontario. The Conservatives ads were bad and used quotes out of context. The Liberal's ad doesn't even take itself seriously, it's like the intro to Looney Tunes. The Conservative party agrees with me, when I say their ads were garbage, seeing as how they pulled their own ads less than 2 days after they started running them.

I could dance to that. The "Pucapab, Pucapab, Pucapab" verse is stuck in my head, it's like the chorus in B.o.B's "Nothing on You ft. Bruno Mars" You know that verse that goes like, "They got nothing on youu baby, N-N-N-Nothing on youu baby...", well now thats "Pucapab, Pucapab, Pubcapab". Only French. "Pucapab" in English means, "more than capable" or "plus-capable". On any note, I should stop listening to Z103.5

I've translated the ad below, to the best of my (the internet's) ability, for all you Anglo-only folks. Maybe the translation is so bad, or maybe Quebecois humour is just really weird, but its deep stuff:

Conservatives love fighter planes,
there is nothing for families but billions for them (fighter planes).
G8, G20, it cost some money,
The country has never been this in debt.
Conservatives rewrite history
But unfortunately they have black ink (?).
When we lost our seat at the UN,
it was the first time we were excluded.

The Conservatives are against Kyoto.
The environment gives them nothing. (?)
Stephen Harper is a friend of the Oil. (lol)
He protects it more than the Earth.
Conservatives talk about the economy.
But the more they talk, the more people become impoverished.
If this continues we will be on the streets.

The Conservatives are the champions.
for blocking access to information.
Our democracy is being pushed around,
even women are threatened to riot.
The Conservatives have reduced support and respect for minorities,
and when Stephen Harper talks about the death penalty,
he sends shivers through the body.
The Conservatives only think about punishment, and those who disagree must stay behind (menacing picture).
If you do not agree with Stephen Harper, they'll insult you, they'll try fear.
I'm tired and ashamed of the government.
We have to get rid of them as soon as possible.
Stephen Harper's Conservatives are not my company, they do not represent my values.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Bell and Rogers are friends!!

Ok, so just continuing on the theme of my last post, here's something I scribbled earlier today.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

5-10% of internet users suffer from "internet-addiction"

LOL OMG! Have you guys discovered the internet??? It's so great! I could, like literally, spend days on here.
Ok, now seriously, if you tallied all the hours I have spent on the internet since I first got dial-up in grade 4, in the same amount of time I probably could have learned a new language or mastered the violin...
The political debate right now, is the CRTC's ruling to apply bandwidth caps to users, this decision was then rejected by the Conservatives. Currently, internet providers like Bell and Rogers can offer (almost) unlimited internet usage to their users for a set price. Sort of like the dinner buffet at Sun Sun's... if they served internet. Under the proposal by the CRTC, led by Konrad Von Fickenstein, it would be mandatory that internet users would only have a set limit of internet usage a month, and if they go beyond it they would pay extra; this is known as Usage Based Billing. Sort of like Sun Sun's 2am hot table, 2 items only, 1 price. Service bought directly from Bell and Rogers is already capped.

Smaller internet providers (like Tek-Savvy), currently provide unlimited bandwidth, in order to remain competitive with Bell and Roger's (who currently offer bandwidth caps, although the cap is still pretty high). How do small Internet Service Providers work? They buy a big chunk of internet bandwidth, at a wholesale price, and then sell it to you at a cheaper price. Konrad Fickenstein, argues the current set-up for internet usage can penalize small internet users by lumping them in with heavy down-loaders (netflix, torrents, xbox live...).

The CRTC's decision to require usage based billing and eliminate unlimited bandwidth usage was struck down by the Conservative government. Bell and Rogers also asked the CRTC for a 60day delay in the rulings. Tony Clement, industry minister, stated, "Regardless of the outcome of the CRTC review, this ruling will not be implemented".

This issue mainly affects people who sign up with smaller internet service providers that specifically advertise unlimited bandwidths for a set price (around 500 000 Canadians).

In case you didn't know what bandwidth is, it is how much information you are sending/receiving over the internet. If you download a lot of stuff, like watch movies on your computer, play online games, or download torrents, your computer is downloading a lot of information.

Its a complicated issue, here's some links with some more information: