Category Archives: News

News

Reopen America: Reloaded

Let’s step back in time a lit­tle, and see what 30 days of hind­sight have provided.

Remem­ber the armed pro­test­ers who were lead­ing the “Reopen Amer­i­ca” move­ment, clad in plate car­ri­ers and AR-15s, spew­ing patri­ot­ic non­sense and threat­en­ing law­mak­ers to the extent this even­tu­al­ly result­ed in clo­sure of a gov­ern­ment building?

Yeah, those protesters.

It turns out — and real­ly, to no one’s huge sur­prise — that the back-to-work move­ment at odds with major­i­ty pub­lic opin­ion on the COVID-19 lock­down end­ed up being as fake as a three-dol­lar bill. While it may have racked up a few fol­low­ers here and there from the gen­er­al pub­lic, at its core it has always been orches­trat­ed and fund­ed by deep-pock­et­ed lob­by­ing net­works seek­ing to throw their weight around, and it remains so.

… or, in the more com­mon par­lance, astro­turf­ing.

Bird’s Eye View of a Burning Empire

Our hearts are on fire, our cities are on fire.

As mas­sive coast-to-coast protests con­tin­ue in the Unit­ed States in the wake of the killing of George Floyd and dis­plays of sol­i­dar­i­ty spring up around the globe, it’s safe to say this out­pour­ing of grief has firm­ly switched gears.

What began as an out­cry over insti­tu­tion­al­ized racism in polic­ing has, over the last few days, evolved into a wider move­ment encom­pass­ing the gen­er­al­ized pain of the tragedies of COVID-19, the inad­e­quate state of Amer­i­can polit­i­cal lead­er­ship, the decay of Amer­i­can insti­tu­tions, and the tox­ic lev­els of socioe­co­nom­ic inequal­i­ty that have col­lec­tive­ly led to esca­lat­ing polar­iza­tion and regres­sive stan­dards of liv­ing for so many citizens.

On the mat­ter of the protests them­selves, the excess­es of law enforce­ment, and the sys­tems that sup­port those excess­es, news vlog­ger Phil Defran­co put togeth­er a nice­ly bal­anced video sum­ma­riz­ing the sta­tus quo, so I want­ed to share that:

Con­tin­ue read­ing

COVID-19 Megapost Update

My COVID-19 resources page has gone live! You can click the link in the main nav­i­ga­tion menu to view it. For now, the first two sec­tions have been com­plet­ed (imme­di­ate focus on BC and Cana­da, the remain­der will be added lat­er).

If you have infor­ma­tion and resources that would be help­ful to add, please con­tact me with the details.
Strict vet­ting and qual­i­ty con­trols will be in effect. (Yes, that specif­i­cal­ly means I don’t want your con­spir­a­cy the­o­ries or polit­i­cal man­i­festos, there’s already enough of that crap float­ing around on Facebook.)

*ALERT ALERT ALERT *

Over the past week, social media reshar­ing of a large num­ber of the same memes, web­sites, and news arti­cles by many indi­vid­u­als and large groups of peo­ple has led Face­book’s algo­rithms to mis­tak­en­ly flag a lot of impor­tant info­graph­ic memes, med­ical web­sites, and gov­ern­ment resources as spam.

In par­tic­u­lar, I have been UNABLE to post the URL for the BC Gov­ern­men­t’s online COVID-19 Self Assess­ment Check­list, which allows peo­ple to assess com­mon signs and symp­toms and deter­mine whether they will require fur­ther action in the form of a pre­booked COVID-19 test.

Because the Face­book plat­form is fail­ing to func­tion nor­mal­ly under these unex­pect­ed cir­cum­stances, these resources are fre­quent­ly get­ting flagged as Com­mu­ni­ty Guide­lines vio­la­tions — with­out an option for review — even though they are ful­ly com­pli­ant with the Terms of Ser­vice. There sim­ply is no way to appeal them, no way to fix the error at the end-user lev­el, and no way to force the plat­form to accept those memes and links.

I am not with­out a back­up plan, how­ev­er.

As of next week, I will begin post­ing impor­tant COVID-19 sto­ries and resources to this domain for wider dis­sem­i­na­tion.

With the URLs being unique for each blog post, hope­ful­ly this can act as a suit­able workaround and let us to get the word out about vital resources while not being mis­tak­en­ly affect­ed by var­i­ous social media plat­form con­tent fil­ter­ing sys­tem.

Stay tuned. We’re gonna be kickin’ it old school … 

MAGA: Many Are Getting Arrested

We live in inter­est­ing times …

Today’s brief will not be about the ever-grow­ing list of fed­er­al indict­ments and crim­i­nal guilty pleas encoun­tered thus far in the Trump-Rus­sia spe­cial coun­sel proceedings.

Instead, we find our­selves see­ing guilty ver­dicts and plea deals entered in rela­tion to a slew of seri­ous, tan­gen­tial­ly relat­ed crim­i­nal com­plaints that have come as a byprod­uct of those inves­ti­ga­tions. Think of them, col­lec­tive­ly, as the ulti­mate exam­ple of “fol­low the money.”

In court today, Don­ald Trump’s for­mer cam­paign chair­man Paul Man­afort was found guilty on eight of the eigh­teen offens­es he had been charged with, the jury hav­ing been dead­locked on the remain­ing ten and a mis­tri­al declared, for which pros­e­cu­tors can poten­tial­ly look at con­duct­ing a retri­al of those lat­ter charges.

Addi­tion­al­ly, Man­afort is due to stand tri­al in Wash­ing­ton, DC on sev­en entire­ly dif­fer­ent crim­i­nal charges next month.

Mean­while, Don­ald Trump’s for­mer per­son­al lawyer Michael Cohen plead­ed guilty to eight crim­i­nal counts of his own in an effort to stave off the threat of a lengthy tri­al and poten­tial­ly far more severe con­se­quences for his wrongdoings.

In these pro­ceed­ings, Cohen intends on plead­ing guilty to five counts of tax eva­sion, one count of bank fraud, one count of mak­ing an unlaw­ful cor­po­rate con­tri­bu­tion, and one count of mak­ing an exces­sive cam­paign contribution.

Cohen fur­ther admit­ted to hav­ing paid out hush mon­ey at Trump’s direc­tion (though not by name), an act that was appar­ent­ly intend­ed to influ­ence the out­come of the elec­tion.

Evi­dence uncov­ered dur­ing the course of the Man­afort and Cohen pro­ceed­ings also sug­gests pros­e­cu­tors might go after oth­er indi­vid­u­als whose names have come up in the course of these cor­rup­tion inves­ti­ga­tions, includ­ing Stephen Calk, the banker who pro­vid­ed the Man­afort loans and who alleged­ly attempt­ed to use his influ­ence in a failed bid to secure a posi­tion with the Army.

Fur­ther updates will be post­ed as these sto­ries con­tin­ue to develop.

When It’s Radicalization By Any Other Name …

Con­spir­a­cy the­o­rist Alex Jones has been the sub­ject of con­tent dele­tions and plat­form bans by a num­ber of com­pa­nies over the past two weeks, includ­ing Apple, Face­book, Spo­ti­fy, YouTube, YouPorn, and Pin­ter­est, with com­pa­ny spokes­peo­ple cit­ing Jones’ repeat vio­la­tions of net-abuse poli­cies and fail­ure to abide by plat­form pub­lish­ing require­ments as the com­mon themes and caus­es of termination.

Before mov­ing on to my own com­ments on the sit­u­a­tion, I’d like to share two respons­es which I felt were par­tic­u­lar­ly mea­sured and insightful:

On to the big­ger pic­ture, then.

First, can we agree it’s time we backed off and left Alex Jones to his well deserved fate? The man made his bed, now he’s wel­come to lie in it and go back to being the pari­ah he was before Don­ald Trump put him in the spotlight.

Sec­ond, can we please stop call­ing it cen­sor­ship? Jones does­n’t lack a plat­form of his own. He’s been self-pub­lish­ing through his per­son­al InfoWars web­site and sell­ing prod­ucts through his online store for many years. Fram­ing this as de-plat­form­ing is miss­ing the point. Not only does Jones have a media com­pa­ny he can use any time he wish­es with­out lim­its, but it was his own deci­sion to ignore the rules of third-par­ty plat­forms on which he’d gross­ly over­stayed his welcome.

While some aspects of the sit­u­a­tion could have been han­dled dif­fer­ent­ly (I’ll get to that lat­er), over­all there is no sym­pa­thy due. Jones has been pok­ing and throw­ing rocks at this par­tic­u­lar bear for years, know­ing in the back of his mind that one day it was going to wake up and slap the ever-lov­ing shit out of him. The only unex­pect­ed part was how long it took.

To those who cry ‘free speech,’ I note that free­dom of speech has nev­er been about free­dom from log­i­cal con­se­quences or free­dom from crit­i­cism. Both hap­pen in the real world, and in this case sev­er­al key busi­ness­es have come to the con­clu­sion that they’d rather not let Alex Jones use their net­works as a vehi­cle for dis­in­for­ma­tion, defama­tion, and alleged defama­tion.

While Amer­i­can defama­tion laws and safe har­bour pro­tec­tions insu­late from law­suits caused by user-sub­mit­ted con­tent, they don’t do any­thing to stave off the bad PR and bruis­ing to cor­po­rate image that come from asso­ci­at­ing with a per­son who’s made liv­ing off of trolling the pub­lic in some of the most base and ugly ways imaginable.

As wis­er jour­nal­ists have point­ed out, Jones’ flout­ing of Accept­able Use Poli­cies, harass­ment of inno­cents, oth­er­ing of minori­ties, and seem­ing inabil­i­ty to sus­tain polite rela­tion­ships with oth­er human beings online rise to the lev­el of cor­po­rate gov­er­nance, but not the First Amend­ment.

Sim­i­lar argu­ments could be made against numer­ous impres­sion­able Jones fans who’ve tak­en him too lit­er­al­ly over the years and engaged in harass­ment, vio­lence, and defama­tion, some of which ris­es to the lev­el of crim­i­nal behaviour.

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Quoth the Raven: “It’s a Match!”

Years ago, when I first heard about online DNA match ser­vices, my reac­tion was some­thing to the effect of, “Stuff you put online lives for­ev­er, you no longer have con­trol of it, so what hap­pens when pri­va­cy breach­es happen?”

 The recent high-pro­file US case of the alleged Gold­en State Killer was one exam­ple of the off-label use of DNA match­ing ser­vices that’s cap­tured the nation’s imagination.

While many peo­ple have a pre­con­ceived notion of DNA being unique, deci­sive, and absolute­ly air­tight, the real­i­ty is a touch more hum­bling, as mul­ti­ple news out­lets and law enforce­ment offi­cials have warned of the per­ils, error rates, and num­bers of false pos­i­tives involved in fam­i­ly match­ing. If any­thing, it rein­forces a need to fol­low the usu­al rules of inves­ti­ga­tion: strive to be more thor­ough, and always tread carefully.

While this par­tic­u­lar legal case has raised a lot of eye­brows, to me it seems to be more about the unmask­ing of a killer than the means by which the lat­est set of leads was gen­er­at­ed. This isn’t a new tech­nol­o­gy, it’s been around for quite some time. Police have used these ser­vices before, but those instances haven’t grabbed head­lines in the same way as the case of the Gold­en State Killer.

To the offi­cers involved, I salute your cre­ativ­i­ty and per­se­ver­ance. Hope­ful­ly, once jus­tice has tak­en its course and the case has been tried, you’ll have been able to give some much-need­ed clo­sure to the fam­i­lies of the victims.

But that’s not why I’m writing.

What’s prob­lem­at­ic about the main­stream­ing of genet­ic sequenc­ing and the sub­se­quent break­down of taboos sur­round­ing our most sen­si­tive per­son­al pos­ses­sion — the DNA code — is not the risk of false pos­i­tives or acci­den­tal misiden­ti­fi­ca­tion in a police inves­ti­ga­tion. It’s the line of oppor­tunists who are eager to acquire that data and bend it to their will for all man­ner of com­mer­cial, insur­ance, med­ical, and oth­er mis­us­es as peo­ple relax their guard and invite more and more strangers to the par­ty to play gate­keep­er to this extreme­ly sen­si­tive information.

If you’ve ever been a vic­tim of iden­ti­ty theft, or if you’ve ever had some­one run up a bunch of unau­tho­rized charges on your cred­it card, you already have a glimpse of how it feels.

Your bank can issue a new cred­it card num­ber, but you don’t get a mul­li­gan once your DNA code makes it into the wild.

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Video Platform Go Boom: Perspectives on the Adpocalypse

As it becomes increas­ing­ly obvi­ous a sea change is occur­ring at YouTube with respect to how the com­pa­ny con­ducts busi­ness and gov­erns its user base, it’s time we had a mean­ing­ful con­ver­sa­tion about the use of third-par­ty con­tent aggre­ga­tion plat­forms and the long-term effects of putting too many eggs into the same basket.

Only a few gen­er­a­tions have been lucky enough to wit­ness the birth of the World Wide Web (and mass com­mer­cial­iza­tion of the Inter­net prop­er) and still have the priv­i­lege of liv­ing a rea­son­able num­ber of years on both sides of that flash­bulb moment in his­to­ry. Mine is one of them: togeth­er, we’ve grown with it, nur­tured it, aug­ment­ed our lives with it, watched it evolve — and we’ve drawn incred­i­ble ben­e­fit from the tech­no­log­i­cal rev­o­lu­tion that fol­lowed. Today all man­ner of com­put­er sys­tems cross paths with our lives hun­dreds of times on a dai­ly basis, and most times, it rarely elic­its a thought.

We’ve become so inti­mate­ly tied to our tech­nol­o­gy that invis­i­ble design has become an exquis­ite­ly refined, and gen­er­al­ly expect­ed, norm. Where once the shar­ing of con­tent on the Web was an intel­lec­tu­al­ly expen­sive and fair­ly time-con­sum­ing under­tak­ing — often requir­ing an indi­vid­ual to learn var­i­ous back-end tech­nolo­gies and pro­gram­ming lan­guages as well as visu­al design and its atten­dant soft­ware — nowa­days, most peo­ple rely on a mul­ti­tude of turn-key solu­tions that do much of the think­ing and heavy lift­ing for us, offer­ing decent inte­gra­tion with very lit­tle downtime.

Well, at least until that ser­vice changes the rules, lim­its its fea­tures, crash­es, or liq­ui­dates its assets.

Then we have a problem.

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SpaceX: There’s a Starman Waiting in the Sky

Yes­ter­day was the maid­en voy­age of the Fal­con Heavy and true to its nature, SpaceX did­n’t dis­ap­point. Whether we’re look­ing at the tech­ni­cal exe­cu­tion of land­ing two boost­ers ver­ti­cal­ly after flight at the same time on tan­dem pads (we’ll ignore that pesky cen­tral core), or the inspi­ra­tion of real-life ‘Star­man’ enter­ing orbit to the tune of David Bowie’s ‘Life on Mars,’ there’s a lot to be excit­ed about.

What made this launch so mem­o­rable was the gut­sy aspi­ra­tion, the heart, the because-we-can’ ethos. Why launch a bor­ing reg­u­lar test pay­load when instead, they can test a new space suit and do it in one of the most endear­ing ways pos­si­ble? That cre­ativ­i­ty is a tal­ent in its own right. It does­n’t mere­ly make news, it cap­tures the love and imag­i­na­tion of gen­er­a­tions and reminds us exact­ly why space trav­el is fuck­ing awe­some.

And yes, there are times when we need exact­ly this kind of boot to the head to wake us from our earth­bound prob­lems and inspire us to dream of what humankind can accom­plish next — among the stars.

Keep being awe­some, SpaceX.

As for the tech­ni­cal side of things, the drone ship video feed was lost after the cen­tral core boost­er hit the ocean at 300 miles per hour, about 300 feet (100 meters) from the drone ship. The rock­et was able to restart only one of its three engines dur­ing re-entry before it ran out of the TEA-TEB com­pound required to ignite the fuel mixture.

Elon Musk’s com­men­tary and atti­tude on this are inter­est­ing: in a world where many CEOs tend not to engage active­ly with the pub­lic, he bucks the trend by being casu­al and upfront, often dis­cussing a lot of the learn­ing oppor­tu­ni­ties, suc­cess­es, and fail­ures his com­pa­ny has had over the years.

And yes, there have been some spec­tac­u­lar fire­works at past launch­es and landings.

Followup: Charlottesville

Quick update to Tues­day’s story …

It was wide­ly observed by atten­dees and report­ed in the media that Neo-Nazis arrived armed and well-pre­pared at the ral­ly in Char­lottesville, then moved in lat­er to attack counter-pro­tes­tors with bats and oth­er weapons as police took a hands-off approach to a good por­tion of the violence.

Giv­en that author­i­ties have his­tor­i­cal­ly been quick to respond with over­whelm­ing shows of force in the instances of the DAPL Water Pro­tec­tors protests and the Black Lives Mat­ter protests, it came across as noth­ing short of infu­ri­at­ing when a major show of force was not tak­en dur­ing the Char­lottesville riots in the midst of a far more dan­ger­ous situation.

In an arti­cle that ProP­ub­li­ca released over the week­end, reporter and wit­ness A.C. Thomp­son not­ed, “State police and Nation­al Guards­men watched pas­sive­ly for hours as self-pro­claimed Nazis engaged in street bat­tles with counter-pro­test­ers.” He then went on to name the main orga­ni­za­tion­al and tac­ti­cal fail­ures at the event and describe them in nau­se­at­ing detail.

I’m glad oth­ers point­ed me to this arti­cle, as I’d missed it in the ini­tial media shuf­fle that took place when the riots began, so thank you for that.

Now, it’s only been a few days since the riots, and it can take time to con­duct a for­mal inquiry into the police response, but here’s a spoil­er: when author­i­ties appar­ent­ly had sit­u­a­tion­al aware­ness “for a long time” and went on to make errors such as fail­ing to sep­a­rate camps of pro­tes­tors and going easy on Nazis who phys­i­cal­ly attacked offi­cers, the optics of the over­all sit­u­a­tion don’t look good. As Thomp­son fur­ther notes, “Sev­er­al times, a group of assault-rifle-tot­ing mili­tia mem­bers from New York […] played a more active role in break­ing up fights,” after riot police failed to ful­ly intervene.

I’m not sure how to respond to that, besides not­ing the same con­clu­sion oth­ers have acknowl­edged many times: white priv­i­lege, it’s a thing.

Addi­tion­al­ly, the fact police did­n’t mount a stronger response to stop the fight­ing and the way they failed to arrest more of those involved in the fight­ing are things that work to the advan­tage of far-right insti­ga­tors, who love the oppor­tu­ni­ty to be cast as vic­tims of left­ist vio­lence.

In oth­er words, let­ting Nazis slug it out with Antifa for a few days isn’t just a shit­ty idea, it’s actu­al­ly a recruit­ment win for Nazis and their ilk.

I’m sure this isn’t what author­i­ties want­ed, but regard­less of whether it arose through acci­den­tal blun­der or planned non-inter­ven­tion, that’s now the real­i­ty they’re going to have to deal with, as will many oth­er cities who are cur­rent­ly fac­ing spin-off ral­lies in the wake of the mess in Charlottesville.

It will be inter­est­ing to read the results of a for­mal inquiry, if one is ever con­duct­ed into these matters.

On Hate: Charlottesville And Beyond

Dur­ing one more in a long line of racist clash­es in the Unit­ed States, one pro­test­er was mur­dered and at least nine­teen oth­ers injured after a Neo-Nazi from Ida­ho attend­ed the “Unite the Right” ral­ly at Char­lottesville, VA, and pro­ceed­ed to dri­ve his car into the crowd.

A run­ning theme with white nation­al­ists, Neo-Nazis, and oth­er hate groups is they’ve tried repeat­ed­ly to avoid the name they’ve earned for them­selves while still try­ing to per­pe­trate all of the moral and crim­i­nal wrongs his­tor­i­cal­ly asso­ci­at­ed with their move­ments. To vary­ing degrees, they will advo­cate fer­vent­ly in pub­lic spaces for the advance­ment of racism, social seg­re­ga­tion, racist pro­pa­gan­da, hate speech, acts of vio­lence, and even mur­der, but if recent news cov­er­age is any indi­ca­tion, many seem unable to stom­ach the idea of get­ting caught or called out for their dis­gust­ing behaviour.

This, in and of itself, speaks volumes.

Remem­ber — if it looks like a duck, walks like a duck, and talks like a duck, then racist apol­o­gists be damned, it’s a fuckin’ duck.

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The Ongoing US Trump/Russia Media Flap

Here’s a fair­ly lev­el-head­ed expla­na­tion of the Trump/Russia cov­er­age that’s par­a­lyzed the news cycle for the past few months, cour­tesy of Michael Tracey from TYT:

It’s impor­tant to note that whether or not the Trump/Russia sto­ry has legs, we’ve long since passed the point where irra­tional nar­ra­tives became ends and pur­suits in them­selves, and peo­ple have large­ly cho­sen to see what they want to see come out of this situation.

If there’s one thing 2016 taught us, it’s that the Amer­i­can polit­i­cal sys­tem and elec­torate are, large­ly, no longer ratio­nal actors. They’re in a bad place and they want to burn some­thing down because they’re under­stand­ably pissed off at the sta­tus quo. The oth­er side of the coin is most aren’t ter­ri­bly con­cerned with how they go about doing it, or what cor­ners they cut when giv­ing it thought.

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Donald Trump’s First 100 Days

Until now, I haven’t been report­ing on the polit­i­cal sit­u­a­tion in the Unit­ed States because news on the sub­ject has been ubiq­ui­tous, and many tal­ent­ed indi­vid­u­als and media out­lets have been call­ing the sit­u­a­tion for what it is.

Today, this changes. I don’t feel it’s appro­pri­ate for a per­son to stand on the side­lines and wait for oth­ers to do one’s duty in the midst of a mat­ter this impor­tant. I’ve writ­ten on Cana­di­an pol­i­tics on this site in the past, and arguably US pol­i­tics can have just as sig­nif­i­cant an impact on any­one liv­ing north of the bor­der due to wide­spread export of Amer­i­can cul­ture, val­ues, and geopo­lit­i­cal influence.

At the same time, lin­ger­ing con­cerns remain on the polit­i­cal and finan­cial affil­i­a­tions of some media out­lets, the impact of com­pro­mised jour­nal­ism in an infor­ma­tion dri­ven soci­ety, and the pit­falls of the rat­ings-dri­ven sys­tem hold­ing sway on most TV-based media deliv­ery plat­forms which tends to cap­i­tal­ize on dra­ma and suf­fer­ing while often fail­ing to deliv­er con­text and his­tor­i­cal perspective.

While there are many media groups who are doing high qual­i­ty work and pro­vid­ing in-depth jour­nal­ism, the mixed nature of tech­nol­o­gy and its use (or mis­use at times) means it’s wise to ensure infor­ma­tion is reg­u­lar­ly fact-checked and fur­ther research is con­duct­ed to under­stand con­text and estab­lish a broad­er per­spec­tive of cur­rent events.

The unfor­tu­nate thing about pol­i­tics is that despite hav­ing great impor­tance in dai­ly life, it fre­quent­ly tends to be treat­ed as a spec­ta­tor sport. Media com­pa­nies run round-the-clock news cycles and make mon­ey from it, peo­ple talk to fam­i­ly and friends about what’s going on in the world, some offices run pools on what they think the next big change might be, but how many of us are actu­al­ly will­ing to roll up our sleeves and get involved?

When was the last time you talked with a Con­gressper­son, Mem­ber of Par­lia­ment, or MLA? Have you ever read leg­isla­tive doc­u­men­ta­tion to learn the issues? When was the last time you fact checked a polit­i­cal state­ment? Ever been part of a pub­lic com­men­tary hear­ing? Heck, when was the last time you vot­ed?

Here’s why polit­i­cal engage­ment matters:

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The Sea-Change at YouTube

It’s time we had a con­ver­sa­tion about cen­sor­ship.

Recent­ly a mass exo­dus of major adver­tis­ers occurred at YouTube, which has since caused the ecosys­tem of that plat­form to fall into dis­ar­ray. As not­ed by both YouTu­bers and main­stream media out­lets alike, the pre­cip­i­tat­ing event seems to have been a small num­ber of gov­ern­ment and cor­po­rate ads appear­ing along­side racist hate videos on a very small num­ber of chan­nels. The issue was brought to the atten­tion of gov­ern­ments and cor­po­ra­tions in a high pro­file man­ner, and from there, indus­try brass decid­ed to pull all adver­tis­ing off the YouTube plat­form, cit­ing the desire to not be asso­ci­at­ed with harm­ful content.

As var­i­ous media out­lets have report­ed, it’s an odd nar­ra­tive to fol­low giv­en the fact this prob­lem has exist­ed for many, many years. Until the mid­dle of 2016, it’s been an issue that’s rarely made the news. Fur­ther­more, despite the his­tor­i­cal efforts made by media com­pa­nies (espe­cial­ly Google) to stamp out racist and oth­er extrem­ist con­tent, the issue remains dif­fi­cult to address owing to the sheer vol­ume of data being uploaded at any giv­en time.

In Youtube’s case, at least 300 hours of video is uploaded each minute (though some put that num­ber as high as 400 hrs/min). If we go with the low­est esti­mate, that’s still 18,000 hours of video in an hour, 432,000 hours of video in a day, or 12.96 mil­lion hours in a 30-day month. These num­bers are def­i­nite­ly not in Google’s favour, and despite valiant efforts to screen user-gen­er­at­ed con­tent, Inter­net media com­pa­nies as a rule tend to be faced with a nev­er-end­ing, uphill bat­tle when it comes to man­ag­ing these enor­mous vol­umes of user-gen­er­at­ed content.

Sim­i­lar to the ongo­ing sit­u­a­tion at Face­book (and its impli­ca­tions for that net­work’s 1.2 bil­lion dai­ly users), the logis­tics are impos­si­ble when it comes to set­ting up a pure­ly human inter­ven­tion as a solu­tion to harm­ful con­tent. There’s no prac­ti­cal way for Google, or any ultra high vol­ume media com­pa­ny for that mat­ter, to retain suf­fi­cient human staffing in order to indi­vid­u­al­ly review each piece of user-gen­er­at­ed con­tent that comes in the door. As a result, indus­try stan­dard prac­tices include the use of soft­ware algo­rithms as gate­keep­ers and the automa­tion of most issues relat­ed to pol­i­cy enforce­ment and con­tent management.

Con­tin­ue read­ing

First Photo Trip of 2016

I’m not sure how the rest of my read­ers have been far­ing, but here in my city we’re ful­ly into spring, and there are lots of beau­ti­ful places to vis­it as the lands (and their inhab­i­tants) wake from sea­son­al slumber.

This Tues­day I went for an after­noon bike ride around the city, even­tu­al­ly mak­ing my way through Ross Bay Ceme­tery and Bea­con Hill Park. I fig­ured I’d post a few of the high­lights here. Please excuse the crap­tas­tic mobile phone image qual­i­ty, I’ll have to make it a point some­time this year to get a prop­er cam­era and do these right. ;)

More to come as the weath­er warms up!

Spring blossoms! Also, the back end of a bee. Spring blossoms. Of endless seas, and boundless skies ... Shoreline view taken from the Beacon Hill waterfront trail. A long abandoned, undisturbed gave in Ross Bay Cemetery.

Also, I updat­ed the lay­out con­fig­u­ra­tion files for this site ear­li­er in the week. I don’t think there will be any glitch­es as a result of this, but in the off chance my read­ers see any­thing weird hap­pen, I’d wel­come a bug report via the con­tact page.

Build­ing a web­site is a learn­ing expe­ri­ence, and an ever-expand­ing con­struc­tion project, and I’m plan­ning to become much more involved with it this year.

Reading 2.0 and the Ultimate E‑Book Toolkit (Calibre)

As a child of the orig­i­nal ‘Inter­net gen­er­a­tion,’ I’ve long felt blessed and grate­ful for the trans­for­ma­tions that have come about in the wake of the per­son­al com­put­ing rev­o­lu­tion. It’s changed the way we com­mu­ni­cate, the way we share infor­ma­tion, the way we store our things, and the way we think.

There’s always been some­thing very beau­ti­ful about the inti­mate enmesh­ment of phys­i­cal essence and tech­nol­o­gy. The tighter that bond becomes, the more we become able to tran­scend our own nat­ur­al lim­its. If not also in name and appear­ance by this time, I’d argue we are at least the first cyborgs in spir­it, aug­ment­ing our liv­ing bod­ies with tire­less elec­tron­ics and high-pow­ered micro­proces­sors, hold­ing a uni­verse-with­in-a-uni­verse between our quiv­er­ing fingertips.

Back in the day, a lot of peo­ple used to talk about device con­ver­gence, a point at which all (or most) user needs could be met by the capa­bil­i­ties of a sin­gle mul­ti-pur­pose plat­form. There were numer­ous exper­i­ments tried and failed over the years to find that ide­al­ized, com­fort­able sense of mass appeal, rang­ing from the launch of WebTV to installing hard disks into game con­soles, but despite all of this, the true killer app came only when the com­put­ing indus­try final­ly set its sights on the ordi­nary mobile cel­lu­lar phone and said, “Let’s make this better.”

Ka-boom.

And so the sec­ond rev­o­lu­tion of our gen­er­a­tion began.

Nowa­days, it’s almost abnor­mal to meet any­one on the streets who isn’t cart­ing around a three-by-sev­en-inch smart­phone (or tablet) with pow­er and endurance rival­ing that of many net­books and low­er-end lap­tops. With boosts in porta­bil­i­ty and bat­tery life, more stor­age, mul­ti-core pro­cess­ing, wide­spread open-source devel­op­ment, and easy cloud inte­gra­tion, the pos­si­bil­i­ties are end­less. Much like the change in our own des­tiny, aug­men­ta­tion of our phones has hit a point where it’s trans­formed them into some­thing entire­ly dif­fer­ent, and made them part of a greater force in the realm of cul­tur­al design and social function.

And while we use these devices for a mul­ti­tude of every­day tasks, one of the more sub­tle ones that’s tak­en hold is read­ing for busi­ness and plea­sure. It’s long been obvi­ous, ever since cyber­space gained mass appeal, that one of the more hot­ly debat­ed issues would remain the divide between read­ing from phys­i­cal media ver­sus read­ing from dig­i­tal. The e‑book trend is in an upward swing, a lot of read­ers have trad­ed in their cum­ber­some dead-tree-for­mat for some­thing that slips more eas­i­ly into a data card, and these changes have many more ques­tion­ing the direc­tion in which these changes might take us.

First off, I don’t care much for the pol­i­tics, and I’m not here to preach. The views on elec­tron­ic read­ing are as var­ied and numer­ous as there are peo­ple who read. Some like to keep their dis­tance and feel that e‑readers are infe­ri­or and a betray­al of a whole­some pas­time. Oth­ers strike vary­ing shades of bal­ance between the use of dig­i­tal and phys­i­cal for­mats. Still oth­ers are at a point where they’ve either swung firm­ly toward car­ry­ing out an even­tu­al migra­tion to dig­i­tal or have already arrived there.

Per­son­al­ly, I’m flex­i­ble when it comes to my books. I have a lot of paper, in spite of every­thing else in my life being almost entire­ly dig­i­tal. I also have a lot of books in dig­i­tal for­mat. So, when­ev­er I want to indulge in a sto­ry, I go with what’s con­ve­nient and feels good that day.

The take-home les­son here is, “you do you.” Work with what makes you hap­py. Work with what you feel works best for the cir­cum­stances. The ONLY thing you need to care about at the end of the day is that what you’re doing keeps you read­ing and keeps you feel­ing joy from your pastime.

Books are a price­less tool to hone the intel­lect and give wings to our imag­i­na­tions. There’s a lot we could do that’s far worse than con­sum­ing them reg­u­lar­ly (and eager­ly) in dig­i­tal form.

On that note, I’m going to share one more tool that might be of inter­est to any­one who’s dip­ping their toes into the e‑reading pool. Cal­i­bre is an e‑book sys­tem that’s total­ly free, has no ads or spy­ware, and pret­ty much does every­thing you could ever ask for in an e‑book soft­ware pack­age. I’ve been using mine to con­vert between EPUB and PDF for­mats; as long as a user under­stands basic typog­ra­phy, this pro­gram is a dream to work with. Cal­i­bre makes it ridicu­lous­ly easy to cre­ate out­put files that are re-flowed and set for the screen size of one’s reader.

Also, huge kudos go to Mor­ri for gift­ing me with the old Black­ber­ry Play­book that became my mobile library. I love so much of what we share, inter­est-wise and oth­er­wise … and this BB made for such an awe­some DIY hack, and even more fun after the fact. I can slip this thing into a purse or coat pock­et and just run out the door, and not have to wor­ry about cart­ing around 50 pounds of books. (I know I’ve already thanked you pro­fuse­ly IRL, but cred­it is due in cyber­space too!)

So long sto­ry short … if you’re an avid read­er, check out Cal­i­bre, it’s one of the few appli­ca­tions I’ve encoun­tered that’s prob­a­bly worth your time.

Now … pick up a book and read, dammit! :)

<3

Victoria Times Colonist to Remove Online Commenting

This week, our local news­pa­per announced it was remov­ing the com­ment sec­tion in future posts. This comes in the wake of a fair­ly well-estab­lished trend of promi­nent media out­lets, includ­ing Pop­u­lar Sci­ence, decid­ing to do the same in order to bring the empha­sis back to the con­tent, and curb wide­spread abuse of writ­ers and their audi­ences by unpleas­ant dri­ve-by commenters.

And tru­ly, noth­ing of val­ue was lost.

First, what many major out­lets have real­ized by now, many of them through rather hard lessons, is that jour­nal­ism isn’t just a busi­ness, it’s a del­i­cate bal­ance, a deep search for the truth. By its very nature, this demands well-devel­oped com­mu­ni­ca­tions skills and keen social com­pe­tence on the part of its researchers and pre­sen­ters, and a care­ful­ly craft­ed envi­ron­ment in which to con­vey the infor­ma­tion to the audience.

Con­tin­ue read­ing

On the Death of David Bowie

There’s “pass­ing away with style,” and then there’s “I’m going for one more encore, and I’m not just going to love this, I’m gonna strike the bold­est dot imag­in­able on the excla­ma­tion point that is my life.”

When I heard about David Bowie’s death, I part­ly expect­ed to hear about him doing some­thing notable or dra­mat­ic on the way out — ain’t that just like him.

The end is near, the odds are tan­gi­bly impos­si­ble, and even as the world comes crash­ing down around his ears, here he is on set cast­ing a music video, singing with that same sweet, sil­very pas­sion that’s defined so many of his life’s oth­er accomplishments.

Not florid prose nor mourn­ful dis­course nor sim­ple won­der can prop­er­ly describe the inspi­ra­tion and beau­ty in such a ges­ture. Lyrics here. Links to the Cana­di­an and Amer­i­can Can­cer Soci­eties as well, because why not con­tribute?

Now, if you haven’t clicked PLAY on the above video, you’d bet­ter turn off every­thing else around you right now, and load it up.

And don’t for­get the encore …

May you be well remem­bered, and remem­bered well in all the ages to come.

With Liberty and Firearms for All

One of the issues that’s come up repeat­ed­ly in con­tem­po­rary US pol­i­tics is the idea that the 2nd Amend­ment con­veys an indi­vid­u­al’s right to obtain, pos­sess, and open­ly car­ry firearms.

The realm of law and order is not unlike the fash­ion world in that over time, new trends emerge and fresh items of inter­est arise, while estab­lished trends can be played down or may fall out of favour entire­ly. Inter­pre­ta­tion mat­ters most, and that inter­pre­ta­tion is gen­er­al­ly sub­ject to the lin­guis­tic evo­lu­tion and soci­etal atti­tudes of the peri­od. In the case of the 2nd Amend­ment, the leg­is­la­tion has been furi­ous­ly debat­ed in a mod­ern set­ting as to the mer­its of its gram­mat­i­cal struc­ture and mean­ing, oth­er his­tor­i­cal prece­dents, and dif­fer­ences between the orig­i­nal and rat­i­fied versions.

The recent push for wide­spread ‘free­dom’ enshrined in law as per­mit­ting indi­vid­ual gun own­er­ship was­n’t always so. Up to the turn of the 21st cen­tu­ry, it was wide­ly accept­ed by many (even con­ser­v­a­tive Chief Jus­tice War­ren Berg­er) that an indi­vid­ual right to bear arms was­n’t a thing. Many con­ser­v­a­tives at the time car­ried the same torch and stood in oppo­si­tion to what they believed was a sil­ly, if not fair­ly haz­ardous, idea.

Con­tin­ue read­ing

Anti-Intellectualism and Politics

Dur­ing 2015, Cana­da took a con­scious, intro­spec­tive turn toward a more pro­gres­sive jour­ney as vot­ers elect­ed Prime Min­is­ter Justin Trudeau. Since then, we’ve been mak­ing inroads on a sig­nif­i­cant depar­ture from the atti­tudes of the pri­or admin­is­tra­tion and stay­ing most­ly true to this. While there remains a lot of heavy lift­ing to do in cor­rect­ing the anti-progress lega­cy of Stephen Harp­er, we’re on the road to recov­ery. There remains a cer­tain faith in gov­ern­ment, such that we’ve sig­nif­i­cant­ly boost­ed vot­er turnout. That in itself speaks volumes.

The change of admin­is­tra­tion brought with it some very pub­lic moments, like the new equal­i­ty cab­i­net, the rise of an abo­rig­i­nal chief as Jus­tice Min­is­ter, and the appoint­ment of an inter­na­tion­al­ly respect­ed war hero as Defense Minister.

While these changes are in all respects wel­come, and in most cas­es long past due, it’s the sub­tle stuff we don’t see going on behind the scenes day-to-day which con­tributes just as much if not more to the shap­ing of our char­ac­ter as a cul­ture of many dif­fer­ent cul­tures. The way our politi­cians behave toward one anoth­er, their inter­ac­tion with the peo­ple, their will­ing­ness to cham­pi­on progress and edu­ca­tion, their atti­tudes toward strangers, and their com­pas­sion towards the ‘oth­er’ — all of these are the mea­sure of a politi­cian whether that indi­vid­ual is with­in view of the press or not. One thing I found reas­sur­ing about this past elec­tion was the con­scious rejec­tion of divi­sive pol­i­tics by the Cana­di­an peo­ple. What we have right now is not per­fect by any mea­sure, but it’s a lot bet­ter than the alter­na­tive might have been.

Con­tin­ue read­ing