Monthly Archives: March 2009

Canadian political parties ask for too much


I just got an email from the NDPasking for support before Tuesday’s first quarter fundraising deadline.Here’s an excerpt:

The New Democrats aren’t funded by corporateexecutives. We rely on many smaller donations from everyday Canadians -many of whom have been hit hard by the downturn.

That’swhy I’m asking you to do more now if you can. An immediate donation of$120 or $240 or whatever you can afford will help us take on StephenHarper and give a voice to the working families feeling the squeeze.

Now, during the US election, I got Barack Obama’s mailings. He askedfor $5 donations. When he asked for a larger amount, it was $30 (inreturn for which you would get a t-shirt).

Obama just showed us how to raise money and build a devoted, activefollowing. How can the NDP ask for a $120 donation, in the samesentence claiming to give a voice to families feeling the squeeze?

To their credit, the Liberal party’s latest email asked for a smallerdonation:

Now is the time. This deadline is critical. Pleasemake a donation right now of $100, $50 – even $10 – whatever amount youcan afford. Every donation helps make a difference.

[photo “Canadianmoney is pretty!” by rickunder a CreativeCommons Attribution licence]

Don’t trust your GPS

One of the funniest scenes from TheOffice was when Michael and Dwight followedtheir GPS into a lake:

Seems outrageous? Consider the story of Robert Jones of Yorkshire who nearlyfollowed his GPS off a cliff. If, as Gizmodo puts it, the GPS waswas trying to kill Mr. Jones, then by arresting him for carelessdriving, the police are, once again, blaming the victim.

Convicts to lose double-time credit for pre-trial custody

The federal government will introduce legislation Friday to end the practice of giving convicted criminals double-time credit for time spent in pre-trial custody, Justice Minister Rob Nicholson said Wednesday.

The “two-for-one” credit — whereby each day spent in custody was counted as two — was meant to compensate inmates for so-called “dead time” before their cases were dealt with in court.



The justification for the legislation is interesting. On the one hand, there is a social justification, along the lines of being “tough on crime”. Justice Minister Rob Nicholson said:

“The policy has developed over the years where a person gets double credit for the time they served — or in some instances, they get triple credit — and I think there are many people across this country, myself included, who would like to see more truth in sentencing, in the sense that the sentence you get is the sentence that you will serve.”

Fair enough. But I found the economic argument particularly compelling:

“I think that individuals will not find it to their advantage, or their solicitors will not find it their advantage, to have continuous delays or adjournments. So I think this will help move the process forward.”

Is there any evidence that accused and their lawyers delay proceedings to take advantage of double-time credit when they anticipate a custody sentence?

Crew of TODAY join the Snuggie cult

Recording it all was the TODAY stage crew ??? also draped in Snuggies and looking, as Lauer noted, like a gospel choir…

Since Snuggie commercials started blanketing the airwaves, both the ads and the garment have taken on a cult status.

The article says they look like a gospel choir, but I think “cult status” is more like it.

Me and my cousin, David Cronenberg

I found out last night that David Cronenbergis my great-grandfather’s niece’s sister-in-laws’s son-in-law! Myfavourite Cronenberg flick: eXistenZ.


Far out.

Ontario has a new apology law

Under the new rules, apologies can’t be used as an admission of fault or liability and won’t affect someone’s insurance coverage – a move critics warn may do victims more harm than good.

Fewer people apologize because they’re afraid it could come back to haunt them if they are sued, Attorney General Chris Bentley said after the bill passed third and final reading in the legislature.

“This removes a legislative barrier to do what we all think is the right thing to do,” he said.

“If you do harm, your natural instinct is to say, ‘I’m sorry.”‘


I was supportive of “apology laws” when they were passed in BC and Alberta, and I am very happy to learn that Ontario has passed an apology law as well. Where there is harm, legal consequences can follow without reliance on an apology as an admission of wrongdoing. And so often, all people want is to be treated with respect — an apology goes a long way.

Wal-Mart to enter electronic medical records arena

A Wal-Mart spokesperson says the company is partnering with computer giant Dell and others to launch an electronic health records package for doctors.

With the government investing $17 billion of stimulus funding in the technology, the company says it can serve as a low-cost, one-stop option for single doctors and small practices.


It makes perfect sense for Google to offer an electronic medical record product: Information and data management is their bread and butter. I can even understand Microsoft moving into the EMR space, given their obsession with following Google and their, um, trustworthiness? Well, maybe not, but it’s not such a leap. But Wal-Mart? Offering one-stop electronic medical record services? Where are the synergies with their fundamental big box business model?

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PVR and iPod use by Minister of Heritage demonstrates need for copyright change

???New media isn???t frankly new media anymore. I watch more television on my iPod than I do on an actual conventional television set or through my PVR. I think if you ask the average Canadian under the age of 20 how do they consume their media, you???ll hear a very different story than you???ll hear from Canadians over the age of 40,??? Moore, 32, told reporters in Toronto.

???Strictly speaking, almost anything he???d be using PVR for would be illegal,??? says University of Ottawa???s copyright expert Michael Geist. ???Any person who has been actively using a PVR for years, there???s no doubt about it, they???re using it in such a way that the law doesn???t permit.???

Heritage Minister James Moore shares control of the copyright file with Industry Canada. He spoke this week to reporters about his consumption of television content in unconventional ways. From what he says here, it looks like he recognizes the generational shift that has already occurred. I hope he moves this helps move the Heritage approach to copyright into the 21st Century.

Sixth Sense Technologies

I just got a glimpse of technology still being developed that have the potential to change everything. You must see this.

The iPhone and other so-called smart phones let you take internet access with you, but that doesn’t fundamentally change your interaction with your environment. Microsoft’s Surface computers have a new type of interface and interesting applications, but of course those applications are limited to the device. What if you were to move the interface off of the device entirely and into the real world?

Sixth Sense is built out of a webcam and a projector, and it tracks your fingers and your environment on the fly. It’s difficult to explain, but watch this video to the end and just imagine how this could change the way people interact with one another and their environments.

Bringing Twitter into live events, and in classes

Fred Wilson of Union SquareVentures and the A VC blog writesabout bringing Twitter into live events, especially large discussionsessions. He writes,

So here are my top three takeaways from theexperience:

1) Twitter adds a lot of value to a live event if you have enoughpeople at the event who are comfortable live blogging it. In our case,three or four active participants was enough. Their job, so to speak,is to find the juiciest comments and throw them up on the board.

2) It also provides a way for less agressive people in the group toshare their thoughts with the rest of the group even when they can’tget a word in edgewise.

3) It provides an ability for others who are not at the event to bothfollow the event live but also contribute to the event in real time.

When we do this next time, I am going to make sure we do a few thingsdifferently. First, I think there should be at least two large screensso that nobody has their back to the Twitter stream. Also, I think weshould have tried to loop the conversation happening outside of theroom back into the room. Maybe have one person whose job it is to pullthe most interesting tweets coming from outside the room and feed theminto the conversation.

If you are doing an event, whether its a small invitation only eventlike ours, or a larger public event like a conference, I highlyrecommend you include a live Twitter stream as part of theconversation. It’s a big win for everyone.

How could this be extended to the classroom? I was in law school whenstudents were starting to bring their computers into classes and hadwifi access, and I heard professors complain about the distraction tostudents. True, I saw plenty of students playing Solitaire or IMingduring class, but it must also be said that I never saw a teacher makethe effort to embrace the technology and involve it in the pedagogicalprocess. Maybe Twitter (or live blogging platforms like MixedInk or EtherPad) provides an opportunity forprofessors to engage students in the learning experience in new andinteresting ways.

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