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Edmonton Needs Help With Its Premiere Aquatic Facility Plans

2011-02-17 2 comments

In Edmonton, the best aquatic sports facility we have is the Kinsmen Sports Center. It was built in 1968, and played host to the aquatic sports during the 1978 Commonwealth Games. It used to be the home to the most powerful swim club and some of the best swimmers in the country.

It has been a sad slow progression over the past thirty years from the Kinsmen being a premiere high-performance sport facility to one that the City prefers to be used as a public swimming pool for kids and families. The Kinsmen is the only facility in Edmonton suitable for hosting high-performance swimming competitions, and it is the best training facility for aquatic sport clubs in Alberta. The city has a dismal record in recent years of servicing those groups, however, and instead caters preferentially to recreational use. Edmonton has a history of producing world-class swimmers, divers and synchronized swimmers, but that legacy will remain history if the city does not take a more active role in servicing competitive sporting organizations.

The Kinsmen is the only facility we have that is designed for competitive aquatic sports. Let the city’s high-performance clubs use it for that, and encourage the pubic to make use of the city’s other pools for recreation, or build a dedicated recreational pool along side of the Kinsmen.

The city should also give more time to swim clubs at the new Terwillegar pool, and stop preventing swim club access to that facility with the misguided intent of preventing clubs from competing with the city’s swimming lesson programs.

The only alternative is to kiss Edmonton’s storied history of national champion and Olympic swimmers and divers goodbye.

You can weigh in on the City’s plans for the Kinsmen on the Transforming Edmonton website. They have a survey open from February 16 -25 that you can fill out as well. Details of the City of Edmonton’s Master Planning process for the Kinsmen are available here.

Categories: Editorial, Swimming

Canadians need to speak out on Copyright Reform

2011-01-17 Leave a comment

The Canadian Copyright reform bill, Bill C-32, is getting close to the end of the legislative process. There is one final opportunity for Canadians to speak their minds on the bill by sending email to the Bill C-32 Legislative Committee at CC32@parl.gc.ca before the end of January.

This bill is important for culture, education, and consumer rights in Canada, so if you have an opinion on the bill, please send an email expressing your views to the committee.

Law Professor Dr. Michael Geist from the University of Ottawa has some good resources explaining the issues around the bill on his website. Go there to understand the bill and the discussion around it.

Here’s what I sent to the committee.

To the Bill C-32 Legislative Committee:

While I appreciate legislative reform for Canada’s copyright law is necessary, I oppose the digital locks provisions in the proposed Bill C-32 as written. It must not be an infringement for citizens to circumvent or remove digital locks for the purposes of fair dealing. By including such a provision, fair dealing in the Bill is trumped by the desires of the content publishers. The digital lock provisions in the final Bill should be clarified so that circumvention of a digital lock is only an infringement if it is for the express purpose of copyright infringement. This protects publishers and businesses that depend on revenue from content publication, but does not allow those businesses to jeopardize education, culture, and consumer rights by restricting fair dealing.

Thank you for your work in this matter and for your consideration of the best interests of all Canadians.

Categories: Editorial Tags:

Another Blow to Anti-vaccine Nuts

2011-01-05 Leave a comment

It’s time for another update about anti-vaccine kooks. Happily this will be the first positive one I get to write.

Last year, the father of the Anti-vaccine nut-brigade, Andrew Wakefield, a former doctor from the UK, who wrote the deeply flawed paper that claimed a link between vaccines and autism, had his paper retracted as unethical and erroneous by the journal Lancet, which originally published it. He had his medical license revoked in the UK for incompetence, unethical research, and conflicts of interest related to the paper.

In 2011, after a thorough investigation, he is being accused of deliberate fraud in fabricating the link between vaccines and autism. The investigations have shown that first, he had created his own, competitive vaccine for MMR that he wanted to have supplant the widely used one at the time, and second, he was paid upwards of a million dollars by predatory lawyers to “find” a danger in the vaccine to provide an opportunity for major lawsuits.

According to the investigators, it appears that his paper was deliberately fabricated to create fear and distrust of the MMR vaccine for his own financial gain. This should be the last nail in the coffin of the credibility of Andrew Wakefield, and hopefully also for the misguided belief a lot of people have in the anti-vax movement. Wakefield still has a chance to be a hero, take the fall for his alleged unethical behaviour, admit he lied, and completely discredit the anti-vax movement, but I predict he won’t show that much character.

As a result of the recent events, if you know all this, and you still haven’t gotten your kids vaccinated, I think you are behaving dangerously negligently, and you are not just endangering the lives of your kids, but everyone they come into contact with. Get it done. There’s no reason not to and every reason to do it. Stop listening to idiot b-list celebrity anti-vaxxers, and start listening to real medical professionals.

Categories: Editorial

James Moore is Wrong

2010-06-23 Leave a comment

Recently James Moore, minister for Canadian Heritage, spouted off this piece of propaganda at the June 22 Conference on Copyright Reform for Canada.

This guy is either completely out of touch with what regular Canadians want, or a liar. He pretends to know the motivations of people opposed to the bill and attributes objectives to us that he paints as evil, wrongheaded, naive and obstructionist. He is wrong. We are concerned about culture and intellectual freedom, and not having our collective societal knowledge and wisdom locked up by media companies.

The copyright reform bill is necessary, and if you read the writings of the people who Moore claims are absolutists, you will discover that most are in support of many of the reform provisions, but the digital locks provision in the bill completely overrides fair and reasonable use and cannot stand. It allows rights-holders to circumvent the fair use provisions in the bill whenever they want, and criminalizes things like time shifting, device shifting, and using media that you legally obtained in any way other than on the specific device the rights-holder dictates. Criminalizing things that a MAJORITY of Canadians already do is obviously not what Canadians want, and is absolutely not in the interests of the public. Have you ever copied music from a CD to your iPod? The digital locks provision will allow BMG or Sony or Disney to put a trivial piece of software on a music CD that makes it illegal (!) for you do do that.

The United States has this kind of copyright legislation, and media companies and industry associations like the MPAA and RIAA have used the legislation to indiscriminately sue thousands of individuals, bankrupting them, causing them to lose their jobs, and causing all manner of harm, on the most tenuous of evidence. Security researchers have been persecuted as well, causing a chilling effect on intellectual pursuits. There is no net benefit to society from the digital locks provision.

James Moore clearly doesn’t understand that the overarching reason for copyright in the first place is to ensure that creative content producers have incentive to continue to produce new content, but to also ensure that content makes it into the public domain after a reasonable period. If content has digital locks on it, even after the copyright term is expired, it will still be inaccessible.

I want to give Moore the benefit of the doubt, that he is a sincere public servant trying to protect the interests of Canadians, but his position is difficult to understand except as pandering to media corporations. It is not good for Canadians, it is only good for (mostly foreign) media companies.

Categories: Editorial Tags:

Canadian Bill C-32 Needs Revision

2010-06-04 Leave a comment

There is a bill in the works right now in Canada that will mimic the terrible Digital Millenium Copyright Act from the USA. The bill basically makes it illegal to take a CD or a DVD or even an eBook or digital music or movie file that you got legally, and copy it to another device for your own use, if the distributor decides not to let you do that. The current Canadian Copyright Act contains provisions that allow you to copy stuff for your own use, like moving music from a CD to your computer to your iPod, or moving movies from a DVD to your computer to your iPod, or moving eBooks from your Amazon Kindle to your Sony eReader, or backing up game discs in case your kid scratches the original. It also allows use of media in certain circumstances without permission for purposes of satire, parody, non-commercial mashups, or education.

However, the government now wants to add an onerous provision to the Copyright Act to make it illegal to circumvent content protection software, no matter how trivial, even if you are doing it to exercise your rights as listed above. That means, if the music or movie company doesn’t want you to listen to or watch content you legally obtained on a CD or DVD or legal download on your iPod, or your computer or whatever, you won’t be able to, and if somebody makes software that removes any kind of restriction protection on the media, and you use it, both they and you have committed a crime.

That, my friends, is bullshit. Canadians don’t want those restrictions. Our culture and knowledge are more and more being distributed digitally. We don’t want media companies to hold the keys to our heritage and education. Those belong in the hands of the public.

You can help by going to Michael Geist’s website and reading about what to do. I wrote a letter to my MP, the Industry Minister, and the Minister of Heritage and Languages. Here is my letter to my MP. If you are concerned about culture and education in Canada, and in not criminalizing the normal activities of everyday Canadians, please consider writing your MP. You don’t even need a stamp.

Categories: Editorial

The coalition can’t work.

2008-12-03 Leave a comment

How can a government work when it is formed from three parties with mutually exclusive aims? There is no reconciling one party that wants to take money from people who earn it and give it to people who won’t earn it, another party that wants to take a successful country, strip it of it’s money and leave with most of it, and a third party that wants to take the money from everyone whether they have any or not, and give it to their families, friends and associates. I’ll leave you to guess which description summarizes my impression of the NDP, BQ and Liberals.

None of the parties that were unsuccessful in the last election are forming this coalition for the betterment of Canada. If they wanted that they would be trying to form a coalition government with the party that actually won the election. They are doing it to selfishly take power.

Categories: Editorial

Dear Catholic Parents

2008-12-01 Leave a comment

Here’s a letter to the editor of our local paper that I wrote this week when I read that come of the parents in the local Catholic (public) school district were considering disallowing the planned immunization program against HPV (the Human papillomavirus) for school-age girls. HPV is responsible for as many as 70 percent of reported cases of cervical cancer.

Dear Catholic Parents

I was distressed to read in the St. City News about the clearly misguided people who want to prevent young girls from being immunized at school against a widespread virus which can have deadly effects, HPV. Some Catholic school parents apparently want to allow a certain percentage of young girls to contract genital warts some time in their lives, and some percentage of those girls will get cervical cancer and die early. The parents think that by doing this they will be making sure that their daughters understand that promiscuity and early sexual activity are bad choices.

Now call me crazy, but I think the best way to make my daughter understand that becoming sexually active too early can have unfortunate and even dire consequences is to just tell her that, repeatedly. There are enough dire consequences to early sexual activity, like teenage pregnancy, other STDs, and social stigma, without us having to add preventable ones like HPV and cervical cancer.

It is a fact of life that youths make bad choices sometimes, the same as anyone else. As parents, it is our responsibility to ensure as much as possible that the consequences of bad choices made by our children are not debilitating or fatal. Presently, almost ALL people who are sexually active get HPV at some time in their lives, according to the CDC. The CDC has peer-reviewed scientific studies that prove that the vaccine is safe, effective, and will prevent HPV infections that cause seventy percent of cervical cancer cases when administered to girls who have not yet been exposed to HPV through sexual activity.

I would have failed as a parent if I were to allow my daughter to get a preventable case of cervical cancer because she might make a poor decision in the future. How about you?

Scott,
St. Albert

Categories: Editorial Tags:

Where I Was When Obama Was Declared President

2008-11-06 1 comment

Everyone says this is a seminal moment in history and that people will remember where they were and what they were doing when Obama was declared president-elect of the USA, as the first ever black president, just like they remember where they were when Neil Armstrong took his small step, or when Challenger blew up or on 9/11.

Since my memory is like a steel seive, I’m making a note here to my future self: I was watching election coverage on TV, and McCain had a very early lead with only a tiny fraction of districts reporting. We went to the OSC fall general meeting, and I got home at 21:00 or so expecting to have to wait hours like the last election in the US to hear anything. I turned on the TV and was surprised to see them declare Obama the winner.

I was amazed it was over so fast, and pleased that hope and rationality had achieved such a resounding victory against fear mongering, ignorance, old-boy politics and the old guard.

It wasn’t until the next morning that I heard that Proposition 8 in California had passed. I’m not gay and in fact know very few gay people. Gayness makes me slightly uncomfortable, but mostly only in the way that you feel uncomfortable from anything you’re not around alot. What the hell, I’m from a redneck city. However, I think that California banning gay marriage was a gross injustice that amounts to legalized discrimination and nothing more, and I was very shocked to hear that somewhere that I consider fairly progressive (at least for Americans) would be so intolerant. Also disappointing but less surprising were ballots in Florida and Arizona banning gay marriage and one in Arkansas banning gay couples from adopting children. This stuff shows there is still a long way to go.

I was pleased to see though that Proposition 2 in Michigan to allow stem cell research was passed. Banning stem cell research was one of the more boneheaded moves instigated by religious right nuts in the US. Another positive result was the failure of Proposition 48 in Colorado defining human life as existing from conception. Washington even passed a ballot to allow doctor-assisted suicide for terminally ill patients. It’s about time society matured a bit down there and stopped listening to religious nuts trying to impose first century superstitions on people by law.

I guess if I was American you’d call me a libertarian.

Categories: Editorial

Caravan Serpentine Belt

2008-09-06 Leave a comment

I have a 1999 Dodge Grand Caravan with the 3.8 L engine. They apparently tend to either eat or throw off serpentine belts. Today when I was going with my son to pick up our dog from the vet after getting his knee reconstructed, the van ate the serpentine belt. Since this is not the first time that has happened, I decided to learn how to change it myself. It is not too hard, but there is a trick to getting the belt installed by yourself.

There is a routing diagram inside the hood by the hood release. It’s almost as if the manufacturer expected me to have to do this or something. It is also important to note that the fan can turn on and off at random if the key is in the on position, so leave the key out of the ignition.

Serpentine Belt

Anyways, there are five pulleys, one idler and one tensioner pulley. I found that what worked the best was to run the belt over all the pulleys except the idler at the front first. I fiddled a lot to get it all on. I started by threading the whole belt under the idler pulley and then through to the back of the engine, to hook it first over the alternator pulley, which is high up at the back. Next I hooked it around the air conditioner pulley at the front, over the water pump wheel (which is at the bottom at the front), then down under the drive pulley at the bottom, and around the pulley at the bottom rear.

Then while leaving the belt off of the idler pulley to keep enough slack, I went under the van and pushed a loop of the belt up behind the drive pulley so I could reach it by hand below the tensioner. I hooked it over the tensioner, so that the only pulley that the belt wasn’t running over was the idler, marked in the picture with an X. Once everything but the idler was hooked up, I used a 15 mm wrench with my right hand to rotate the tensioner pulley forward and down to loosen the tension. It is spring-loaded and takes a serious amount of force. Then, while holding the tensioner in the rotated position with my right hand, I used my left hand to push the belt down and over the idler pulley. You don’t have to get the belt perfectly aligned on the idler the first try. Once it is hooked over the idler pulley, it is easy to release the tensioner, get a new grip, loosen the tension again and tweak the alignment of the belt over the idler pulley.

Once the belt is on all the pulleys, you have to make sure it is lined up properly before you start the engine. Some of the pulleys are grooved and they match up to grooves on the belt. I just ran my hand over each grooved pulley to make sure the belt was centered on each one. Depending on the length and beefiness of your arms you may have to do some of this checking from underneath. If any aren’t quite lined up, you could use your wrench on the tensioner to loosen it off and straighten out the belt.

Once they are all straight, you should be ready to start the engine and go. If you are replacing the belt because it broke or got thrown off while you were driving, and your van overheated before you got it off the road, it would be a good idea to let it cool off and to check your coolant before proceeding.

Categories: Editorial Tags:

What TV Should Be

2008-07-21 1 comment

Thanks Joss Whedon and crew for showing us what TV should be. I always maintain to my friends and acquaintances that the complaints that the RIAA and the MPAA etc. make that piracy is harming their businesses are at least wrong, and at most lies concocted to protect their obsolete business models.

I maintain that some of the reasons for dropping sales of music CDs and DVD movies (besides the studios being creatively bankrupt) are due to the content producers not understanding what customers want in terms of distribution. I really think people (especially younger internet-savvy people) want instant gratification with respect to media. People want to be able to get and watch whatever they want, whenever they want it, and pay a-la-carte for that content. Not all people want to steal media, and many people who habitually download music and video from torrent sites are not motivated so much by wanting to steal things as they are by wanting to control when and where they consume their media. That’s why DVRs are so popular, and why the iTunes store is so successful. When it is easier to get pirated media that suits your media consumption desires than it is to get the legit stuff, people pirate it.

Unfortunately, the braindead idiots in charge of these big media companies try to change the pirate-versus-pay equation only by making legal attacks on people using pirated media. Decreasing piracy is not necessarily a bad goal, but their methods are so hostile that they only succeed in alienating their potential customers. Instead of just focusing on making piracy more difficult, they should be making it easier and cheaper to get legitimate media in the ways that customers want (downloadable in unrestricted formats from the Internet at any time with easy payment options).

Joss Whedon and his crew of creative geniuses have recently released something that if financially successful, makes my point for me. There are no big media companies involved in the production of the content (which often is a sure fire way to screw it up anyhow). They gave themselves permission to simply come up with a fun idea, and make it a reality. They didn’t have to pre-sell it to get it bankrolled, and didn’t have to put up with studio jiggery-pokery in the creative process.

The first line of distribution for Doctor Horrible was for free on the Internet. The producers used modern social networking tools to attract a fan base and create a buzz before the first show aired. They catered to the fan community instead of being hostile to them (an approach that Joss used previously to greenlight a big-screen movie from a failed TV show). They gave us a treat by letting us see the show for free (!!) for a limited time. They are offering it for a very low price on the iTunes music store (the de-facto internet media distribution mechanism available to the largest number of people). While the iTunes store does use DRM for video, which has been repeatedly been proven ineffectual to the point where Apple is shying away from it, the rest of my talking points are met by that distribution mechanism, and realistically, iTunes is pretty much the only game with a large scale customer-friendly digital media store.

Joss and his family/collaborator team speculated that they could make something entertaining outside of the big media establishment, and ventured their own money in a gamble that they could make it pay. The production of Doctor Horrible smashes so many of the problems of broken old-school media creation and distribution that I would be a hypocrite not to support it with my dollars. I’ve paid for it on iTunes, and I will buy the DVD and probably the soundtrack, especially if it will be downloadable on the iTunes store in non-DRM format. I would do so just to make a point, but luckily for me, it’s well worth the price, and is over-the-top entertaining.

Keep it up Joss. Media moguls: Pay attention to what these guys are doing. They are smarter than you.

Categories: Editorial, Neat Geek Stuff
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