Thursday, June 29, 2006

Canada in the EU

Here's an interesting comparison of Canada and the EU -- on values, culture, economy and politics -- in a thought experiment that speculates on Canada joining the EU. Published in the UK's Guardian, it is also an external perspective on who Canadians are -- and a flattering one at that. I always knew Canada had a lot in common with Europe -- what surprised me however, was our shared obsession with the United States. Is everyone really that obsessed with the US?

Growing the Googleplex

Google has apparently got permission to construct three massive data centres, and two are already nearing completion. According to the New York Times, Google is pretty mum about its plans for the data centres, each as large as a football field, with giant cooling fans rising four stories from the buildings. Google has positioned the data centres strategically -- close to electrical power and dark fibre. Just what Google is up to is a good question. The company has been acquiring large amounts of dark fibre, and recently, it made a massive purchase of IPv6 numbers.

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

U Sank My Carrier!

Check out this post from the War Nerd, aka Gary Brecher, on the Exile. I'm not a war nerd, so I'm definitely not qualified to comment on the assertion made, that "no American [aircraft] carrier would last five minutes in a full-scale naval battle off China." Brecher contends that large navy surface ships would never stand a chance against conventional anti-ship missles, aircraft or small boats -- simply because large ships are slow, can't dodge and just need a big hole punched in them to sink. Regardless of whether you buy the arguments Brecher makes, his writing is damn entertaining -- so a good read.

Guys Are Idiots

... because this is true -- girls don't exist on the internet.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

An Inconvenient Truth

Who's propaganda do you believe? According to the AP, climatologists give Al Gore's An Inconvenient Truth high marks for accurately representing the science of global warming. According to the Republican dominated Senate Committee Majority on the Environment and Public Works however, there are hundreds of other climatologists how think the movie stinks. Yet again, the American government has stepped in to confuse the public in their understanding of critical issues. Who are you going to believe America?

Oh, never mind! [Click here for the movie trailer.]

The Likability Game

BusinessWeek suggests that there are a lot of CEO-types who have recently gone on the "charm offensive" -- and asks, why are CEOs "suddenly so eager to be loved?" It appears that the strutting CEO is so yesterday. Gone is the bravado; the hubris; the boorish behaviour. In is humility; sense of humour; listening; and authenticity. It appears that CEOs now want to be nice guys -- and let's face it, the assholes of yesterday, were mostly men. Why the change?

Well, for starters, they had it coming. They lived like rockstars for a while -- getting paid like them, and behaved like them. That was OK when they were adding shareholder value -- but then the bad ones got worse. They started to steal from the hands that fed them -- and the mouths of those who toiled endlessly to afford them the rockstar status. They made decisions with total disregard for the environment or the societies they operated in. They in effect replaced state-sponsored colonialism of long ago, with business-sponsored colonialism. As the movie, the Corporation puts it, they in effect created a "psychopath" of their business. CEOs could only go on being evil for so long before it backfired.

What's changing now? They sly devils that they are, are on a "charm offensive." Their thinking may not have changed, but they're starting to see the value in being nice guys, even while they continue the psychopathic behaviour in private.

OK, I'm a little cynical. There are those that are genuine -- that actually are turning over a new leaf. Regardless of the motivations however, there are benefits for the environment, society and the businesses that CEOs lead. Doing the right thing does actually pay. Maybe not as much as being a total bastard -- but there's only so long you can get away with being a bastard. Eventually, you run the risk of losing your turn and heading straight to jail. Just ask Enron's Lay.

Related reading:

Source: Harvard Business Review.

Bill Gates Gets Schooled

With the recent announcement by Gates that he will be changing his focus in 2008, you've got to start having more respect for the man. He's easy to vilify -- yes -- he built an empire with a single-minded fixation on his business to the detriment of innovation, leaving behind a trail of corpses belonging to competitors. He amassed billions in personal wealth -- but if he has his way, that will in no way be his legacy. With the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Gates is applying the same tenacity he applied to getting Microsoft to the top of the hill in fighting AIDS and malaria in the third world -- and breathing life into the US education system.

BusinessWeek has a cover article on Gates' efforts on the US education system. There isn't anything new in the effort Gates is placing on the US education system -- what is new however, is the reliance of the public education system on philanthropy. While the total dollars being contributed by private donors is vastly overshadowed by government spend, philanthropy is giving the education system a new lease on life by injecting so much needed energy, leadership and sound business practices. Of special note is effect leadership has on the education system. The education system lacks leadership. There is more government leadership investment in the military than on the education system that is preparing the future of the US. Without leadership, teachers are hardly inspired, and without inspired teachers, what can be expected of students?

What happens in the US, tends to be reflected north of the 49th, to a smaller degree -- although we eventually do catch up. We're a more socialist state, with less public reliance on private donors. Government plays an important role in our education system. Like the US, we also seriously lack leadership in the education system. We can learn a lot from the US -- about what not to do, and what we need to do more of.

Related reading:
The Fraser Institute's research in education in Canada.

Monday, June 26, 2006

Google Page Creator

Another Google Labs application has crawled out of the lab. Google Page Creator is an online tool to create websites without needing to know HTML -- but if you know HTML, all the power to you, and happy editing. It's WYSIWYG, autosaves so you don't lose anything, and allows you to publish your site automatically to http://yourusername.googlepages.com/. Google will host your site free of charge up to 100MB at this time. Check it out, and remember: it is good to love all things Google -- until Google succumb to the dark side, that is.

Sifting SWIFT Data For Terrorists

Not content on trampling on democracy at home, the US counterterrorism campaign has extended the trampling of democracy worldwide. It appears that there is little foreign governments are willing to do to question US practices on their territory. The latest comes from the US analysis of SWIFT data -- international electronic interbank funds transfer -- to look for trends that may point to terrorism funding. Apparently, the US asked for, and was granted access to SWIFT data by the Belgium-based organization.

Now I have no problems with the US sifting through SWIFT data to gleam intelligence on terrorism funding. What I have problem with however, is data belonging to businesses, some of which are outside US jurisdiction, being handed over to the US government. For starters, who says the US has to; should; or will; limit its use of the data to just find terrorists? Isn't there some economic advantage to understanding at such a granular level, who's sending money to whom? I see no need for ever trusting the US government. They do not have the world's interest at heart as they have repeatedly demonstrated. Hell, they don't even have their own citizens interest at heart.

Warren Buffett to Give it all Away

... well, 85% of it anyway. Buffett, the second richest man in the US, has always planned on donating most of his wealth to philanthropy -- but that was after he died. Now, he's decided to slowly give away 85% of his $40+ billion. The lion share of Buffett's wealth will be heading to the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, which Buffett will also join as a trustee.

How cool is that?

Buffy Sainte-Marie

Buffy Sainte-Marie is one of my wife's favourite musicians -- and I've to admit, she's been growing on me -- growing so much that I've got a few of her songs stuck in my head. For those young-uns that may be lacking an education, Buffy was Buffy before vampire hunting became a craze -- and was there when the likes of Janis Joplin, Neil Young, Joni Mitchell and others were going to change the world with their protest songs. Well, the world still needs changing, and they're still writing protest songs.

Buffy Sainte-Marie is Cree, born in the Qu'Appelle valley of Saskatchewan, but grew up in Maine and Massachusetts. She has a Fine Arts PhD, as well as degrees in Oriental Philosophy and teaching. Her prominence came however as a musician. Her lyrics are powerful in their ability to move the spirit -- and are especially noted for paying homage to her native heritage.

The echoes of Buffy's songs still ring true today -- and more than ever, they are relevant in their cry against accepted corruption and abuse of power by our governments.
They got these energy companies that want the land
and they’ve got churches by the dozen who want to guide our hands
and sign Mother Earth over to pollution, war and greed
Get rich... get rich quick.

 My girlfriend Annie Mae talked about uranium
Her head was filled with bullets and her body dumped
The FBI cut off her hands and told us she’d died of exposure
Loo loo loo loo loo
Bury My Heart At Wounded Knee, Coincidence and Likely Stories

He’s a Catholic, a Hindu, an Atheist, a Jain
A Buddhist, and a Baptist and a Jew.
and he knows he shouldn’t kill
and he knows he always will
kill you for me my friend and me for you
Universal Soldier, It's My Way
She's also written some songs that move the heart. Some times, when I hear these, I'm totally unprepared to be moved -- nonetheless, I am.
Darling don't cry
When I leave the USA
If you like I'll take you home
When I go back to Canada
hey ya, hey ya...
Darling Don't Cry, Up Where We Belong

Starwalker he's a friend of mine
You've seen him looking fine
He's a straight talker, he's a Starwalker
Don't drink no wine
Ay way hey o heya
Starwalker, Sweet America

Goodnight
wherever you are sleeping
and I hope that if you dream
you dream of me
Goodnight, Coincidence and Likely Stories

I like Buffy -- my wife loves her. Give her a shot.

Updated: June 26, 2006 Check out a couple of videos of Buffy Sainte-Marie performing: 1970 Live of Universal Soldier; Cripple Creek on Sesame Street.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

dropping knowledge



Here's a thought -- why don't we talk? -- share ideas, perspectives and try to better understand each other, instead of letting the few lead us into wars. It sounds like quite the altruistic goal -- something born in the idealized 1960s, instead of vicious times we seem to be living in today. Or maybe it is the response of those who want a better world and reject a place where suspicion, hate and war rule the day. I'm thinking it's the latter.

Enter dropping knowledge -- an initiative based in Germany, that is out to change the way we perceive the world by having you start with you -- having you question the status quo and refusing the accept the often given, easy answers.
dropping knowledge is a global initiative to turn apathy into activity. By hosting an open conversation on the most pressing issues of our times, we will foster a worldwide exchange of viewpoints, ideas and people-powered solutions. However knowledge is defined, by dropping it freely to others, we all gain wisdom.
The initiative is currently collecting questions from individuals around the world that challenge conventional thinking, inspire conversation and encourage further inquiry. This exercise will culminate in the Table of Free Voices event to be held in Berlin on September 9, 2006. There 100 questions chosen from those submitted, will be posed to 112 inspiring individuals to drop their knowledge in response. The responses will be filmed, and made available in what dropping knowledge calls the Living Library, online.

The initiative is off to a great start. The site that is the public face of dropping knowledge is rich with beautiful multimedia content. This archive thrives under the motto, knowledge is only valuable if it is accessible. It has therefore adopted the Copy Left License scheme -- a derivative of the Creative Commons License -- making all 600 hours of content the initiative is targeting to generate, free for non-commercial use. After the initial asking questions phase, the initiative plans to shift focus and begin facilitating and enabling solutions to the questions.

All this altruism doesn't come cheap of course. The initiative has already raised half its 2006 budget -- and surprisingly, sees corporations as an integral part in realizing its goals. This is surprising, in that most initiatives such these, tend to avoid courting the dollars from corporate sponsors. Not dropping knowledge. They've realized what many eco-warrior types haven't -- the cash and the potential to enact massive change lies with the grasp of corporations -- usually, it's only the sustained motivation that's lacking.

Check out dropping knowledge. If nothing else, do so for some inspiring visuals and thought provoking questions.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

AT&T Owns You

... if you happen to be a customer that is. The San Francisco Chronicle is reporting that AT&T has rewritten it's customer policy to state, while your account information may be personal to you, these records constitute business records that are owned by AT&T. As such, AT&T feels they have the right to do with as they wish.

You may recall that Google made a big stink about serving up details of web surfing habits of US citizens to the government -- while company's like AT&T cooperated fully with the government's request. As well, AT&T was one of the telcos that opened up and shared customer calling information with the NSA, when it was requested without a subpoena.

What the hell is happening in the US? Has privacy been totally lost? Are Americans still free?

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Scientology is not Science

Codebot.org posted an article dissing scientology a few days ago. The cult of scientology followed immediately to bring down the site, citing copyright infringement. The cult claims it's a religion -- so how can it's scriptures be copyrighted? Apparently the law is in collusion with this cult. The entire post can be found in Google's cache, so it's not really gone. Apparently governments can't censor, but cults can. Something is wrong with this world. [Found via reddit.com.]

Updated: June 21, 2006
The Scientology is not Science post that was brought down by the cult of scientology, can be found mirrored here.

Updated: June 26, 2006
Check out Scientology training videos on YouTube ... while you can ... you know this is not going to last.
Updated: July 3, 2006
The Onion has a breaking report on Scientology's competitor, Fictionology. Created by the self-proclaimed messiah, Bud Don Ellroy, Fictionology's tenets are documented in his self-help book, Imaginetics: The New Pipe-Dream of Modern Mental Make-Believe. Fictionology's central belief is that any imaginary construct is valid for worship -- including Santa Claus, his elves, the Tooth Fairy and the Kool-Aid Man
.

111-Megapixel CCD Chip

Imagine a camera with a 111-Megapixel CCD chip. Dalsa, of Waterloo, Ontario, just shipped the CCD chip to the US Naval Observatory, so don't expect one in a camera you can afford anytime soon. You can drool through. The camera will be used for astronomical observations -- or top secret military applications.

Monday, June 19, 2006

Random Sites

  • Plasma Pong -- You know pong. It's classic. In fact, it can still entertain for hours, without the need for 3D FPS of balls. You know fluid dynamics. It's classic. In fact, it can still make physicists and engineers scratch their heads for hours, without the need for quantum and branes. Did you know Plasma Pong however? Imagine a game of pong in a plasma environment, where you can use the paddles to create a vacuum or send shock waves into the playing environment. Now stop imagining, click the link and download the game.
  • Freegan -- This site answers the question that should immediately follow the first encounter with the word, Freegan. What is a Freegan? According to the site: Freegans are people who employ alternative strategies for living based on limited participation in the conventional economy and minimal consumption of resources. Freegans embrace community, generosity, social concern, freedom, cooperation, and sharing in opposition to a society based on materialism, moral apathy, competition, conformity, and greed. Interestingly enough, Freegans have a website and are wired into the information age. Hmmm ... Anyway, a noble goal, except you know what? I don't want to go back to the world they're evangelizing. There is a better way without going to the other extreme.
  • Snipshot -- Is there a use for online image editing? Is this a site looking to be snapped up by Google? Snipshot allows rudimentary image editing online: resize, crop and rotate. You can upload images directly from your computer to edit, or from a site -- then save in multiple formats, including PDF -- or export to Flickr.
  • Videosift -- Looking for online video entertainment? Videosift acts as a community driven video clearinghouse -- putting the most entertaining found on the web in one place, cutting out the mundane homemade crap you have to weed through on most video sites.
  • Scary Kids -- Check out some scary kids from vintage ads.

Sunday, June 18, 2006

Wi-Fight

There is one thing the telcos and cable operators can agree on: as far as broadband Wi-Fi is concerned, if they're not delivering it, no one else should -- especially municipal governments. Problem is, the established players are in no hurry to deliver it. Why should they deliver Wi-Fi service when they've still to reap the rewards of their existing broadband infrastructure deployment? I understand they desire to stop public funding of Wi-Fi infrastructure deployment and curb any new players from gaining a niche in their market. It makes perfect business sense for them. But does it make any sense for the public? Not really. Technology is moving faster than the established players may wish. They're used to milking their investment for decades, but they no longer have decades to play with.

From the public's perspective, regulated broadband Wi-Fi deployment makes perfect sense -- especially if it's done with public dollars. Access to information via the internet is now an essential public right. Everyone should have access to information, as they have access to hydro and water. There should not be an information gap between the rich and poor. A successful, functioning democracy requires information access to be ubiquitous -- and free. This is where the public coffers should be opened to cover the bill. What's remarkable isn't that the established telco and cable giants are having problems with this -- what's remarkable is the extent to which publicly elected officials will sacrifice the public interest to serve their corporate masters or their own financial interests.

CIO magazine's piece on this topic is focused on the United States -- but it's no different here in Canada. Think the CRTC is there to serve the public? The giants in Ontario, Rogers and Bell, have a stranglehold on the public. For a developed economy that counts itself as one of the top in the world for access to technology and social awareness, we're sadly far behind some Asian and European countries in our deployment of broadband for information access. The US continues to move backwards in this respect, and as usual, Canada is never far behind. When will protecting business turf yield to the benefits for the public?

Saturday, June 17, 2006

Clean Living Will Kill You

Our clean living is killing us -- more and more, science is finding that our war against minor ailments, is leaving us defenseless against our own immune systems. Studies in rats have shown that those that live in the wild -- sewers, farms, etc. -- have immune systems that are well tuned to fight more troubling infections, while ignoring minor irritants. Lab rats on the other hand, accustomed to living the clean life, have immune systems that go wild when they encounter minor infections. This view, that our clean living is killing us, subscribes to the hygiene theory, which states that exposure to allergens in the environment early in life, serves to boost our immune system later -- an assertion that has credence when allergy rates of city and rural dwellers are compared.

So what do you do? Live a little dirty. Get a pet or two; houseplants or two; and don't be afraid of going outside -- especially for the little ones.

Related reading:

Friday, June 16, 2006

wikimapia.org

Wikimapia's goal, leveraging Google Maps and the internet community, is to describe the world. Basically the site throws up Google Maps and adds tagging of locations that are interesting with descriptions and searchable keywords. Want to add the features of your neighbourhood? Go for it!



I like to go bike riding in the above area just north of my home.


Update: June 19, 2006
My daughters and I went on a walk yesterday for Father's day in the above park. Click the image below to see some of the photographs I took during the walk.

Barbados on the Water

This is a plug for Barbados on the Water, happening this Friday to Sunday, down at Harbourfront Centre, Toronto.
Treat yourself to the warmth of Barbados at Canada's largest celebration of Barbadian culture. Sample succulent cuisine, groove to the beat of Jazz, Soca and Calypso, and enjoy Barbadian dance, theatre and literary arts.
Consider this little festival as a warm up for the World Routes Summer 2006 Festival that will run through the summer at Harbourfront Centre, starting on July 1st.


Update: June 18, 2006
Well, my wife was at Barbados on the Water on Saturday. We didn't spend too long there. We had lunch under the World Cafe tent, enjoying some chicken and rice from Bimshire Delectables. I took a couple of shots of NEWA warming up, but didn't stay for their show.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

The Science of Desire

What makes us want stuff? For the longest time, most retailers figured that if they sold it, we would come and buy it. However, as most items are being reduced to commodities, retailers and manufacturers are realizing that they need a different tactic. Welcome the new royalty of retailing -- the consumer. As consumers become the key differentiator for businesses, a new breed of workers are being recruited by HR departments. Say, "Hi," to the Ethnographer in the cubicle next to you.

Ehtnographers are social anthropologists that study human interactions in their natural social and cultural environments. In their retailing and manufacturing applications, they basically figure out what you just can't live without, then work with designers and engineers to make the dreams you didn't know you have, come true.

With the help of ethnography, some truly useful products can be created. Yes, it will mean out with some of the old and in with the new -- which is good for the people who specialize in selling you stuff -- but remember, the consumer rules, so this is also all about getting the right stuff to the consumers.

If you work within a retailer or manufacturer, this is all about being innovative to meet the customer wants. It also means a different way of doing product design. It's a softer approach that will require brainstorming and you to probably play with a lot of fluffy stuff. It may also mean field trips to be with the customer. If you happen to be here, it might be difficult for you to grasp that maybe you just don't know what the customer wants and it may be important to actually pay attention to them.

Reference: BusinessWeek's The Science of Desire.

Related reading:

The China Gambit

CIO Magazine has a career focused article on IT leadership in China and the opportunities that exist for western IT leadership types. It's pretty interesting in the IT landscape it paints of China. China is quite different, and for the western folks that make it there, it can be quite exciting. Internal IT departments in China are considered service departments, and not necessarily strategic to the business -- not unlike the view of IT in many established firms in North America. The local supporting infrastructure of third-party companies don't exist -- so bringing in hired guns to help in the short term just ain't going to be easy or cheap. In established Chinese companies, most of which came from state run enterprises, change doesn't come easy. The leadership is used to being in full control, and don't take to change easily -- so forget that upgrade.

Having said that however, it's probably a once-in-a-lifetime chance to play in such a dynamic and evolving economy. Not sure I'd want to deal with all of the pitfalls though. In many cases, China is still a developing country.

US Government Googled

Google has decided to take on the US government -- using its search engine that is. Google's new US Government Search page features Washington, DC weather, and news releases from the military, White House, as well as related news articles from other publications. Notably, the Washington Post is featured on the start page.

When Boomers Cash Out

If you believe all the media hype about the new world the exiting of the boomers will leave behind, you're probably terrified. The boomers will have to be taken care of by fewer younger workers. The boomers will require an increase in taxes to the young. The boomers will retire in hordes and leave industry struggle to cope. The boomers will stay in workplace longer, stealing jobs from the next generation. At this pace, the world will be different when the boomers start retiring. Or it just might be the same -- people working hard to make ends meet -- including the boomers, their children and grandchildren. But that sounds too good -- so why not another doom-and-gloom story.

According to Jeremy J. Siegel, professor of Finance at Wharton School, the world is going to suck big time when the boomers leave the work force in hordes. Today the boomers supposedly have a lot of their wealth tied up in assets -- physical and financial. When they retire, they will need cash to live on -- which means turning their parked cash into liquid funds. Big problem with that is that there are way more boomers than the next generation -- so who will they sell to? Siegel predicts that the value of their assets will plunge as they struggle to sell -- a plunge that will throw a wrench into the economies of the industrialized nations and cause massive social upheaval. Or not. The solution, Siegel suggests, is to sell to foreign interests. Bring the Chinese and Indians in, and sell everything to them. Better yet, since the boomers will then need someone to make them stuff and provide them with services to buy with all that cash they will be flooded with, outsource on massive scales -- sell and outsource entire industries.

Critics have poked a few holes in Siegel's prediction, and I won't go into them here -- for that, read the BusinessWeek article -- however, it makes me wonder, this doom-and-gloom. India and China have large untapped population, but that won't last forever. As they grow wealthy, they will most likely mimic the industrialized nations. Who will take care of their boomers? Will the industrialized nations experience another boom a generation or two from now? Is this a global cycle happening? Or, as the world shrinks, this wobbling of population will ease and reach some sort of equilibrium? Interesting to think where the next 1,000 years will lead us.

Related reading:

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

BNET.com

From the people who created CNET.com, comes BNET.com. The site's focus is business -- hoping to become an information portal for business resources. Everything from articles and lists to full white papers and blogs. Best, it has a search function that will get you relevant information quickly. Check it out if you're an information junkie!

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Random Bits of the Web

  • Supersized Meals -- food gone wild! The blog is not affiliated with the movie Supersize Me, just inspired by it.
  • The Dangers of Bread -- after reading this, I dare you to continue consuming bread! I say we mount a campaign to get the FDA to ban bread! I say we start at the top -- after all, most terrorists are know to break bread together before going off on their killing spree.
  • Songbird -- check out the open source, cross-platform media player with the most. Built using the Firefox engine, this web-media player aims to do what most commercial players can't claim: separate the media from the medium.
  • Sketch Swap -- OK, I don't get it.
  • Splunk -- if you work in IT at a large corporation, you will have to deal with multi-platforms, multiple versions of infrastructure software and huge multi-tier environment. All of those infrastructure components generate logs. When something is broken, how do you know where to look? Splunk aims to solve that problem. It indexes log data live as its being generated, allowing you to search that data just as you would use an internet search engine. It goes a little further than search engines in how the information is presented, but what a useful concept.

Sunday, June 11, 2006

Guantanamo suicides 'acts of war'

Two Saudis and a Yemeni hanged themselves recently at the US Guantanamo detention camp where they were being held as part of the US war on terrorism. I'm not about to start debating the validity of the detention camp -- that's a debate that would go on for far too long -- however, I would like to highlight the American military's response to the suicides. The camp commander is quoted by the BBC as saying that the suicides were "an act of asymmetric warfare waged against us."

Asymmetric Warfare -- this bit of modern military euphemism is lost on me -- so I decided to Google it. Wow -- asymmetric warfare is apparently very widely studied by military types. Wikipedia provides a good introduction, even though it's steeped in military jargon to point where it fails to make much sense -- but that's war for you I suppose. Simply put, asymmetric warfare is all about unconventional warfare that makes it difficult for the opposing force to respond. So, suicide bombers would fall into this category -- but prisoners detainees committing suicide? I guess staging a hunger strike or speaking critically of the president may also fall into this category. Besides, I thought the detainees at Guantanamo Bay were not prisoners of war -- and if that's true, what does that say about their ability to launch an asymmetric war?

It gets more interesting however. Having committed suicide -- either in attempt to raze the US forces, or because they simply couldn't take it anymore -- the US military has suddenly found new respect for the prisoners. Tony Snow has declared that the bodies of the dead men will be treated "humanely and with cultural sensitivity." At this point, am I the only one rolling on the floor in laughter? Humanely is defined as, characterized by kindness, mercy, or compassion. Shouldn't a criteria for humane treatment be having the ability to still draw breath? Maybe this confusion is only me.

Sunday, June 04, 2006

White Men Can't Help It

We all have innate biases, and probably spend a considerable amount of time hiding it, controlling it or just outright trying to squash it. We're probably successful too, and that's only because we're aware that we do have them. How about those that don't know they have them? Worse case scenario: they, or their companies, become the subject of lots of negative publicity and perhaps even lawsuits -- lawsuits that they will most likely lose, as judges and jurors are becoming more aware of innate biases.

BusinessWeek profiles sociologist, William T. Bielby, who has testified in numerous cases in the US -- contending that white men -- the predominant culprits being brought to task in US courts -- just can't help being white men -- and white men can't help but discriminate. Bielby contends in his testimonies that companies "give managers too much discretion and let them rely on too many subjective factors in hiring, promotion, and pay. In that kind of unfettered atmosphere, he says, all people (not just white men) unknowingly revert to stereotypes in making decisions."

While innate biases are very real -- Bielby's critics argue that Bielby himself is biased. His contention that he "just have to leave you to your own devices, and because you are a white male, you will discriminate" is dangerous. Most of us will make decisions that are at least in part subjective -- but for those who are aware of their biases and do something about it, Bielby is entirely wrong in his assessment. He dismisses us all for having biases but refuses to acknowledge that they can be countered.

Related reading:

Cutting-Edge Designers

BusinessWeek has an excellent special report on Cutting-Edge Designers and how they're reshaping the world we experience. The days of mass merchandising is gone, even in the developing world -- and with the focus on customer or individual experience, is coming mass customization. That's raising the bar on what's being hocked to us, and the challenge is being met by businesses of all stripes and sizes. The trend towards mass customization has almost leveled the playing field again. Established businesses don't necessarily have an advantage. Size doesn't necessarily guarantee success. This means that there will be more attention paid to the temperament of consumers, but it also means that businesses will turn up the intensity on selling to us. If your brain isn't already overloaded with the noise, it's about to be.

Everything Superman

Just because ... here are a few Superman sites to whet your appetite. Yes, it's another movie I need to see this summer -- in July probably.

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Of Movies ...

Some movies that I have an interest in this month -- I will not get to them all.
  • X-Men III: The Last Stand -- 'nuff said!
  • No Logo - Brands, Globalization & Resistance -- based on the book of the same title, this movie is playing at the Bloor Cinema on June 29 & 30.
  • Sophie Scholl: The Final Days -- the story of Germany's most famous anti-Nazi heroine, who, as part of the White Rose, was dedicated to the downfall of the Third Reich. The movie plays at the Bloor Cinema from June 25-27.
  • Thank You For Smoking -- playing at the Bloor Cinema from June 23-37.
  • Tsotsi -- a look at life in the ghettos outside of present-day Johannesburg, South Africa, through Tsotsi, a young thug. There is redemption for Tsotsi, and the film won the 2006 Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film. It plays at the Bloor Cinema on June 14 & 16.
  • Why We Fight -- a documentary that explores why America goes to war and the role of the military-industrial complex. This played today at the Bloor Cinema, and I missed it.
  • World Wide Short Film Festival -- runs from June 13-18 in Toronto. I usually go to see Slap 'n' Tickle and Midnight Madness. I have to look at what else is coming to see if I'm interested in anything else.

PirateBay.org Raided

The Swedish darlings of the BitTorrent world took a hit yesterday, when 50 Swedish police officers strolled in and walked off with the entire PirateBay.org server farm. The police are apparently investigating whether PirateBay.org broke any piracy laws. PirateBay.org, while not hosting copyrighted material, is the largest BitTorrent indexing site that keeps track of torrents and maintains the swarms. PirateBay.org gained quite a bit of celebrity status after SuperNova.org went offline -- especially for their continued mocking of the MPAA. Right now however, it's only the MPAA that's laughing.

Update: June 14, 2006
Gotta love the juvenile delinquents. PirateBay has a personal and rude message to the MPAA in their hostname. If you run a traceroute on their domain name, you get the message: hey.mpaa.and.apb.bite.my.shiny.metal.ass.thepiratebay.org.
Update: June 21, 2006
Here's the letter [PDF] from the MPAA's John G. Malcolm to Sweden's State Secretary, on March 17, 2006. It's the letter that preceded the above action.
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