Monday, July 31, 2006

I Am Canadian

As an immigrant, I came to Canada as a young child -- I remember Guyana as a child would, and I have no interest to see the country as an adult. If I went back there today, I would be a tourist. Although I have citizenship and was born in Guyana, I am a Canadian citizen first -- I am Canadian. A short while back, a colleague at work forwarded me a story of a murder in Guyana that may have been politically motivated. The victim was a Canadian citizen that went back to Guyana to take a post as a government minister. He was not a Canadian. He was Guyanese, who simply claimed Canada as a haven while it was too dangerous for him in Guyana. It may be remarkable to some, but I actually had no interest in the story. I read the news report. It was a sad story. But it didn't get my blood boiling. It didn't make me want to go off and fix things there.

Today, there are many who carry the Canadian passport, but are not Canadians. They may be permanent residents or even have citizenship in our great country -- but they are not Canadians. Their hearts are not here. They don't respect our values. They don't attempt to integrate into, accept or respect our society, while expecting the respect to flow to their culture. They support the institution of sharia laws; they raise money to fund al Qaeda, Hezbollah, the IRA and other murderers; they use Canada to escape the draft or as an AWOL destination; they use Canada for citizenship, then run home -- only returning when trouble starts. Worse, they sometimes go to war against Canada -- either plotting to kill us here in our country, or pointing a gun at our soldiers policing conflicts around the world. You know who they are. You know if you're one of them. You're not Canadian.

Canada is a country rich in cultural diversity, and with immigration, it gets richer with every year, with every new immigration that calls it home. Toronto is one of the best examples of Canada. We have unimaginable wealth because of our diversity. Walking the streets of this city, you'd be amazed at the beautiful people -- beautiful shades of skin colour; hair colour and clothes. Just take a walk starting at the bottom of Yonge Street and you'll find yourself a global culinary destination at your feet. Toronto -- Canada -- celebrates its diversity. There are the Celtic and British Isles festivals; African, Asian and Caribbean festivals; and the festivals that celebrate North American cultures. There isn't a part of the world that you can't find here in Toronto. We have the globe here.

Yet what we have here is fragile. Its fragile because of those who don't belong here. I love my country. I want it to remain tolerant of diversity. I want a Jewish boy to be able to marry an Arab girl. I want Chinese girl to date an African boy. I want same-sex couples to have the rights I'm entitled to. I want to be able to choose which part of the world I will dine at this weekend. These things are Canada. Cultures can be celebrated and respected without investing in foreign politics and war. If you're Canadian, you do not go off to Lebanon and Israel to kill each other -- neither do you do it here. You do not face off in those foreign wars against Canadian soldiers who may be sent there. You do not go off to declare war against a nation Canada is not at war with. You remain here, at home, and you voice your opinions; you don't call for the death of others -- because you are Canadian, and these are Canadian values. If you can't live up to that, kindly leave my country and don't return.

This was written after reading The ticket to get back home [1 2 3 4 5] from this weekend's Toronto Star.

Sunday, July 30, 2006

Culture of Puritanism

Ah ... I'm left shaking my head at this one. The San Francisco Chronicle is running a story of one, Melanie Martinez, the host of a PBS late night show for kids, The Good Night Show. The show is apparently television pablum for the proto-adult set -- there to keep them satiated while the maladroit-adult set amble about before falling into their nightly coma. It's all safe for the kiddies. Safe that is, before PBS found out about Martinez past -- a shocking past. Apparently, seven years before, Martinez starred in two 30-seconds satire pieces called Technical Virgin. That collective 1-minute was apparently too much for PBS. So they fired her. She was unfit to host their children's program because she once joked about sex.

According to PBS: "PBS Kids Sprout has determined that the dialogue in this video is inappropriate for her role as a preschool program host and may undermine her character's credibility with our audience." Yeah -- OK.

If you feel like sending PBS a "you're stupid" message, fillout this petition.

Ad*Access

Ad*Access, hosted at Duke University is an excellent repository of advertisements from publications dating between 1911 and 1955. The ads, mostly from American publications, have been split into five categories: Beauty & Hygiene, Transportation, Radio, Television, and World War II. The repository is a great place for those looking for a bit of history in marketing and advertising. It's also a cool collection of old ads.

Saturday, July 29, 2006

Fast Food Environmental Hazzard

Another reason stop eating fast food -- it's killing the environment. Cooking fast foods release volatile organic compounds and fine particulates, including oils, fats, aliphatic hydrocarbons, poly-aromatic hydrocarbons, aromatic amines, aldehydes and elemental carbon -- all of which goes into the atmosphere and contribute to climate change. According to Treehugger, cooking four hamburgers is the equivalent to driving a car for 1,000 miles -- in effect, this makes the combined pollution from fast food joints more dangerous than the output coming from some class of vehicles on the road.

Restaurants in general are also a huge drain on power. They suck an inordinate amount of energy in order to cook, maintain air conditioned eating space and constantly clean. Most restaurants hardly give a thought to controlling their power consumption, let alone the environmental impact of their business. Further, if you think of the waste that they are responsible for, the impact they have on diet -- which impacts the public health and public health spending -- you'd realize just how irresponsible they are as an industry.

Perhaps the restaurant industry is in need of evaluations and regulations of their environment and pubic health impact.

Related reading:

Buying Science

Not content to let facts carry the day, companies with large investments in the fossil fuel industry are buying their science "facts." The facts of global warming come from "alarmists" according to one executive of a utility company. Yes folks, the fact that polar ice continues to melt at increasing rates; that widespread changes in the environment is bringing changes in the native plant and animal species -- harbinger of what will happen to us; that record temperatures have been recorded over the last number of years; that changes to the planet's weather patterns are already being seen; doesn't seem to phase these people. The changes to the environment due to global warming is no longer long term -- it's happening now. The short term thinking seems to be rapidly falling, from years to months now. Denial seems to rule their day. So powerful is the compulsion to deny what is happening, that the power companies are banding together to raise funds for one of the few climate scientists that don't believe global warming is happening. The scientist, Pat Michaels, of the University of Virginia, is selling his soul for more research money to deny the truth.

Friday, July 28, 2006

Humans: Guidelines for Cats

James Huggins' has an excellent post that provides cats with guidelines on how to manage their humans. If you have a cat, you'll get this.

I See Dumb People

Recently, Americans were polled to gauge their pulse on the Iraq war. Two questions revealed how completely ignorant the propaganda machine has made people south of the 49th. When asked if they believe Saddam Hussein had strong links with Al Qaeda, 64% said yes -- 30 % said no. Further, 50% still believe that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction before the US invaded, while 45% don't think they did.

Anyone with at least a simian level of intelligence will know that next to Israel, the Saddam Hussein's Iraq was probably the biggest enemy of the fundamentalist Islam supported by Al Qaeda. Hussein was evil, but he was motivated out of self-interest, and the fundamentalists threatened his authority. That's why he was friends with the US for such a long time -- and was so effectively used to wage a painful war with Iran. This ignorance continues to prove that Americans can't tell the difference between Arab groups. They're all Arabs, they're all terrorists.

To fully understand Iraq's WMD program, one should start by reading the CIA's Comprehensive Report of the Special Advisor to the DCI on Iraq's WMD. It's a 1,000 page report that is pretty comprehensive -- but America is also sustaining a war based on the premise that Iraq possessed WMD. Americans are dying. Billions are being spent. The least the uneducated masses should do is read the introduction sections. That Hussein had WMD aspirations is undeniable. That he was playing a cat-and-mouse game with UN inspectors is also undeniable. However, what does any of that have to do with the American invasion? Absolutely nothing. Unless you believe that Hussein would try and use his developing WMD program against the US. That belief would be far from the truth -- the target would have been his neighbours. In effect, the American invasion of Iraq has neutralized the biggest threat Iran faced in the Middle East. Further, it has given Iran unprecedented influence in the region, especially in Iraq -- and has opened an Iraq that was once closed to Al Qaeda, to the influence of terrorism. All of this on the false premise that Iraq had WMD -- which if they had, was no one's business other than Iran and Israel.

This post was inspired by Rozius' Paul Krugman: Reign of Error post.

Related: for a history lesson on the region, see the Wikipedia post on the Ottoman Empire -- the 700 year empire that ruled much of the Middle East, North Africa, Anatolia and south-eastern Europe.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Why MDG suck

If you live in Southern Ontario, especially Toronto, you must have heard of MDG -- at least in some subconscious part of your mind, you've registered the letters MDG. They take out full page ads in the dailies and weekend newspapers. You can't miss them. Bold letters scream out at you, the value that MDG delivers. I decided to bite yesterday -- and go for one of their machines, mine having died after 8 good years of service.

I never thought of myself as naive, but yesterday proved that I am. According to their ad, I can get their Vision 4000 D/2006 machine for $1077. It's a good deal when you read the spec.
  • INTEL PENTIUM 4 PROCESSOR 3.6 GHZ WITH HT TECHNOLOGY
    FREE UPGRADE TO NEW INTEL DUAL CORE PROCESSOR ($200 VALUE!!!)
  • GENUINE MICROSOFT WINDOWS XP HOME
    FREE UPGRADE TO XP-PRO MEDIA CENTER EDITION 2005
  • Genuine Intel Motherboard, Two DDR SDRAM DIMM sockets, DDR 400 MHz and DDR 333 MHz DIMMs, up to 2 GB of system memory. AwardBIOS for Intel resident in the 4Mbit FWH, Intel High Definition Audio subsystem, Realtek ALC861 audio codec, Eight USB 2.0 ports, Four Serial ATA interfaces, Two parallel ATA IDE interfaces with UDMA 33, ATA-66/100 support. Guaranteed support for the latest hardware and software.
  • 1GB KINGSTON DDR MEMORY -- FREE UPGRADE TO 2GB!
  • 250GB WESTERN DIGITAL 7200 RPM HARD DRIVE -- FREE UPGRADE TO 500GB
  • High Speed DVD Burner -- Make you own movies
  • FREE Canon Multifunction Printer-Copier-Scanner
  • 17" LCD MONITOR -- FREE UPGRADE TO 19" LCD FLAT PANEL MONITOR, 1280X1024 SXGA
  • ATI RADEON X300 256MB PCI EXPRESS
  • 5.1 HIGH DEFINITION 3D PROFESSIONAL AUDIO
  • GENUINE MICROSOFT WIRELESS KEYBOARD & WIRELESS MOUSE
  • COREL WORDPERFECT OFFICE X3 (Open, edit and create Microsoft Office Documents and Spreadsheets. Create stunning multimedia slideshows and presentations. Includes Address Book and Oxford Dictionary)
  • MICROSOFT SOFTWARE BUNDLE (WORD, MONEY, ENCARTA ...)
Well, it sucks to be me. When I sat down with the guy in the store and told him what I wanted, he first asked me how I was going to pay. I told him VISA. He then got serious to try and sell me a computer. I didn't need selling mind you, as the one I wanted was on the paper. Or so I thought. To paraphrase the conversation:
Sales Guy: You have a choice. You can get the 2GB of RAM upgrade on 4 512MB DIMMs at 266 MHz or you can get 1GB on 2 512 DIMMs at 400MHz. You can also get the 500GB disk upgrade on 2 IDE drives, or you can get 250GB on a single SATA drive.
Me: (Thinking WTF ...) I want the machine advertised. So I want the larger drive and the 2GB of RAM. Anyway, how can you offer me 2GB on 4 512 DIMMs when the motherboard specs say there is only two DIMM sockets?
SG: That's (the ad) wrong. Don't worry about that.
Me: Wait a minute. If I take the 2GB or RAM, will I have a motherboard that supports the faster RAM, as advertised? Because I may want to upgrade the RAM later.
SG: No. The motherboard you'll get won't support the faster RAM.
Me: Oh.
SG: But if you take the 1GB of RAM, you will get the faster motherboard, and you'll get a PCI-X slot.
Me: I know I'm getting a PCI-X slot. The ad says I get an ATI PCI-X card.
SG: No. There is no ATI card. The ATI chipset is on the motherboard.
Me: Oh.
SG: So if you take the 1GB RAM and faster motherboard, you'll get a PCI-X slot. If you take the 2GB RAM, you won't get a PCI-X slot.
Me: (At this point, I realized that if I want the upgrade, I'll have to settle for an older motherboard, that wouldn't support the latest hardware as they guaranteed.) Is that RAM on the video card shared?
SG: Of course. All the memory is shared.
Me: No. There is no ATI card is there? And I'm not really getting 1GB or 2GB of RAM. 256 has to go to the video card.
SG: (At this point is visibly frustrated. I'm asking too many questions, and I actually know what I'm talking about.) Yes, the RAM is shared with the video card.
Me: Well, if you look at the ad, you're led to believe that the videocard is not integrated.
SG: (He's now distracted with another clerk. They both speak some Eastern European words before he gets back to me.)
Me: I'm not interested in a computer that you didn't advertise.
SG: (As I don't look like I'm going to buy, he gets up, says OK, and walks away, leaving me sitting at his desk. So I left.)
So I fell for it. It was a lie. MDG just outright advertised a machine with upgrades they weren't giving. At the worst, this is false advertising. At the best, it's misleading. I've heard lots of bad feedback from MDG -- but only about their service. I suppose I should have expected a slow, integrated machine for the price they were advertising at. It looks like MDG goes around buying up old stock and selling old machines. They must make a killing, buying outdated stock on the cheap, and passing it on to consumers. My advice -- stay away from MDG. They're lairs. Just check out their ads for proof.

Uodated: January 6, 2006.
  • I got an email back in December from another experienced, almost-MDG customer by the name of Harry. Here it is quoted.

  • I just read your comments on MDG and have to give you a bit of my expericence with them.
    First let me tell you who and what I am. I am a A+ Certified computer technician. I fix computers for a living and I know what to do with them. Well here is what I have come accross.
    MDG computer sold as a Dual-Core Pentium IV was actually a Centerino mobile Dual-Core. Luckily the paper work / reciepts where bad enough that the client got the chip replaced (Specifically the details of the chip bought was obfuscated from the purchase agreement to the delivery receipt)
    MDG has tig welded boxes closed. -- I've seen this myself. You want it fixed you goto MDG is the logic here apprently.
    MDG as policy GLUES CPUs to MoBos. They would rather replace the mobo/CPU then allow you to upgrade outside of MDG.
    No less then 3 clients have reported that when they took their boxes to be fixed at MDG they where returned with the Ram either GONE or replaced with 256MB Sticks.
    I tell people who think about MDG to Run, they are crooks and dishonest. Who takes a computer to a technician and removes the Memory first. (What MDG Techs claimed in one case)

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Niagara-on-the-Lake

My wife and I were up this past weekend in NOTL with her Aunt. If you don't know the place, it's a worthwhile tourist spot to check out. I'm not really hot on the shops -- but NOTL is known for being a town that loves flowers. Knowing that, I brought along the camera and took some photos. If you've done the Niagara Falls thing and have had your fill of the Vegas style commercialism, NOTL would certainly bring respite. And I think the desserts are better there.



Monday, July 24, 2006

Mapping the Future

Columbia University's Center for Climate Systems Research has produced a map projecting where in the world the future population will be living. Today, there are some 6.5 billion people on the planet -- and although projections have no certainty, it is expected that world population will continue to rise -- despite family size shrinking. Improved health care is expected to continue to give more people longer lifespans -- especially in the developed countries.

By 2025, there may an additional 1.4 billion people in the world, based on medium projections. It's expected that population growth will come to most inhabited areas in the world -- however, there will be areas that will experience population decline. The greatest growth is expected in Asia, while the declines are expected in Eastern Europe. As population increases, there will an increase demand on already constrained natural resources and the environment. One doesn't need much of an imagination to see what the scarcity of water, food and power will lead to. As the world shrinks, the social, political and environmental implications will be enormous.

Related links:

Sunday, July 23, 2006

Cosmic Calendar

What would happen if you could compress the entire existence of the universe down to a single calendar year? What would that year look like? The late Carl Sagan apparently used just such an analogy to explain the universe. The entire 14 billion years of the universe would fill the year with a lot of uninteresting things from a human perspective.

After the Big Bang on day one, it would take three months before the Milky Way is formed. Our solar system with our Sun and Earth wouldn't appear until August. In September, the oldest known life on Earth would appear, but it would take two more months before multi-celluar organisms show up. It wouldn't be until the last half of December that we would see the emergence of complex life, with the dinosaurs appearing on December 24th. On December 29th, the dinosaurs would vanish, and on the morning of December 31st, the first human ancestors would appear. Modern human history would start in the last 10 seconds before the end of the year.

When looked at the cosmic scale, we are brief -- hardly a moment -- with the average human life only lasting 9 seconds. This may make you feel completely small, but it should also make our problems just as small. If you only had 9 seconds on this world, how would you live your life?

Saturday, July 22, 2006

Hezbollah vs. Israel, round x

I'm not an expert on the regional conflicts plaguing the Middle East. I know only generalities. That's going to be enough for me to draw conclusions in this post however. The Middle East is never going to achieve lasting peace. There is just way more hate than love. What was Hezbollah thinking in picking this latest fight with Israel? Hezbollah may not have expected the overreaction, but they must have expected some reaction. Israel has demonstrated through their past actions that if nothing else, they will respond harshly to attacks. An eye for an eye -- or two eyes -- or all the eyes in a village. It's about revenge. It's about showing that the resolve is still there. Israel has accepted that they will kill civilians with their actions. Hezbollah knew this. Regardless of whether they expected a full scale ground invasion. They knew this. With the provocation of Israel, Hezbollah also accepted that there would be civilian casualties.

This is the what grates on me. Israel is willing to accept Arab civilian casualties and deal with the repercussions -- and Hezbollah is willing to have Arabs die to further their agenda. And what's their agenda? Unlike Israel, which seek to have the Jewish state remain alive, Hezbollah's agenda is about power. Yes, I know that there are a number of organizations (Hezbollah included) and states, that profess a strategic goal of ridding the world of a Jewish state -- especially one in their midst -- but really, that's not going to happen. The mistakes of 50-years ago has already been made and can't be undone. The continued conflicts today is about power for a few -- and they are willing to achieve that power by accepting significant loss of life.

Arabs need to recognize this. They need to recognize that they are pawns of the powerful. They are no different than anyone else who have ever been trapped under the powerful. They are worth nothing to the powerful. They will be used. They will be sacrificed. Arabs need to stop being pawns. Stop being pawns to the politically motivated; to the religiously motivated.

Related reading: Updated: July 23, 2006 Updated: July 28, 2006
  • And the madness spreads, as a Pakistani man entered the Jewish Federation building in downtown Seattle, declared, "I'm a Muslim American; I'm angry at Israel," and proceed to open fire with a gun.

Fat, Lazy & Stupid People

Fat, Lazy and Stupid ... let's just say FLS people. What's with them? Before the uproar starts, let me clarify. There are fat people, call them obese if you want, they're still fat, who know they have an unhealthy problem, and probably want to do something about it. Let's extend these people a little cheer. They're trying. It's not easy. The odds are stacked against them (pun intended). Add lazy and stupid to the fat however, and you get a dangerous combination. These people should be driven off the planet.

What's prompting this little venom from me? This WSJ article on the sidewalk SUV. That's the WSJ's term for the motorized scooters that is proliferating cities around the world. At first glance, it's a nice thing to see. Otherwise disabled people can finally gain a little bit of independence. But have you encountered the assholes who get transformed by these scooters to take on the persona of SUV drivers? You know them. They're sidewalk bullies. They hog the sidewalk, pushing their way through crowds with little regard for those they run over. After all, they're on a scooter. It's a big fuck you to pedestrians. Regardless of whether you're disabled or not, if you exhibit this behaviour, you're an asshole.

Yes, I did say regardless of whether you're disabled or not -- that's because motorized scooters are finding a new market. FLS people. Otherwise able-bodied people who hop on the scooters to get around because they're too lazy to walk. They're responsible for more and more of the vehicles making it on to the sidewalk, and I'm suggesting that they're predominantly the ones who have the SUV mentality. They're giving disabled users of these vehicles a bad name. They're pissing off people.

Is Bush Still Too Dumb to Be President?

The LA Times is running an opinion piece by Jonathan Chait. In the article, Chait contends that it isn't just that Bush isn't smart -- the man "disdains intellectuals." In the last election for example, the Democrats refrained from attacking Bush's lack of intelligence, but the Republicans had no problems attacking Kerry's intelligence -- they dismissed his arguments as being too intellectual. Kerry's intelligence was seen was disadvantage. Bush was seen as a regular guy. That dumb, folksy, down-home, country-hick persona of Bush's seem to appeal to the regular Americans. Americans, and I suspect Canadians are no different, seem to prefer dumb people. You can see this in school kids. Being smart is different -- especially when most kids are just plain dumb. It's a phenomena that I can't understand. Society as a whole seems to value stupidity over intelligence.

Don't believe me? Turn on your TV.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

How Google Works

Baseline Magazine has an excellent summary on how Google manages their information technology, suggesting that businesses in general can learn from the Google approach. Google, in case you're not aware, is very secretive of the details of their IT investment and strategy. It is, after all, their bread and butter -- the key differentiator that keeps them one step ahead of Yahoo and Microsoft, in the ability to deliver relevant searches, instantly. Baseline has put together a pretty good story however, based on what little has been publicly released by the company -- and what has made its way out via analysts, former employees and Google's own presentations to academia. Google is apparently more open to academia -- probably because of their roots -- and probably because they recruit a vast number of new employees directly from schools.

We all know of Google's prowess in the search arena -- but what of the technology that Google uses to run their own business? Well, there are a few best of breed applications that Google has purchased -- most notably, they use Oracle's Financials. However, quite the majority of Google's technology is built in-house. Everything from their infrastructure, to the software they use. In fact, the same vast network that Google employs for their search and other ancillary businesses, is leveraged for running their own business. As Douglas Merrill of Google puts it, "We're about not ever accepting that the way something has been done in the past is necessarily the best way to do it today."

Some of Google's technology of note that separates them from pack:
  • Google's Infrastructure -- built from cheap off the shelf PC components, stitched together with velcro and software to operate as one gigantic supercomputer that spans the globe via the internet. Google apparently has the ability to rapidly deploy prefabricated data centres anywhere they own access to fibre. Google's infrastructure is built with the explicit assumption that the components -- entire servers -- will fail. Software makes sure that endusers don't notice.
  • PageRank -- the secret sauce of finding the right information on the internet, that was developed by Larry Page when he was still in school. Stanford apparently holds the patent for PageRank, and will have the ability to license it in 2011. Google has made modifications to PageRank since its initial development -- which is probably a good thing, as Page published his ideas, including the formula, in a paper while at Stanford. The original secret has been out for sometime now.
  • BigFiles and the Google File System (GFS) -- BigFiles was originally developed by Google's founders as a virtual file system to stitch together the storage from all the individual servers to make one giant pool of storage. It has been replaced by GFS, developed by Google Labs. GFS basically makes sure that there is redundancy in Google's system, and manages traffic on the network.
  • Big Table -- Google's own database management system, which stores structured data used by Google's applications.
  • MapReduce -- developed to take the load off developers coding for a distributed architecture. MapReduce takes execution code, breaks it up into chunks and parses it out to processors on the Google network. This allows developers to not worry how their code will execute on the network. It just does. Quickly.
Google's engineering drive was summed up quite nicely in the article in reference to their in-house developed project management system: "instead of making things easier for the computer, Google's approach is to make things easier for the user and make the computer work harder."

What a concept. Does it really have to be that revolutionary? How many systems are you aware of that requires a precise process to leverage it? How many go strange when an enduser does something unexpected -- if it responds at all?

Updated: July 30, 2006
Andrew Whitchcock has an overview of Google's BigTable, from a presentation by Jeff Dean at the University of Washington. Check it out!

Saturday, July 15, 2006

Discrimination of Women in the Sciences

The Washington Post has a fairly interesting article on gender bias in the sciences. It profiles Ben Barres, formerly Barbara Barres, a neurobiologist at Stanford University's Medical Center. Nine years ago, Barres underwent a sex change to become male. Since then, he's enjoyed the privileges of being a male scientist that were not conferred to him when he was female. He recently published an opinion piece in the journal Nature, in which he argues from his personal experience, that women are not treated equal to men in the sciences.
"By far the main difference I have noticed is that people who don't know I am transgendered treat me with much more respect. I can even complete a whole sentence without being interrupted by a man."

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

How Failure Breeds Success

BusinessWeek magazine is currently running a cover article on the power of failure. Back in the day -- not so long ago -- business focus was on operational efficiencies, cost savings and getting customers to buy what was being sold. The day has changed, and with the emergence of the customer as king, the strategic differentiator has changed. The old measures of success, beaten into employees in the Jack Welch school of Six Sigma, are now being complimented by a softer approach -- one that favours a culture of risk taking, learning and innovation.

To have employees embrace this shift however, isn't going to be easy. The instinct is not to step out of line. Risk taking, which leads to learning and innovation comes with failures. Failures lead to pink slips. Hence the conservative approach, which delivers no innovation and rewards mediocrity. To innovate, companies have to learn to manage failures intelligently. First is to create a culture where risk taking is championed. Not an easy task. Experimentation that lead to failure isn't something that is rewarded today. Failure is one thing, but the consequences can be quite harsh. Second, is to manage risks well. Failures should come early and fast. Lastly, is learn from failures. Failures that come early in the development process can lead to quick learnings that could feed an iterative process to innovate. Take risks early, make mistakes, learn from them, then feed the intelligence gained from the failure back into the development process and so on.

This isn't an easy thing to accomplish. The biggest obstacle is culture -- not something that gets changed overnight.

Related reading:

Monday, July 10, 2006

Abeer Qasim Hamza al-Janabi

She was only 14-years-old. Her father (34), mother (43) and sister (6) were all shot in the head first. Abeer was then raped by US soldiers before she was also shot in the head. Leading up to her rape and murder, Abeer was afraid -- she crossed the US checkpoint on a daily basis and had unwanted attention from the soldiers. Her mother had confided in neighbours that she was afraid that the soldiers would come to take her daughter away. No one thought it was possible.

The soldiers are under arrest and may face the death penalty under US laws. US soldiers in Iraq are immune from Iraqi laws. Their deaths wouldn't be sufficient punishment, however.

Abeer is survived by two brothers, 10 & 13, who were not home when their family was murdered.

Read the details in this Reuters report.

Update: July 28, 2006
On a related note, a BBC report has pieced together the story of Atefah Sahaaleh of Iran. She was executed by hanging on August 15, 2004. Her sentence: crimes against chastity -- enforced by Iran's Sharia law. She was 16 years old. She was not married, but was being abused by a 51 year old who was married. He received 95 lashes. Where's the justice? This backward nation is killing its own future in their embrace of the past. This is their jihad.


Updated: July 30, 2006
An update on Abeer Qasim Hamza al-Janabi's story. The Washington Post is carrying a story on Private Steven D. Green, the child's rapist and murderer. Green was interview in February by Andrew Tilghman, who quotes him as follows:
"I came over here because I wanted to kill people. The truth is, it wasn't all I thought it was cracked up to be. I mean, I thought killing somebody would be this life-changing experience. And then I did it, and I was like, 'All right, whatever.' I shot a guy who wouldn't stop when we were out at a traffic checkpoint and it was like nothing," he went on. "Over here, killing people is like squashing an ant. I mean, you kill somebody and it's like 'All right, let's go get some pizza.'"
America should be afraid of this man. If they don't put him away for life, he will be taking to the street to take more lives.

Updated: November 17, 2006
Soldier Describes Genesis of Rape Plan -- James Barker, one of the five soldiers implicated in the rape and murder of Abeer has pleaded guilty, and has been sentenced to life by a military judge. I've read a number of reports relating to the trial for the rape and murder of the 14-year-old Abeer, and in none of them, do them mention her name. She keeps being referred to as the "14-year-old Iraqi girl. After what was done to her, the media could at least afford her memory some recognition. She wasn't just some 14-year-old Iraqi girl. She had a name. She was Abeer, and she shouldn't be forgotten. She's one of the unfortunate victims of this wrong war.

Extra Long Weekend

This past Thursday and Friday, my wife treated me to a mini-vacation for my birthday. It was a trip to Port Hope, about an hour away from Toronto. Thursday was a matinee of Honeymoon for Three -- a comedy of sorts at their Capitol Theatre. The production was, well, longer than it should be, and not as fast it should have been. We stayed at a B&B, which was an interesting treat. The proprietor thought I wasn't "as stupid as I looked" -- which I suppose was his way of extending a warm welcome. My wife wasn't amused.

Port Hope is a little town on Lake Ontario, located at the western fringes of Northumberland County -- most will probably know it as the town that's outside of Coburg. It's home to the Ganaraska river and forest, named after the Iroquois village that was located on the site before the United Empire Loyalists arrived in the late 18th century. The town, like a lot of small towns in Ontario, takes pride in its colonial history. Quite a bit of money, time and effort gets expended in preserving the historic past that belonged to the Europeans that arrived.

It's a nice small town to spend a day or so exploring, going for long walks along the lake, and checking out the folks that call it home. My wife and I had lunch at the Dreamers Cafe and dinner at Los Sorbitos on Thursday -- both of which were pretty good. Los Sorbitos was sandwiched by two long walks -- the first along the lake, where we took a few photographs, and the last in what was probably Port Hope's suburbia. After breakfast at the B&B the following day, we did the driving tour of Port Hope (15-30 minutes), then hightailed it out of town. We ended up at the Northumberland mall -- yawn -- where I picked up a couple of Christmas presents. Afterwards, we went a little further east, and whole lot further north, taking highway 12 up to Lake Huron, then skirting around the lake to head into Barrie. After Barrie, we came home.

Saturday, we did the Toronto Street Festival. I parked at Eglinton, and my wife and I walked all the way down to Dundas. The Street Festival was a disappointment. I seemed to have become an excuse to move plastic chairs and tables into the middle of Yonge Street so beer drinkers can imbibe. I was unimpressed. So, from Dundas, my wife and I continued without taking a breather, down the Harbourfront Centre. The entire walk took us a couple of hours. This weekend at the Harbourfront Centre was the Beats, Breaks & Culture festival. We unfortunately had to listen to Jamie Lidell perform -- he was total excrement. The only act I wanted to see was Konono No. 1, all the way from the Congo. I saw them, and they were good -- but we left early. They seemed to have only one song, and it went on and on. That wasn't what had me out of there however. The audience drove me away. A bunch of white kids flailing around, completely out of sync with the music will do that to me -- especially since then had the urge to stand right in front of the stage and block the audience. Everyone seemed to have wanted to impress upon each other their capacity of ethnic sensitivity. Or maybe I'm just cynical.

Sunday, my wife and I drove down to Afrofest, which took up its temporary residence at Queens Park. We should have gone there on Saturday. There was much to see and enjoy in that little space than what we found at the Street Festival the previous day. There was music, dancing, lots of African crafts and clothing, and some of the best food in the world! I had some hot sauce that simply murdered my mouth. Taste buds packed their bags and just left. The best however was the fried plantain. I grew up eating that stuff, and knew they would have some there. I wasn't disappointed.

Sunday, July 09, 2006

Extremists in the US Military

Who better to send off to war, to represent the United States in bringing war & peace to foreign nationals, than a bunch of white supremacists? Yes, you heard me right. Under pressure to swell the ranks of those being sent to their deaths, the US military has relaxed standards designed to eliminate white supremacists being trained to kill. The worry is that today's white supremacist soldier will come home to be tomorrow's home-grown terrorists.

What is the military doing about the thousands of white supremacists joining? Some commanders take immediate action, but most are not inclined, especially if the losers are going to war. The military is also less inclined to make a big noise about the problem, as that may further alienate the poor black and hispanic kids from joining the forces. The American military was once moving to becoming a force where race wasn't an issue. Not anymore.

Top 5 Myths About America

I love this Craigslist post! I wouldn't exactly put things the way this author does, but I have to agree with her sentiments. The myths she set out to bust:
  1. The US was founded on Christian principles.
  2. US Conservatives tend to be patriotic, ethical Americans; liberals tend to hate America and are immoral.
  3. The US has a liberal media.
  4. The US doesn't need improvement compared to other countries; it is the greatest country in the world.
  5. The US government loves to help other countries.

Left-Wing Commie Propaganda

The Progressive, a commie rag with a long history, has an interview with Venezuela's left-wing commie president, Hugo Chávez. Chávez has an audacious plan -- take over the world, starting with Central and South America -- then move up to North America. Ever since he was elected, Chávez has had this obsession with oil -- like his nemesis -- the defender of democracy; the savior of Christianity; and the protector of all that is innocent and right in the world, George W. Bush. Chávez's plan is to use Venezuela's oil money to bring social justice to his people at the expense of the established social and rich rulers of his country. What has hurt Venezuela's rich has also hurt American conglomerates with oil needles struck deep in the rich, black veins of Venezuela's crude. It has also threatened the power of Bush's allies in the Middle East. Chávez continues to be up to no good.

Now I know we all like to cheer for the underdog, but in this instance, I'm going to have to go with Pat Robertson. If there's anyone in need of a good assassination, it's that little troublemaker in South America.

Updated: July 8, 2006

Saturday, July 08, 2006

Cultures of Corruption

Researchers from the US National Bureau for Economic Research [PDF] have correlated foreign diplomats unpaid parking tickets in New York City with their country's relative corruption. The surprise? None. The more corrupt a country tends to be, the greater the likelihood that it has unpaid parking tickets. According to the paper:
Corruption is believed to be a major factor impeding economic development, but the importance of legal enforcement versus cultural norms in controlling corruption is poorly understood. To disentangle these two factors, we exploit a natural experiment, the stationing of thousands of diplomats from around the world in New York City. Diplomatic immunity means there was essentially zero legal enforcement of diplomatic parking violations, allowing us to examine the role of cultural norms alone. This generates a revealed preference measure of corruption based on real-world behavior for government officials all acting in the same setting. We find tremendous persistence in corruption norms: diplomats from high corruption countries (based on existing survey-based indices) have significantly more parking violations. In a second main result, officials from countries that survey evidence indicates have less favorable popular views of the United States commit significantly more parking violations, providing nonlaboratory evidence on the role that sentiment and affinity play in economic decision-making.
The worst offenders? Kuwait with 246 unpaid parking tickets for each of its 9 diplomats; Egypt with 140 for each its 24 diplomats; Chad with 124 for each its 2 diplomats; Sudan with 119 for each of its 7 diplomats; and Bulgaria with 118 for each of its 6 diplomats. Canada ranks with the best with 0 unpaid parking tickets for each of our 24 diplomats.

Found via the Foreign Policy blog.

Thursday, July 06, 2006

Ken Lay is Dead

Not only has Kenneth Lay left the building (Enron that is) -- the man has left this world. Ken Lay, founder and chief crook of Enron, kicked the bucket yesterday -- dying of a heart attack just over a month after being convicted of fraud and conspiracy that led to the collapse of Enron. In the end, Lay may have gotten off easy. There are still many civil lawsuits pending -- and even though Lay isn't around, his estate (aka his family) will have to bear the burden of defending his empire and legacy.

Sunday, July 02, 2006

Bike Ride

This afternoon I went out bike riding for a bit. The heat was on in the city, but I took the easy way out -- I rode through a trail is sheltered in green. It's a good stretch of wild that has been allowed to survive in Toronto. I started out at Leslie and Steeles, riding through the East Don Park, heading south. The trail runs along the Don River -- and if you follow it, you can make it all the way down to the lake. Last year, I cheated a bit by starting at Sunnybrook Park, and almost made it to the lake. I'm starting to get ready for that trek -- although I may just take the ride from home, instead of cheating. (I'm not sure how I'll come back home yet.)

Today I didn't go too far. I went as far as Leslie and Sheppard, then turned around and came back home. The entire trip, including stops for a drink and a bit of a break at Sheppard, took me 1 hour. By the end of it, my thighs felt like they were going to burst. I'm still a little wobbly after running up the stairs. Guess I should be exercising more to get my stamina back up.

Anyway, the ride -- click on the map to see the larger version -- or go to Google Maps to see the trail. You can't miss it. It's that dark band of green that winds its way north to south. When I got back home, a little movement caught my eye as I was about to head down to the basement parking to stow my bike. I went over to investigate with my camera. It's amazing that in the city, you can still find a little bunny -- in the wild. This one can't be that old. It must have been born this spring or later. Amazing that it's alive, appears to be healthy, and is carrying on as if things are as they should be.

There's probably going to be more and more wildlife coming back to the city. I know I've seen a wolf or coyote a couple of times crossing the road at night. (It had looked scared and confused.) With the movement to green Toronto, things can only get better -- for the wildlife and for us. I've already seen the efforts of the city in many new trees being planted along roads. Toronto is already known for being a very green city -- and we're getting greener. With the increasing temperatures we've been having -- thanks to global warming -- and the smog that make hot days worse -- greening the city couldn't come any sooner.

American Madness

Click on the link to read another story of American madness. A Veteran was sitting having a coffee in a VA facility, wearing a Veterans for Peace t-shirt. He was approached by security and asked to leave or be arrested. Why? He was protesting. You see, sitting quietly, wearing the wrong t-shirt in America constitutes protesting. Suffice it to say, the offending veteran was arrested and charged. He will have his day in court.

That is the freedom he fought for in Vietnam.

Update: July 2, 2006
  • Just a quick update on more insanity. Check out a Media Matters post on the Bush administration's declaration of war on media freedom.
  • Also, Lawrence Lessig writes on a similar topic in Wired Magazine, in his examination of Al Gore's An Inconvenient Truth.
Update: July 3, 2006
  • Different topic, more madness. Read on 27B Stroke 6, Senator Ted Stevens (R-Alaska) explaining how the internet works. This idiot is part of the Senate Commerce Committee -- the committee that will decide if net neutrality remains or not.
  • More madness, as right-wing bloggers decide to hunt down NYT reporters addresses and kids to expose them to potential harm on the internet? Why? Because NYT Travel section reported on the vacation homes of Cheney and Rumsfeld. Apparently, reporting on the vacation homes of politicians can aide terrorists. At least that's what the right believes, so they're out to defend their leaders by harming other Americans. You know what? The terrorists have already won.
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