Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Here's Johnny!

Hello all,
I know you haven't heard from me in a LOOOONNNNGGGGG time and most people have probably started to stop making visits to the site because I haven't updated it in many months... BUT, I am writing to let you all know.. (whoever is listening) that I will be starting to post again just before Christmas Day! I know you all must be pretty excited...so I'll let you take a moment...

***intermission***

Okay, back? Alright! Seriously though, I will be back to my old posting habits... and I have all this pent up article writing to let out (although, I have done my fair share of writing/reading these past couple of months) I hope that you will enjoy reading my upcoming articles as much as I love bringing them to you.

Take care all.... I'll e-see you all later.. (do you see what I did there... huh-huh... I made an Internet joke... ...yeah, I know it is pretty lame... but it made you smile a little bit... right?)

:S

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Google's Polished New Toy

Just a short little post for today. Google has officially released Chrome (Beta), the first web browser from the Internet Tycoon. It is relatively simplistic, and stylish at the same time. It doesn't really do anything spectacular, but it does get the job done. Lee Matthews over at Download Squad makes some good comments about it.

I don't think Google is trying to corner the browser market with this gem, but they are sticking their nose into the field that has been dominated by Firefox and Internet Explorer. I agree with Matthews in thinking that moderate internet surfers may switch over to Chrome, but I don't see people that are enthusiasts (per-say) switching to Chrome. I guess we'll just have to wait to see what the competition comes up with, and what Google thinks up to 'one-up them.' 

As for right now, Google has entered the ring with the big players, and for the first time in a long time, Google is actually the underdog (but that doesn't mean that they can't create an upset). 

Monday, September 1, 2008

Georgian Cyberattacks Raise Important Questions

I have been following the Georgian conflict, as I am sure many of you have, and aside from the actual physical conflict there has been little attention paid to the cyberattacks that occurred prior to the Russian invasion. Tech analysts have stated that it does not appear to be sponsored by the Russian government even though it originated from somewhere in Russia. It has been pegged as an amateur attack because if Russia had wanted to stop the Georgian government from communicating they would have attacked their radio and television broadcasting capability. Instead, only websites were targeted which makes experts believe the attacks were carried out by 'paramilitary or militia-like organizations.'

While it is unsure whether this attack was sponsored by Russia or was done by independent entities, the fear of far more sophisticated cyberattacks has been heightened. In a recent Reuters article The U.S. Air Force General, Gene Renuart, asked what kind of cyberattack would lead to war:

"Is it degree? If you affect so many millions of people or so many millions of dollars or so many organizations, does that constitute a legal act of war?"

Renuart poses a very interesting question that high-tech countries such as the United States and Canada have to consider. Since most necessities are ran on computer systems, such as power grids, banking systems, air traffic and telecommunications (I have to use Live Free or Die Hard as an example here). But, what wouldconstitute an act of cyber-war? It is not an easy question to answer because it can often be very hard to pinpoint where the attack is originating. An attacker could make it appear that a cyberattack was occurring within one country but actually coming from a totally different one.

Aside from pinpointing the attackers, Renuart's original question is also noteworthy. What amount of damage would be designated as enough to go to war over? It is not an easy question to answer, and if warfare is soon to take to the cyber-battlefield rather than the physical battlefield, it would be important to specify the 'acts of war.' At this point it seems that we are still unsure of how to approach this new type of cyber-warfare, and so I think more attention needs to be paid to cyberattacks such as the one on Georgia. What would be the minimum damage from a cyberattack that you think a country should go to war over?

Source

Sunday, August 31, 2008

Prominent Newfoundland Historian & Personal Influence Passes Away

Dr. Leslie Harris passed away August 26th, 2008. While he may be a relative unknown person to some people, he has greatly influenced my university career. I was not always a history major, as I dabbled in other departments before I settled on history. Reading articles written by Dr. Leslie Harris not only made me want to be able to do that some day, but his writing has also influenced the way I perceive Newfoundland history. Late in my Undergraduate career, in researching for my dissertation, I have used Dr. Harris' articles as a background to my topic. I never knew Dr. Harris personally, but I am sure he was well loved by all that knew him.

Not only has he influenced me, but his legacy at Memorial University of Newfoundland will never be forgotten. He was the head of the History Department, President, and even has a centre within the university named after him.

He will be greatly missed, but will live on through his legacy, and for me, through his articles.

DR. LESLIE HARRIS: October 24th, 1929 - August 26th, 2008
(see his official obituary here)

Inciting Change: Mass Protest Is The Way To Go

What incites political change? Public outrage key issues usually has something to do with it. But, that is usually not enough to cause politicians to flinch over changing their policies. Invisible public outrage, that is, when opposing opinions are held but not voiced, tend not to provoke government officials to do anything. It is only when people with a common goal are united under a cause that they become noticed, and then, and only then can change become a possibility.

On August 30th, 150 000 protesters marched through the streets throughout Mexico. The marchers were protesting the rising number of murders and kidnappings in the country. The main purpose of the march was to force President Felipe Calderon to crackdown on the increasing criminal activity.

It is unsure whether this protest will cause the President to scramble to please the public, but if the South Korean protest over U.S. beef is any indication, then at least SOME action should be taken in Mexico considering the South Korean government was willing to resign over the beef controversy.

In Canada, I hate to say it, but we hardly have any massive protests. For the most part, the only media covered protests we have are when G8 conferences are held here. I think if we had massive protests for a common cause we'd get more out of our governmental officials. If they can physically see with their own eyes that people are 'together' on an issue, they will almost surely have to take some action to alleviate the problem(s).

"Seeing is believing," and that is something we really lack. The only way that politicians make changes is when they are forced into doing so. They were elected by us, and unless we come right out and voice our opinions nothing is going to change. Now, while I am pushing for massive protests as a way to get our voices heard, there are also other avenues to explore. For instance, making petitions, writing to , and etc. The only caution about large protests is that they are best done peacefully. When violence enters the equation, that is when the focus gets taken away from the issues that started the protest and is put on the violent actions.

If Mexicans and South Koreans can unite under a just cause, there is no reason why everyone else cannot. While I state that Canada needs to unite under a common issue, I think the U.S. is in more need of this same sort of objection to their government (ie: the Iraq War, protecting their personal rights, Guantanamo Bay prison rights, overseas foreign policy, the economy, etc.) What do you think?

Thursday, August 28, 2008

The Russian-Georigan Conflict: Behind The Scenes

I have no doubt that most people have heard about the Russian invasion of Georgia. The 'official' reason for the Russian invasion has been said to help South Ossetia (a state that recently split away from Georgia, and which would like to join Russia) repel Georgian forces who invaded to take back control of the area.

The part that has garnered much international attention to be focused on Russia is that even though there has been a ceasefire negotiated between Georiga and Russia, Russian forces are not evacuating Georgian territory, instead they are increasing their presence under the guise of peace-keeping. I think that Russia's official reasons for invading Georgia are a clever excuse. Russia is a semi-major influence on the Asian continent, and what do most powers want to do? They want to retain the equilibrium of power on the continent. It has been this way since even before World War II.

If you carefully take a look at a map of the Middle East you will notice some interesting things.

What I notice when I look at this map is that Iraq and Iran are very close to Georgia. Internationally Iran is now viewed as a loose-canon, to say the least, but even more importantly U.S. controlled Iraq is very close to Georgia. As far back as the days of the British Colonial Empire, major powers have wanted to keep other major powers at a distance (if at all possible). I see this as a possible reason why Russia has decided now to invade Georgia. If Russia controls the Georgian state then they have a buffer between themselves, Iraq and Iran.

Another important aspect to look at is the fact that a major gas-pipeline runs through Georgia. If you take a close look at this map, and then take a look at an excellent article by Michael Economides' on Energy Tribune, you will notice that an important pipeline that runs through Georgia. The scramble for oil is well on its way, and Russia is most certainly not being left behind in the dust.

Although, there can be no definitive answer to the question: Why did Russia invade Georgia? The evidence is leaning towards protection and oil as the incentives. With Russian-U.S. relations at a relative low over the Polish agreement, and Georgia being a 'roadblock' to Russian oil production expansion, it seems very plausible that this invasion was not over nationalism.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Stress Relief

I have just finished the second draft of my major research paper, and now my brain is certifiable mush. To relieve the wear and tear on my brain, I decided to play some mindless-online gaming, but I came across an interesting puzzle game called Fantastic Contraption.

This game lets you build (sometimes crazy looking) machines. These 'contraptions' are used to move the 'pink gamepiece' from the white start zone to the pink finish-area. Some of the beginning levels are easy to finish, while the later ones are very... well... complicated. If you need any encouragement to complete the harder levels or some enlightenment check out youtube. There are various videos of people's creations. Some are fantastic, while others are duds.

Here is my favourite contraption on Youtube:



So stop what you are doing for a little while, and build your own crazy contraption. Who cares if it works, it's just for fun. I've built some interesting machines that have went nowhere, but it made me laugh just looking at it.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

How Would You Like Your News? Filtered Or Non-Filtered?

I've been pretty interested in oil prices recently and the way oil refining companies have been charging whatever they want for gasoline, but when I came across a story about an abundance of oil in Iraq I was intrigued. I found the article on Forbes.com, but I noticed that it had originally been reported by Reuters. So, with my ever-curious spirit, I looked up the article over on Reuters.com and found something interesting.


The article on Forbes reads like this:



The Reuters article reads like this:


What you will find in comparing the two articles is that the Forbes article takes some creative licensing, and cuts out the last section of the original article. In the last part of the Reuters' article an oil deal with China is discussed, and then it states:

Foreign oil companies are keen to get access to Iraq's vast and largely untapped oil reserves, but high world prices are allowing Baghdad to drive a hard bargain.


It is almost as if the Forbes article purposely leaves this fact out of the supposed reprint of the article. Why would this information be left out? What agenda is Forbes trying to push? Personally, I do not think it was a mistake, and my gut instinct tells me that Forbes doesn't want the fact that a deal with China is being made and the fact that the Iraqi oversupply will give Iraq (and I am thinking most likely the US) an upperhand in the market.

As Seth Godin states, the news is not written to inform the public, it is written to sell newspapers or create controversy. This seems true in this case, as Forbes does not provide the whole truth and the real story is provided through a filter which is imposed on the public.

The point of this story is not to defame Forbes, but to warn people about sources of information. You must always be critical of where you get your facts. There is always some sort of filter which is imposed on information, and it is imperative that the person knows how to pick out what is relevant and what is not (Also, more importantly you should be able to pick out if the information is credible, like in the Forbes-Reuters example I mention in this article).

Be Critical. Be Aware. These are two ideas to live by.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Academic Sidenote: Are Female Professors Viewed As Mother Figures?

Yet again there is another good article on CrookTimber entitled 'Herr Professor Daddy? I Didn't Think So,' which raises some interesting questions about how female professors are viewed compared to male professors.

The article states:

First of all, students demand much more emotional work from female professors than they do of male profs. If the women don’t provide it, they are often viewed as cold bitchy profs that don’t care about students. Although I don’t know of any systematic studies of what types of topics students bring up during interactions with professors by gender, I have heard plenty of anecdotal evidence suggesting that female profs get approached much more by students wanting to talk about life issues than male profs.
I would argue that (and so does the first commenter on CrookTimber) that it all depends on the way the prof interacts with their students. If a prof portrays a personality that is more approachable I think that students will be more willing to approach them, despite their gender. I have had female professors that I have found approachable and unapproachable, and I have had male professors that were approachable and unapproachable.

If a professor answers students questions with respectability and offers themselves as a person that can relate to a student, they will be more likely to have students express 'issues' with them. While female profs can be viewed as 'mother-like figures' I believe that male professors can also be viewed in a similar way. Males and females can have personality traits that are very similar, and it is not gender so much as personality that can affect how students relate with professors.

The idea that you cannot mix caring and compassionate traits with academia is, in my opininon, an axiom that is accepted without actually being considered. I think it is just that people are very comfortable with academia being cold and uncaring, but does it really have to be that way? Can there not be a mix of the two? Educational teachers find a way to combine the both of these facets, why can't professors? (I do realize that 12 year olds are not the same as 20 year old university students) but some level of caring and compassion can be incorporated in teaching at a university level.

Update: I never realized when I was posting this article, but I made it seem like Eszter Hargittai, the author of the CrookTimber article, was arguing that female professors were seen as nurturers. Her article argues that women professors are not seen as authority figures. What I should have stated at the beginning of my article is that my posting is a response, not to Eszter's article, but to the debate that rises from the article comments. Thanks again for Eszter bringing it to my attention.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Texas Town Wants To Arm Teachers

A while back in April I wrote an article about the idea of allowing students to carry guns on campus. My personal opinion is that students should not be able to carry guns on campus because I think it will only increase violence on campus, not decrease it.

Well, a small town in Texas has ignored the problems of letting guns into an educational environment. click here for the video.

They are allowing teachers at a local school to be armed. The Superintendent stated that it was to protect students from 'psychopaths' that might enter the town through the highway. He argued that in the grizzly killings that are reported by the media they always start out with: "It was a small town where no one thought anything like this could happen..."

My opinion is that guns never solve violence problems. Did the Superintendent ever think that the story may now read: "local teacher accidentally fires weapon in classroom..." I do not believe in weapons of any kind being allowed in a learning environment, or an environment which is the home to children. The parents of the young people that attend school in this small town have to wonder which is more likely to happen: A psychotic killer entering the school, or an accident with a firearm?

Guns do not negate violence. In this situation you cannot really fight fire with fire. The lives of children are at stake here, it is not like guarding a convenience store in a hard neighbourhood, care must be taken with young people's lives.

Social Inhibitions: Bad or Good?

I remember when being someone that respected others actually meant something. What I mean is that lately, I find that people seem to negate obligations (yes I think it is necessary) to treat people like they would like to be treated.

I don't know if it is the way media influences people, but people in general seem to not care how they treat others, or stop to realize how their actions actually HAVE consequences.

When I was younger, I was told by my parents to always be courteous to others, and treat them like you would want to be treated. This stuck with me, and I always showed respect for others. I mean, I open doors for women (it's the way I grew up), and I try not to offend people when I am talking to them. It seems that now, people have grown up without these notions, and they do not respect others. They say what they want, do what they please, and do not consider anything inbetween. What happened here? (insert article on this)

Personally, I just think people think they are being 'cool' or 'try to fit in.' Usually they are influenced by each other, and where do you think this all comes from? I think it comes from the media. Most figures that you see on TV or whatnot do not care about other people's feelings, they say what they want (ie: House from House M.D., and Bam Margera from Jackass). I think it is now becoming commonplace to view these stars as role models, and people growing up think it is right to act this way.

If you think about it, people think they are being very clever when they act without boundaries, but if you think about it, they have already played into mass media. They are acting like they are being influenced to do so. People that show humility and respect others are viewed as 'uncool.' In reality, the people that show respect for others are much more free than those that are mindlessly following trendy-social constructs.

It is time that we really looked at our popular media and realized that it is not just 'there for our entertainment,' because 90% of the time we are either being sold something, or being influenced to act a certain way/view a certain perspective (ie: the blocking of Ralph Nader in the SuperDelegates Open Debate)

Sidenote: While I argue against 'no bounds' interraction between people in this article, that is not to say that I do not think people should speak their opinion. There is a thin line between voicing your opinion and mindlessly harassing another person. When the line is crossed, that in particular, is what my article deals with.

I also would like to say that I do not think violent games/violent movies cause people to act violenting. Accordingly, I do not think that TV stars such as 'House' or 'Bam Margera' directly cause people to act with inhibitions, BUT they give those people, which are easily influenced, an example of how it is beneficial.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Fadel Shana's Tragic Death

There is a memorial to Fadel Shana, the tragically killed Reuters Cameraman, on Facebook.

There is also footage of the tank shell that killed him and eight others here. (warning: the video may contain graphic images)

I also urge people that want to see this sort of killing to end, to visit this site and sign the petition.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Tragic Death of Journalist By Israeli Tank Shell "Was Sound" Decision, Says Israeli Official

A while back in June, I posted an article regarding the tragic death of a Reuter's Journalist in the Gaza Strip by IDF forces. I had also hoped that, even though Fadel Shana's death was an atrocity, it would cause Israeli soldiers to question their "shoot first, inquire later" attitudes. It seems that my positive thinking regarding this story was a little too optimistic.

In a recent article by Reuter's, the tank crew that killed the Journalist and eight other Palestinians from age 12 to 20, were cleared of any wrongdoing. The lawyer for the Israeli military dismissed the fact that Shana had been in the area all day using his camera, he was wearing a vest that said 'PRESS' on it, his van had similar markings, and he had been filming the tank crew for a few minutes at least. Israeli military officials stated that Shana's camera and tripod could not be discerned and were thought to be a mortar, anti-tank missile, or camera. They also could not identify that he was 'Press,' and said that the vest he was wearing were commonly used by Palestinian rebels.

I think that the tank crew's actions were deplorable and inexcusable. Using this tank crew's response as an example (since they did nothing wrong according to the Israeli military) the use of any camera equipment in Gaza, to me at least, seems to be lethal. If IDF forces cannot correctly identify a camera from a missile launcher, what is to say this will not happen again? I think Journalist's in conflict zones should be able to have more protection than what Shana was shown.

Joel Campagna, of the Committee to Protect Journalists, stated:
It's difficult to believe ... that the IDF took the necessary precautions to avoid causing harm to civilians -- as it is obliged to do under international law
I tend to agree with Campagna. If IDF forces were really concerned about the lives of people in Gaza, or Journalists, I think they would have shown a little more precaution. There is no place for trigger-happy soldiers in conflicts which concern combatants and civilians. There is no justification for Shana's death or the death of the eight other Palestinians.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

The Sine-Wave of Society

Has anyone noticed that in fashion (I know, you are probably asking yourself "why is he talking about fashion?" but don't worry I'll get to a point here) trends tend to follow a standard deviation pattern (like a sine-wave)? What I mean is that, for instance, now in 2008 the fashion trend for women is towards skin-tight clothing, skinny jeans, etc. etc. In the eighties and early nineties, clothing was much more loose fitting and baggy (Grungy).

The interesting point is that before the Grunge-Era, clothing in the seventies was very similar to what it is now. It seems that society follows a pattern in that department, and it is a pattern that shows societies boundaries. Clothing will never come to the point of everyone wearing nothing, and it will never go to the extreme of wearing 10 or more layers of clothing (for sheer heat control purposes).

It seems that society has certain extremes that it will not cross into. Society is limited by factors that we do not even perceive sometimes. Even though we would like to think of ourselves as free to do what we please, we have certain deviations from the norm that we will tolerate, but there is a limit. Beyond our limit are what we would classify as "different," or "unusual." Personally I do not see anything wrong with people that want to be different and act outside the norm, but others find it necessary to classify these people as "weird," and what-not.

For instance, a person that refuses to wear any clothing are called Nudists. They are beyond the cultural/societal norm, and are deemed as outside the realm of acceptability by society as a whole. That is not to say that some people are perfectly okay with them, but that in popular culture, and media they are portrayed as outcasts. The same can be said for people that dress in Gothic-style clothing.

But why are there limits to what is acceptable? We live in a free democratic world where everyone should be free to do what they want, without harming others, but we have these restrictions. Some imposed by laws (such as being nude in public), but others are just reinforced by our perceived notions (such as discriminating against Gothic people). It is definitely an interesting question that should be considered more carefully.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

How Oil Companies Make Record Profits And Get What They Want With Lack Of... Well... Oil!

Warning: May Contain Comments Which Are Unproven and Purely Theoretical.

Oil Companies, Oil Suppliers, Oil Prices... they are all on the minds of almost everyone. Oil is used in every facet of society. The hamburger you just ate, or the T.V. you just bought were connected to oil in some way. Most commodities, foods, and services rely on transportation somewhere within the chain of events in between the creation of something and the consumer receiving it. So, since oil is so important the recent price increases have gotten us common folk (people who aren't heads of Oil Companies) in a frantic panic trying to cope with spending extra money on everything.

In recent news Exxon-Mobil's fourth-quarter profits were a record for the company (and an overall record of profits for any company... ever!). MSNBC states:

Exxon Mobil Corp. posted record profits for any U.S. company on Monday — $10.71 billion for the fourth quarter and $36.13 billion for the year — as the world’s biggest publicly traded oil company benefited from high oil and natural-gas prices and solid demand for refined products.

When I saw these numbers, I was plainly shocked. Personally I thought that due to the lack of oil in the WORLD gas prices had increased to astronomical prices, but according to Exxon-Mobil's Quarter profits that seems to be wrong. If oil reserves are low, and price is high, that makes sense to me because of 'supply and demand.' What doesn't make sense to me is that: if oil is low, to buy the crude oil is expensive, so gasoline prices in turn are expensive, but this should even out so that the company refining the oil should make similar profits to what they made before crude oil was expensive. I think that is very logical thinking.

So why is it that Exxon-Mobil has made the largest profit of any company ever? Well in a New York Times article, Kenneth Cohen, an Exxon Vice President stated:

oil companies needed the profits to search for more oil and gas. He also challenged Congress to open up waters in the Gulf of Mexico and off the Atlantic
and Pacific coasts to drilling, as well as other federal lands where drilling is prohibited.
Well, well Mr. Cohen. Exxon needs the profits to search for more oil, even though they already hold oilfields in the Angola, the United Arab Emirates (which I have already blogged about having an abundant oil supply), Kazakhstan (which, in 2006, had 13 billion barrels of reserve oil), Libya, and Venezuela. These areas are not little fields that are running dry, they are some of the biggest oil producing areas in the world. What is Exxon's goal here?

Let us turn to the second part of Mr. Cohen's statement: opening up the Pacific and Atlantic coasts to drilling. I believe there lies our goal. Exxon-Mobil and other large oil companies have concessions to drill oil all over the world. They are producers and refiners of the world's oil/gasoline supply. So how do you get what you want in the 'Oil' world? You tell everyone there is a shortage, jack up the prices, and then tell governments you need to drill in new areas. That way you gain more profits, because you have your original oilfields, and new ones. Governments are worried about shortages, because oil runs everything, so they give in to demands. Thus, the profits that Exxon has recently published will be a sign of things to come if the oil companies get their own way.

There is one thing I just don't believe in business and that is when one group controls demand and supply, to me that just isn't playing by the rules.

Saturday, August 2, 2008

Mystery Makes The Movie: The Dark Knight Review

Now that The Dark Knight is a few weeks old and most critics have either called it a masterpiece or garbage, I think it is a good time to review the movie again. The movie has had time to saturate into the minds of the public, and most people have already seen it, so how did the movie do?

The Guardian reports that the Dark Knight (DK) may overtake 'The Titanic' (which grossed 600 million) but that is probably unlikely (but not totally dismissible). Right now DK is set to gross 380 million dollars by the time it leaves theatres, which would place it smack-dab in the top ten movies of all time. But why is it such a popular movie?

The first Christopher Nolan adaptation of the Batman franchise, Batman Begins, was a fairly good movie but the story was similar to a teaser. It introduced the 'new' Batman and we got to see how Batman became... Batman. The villains were rather shallow, although they were portrayed rather well, but they lacked something the audience could latch onto. DK changed all this.

What makes people want to see The Dark Knight one, two and even three times? What makes it so successful? I will tell you what I think it is. DK shows a developed Batman character. We know his parameters, and what he is all about. We know that he doesn't kill villains because he believes in justice. We think we know that the villain is someone who is trying to accomplish some greater goal (like obtaining money, revenge, etc.). We know that the good guy is going to win, and the bad guy is going to lose.

What DK does is turn those notions on their head. The Joker is the epitome of the arch-villain. He is not trying to rob a bank, he is not trying to seek revenge, he is not trying to kill Batman, he just purely wants to create chaos and destruction. He wants to kill for the sake of killing, and expose the worst in people. What makes this movie so good is the fact that Batman has to fight a villain that is simple, yet complex at the same time. He is simple in the fact that all he wants to do is cause mindless destruction and chaos. He is complex in the fact that we know almost nothing about him, and he must be above-average intelligent to think of the plans he does.

The Joker creates an air of mystery, which also makes the movie great. When he kills someone in the movie you don't see it. It may happen in an instant (like with the pencil), or happen off-camera. His life is also a mystery because we know nothing about how he became to be so evil, why he has those scars, and who is real identity is. In one scene he edges on a cop to attack him while in the interrogation room, where he is lying on the floor after being beat up by Batman. In the next scene he comes out of the room with a knife to the cop's throat and we do not know how he overpowered the policeman. Things like this make the movie so addictive. It is just like in older black and white films where the scariest things were left up the imagination. That is what the Joker is in this movie, a ghost, he is there... but not really. He is almost pure evil.

It is Batman who must face this pure evil. All the Joker needs is gasoline and dynamite and he can cause the city to crumble (or so he believes). While the city of Gotham stands after the onslaught by the Joker, we find that Batman has been reduced to the scapegoat of the city's problems. Batman becomes the pinnacle of good because he does what is needed of him, and that is whatever is needed to save the city, even if he is turned into the villian. This movie incorporates all the aspects that make a good story:

We have a perfect antagonist (The Joker)
The Symbol of Good (Batman)
The Fallen Hero (Harvey Dent/Two-Face)

While many critics have said the movie had too many explosions, and jumps from idea to idea, I believe those critics do not see the bigger picture. The movie needs to do those things. The Joker, the main villain, cannot be summed up in a single sentence. Batman tosses between the choice between doing the right thing, and doing what he wants. The movie is so disjointed because the storyline is. What I mean is that the destruction is needed because that is what the Joker is. The fragmentation is needed because that is the crux of the story, choosing the right path to take. These decisions are never easy and it is revealed through the layout of the movie.

Personally, I think Heath Ledger played the Joker to perfection. He took the main concept of the Joker's character, twisted it, and made it his own. The voice was perfect, the mannerisms were perfect, and the facial expressions were spot-on. Chrisitan Bale was also very good in his role, as he was in the first movie. The movie does not disappoint.

The only question I have for the critics of this movie (those whom say The Dark Knight failed to be a good movie) is 'Why So Serious?'

Monday, July 28, 2008

Sentence Fragments Are Not Names

Haven't been.... I am starting to resemble a broken record when I say "Haven't been around for a while," so I decided to scratch that intro. I will just cut to the article I am wrote:

"Fish and Chips" and "Number 16 Bus Shelter," what would you call these? sentence fragments? Things? Objects? If you guessed any of those answers you would be dead wrong, because they are names for children chosen by parents! I'll let that sink in... ... ... Yes, that's right, the names of children.

In a recent Yahoo news story, the use of absurd and ridiculous names for children has angered a New Zealand judge to take action. Judge Rob Murfitt, of family court in New Zealand, renamed a young girl who had been given the name Talula Does The Hula From Hawaii (No word of a lie, that was her real name). She has been renamed, but the court is keeping her new name confidential to protect her privacy.

The court is profoundly concerned about the very poor judgment which this child's parents have shown in choosing this name. It makes a fool of the child and sets her up with a social disability and handicap, unnecessarily.

Personally, I do not understand what could be going through the minds of the parents who agreed to name their child this-I-won't-even-repeat-it-because-it's-so-ridiculous name. Some people just do not seem to have the sense to raise children. I believe that these two parents fall into this category. I cannot understand how they would think that this name would be a suitable name to give to someone. Were they high on drugs? People like this do not deserve to have children.

No parent in their right mind would cause greater burden to be placed on their own children by giving bullies and such an easy target. On the other hand, I also would like to know if Talula, and the other children, had their names registered on birth certificates. If they did, I think it should be illegal to name someone in such a way. I am all for open expression, but in the case of a child's name, since they have no say about what they are called, the parents should show some restraint in 'expression.'

Some of the names in the Yahoo story and just plain pitiful. 'Sex Fruit,' is an actual name given to a child. If a parent could not comprehend that this name would provide a hard life for their child, then they do not deserve to have a child. If they debated between "David, Peter, and all the other names in the English language" and thought Sex Fruit was the most fitting, then they should have a psychiatric evaluation. Even Gweneth Paltrow's daughter's name, Apple, is a more fitting name than 'Sex Fruit!'

If people are looking for fame and fortune, or looking to get on the Jerry Springer show, at the expense of their child, they really need to re-evaluate their priorities. If they actually thought, at the time, that the name 'Talula does the hula in Hawaii' or 'Fish and Chips,' were proper names then they need a straight jacket. There are too many people out there that find ways to belittle people that have absolutely nothing wrong with them. By giving them a clear target such as a 'unusual' name, the child's life would most likely result in ridicule. In the case of Talula, her lawyer stated:

The girl had been so embarrassed at the name that she had never told her closest
friends what it was. She told people to call her "K" instead

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

19th Century British India = 21st Century American Imperialism?


The recent news concerning Iran, the United States, and Israel is rather alarming. There is talk of an actual war brewing in the Middle East. Iran has been pressured to discontinue nuclear development which it says is for nuclear power plants. The United States on the other hand asserts that Iran is using its scientists to develop nuclear weapons. Within the midst of all this, Iran has 'supposedly' said that it wishes to wipe Israel off the map. With Israel, the wild card country, there is no telling what might happen.

Although I would like to believe that all nations involved in this dispute could come to some agreement, it does not seem like this will happen. With Israel's strike-first-ask-questions-after attitude, and the United States wishes to destroy 'terrorism' around the world, war seems to be on the periphery.

What I find most interesting, being a history major, are the parallels between 19th Century British Imperialist policy and the United States foreign policy at present. I was recently learning about Lord Dalhousie, who was the Governor of India working for the Honorable East India Company (EIC) in the mid-1800s. While he was in power, there were many rulers of smaller states within India which Dalhousie saw as corrupt. He wanted to annex these states, and place them under the governance of the East India Company. The only problem was the EIC had signed agreements with these rulers that the Company would not infringe on their sovereignty. Now Dalhousie had to find a loophole in the agreement that could justify invaded the previously mentioned states.

What Dalhousie schemed was to take over states if, for example the Maharaja of certain state did not leave an heir after he died. Dalhousie would take this window of opportunity and invade the state while the government was in disarray. For example, in the state of Jhansi, the Maharajah was older, but before he died he had adopted a son and married a young woman Laxmibai. When he died he left her in power until his son became of age. Dalhousie saw this as an opportunity and invaded saying he rejected the rule of the widowed wife.

Although this may seem like a history lesson, there is a point to be made. Do you see anything common between the policy of Dalhousie and President Bush's policies in fighting terror? The common element is that both used any excuse they could to invade and (officially or unofficially) annex a state. Dalhouse went on to annex another state called Awadh, while Bush has unofficially annexed Afghanistan and Iraq. Under false pretenses Dalhousie invaded the states of India and took control, while Bush has accomplished similar goals under the guise of the 'war on terror.'

My concern is that if a war is started with Iran, will it be because Iran strikes first? Or because Bush deems it necessary under the axiom of Iran's nuclear weapons program. Only time will tell. Although the cartoon depicted above is from 1898, it mirrors the world that, I think, Bush would like to see (with Iraq, Afghanistan, the Middle East, etc. etc. placed under the watchful eye of the Bald Eagle as well).

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Q: Why Haven't I Been Posting Articles; A: Fatal Error

Hi all,

You may have noticed that I haven't posted anything in a while. Well, recently I was bogged down with work which hampered my ability to take time to write a 'good' article. When I was actually NOT knee deep in paper, I switched my computer on to view a news site and then I saw the most horrible color... BLUE! That's right, I saw the 'The Blue Screen Of Death' for a split second, and then my computer reset itself and wouldn't start Windows XP.

I had never had any problems prior to this with my laptop (aside from the occassional overheating). Now it is gone away from a week or two, and with it my dissertation research!! Soooo.. sadly, I have to do my research all over again, and now I (once again) have limited time to write articles. I have already went over my allotted timelimit in writing this post. Wish me luck folks, I am going to need it during this trying time. I feel as if I have lost a piece of myself (and i think it's the good half : )

UPDATE:

I had to publish the post before I got a chance to post the video I wanted yesterday... so without further adue, I give you one of my favourite songs (I know this may make me seem like a nerd) The Spanish Flea! It is the greatest combination of easy listening and music that can make you smile, if not laugh out loud. Enjoy!

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Obscured Point of View: Being Enveloped in Party Politics

In the highly charged world of party politics tempers flare, and people seem to give into conspiracy theories a little too easily. Although I can understand that when an individual places a party/person on a pedestal they do not want to admit that they are 'flawed.' When a person chooses a political party they follow it almost religiously. Once they throw themselves totally behind a party they have trouble seeing anything outside that system.

For instance, Warner Todd Huston, of the NewsBusters wrote an article recently dealing with the shutting down of anti-Obama sites on Blogger. He states:


Yes, it sure seems that Google has begun to go through its many thousands of blogs to lock out the owners of anti-Obama blogs so that the noObama message is effectively squelched.


This is a blaring statement. So, apparently Google is turning into Fox News? I have a hard time believing that. Let's see what evidence he uses for his accusations. Well the only evidence he gives is a letter from Google to a blogger informing him that his site was going to be reviewed because of being identified as potential spam. Aside from that, he only lists the blogs which have been frozen/shutdown.

From this weak base, he also draws conclusions. He states that it is a big conspiracy concocted by Google to eliminate Obama opposition from the blogging world. He argues:

It turns out that there is an interesting pattern where it concerns the blogs that Google's Blogspot team have summarily locked down on their service. They all belong to the Just Say No Deal coalition, a group of blogs that are standing against the Obama campaign. It seems the largest portion of these blogs are Hillary supporting blogs, too.


Are these the only anti-Obama blogs on Blogger? I have a feeling that there are more blogs out there that are against Obama than just the ones that are a part of the Just Say No Deal coalition. The icing-on-the-cake comes in an update that he posts later. It states:

I have been hesitant to post this update because I cannot find a link to prove the claim, but it is starting to look like this Blogspot shut down of anti-Obama sites occurred because of a concerted effort by Obama supporters.

What they did was go to the Blogspot addresses found on the site of the NoObama coalition called Just Say No Deal and constantly hit the "mark as spam" link so that Google's Blogger would be flooded with spam warnings. This caused Google/Blogger to freeze the sites marked.

Apparently, this campaign merely took advantage of Google/Blogger's flawed system of finding spam blogs. So, it looks like what we have here is an Obama dirty trick to shut down political opposition. Looks like Obmatons aren't much for that whole democracy thing, eh?


So, I am confused. First he states that Google is this big bad entity which is seeking out anti-Obama blogs and destroying them. Now he states that his first suspicion was, well, slightly wrong. Now he argues that 'Obama supporters' flooded Google with spam warnings concerning the blogs in question. For me, that turns the whole article on its head. It is no longer Google that is in the wrong, but some Obama supporters that decided to abuse Google's spam identification system.

The most ludicrous argument he makes is towards the end of his update. Instead of dropping the conspiracy theory, he blames the Obama campaign for the shutdown. He calls it an 'Obama dirty trick' and states that the 'Obamatons aren't much for that whole democracy thing, eh?' Well, that is a blanket statement if I ever did see one. I can almost (I would say 98%) for sure say that the Obama campaign had nothing to do with this incident. It was probably just a group of teenagers (but I do not know for sure). Concerning this incident, you cannot say that all supporters of Obama are against democracy because of the action of a few!

This is a prime example of what happens when people become so enthralled in their political beliefs they are willing to connect the dots in any manner that suits their goals. If they want to portray Obama in a bad light, they will find a way. If they want to portray McCain in a bad light, they will find a way. People need to take a step out from underneath their blanket-of-beliefs and be able to see the situation for what it most likely is. An objective perspective is needed in all incidences (although I know it is hard to do so when the temper is running hot, or anger boils to the surface). In this situation it seems most likely that it is an isolated event. Just a group of people that abused Google's system. It is not a Corporate conspiracy to undermine the Just Say No Deal coalition. It is not a Barack Obama supported attack on anti-Obama sites. There is no conspiracy here if you just look at the facts.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Bitter Sweet Canada Day for Newfoundlanders and Labradorians

Today is a happy and bright celebration for most Canadians, but for Newfoundlanders and Labradorians it comes as bitter-sweet. Although July 1st signifies the day when Canada was born it is also a day when many Newfoundlanders and Labradorians lost their lives.

On July 1, 1916, 801 members of the 1st Newfoundland Regiment fought in
that battle and only 68 answered the roll call the next morning.
This was a horrible tragedy for the then dominon of the British Empire and is remembered every Canada Day. So not only is it a day when Newfoundlanders and Labradorians raise their heads high in admiration of their country, but they also lower their heads in respect of the fallen soldiers who died on this day.

Source

Friday, June 27, 2008

Either You're With U.S. Or Against U.S. - New Canadian Copyright Laws


Grouping of copyright and Supporting PaperworkCopyright Symbol and Supporting Paperwork Printed copyright symbols over registered copyright forms, document frames
GH Wise ©2007

Did you ever wonder why Canada introduced a new Copyright Bill recently even though in the past the public disapproval of a similar bill caused it to be squashed? Well there is a very good article on Canada.com that purports the United States has a hand in getting the maple leaf nation to quickly pass a controversial copyright law.

Michael Geist (the very same Michael Geist that started a Facebook group petitioning against the original changes to the Copyright legislation) argues:

The public campaign was obvious. U.S. Ambassador to Canada David Wilkins
was outspoken on the copyright issue, characterizing Canadian copyright law as
the weakest in the G7 (despite the World Economic Forum ranking it ahead of the
U.S.).

The U.S. Trade Representatives Office (USTR) made Canada a fixture on
its Special 301 Watch list, an annual compilation of countries that the U.S.
believes have sub-standard intellectual property laws. The full list contains
nearly 50 countries accounting for 4.4 billion people, or approximately 70 per
cent of the world's population.

Most prominently, last year U.S. Senators Dianne Feinstein and John
Cornyn, along with California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, escalated the
rhetoric on Canadian movie piracy, leading to legislative reform that took just
three weeks to complete.

The United States seems to really find Canada's copyright laws attrocious. Does the United States need Canada's agreement to provide justification in the international community? Personally, I think it is just that. They have been pressuring Canada to pass harsher laws through 'blackmail politics.' Geist states:

U.S. officials upped the ante at the Security and Prosperity Partnership
meeting in Montebello, Que., last summer. Canadian officials arrived ready to
talk about a series of economic concerns, but were quickly rebuffed by their
U.S. counterparts, who indicated that progress on other issues would depend upon
action on the copyright file.


The U.S. makes Canada out to be the 'bad-guy' in the copyright world, but it seems they just want Canada to become American. They want Canada to be a mirror reflection of America. The thing is, Canada shouldn't be bullied into instituting a bill that the public has already helped squash. I fear that the U.S. is becoming a state where rights are becoming the exception and not the norm.

Now, I do not just blame the U.S. for Bill C-61 because essentially the Canadian government buckled to U.S. pressure. I blame the government as well, because they have become like a kid who gives in to peer pressure to try marajauna, etc. Canadians should be able to stand up for what they feel is the right thing to do, and before this American pressure, Canadians said that they were fine with the way copyright law was practiced north of Canada-US border.

The Canadian government should be able to stand up for itself, and at least state that they will negotiate about the copyright laws. If you think about it, the United States needs Canada's co-operation with the tough copyright laws so that their closest North American 'buddy' is not against them (which looks bad in the international community). Israel, one of the United State's best 'buddies,' is considering relaxed copyright laws, but I bet that the Americans will not question that plan. They would never jeopardize their relationship with their Middle-Eastern best-buddy. They would rather pressure their closest neighbour, a neighbour that they have shared a peaceful border with for many many years.

(Check out the facebook group against Bill C-61)

Monday, June 23, 2008

Dusting Off The Keyboard & Thoughts On Stress

Sorry all for my lack of posting. I have been extremely busy with... well, life! I had to stand at my friends wedding (Congratulations to the both of them, I hope they have a happy life together and the best of luck to them). I have been also trying to study for finals, and write several papers (the life of a student is an arduous one).

All of this brings me to a point I want to make about stress. Stress seems to be the most counterproductive reaction humans have to situations. For instance, we have the fight-or-flight response where our body protects itself from dangerous situations. But, stress seems to be an oddity. When we are under stress, it causes us to have a lowered immune system, our reaction times are 'off,' we are more clumsy, and our thought patterns are disrupted. All this leads to a very irritable person who is going to be rather useless when it comes to being productive.

What is the most interesting part of being stressed is that it comes from us thinking that we are unable to 'get something done,' 'meet people's expectations,' 'nervous about writing a test,' etc. All these moments when we need to be at our peak mental and physical condition is when our body hijacks our functionality.

For me, I used to be a very stressed person. When I was younger I would be so stressed that I thought I was going to get an ulcer in my stomach. I wouldn't be able to eat before tests, or when I played basketball because I would be VERY stressed. However, (I don't know when it happened but) at some point in time I just snapped out of it. I wouldn't get stressed about tests, because I thought to myself "what's the point," it just impairs my ability to accomplish what I think I won't. I thought about the logic behind it, and realized that stress is counterproductive in every way. There is no up side to being stressed, it is definitely the most negative response that humans can have to a situation. For instance, I had to read a speech at the wedding and I wasn't nervous at all. If I had to read the exact same speech in my earlier state of mind, I would have most definitely have been stressed and unable to get the words out (Plus, I enjoyed the wedding a lot more because I wasn't stressed and worried about problems).

That's my little spiel on 'stress,' so I hope that it helps some of you out there. Being stressed is never going to help anything. So if you find yourself stressed, just think about how it is adding to the problem rather than helping.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Turkish War on Terror Emphasizes Lack of Rights

Flag of Turkey


In a free society one would expect to be able to hold their own personal opinion (even if it goes against the government) and be able to voice this opinion to whoever will listen. In Turkey this simple concept is illegal and seems to have sparked controversy. Bulent Ersoy, a very popular transsexual singer in Turkey, has been charged with trying to turn the public against the military.

It was in February that she made comments that the Turkish war against the separatist PKK group was not worth the deaths of so many Turkish soldiers. If convicted Ersoy faces up to four years in jail. Hakkan Ozgur, one of the officials that submitted a complaint against Ersoy, explains why she was charged:
"The Turkish military is fighting a war on terror," "I believe making propaganda against this is illegal. It creates doubts in people over whether to go to the military. It sows doubt in the minds of those whose children are already serving."

I find his comments preposterous. Bulent Ersoy's opinion that too many people are dying in a war shouldbe perfectly legal. She has the ability to voice this opinion to a wide audience, and why not use it? Bono, of the band U2, uses his star-status to voice his opinions. the Dixie Chicks have used their popularity to voice opinions against the War in Iraq, and they haven't been charged. I do realize that Turkey is a much different society than North America, but I think these basic rights should be common throughout the world.

I also balk at Ozgur's use of the excuse that Turkey is "fighting a war on terror." It seems that this is a common way to avoid criticism for denying simple rights for people (maybe he is taking some cues from George W. Bush). If someone is doing something that a government doesn't want them to do, it seems the 'war-on-terror-card' gets played. According to BBC, to persuade people from questioning governmental actions in Turkey they cite Article 318 of the penal code - dissuading people from military service. It is also a crime to insult the Turkish nation and its institutions. Personally, I think this is little more than oppression. The ability to question your government seems to me to be very essential to making sure that things are done properly which benefits all.

I applaud Ersoy in her courage to voice an opinion, and question the practices of her government that she finds questionable. Although, her trial can have two effects: It will either create fear to question the government because a high profile person such as Ersoy was charged, or the fact that a high profile person such as Ersoy questioned the government will influence others to do the same. I hope that the second effect takes hold in Turkey. The people have a right (or should have a right) to point out something wrong with the government, military, etc. if they wish. I feel like sending a copy of Voltaire's works to the Turkish government. The voice of the people should be taken into fully consideration when running a country because it should be about the people, for the people.

Source

(cross-posted on The Largest Minority)

Monday, June 16, 2008

Tragic Death of Journalist Has Potential to Bring Humanity Back to Gaza

Photographers


Fadel Shana, a photographic journalist for Reuters, was killed by an Israeli tank shell on April 16th, 2008. He died while reporting in the Gaza Strip, and Israeli forces have stated that they could not discern whether he was a journalist or not. In a recent Reuters article, Shana was said to be:

filming from a tripod in full view of two tanks for several
minutes when one of the tanks fired a shell that exploded above them, showering
them with metal darts known as flechettes. Both wore body armor that carried
"Press" markings, as did the car which they had been driving in the area for
about half an hour. They were about 1.5 km (a mile) from the tanks. Shana's
camera captured the fatal shell being fired.
Not only was Shana killed, but eight adolescents aged 12 to 20 were killed. It is a blaring attrocity, but doesn't seem to be the only case where Israel has fired first and asked questions later. In a botched airstirke, Israeli forces killed 6 people. It just seems to be a recurring theme in Palestinian territory: Israel forces respond to Palestinian activity with a quick military response, and sometimes that response is fatal.


What is peculiar about this incident is the fact that the tank fired into a group of people, where two men were journalists (and might I add, clearly journalists and not hostiles). The Israeli military forces have been known to discourage press coverage inside the Gaza Strip, so could this be their way of sending a warning to other journalists who want to cover the conflict? Or is this just a simple case of a trigger-finger-happy officer? Either way, it is an attrocity and should be investigated to the fullest extent. Will the investigation (if one actually takes place) actually give us an answer into the brutal death of Shana and eight others? Probably not, but I am hoping for the best result.


A spokesperson for Ehud Olmert, Mark Regev, commented on the deadly firing of the shell by stating:

"We have expressed regret and the army is conducting an investigation. It's a
tragedy," "There was no identification that he was a journalist. Had it been
clear he was a journalist, the shell would not have been fired."

This is a rather interesting comment. Apparently, by the statement he makes above, if a person is not recognized as a journalist in the Gaza Strip the military is free to fire on them. Does that make any sense to you? It sure doesn't strike me as very humane. Regev's statement leads me to believe that Israel does not regard the lives of Palestinians in the Gaza Strip as being worth very much. If they are willing to fire tank shells into a group of people that, according to the Reuter's article, weren't doing anything suspicious, I wonder what else they are 'willing' to do?


I am very sorry for the loss of the Shana family, and condolences to the families of those Palestinian adolescents killed that day as well. What I hope comes from these tragic deaths is a change in the way Israel treats people in the Gaza Strip, and hopefully they will actually stop and think before they act. When it comes to people's lives, I think that is at least due.


Source

(I am cross-posting this blog article from The Largest Minority, where I am guest blogging.)

Sunday, June 15, 2008

A Little Bit of Culture

I thought I'd inject a little bit of culture into this blog. I know it's been mainly politics, and me posting about stuff that I find questionable (and end up ranting), but I have a friend that I went to University with who is a published author/writer for a very interesting web-magazine.

His name is Jacob McArthur Mooney and you can check out his book here.

The web-magazine he writes for is called Thieves Jargon, and you can check it out here.

If you want to read a little bit more about Jacob, check out this interview.

Friday, June 13, 2008

The Day of Great Debate is Dead. Or Is It?

I have noticed that debates that form on blogs, news web pages, and forums (for the most part) are not really 'good' discussions. Most of the time people response to articles with pejoratives or 'one-word' replies. For instance on an article that deals with something such as radical Islam (which seems to take on the characteristics of a powder-keg in debates) replies and discussion usually ends up turning into derogatory slurs and anger-driven comments.

When I began to notice this aspect of most conversations that formulate on the internet, I soon became disparaged from contributing. Not that I didn't want to, but because of the sheer lack of 'give and take' between commenters. What I mean is the exchange of ideas and points of view between replies to an article so that a debate or intellectual discussion is created. The end result of such discussions being the enlightment of people from their own specific pov's on other people's points of view.

While in this gloomy state of mind, and thinking that I would never find another internet debate that wasn't full of "OMG that sucks!," "cool," and "I'm right, you're wrong, because I said so," I saw the light at the end of the tunnel. Two or three days ago I visited Crooked Timber, one of my favourite blogs to visit regularly, and contributed to a very interesting post called "To Justify Something Is To Diminish It?" I posted my point of view, and at the time there were some very good replies (I was very impressed by the intellectual discussion that was forming) could there be hope yet for a 'good' debate?

The answer was yes! When I checked out the article today, there were 257 comments. When I posted there were only about 10 or so, and as I read the newer posts the debate did not get worse, it got better. So I would just like to say thank you to all the people that have contributed to the comments section of that posting. You have revived my faith in obtaining good discussion on the internet.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

The Ancient Art of Reading A Book: A Ludicrous Notion, I know


There is a very good article at TheAtlantic.com called 'Is Google Making Us Stupid?'.

It deals with the notion that the Internet and the ability to access so much knowledge on the Internet has changed the way we process information and essentially 'read.' It states that people are more likely to skim-read through page long articles, and jump from web page to web page.

I totally agree with this assertion, but I do believe certain Internet mediums are worse than others. What I mean by this is that the way the content is presented to us has a drastic impact on the way we absorb the information. For instance, if you are reading a web page that has upwards of 20 000 lines of text, it is going to seem never ending to read and assimilate. If you have the same document in a pdf format, where it is broken up into pages that resemble book pages, it will be easier to read and absorb.

I think it has all to do with the human mind. If our mind knows that there is a foreseeable end to something, we are more motivated to finish a page and move on to the next. This gives the impressive of accomplishment, and this occurs from page to page, until you reach the end of the document or book you are reading. On a web page however, the endless stringing of lines of text can cause the illusion of a never ending quest to get to the end. I am sure lots of people look at the scroll bar on the side of the screen and are in awe of how small the scroll tab is on pages with an enormous amount of content.

I think pdf files and similar files types are what we should push for. They provide book-esque readability and break up monolithic texts into manageable quantities.

It is interesting that our push for more digital texts, and the emergence of the Internet has caused paper documents to be viewed as less important. However, the layout and concept of the 'book' as we know it, is the most innovative and pleasing medium which we have at our disposal.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Update: On Me!

Hey all,

I have been given the awesome opportunity to be a guest blogger for The Largest Minority (TLM), and for the next 2 1/2 weeks or so, most of my attention will be diverted to posting there.

I will be posting some articles here, but not as frequently as I have been. Hope you all take a visit over to TLM to read my posts and the great posts by evmonk, John Geraghty, and Manila Ryce.

Happy Blogging to everyone. I leave you with a Beatles song:

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Supply and Demand: When the Suppliers DEMAND More Than What is Warranted

It's the production of ethanol? It's the low supply? It's the war? Some or all of these reasons (or excuses) have been used to surmise why oil prices have increased dramatically in recent times.

In a recent Reuters.com article, Mohammed al-Hamli, the United Arab Emirates(UAE) energy minister, stated that the high oil prices are at ridiculous levels. The minister also said that the United Arab Emirates has spare oil reserves and enough production to help out with the supposed oil shortage.

The article goes on to state:

On Friday, U.S. crude jumped $10.75 to a record close of $138.54 a barrel, capping a two-day surge of more than $16 and stunning analysts who saw little fundamental reason for the spike.

"If you look at prices moving by $10 a day, that doesn't make sense," Hamli said.

"That's crazy."

It is fairly interesting that oil prices jumped so much while analysts saw "little fundamental reason" for the drastic increase. There also seems to be a problem when a government minister describes oil prices as "crazy." Since, as al-Hamli states, there is really no shortage of oil, why is the price of oil so high? One can only assume that it is being inflated by fears or suppliers. Although fear of a oil shortage seems to be plausible, the concept of suppliers artificially boosting their own market seems a lot more realistic, and like insider trading. Yet, there are no governmental agencies really playing hardball with these suppliers.

The oil prices affect the whole world economy, and since prices on the simplest commodities are skyrocketing, the international community should be pressuring for a 'oil-price-break.' Personally, I think oil supplies should be governed by different rules than regular commodities. Since virtually every country uses oil, and there is very few ways to get around using it to power cars, trucks, boats, airplanes, etc., prices should be regulated to an internationally decided level.

We need to start learning how to work together, rather than make the most money. Oil companies and suppliers seem to be only after one thing, and that is making the most money. So it is fairly easy to see that since the prices are increasing without any logical reason, it is only reasonable to look towards the suppliers to find out the problem. If oil supplies were ruled by an international committee, like the UN, I am sure that everyone would get their fair share. The only problem with that idea is that some countries like it the way it is, because they have more oil than others or are making exorbitant amounts of money.

If no one questions the source of the oil then there will be no change. As long as the big oil companies become richer, they will not worry about anything else.

(A good article on the paradoxical increases in oil prices in Europe can be read here)

Saturday, June 7, 2008

Department Store Discrimination: The Sears Incident


Today I want to talk about discrimination, and in particular age discrimination (and no, this is not an article about John McCain). Recently, my girlfriend and I visited a Sears department store in our local mall. We were casually browsing, and looking around at various items when we noticed a woman, that worked in the store, was giving out coupons. There were numerous people shopping around the store, but we were the only twenty-year-olds. She passed out the coupons to three people in front of us, and then as she came closer to us veered off to give out another coupon to an older lady.

At first we didn't think anything of it, as we thought maybe she might have missed us, so we kept browsing. When we were ready to leave the store, we ran into the Sears employee again. This time she came face to face with us, and said "excuse me," and brushed passed us without even so much as stopping. My girlfriend and I were stunned. We thought to ourselves, "there is no way she missed us this time, that was age discrimination!"

This kind of discrimination has occurred to us before. We were at the mall once before looking around a jewelery store at rings, because my girlfriend was interested in a birthstone-ring. While we were there, the lady working there eyed us like we were going to steal something, and never even asked if we needed help. When we finally asked her, she seemed annoyed that we were interrupting her day or something.

We are both in our twenties and we both are customers that shop at the mall often. There is no reason why we should be discriminated against. We were both quite appalled at the Sears incident and the jewelery store poor customer service. We are both mature students, and the fact that someone thought we were not worthy to receive a coupon is a 'slap in the face.' We spend money just like everyone else, and our service should be worth as much as the next person's.

I just wonder how many other people in our age group did not receive coupons that day in Sears? For all the Sears employee knew, we could have been millionaires. People should think before they judge, especially when it comes to picking and choosing who gets good customer service. One thing I will say, is that this incident has put a black mark on the Sears 'brand' for me. It is hard to say if it was just that one employee being discriminating, but that's all it takes to tarnish a name brand.

Have you ever been targeted by age discrimination? I'd love to hear your stories, just leave a comment.




(Sears logo courtesy of www.gougereport.com )

Thursday, June 5, 2008

The Lies Were True: Initial Reasons for Iraq Invasion Were False

Just a quick update about recent news regarding the supposed "facts" which led to the invasion of Iraq by the George W. Bush administration.

In a McClatchy Washington Bureau story, called Senate committee: Bush knew Iraq claims weren't true, the Senate Select Intelligence Committee report on the initial invasion of Iraq finds that there was no intelligence to support President Bush and Vice-President Cheney's assertions that Sudam Hussein was collaborating with Al-Qaeda or had nuclear weapons/weapons of mass destruction.

Chairman John D. Rockefeller IV, D- W. Va. states in the story:

"Before taking the country to war, this administration owed it to the American people to give them a 100 percent accurate picture of the threat we faced. Unfortunately, our Committee has concluded that the administration made significant claims that were not supported by the intelligence."

It is interesting, although not all that surprising, that the Bush administration did not give the whole truth surrounding the Iraqi invasion. They detain prisoners without trial and hold them in secret prisons (such as the one mentioned in The Largest Minority). Their aims in Iraq seem to more than benevolent in nature. Most people had a sense that there was no factual basis behind the invasion of Iraq, but now it is proof.

Some people on the McClatchy webpage have commented that it will change nothing because the people involved are too high to reach, and there are frankly just too many people involved, but that is thinking on a small scale (or narrow minded thinking). If you look at the bigger picture for instance, the fact that people will be more questioning of the goals of their government when they go to war, I think this report is very influential. People need to take heed from the evidence brought forth, and learn from the past.

Knowledge is power, and with power comes great responsibility (yes, I know that sounds like a hybrid of Sir Francis Bacon and Spiderman). People need to use the knowledge that has been giving them and put it to good use. It is not logical to just shrug this off and say, "oh well! That's the government for you." For a change to take place, people need to be cognizant of what is happening around them and look for ways to improve their situations.

(If you want to check out the report by the Senate Select Intelligence Committee, it is available here)

Sunday, June 1, 2008

The Michigan Primary is Secondary: Biases, and Liberty Come First

I just read the CNN Political Ticker for May 31, 2008, which deals with the Michigan primary. The particular issues the article pertains to are two-fold:
  1. The Primary was scheduled ahead of the campaign season
  2. The ballots that people voted on did not contain Barack Obama's name

The decision was made by the Democratic National Committee's Rules and Bylaws Committee, yesterday, that the delegates would be given a half-vote and split between Clinton and Obama, giving Hilary a slight lead (69 pledges-Clinton, 59 pledges-Obama).

Now although this particular article would be a great jump-off point for me to delve into the ups and downs of the Democratic Presidential Candidate Campaign, but I have decided to take a unexpected "left turn" so to speak and talk about something that caught my eye when I finished reading the article.

Near the bottom of the article is a section to post comments. Although the comment section is now closed on the article, there was one comment that was posted. It reads as follows:

"I'm a Clinton supporter and NOT happy with this decision. Hillary should have gotten ALL of Michigan's delegates with ALL the votes! Truth be told, she was the only one that had her name on the ballot in that state! Obama conveniently did not put his name on the ballot, therefore he should get NO DELEGATES from that state! Looks like the DNC is obviously biased in favour of Obama. Pelosi and Dean…we hate you!"

That comment was posted by a semi-anonymous Clinton supporter named John. I found his comment to be of far more interest than the debacle surrounding the Michigan primary because it shows us how people can become so enveloped in a particular cause/belief that they do not see anything else.

What I am talking about is John's comment that "Hillary should have gotten ALL of Michigan's delegates with ALL the votes! Truth be told, she was the only one that had her name on the ballot in that state!" Her name was the only one on the ballot: true. What I do not agree with is the statement that she should have received all the votes. Now, I am an Obama supporter because I believe that he is a better candidate than Hillary Clinton, but that is not why I disagree with John's comment. The truth of the matter is that I agree in fairness and liberty. These two elements were not shown in the Michigan primary.

First of all, Obama's name was not even mentioned on the ballot, so even if people wanted to vote for him they couldn't. Most people do not question authority, such as the government, and so the only choice was the one they voted for, which was Hillary. I am sure that if the tables were turned, and her name had been left off, that John would be upset over that fact and be calling for a split-vote.

People, such as John state that the "DNC is biased toward Obama," but are they really? If the same thing happened to Hillary, I am pretty sure the same scenario would play out. When people are so enthralled with a particular belief or cause they cannot see anything else. For instance, have you ever watched the Discovery channel? Sometimes they have a program that comes on about different microrganisms that live in our homes. There are particular mites that live in our bedsheets and I remember after watching that, I thought I could feel something crawling on me when I got in bed.

What I am trying to say is that, when people start assessing situations (such as the Michigan primary fiasco) they cannot but help to think that: "The DNC is against Hillary." The same thing happens for Obama supporters as well. People become trapped in a particular mindset and find it hard to look at situations from different perspectives.

Now this is not to say that I think the world is perfect, and that there aren't people out there that want to try and influence the way people think (and even vote) because there definitely are. For instance, news media sometimes only portray one side of a story to create drama, or focus on the more controversial side of a story. But, sometimes people become "conspiracy seekers" who will only think that the world is out to get them/their candidate in this circumstance.

When people realize their biases, they can then DO something about them. Only then can there be a change in the way they think, and the way they view the world.

"To know the true reality of yourself, you must be aware not only of your conscious thoughts, but also of your unconscious prejudices, bias and habits" -Anonymous

Thursday, May 29, 2008

The War on Terror: Pick a Terror Threat, Any Terror Threat

In recent news:

Fox News is running a story about recent insights from Homeland Security on who is worse: Al-Qaeda or Hezbollah?

JERUSALEM — Homeland Security chief Michael Chertoff warned Thursday that the radical Islamic group Hezbollah "makes Al Qaeda look like a minor league team," and poses the greatest threat to national security.

source

It is interesting to see that Homeland Security chief Michael Chertoff is stating that Hezbollah is worse than Al-Qaeda. It also strikes me as a more than a slight coincidence that there has been recent talk about Iran being the next potential target of the 'War on Terror,' and then we have this statement released saying that Hezbollah, which has been tied to Iran, is portrayed as worse than the terrorist group the United States has had its target set on for quite some time.

This also begs the question: if Hezbollah is worse than Al-Qaeda, then why did the United States invade Iraq to get rid of Al-Qaeda? Was it really necessary? Or is the difference in the threat of these two groups a really close match?

The Fox News story states:

"The group's primary weapons are believed to consist of an arsenal of Russian- and home-made rockets, as well as arms supplied through Iran, the group's political and spiritual ally."

It seems like Homeland Security is trying to force the issue of starting a war with Iran. The 'War on Terror' appears to take on attributes that fit with the goal of waging war on whatever target the United States wishes to attack next. I am not trying to say that I condone the terrorist activities of Hezbollah or Al-Qaeda, because I am adamantly against all forms of violence. I think it is rather convenient that Hezbollah is all of a sudden MUCH worse than the Al-Qaeda threat.

PS- One bit of information which may also sway how Chertoff portrayed Hezbollah is the fact that he presented this information in Jerusalem, Israel.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Top (Insert Number Here) Lists: Why Are They So Popular?

I am an avid Digg, Delicious, and Reddit reader and I have been looking through those databases for quite some time now. I have noticed a common trend when it comes to popular items that appear on these bookmarking sites. The common element is the presence of lists, and people love them just like Jim Kukral says.


That's right, lists. Most of the popular posts/bookmarked items that garner the most attention are 'top 10 lists,' 'top 100 lists,' etc. etc. To just make sure I wasn't crazy, I took a random trip to Digg for instance and looked at the "Top in All Topics" list on the right side, and noticed that 3 out of 10 of the topics shown were a "top (insert number here) list."



The interesting part is that in the most popular dugg items throughout the year, there are no 'lists' in the top 30 items ranked by number of times they were dugg.


What is so special about lists you might ask? Well, my personal opinion is that people tend to be in a hurry about 90% of the time. Also, by nature most people are lazy (well it's true!), and they don't want to have to read through a long article. Most people want to "cut to the chase," and that's exactly what lists do. For instance, I could write a 20 to 30 page article on the most prominent renaissance painters, OR, I could make a list called "the top 10 renaissance painters of all time." If I was to post these up on the internet, I would bet the second choice would receive more traffic.


Like I have stated, people want to be able to get to the main argument or content without having to read for a few hours or more. Another reason why people love lists, in my opinion, is that humans naturally try to make order out of chaos. We like to fit things in their places (even if there actually is no set place for something). It's like when you were younger and you had those blocks of different shapes (such as a square, triangle, circle) and you had to fit them in the holes that they corresponded. People like lists because it gives them order to something. Be it a list of the top 10 rockstars of all time, or the top 30 shoes ever!


The odd fact is that, we hardly ever remember the top 10 lists in the long run. It is usually the essays, articles and stories that capture our attention that are remembered the most. (Although I warn you I am a little biased towards essays and stories).

Thinking Out Loud: US-Brazil Friendship A Coincidental Relationship

The Wall Street Journal has recently published an article stating that a Brazilian oil company, PetrĂ³leo Brasileiro SA, has just discovered a massive deep-water oil field which may make Brazil one of the top oil-rich countries in the world.

While reading this article I started thinking about how the high prices on oil and lack of oil reserves is creating a great strain on the economy of the United States and the world. However, I thought to myself, "I wonder if the US knew about this beforehand? If so, did they make any political moves to secure oil resources for themselves?"

I cannot say for certain if the U.S. did have advanced knowledge of the Brazilian's looking for the oil, or if they had a good chance of finding such a vast oil field, but I did find that they increased "good" relations with their Brazilian comrades.

On April 30th, 2008, U.S. News posted an article about President Bush's increased relations with Brazil. I know that the U.S. has had some relations with Brazil but it seems as if the relationship was becoming closer during the past couple of months. One part of the article states:

"Numerous foreign policy commentators have expressed surprise that Bush would take such a liking to a left-leaning, career labor leader in the person of Lula. But their friendship has 'reduced suspicions that might have existed...[and] overcome that wariness and replaced it with a certain confidence that we can actually get things done,' says Shannon."

[Shannon is a reference to Thomas Shannon, Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs.]


I also find it strange that President W. Bush, who is always so selective on who he retains good relations with, would befriend the left lying leader of Brazil.

On May 1st, 2008, fibre2fashion.com reported that the Textiles and Clothing Industries of both countries met and signed an agreement to increase cooperation. Prior to this meeting, the United States and Brazil had also met on April 28th, 2007 to increase economic and commercial relations. In the article the Brazilian ambassador to the U.S., Antonio Patriota, states:

"We are at the beginning of a new age of cooperation between our two countries."

It seems that Brazil and the U.S. have become very close buddies. I can only assume that Brazil will be allowing the U.S. to obtain some barrels of oil for a "good" price once production starts. I guess the U.S. might not have to carry out their plan to overthrow Hugo Chavez.

BUT, all in all, this is only a thought from the top of my head. Although I have provided some articles which lean towards depicting U.S. involvement in gaining oil from South America, I have no hard proof. So, for now this is only a free floating hypothesis with no ancor to solid facts (until something happens).