Saturday, February 28, 2009

Sunrise, Sunset

Boing Boing has a piece up that is just another reminder of my mortality: A young gamer asks what these 'video game arcades' he's heard of were like because of course he's too young to have ever been in one and Cory Doctorow obliges with a little memoir that creates a tactile flashback for me at least.
"I was reading about arcades and how you'd have to queue to play popular games as well as follow rules like no throwing in fighting game or the others wouldn't let you play. This seems rather strange. The money cost must have gotten expensive pretty quickly as well. I'm not old enough to have been to them when they were around so I'm curious about what they were like."

Well, let me tell you Billy, when I was a boy, there was an arcade at the Sheppard Centre, and we would sneak off there at lunch and after school and during spare periods and when we should have been in class. There were older teenagers, 18 or 19, who more or less lived there. One of them sold hash on the side, but mostly they just seemed to be bums. Really, really cool bums. One of them was amazingly good at Gauntlet. He'd play it all day long, spending an hour carefully honing a character to an incredibly buff state, and then he'd sell you his game for a couple bucks (the proto-goldfarmer of suburban Toronto!). We'd all crowd around and shout encouragement. The guy behind the counter, George, in his 20s, treated us like lovable scum, like you see bartenders treating the barflys in a sitcom from the era. We all knew whose initials were on the leaderboards. We were allowed to smoke in the arcade and we smoked like chimneys. All the games had volcano-crater burns from our butts. The worst offense in our universe was to pull the plug during someone's game. That always meant fights.

Geezuz, there are sentient near-adult gamers now who don't remember this stuff. Here in Calgary the last stand alone arcade just closed a few months ago, a dusty little hole in the wall on one of our sleazier downtown strips. For years we wondered how it stayed open as it was usually almost completely empty. Lots of speculation about money laundering. It seems to be a discount Hindi scarfs/fashion outlet now.

Arcade culture rose up and then just as quickly fell in just a few decades. Gaming has gone from a marginally social lifestyle to an almost completely insular one. We didn't even realize it was a subculture until it was over. I guess the only approximation now are those dark little semi-internet cafes almost exclusively patronized by Asian teenagers with game posters covering all the windows.

OK, now I'm sad. I'm going to go find a Joust emulator to download....

Friday, February 27, 2009

Parental Consent Follies

Gov. Sarah Palin on Thursday threw her support behind a controversial bill that would generally require parental consent before girls under age 17 could get an abortion.

Which means that in cases of incest Sarah Palin would give a child's rapist veto power over the child's health choices.

This is the woman remember, who opposes contraception and abortion and as Governer slashed funding to help teenage mothers.

She's opposed to rain and raincoats.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

CMA Rebirth?

After two Canadian Medical Association presidents in a row, Dr Brian Day and Dr Robert Oulette, who are private clinic entrepreneurs promoting healthcare privatization, the CMA's next president may be a fervent defender of public healthcare who opposes any further privatization.
After a succession of pro-privatization heads of the Canadian Medial Association, Ottawa doctor Jeff Turnbull hopes to change things.
"Privatization is not the answer," says Turnbull, one of three doctors vying to be next in line to lead the CMA. Turnbull, chief of staff at Ottawa Hospital, warns that allowing more private care will simply drain the public system of people and resources, leaving it less able to help those who can't afford private care.
"It will be the most vulnerable who will be hurt the most," he says. "It will be two-tier medicine."
The other two candidates in the election would continue the deceptive and counter-productive policy of supporting further encroachment of privatization but as the Globe and Mail reports, Turnbull 'has picked up backing from medical school deans and department heads, the president of Toronto's huge University Health Network, global humanitarian activist James Orbinski, leading researchers and a remarkable number of medical students and residents.'

Not to mention recent events perhaps focusing peoples minds on the drawbacks of the ideology that an unfettered market is the ideal solution to everything...

UPDATE: Turnbull's in. Barring a floor challenge in August he will be the next CMA president. The CMA has regained it's soul.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Dumping Phelps costs Kelloggs

For most guys in their twenties these days a photo of them doing a bong hit is probably just their new Facebook profile pic. For Olympian Michael Phelps it meant humiliation, actual legal danger and lost revenue as his lucrative Kelloggs sponsorship was yanked and his smiling face disappeared from cereal boxes.

But it turns out the cereal makers panicky move may have been a serious miscalculation; who likes to snack on sweet frosted cereals? People with the munchies.
Dumping Phelps Over Bong Rip Damages Kellogg's Brand Reputation
When Kellogg announced it would not renew its endorsement contract with Olympic medalist Michael Phelps after a photo of the athlete smoking pot surfaced, it may have cost the food company its sterling reputation, reports company reputation index Vanno. Out of the 5,600 company reputations Vanno monitors, Kellogg ranked ninth before it booted Phelps. Now it's ranked 83. Not even an industry-wide peanut scare inflicted as much damage on the food company's reputation.
If Kelloggs doesn't want him, Phelps should talk to the makers of Doritos; they probably realize how big a chunk of their market share is dependent on the side effects of cannabis ingestion.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Always a bad idea

I'm a life long Westerner with an outsiders view of the tensions over language, nation and history that central Canadians live with so uneasily.

But maybe that's what allowed me to look at the plans to re-enact the battle of the Plains of Abraham and immediately think 'Isn't this kind of similar to the Protestant Orange men in Ireland marching through Catholic neighborhoods to celebrate their historical victory over them?' The kind of display that increases sectarian tension and ill feeling with predictable results.

I mean, it would piss me off if I was Francophone.

Did some of the nationalists involved ratchet up their indignation and attack this proposal for their own ends? I'm sure they did. Could anyone have guessed they would do exactly that? I think so.

I don't advocate forgetting or ignoring history but that doesn't have to mean needless provocation does it?

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Alan Greenspan backs bank nationalization

For context, this is roughly equivalent to the Pope standing on the Vatican balcony on Palm Sunday, throwing the devil horns and shouting 'Hail Satan, bitches!'
The US government may have to nationalise some banks on a temporary basis to fix the financial system and restore the flow of credit, Alan Greenspan, the former Federal Reserve chairman, has told the Financial Times.
In an interview, Mr Greenspan, who for decades was regarded as the high priest of laisser-faire capitalism, said nationalisation could be the least bad option left for policymakers.
”It may be necessary to temporarily nationalise some banks in order to facilitate a swift and orderly restructuring,” he said. “I understand that once in a hundred years this is what you do.”
On the subject of the stimulus package and bank nationalization, he sounds like Paul Krugman now. Alan Greenspan, Objectivist devotee of Ayn Rand and dedicated free market uber alles believer is so scared about the state of the economy he thinks the Democrat's $ 700 billion plus stimulus package plus the billions in the bank rescue plans probably aren't enough to save the world economy.

This is one of those things that should be scaring the hell out of you.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Calgary: Ground Zero

Always nice to find out after the fact that a chunk of flaming space debris had your name on it for a few hours...

The rocket had blasted off from Kazakhstan on Tuesday and carried materials for the International Space Station. And when it re-entered the Earth's atmosphere, things got a little scary for the province of Alberta.

NORAD called the federal government at 10:15 a.m. on Friday morning to let them know about the falling debris, and by 10:30 a.m. the Alberta Emergency Management Agency (AEMA) had been notified. The time of impact was estimated to be 10:46 a.m.

Colin Lloyd, the AEMA's executive director for planning and operations, said authorities were only seconds from sending out emergency responders.

"The first scenario was extremely serious, if it had come down in the centre of Calgary for example," he told CTV Calgary.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Anglo-French Dick Measuring Contest goes Awry

LONDON (AP) — Nuclear submarines from Britain and France collided deep in the Atlantic Ocean this month, authorities said Monday in the first acknowledgment of a highly unusual accident that one expert called the gravest in nearly two decades.

Officials said the low-speed crash did not damage the vessels' nuclear reactors or missiles or cause radiation to leak. But anti-nuclear groups said it was still a frightening reminder of the risks posed by submarines prowling the oceans powered by radioactive material and bristling with nuclear weapons.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Shoes

I think it would be a very good thing for hundreds better yet thousands of pairs of stinky old shoes to be stacked around the Calgary Telus Convention Center on March 17th to show former US President George Bush the deep respect Canadians feel for him during his visit. Spread the word.

UPDATE: The meme spreads. See Kinchblog, The Unofficial Flames Fan Message Board and Five of Five. Join in!

Bush League Calgary

The incompetent criminal formerly squatting in the White House will be dropping in to Calgary next month for a private luncheon to pick up some of that sweet, sweet speaking engagement coin.

Being the first stop on Bush's lucrative second act career of telling bad jokes to wealthy right wingers snuffling over $1000 plates is an honor I could have done without for my home town.

All the news stories to date about our visit from the former chief chimp have been circumspect about the location of the event. Oh well, they'll probably make attendees check their shoes and super soakers full of cat urine at the door anyway...

UPDATE: The Telus Convention Center, March 17th.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Amnesty International's Balance of Blame

LONDON (Reuters) - Amnesty International said on Tuesday Hamas fighters in the Gaza Strip had carried out killings, torture and abductions of people accused of helping Israel, during and after the recent Israeli offensive. At least two dozen men have been shot dead by Hamas gunmen and scores of others have been shot in the legs, knee-capped or injured in other ways intended to cause permanent disability, the human rights group said.
Others have been severely beaten, tortured or ill-treated, it said in a report.
Most were abducted from their homes and later dumped, dead or injured, in isolated areas, or found in the morgue of one of Gaza's hospitals. Some were shot dead in hospitals where they were receiving treatment for injuries, Amnesty said.

Amnesty also condemned Hamas rocket attacks into southern Israel before the war and the use of civilians as cover by Hamas during it. But expect Israel's apologists to condemn them as one-sided and anti-Israel the next time they condemn any of Israel's crimes anyway. To that crowd the only position that isn't inherently anti-Israel and antisemitic is 'Israel right or wrong', whether its detention without trial, using white phosphorous on civilians or shelling schools full of civilians.

If (When?) Israelis elect a far right government today that includes vicious racist Avigdor Lieberman and his openly fascist Yisrael Beiteinu party, expect the usual anti-Arab crowd at CanWest and their ideological soul mates among the Conservative/Liberal coalition government to still call anyone criticising Lieberman policies like loyalty oaths for Israeli Arabs and ethnic cleansing of Arab villages antisemites for not falling into line with unstinting support for anything Israel does.

UPDATE: The first exit polls suggest a possible squeaker win by Kadima, which does not mean they won't potentially turn to Lieberman to shore up their right flank.

Saturday, February 07, 2009

Toy Commercials: The Good the Bad and Log

First the good. A commercial that brings back that thrill seen while stretched out on the floor on Saturday morning, watching cartoons, getting progressively more buzzed on sugary cereal and toy coveting frenzy:

Then the bad. A commercial that almost leaves one speechless. Suspect and disturbing.

And finally, the peak that all toy commercial makers should judge themselves by and strain to achieve.

Thursday, February 05, 2009

King of the Mountain

A government committed to the idea and objective of denying the legitimacy of any opposition has several major disadvantages.

Since Alberta's PC government has so assiduously eliminated any suggestion of the taint of bipartisanship or even input from Alberta's elected opposition they own everything.

They own everything the government does and doesn't do. They own the strained environment and the crumbling infrastructure. They own the price of oil and their terrified deer in the headlights paralysis in the face of an American White House committed to a green agenda incompatible with the tar sands. Every smouldering stick of political dynamite waiting to go off will belong to this government and this government alone. Being in the political wilderness now is going to be a selling point soon.

Another downside to declining to acknowledge any legitimacy to the political opposition, the Alberta government remains frighteningly clueless about the state of mind outside of their like minded bubble. So the best way they can think to gauge public reaction to any crack brained initiative like attacking public service workers or threatening to cut funding for medical procedures is to have some MP throw it out to one of their friendly small town papers.

Then when the story breaks insist no decisions have been made, if reaction is negative enough deny ever having made such a suggestion.

There are no plans to delist any medical services currently covered by the province, Alberta health minister Ron Liepert said Thursday.

Liepert's comments come after Employment and Immigration Minister Hector Goudreau told people at a speech in Grimshaw, Alta., this week that the government might stop paying for about 30 treatments, including mole removal and chiropractic services.

Speaking to reporters in Calgary, Liepert wouldn't confirm he's cutting anything, saying he is currently doing a routine review of his ministry's budget.

Government by trial balloon is not a sign of a politically mature province.

Seriously

To complaints that the bill is being pushed too swiftly, Obama said, "we're moving quickly not because we want to jam something down people's throats," but because it's necessary to prevent millions more lost jobs.

To worries that the plan will increase the federal deficit, the new president said he found it when he showed up on the job.

To those who say there aren't enough tax cuts, he said it is well balanced between tax relief and new spending.

And to GOP criticism that the stimulus had turned into a spending plan, he replied, "That's the point. Seriously, that's the point."

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Chasing the Douchebag Dollar

In what pestilent boardroom in what circle of hell does it seem like a good idea to advertise a bank by showing whiny yuppie tourists complaining to a peasant campesino about their investments?

Just bafflingly, cluelessly offensive.

Climate scuffle at Boing Boing

Visiting guest blogger Charles Platt has been challenging Boing Boing readers assumptions, for example mounting a stirring defense of Walmart. Overnight he put up several posts highly skeptical of climate change orthodoxy and positively reviewing various skeptic and denier books. Shortly thereafter Boing Boing co-host Cory Doctorow replied with a flood of pieces laying out the extensive evidence and vitae of those who formed the orthodoxy that climate change is real and anthropogenic - human caused. Check the comments here where Mr Platt expresses surprise and some displeasure over the immediate posting of extensively annotated refutations to his climate denier posts and Doctorow replies.

It makes for an interesting back and forth.

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

It's all over

The Internet has achieved it's ultimate purpose and anything further would just be redundant.

Behold! The cutest kitten video that ever was or possibly could be! Behold! and declare unto the multitude: Awwwwwwwwwww........

Please turn off the lights and close the door to the intertubes on your way out.

Monday, February 02, 2009

Judges selling children

Two judges in Pennsylvania were sentenced to seven years in prison each over a kickback scam where they guaranteed a steady supply of child inmates for two private juvenile prisons.
The setting is Pennsylvania coal country, but it's a story right out of Dickens' grim 19th-century landscape: Two of Luzerne County's most senior judges on Monday were accused of sending children to jail in return for kickbacks. The judges, Luzerne County President Judge Mark A. Ciavarella Jr., 58, and his predecessor, Senior Judge Michael T. Conahan, 56, will serve seven years in jail under a plea agreement.
They're alleged to have pocketed $2.6 million in payments from juvenile detention center operators.When a federal judge reviews their plea, though, the question ought to be whether the punishment is adequate - along with the judges being bounced from the bench, disbarred, and losing their pensions.
If the allegations are true, Ciavarella and Conahan were involved in a disgraceful cabal far worse than one that merely lined their pockets.
First, the judges helped the detention centers land a county contract worth $58 million. Then their alleged scheme was to guarantee the operators a steady income by detaining juveniles, often on petty stuff.
Many of the kids were railroaded, according to allegations lodged with the state Supreme Court last year by the Philadelphia-based Juvenile Law Center, an advocacy group.
In asking the court to intervene in April, the law center cited hundreds of examples where teens accused of minor mischief were pressured to waive their right to lawyers, and then shipped to a detention center.
One teen was given a 90-day sentence for having parodied a school administrator online. Such unwarranted detentions left "both children and parents feeling bewildered, violated and traumatized," center lawyers said.

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