c9: (streetcar)
Jim Kenzie’s unhinged rant masquerading as auto journalism (“Pan Am Games’s HOV lanes are a countrywide virus”) is a stain on the Toronto Star’s reputation. It should be retracted, and all copies used to line birdcages. Since that’s unlikely, a response.

First, his comparison of basic carpooling used around the planet to the scourge of HIV/AIDS demands immediate apology from him and his editor. Have some perspective and human decency, or go back to the internet comment section from whence you crawled.

That aside, the piece is riddled with falsehoods, math errors, and misleading statements, using his pulpit to set back our evolution into a region with an effective, non-gridlocked transportation system.

Kenzie claims only 0.001% could have benefited from the HOV lanes – 65 people, in a region of 6.5 million. But there are over 6,100 athletes competing, and GM provided 1,200 vehicles for athlete, official, and volunteer transportation, so his math seems quite impossible.

He also describes the HOV lanes – just 235 km across the entire GTHA – as being “up to one third of our traffic resources”. Ignoring his comical definition of traffic resources as merely the pavement his car touches, he should be aware that in Toronto alone there are over 5,365 km of roads. Even if every inch of the HOV lanes were inside the City of Toronto, they’d represent just 4% of our road space.

Kenzie claims the HOV lanes “didn’t work,” and that they’ve “never worked anywhere,” but presents no evidence for this. A simple Google search for “carpooling research” will yield some fascinating information, should he someday wish to research his already-published article.

Another pretty basic error Kenzie and his editor missed is that the United Kingdom has had carpool lanes in Leeds for over 17 years. And of course throughout Europe the public transit options are far more advanced than in car-oriented North America, leading to different choices.

To be fair, as one should, one thing Kenzie gets right is that the HOV lanes regularly had illegal users, especially when new. Behavioural change is never instant, and explanation of carpooling facts can help. It’s unfortunate he aligned himself with the fact-free approach to policy of our former mayor, denigrating this well-understood, low-cost tool, widely-used worldwide for managing congestion.

Just because nobody wanted to carpool with him – a race car driver and automotive writer! – doesn’t mean nobody else carpooled, and he shows this in his article: some were so willing to change their behaviour they paid strangers to sit in their car! Clearly HOV lanes can modify behaviour.

“Our highway system IS our transit system,” he declares. “If people want to ride a bus or subway, let them pay for it.” Jim, TTC’s subways carry nearly double what Toronto’s expressways carry, every single day, and the transit riders are paying. Plus their taxes – and those of cyclists and pedestrians – are going toward the massively subsidized highways you adore too.

It’s farcical to imagine that an automotive journalist truly believes the highway is the transit system. Where does he think the over 1.5 million TTC riders per day should go? In the same highway lane with him? One lane of highway maxes out at the equivalent of five subway trains per hour.

“All that pavement going to waste,” he cries, misunderstanding that the entire point is for the pavement to be available when needed. HOV lanes can upgrade the experience for everyone: emergency services, special event athletes, even auto journalists – if they decide to be a grownup and live in harmony with the rest of their region, instead of throwing a tantrum in the Star.

HOV lanes aren't a virus, but rather they're a vaccine which will help our region grow and stay strong.
c9: (Obama)
So I'm all nutso over the US election and have lots of information in my head, but you might not. Here's a handy set of info and links in case you're not doing something (anything!) more interesting tonight.

Most important: California is voting on a referendum to make all same-sex marriages illegal, destroy the existing ones in the state, and amend the state constitution to prevent any equality in marriage. This despite the legislature (twice), the governor, and the courts all agreeing with equality. Sadly, it's a toss-up, and could go either way. This could be a big setback for equal marriage in the US. California polls close at 11pm Eastern.

Some sites to surf while the TV is talking about boring things:

- http://www.fivethirtyeight.com - polling, predictions, and explanations of every race. Baseball stats guy uses power for good instead of boring.
- http://www.electoral-vote.com - Andrew S. Tanenbaum (yes, that one for the CS crowd) does election predicting. Interesting stuff, poor HTML.
- http://www.politico.com - lots of news and links, seems roughly impartial as far as I can tell
- http://frontloading.blogspot.com/ - fun electoral college-proportional maps
- http://www.talkingpointsmemo.com/ - live results, very frequent updates, heavily left-wing site (for Canada, this would be a slightly-left-of-centre Liberal site)
- http://www.huffingtonpost.com/ - frequent updates, very large fonts, heavily left-wing site
- http://andrewsullivan.theatlantic.com/the_daily_dish/ - gay right-wing war-booster who realized a few years back that he'd made a horrid mistake, and now spends all day hating Bush. Obama supporter, but still right-wing, flat-tax, war-on-terror-just-maybe-

If you want to spot things early, here are the states to watch:

- North Carolina: if it goes Obama, he'll probably win a huge victory
- Florida/Virginia: if Obama wins either, this would basically make a McCain win impossible. If McCain wins both, the electoral map could be repeating history and all the inspiration talk meant nothing. Could be a long night.
- Pennsylvania: McCain can't win without it, in almost every scenario.

This all depends on the polling over the past few months being reasonably accurate. If there's a 5% Bradley Effect (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bradley_Effect), the whole game changes.

TV options:
CTV: Daily Show / Colbert Report special, starts at 10pm EST
CNN: holograms. WTF?
NBC: transforms Rockefeller Plaza’s ice rink into a giant U.S. map
ABC: takes over three massive screens in Times Square to display results in real time

Some Predictions: (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2008/11/02/election-predictions-pund_n_140149.html)

Karl Rove, Evil Genius: Obama 338-200
George Stephanopoulos, ABC News Anchor: Obama 353-185
Mark Halperin, Time editor: Obama 349-189
Nate Silver, fivethirtyeight.com statistician: Obama 347-191
Fred Barnes, Weekly Standard editor: McCain 286-252 (ha!)
Markos Moulitas, DailyKos founder: Obama 390-148 (also ha!)
... and many more at the link above. Only one had Obama losing, and the Weekly Standard is not considered to be an unbiased source. Visit here to build your own prediction map for your blog:

Finally, a word of caution: it's not over until the voters actually have their votes counted. If things go nasty tonight (which seems unlikely), please remain calm and await instructions from your flight crew. Things will be OK. Although, in the words of Chris Rock: "if you have anything in your life Wednesday that involves black people, that shit ain't getting done."

(I think it was Chris Rock, but I can't find a link)

See you on the other side,
c9: (United Nations)
The conflict between Georgia, Russia, the sorta-separatists in the middle, and the rest of the west trying to figure out what to do, what to say, and how to avoid painting themselves into any corners is fascinating. Scary, too.

I've been following the commentary in a couple places, and found these columns to be quite illuminating and helpful in boiling down some issues that resonate with me.

First: “the west was right to leave [Saakashvili] hanging”: http://www.macleans.ca/canada/opinions/article.jsp?content=20080813_107233_107233

Next, the rebuttal: http://blog.macleans.ca/2008/08/14/georgia-on-my-mind/

Today, "checking rhetoric against reality": http://blog.macleans.ca/2008/08/14/georgiarussia-on-the-wests-rhetoric/

I'm also regularly surprised to find the comments section on macleans.ca still tolerable and literate. Surely it's an accident which will be corrected soon (*sigh*). The comments sections on cbc.ca, theglobeandmail.com, and many others are depressing from a future-of-my-country standpoint. Also literacy, humour, science, geography, spelling, and fashion sense.
c9: (jPod)
jPod season one is being rebroadcast this summer on CBC - Thursdays at 8pm, starting June 19th. If you get CBC, check it out, especially if you like off-the-wall non-sitcom humour! And here's the favour: tell some of your friends! If CBC gets good ratings, they'll be encouraged to do this sort of thing in future.

If you're outside Canada, jPod can be found online on high-quality bittorrents, and you can watch entire episodes on the CBC jPod website! jPod can also be enjoyed in the original book flavour.

c9: (Explosion)
I was recently reminded of some reading I did in college, way back in the last century, by a British historian arguing that the critical technology, for the early phase of the industrial revolution, was gin.

The transformation from rural to urban life was so sudden, and so wrenching, that the only thing society could do to manage was to drink itself into a stupor for a generation. The stories from that era are amazing-- there were gin pushcarts working their way through the streets of London.

And it wasn't until society woke up from that collective bender that we actually started to get the institutional structures that we associate with the industrial revolution today. Things like public libraries and museums, increasingly broad education for children, elected leaders--a lot of things we like--didn't happen until having all of those people together stopped seeming like a crisis and started seeming like an asset.

-- Clay Shirky, on how we're all looking for the mouse in our every day lives.
c9: (Politics)
I agree with Jeff -- this is NOT cool.

Environment Canada has "muzzled" its scientists, ordering them to refer all media queries to Ottawa where communications officers will help them respond with "approved lines."
The reality, insiders say, is the policy is blocking communication and infuriating scientists. Researchers have been told to refer all media queries to Ottawa. The media office then asks reporters to submit their questions in writing. Sources say researchers are then asked to respond in writing to the media office, which then sends the answers to senior management for approval. If a researcher is eventually cleared to do an interview, he or she is instructed to stick to the "approved lines."

Climatologist Andrew Weaver, of the University of Victoria, works closely with several Environment Canada scientists. He says the policy points to the Conservative government's fixation on "micro-management" and message control.

"They've been muzzled," says Weaver of the federal researchers. "The concept of free speech is non-existent at Environment Canada. They are manufacturing the message of science."

"They can't even now comment on why a storm hit the area without going through head office," says Weaver, who's been fielding calls from frustrated media who can no longer get through to federal experts, scientists who once spoke freely about their fields of work, be it atmospheric winds affecting airliners or disease outbreaks at bird colonies.

Tell Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Environment Minister John Baird how you feel about this. Remember, letters to MPs are free, no stamp required! You can also call or email, though I've heard conflicting reports on how "valued" electronic communication is versus real paper.
c9: (Explosion)
Inspired by [profile] kethara :

Ten things I've done that you probably haven't:

  1. Visited South Africa
  2. Slept in a tent across the harbour from Charlottetown
  3. Written computer-based certification exams
  4. Taken a greyhound bus from Kitchener to Toronto and back on a Saturday
  5. Been on The National (Vinny and me)
  6. Been quoted in The Globe & Mail (Vinny and me)
  7. Flown in a jet where the staff outnumbered the passengers (Vinny and me)
  8. Watched a cousin get married and then her child get baptized in a five minute span
  9. Eaten President's Choice Blue Menu Reduced Fat Chicken Lasagna
  10. Argued with Microsoft that they should be letting me install Windows Vista and not make my company pay (oy, what a day)
c9: (Default)
With thanks to [livejournal.com profile] oldnewthing, I present Questions The Explainer Never Answered.

A sampling:
  • What comes after 999 trillion?
  • Why is grilled chicken tasting increasingly rubbery and odd?
  • Hello ... Could you tell me if there's been any kind of medical discovery in the last 30 years besides DNA.

There are some truly awesome questions in there. Also some truly certifiable people asking questions in the world.

That's it!

Dec. 20th, 2006 09:54 am
c9: (Default)
I'm throwing out all our big plates, and buying only single-colour M&Ms!


(h/t [livejournal.com profile] sassy_red_head)
c9: (Towel)
I've been so busy and exhausted that I haven't been commenting on the world. I know some of you have been paralyzed in your opinions, not knowing how to think about issues without my two cents, so here you go:

Ignatieff: smart, but not Liberal leadership material. He can't define "nation", doesn't get that the "nation" debate is quicksand with no actual exit, and the Tories will make mincemeat of him in the next election. The Tories even leaked a memo pretending that Ignatieff scared them, just to increase their odds of working against him. Any contest featuring boring, normal, middle-class Harper* versus stuffy, uptight, academic, practically-a-foreigner** Ignatieff is not a contest. Ignatieff is an intelligent and well-spoken person and I have no personal beef with him. I also can't find enough redeeming qualities in any of the other three, but the Liberals need to be realistic. The same camp that thought politically assassinating Chretien and crowning Martin was a good idea also think that running under Ignatieff is a good idea.

* I know he's actually got an academic background and approach too, but that's not visible in the media and therefore is irrelevant to this discussion.

** He spent something like 28 of the last 32 years living in the US and teaching at Harvard, and has been basically absent for all major Canadian historical events which he now speaks on, such as constitutional crises and Quebec's constantly shifting situation/appearance.

US Midterm Elections: I regret not holding a party for this one (the prep work for selling the condo won out) because the results were far more enjoyable than those of the last three election parties I've held. I don't expect a huge sea change in the US, though: the Democrats are only marginally different from the Republicans in many important areas right now, and they've spent 8-10 years reducing the differences. Additionally, the new "normal" in the US of wiretapping, Guantanamo, and Presidential Fiat has already taken hold. They'll want that power for President Obama or Clinton in a few years. Still, awesome work by the Democrats. It's about freakin' time: checks and balances are not optional.

Remembrance Day: I was proud to see a HUGE crowd in Ottawa at the National War Memorial today when I watched the ceremonies on tv. As [livejournal.com profile] zedinbed said, there are inherent challenges in honouring wars which empowered and/or maintained a lot of imperial / colonial empires. But recasting Remembrance Day as being about honouring individual sacrifice in the service of freedom, and promoting the importance of that freedom for all, makes the day most honourable and worthy. Wearing a poppy (an ironic symbol wrt Afghanistan if ever there was one) is not agreeing with imperialist adventures, and actually serves to keep Canadians thinking about what freedom means.

Clean Air Act: sadly, while the bill is largely toothless, it's no worse than what the Liberals were doing. It will be interesting to see what comes out of committee, now that Jack Layton and the NDP have gotten it in there (good work!). It's incredibly frustrating that there is still so much media debate on such a scientifically-decided issue. It drives me batty as well that my father is a little more convinced of the "scam" angle than the "actually happening" angle on Global Warming. I read a comment somewhere saying that the term "global warming" should be replaced with a new phrase without so much political baggage, like "climate crisis". Makes sense to me.

NDP stand on Afghanistan: I disagree with the "troops out now" policy of the NDP. It will not help to just walk away. While it's unusual for Canadians to see their members of the Forces killed in action, never mind seeing them in action at all, the work in Afghanistan is no longer just some US folly, but a United Nations-sanctioned rebuild/clean-up effort. It's not nice to see the death on both sides that is involved, but the UN force is making progress and just walking out would leave others doing the same thing, and possibly doing it less... appropriately, let's say. Not all countries approach war in the same way (see Guantanamo BayCanCon.

...and there's nothing else important happening anywhere in the world, so I'm done now. :)

Class Act.

Nov. 6th, 2006 11:40 am
c9: (Banging my Head)
Iraqi court issues verdict on one of the multiple concurrent trials of Saddam Hussein. Death, as expected.

US government is paying $90 million of the Iraqi courts' $145 million annual expenses.

The verdict isn't done being written, but the announcement was completely coincidentally made just in time for the Sunday talk shows in the US, and to affect the election tomorrow.

I wish I was evil so I could appreciate this more.
c9: (United Nations)
I received a promotional offer from Wired yesterday that was too good to pass up: $12.97 CDN for a one-year subscription. $1.08 per issue. That's so ridiculous I had to sign up to show them the error of their ways.

Today I ruined any monetary benefit I might have gotten by also subscribing to FAIR. Oh well.

I'm looking forward to FAIR. Check out their current slate of articles. I figure it will give me more ammo to use against my Dad. Or more likely right-wing blogs and news outlets, since I'm more comfortable arguing with them than with my father.

* Please note that this phrase does *not* refer to Wired.
c9: (System report)
Not really sure what I hope to gain from this, but I'm curious.

Read more... )

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