Canada's national archives being dismantled and scattered

A reader writes,

The Canadian government is slowly doing away with Canada's ability to access its own history.

Library and Archives Canada's collection is being decentralized and scattered across the country, often to private institutions, which will limit access, making research difficult or next impossible. It should be noted that Daniel Caron, the new National Archivist hired in 2009, doesn't even have a background in library nor archives but, a background in economics.

"The changes and cuts are being justified by reference to digitization. A generous estimate is only 4% of the LAC collection has been digitized to date -- a poor record that will be made worse by the cuts announced on April 30, 2012, which reduced digitization staff by 50%."

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Quebeckers take to the streets with pots and pans: a charivari

Here are Montrealers engaged in charivari, a form of protest involving beating pots and pans in the streets. They're out protesting the new law 78, which prohibits public gatherings without police approval, and gives the police the power to arbitrarily declare approved protests to be illegal ones midstream. The law was passed amid a long, bitter student strike over tuition hikes, but it hasn't damped down the protest -- rather, it has so outraged many Quebeckers, who have joined in the nightly casserole protests. This form of protest was widely used in Chile after Pinochet banned public protest. The Guardian's Adam Gabbatt writes from Montreal:

"I'm very surprised at what's happened," said Kevin Audet-Vallee, a 24-year-old history student who had attended tuition fees protests before bill 78 was introduced.

"Now that the ordinary citizens are in the streets I think the government is really in trouble, because the middle class is in the streets. At first [critics of student protesters] were saying we were radicals. These are not radicals."

Indeed, at the pot banging near the Jarry subway on Friday night the age range of the crowd was strikingly diverse. Sensibly dressed fortysomethings wearing hiking boots and kagools intermingled with long-haired students wearing only shorts. Men and women pushing young children in prams were flanked by hipsters on fixed-gear bikes.

The range of protesters was matched by the diversity of utensils they chose to create noise. Some had reached past the saucepan and wooden spoon, with the Guardian spying such unlikely pairings as a colander and a drumstick, a pan lid and a pair of chopsticks, and a barbecue lid and a pair of tongs all being put to alternative use.

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Innovation Under Austerity: Eben Moglen's call to arms from the Freedom to Connect conference

Last week saw the latest installment of David Isenberg's Freedom to Connect conference in Washington, DC. One of the keynotes came from Eben Moglen, formerly chief counsel of the Free Software Foundation, now the principle agitator behind the Software Freedom Law Center. Eben's keynote is one of the most provocative, intelligent, outrageous and outraged pieces of technology criticism I've heard. It's a 45 minute lecture with a 45 minute Q&A. I ripped the audio and listened to it while walking around town today and kept having to stop and take out my headphones and think for a while.

I found out about it via a message forwarded to me by the Open University's Marian Petre from the ACM's SIGCSE mailing list, where Adelphi's Stephen Bloch cherry-picked some of the best quotes from the talk, which I've pasted in below to give you a taste of what awaits you, should you be willing to give Eben such a generous chunk of your time. I think it was a very good use of my time.

Innovation under austerity is not produced by collecting lots of money and paying it to innovation intermediaries. [Several examples of disintermediation: TV, encyclopedias, book publishing, music recording, magazine publishing] Disintermediation -- the movement of power out of the middle of the net -- is a crucial fact about 21st century political economy.

Intermediaries that did well in the past ten years are limited to two categories: health insurers in the U.S., owing to political pathology, and the financial industry.

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CPU Wars: Top Trumps with CPUs

CPU Wars is a Top-Trumps-style game whose play-tokens are cards bearing the likeness and specifications of various CPUs (what else?) through the ages, from 8088s up to contemporary 64-bit multicores. It was produced with the help of a successful Kickstarter, and is now available as a normal object of commerce, with regular expansion packs.

CPU Wars is a trump card game built by geeks for geeks. For Volume 1.0 we chose 30 CPUs that we believe had the greatest impact on the desktop history. The game is ideally played by 2 or 3 people. The deck is split between the players and then each player takes a turn and picks a category that they think has the best value. We have chosen the most important specs that could be numerically represented, such as maximum speed achieved and maximum number of transistors. It's lots of fun, it has a bit of strategy and can be played during a break or over a coffee.

CPU WARS - The Card Game / SHOP Read the rest

Bruce Schneier explains security to a neurologist who believes in profiling Muslims at airports

Sam Harris, a neuroscientist, challenged Bruce Schneier to a debate on whether Muslims should be singled out for additional screening at airports. Schneier patiently, and repeatedly, explains why (apart from the unconstitutionality and moral repugnance of this), it would be bad security practice. Harris changes the subject. A lot. But Schneier presents a model of how to use dispassionate reason to demolish intellectual laziness and xenophobia dressed up as "common sense."

There are other security concerns when you look at the geopolitical context, though. Profiling Muslims fosters an “us vs. them” thinking that simply isn’t accurate when talking about terrorism. I have always thought that the “war on terror” metaphor was actively harmful to security because it raised the terrorists to the level of equal combatant. In a war, there are sides, and there is winning. I much prefer the crime metaphor. There are no opposing sides in crime; there are the few criminals and the rest of us. There criminals don’t “win.” Maybe they get away with it for a while, but eventually they’re caught.

“Us vs. them” thinking has two basic costs. One, it establishes that worldview in the minds of “us”: the non-profiled. We saw this after 9/11, in the assaults and discriminations against innocent Americans who happened to be Muslim. And two, it establishes the same worldview in the minds of “them”: Muslims. This increases anti-American sentiment among Muslims. This reduces our security, less because it creates terrorists—although I’m sure it is one of the things that pushes a marginal terrorist over the line—and more that a higher anti-American sentiment in the Muslim community is a more fertile ground for terrorist groups to recruit and operate.

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Leveson Inquiry cakepops

The redoubtable Miss Insomnia Tulip has created a calorific tribute to the Leveson Inquiry, in which Lord Justice Leveson is interrogating the state of the nation's newspapers, phone hacking, and undue political influence. There are cakepops for all of the players in the inquiry, including one for Rebekah Brooks's LOL Blackberry.

Leveson Enquiry Cake Pops!!!

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Jewelry made from 19th century clay pipes washed up on the Thames

Today I found myself at a street-market in Soho (the one in London), at a stall belonging to Amelia Parker, a jewelry maker who salvages fragments of century-old clay pipes from the banks of the Thames. Clay pipes were once the equivalent of cigarettes, cheap, semi-disposable tobacco-distribution systems, and as they were very brittle, they were tossed out by the tens of thousands, forming a lightweight layer of river detritus that still washes up on the riverbanks in London.

Amelia Parker

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Magazines from Blade Runner

Here's a collection of humorous, futuristic magazines displayed in the background of the news-stand scene in Blade Runner -- documented in Future Noir: The Making of Blade Runner by Paul M. Sammon:

Turning down the block and ducking into a futuristic newsstand revealed the most humorous touches of layering, for it was here that this author immediately noticed that a number of faux twenty-first-century magazines had been stuffed into racks mounted on the newsstand's walls, and that many of them sported decidedly tongue-in-cheek covers.

These publications had been designed by BR art department member Tom Southwell. Periodicals of note include Krotch (going for $29 a copy!), Zord (at $30), Moni, Bash, Creative Evolution, and Droid. Horn, the "skin mag" of the future, had a cover which offered articles such as "The Cosmic Orgasm" and "Hot Lust in Space." Kill (whose logo was "All the News That's Fit to Kill") sported cover stories like "Multiple Murders - Reader's Own Photos."

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Peckniffian cant banned in Parliament

The UK press has been alive with talk of the Prime Minister calling Ed Balls, the Labour Shadow Chancellor, a "muttering idiot" during a session of Parliament. The the Speaker of the House forced him to withdraw the remark. In The Observer, Gaby Hinsliff and Quentin Letts' debate includes some other language prohibited in Parliament, including my favourite: "Pecksniffian cant."

QL Consult Erskine May, the parliamentary rule book, and "idiot" is not, oddly enough, a banned term (though it is now, clearly). Insults that are banned include "hypocrite", "blackguard" and "Pecksniffian cant", although only Jacob Rees-Mogg would use that last one these days. The thing these insults have in common is that they are the opposite of dialectic. They do not take on the argument. Clearly that is not what we want in our political discourse because it is a short step from that to the sort of punch-ups they have in the South Korean parliament. Boy, I'd love to be a South Korean sketchwriter.

And here's more, Simon Hoggart's Parliamentary sketch:

There are also some words and phrases that haven't been heard in quite a while. "The hon gent is an impertinent puppy!" would earn a rebuke, and a dismissal if not quickly followed by a withdrawal. You cannot accuse anyone of "Pecksniffian cant", or "ruffianism". Try saying "the minister is behaving like an impudent jackass", and you'll be out on your ear lickety split. "Pharisee", "stool-pigeon", "bletherer", "guttersnipe", "cad" and "swine" would also horrify the Speaker and the clerks.

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Pop and politics collide at Europe's awesomely trashy song contest

You know the Ameri-centricism Europeans make fun of? I might have been an example of that, having not really heard of the Eurovision Song Contest until 2010 – and even then, the only reason I’d heard a thing about it was because of the Epic Sax Guy meme, spawned by Moldova’s hilariously neon-infused, incredibly euro-centric performance that year.

This year, a bottle of cranberry Finlandia and nearly four hours of completely un-ironic enthusiasm opened my eyes. Read the rest