Friday, March 5, 2010

This is Canada! Kind of...

With the news that Canada's immigration minister, Jason Kenney is taking "full responsibility" for a citizenship study guide that had all references to gay rights removed, it reminded me of a handy dandy guide book I picked up last summer at Monkey's Paw.

This immigrant's guide from 1948 certainly didn't remove references to same sex marriage. Homosexuality hadn't even been invented yet!

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Saturday, August 22, 2009

Big Mac Attack

via The Economist

Now I'm curious about some kind of Fish 'n Chips index or Champagne Index or Bespoke Suit Index. Or even cross reference the Big Mac Index with a Doctor Visitation Cost Index?

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Thursday, April 2, 2009

Sunny Florida

I used to drink the Richard Florida Kool-aid. After all, I'm part of that "Creative Class" he talks about. It serves me well to re-sell his Kool-aid. As someone who acts as a design advocate, I see creative professionals as the innovators and entrepreneurs who will drive our future economy. Then I watched Mr. Florida (if that is his real name) on The Hour, and listened to him describe how the emerging musicians out of blue collar towns like Detroit and Montreal are replacing the traditional manufacturing sector.

"Hmm" I said to myself, "How can a handful of musicians generate the kind of economic activity of say, a single auto plant?" They can't. In just the last weeks some 2400 Canadians found out they are going to be out of work. Some are out of luck because a GM plant is closing, others because a steel plant that supplies the auto sector is closing.

What Florida avoids is that the Creative Class succeeds or fails along with traditional industries not independent of them. If a large portion of the population isn't working then that's a lot of people downloading music rather than paying for it or not going out to see theatre or going to restaurants. Restaurants are closing, fewer films are being made, more musicians are working day jobs and as advertising dollars shrink fewer designers are designing. To a degree, Florida is right. There is growth for all those he refers to as the "Creative Class" but not without some base of people growing food and making stuff. It might be old-fashioned thinking but in general, "Knowledge Workers" can only make up a certain percentage of any economy. At some point that number tops out. Am I wrong?

Jim Stanford, economist for the CAW and columnist for the Globe and Mail seems to agree. Not everybody can be an engineer, designer or artist. My brothers who teach high school, try to recognize which of their students would do well with some kind of further education, be it a degree or a certificate. Some kids would do well to get any kind of trade. Even if everyone was an artist, it wouldn't be that helpful. In Canada, visual artists make an average of $20,000 and weirdly the more education an artist has, the less they are likely to make. Not exactly a "Grey Poupon" class.

While I appreciate the support Richard Florida brings to considering the importance of innovation and design to our future, maybe we should give his kind of Kool-aid some sort of electric acid test.

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Monday, March 30, 2009

Solid as a Rock (that has been crushed)

Blinded by the light(weight truck sales)
via The New York Times

I don't think I can remember a time when an American President or administration told two of the previously most prestigious of American companies what to do and how to do it. In the Trudeau era, Canadian governments seemed to always be throwing conditional monies at companies like Dome Petroleum, Bombardier or De Havilland and twenty years later it would be hard to say any of that money did any good.

What am I suggesting? Maybe that in twenty years time Chrysler will be a small niche player and General Motors will have been broken into parts and consumed by others to disappear into History's dustbin. No matter what happens, the photo above will be seen as endemic to GM's problems. Their ousted chairman seen surrounded by a variety of trucks. In other words, a severely wrong product line. A product line that was essentially different skins on one platform and that platform was pegged to a weak financing and credit model, faddishly oversold, and dependent on a strong construction industry. All the while they destroyed plans and prototypes for progressive designs and ignored all of the people in the world not buying trucks or SUVs. Let's not even mentioned that GM has been crippled by pension and health care costs that would have been significantly offset if the American government had provided that most evil of services to it's citizens, "socialized" medicine. National healthcare wouldn't have helped GM's sales of course, or made them more innovative or efficient. Then again, in the end, neither innovation nor efficiency could save Beth Steel and that pretty much looks to be the case of GM.

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Thursday, March 26, 2009

Not Stephen Harper

image via the New York Times

As if we need any more reminders of how we're different from Americans, I think this photo says a lot. I've seen Stephen Harper at hockey games (apparently he's a nut for it and has considered writing a history on it) and he looks pretty much as he does in the House - in a suit and tie, soberly staring blankly into the middle distance.

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Monday, February 2, 2009

Vox Populi Paparazzi

We're all paparazzi now... does that mean we all killed Diana?

Via Soup

By the way, this is why I never take photos in public anymore - someone else is already taking one for me.

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Thursday, January 22, 2009

Be Bold

President Obama will use e-mail. Does it follow, he'll have a Blackberry? An Obamaberry? A Barackberry?

President Obama's Blackberry

Or perhaps it would look like this.

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The Call is Coming from Inside the (White) House

On the surface of it, having a secure e-mail server for a world leader and a small list of acceptable recipients and senders seems simple enough. Here's a list of people that can be received at "" - everyone else is blocked. Every e-mail is securely stored on the Presidential e-mail server and is considered part of the public record.

If only it were that easy. The fact that RIM controls e-mail servers to the device helps but still cell phone calls can be intercepted and e-mail is, well - not entirely a cone of silence. Then there's the fact the recipients' e-mail servers may not be secure. Unless of course, the President and his correspondents log in to a closed system. Still? Add mobile GPS and that you can find the holder of the device pretty quickly (some tri-angulation is possible even without GPS) so the more you think about it the more I realize I'm glad I'm not the person trying to figure out how to plug all the security holes a mobile phone or e-mail use creates.

Agencies such as the CIA and FBI use secure e-mail so why can't the president. All of that said, Obama is right to say it's the 21st century - figure it out.

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Friday, December 5, 2008

By Gosh

Here's a surprise. Prime Minister Harper, through his exceptionally unwise and partisian budgetary policy, has inadvertedly raised Canada's profile. Only a week after a political crisis swept through Parliament Hill, that venerable old media institution, The Economist has actually put the story on the front page of their Web site.

Now that the moment has past it seems a little odd to bring it up at all. Then again, that's always been my problem with the Economist, the magazine. Their incisive analysis is mostly only valid on a Monday. By Friday it is nearly irrelevant. Unfortunately their Web site is no more immediate. Political analysis is often like a hockey game's play-by-play. It's hardly something you need to hear once the score is tallied and the victor declared.

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Tuesday, December 2, 2008

As Canada's parliament seems set for a major shift leftward, I can't help but notice the complete lack of mention of it in any of the international media. The Guardian? No. The BBC - yes, in their Americas section after "Condoleezza Rice performs recital for the Queen". The New York Times? Yeah, after a story about flood waters receding in Venice. So what I want to know is, why Canada figures so low in international news? A G7 economy that is USA's largest trading partner and a founding nation of the G20 group deserves at least a nod of recognition. What does a country have to do get a drink around here?


Tuesday, September 18, 2007

If Gore Were in da' House

I've noticed Bush's White House desk seems fairly clear of paper. Perhaps this is indicative of a clear and focussed mind. I do know Bush rarely uses email. Perhaps having a computer on the White House desk would be unseemly. Yet, after seeing a photo of Al Gore's (rather incredible) computer set up, here's what I imagine a Gore White House might look like.

See a larger image here.

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