My avatar across the web: a photo of my feet in grey-white socks and brown sandals.

Ben Babcock

9 Articles in October 2008

  1. Censorship "Nazis"

    Ugh. I've been sick since Wednesday and didn't feel like blogging. I should have posted one of the drafts I've got saved up for such an occasion, but by the time I remembered that, I was too lazy. :D Anyway, here's my reaction to a news tidbit from today.

    I like freedom of expression and freedom of access to information. To me, these two related freedoms are fundamental to any society that claims to be "free." Unfortunately, the spectre of political correctness (and more recently, patriotic correctness) shackles this freedom of speech with restrictions designed to prevent "offence" to groups of people. We see this everyday when we watch television with the profanity beeped out or listen to edited songs on the radio.

    Today CBC News reported that a Belgian broadcaster would not be airing a Hitler-themed episode of a cooking show. At first glance, one wonders how a cooking show could have a Hitler-themed episode. If you read the article, however, you'll get a better idea of what it aims to do: it cooks the favourite dishes of famous people.

    I take issue with this statement in particular by Michael Frelich, editor of Antwerp's Jewish affairs magazine Joods…

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  2. Bring me your written word!

    More books I should not have bought

    I did a terrible thing today. I bought more books.

    This is how it works: Chapters is located in a mega-lot that also includes Staples, Future Shop, and Wal-Mart, any of which I may need to visit a couple of times a month to purchase stuff. However, when my body comes in proximity to Chapters, my addiction centre sends signals to my legs to move in that general direction. Once in Chapters, I am utterly at the mercy of how the sales staff has laid out their enticing displays.

    The books on the left are from a previous expedition--actually, the two Umberto Eco books and Sundiver (the book I'm reading right now) came from Chapters Online. I love their shipping. The book with the spine faced away from the camera is Water for Elephants, by Sara Gruen. I forgot to turn it the proper way before I snapped this photo. Stephen Baker was interviewed in a recent episode of Spark, so I decided to purchase his book. Similarly, I bought The Stillborn God today because Mark Lilla was on Ideas.

    The books on the right are from today's expedition. My dad generously orders Chapters gift cards with his…

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  3. How I'll get through this government

    I have discovered how I will get through the next six months. Or year. Or two years. However long it is until Stephen Harper tries to get a majority again. I will watch CBC comedy news shows.

    What would I ever do without The Rick Mercer Report or This Hour Has 22 Minutes?!

    For my American friends, The Rick Mercer Report is similar to The Colbert Report. Mercer does a lot less in-studio, however, and has more clips where he goes out and meets people, politicians((Yes, I am implying what you think I'm implying)), goes to schools, and gets naked.((Really. But I won't tell you any more than this, because now you'll waste half an hour searching the Internet to find out. Muwahahahaha!)) He has a regular photo challenge on his site where anyone can edit a photo he posts, and he'll put them up in his gallery.

    I don't know what the American equivalent of This Hour Has 22 Minutes is. You've got a cast of news anchors who know no boundaries in "reporting" current events. When I was younger, I grew up on Royal Canadian Air Farce; I didn't watch This Hour Has 22 Minutes much. However,…

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  4. Everything (Will Be All Right)

    I shouldn't be up this late. I'm going to bed. Really, I am. However, there is one advantage to staying up this late: infomercials.

    Think what you like about infomercials. I think they're annoying, sure. But open your mind for a moment and listen to those infomercial hosts--don't listen to what they're saying, but how they're saying it. As I write this, YTV has started to air the Magic Bullet infomercial with "Mick and Mimi." It's probably a combination of his accent and his enthusiasm, but when I close my eyes and listen to Mick explain how the Magic Bullet is the answer to all my food-related problems (and some non-food-related ones), I can, for a brief moment, feel reassured that everything in this world is all right.

    So praise the Flying Spaghetti monster for His noodly gift of infomercials. They are truly a blessing! :D

  5. The afterglow of my first election

    The polls are closed, and the votes are mostly tallied. Last month, Stephen Harper called an election; this month, he was re-elected with yet anohter minority government--a stronger minority, but still a minority. In the ensuing chaotic coverage, some interesting trends have emerged. The new hot issues are Liberal leadership, government functionality, voting reform, and voter turnout.

    The Liberals lost eighteen seats (at the time of this writing), which is a blow for them. Still the official opposition, yet weakened. Additionally, Dion declared in his concession speech that he would be willing to work with the Conservatives on the economic "crisis" that we're facing. While I commend Dion for extending the olive branch, two questions come to mind: does this mean the Conservatives will have a de facto majority? And will this matter at all in a week or two when the Liberals get a new leader? For indeed, if there was anything the majority of pundits agreed that Dion is done. My opinion of Dion improved during this campaign; however, that still doesn't mean he's a strong leader.

    The next question is: will this government be functional? Harper's cited reason for calling the last election was that government no…

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  6. This New Fangled Voting Thing

    OpenOffice.org 3.0 is out today, so while I was downloading the torrent, I remembered I had yet to watch Michael Moore's free film Slacker Uprising chronicling his campaign to get slackers to vote in the 2004 American presidential election.

    The film was interesting. Whatever you think of Michael Moore's position or techniques, he's certainly passionate about what he's doing. And democracy may not be the most perfect system of government, but it seems to be the best one we've tried so far. Democracy is all about getting the people to vote, and Michael Moore was encouraging people to vote. As Martha Stewart might say, "That's a good thing."

    Tomorrow is Election Day here in Canada. If you are a Canadian citizen and 18 years of age or older, you can vote. If you aren't sure how to do this, go to the Elections Canada website. If you can vote, you should vote. Even if you're going to vote Conservative (I'm not), I want you to go and vote. We live in a democracy; it is your duty as a citizen to participate in the democratic process by voting for your representative in the next government.

    You don't need…

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  7. Addicted to inventing the future

    I'm addicted to a new game called Superstruct. It's a "massively multiplayer" forecasting game. Sort of like a role-playing game, Superstruct is set in 2019 and concerns five "superthreats" that together weaken humanity enough to make our survival outside of the century unlikely. But you aren't playing as a superhero or a zombie: you're playing as you--or as you will be, in 2019.

    Created by The Institute for the Future, Superstruct is more than a game. It's a collaborative problem-solving exercise. And it's an experiment. I learned about it from this week's episode of Spark, where Nora Young interviews Jane McGonigal, the game designer. I was immediately intrigued. The goal of the game is to create possible solutions for the likely threats of our near future. It's designed to be realistic. While making accurate predictions isn't always possible, the game gives us scenarios extrapolated from humanity's current global situation. Watch the videos for each superthreat; they sound very plausible.

    As McGonigal explains, the game's serious. It's designed to get people to think about issues we might not otherwise consider in our daily lives. By focusing on the environment as a game, one in which people…

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  8. My experience at a local debate

    This morning I went to a debate for the candidates of Thunder Bay-Superior North (my riding). The debate was hosted by LUSU, so naturally most of it was focused on how the candidates can help students. There were plenty of questions about student loans and debts, jobs after graduation, taxes, etc. I used the debate as an opportunity to actually familiarize myself with the candidates, one of whom will represent me in Ottawa by the end of this election.

    The four candidates were Brendan Hughes (Green), Bruce Hyer (NDP), Don McArthur (Liberals), and Bev Sarafin (Conservatives). Naturally I'm biased toward the left, and this presents me with the question: if I think the Green Party or the NDP would do a better job than the Liberals, should I vote for one of those candidates instead of voting for the Liberal candidate, thus splitting the Liberal votes and enabling the Conservative to get elected?

    Watching the candidates speak, I was able to get a sense of how they'd do in the House of Commons, as well as their stance on the issues. All were articulate; all tried to emphasize their personal connection to the region and their commitment…

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  9. Ack, I'm an elitist anglophone snob

    So I was going to write this entry in French, but I discovered along the way that I've forgotten my simple past tense. This disturbs me.

    I took French from grade 1 until grade 11 in school (this was before the provincial government postponed mandatory French until grade 4). It's only compulsory until grade 9, but I liked my teachers, and the courses were interesting and academic. Plus, being able to speak another language is a plus. Except I can't really speak it now, can I?

    Part of me thinks I don't have an ear for languages. I excelled at reading and writing French. However, even at the height of my proficiency, I was never too hot at pronunciation or comprehension of spoken French. Nevertheless, I feel bad that I live in a bilingual country yet I only speak English. There's this whole other culture that's an integral part of my country's history and current events, yet I ignore it. I feel like an elitist anglophone snob!

    This week's episode of Spark includes a segment about the French-English digital divide. That's what got me thinking about this, although it was also tonight's French-language debate amongst the federal party leaders.…

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About Me

I’m a 26-year-old math and English teacher back in Canada after two years teaching in England. In my free time, I read books! When I’m not reading, I’m writing, coding, or knitting.

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I started coding websites, in bad HTML on Geocities, in 2004 in a fit of whimsy. Since then I’ve learned PHP/MySQL, coded my own blog software, and rebuilt this site several times. With the exception of the blog, it’s currently running on the exquisite Symphony CMS. This website is hosted by HawkHost

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