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

Ben Babcock

7 Articles in December 2008

  1. Wallpaper is karmically irresponsible

    Apparently I'm a blue person. My old room was a horrendously light shade of blue, so I painted it a darker blue. It turned out too dark, however; this time around, I chose a better shade of blue--more blue grey, slightly lighter. My coworkers at the art gallery suggested doing three walls in a natural brown and having a blue accent wall, but I was too timid to follow up on this recommendation; I stuck with blue.

    What was originally a one-man operation became a one-man-and-twins operation when my friends Cassie and Carly offered to help paint. I didn't even have to ask!((Of course, buying them each an xkcd t-shirt for Christmas might have had something to do with it.)) I woke up early that morning and moved most of my furniture out of my room. Then I washed the three walls without wallpaper before tackling that last, fatal wall.

    One wall had a secret message Removing the wallpaper was tedious but not difficult. The surface vinyl came off easily, and the commercial wallpaper remover worked as advertised on the adhesive. It wasn't difficult so much as a time-consuming, foamy mess. I finished shortly after 1 o'clock, and then Cassie and Carly arrived in time to…

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  2. Online/Offline is a false dichotomy

    Two months ago I read The Numerati, in which Stephen Baker discusses how technology--particularly the Internet--is affecting marketing techniques and how businesses and individuals manage their data. Now that we have the tools and understanding to mathematically model more behaviour than ever before, there's a new group of people--the eponymous Numerati--at the forefront of this information revolution.

    One of the concerns Baker briefly addresses is privacy. On the Internet, this has always been an issue, but the surge in popularity of social networking this year makes it even more relevant. MySpace and Facebook have made headlines with the Lori Drew case and the launch of identity management Facebook Connect.((Google Friend Connect gets no respect. Poor OpenSocial!)) What was once a matter of "privacy" is now a question of the most appropriate mechanism for managing the convergence of one's offline and online personae.

    And I can't help but feel that some people are missing the point.

    What is Privacy?

    Like "Web 2.0", we tend to throw the term "privacy" around quite a bit without much thought to what we actually want when we demand it. Does this merely mean we want our bank account details safe? Or do…

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  3. I canna give her any more, cap'n!

    I've been very happy with my Dell Inspiron 6400 laptop since purchasing it over a year ago. I bought it online, customized it to meet my needs, and this lovely machine has performed without complaint. There's a chip on the lower left edge of the white trim; I'm not quite sure how it got there. And I had to replace my keyboard once--Dell support was very helpful and shipped one to me by the next day.

    As for battery life? Well, the battery charge lasts a long time--I can get four, four and a half hours out of my laptop if I'm not doing anything more strenuous than browsing or writing--listening to music or playing videos drains it a little faster. This is a marked improvement over the twenty minute lifespan of my Toshiba Satellite's battery, which is one of the reasons I love this laptop so much! :D

    The battery's life, however, could have been better--past tense. The original battery has reached its golden years in a little under a year and a half of service. Unfortunately, Dell's batteries are covered under a separate "standard" 12-month warranty. If the battery fails after that, you have to buy a new…

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  4. State of the nation

    Now that everyone in Ottawa has some breathing room, what exactly is the state of Canada as a democracy and as a nation?

    With the decision to prorogue government, constitutional expert Errol Mendes believes that Governor General Michaëlle Jean has set a dangerous precedent. In the future, prime ministers who face confidence motions in the House of Commons may also request prorogation of Parliament. Mendes does suggest that Parliament itself could "pass legislation to prevent abuse of the prorogation in the future," so that's good news--except that our Parliament doesn't seem too eager to pass any legislation so far.

    Democracy Isn't Dead, Just Violated

    The good news is that democracy isn't dead: long live democracy. In fact, contrary to the spin being spun by both sides, the past few days have had nothing to do with democracy. Yes, it was a political crisis and an economic crisis; it was not a crisis of democracy. It's not business as usual, but everything that has happened has happened within the bounds of a parliamentary democracy.

    But that doesn't mean everything is fine.

    As mentioned above, the Governor General's decision does set precedent that will affect the operation of our democracy in…

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  5. Parliament takes a Kit-Kat break

    I will be the first to say that the Governor General's decision to prorogue Parliament is the worst of the possible outcomes we could have seen today. It is not a solution to the crisis. Rather, it is a stall tactic that delays a confidence vote--a vote Harper's Conservatives will likely lose. Moreover, how is this helping our economic situation, which is supposedly so dire that it needs immediate action? If Harper really thought the economy mattered more than his ego and desire for power, he'd seek a better solution--not necessarily yielding to a coalition, sure, but definitely not suspending our legislative assembly!

    That said, I'm glad that we now have a concrete decision, even if it's an ambiguous concrete decision!

    I respect that in our parliamentary democracy, the Governor General's role is to make a decision like this, and I do not envy her this responsibility. No matter what she decided today, she would have upset some Canadians and set a precedent for future governments. I disagree with her decision, but respect it as a democratic one.

    This is why I prefer parliamentary democracy to any other system, such as the American one. We have this check on…

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  6. A Copenhagen interpretation of Canadian politics

    At this point in the game, I feel sorry for small C conservatives. Part of the problem for liberal voters in the last election was that we had a choice for whom we could vote. Aside from abstaining, voting for a conservative independent, or voting for someone who is probably more left of centre than one's ideology would like, conservative Canadians are stuck with Harper. And that sucks.

    Stephen Harper has wrought considerable damage to the Conservative Party of Canada. He has tarnished its reputation and diminished its influence. The Conservatives had a real opportunity in the past years after the fall of the Liberals and the adscam; Stephen Harper squandered that opportunity. The result? There may be another election in a couple of months!

    In Question Period today, rather than try to address tangible disadvantages to a Liberal-NDP coalition--and there are such disadvantages, for sure--Harper led the Conservatives on a spurious, ad hominem attack round against the opposition parties. He accused the leaders of being un-Canadian because they refused to sign their coalition agreement in front of a Canadian flag--this accusation is also false, incidently. Of course, accusing one's opponent of being unpatriotic is the last defence of a…

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  7. A Coalition Christmas: The Greatest Gift of All

    I love this country, and I love our politics.

    Canadian politics are often not as exciting as American politics. And that's true--due to the two-party system in America, the political landscape is a vast minefield of polarized partisanship. In Canada, while we do have two major parties, we have two other parties who exert a strong influence in Parliament.

    But this is why I love Canadian politics: it may not be as exciting as American politics in general, but it can get exciting at any time. Due to our parliamentary system, the government can be defeated on any motion considered a "confidence motion". So in America while the President is elected independently of the legislature every four years, and is generally stuck in office for four years, our leader changes as the government does, and our leader can potentially change at any time.

    Last Friday, Canadian politics got exciting again. The three opposition parties announced that they were in talks to form a coalition government. That means that rather than any one party forming the government, two or more parties would work together to form the government and pass legislation. In order for this to happen, the opposition parties…

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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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About this site

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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