Kara Babcock

I read, write, code, and knit.

5 Articles from January 2011

  1. Submission to the legislative committee on Bill C-32

    Today is the last day that the House of Commons legislative committee on Bill C-32 is accepting submissions regarding possible amends to Bill C-32, our latest attempt to amend the Copyright Act. What follows is my submission to them. It is definitely not very formal and contains no real proposed amendments--many more knowledgeable people have already made such submissions, and I defer to them in that area of expertise. Nevertheless, I felt that it was important to have my voice heard.

    Dear Legislative Committee on Bill C-32,

    I am not a pirate.

    Hard to believe, I know. The current draft of Bill C-32 seems to imply that piracy is rampant in Canada, and in particular among the demographic to which I belong, that of the 18–34-year-old university student. Curiously enough, this perspective corresponds to the one advanced by the industries who distribute music, movies, and media, the very industries who are now complaining that Internet piracy is destroying their business model. While I expect such heated, anti-consumer rhetoric from those industries, who after all are obligated by their shareholders to demonize and portray consumers as immoral beings who will only partake in legally-provided media if they have no other option,…

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  2. I can haz conference?

    This Friday, Saturday, and Sunday I attended the eighth annual Combinatorial Algebra meets Algebraic Combinatorics Conference. No, I didn't record awesome video diaries as I did when I attended the 2010 Canadian Undergraduate Mathematics Conference. I did meet many experts in these fields, listened to interesting talks that I didn't really understand, and gave a talk of my own!

    Combinatorial algebra and algebraic combinatorics are, as the conference's title and purpose expresses, two sides of the same mathematical coin. They are areas of mathematics that combine techniques from combinatorics and abstract algebra (notably, commutative algebra) to solve a variety of problems in algebra, combinatorics, and even algebraic geometry. Now, these fields are specialized. I got the impression that even among the thirty or so graduate students, postdocs, and professors in attendance, many of them were struggling to keep up with some of the talks, because the topics in this area, as with any specialized field, can get pretty esoteric. One fellow gave a talk on cluster algebras, and the room was rather silent when it came time for questions.

    Still, it was exciting to attend the conference even though I, as an undergraduate student with only two courses…

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  3. We interrupt your irregularly-scheduled blog posts

    This term I'm taking Philosophy & the Internet. Appropriately, it is online; more appropriately, part of our evaluation will be based on how we use an online service--be it a blog, YouTube channel, Facebook page, etc.--to respond critically to four of the weekly readings of our choice. Since I already have a blog, and I'm lazy, I'm just going to use this one. I thought I should make a post about it first, in part so that other people reading this know what's going on, but mostly because I don't want the "philosophy 2715" tag to be empty when I post a link to it on Moodle.

    Now, since I like discussing the Internet and technology in general, and I have been known to apply the occasional philosophical eye to previous posts, this will not be strange fare. The format might be slightly different, and I will be referring to things we have discussed in class to which my wider audience will not be privy. You should have registered for the course, suckers.

    I'll likely start posting in two and a half, three weeks, once we start talking about capitalism and the Internet and online surveillance. Until then, here is…

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  4. The federal government hates blind people and web designers

    Originally I was just going to tweet a link to this CBC news article and leave it at that. The more I thought about it, however, the more outraged I became. I'm not sure why. Maybe it's out of some need to feel vicariously oppressed, on account of the fact that I am a tall white male and thus systemically unoppressed. Maybe it's because, although I am not a professional web designer, I am familiar enough with the field to weep over the attitude displayed here by the government. It is 2011. Last December, the Web turned twenty years old. And we still can't support blind users? Seriously?

    That is what the federal government says. Apparently, rather than spend taxpayer money to pay web designers to update its websites, it would rather spend that money paying lawyers to appeal this court decision. Rather than offer equal services to blind users, it would rather go to court and spend our tax dollars to ensure it can continue discriminating. The government is making us accomplices to discrimination. And here I thought I lived in Canada, not the United States.

    I am taking a Philosophy of the Internet course this term, online of…

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  5. Top 10 best and worst books I read in 2010

    For the third consecutive year I have prepared two top 10 lists of books. One has the best books I read last year, and the other has the worst books.

    Recently I completed a new feature for my site, book lists. They do exactly what they sound like: lists of books I've read, with reviews I've written on Goodreads. This is all part of a larger work-in-progress, which is a portal that offers an overview of my reading.

    Rather than reproduce the list here as I have done in the past, I'll just link to the two lists. Since book lists do not accept comments, however, please post your comments here!

    And you may want to check out the lists from previous years.

    I intend to analyze my reading statistics in detail like I did for 2009. Those should be available soon. For now, let me just say that I read 137 books in 2010--fewer than last year's total, 156 books. My goal for 2011 is 166--I hope to regain my lost ground and better it by ten! Wish me luck.