Thursday, November 30, 2006 is now up and running

Where do you get your news from?

If you're like me, there are a whole bunch of ways to get hold of what's happening in the world. There's on-line, newspapers, print magazines, TV, word-of-mouth, news releases, the company newsletter -- the list goes on and on.

The scale can be intimidating. And it's hard to figure out whether you're reading a balanced, fair perspective, or a one-sided rant based on questionable assumptions or even outright falsehoods.

Lately, I've been participating in an experiment that combines the higher ideals of the new citizen journalist movement with traditional news outlets. It's called and the public beta of the website launched a couple of days ago.

The premise is simple. compiles stories from around the world on a variety of topics and posts them on their site. Then members review the stories and rate them, adding comments, if they like. Ideally, the result will clarify the neutrality of a piece, based on accepted standards of ethical journalism.

Here's how the site describes the process:

In recent years, the consolidation of mainstream media, combined with the rise of opinion news and the explosion of new media outlets, have created a serious problem for democracy: many people feel they can no longer trust the news media to deliver the information they need as citizens.

To address this critical issue, NewsTrust is developing an online news rating service to help people identify quality journalism - or "news you can trust." Our members rate the news online, based on journalistic quality, not just popularity. Our beta website and news feed feature the best and the worst news of the day, picked from hundreds of alternative and mainstream news sources.

This non-profit community effort tracks news media nationwide and helps citizens make informed decisions about democracy. Submitted stories and news sources are carefully researched and rated for balance, fairness and originality by panels of citizen reviewers, students and journalists. Their collective ratings, reviews and tags are then featured in our news feed, for online distribution by our members and partners.

Note that the ratings are supposed to be based on "journalistic quality," not just popularity. That's been one of my complaints about some of the similar news sites, where people can vote for stories they like. In theory, NewsTrust has different standards.

It's an interesting idea and if it works it will add some clarity to some pretty large issues facing the world. And while the focus of the site may be U.S.-based, the more Canadians and others that participate, the more influence we'll have.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

The Internet and the death of anonymity

So I'm sitting here in my office (with my thinking cap on), working on a post about some aspect of the world around me, or even my world. And I upload it to TheDailyUpload, and then you notice I've done that and you read it. It seems fairly straightforward, doesn't it?

But as normal as it seems now, it wasn't that long ago that the world looked a lot different. From the way we got our news, to the way we communicated, and the way we acted towards each other. In fact, when you stop to think about it, the changes are profound and they haven't stopped. We're in the midst of an info revolution and we can only guess at the ultimate effect it will have.

So I was intrigued by Michael Kinsley's new article on Slate, the online magazine where he used to hang out (and co-founded). It's called Like I Care: On The Internet Everybody Knows You're A Dog.

The title comes, of course, from the famous New Yorker cartoon of a dog sitting at a keyboard, with the tagline "On the Internet, nobody knows you're a dog."

While anonymity was once touted as the strength of the medium, today's Internet has turned that concept on its head. As Kinsley points out:
But anonymity does not actually seem to interest many of the Web's most devoted users. They are the ones who start their own sites, or sign up for MySpace, or submit videos to YouTube. Quite the opposite: The most successful Web sites seem to be those where people can abandon anonymity and use the Internet to stake their claims as unique individuals. Here is a list of my friends. Here are all the CDs in my collection. Here is a picture of my dog. On the Internet, not only does everybody know that you're a dog. Everybody knows what kind of dog, how old, your taste in collars, your favorite dog food recipe, and so on.

As Kinsley wanders through his article, he seems worried about what's happening. But he doesn't claim to have any answers. Just a lot of questions. And a niggling concern that what's happening might not be all good.

I share his concern. While I'm an unabashed supporter of new technology, I worry about the way our society is evolving. The online freedom we enjoy has a dark side. People say things online they'd never mention face-to-face. And the world seems like a darker place, thanks to how much we know about all the bad things going on around us.

I love melodramas and the other night I watched How Green Was My Valley. It's the story of a Welsh coal mining village's evolution from idyllic to ruined wasteland, thanks to the success of the Industrial Revolution.

OK, I'm stretching things, I admit. But the Internet has changed our world, just as the Industrial Revolution changed that Welsh valley. But the people in that village packed up and moved to other places. Life went on. Some of it was good and some was bad.

Like Kinsley, I don't know whether all this is good or bad. Of course, I have plenty of opinions. And as a good citizen of the Web, I'll keep posting them and pointing to other people's thoughts and suggesting that you do the same.

And in another 30 years, I'll probably regret some of them just as much as I regret wearing that plaid suit and those tinted glasses.

Monday, November 27, 2006

Storm-stayed in Victoria - go figure

We woke up this morning to a ton of white stuff all over Victoria and the rest of the lower mainland of BC. What a surprise!

This wasn't the kind of winter weather I had in mind when we decided to come out here, that's for sure. I know...I can hear all of you people in other parts of Canada saying "Give us a break. A little snow! Big deal!"

I used to say that too. But regardless of whether you figure we're all wimps because the city is shut down by a major snowfall -- I can tell you that the problems are many.

Yesterday, Heather got stranded when her new Mazda just couldn't cut the heavy snow. We're not sure whether it was because the large, oversized sport tires that didn't leave enough room for snow in the wheelwells, or whether the tires are just a bad compound. The end result was that she couldn't get up some of the hills around here - like a lot of other people. The heavy snow got really slippery, really fast.

She ended up leaving her car near the hospital, after taking almost an hour to do the 10-minute drive over there. Later, when the snowfall let up, we picked it up and brought it home.

But this morning, after snowing all night, the entire city is pretty much shut down. Schools are closed, offices, roads - everything is at a standstill. The cold weather has arrived now and the city just doesn't have the resources to clear this stuff away in a hurry. We'll have to wait for some warmer weather and a BC snowplow (ie Rain) to clear it.

Meantime, it is pretty, as you can see from the pictures. And of course, our dogs are loving it. It's not your typical West Coast weather, but for a prairie boy, it's not so bad. But that's enough for now. We can return to normal programming any time now.

UPDATE -- You can see more pictures at my Flickr site.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Stretch your mind and peer into the future

So this morning I put up a post about how the Internet is the "big thing" right now. And I do believe that.

But if history has taught us anything, it's that the biggest things in the future probably aren't even on our radar yet.

So what will our world look like in the future? What kind of breakthroughs are on the horizon? Will we even be around in 50 years?

As part of it's 50th anniversary celebration, the good folks at the New Scientist magazine asked a bunch of leading scientists to peer into the future and talk about what's to come in the next 50 years:

What will be the biggest breakthrough of the next 50 years? As part of our 50th anniversary celebrations we asked over 70 of the world's most brilliant scientists for their ideas.

In coming decades will we: discover that we are not alone in the universe? Unravel the physiological basis for consciousness? Routinely have false memories implanted in our minds? Begin to evolve in new directions? And will physicists finally hit upon a universal theory of everything? In fact, if the revelations of the last 50 years are anything to go on - the internet and the human genome for example - we probably have not even thought up the exciting advances that lay ahead of us.
Delve into those visions of the future by author in the story list of this special report...

There's some fascinating articles in here from a lot of brilliant minds that I've never heard of. They cover topics all over the map and the scope is breathtaking. Set aside some time this weekend and curl up with your computer. Or, if you're so inclined, pick up a copy of the Special Report at your favourite magazine stand.

Thanks to the folks at Boing, Boing for pointing me to this story.

Don't bet against the Internet, says Google's CEO

So Google's share price has now gone above $500. Wow. According to the New York Times, there are only 13 American companies that are worth more. As the story points out, that's not bad for a company that was forced to lower it's initial public share offering price to $85 from $95 when it first went public two years ago.

And if you were listening to me, and bought their stock, you're in pretty good shape, aren't you? Same with Apple. I told people to buy that stock and it's worked out pretty well too.

Unfortunately, I didn't follow my own advice. So instead of being rich now, I own a few pretty boring mutual funds, which might contain a tiny bit of those two, but probably don't. But they do fit my investment risk profile...

Of course, when I was telling people to buy, I didn't have any money. And I still don't. But if I had bought then, I'd have a lot of money now...there's some kind of a lesson there, but I'm still not sure what it is.

At any rate, Google's success has given it a certain clout in the market and it makes sense to pay attention to advice that comes from that company.

In the Economist magazine's The World in 2007 edition, Google's CEO Eric Schmidt advises us not to bet against the Internet. And he outlines his reasons why the exciting stuff we're seeing now is just the tip of the iceberg that's to come.

He's right. We're living through a revolution every bit as world-changing as anything else that's come before. The Web is changing our world - it has changed our world - and the effects are only just starting to be noticed.

In another two years, I predict we'll be looking back and wondering why we didn't see things more clearly. It all seems so obvious in hindsight. Of course Google would succeed. Why didn't everyone realize that? Sigh...too bad some of us didn't believe our own hype.

What about you? What's in your future? What are you getting into now so that you can look back and say "boy, that was a smart thing to do?" Real estate comes to mind, given the way the market has gone lately. I wish I owned a lot in Uculet, like some people I know!

Meanwhile, I'm still waiting for the land boom in Buena Vista to take off...

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Look beyond gas mileage when evaluating cars

Saving the environment is a hot topic these days. Or perhaps "saving" is not the right word. Talking about how bad things are might be a more accurate description.

Balance is a big problem with the kind of news we get when an issue captures the publics' attention as has happened with climate change.

There are some serious works out right now that I want to read, like Thomas Homer-Dixon's new book, The Upside of Down.

But in the meantime, I was intrigued by this post about some surprising statistics on which cars are the most "climate friendly," in terms of how much energy has gone into making, delivering and using them. The answers are not necessarily what you think.

The post I've copied here is from the Signals vs Noise blog, which is put together by the good folks at 37 Signals, the makers of Basecamp and Tada Lists. And if you don't know what those are, check them out and take a tour. It could change your life forever.

Look beyond gas mileage when making an environmental choice

It’s easy to focus exclusively on gas mileage when making an environmentally conscious car choice. But there’s more to the story.

CNW Marketing Research Inc., an Oregon-based auto research spent two years collecting data on the energy necessary to plan, build, sell, drive and dispose of a vehicle from initial concept to scrappage. They call it a dust-to-dust analysis of the environmental impact of a car.

You may be surprised if you thought hybrids were the obvious winners.

The Honda Accord Hybrid has an Energy Cost per Mile of $3.29 while the conventional Honda Accord is $2.18. Put simply, over the “Dust to Dust” lifetime of the Accord Hybrid, it will require about 50 percent more energy than the non-hybrid version, CNW claims.

And you may do a doubletake after reading this:

For example, while the industry average of all vehicles sold in the U.S. in 2005 was $2.28 cents per mile, the Hummer H3 (among most SUVs) was only $1.949 cents per mile. That figure is also lower than all currently offered hybrids and Honda Civics at $2.42 per mile.

Basically, when considering all relevant variables such as materials, fabrication, plastics, carpets, chemicals, shipping, and transportation, gas mileage turns out to be significantly less relevant than many people assume.What I like about this study – and of course it’s just one study – is that it looks at the total cost/impact of creation, ownership, and disposal. It’s easy for the media, the public, car dealers, and car manufactures to focus almost exclusively on miles per gallon. However, as is usually the case, reality points in a different direction than what’s convenient.

There’s nothing wrong with buying a hybrid to save on fuel costs, but maybe it’s time to put down the “I’m doing it for the environment” flag and put up the “I’m doing it to save money on gas” one. And there’s nothing wrong with that, of course.

If you’re interested in the details, check out the full 450-page report.

My brother Ken used this kind of an index to make his own decision about what to buy a couple of years ago. He had thought that buying a hybrid would be the most environmentally responsible thing to do. But his car is mostly driven on the highway, since he rides his bike to work. And hybrids don't use their electric motors on the highway - just in stop and go stuff.

The bottom line is he decided to buy a cheaper car and consider how to use the money he saved towards other energy-saving uses, like new windows or insulating the basement. That way, the total energy impact is lower.

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Friday, November 17, 2006

Everyone sing along...

OK, it's another weekend. Whoo-hoo! So let's do something fun, OK?

I've heard this song many times over the last year, thanks to the podsafe music, but I just found this video clip on YouTube featuring a live, a Capella version of it. It's by a band called Da Vinci's Notebook and well...have a listen. You don't need to know more than that.

The video quality sucks, but the audio is great.

Oh, one final thing. This is not a "bad" song, but some might find it just a wee bit insensitive. So it might not be worksafe, although I'm sure everyone at work will be laughing along with the guys in the band.


Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Dove's campaign for real beauty goes viral

I'm a little late to this story, so forgive me if you've already seen this video from Dove. It's part of their Campaign for Real Beauty. So far, the most notable thing I've noticed about the campaign were the series of real women modeling their underwear. Not the usual subway fare.

The video below was posted to YouTube on October 24, presumably by someone from Dove. The original video is also on the Web at the Dove site I linked to above.

It's a striking example of what goes into making a typical fashion ad and it's fascinating to watch. Sure, we know that the images we see on billboards and bus shelters aren't real, right? But still, to see them develop is pretty cool. I especially like the way they Photoshop the final image...I only wish I could that kind of control over my pictures.

Dove's campaign is interesting and it seems to be working. According to the stats on the YouTube posting, the video has had almost 300,000 views since it was posted on October 24. That's a lot of traffic. And even more impressive when you consider that posting a video to YouTube is free.

But is it more than just an attempt to sell soap? Or just a new way to do the same old stuff. I'd be interested to hear some of your comments.

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Thursday, November 09, 2006

Donald Rumsfeld will be missed by comedians everywhere

While Democrats and plenty of others cheered at the news that Rumsfeld was gone, he was a great source of material for comedy shows, as a search of YouTube will show.

But here's a great clip from the Late, Late Show that really seems to sum up the Rumsfeld style...

Thanks to the OneGoodMove blog, where I found it.


Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Proud Papa - Jaime update

I've been a bit remiss in updating Jaime's results at the inaugural National Rowing Championships in Welland, Ontario, so here we go.

Jaime followed up her excellent showing from Sunday, (when she placed ninth overall - first in the Under 23 lightweight - time trials) with a strong showing in her first singles heat, then earning her way into the final events with a second strong result in the afternoon.

Tuesday, Jaime wrapped up the regatta with a fifth place in the lightweight "B" final and a first place in the lightweight doubles final. You can find the final results here (in a .pdf document.)

Jaime ended up second among the Under 23 lightweights and 11th overall out of all the lightweights. Her strong showing puts her in a great position to claim a spot on the National Under 23 team that will go to the world championships in Scotland this summer.

Jaime arrived home today, tired, but happy with the way the past week has gone.

She's got one final regatta with UVIC this weekend in Seattle, then she'll begin training with the National Team here in Victoria. While the final composition of the team won't be known for a while yet, we've got our fingers crossed that she'll be in the final boat.

Congratulations, Jaime. You've made your Papa proud!

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Monday, November 06, 2006

An easy way to speed up your browsing

Last night, I received an invitation to tour the New York Times website for a week during what is called Free Access week over at the newspaper. Since free is about the price I'm willing to pay for a lot of stuff, I zipped right over to their Technology section to see some of the latest stuff from David Pogue, their technology columnist.

I'm not sure whether his stuff is usually behind a firewall, but I took advantage of the chance to look through some of what he's been posting lately. He's one of those "names" that seem to carry a lot of weight in the technology community, so he's usually worth a read.

One of the items that jumped out at me was A faster Web - for free which told how anyone can speed up their web connection, using a service called OpenDNS. Pogue claims that just by starting to use it, his access times for getting web pages to load in his browser were dropping at an amazing rate.

Frankly, it sounded a little too good to be true. It's free, for one thing, and there's no software to install, and no sales people are going to call. You don't have to register, or give away your email address or anything...can this be for real?

Well, I got my router switched over to start using OpenDNS's servers and it really does seem to work. I can cruise around the Web a lot quicker (judging from my own non-scientific clicking), and it works for every computer in the house, just by switching a couple of options on the router.

Try it for yourself. It really works. And thanks, Mr. Pogue, for pointing it out to all of us.

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Sunday, November 05, 2006

Proud Papa - Canadian University Championships

Jaime is at the Canadian University Championships (CUR) this weekend in St. Catherines, Ontario. Her UVIC lightweight womens' four is the defending national champion.

But on Saturday, they had to give up their crown, as they finished third in the four, losing to perennial rival Queens and upstart Western. Western also won the overall title, the first time they'd done so.

While third in the nation is nothing to sneeze at, I know that Jaime and her team are disappointed not to have won for the third year in a row. The good news is that they're a young team, and they'll all be back for another year, so they should be even stronger next year.

UVIC's coach Rick Crawley wrote up the results of the regatta here for the UVIC website.

Jaime was also rowing her single for the first time at the CURs. She came fifth overall. UVIC was the only womens team to place a boat in every final race, but they only came away with one win, in the women's lightweight double. Jaime wasn't in that boat this time.

Now Jaime is off to Welland for the first-ever National Rowing Championships which is a new, invitation-only gathering of some of the best rowers in Canada, put on by Rowing Canada. She'll be rowing Sunday, Monday and Tuesday out there, before heading back to Victoria.

UPDATE -- Jaime recovered from the disappointment on Saturday with a huge effort in the time trials at the NRC's on Sunday. She finished ninth out of all the lightweight women, and first among the Under 23's. She's qualified for more racing on Monday and Tuesday.

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