One of the songs in my MP3 collection that’s on heavy rotation is Cage the Elephant’s Beck-ish, slide-guitar southern-rock-y ode to “doin’ what you gotta”, Ain’t No Rest for the Wicked. It practically begs for an accordion version, so I’m learning it in order to add it to my repertoire, which could stand a little refreshing.
I should feel ashamed to say this, but a decade’s worth of public accordion playing has attenuated my ability to feel shame: the reason I know about Ain’t No Rest for the Wicked isn’t because I’m dialed into the alt-rock music scene. Thanks to middle age, I used to be with it, but they’ve since changed what “it” was. I know about the song because of…well, a video game. Namely, Borderlands, which uses the song in its intro sequence:
For the curious (and the fans), here’s Cage the Elephant’s official video for Ain’t No Rest for the Wicked. Enjoy!
Say the word “silicon” and chances are, you’ll think of technology. After all, silicon’s relationship to tech – it’s part of what makes transistors and chips – has been part of popular culture for decades, from the “Silicon chip inside her head” opening line from the Boomtown Rats’ song I Don’t Like Mondays to “Silicon Valley” as the nickname for the suburban expanse between San Francisco and San Jose.
Silicon is only part of the equation, however. The chips that drive our computers, mobile phones and assorted electronica are actually a “layer cake” consisting not only of silicon, but also oxide and metal.
There’s also the matter of key non-chip components like capacitors, which momentarily store an electrical charge. They’re made of thin layers of conductive metal separated by a thin layer of insulator. We use their “buffering” capabilities to smooth out “spiky” electrical currents, filter through signal interference, pick out a specific frequency from a spectrum of them and other “cleaning up” operations.
One of the metals used in the manufacture of capacitors is tantalum, which you can extract from a metal ore called coltan, whose name is short for “columbite-tantalite”. About 20% of the world’s supply of tantalum comes from Congo, and proceeds of from the sale of coltan are how their warlords – the scum driving the world’s most vicious conflict, and who’ve turned the country into the rape capital of the world – are bankrolled.
I’ve never reported on a war more barbaric than Congo’s, and it haunts me. In Congo, I’ve seen women who have been mutilated, children who have been forced to eat their parents’ flesh, girls who have been subjected to rapes that destroyed their insides. Warlords finance their predations in part through the sale of mineral ore containing tantalum, tungsten, tin and gold. For example, tantalum from Congo is used to make electrical capacitors that go into phones, computers and gaming devices.
Electronics manufacturers have tried to hush all this up. They want you to look at a gadget and think “sleek,” not “blood.”
Yet now there’s a grass-roots movement pressuring companies to keep these “conflict minerals” out of high-tech supply chains. Using Facebook and YouTube, activists are harassing companies like Apple, Intel and Research in Motion (which makes the BlackBerry) to get them to lean on their suppliers and ensure the use of, say, Australian tantalum rather than tantalum peddled by a Congolese militia.
He also points to the Enough Project’slatest video, which used humour and a reference to the “I’m a Mac / I’m a PC” TV commercials to draw the public’s attention to conflict metals and to encourage them to contact electronics manufacturers and ask them to be more vigilant when sourcing components:
The Enough Project says that auditing component supply chains at the smelters to see whether the metal was sources from “clean” places like Australia or Canada instead of lining the pockets of Congolese warlords would add about one cent to the price of a cellphone, and that this figure originates from within the industry. I’d happily pay a thousand times that for each of my devices – a mere ten bucks – to ensure that I wasn’t bankrolling rape and murder.
I’ll close this post with the closing paragraph from Kristof’s op-ed:
We may be able to undercut some of the world’s most brutal militias simply by making it clear to electronics manufacturers that we don’t want our beloved gadgets to enrich sadistic gunmen. No phone or tablet computer can be considered “cool” if it may be helping perpetuate one of the most brutal wars on the planet.
The best antidote for a day full of meetings in boardrooms in a suburban office park is to finish it in different surroundings. So when my last meeting on Friday ended with a couple of hours of business day to spare, I made a beeline for one of my favourite “field offices” – Cafe Novo, located across the street from High Park, and a very short walk from home.
The photo above was the view from my “workstation” at 4 p.m. on Friday: the bar facing the roll-up front wall which in turn faces the park. Pictured are the tools of my trade – my trusty Dell Latitude XT2 tablet with the memory maxed out at 5 GB and the so-last-century mechanical hard drive replaced with a solid state one, my favourite portable mouse and an iced mocha.
Working in settings like this is one of the perks of the job.
For governments to become more open, transparent, participatory, innovative, efficient and effective
For citizens to become more connected to each other around their civic passions in the place they call home
GovCamp Toronto will take place on the evening of Thursday, June 17th and will be an evening where all sorts of people, from private citizens to government officials to representatives of publicly-funded organizations will get together to talk about the intersection of:
Social networking software
Participatory approaches to public engagement
Public service renewal
Is GovCamp the sort of thing you should attend? It is if you’re one of the following:
A municipal, provincial or federal public servant or a public sector agency employee with an interest in these topics
A thought leader looking to share and connect with this community
A member of the community of developers, advocates and practitioners in public engagement, government communications, technology, open data, open government or "Gov 2.0"
Who’ll Be There?
Few people know more about setting up “Government 2.0” unconferences than Toronto’s favourite high-tech policy wonk Mark Kuznicki, and we’re very fortunate to have him as GovCamp Toronto’s MC and facilitator. Mark has been behind a number of similar unconferences, including ChangeCamp, TransitCamp and Metronauts.
There will be a number of special guests including:
David Eaves, Public Policy Entrepreneur, Open Government Activist and Collaboration Expert
You can host a conversation. The conversations at GovCamp Toronto are created by you. We are looking for up to 20 hosts to help convene small group conversations on a variety of topics related to our theme. If you’ve got an idea for a conversation topic, propose one using the online form.
You can demo your web or mobile application. We’re looking for up to 6 web or mobile app demos that show the value of open public data, demonstrate what is possible in open government, or demonstrate real world application of social tools inside government. If you’ve built such an app, propose a demo using the online form.