Categories
Life Toronto (a.k.a. Accordion City)

The Latest Threat to Hit Toronto: Vuvuzela Vendors

vuvuzela vendors 1

As if the annoyances both minor (tornado warnings, earthquakes, blackouts and a heat wave) and major (riots and police chiefs with Stasi fantasies) weren’t enough. Now Accordion City faces a new threat: guys selling vuvuzelas, the latest in a long line of scary products from South Africa (including apartheid, District 9 and Johnny Clegg).

These guys were hawking their wares at the corner of Yonge and Dundas. Don’t encourage them by buying one.

vuvuzela vendors 2

Categories
Life

O Canada!

Canada

Yes, I know Canada Day has come and gone, but this perfect animated summary of all things Canadian was too good to let go unposted.

Categories
Life

Happy 4th of July!

this is america

I’d like to wish my American readers a happy 4th of July!

Have a safe and fun holiday, and if you manage to find fireworks like the “This is America” ones pictured above (it’s probably the most powerful thing you can buy at a store without some kind of license – the tube is a mortar, and those things around it are the “shells”), take whatever measures you need to keep all your fingers on your hands!

Categories
Life Work

Plagiarism, Inc.

Photo: Jordan Kavoosi and two-coworkers, shirtless with the words "EWC - No homework" painted on their chests. "Whould you buy an essay from these guys?"

“Sure, it’s unethical, but it’s just a business,” says Jordan Kavoosi, who runs Essay Writing Company, one of those places where students who don’t want to write essays or term papers can have someone else do it form them. "I mean, what about strip clubs or porn shops? Those are unethical, and city-approved."

Plagiarism, Inc. is an article about Kavoosi and his company located in the Apple Valley suburb of Minneapolis/St. Paul. It’s an amusing read, what with Kavoosi’s somewhat sleazy line of work, the even more sleazy way he treats his employees and the generally sleazy way in which comes across in the article.

Screenshot: Essay Writing Company's site's home page

Here are the answers to the question “Why use an essay writing company?”, which appears on Essay Writing Company’s site:

  • Essay writing can be very time consuming. The research that goes into it can be a bit overwhelming. The complexity of your assigned research paper may even discourage you from completing it. This is where Essaywritingcompany.com can help.. We can save you a lot of time and effort by taking on the task of creating a professionally written custom essay for you.
  • No matter how complex the writing assignment or a close due date, our teams of academic writing specialists are highly qualified and capable of providing you with a research paper that will make the grade.
  • Notice the difference between a normal essay and a professionally written essay.
  • Let our academic specialists provide you with a custom essay that will get you the grade you need. This will allow you the chance to continue with your life and spend more time with your friends..
  • Our professional essay writing company will do all the research that is needed for your assignment.

The real answer is much simpler and needs only one bullet point: “Because you’re unethical and lazy.”

Found via Jeff “Coding Horror” Atwood.

Categories
Life

The 24 Types of Libertarian

Comic: The 24 Types of Libertarian

Categories
Geek Life The Current Situation

Conflict Minerals and Blood Tech

conflict minerals

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.

Nichloas Kristof of the New York Times wrote about metals like tantalum purchased from Congo – conflict metals – in an op-ed yesterday:

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’s latest 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.

This article also appears in Global Nerdy.

Categories
Geek Life Toronto (a.k.a. Accordion City)

GovCamp’s Coming to Toronto: Thursday, June 17th

govcamp toronto

GovCamp in Toronto!

First came GovCamp in Ottawa (May 31st – June 1st), and now GovCamp is coming to Toronto! GovCamp is an “Open Government” or “Goverment 2.0” unconference with these two goals:

  1. For governments to become more open, transparent, participatory, innovative, efficient and effective
  2. 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:

  • Government transformation
  • Social networking software
  • Participatory approaches to public engagement
  • Open data
  • 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:

GovCamp Toronto will be hosted by:

  • Omar Rashid, Public Sector, Microsoft Canada
  • Julia Stowell, Interoperability Lead, Microsoft Canada

Where, When and What’s Happening

appel salon

GovCamp Toronto’s venue is nice and also quite central: the Appel Salon at the Toronto Reference Library (789 Yonge Street, just north of Bloor).

Here’s the agenda:

5:00 Catered reception
6:00 Welcome
6:10 Opening remarks (David Eaves)
6:25 Discussion hosts introduce topics
7:00 Small group discussions and demonstrations
8:30 Closing wrap discussion
9:00 Catered reception

There are a number of ways to participate:

  • 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.
  • You can join the conversation. You can either:

Find Out More About GovCamp

There’s lot of information, ideas and reportage from the recent GovCamp in Ottawa at the GovCamp site – be sure to check it out!

This article also appears in Canadian Developer Connection.