Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Why are the federal Liberals so spineless?

I just heard a news item that said that even though Stéphane Dion is fully against the Tory policies and now their mini-budget, he's so afraid of triggering an election that he is going to support all these measures.

Last time I checked, the majority of Canadians did not vote for the Tories and their policies. More Canadians voted for parties other than the Conservatives than for them. This means that the will of Canadians is to oppose these policies. The voters who supported the NDP and the Bloc Québécois are seeing their elected representatives following their wishes. Those who voted for the Liberals must be disappointed that the candidates they voted for are not.

Let's be clear here: the Liberals are in *big* trouble. They really did shoot themselves in the foot by selecting Stéphane Dion as their leader. They chose a leader who was deeply associated with Jean Chrétien and therefore, by association, the sponsorship scandal, as well as the poster boy for the Clarity Act, and then wonder why the Liberals are doing so dismally in Quebec. But that's neither here nor there.

Sure, if an election were to be held, the Liberals would do even worse. Perhaps a lot worse. Maybe so badly that this would even hand the Tories a majority (shudder). But then that would be the choice of Canadian voters, and this would then give the Tories actual democratic legitimacy to pass their policies, instead of the current situation where they are passing their policies by stealth, taking advantage of an ineffective opposition.

I'm tired of hearing politicians telling us during election time that they are going to "stand up for Canada" and do the right thing, and then once in the House of Commons they act only in their own political interests rather than for the greater good of the country.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

My Personal Podcast Extravaganza

Just what am I listening to these days? I do like music, but most of the time when I'm plugged into my 30-gig video iPod, I'm listening to podcasts. What are podcasts, you ask? Essentially it's free content in MP3 format. Since it is in DRM-free MP3 format, it can be played by virtually any player out there. However, iTunes is by far the easiest software I have come across to organize and update podcasts.

It seems that there are podcasts covering any topic imaginable. Well, it seems that way anyway. If you're in the iTunes Store, all you have to do is click on "podcasts" on the left, and you are presented with a stunning variety of free content to listen to. And these are just the ones listed with iTunes. There are thousands of others hidden out there that you can still subscribe to through iTunes and the software will take care of updating them for you.

Just to give you an idea, here are the podcasts I am subscribed to. Every morning before I go to work, I update these daily ones to listen to on my commute to and from work:
  • The Onion Radio News (1 minute, daily)
    "The Onion Radio News is a daily podcast featuring a short news clip from The Onion's award-winning 24-hour radio news network. Read The Onion at"
    This one is usually pretty hilarious. If you're a fan of The Onion, you'd love this.

  • Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day (2 minutes, daily)
    "Build your vocabulary with Merriam-Webster's Word of the Day! Each day a Merriam-Webster editor offers insight into a fascinating new word -- explaining its meaning, current use, and little-known details about its origin."

  • 60-Second Science (1 minute, Mon-Fri)
    "Leading science journalists provide a daily minute of commentary on some of the most interesting developments in the world of science. For a full-length, weekly podcast you can subscribe to Science Talk: The Podcast of Scientific American." [note: I have tried to do this a couple of times, but I have always had problems, with iTunes telling me that either the connection had timed out or the URL was invalid.]

  • NPR: 7 a.m. ET News Summary (5 minutes, daily)
    "A five-minute NPR News summary you can take with you."
    This news summary is, of course, heavily American-centred, which is fine, as it is my main source of news about what is happening in the U.S.

  • RFI - Le journal en français facile 09h30 TU (10 minutes, daily)
    Twice daily, Radio France Internationale - RFI broadcasts its hourly news report in what they call "français facile" (easy French). I don't think it's as dumbed down as Voice of America's broadcast in Simple English or that the pace is that much slower than standard French. They do try to use a simpler vocabulary, which is not necessarily that much easier for, say, English speakers, because the more "hoity-toity" words in both languages are cognates with each other. I think this program is aimed more for the African audience, but I still find it interesting because it's the only daily news podcast from France that isn't an hour long. It has a more international focus, but it certainly does report on the main news stories in France.

  • BBC World Today Select (15 minutes, Mon-Fri)
    "The best interviews and features from the BBC World Service's flagship news programme."
    This program usually features three stories from around the world: at least one serious news story and then one that is perhaps more "human interest" in focus.

That usually gets me to work and back. Then there are the podcasts that I listen to less frequently but still regularly. Anyone who knows me is aware of my current fascination with Australia. There are several Australian-themed podcasts that I listen to. With the exception of one, they are produced by the Australian Broadcasting Corporation's youth network triple j.

  • triple j's Hack Daily (30 minutes, Mon-Fri)
    "Hack, triple j's current affairs program, covers a range of topics of interest to young people in Australia & around the world - political, cultural, social and health issues. Every weekday we'll update this podcast with the latest full length, half hour episode of Hack."
    I find it fascinating just how similar Australia and Canada are in terms of the issues they grapple with. This program deals with issues of interest mainly to young (and young-at-heart) Australians: the environment, the war in Iraq, drug and alcohol use, ticket scalping, restrictions on "P-platers" (young drivers), human rights, Aboriginal issues, employment (especially youth employment), school, international relations, as well as more off-beat topics--recently they covered people who get their kicks by suspending themselves from the ceiling by putting hooks through their skin! Never a dull moment...

  • jtv (±15 minutes, irregular updates) (caution: video podcast, so big files)
    "Switch on, log on or download new music, interviews, current affairs, documentaries and comedy that takes triple j's irreverence, independence, authority and attitude, and brings it to life in a whole new dimension: jtv."
    This video podcast (vodcast) presents selections from triple j's new TV program. Features music, comedy, documentaries.

  • triple j's Sunday Night Safran (1 hour 20 minutes, weekly)
    "John Safran and his guests (including regular Father Bob) talk an amusing mix of religion and politics."
    At over an hour in length, I find that I often don't have time to listen to this one, and so I end up deleting programs. This is a shame, because it's often interesting and thought-provoking, not to mention entertaining. If I were Catholic, I think I would like to have old Father Bob as my priest. He's well into his 70's or 80's and comes across as a curmudgeonly old coot, but I think it's all an act. John Safran is a Gen-X Jewish comedian who is just as irreverent.

  • Dr Karl on triple j (30 minutes, Thursdays)
    "Join Dr Karl, and a bunch of curious triple j listeners for a weekly injection of science, myth-bashing and answers! Dr Karl on triple j is published every Thursday."
    Apparently and previously unbeknownst to me, Dr Karl (Karl Kruszelnicki) is a cultural phenomenon in Australia. His Wikipedia article says that "He is a scientist, although best known as an author and science commentator on Australian radio and television. He is usually referred to as Dr Karl by his fans." Every Thursday morning people call in to ask Dr Karl science questions and he tries to answer them.

  • Dr Karl's Great Moments in Science (4 minutes, Thursdays)
    "The universe is a strange and wonderful place and, in his Great Moments, Karl has scaled the highest peaks as well as turned over the pebbles to see what's underneath. Dr Karl's Great Moments in Science is published every Thursday."
    In this segment, Dr Karl presents some popular science topic.

  • Lost Out Back (±15 minutes, irregular updates)
    "A podcast about Australia by two unlikely candidates: a geek from the Great White North and a lad from the Emerald Isle."
    This independent (read: low/no budget) podcast is produced by a Canadian and an Irishman, two young guys whose life circumstances brought them to Australia. They present an outsider's view of life in Australia, such as trying to explain Aussie Rules football, the mysterious allure of Vegemite™ and how to "Talk 'Strine" (talk Australian).

Of course, not all my podcasts are Australocentric. Here are others I listen to that you may find interesting.

  • There is a suite of podcasts from the QD ("quick and dirty") Network, all about 5 minutes in length, appearing approximately each week. There's Grammar Girl's Quick and Dirty Tips for Better Writing ("Grammar Girl provides short, friendly tips to improve your writing. Whether English is your first language or your second language, these grammar, punctuation, style, and business tips will make you a better and more successful writer."), Mr. Manners' Quick and Dirty Tips for a More Polite Life ("Mr. Manners provides short, friendly tips to help you live a more polite life. Whether you want to impress your business associates or just your friends, these tips will start you on your way.") and Legal Lad's Quick and Dirty Tips for a More Lawful Life ("Legal Lad is a real lawyer. In around five minutes, he'll tell you something about the law that you can use in your everyday life.")

  • The President's Weekly Radio Address (parody) (±5 minutes, Sundays)
    " is the official parody of the White House's Weekly Radio Address website. Each week a new, informative Address by George W. Bush is featured. For more Weekly Radio Addresses, visit Also be sure to read the President's autobiography "Destined for Destiny," available wherever books are sold, and from the iTunes Audiobook Store."
    This is not for fans of George W. Bush. Non-fans of the President will find this hilarious. Don't misunderestimatize it!

  • Savage Love Podcast (±25 minutes, Tuesdays)
    "Dan Savage, America's only advice columnist, answers your sex questions on the Internets. To record a question for Dan to be answered in a later podcast, call 206-201-2720."
    Very frank advice on sex and love. Another podcast for fans of George W. Bush to avoid...

  • This American Life (1 hour, Mondays)
    "Official free, weekly podcast of the award-winning radio show "This American Life." First-person stories and short fiction pieces that are touching, funny and surprising. Hosted by Ira Glass, from WBEZ Chicago Public Radio. In mp3 and updated Mondays."
    This wildly popular NPR program is now available in podcast form. Each show is divided into 2-4 "acts" all centred around a selected theme.

  • HomoMicro - Podcast Gay Francophone (1 hour, weekly)
    "Homomicro, l'émission qui se prend au mot. Émission de radio Lesbienne Gay Bi Trans sur Paris. French gay radio show in Paris.
    Another show I often end up deleting shows due to a lack of time. Unfortunately a bit cheesy at times, particularly the disco music, but I just love the guy's sexy Parisian voice. And who knows, the odd interesting story is thrown in.

  • Secret Pants Sketch Comedy (video) (irregular length and updates, big files)
    "Once upon a time, in a land far, far north of center city Philadelphia, there lived a sketch comedy group named Secret Pants. They were not big, nor strong, but they shared a warm fondness for making others laugh, and a similar fondness for drinking and watching re-rums of Parker Lewis Can't Loose. Together, they created a sketch comedy website – - and created sketch comedy that has been described as "hilarious and ribald," "charming, endearing, and funny enough to get away with just about anything," but also "potentially offensive." (etc. etc. etc. - Man, that description keeps rambling...)
    Sketch comedy that very often crosses the line... Only if you like your humour very irreverent. Suits my twisted sense of humour.
So there you have it. If you want to subscribe to a podcast that is not available through iTunes, copy the link into the clipboard, go into iTunes and select "Advanced", then "Subscribe to podcast..." and paste the link in the window.

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Poor, Useless Penny

I just took a look at the CFRA poll for today, and today's question referred to an unnamed Canadian financial institution that called for the Royal Canadian Mint to stop producing the penny. I think this would be a marvellous idea (and I'd like to know which financial institution this was). I hate pennies! (I hate Canadian Tire money too, which is why I never pay for purchases at Canadian Tire in cash or with debit.)

Honestly, what is the point of the penny? Certainly it was worth something at some time. In fact, in the UK, they used to have half pennies, which were minted up until 1984, and even farthings, which were valued at ¼ of a penny, and they were demonetized in 1960. However, the days when a penny would actually buy you something are long gone. No vending machines accept the penny. (Did they ever?) Australia got rid of the penny in 1992. It's time to do the same here. It costs too much to make and handle, and it takes up too much space in the change purse. Too bad small-c conservative people would protest the penny's demise. (I see that most CFRA listeners prefer to spend theirs.)

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Here is the most recent Tabblo I made, this time of my trip to Washington DC two summers ago. Click on the pictures below to be taken to the Tabblo site.