What I'm Reading
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Wednesday, June 29. 2005
Today at work we hit a major milestone. For the last five years, my work place has been building a large web application for the University. It was decided a long time ago that we would share this application with other institutions. The powers above decided that it was important for public universities to produce public goods, so they decided to release our software under an open source license. I've mentioned open source software a few times before, but to reiterate what it is, it is software that lets you have the source code, and it allows you to modify it, study it, and share it. In many cases, it's also free of charge.
This has been many years of hard work, and we finally did it. It has been an on-going work place joke about when we would release our software as open source. We had two years of legal non-sense from an organization that approves open source licenses, and it seemed like we were never going to go open source. When we finally got approved, we kicked into high gear to get everything ready for open source. We spent a term or two cleaning up our code, and improving it before we released it.
A lot of work has been put into getting our code ready for the release. We went through and cleaned out a bunch of obsolete and old code. Our code has gone from 330,000 lines of code, down to 243,000 lines of code. The most significant changes in the last little while was: bringing code up to XHTML standards, upgrading our database abstraction layer to promote database portability, security upgrades, removing obsolete code, implementing a plug-in architecture, moving from cookies to sessions, and refactoring ugly code.
This last three days alone, we've put in over 40 hours of work already. Working overtime always yields funny stories. Whenever we pull overtime hours, we order delicious delivery food. A few years ago, we tried to get delivery from Swiss Chalet, but their call centre (which is in a different city) refused to deliver to UVic because they didn't recognize the postal code. My boss went to Swiss Chalet for a dinner shortly after that incident, and asked one of the waitresses if they delivered to UVic, and the waitress replied of course since UVic was in Saanich. Today, we attempted to order food from Swiss Chalet again. So my boss called Swiss Chalet, and the customer service rep said they didn't deliver to UVic, and then my boss insisted that UVic exists and it's in Saanich, so the rep talked to his supervisor. The supervisor got us to transfer our call to the Swiss Chalet restaurant in Victoria. Talking to the restaurant, they checked to see if any of their drivers were willing to journey to Ring road, and we got a resounding no because the drivers were afraid they'd get lost! Bah! Are there no drivers brave enough to enter the Ring?! Now I'm cranky that I didn't get my shot of chalet sauce!
In either case, we promised a bunch of interested parties that we would release on June 29th, and we did so.... five minutes before midnight. Anyways, horray, we're officially open source now!
Now the challenge will be to build a community around our project.
Tuesday, June 28. 2005
Today, Ottawa passed Bill C-38 legalizing gay marriage. This was no surprise ever since the Liberals launched their sneak attack last Thursday in order to fast track legislation. Nevertheless, there were quite a number of interesting stories related to gay marriage today.
There were 158 votes for gay marriage, 133 votes against gay marriage, and 17 absentees (people who didn't show up to vote because of sickness, or people who didn't want to vote with party lines). I don't have a detailed break down of how each party voted, and how backbenchers VS cabinet ministers voted, but I'll have that later. Gay marriage passed by a margin of 25 votes which is a lot smaller than I thought it would have been, especially considering the Liberals said all parliamentary secretaries and cabinet ministers must vote for the gay marriage. This guarentees 70+ votes. The NDP also said the entire party must vote for gay marriage, or suffer consequences. In either case, the vote results kind of surprised me because of all the absentees.
The big story today was Liberal Cabinet Minister Joe Comuzzi resigning as a cabinet minister so that he could vote against gay marriage.
From the CBC article:
the passage of Bill C-38, once again, came with a political price tag for the government. Joe Comuzzi, resigned from the cabinet so he could vote against the bill - an open rebuke of the government legislation.
Comuzzi was the minister responsible for Northern Ontario.
Although he was the only cabinet minister to break ranks with Prime Minister Paul Martin over the controversial plan to legalize the marriage of gays and lesbians, it highlighted the divisions within Canada and within the Liberal party, pitting supporters of equality rights against those who are defending religious freedoms.
For Comuzzi, the decision to resign meant putting principles ahead of the privileges of cabinet. "In 2004, during the election, I promised faithfully to the people of Thunder Bay-Superior North, that I would defend the definition of marriage," he said, explaining his move.
Someone else that was making headlines was NDP MP Bev Desjarlais who went against party orders, and voted against gay marriage:
The NDP dealt with its own internal tensions over the controversial Bill C-38.
Manitoba MP Bev Desjarlais was stripped of her two critics' portfolios and banished to a back-row seat in the Commons for voting against the bill.
She said she was willing to face any consequence for voting her conscience and defying her party leadership.
I applaud MPs who sacrificed their political power and went against party orders to fulfill the wishes of their constituents' wishes. It must have been a very difficult thing to do. I wonder at what point do you yield to the wishes of your riding's constitutents, and go against party orders. It's a delicate balancing act. Is loyalty to the party leader more important? Or is loyalty to your voters more important?
There are some interesting quotes from the CBC's article on each party's view on same-sex marriage. Here are some of the quotes from it:
"Respecting our diversity includes ensuring we respect basic human rights for all, including gays and lesbians. To that end, we have referred legislation outlining a progressive stance on same-sex marriage to the Supreme Court of Canada for its opinion on whether the proposed legislation respects the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. We will not invoke the "notwithstanding clause" of the Charter to deny equal rights, nor will we obligate religious institutions to conduct marriage ceremonies that contravene their own beliefs and practices." [Liberal Party Platform]
..."If you're going to throw open the definition of marriage so you destroy it in essence, how do you know you can ever draw the line any place? If I want two or three wives and want that considered legal marriage, who are you to tell me I can't do that?" - Ontario MP Pat O'Brien, May 10, 2003. [Liberal dissenting view]
"Paul Martin wants to impose same-sex marriage. Stephen Harper believes in traditional marriage. We'd like to know where you stand." [Party ad]
"I'm in support of same-sex marriage. I respect the right of churches to do what they believe is right according to their principles." - Ontario MP Belinda Stronach, Dec. 5, 2004. [Conservative dissenting view]
"Our party has taken a very firm stand. We think it's a question of human rights. Everyone should be able to marry. There shouldn't be second-class status." - Jack Layton, June 6, 2004. [NDP Party Leader]
"I believe as an elected representative, there are issues that people want to see you vote on one way or the other." - Manitoba MP Bev Desjarlais, Jan. 26, 2005. [NDP dissenting view]
[Nothing good to quote from the Bloc]
In either case, the battle over gay marriage is not over at all. Gay-rights activists have already declared their intentions to challenge religious institutions once again. They want to remove any church/mosque/temple's charitable tax status if they refuse to support gay marriages.
From the Times Colonist article:
Churches that oppose same-sex marriage legislation have good reason to fear for their charitable status, a leading gay-rights activist warned recently.
..."We have no problem with the Catholic Church or any other faith group promoting bigotry," he said. "We have a problem with the Canadian government funding that bigotry."
Under current rules, donations to religious groups are tax-privileged as long as the church refrains from partisan political activity.
"They can't connect their views with any political candidate," said Peter Broder, the director of regulatory affairs at Imagine Canada, an umbrella organization for charities and non-profit groups.
...the role of the Catholic Church in public debate is both legitimate and legal, according to Bede Hubbard, the associate secretary general of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops.
"Right from the very beginning, the representatives of the government have called on Canadians to express their opinions," he said. "And certainly Canadian churches are among Canadian citizens."
"The loss the charitable tax status would really affect the ability of these ministries to carry out their functions," she said. "That includes a lot of things that are beneficial to society, like homeless ministries, outreach to the poor, and international development."
I think more and more attacks will be launched against religious rights in our land as activists opposed to the church have mastered the art of lawsuits in the courts. Our rights won't be stripped away all at once; rather, they will be slowly eroded away. That's my prediction at least. The majority touts that Bill C-38 will protect religious rights, we'll see if it works out.
Saturday, June 25. 2005
There was a lot of political action in Ottawa this week. Parliament was supposed to shut down for the summer break this last Thursday. The Conservatives wanted this so that Bill C-48 (the $4.7 billion NDP budget amendment) and Bill C-38 (gay marriage bill) would be delayed until the Fall. The Bloc did not support Bill C-48 either.
Then, Paul Martin wanted to extend parliament. Originally this didn't seem possible, but Mr. Martin was able to cut a deal with the Bloc saying that if parliament was extended, then we would have a vote on Bill C-38. So the Liberals won the vote, and parliament was extended.
Many members of parliament (MP) expected the budget vote Bill C-48 would come on Monday. Budget votes are matters of confidence, meaning if the budget was defeated, the government would collapse, and a new general election would need to be called. MPs who were opposed to the gay marriage bill C-38 saw bringing down the government as the only way to stop the gay marriage bill. Now, you know the stakes; the Liberals had to survive the budget vote in order to move on to the gay marriage vote.
There weren't any important things left to vote on during Thursday afternoon, so some members or parliament started leaving. This is when the Liberal sneak attack came. It's summarized quite nicely in this article from the Globe and Mail entitled, "Hire-wire Vote, Connviance or Shrewd Tactic."
Peter MacKay sensed something was fishy when he pulled into the drop-off area of the Ottawa International Airport Thursday night and noticed there were none of the usual black limousines depositing cabinet ministers for their regular Toronto-bound flight.
The 10 p.m. Ottawa-to-Toronto hop is usually crammed with MPs trying to get home for the weekend. But on this night, the deputy leader of the Conservative Party saw none.
He figured something might be up and had an aide phone the office of party Whip Rob Nicholson. "They've cooked a deal," the voice on the other end of the line said. "You have to come back."
Mr. MacKay made it to the Commons in time to cast his ballot, but to no avail. With the help of the Bloc Québécois and the NDP, the Liberals had engineered a sneak attack that forced a snap vote on the federal budget. It was a fitting climax to a five-month-long budget debate that has seen everything from floor-crossing MPs, to NDP-Liberal deal-making to sick members being called in to exercise their parliamentary franchise.
The night's events also left Tory Leader Stephen Harper outmanoeuvred again by the Liberals, and Conservatives crying foul, complaining that Liberals will do anything to stay in office.
"They sprung it on us," Mr. MacKay said. "A well-orchestrated connivance."
Thursday night, the Liberals saw that a number of Conservative MPs were missing. This was their chance to pass the C-48 budget bill. The Liberals had found an obscure clause in the law that let them bring the budget vote up right away. The Liberals, NDP, and Bloc made a deal to end the debate on the budget bill, and brought it to a sudden vote. The final vote was 152 yeas VS 147 nays (with 7 Conservative members absent, which would have contributed 7 nay votes).
The defend marriage site has an interesting analysis of what went down Thursday in Ottawa.
In either case, the Liberals scored a huge victory, not an honourable one, but a victory nevertheless. I personally think this shows what a cunning and slimy party they are... they are true politicians. It definitely caught the Conservatives by surprise.
Next week will very likely be the final vote on the gay marriage bill, and it should be a very interesting week in politics. If it does pass, it is quite fitting that Paul Martin will be able to tout his victory during gay pride month. It should prove to be yet another great Liberal social experiment if it were to happen.
This is the last hurdle for gay marriage in Canada.
To end on a less gloomy note, I did see this funny picture of Stephen Harper in the Winnipeg Sun's article entitled, "Harper Comes to T.O." (A quick article about the leader's reaction to Thursday's vote.)
<matrix music>Woah. I am the one</matrix music>
Heck, I'll throw in a funny picture of Paul Martin too.
Inside Paul Martin's head: "One more week, and I'll be able to marry you Mr.President! We won't have to hide our love any more. Gah, the wait is eternal, I must have you now! Take me away to your ranch you cowboy!"
Thursday, June 23. 2005
Some of you may remember Howard Dean as a presidential hopeful of the Democratic National Party competing to run for the party in the 2004 U.S. Election. He lost the primary race, and dropped out of the race. You may remember the infamous Howard Dean screaming speech.
In either case, after losing the race, Howard Dean became the Democratic Party Chairman. He recently made some really stupid remarks against the Republicans.
The article from CNN is entitled, "Dean defends remarks about GOP."
Dean told a forum of journalists and minority leaders Monday that Republicans are "not very friendly to different kinds of people, they are a pretty monolithic party ... it's pretty much a white, Christian party."
Challenged on that during the NBC interview, Dean said "unfortunately, by and large it is. And they have the agenda of the conservative Christians."
...The former Vermont governor also recently raised eyebrows when he told a group of progressives that Republicans "never made an honest living in their lives," a comment he was forced to explain a day later.
...Democratic New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson said Tuesday that Dean is doing a good job, but is not the party's spokesman.
Last weekend, Sen. Joe Biden, D-Delaware, and 2004 vice presidential candidate John Edwards criticized Dean for his recent remarks, saying he doesn't speak for them.
I think it's pretty funny that other leading Democrats have distanced themselves from Howard Dean, and claims that Dean does not speak for the party. Ummm.... he's only the chairman of the Democratic Party!
It's also ironic that Howard Dean accuses the Republican Party of being a monolithic White Christian party. Last time I checked, Howard Dean is also a White Christian, and he leads the Democratic Party. That's a good attack against Republicans?
I was watching some political analyst on the CBC evaluate Howard Dean's remarks after they came out. The analyst notes that 67% of the Democratic Party conists of White voters while 82% of the Republican Party consists of White voters. He further explained that to the untrained observer, it would appear that the Republicans were a mostly White party; however, the Republican party reflects the demographics of the U.S. more accurately. I looked at the CIA World Factbook's article on the U.S., and sure enough, the demographics show that 77% of the U.S. population is white. So, it's no surprise that both parties are mostly white.
Anyways, I think Howard Dean's comments against the Republicans were kind of stupid. It does a very poor job of differentiating his party. Quite frankly, when did it become a bad thing to be a white voter? I've said this once before on my blog, and I'll say it again, I hate it when politicians treat races as monolithic voting blocs, STOP PROFILING VOTERS BASE ON RACE!. Everyone talks about equality for all unless you're a white person between the ages of 18-55.
I think this will be some party slogans that Howard Dean will use to differentiate his party from the Republicans for the 2008 U.S. Presidential Election:
"The Democratic National Party: Now with more blacks!"
"The Democratic National Party: We worship Satan!"
Tuesday, June 21. 2005
I found this amusing article from ABC News entitled, "Police In Arizona Seek Monkey For SWAT Team." The term SWAT stands for Special Weapons And Tactics, and I think using monkeys would qualify as special.
From the article:
"Everybody laughs about it until they really start thinking about it," said Mesa Officer Sean Truelove, who builds and operates tactical robots for the suburban Phoenix SWAT team. "It would change the way we do business."
Truelove is spearheading the department's request to purchase and train a capuchin monkey, considered the second smartest primate to the chimpanzee. The department is seeking about $100,000 in federal grant money to put the idea to use in Mesa SWAT operations.
The monkey, which costs $15,000, is what Truelove envisions as the ultimate SWAT reconnaissance tool.
Since 1979, capuchin monkeys have been trained to be companions for people who are quadriplegics by performing daily tasks, such as serving food, opening and closing doors, turning lights on and off, retrieving objects and brushing hair.
Truelove hopes the same training could prepare a monkey for special-ops intelligence.
Weighing only 3 to 8 pounds with tiny humanlike hands and puzzle-solving skills, Truelove said it could unlock doors, search buildings and find suicide victims on command. Dressed in a Kevlar vest, video camera and two-way radio, the small monkey would be able to get into places no officer or robot could go.
Awww.... that's so cute! The monkey will have its little kevlar vest, and its little tactical shotgun, and a small breach charge, how cute! It'd be pretty embarassing getting taken down by a helper monkey though. Criminals beware!
And there you have it, useless news you can use!
Saturday, June 18. 2005
I just got back from Eton and Ang's wedding reception. What a day it has been. It all started with the wedding ceremony in the afternoon. The service was led by Pastor Randy Hein at Lambrick Park Church. (If I recall correctly, he was the youth pastor that came with us on our grad trip (1995) on the S.A.L.T.S. trip.) The ceremony was short and sweet, with a Christ-centred talk about marriage. It was quite nice. In my opinion, nothing is more beautiful than two committed Christians married, fortified in the solid rock of Christ. I think that is one of the greatest testimonies and examples of the love of God.
The reception was held at McMorran's Restaurant off of Cordova Bay Road. It was a buffet style dinner, and there were a lot of goodies. They had lots of salads, salmon, shrimp, mussels, clams, pasta, roast potatoes, and mmmmm roast beef. I also had a piece of cheesecake for dessert. Very good meal, thanks very much for it Eton and Ang .
I joke that this was another informal grad class reunion as ~20% of our grad class was at this event. It made the entire event that much more special and fun. The Bulks were the life of the party as usual . During the dance, it was also entertaining watching this one kid bust a bunch of moves as if it was the last night on earth.
I remember the first time I met Ang at Dave's farewell party last October. When I was at the party, Eton told me that he was going out with Ang, and I was like, WHAT?!!, you have a girlfriend? When did this happen!? I also remember the two of them made a very good greek salad, and I remarked to Eton that Ang was definitely a keeper. I'm glad it all worked out.
In either case, best of luck to you Eton and Ang as you move to Calgary and start a new life. I'm sure you'll always remember Victoria when the winter hits. But hey, there are a few advantages with living in Alberta. Firstly, every man, woman, and child gets an oil revenue stipend of +$1,000. Secondly, you're completely surrounded by conservative-minded people. Keep in touch.
Thank you so much for sharing this amazing day with me. It is a good day to be alive. Somebody else better get married soon, I'm itching to play paintball (this is our standard bachelor's stag party event).
Thursday, June 16. 2005
Here's another weekly dose of anti-Communist China propaganda. Let me make it abundantly clear that I don't hate Chinese people, I only hate their communist government.
In either case, I came across this article from Yahoo news entitled, "Many in U.S., Canada View China as Threat." On the surface of society, nobody seems to have problems with doing business with China. However, the polling from this article seems to reveal a very different story.
From the article:
China's growing political power and influence on the world economy has many people in North America concerned, polling suggests. Substantial numbers of people in Canada and the United States worry that China's emergence is a threat to world peace and worry about China's impact on the economy in their own countries.
..."It's clear that Americans are concerned about the emergence of China as a world power," said Darrell Bricker, Ipsos' president of public affairs for North America. "Canadians, on the other hand, see it as much an opportunity as a threat."
Bricker said Canadians view increased trade with China as a way of balancing Canada's current reliance on the United States.
...As China gains economic and political clout internationally, a sizable group of people in both Canada (42 percent) and the United States (31 percent) said they agreed with the statement that "China will soon dominate the world."
While most people in both countries see China's economic growth as an opportunity, they also don't think the nation's record of human rights abuses should be rewarded by pursuing expanded trade with it.
In my opinion, the polling data suggests a very conflicted foreign policy. On one hand, Canadians see a more powerful China as an opportunity to reduce our reliance on the United States, through stronger trade. On the other hand, the article says most Candians think we shouldn't expand trade with China because of its horrible human rights records. The two seem somewhat mutually exclusive.
We don't want to do business with countries that don't respect human rights on one hand, and on the other hand we want to make money. I think the position is quite ironic especially as Canada touts itself as a champion of human rights.
I'm sure part of the desire to become less reliant on America is caused by anti-American sentiment in our government and population right now. In my opinion, it is kind of silly. Our trade ties between both countries are the tightest in the world, and many countries in the world look to our relationship with envy. Our cultures, trade, and security is so tightly coupled that it'd be very difficult to reduce our dependence on America.
Later on, I'll talk about why our intelligence and military agencies views China as one of our biggest threats.
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