Inspiron 530, Vista Premium, and Scribefire test.

October 1, 2008 at 5:42 pm | Posted in Politics | Leave a comment

I might actually start updating this blog on a daily basis again but first I need to get a greater grasp of the Vista OS and its related software and get a greater feel for my new computer in general. This is only a test to see if I can post this using ‘Firescribe’.

“Pur laine” all over again

October 25, 2007 at 4:09 pm | Posted in Politics | 5 Comments
Tags:

If you have not been living in Quebec for the past thirty years, but in particular the 90’s, you might be wondering what the big deal is with all this talk about Pauline Marois–the current PQ chef–talking about citizenship requirements and voting restrictions for new immigrants and possibly the older established anglophone communities as well. You might also be wondering why there should be any fuss over the Gerard Bouchard/ Charles Taylor commission on multiculturalism and integration in Quebec society. The reason why there is concern among minority communities in Quebec is simple–these and other behaviours by both the PQ party and the current Liberal government harken back to the 1990’s–particularly the hot year of 1995–when Quebec nationalism was at its highest and the pequistes nearly succeeded in removing Quebec from the Canadian federation and creating an independent state through a combination of stolen votes and an obscenely misleading referendum question. After a narrow loss for the Yes side with a 50.4% opting to stay in Canada, then premier Jacques Parizeau launched into his infamous tirade blaming the loss because of “money and the ethnic vote.” His speech drew thunderous applause, and that, combined with then vice-premier Bernard Landry drunkly heckling two Hispanic hotel maids the night of the loss for voting “No”, confirmed what many had already strongly suspected–a great many pur laine Quebeckers are profoundly xenophobic, having an intense dislike and deep mistrust of anglophones and allophones. Pur laine, literally translated as “pure wool,” is a term certain Quebeckers have used in the past describing their heritage as “pure-blooded Quebecois“–white, Catholic at birth, with French as a mother tounge dating back to the first French settlers and fur-traders of Lower-Canada. It’s an idealised term that is often seen as a racist pejorative to all those who do not meet this definition.

Twelve years later, Quebeckers of all stripes were supposed to have moved on from that bitterness that seeped over well past a decade ago. In fact, after the tragic and very rare Dawson College shootings from last year, controversial Globe & Mail columnist Jan Wong caused a mild uproar by suggesting that because the gunman was of Indian origin, at its core the incident was a reaction to the ways many Quebeckers still see themselves, as pur laine. Even I scoffed at her apparent misjudgment at the time. But after a host of recent incidents, I realise that on a fundamental level she was right. The attitudes of old-stock, “traditional” Quebecois have not fundamentally changed at all–they just regressed somewhat. The evidence comes from these recent incidents:

Near the beginning of the year, the Quebec town of Hérouxville unveiled their mocking caricature of Islam (and to a lesser extent Sikhism) vis-a-vis their charter which, among other things, prohibits the “stoning or burning [of women] alive in public places, burning them with acid, excising them, infibulating them or treating them as slaves.” I think you get the idea of the spirit this document was written in. The great majority of the town’s residents defended the charter with characteristically uneducated responses to the Bouchard/Taylor commission, some of which can be viewed at the hyperlink.

The leader of Quebec’s PQ party Pauline Marois unleashed the new party charter that would mandate all immigrants to the province–or even Canadians moving to Quebec from another province–to pass a test to ensure that they would be conversant in French and would have to declare an oath to the province itself, in order to submit grievances to the National Assembly, run for a school board, or even to vote. Nothing is likely to come of it, but it’s chilling that there is such sentiment in the province regardless, and it’s not the first time politicians have expressed such beliefs by any stretch of the imagination. Such rhetoric was common during and after the 1995 referendum, with one PQ minister even going as far to state that in another referendum anglophones and allophones should only get 0.5 of a vote (He was summarily dismissed by then-PQ Premier Lucien Bouchard who took over after Parizeau’s resignation following his bitter diatribe. He’s also the older brother of the commission’s Gerard Bouchard).

The findings of the Bouchard/Taylor commission won’t be released until early next year but they have already revealed a deep undercurrent of xenophobia in many parts of Quebec society, a xenophobia that refuses to die. If it’s been true in the U.S. then it is also true here–it’s like the 1990’s all over again!

Xenophobia’s humble roots

We love our parrots of the world

October 21, 2007 at 4:26 pm | Posted in Parrots | 4 Comments
Tags: ,

Hey, the address for this blog is “blue quaker”, right? Well in actuality a quaker is a type of small Brazilian parrot, also known as a monk parakeet. What can I say, I’m a big quaker fan, and a big parrot fan in general. In fact, when I need to lighten up, I go over to youtube and watch all the funny parrot videos I can find. I think watching funny videos of cute parrots can be beneficial to everyone. So, at no cost to you, the reader, I am providing you with a portal of a whole variety of my favourite parrot vids, conveniently organized by species. You can thank me after you have viewed at least some of them.

Indian Ringnecks

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cen6Sgj0kNo
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4z5wmKlrWtg&mode=related&search=
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uYgC1bN02M — personal favourite.

 

Solomon Island Electus

 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RMx10BUgzEM&NR=1

Amazons

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bI4bNeXzXBY&mode=related&search=
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JZ8_Ra0Yj_Q&NR=1
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Zyaw_Bg_i4w&mode=related&search=
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vWnt-W6Pb6U&mode=related&search=
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h366KNg63QU&mode=related&search=
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SAPGVCOUs9w&NR=1
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E_EzQtdfcMM&mode=related&search=
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ib06pSEB0a4&mode=related&search=parrot%20lola%20talkingbird
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GHhayZ1rysQ&NR=1

 

Lorikeets

 

 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JZsBg23XVBQ&mode=related&search=rainbow%20lorikeet%20parrot%20bird%20poddle%20dog%20australia

 

Cockatiels

 

 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0l4yW30xdtM&NR=1
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RRCwF_AjToc&mode=related&search=
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qFs5JxZYhJQ&NR=1
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ng8DLKl1D3k&mode=related&search=

Quaker Parakeets

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xV_VlrWOkgY — This and related vids at http://www.brooklynparrots.com/ have to be seen to be believed.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3qlW6Wv0DZ4
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=csCpBlr7c-4
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x1h-TmvIoVM
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tut04OGvRRI
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fvf-XpHX05k
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bpbvFBoN3uw
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bpbvFBoN3uw
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YLv1iZUfcus
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I0LKkF6tcAM
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kNQxnmRFa44
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0niAeb0po5w&NR=1
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hjbOGVMTAVg
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p3qQTv1j-D8
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P3mTdZrriN0

African Greys

 

 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0MZjkNpSrmM&NR=1
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xl2wUeM3NS0&mode=related&search=
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9LAMcrq1fFo&mode=related&search=
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GD9m82L_gvg&mode=related&search=
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hyFbnMrN7gU&mode=related&search=
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=erEJeWy4-LY&NR=1

And finally a link to a very special, well-written tribute to the world’s most famous parrot, Alex, who challenged old notions of avian intelligence. http://palemaleirregulars.blogspot.com/2007/09/alex-has-died.html

I apologise for the scripting errors–sometimes even wordpress has me stumped. Man, do I hate all these spaces though.

We love our news of the world

October 13, 2007 at 4:37 pm | Posted in Miscellania, Politics | 2 Comments

No, no commentary today–just a portion of the news stories that caught my attention today–and yes I hate doing this–I know it’s a “lazy” way to blog. I just need to keep track of my biorhythms–which means blogging when my mind is racing with energy and ideas. It was this morning, but even though it was a Saturday I procrastinated by going to the gym. Anyway, I’ll shut up with the excuses; if you see anything that interests you feel free to click on the link.

With all that said, I might as well belatedly add my disgust over the Burmese (Myanmarese?) junta’s actions against completely peaceful protests. The problem, of course, is that the junta is addicted to power and the privileges and wealth that power brings. That in itself is enough reason for many brutal regimes to try and retain their rule. But it also helps if you see the protesters as almost sub-human, or third-rate, who live only to serve you, kind of like Kim jong-il’s North Korea.

Take Putin’s Russia, for example. He is clearly turning Russia into an increasingly totalitarian regime, but if he were to face protests of a truly massive scale by Russian standards would he order the army to shoot and kill unarmed protesters? It’s an open question, because Vladimir Putin is brutal yet also intelligent. All tyrants desire power, but there are different types of tyrants and Putin probably doesn’t view the populace as inferior specimens. In my view then, if you see your “enemy” as less than human it is far easier to be ruthless and even genocidal. Think about Adolf Hitler’s genocide of the Jews and Roma as an example.

With this in mind I’d like for the Burmese junta to, through force or other means, snap out of their arrogance and delusions. This especially goes for the de-facto leader of Myanmar, General Than Shwe. Remember that notoriously excessive video of his daughter’s wedding that was leaked out (and leaked out by whom?)?

My love & hate relationship with BBC News

October 12, 2007 at 3:10 pm | Posted in Politics | 1 Comment
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As a keen observer of the news I have gradually become very picky over what I receive as news sources. For example, the only newspaper I used to like would be the Globe & Mail. The only online news sources I would trust would be reuters and the AP. And as for television news sources, forget it. I would find a problem with each and every one of them.

My main problem with journalism would be what I perceive to be a lack of objectivity. But recently I have queried myself: “Does good journalism have to be objective? Does it not depend on the context?” Perhaps, for example, newspapers should not be judged solely on objective news reports. We all know about the editorials but maybe its also acceptable to acknowledge the inherent biases that occur in a said paper’s regular columns and news spots as well, if it is taken in the appropriate context. I’m beginning to think that that can be a succinct possibility.

But then of course there is the television news. I by and large cannot stand it. Fox news is intolerable and CNN doesn’t fare much better. I find it too dumb, shallow and right-wing. So at one point I thought BBC World news offered a decent alternative. One advantage of BBC World is that, true to its name, you get to find out about issues throughout the world; while the half-hours of course repeat themselves, that half-hour is filled with variety. And yet, I noticed that BBC has its own problems. For one thing, whereas CNN is a little too right wing, BBC is definitely too left wing. You can hear it in the nature of the reports and the language that is used. A famous example is their inconsistent usage of the words militants or terrorists–and I know that in the past whenever Israel would suffer an attack from a suicide-bombing, it would be described as a ‘militant bombing’ but whenever they have described their own problems with terrorism–like with the London train bombings of July ’05 (’06?)–said problems are usually referred to as ‘acts of terrorism’ committed by ‘terrorist cells’. I also have found much of their reporting to be elitist, whereby the content of the story is reflected by the reporter’s, anchor(wo)man’s and programmer’s views on what is wrong and what is right for society.

And yet, and yet…who cares? As long as I am aware of the inherent biases, does it really matter so long if I learn new facts about the world? A lot of the reporting at least seems to be of good quality, even with its biases. that’s more than I can say for any of the CNN variations, and I’m not even going to bother with the Fox comparison anymore. So I don’t know, does anyone else have any clarifications and/or corrections and/or ideas and/or opinions about what the best way should be to obtain news? I’m still a little stumped on this one.

What is morality?

August 27, 2007 at 4:08 pm | Posted in Miscellania | 1 Comment

How can one judge whether something in this world is “moral” or not? Is it fair to believe that one particular culture is morally superior to another? What is morality, anyway? Yes, I know, using rhetorical questions as a device to get a conversation started or to go on a rant is considered by many to be poor usage of written English, but these are all questions I think a lot more people should start asking themselves. Allow me to use a much-stereotyped group to make a point–Muslims, or more specifically– middle-eastern and south-Asian Muslim cultures. You’ve no doubt heard about some of the more popular–and sometimes accurate stereotypes of those regions–misogyny, “honour” killings, American, Danish and Israeli flag-burnings, anger, irritability and so forth. More specifically, let’s look at the recent “Red Mosque” incident in Pakistan. The protesters holed up inside the mosque were demanding that greater Islamabad, in fact all of Pakistan, practice their very strict version of Wahabi Islam, which is very Taliban-like. They were prepared to use force to accomplish their goals and often they did (and still do), showing Musharaff to be almost like a sitting-duck president. Even more particularly, let’s remember Afghanistan from the mid-90’s to October 2001 when it was almost all under complete Taliban control. For a great refresher on the plight of women during that period and even now you should check out RAWA’s web site.

All these incidents of death-by-stoning, gang-rape and edicts not to wear shoes that click lest they “corrupt” young men are regarded as highly immoral in our Western culture, but misogyny in Afghanistan is deep-rooted, spanning at least over a thousand years, so who are we to judge another society’s culture? After all, what’s considered wrong in one culture might be consider right in another and vice-versa. In other words, some may argue that morality is relative.

But I’m not one of those people. I will boldly claim that some cultures are superior to others if they have demonstrated intellectual growth. To those who advocate the Taliban lifestyle in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and elsewhere, I unabashedly state that I am morally superior to you. This is because some religious and cultural practices are just plain wrong. It doesn’t matter if it’s rooted in thousands of years in history: what is old is not necessarily synonymous with what is good.

But then, if this is the case, then where does one draw the line? I grew up in the Jewish faith–although I’m actually agnostic–and I happen to know that the Torah and even the Talmud state some very anti-female messages as well. Likewise does the New Testament, I am sure. The stereotype of anti-women sentiment is supposedly located within the Koran and maybe even the Hadith (and especially Shariah) but the truth is both Christianity and Judaism are at times hostile toward women, or at least their respective texts are. So does this mean that practicing Christians and Jews are morally inferior to agnostics? What about Richard Dawkins’ version of atheism (sigh…I apologise once again for all the rhetorical devices)? Dawkins is wrong to claim that atheists are morally superior to religionists, as he undoubtedly has, although I’m sure I am paraphrasing him. After all, Josef Stalin was an atheist and he murdered tens of millions of people through mass starvartion, overwork at reeducation camps and other methods. Millions also died similarily under Cambodia’s Pol Pot, and these are only but a few examples.

This all just goes to show what a complicated question this is–it is difficult to know if one culture/society/religion is superior to another. I think we all have to find our own moral code. But irrespective of what this moral code is, there are certain particulars that should not be included and are always immoral–abuse against women, murdering of people who don’t want to be murdered, and coercion and forced submission of any kind. The rest is all subjective. Of course if anyone disagrees with my conclusion on morality, please bring forth your own revisions; I might want to get a conversation started here.

Russian murder investigations

August 27, 2007 at 1:26 pm | Posted in Politics | 1 Comment

In news that’s sure to be an absolute shock to everyone, as absolutely no one saw this coming, Russian prosecutors have heavily implied that exiled tycoon Boris Berezovsky was behind the murder of noted journalist Anna Politkovskaya, the latter of whom exposed many of Russia’s untruths. Berezovsky’s motive? Why, to discredit the Kremlin and make Russia as a whole look bad, of course and, according to Prosecutor-General Yuri Chaika,

Forces interested in destabilizing the country, changing its constitutional order, in stoking crisis, in a return to the old system where money and oligarchs ruled, in discrediting national leadership, provoking external pressure on the country, could be interested in this crime.

He also stated the “investigation has led us to conclude that only people living abroad could be interested in killing Politkovskaya.” Please correct me if I’m wrong, but doesn’t the Prosecutor-General work under the Kremlin? And if he doesn’t, does it really matter? After all, the prosecution is doing such a good job finding out who the killers might be after almost a year. Only a very unimaginative, boring, logical-thinking prosecutor would think that because Politkovskaya had many enemies in the Kremlin and the FSB her killer or killers were likely from those establishments. It takes a true genius to figure out that the real culprits initiated this plot so that people would falsely assume the government was involved even though it was really a plot to discredit Russia’s image. My hat is off to you, Yuri Chaika, for proving beyond compare that despite recent hyperbolic criticisms, the Russian justice system is alive, well and is functioning with maximum efficiency and fairness.

To see the news-article in its full context, please click here. To see my previous commentaries on related Russian issues, please click here and here.

Am I ready for my first marathon?

August 1, 2007 at 12:32 pm | Posted in Miscellania | 2 Comments

This is basically just a stream-of-consciousness extension of my thoughts–nothing particularly articulate here today: Yes, I am ready for a full marathon because I’ve already done several half-marathons in an official capacity–and when I run on my own it is no longer an exception to take 2 hours and 15 minutes, not because I’m slow–I can do 8-minute miles now–but because under the right conditions my endurance allows me to run for very extended periods. Of course, how long would it take to complete a full marathon–3 hours and 30 minutes? I’ve never ran that long before, so in that regard there’s an element of risk. Also, I like variety on my routes. Yesterday I tried to find out how some of Toronto’s parks connect together–and I confirmed that many seemingly distant parks do in fact connect but I have yet to get the precise routes correct in my head. In that process of discovery I entered many trails in the forest and had to dodge branches and even cross the odd stream. I liked that; it’s not that I purposely seeked out such obstacles, but it’s nice for variety. I concluded by reaching the Dairy Queen at Pottery and Broadview via this very (to me, anyway) steep hill–and I have to admit I’m really starting to like steep inclines upwards–it makes the runs even more exhilarating. The vanilla soft-serve was an especially refreshing treat afterwards, even though I know it’s not made with real vanilla bean. Anyway, this Toronto waterfront marathon is nice because of the water, but it’s too flat. So I don’t know yet.

On a completely unrelated front, I have got to stop watching BBC World news. The reporting is too elitist and clearly leftist. I don’t find anything wrong with the left per se, but I want neutrality in my news unless it’s explicitly stated that this is an editorial. They never do that on BBC, just like on most news shows.

Crisis in Zimbabwe continues and Mugabe is a fool

July 28, 2007 at 6:09 pm | Posted in Politics | 3 Comments

Yet again, I’d like to delve into the topic of Zimbabwe and its totalitarian leadership. If you would pardon my undiplomatic language, just what the hell is wrong with Robert Mugabe?! Please read the following two news stories, especially the first.

Now I’m no economics major but it would seem to me the more times a government simply prints out moneys the less value said moneys will have. Does Mugabe not realise this? Does he not care? I know I’ve written about this before but this is starting to get even me baffled. Would anyone else like to add their two cents as to why Mugabe is being so cavalier about his country’s rapid inflation, among other things? I could sure use another perspective.

Incidentally, the second story hyper-linked seems to illustrate even further the descent of Mugabe’s regime into totalitarianism. And yet, as some food for thought it’s worth noting that Robert Mugabe’s Zimbabwe isn’t a real totalitarian system of government; if it was, there would be no opposition parties allowed for at all–in fact no opposition parties in any guise period–and there certainly would be no courts and judges that would at least attempt to oppose him.  That’s what a totalitarian system of government is, right? A complete system of absolute control under the leader of one with no meaningful opposition. Under such a definition, in many ways the Russia of today is more totalitarian than Zimbabwe, or even China, but that doesn’t sound quite right. What I need is access to a good political science dictionary–not the junk ones found on the web–that will give me concise definitions for these terms; I myself hate it when people misuse terms in politically heated arguments such as in mixing up the words ‘massacre’ and ‘genocide’.

Regardless as to what Zimbabwe is right now, it’s a disaster and its people are suffering under heavy economic and political brutality. Thus, I’m going to make a prediction. Because Robert Mugabe needs to pay his security forces to beat protesters and stay loyal to him and because even he must surely be starting to run out of money, and for several other reasons as well, I predict that Mugabe will be overthrown by the end of 2008. Whether it is from someone in his security forces, someone next in line for the leadership of his party or opposition forces I can’t say but I am fairly certain that his disgraceful, undignified ouster will be the net result of his arrogance, stubbornness and failed policies, and it will happen by the end of next year. I hope I’m right.

It’s obvious where Osama bin Laden is located

July 25, 2007 at 5:58 pm | Posted in Politics | 2 Comments

Forgive me–I’m feeling kinda lazy in regards to posts for my blog today, so I dug up this old draft from about 6 months ago that was definitely a work in progress and a mere statement of the obvious. Nevertheless, it’s something to read if nothing else:

It should be obvious to anyone who has been following the news for the past year where Osama bin Laden is “hiding”–almost certainly in the rural border areas of Pakistan. I just can’t get enough of Frontline’s documentaries–even if there may be a leftist slant. I find them very informative. One of their more recent ones that I’ve uncovered is Return of the taliban. I know of course that this has all been extensively covered, but Musharaff’s duplicity cannot be overemphasized.

Of course, the theater in Pakistan continues so one can only guess what will happen in the country next and a scripting error is forcing even this last paragraph to be in italics despite my wishes, so I’m bolding it to indicate I just wrote this part. For a small taste of what’s continuing in Pakistan, click here.
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