Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Better late than never...

Steven Truscott has been acquitted by the Ontario Court of Appeal, a scant 48 years after his wrongful conviction for the rape and murder of a 12 year old girl.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Life continues apace

Friday I had to bring my car to work, because I had to pick up the temp and drive to the sort centre while the others were out collecting in the van. The van only seats two, and the shitmobile is away on another project (not broken down, amazingly enough), so I had to use the car. They're supposedly going to pay mileage, though. In the evening I went to see Paprika with the Ps and a friend of theirs. A very confusing movie; maybe I should have been in a different state of mind or something.

Today I tried to set up the new computer I picked up this week. It's an Athlon 64-bit machine, except this one is effectively a zero bit machine. No video, either from the onboard socket or from another video card I tried sticking in there. I suppose I'll have to take it back and whine to them. I also went to pick up the roll of black and white astrophotos I dropped off at one of the few remaining places in town that does black and white, only to find that I'll have to come back next week because the technician who does B&W is on vacation.

Tomorrow I'm doing some canvassing, then going to the company social gathering in the evening. Oh well, I imagine I'll survive that.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Quebec police admit they went undercover at Montebello protest

You've probably heard about the reports that the Quebec may have had agents provocateurs at the protests against the recent "Security and Prosperity Partnership" summit in Montebello, Quebec. If you haven't, here's a YouTube video:

Now, it seems that the cops have admitted that there's some truth to the claim:

Quebec provincial police admitted Thursday that their officers disguised themselves as demonstrators during the protests at the North American leaders summit in Montebello, Que.

The police came under fire Wednesday when protesters accused the force of planting undercover officers in the demonstration to provoke violence. A video surfaced on YouTube that appeared to depict disguised police in the crowd.


Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Mid-week report

On Monday I worked in the office as usual, and CL and Ms P came over for a while in the evening. Yesterday we were to do roadside collections in Wellington County, and we did indeed do the collections and bring the material to the sort centre. However, there were serious discrepancies in the sheets telling us which houses to collect from. Eventually the order came to abort the sort and return to the office. Both the Human Sawmill and I were worried that we might have somehow been at fault; on arrival the HS was asked about how the sheets were put together but nothing seemed to come of it. We're in the office again today, to resume collections tomorrow.

Yesterday evening I went to Catherine Fife's place for her campaign kickoff, and ate a couple of veggie burgers. Nice evening, and Catherine is pumped for the campaign... now all we need is for Elizabeth Witmer to bite the head off a rat on live TV or something.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

A good weekend

Saturday morning I biked to the market, picked up some staples, bought some photo supplies at the soon-to-be defunct Heer's Camera Shop, checked out the NDP office, and biked around a bit for the heck of it. Today I cleaned my apartment (or rather, cleaned the living room and kitchen), visited my grandma, and hung out with Ms P. Nothing really spectacular, just a general feeling that it was a weekend well spent.

And you just have to watch this:

Via atomicat.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Is this the start of a new Great Depression?

Maybe, maybe not. I'm no expert. But this article is a bit ominous:

"In short sales," Shapiro explained, "you don't own the share you sell; instead you borrow it. Then you replace it when you cover the short. If you're right and the price has gone down, you replace it at a lower price, and the difference between what you sold it for and what price you replaced it at is your profit. The problem with a naked short is that you don't borrow the share you sell. You sell it without ever borrowing it. In effect, you invent a share."

If this is beginning to sound like a game of Monopoly built on fake money, that's because it is. By injecting so many invented shares into the market using naked shorting, hedge funds have not only created an economy in which they can manipulate the stocks of companies smaller than Microsoft and Wal-Mart, but they have also created a market in which there are more shares than actual stocks. And that's about as hyperreal as an economy can get.

Confused? You're not alone. This could simply be yet another correction, but if you walk down Bay Street (or Wall Street), it wouldn't be a bad idea to bring a good sturdy umbrella, just in case it starts raining brokers.

Edited to add: They just said on the radio that even though Canadian companies aren't seriously exposed to the subprime crisis directly, their stocks are falling because they're being sold by US hedge funds, who are trying to cover their losses from the crisis.

I should be upfront here and say that in a very small way, I contributed to the crisis. You see, a few years ago I worked for a call centre that dabbled briefly in selling subprime mortgages to American consumers. I hate to admit it now, but I was actually quite good at it.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Weekend summary

The weekend was OK. Saturday I ran some errands in the morning (including the purchase of a new hard drive for my laptop); in the afternoon CL and I went to the Kitchener Blues Festival, and caught David Wilcox (not to be confused with David Wilcox). We went back later and caught another show (Sugar Ray Norcia and the Bluetones), then went out to Snyder's Flats to watch the Perseids; it wasn't bad, and I took a number of photos at various exposures. If the pictures turn out OK I'll post some.

Yesterday I didn't do a whole lot except that in the evening I went to visit Lee's son (he's been staying at her house in town, but he's going back to Montreal for a while). He's holding up ok under the circumstances. Also present were two of his childhood friends; interesting guys.

Today I'm either working in the office or in Wellington County. I'll find out when I get there; I'm to come prepared to hit the road, but in all likelyhood I'll be in the office.

Friday, August 10, 2007

Home again, home again, friggety frig

Just to be clear, the "friggety frig" part is not about being home (I'm very happy about that), but rather about the conditions under which we worked. We drove out to the MRF near Newmarket, only to find that while our ever-reliable contractor Ms. N was there as expected, the temp agency had failed to fill our order for extra help. Fortunately, the Human Sawmill (who was in charge of the audit) was able to get hold of his girlfriend, and despite the fact that unbeknownst to him (I hope) she was running on 3 hours' sleep, she graciously agreed to come in on that day... but was unavailable the next, and the agency wasn't able to fill our order that day either. So on Thursday the three of us (the HS, Ms N, and myself) put in a ten-hour day, sorting through 400 kilograms of garbage from a seniors' residence (i.e. chock full of Depends) after which we left without packing the scales into the truck. I discovered this just as I was climbing into bed in the hope of getting a decent night's sleep. Immediately my head was filled with visions of some of the crackhead temps they often use at the MRF finding the scales and failing to realize that they don't have the level of precision that your average street-level dealer needs. They'd steal the scales, the audit would be ruined, and I'd be canned and end up pushing a shopping cart around town with a sign saying "I Need Two Dollars". Since the HS was out having dinner with his girlfriend in Toronto, it was up to me to hop in the truck and drive out to the MRF (getting briefly lost on the way) to retrieve the scales.

On Friday the temp agency finally came through. The guy they sent was, however, a few grams short of an ounce. The HS assigned him to metals and glass, seeing as he had previously worked on the regular sort line at that very same MRF. Then he said, "OK, so you sort the metals and glass, plastic goes to Nitroglycol, paper to Ms N, and the other stuff to me". A few minutes later he had to explain who the different stuff went to again. Then a few minutes later he had to explain it... again. Oh well, the guy did have a genuine work ethic, and the day was slightly less long (even considering the time spent packing the truck).

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

Newmarket, Newmarket, to serve the fat pigs

Yep, I'm off to Newmarket this morning. I have to be at the office at 6 AM to drive there, and will be there till Friday. I fully expect to work long days as well; this particular project involves multi-unit waste, which is typically the worst sort.

I sent Ms McD a hundred bucks (at an additional cost of $14). The folks at Western Union must rake in huge amounts this way.

Unfortunately I'm still too groggy to say anything more substantial. I probably won't post at least until Friday, either; my laptop still isn't working. In the meantime, try making sense of this story.

Monday, August 6, 2007

Christopher Hitchens may be a jerk, but...

... he's really good at skewering other jerks:

If anyone should be gloating at the collapse and disgrace of Lord Black of Crossharbour, the absurd title with which Conrad Black invested himself on being raised to the British peerage, that someone should be me. In the mid-1980s he boasted to a reporter that he was going to buy the London Spectator in order to fire me as its Washington correspondent. When I heard the news, I thought: Here we go again, another newspaper tycoon gone clean off his trolley with megalomania. Next thing we know, he'll have to build himself a revolving room, like Lord Northcliffe of the Daily Mail, or announce that he's a poached egg and demand a large piece of toast to lie down on, or build an opera house in which his untalented girlfriend can sing.

From here.

Sunday, August 5, 2007

The funeral

Lee's funeral was yesterday. It went as well as can be expected; the weather was beautiful, the service was low-key, secular, and celebratory of her life. After the funeral her son invited people over to the house, and it was a nice gathering; he said his mum would have been proud of the party we had in her honour. I met a couple of his childhood friends who, it turns out, live only a few blocks away.

Ms McD has emailed me saying she's lost her purse and needs money. I'll see what I can scrape up for her, but I won't be able to send much. These things are sent to try us...

Saturday, August 4, 2007

And now, the long weekend

I went to the Agile Like This show last night. As usual they were a riot. I was also very impressed with one of the other acts, the New Peshmergas. This act consists of two people, a drummer and a singer/guitarist. The singer is amazing; she can sound like Ani DiFranco one moment and PJ Harvey the next. They covered PJ Harvey's song "Down By The Water", but they also did a bunch of originals, which I also liked.

The Agile performance was marked by one weird incident. Midway through their most obscene song, "Dimefront" (aka "Two Inch Dick"), a friend of theirs, the_thaw, came in with three young boys (ages maybe between 10 and 14); apparently they're her cousins. Not the most family-friendly show to bring them to, perhaps, but apparently she'd already shown them Borat, so they were already hopelessly corrupted. I imagine, though, that if this had happened in Alabama, everyone involved would probably be in jail now.

Today I have a funeral to go to, and will hang out with the family afterwards. It will be a sombre occasion, but c'est la vie. Or rather, c'est la mort.

Friday, August 3, 2007

Maybe there is hope for academic dropouts after all...

... just so long as they become rock stars first.

Guitarist Brian May is to spend two days studying the night sky in the Canary Islands as he completes the PhD he abandoned in 1971 to join Queen.

May is going to La Palma to observe the formation of "zodiacal dust clouds".

The subject forms the basis of a thesis for London's Imperial College, where he had been studying before deciding to pursue a career with the rock group.

Of course, if you're a more ordinary dropout (like me for instance) you generally have more pressing issues on your mind... like making a living.

Iggy admits he was wrong

Better late than never, I guess:
Michael Ignatieff, whose Liberal leadership ambitions have been hampered by his early support for the invasion of Iraq, is moving to cauterize that issue by admitting he was wrong.

The MP for Etobicoke-Lakeshore and deputy Liberal leader says in an article to appear in The New York Times Magazine on Sunday that his backing for the U.S.-led military action in 2003 was a mistake.

"The unfolding catastrophe in Iraq has condemned the political judgment of a president," Ignatieff writes in a reference to George W. Bush. "But it has also condemned the judgment of many others, myself included, who as commentators supported the invasion.

I guess I have to give him credit for this; it's more than Bush and his cronies will likely ever do.

Thursday, August 2, 2007

Sad news, and plenty of chaos

Ms B-D, it turns out, died on Saturday evening. Naturally, her family is taking it pretty hard. I finally got hold of her son yesterday; he's better than he was, but it's been pretty rough on him. The funeral is on Saturday.

Tuesday was a chaotic day. Ms McD was originally going to take the train to Brampton and stay with her half-sister who just rediscovered her through Facebook, then catch a flight to Saint John on Wednesday. Well, her sister decided that she didn't want Ms McD staying with her on that day. Ms McD decided that she wanted to stay in a hotel in Toronto and catch the airport shuttle in the morning. Sound enough idea, and she figured (correctly) that I'd be enough of a sucker to lend her money for the hotel. (I do hope she didn't order a few hundred bucks worth of room service, but hey, if she did at least I get a few extra Air Miles for using my Amex).

Then yesterday her ex called me, wondering where she was. At her request I said I didn't know (not strictly a lie, since at the time he called she was at some indeterminate location, probably somewhere over Quebec or New England). I've emailed her to inform her of this; I don't know what she'll do with this information, though.

Agile Like This are playing at the Button Factory on Friday; I'm looking forward to that, at least.