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The more things change

… and they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks: nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more.
— Isaiah 2:3-4

The War That Will End War
— HG Wells (1914)

This war, like the next war, is a war to end war
— David Lloyd George

Caution: The Modern IT Workplace

Over the years, I have worked for good companies and bad, and one thing I have become suspicious of is companies that try to sellhappy work environment. Let’s take Khan Academy for example:

* Flexible schedules and required time off to ensure you are well-rested

Time off needs to be scheduled? I generally think that “time-on” is what is scheduled and my own hours are just that. I have never been a clock-watcher, generally my wife is dragging me from my work, but when a company indicates that it has to schedule time-off for employees so they are “well-rested”, that indicates to me that they were burning staff out. Having to set official guidelines is a sign that something is wrong. This should go without saying, why do they feel the need to say it.

* Delicious catered lunches daily

When a company feeds you it is because they expect you to never leave the office. They are supplying food, because at some point they are going to -forbid- strongly discourage you from leaving the office.

* Fun team events and board game nights!

So I’m expected to be in the office at night, after hours, rather than home with my wife and children. Now the truth about that “required time off” comes to light. Board game nights are something you do with your family… oh, wait… how very “The Firm”


Careers – Khan Academy [PDF]



Exeter Riddle 25

Years ago I tried to teach myself Old English. I came across this translation I did of a riddle from Exeter.

I have since found better translations, offering far clearer clues, and basically making me look bad. Oh well…

I am widely found, by worthy men,
And brought from grove, mountain, dale, and glen.
By day I’m carried upon airy feather,
And wrought by skill under roofed shelter.
Later, I am both warriour and goon
Whom men, young and old, wrestles down.
Shortly after I am found,
a man is trapped in struggling round;
His back will have to seek the field,
who lacks the wisdom when to yield.
Strength of speech, strength be stole,
hands, feet, spirit lose control.
What on earth could I be,
that binds battered, foolish men, when first light seen?

— Exeter, Riddle 25, Translation: Jeff Cave 2007

Scroll down for the answer:

























The answer is “mead”.

Check Your Charity

Media outlets have managed to politicise another disaster.

Recently, Mitt Romney has come under fire for encouraging people to donate food to relief efforts in Sandy stricken regions. Unfortunately, several media outlets have pointed out that The Red Cross no longer accepts donations of tangible goods.

As I don’t deal with the logistics of getting aid to those in devistated areas, I don’t have a complete understanding of why they no longer do. From the Red Cross website:

Local purchases of food and clothing are more culturally appropriate and effective.1

While relief work is among the most important work there is, in my mind. I am not a large scale relief administrator, I have decided to donate my time to local relief efforts instead. So when I read that statement by the Red Cross, I kind of accepted it… Then I come across this:

“No one left behind”… Really apparently the residents of Coney Island and Staten Island don’t count in the presidents assessment. FEMA just like all other big government services has FAILED these residents. Who is helping out??? Individuals, charities, faith based groups, philanthropic groups have been there. Forget what the media is telling you send food. Send what you can, do what you can do.2

As a volunteer firefighter, this statement rings very true to me: do what you can! This got me thinking about the Red Cross’ stance a little more; I am not convinced as to how effective local purchases are. In fact, the more I think about it, the more I believe that local purchases are actually an impossibility, and the whole statement is designed deceive by playing to current cultural trends.

Marketing Speak

The statement is very carefully crafted to use words that will control people’s emotions. “Local purchases”, and “culturally appropriate” bring up images of respecting the rights of “noble savages”; while “local purchases” combined with “effective” generate images of buying food from local farmers who have been hard hit and need the help too. Everyone goes home feeling good about how “responsible” the Red Cross is being, nobody digs deeper.

When organizations use a lot of language designed to divert attention, it is important to ask what they are diverting attention from.

Effective or Impossible?

Disasters such as Sandy destroy resources that people have built or stored. People had a roof over their head, food in the pantry, and blankets on the bed; now the roof has fallen in destroying the blankets and taking the pantry with it. When this happens to an individual, aid can be given by their local community: family and friends can offer them a place to stay until they get back on their feet. Unfortunately, in this case, the neighbors, friends, and family are all in the same position, everybody has had the goods destroyed.

So if the point to outside aid is that the resources locally have been destroyed, where does the Red Cross plan on getting these local resources. The whole point to requiring Red Cross aid is that there are insufficient local resources. On the flip side, if the resources are available locally, what need is there for the Red Cross. If local charities have access to resources, then neighbors can help neighbors, and the Red Cross is not necessary.

Since it is not possible for the Red Cross to be getting these resources locally, the real question becomes where are they getting the resources from.

Follow the Money

While I was looking up the Red Cross’ stance on their FAQ, I noticed their promotional advertisement at the top of the screen. It has a young lady, obviously staying in an emergency shelter, huddling in a blanket.

One of the primary resources that every disaster needs are blankets. Blankets not only offer warmth to people, they offer a critical psychological comfort that people need. I remember as a child folding up a “gently used” blanket to be donated to victims of some disaster or another. I remember feeling good, that someone in need was going to get some comfort from the blanket that had brought me so much comfort.

Look closely at the blanket she is wearing; it could not have been a locally acquired resource; it is covered in “American Red Cross” logos. This blanket was obviously transported in from another location, why could the blanket I wanted to donate not be transported in its place.

It is obvious to me that this was a bulk purchase of blankets, specially ordered by the Red Cross, months or years, in advance. They have plastered their logo all over it, to identify their resources (and maybe get a little marketing in while their at it). They likely got a contract to purchase thousands of them, thereby getting them at a reduced cost. They likely conform to a specifications tailored to the anticipated types of disasters, climate, and transport requirements. But unless the Red Cross was able to predict the disaster years in advance, they were not purchased locally!

So why lie about it? I just gave three very valid reasons for asking for money instead of blankets, that would all be valid explanations as to it being responsible use of resources. Instead of coming up with very reasonable explanations, they flat out lied about it. Why?

Maybe this is part of the reason

According to United Press International, Gail McGovern took over as CEO of the American Red Cross in 2008 at an annual salary of $500,0003

Not the biggest paycheck I’ve seen for CEOs, but certainly not a modest one. What I suspect more, is that the contracts go to friends, and companies that managers are heavily invested in.

Take Action

I like the Red Cross, I like to think they are a private organization that does a necessary job. I like to think that the request for cash is about efficiency (e.g. bulk purchases, technical specifications), but I don’t know why they are being so deceptive about it.

In the end, what is really needed is for individuals to take action. What is needed is for you to take action. Do what you can. Maybe that means sending cash to the Red Cross; maybe that means sending food, blankets, and tools; maybe that means getting in a truck and driving out, maybe that means staying out of the way of people actually trying to help.


This discussion doesn’t even include the complete failure that Food Stamps are under these conditions. No, I don’t think there are any technical solutions to this problem, only trucks full of food.


  1. Red Cross FAQ 

  2. G+: Michael Weaver 

  3., Urban Legends: Salaries of Charities 

Is Alberta Leaving Your Personal Information Insecure?

The Government of Alberta, Alberta Health Services (AHS) does not take your privacy or security seriously.

Oh, they say they do:

At AHS, everyone, including our staff, physicians, students, volunteers and contracted affiliates, is responsible for protecting the confidential health and personal information of our patients, co-workers, the public and AHS business information.

Information & Privacy and IT Security & Compliance

But the truth is, they can’t really be bothered.

Continue reading Is Alberta Leaving Your Personal Information Insecure?

Mentioning WWII is not Racism

I just read an article about a Catholic Bishop that compared modern schools in North America to the school system that was attempted under the National Socialist party in Germany. These statements were critisized as “raising the spectre of the Holocaust” by the ACLU (American Civil Liberties Union) and ADL (Anti-Defamation League).1

Continue reading Mentioning WWII is not Racism

  1. I have a longstanding dislike for the ADL. I have long believed that it has pursued a course of action intent on highlighting differences and promoting racism. 

Cartels of Canada

Given the rate of unemployment in the world, why do governments think mandating high food prices is a good idea? Given its “Jobs Here” program, why does the Government of Nova Scotia make it illegal to produce food?

As someone new to the agricultural industry, I find it interesting how many things I am not allowed to produce. I have identified several markets that I could enter, on a small scale, that I would allow me to start small and grow into a larger business over time. Unfortunately, most of these markets are illegal for me to enter, not because the product would be considered unsafe for humans to consume (marijuana, tobacco, raw milk) but because the government maintains a monopoly on the production of the products and limits the produced supply in order to inflate prices and increase its own profits.

Really, it is not so much a Government monopoly, as a Government approved cartel of the big players. According to Canadian law, cartels are illegal if they unduly reduce supply, inflate prices, or restrain competition.1 It is the choice of phrase “unduly” which is unfortunate. Given the government is running the cartel, asking the government to decide whether it is legal or not presents a problem. The agency responsible for deciding if the cartel is unduly restricting competition is the cartel itself. Those responsible for deciding, profit from the cartels existence.

It is my contention that small agriculture in Canada is crippled by unfair competitive practices held by the agriculture monopolies. This is limiting Canada’s ability to create new employment, produce food, and be innovative. What is “unduly” about forbidding small business to even try?

Canadian Agricultural Cartels

  1. Low et al., “Cartel Enforcement in Canada”, 2004 

How to sell a tax

Nova Scotia is run pretty much on the Black Market. While the province is considered to be poor because little economic activity occurs, it is difficult to say how true that is since most of the economic activity occurs off the books. With the high regulatory and tax burden, much of the economic activity that does take place is never recorded in the hopes that the government will not learn of it. Its hard to trust the government numbers when most people here try to keep the government from finding out the truth.

Continue reading How to sell a tax