The World I Know is updated on a semi-regular basis by segacs.

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I can’t remember all the times I’ve tried to tell myself to hold on to these moments as they pass — Counting Crows

  • Wow, photo finish to the regular season! Let's hope this gives them some traction into the playoffs. ,
  • Because the Conservatives are messing with our most basic right as citizens -- the right to vote. This is not... ,
  • Far from "soul-searching", it seems like the PQ is still completely oblivious to the reasons for its loss.... ,
  • Icing on the cake this week: A major court defeat for the OQLF, right on the heels of the PQ's defeat at the... ,
  • Hypocrisy, much? ,

Penny idioms on their way out in Canada

Canadian pennyToday was the official end of the penny in Canada, as the Royal Canadian Mint halted production and went into collection mode. While pennies will continue to be legal tender indefinitely, retailers as of today will begin rounding to the nearest nickel for cash purposes.

It occurs to me that the end of the penny will bring with it the gradual demise or dis-use of a number of penny-related expressions. I’m sure they’ll stay in our vocabulary for decades still; after all, the US penny is still in circulation, and our language is slow to adapt to change at any rate. But I wonder if our grandchildren’s generation will know what we meant by some of these expressions. So in honour of the beginning of the end of the Canadian penny, here’s my top 10 for expressions that we’ll now have to change:

10. Cut off without a penny.

9. A penny saved is a penny earned.

8. Penny for your thoughts?

7. Here are my two cents.

6. Penny-ante

5. In for a penny, in for a pound.

4. Penny-wise and pound-foolish

3. Not worth a red cent

2. Pinching pennies

1. …And the penny drops.

RIP, Canadian penny. I can’t say I’ll miss you weighing down my purse. But it does feel like the end of a chapter in history.

Hockey’s back, baby!

The lockout has dragged 113 days and I wasn’t holding out much hope for any kind of season, shortened or otherwise. But this morning, I woke up to fresh snow outside and a shiny new agreement-in-principle that could see the NHL returning as soon as next week:

Depending on when a new CBA is reached, the league – according to TSN Hockey Insider Pierre LeBrun – has 50-game and 48-game schedules drawn up. A 50-game season would start on Jan. 15 and a 48-game season would start on Jan. 19.  The existing 2012-13 NHL schedule was already canceled through Jan. 14.

Now, there are an awful lot of people — even here in hockey-mad Montreal — who are responding with “who cares?” Fed up with the labour disputes and with the bickering between millionaires and billionaires, they’ve long since declared a curse on both houses and have merrily gone about finding alternative sources of entertainment. There’s a very real question about whether the NHL can truly recover from this, and if so, how long it might take.

But I’ve missed hockey. A lot. I daresay I’m not the only one. In absense of hockey, we naturally look for other blood sports to draw our attention. The red square protests, the Charbonneau commission, the ugliest Quebec election in decades, the rekindling of the language wars… we desperately need a distraction from all of it. And if the bleu-blanc-rouge can provide one, even in a compressed season, well, I’ll take it happily.

Welcome back, hockey. Don’t do it again.

Well it’s 10 years later and still I haven’t a clue

10 year blog anniversary

When I started this blog a decade ago, it was as an outlet for all of the thoughts that were screaming to get out of my head. It was barely a year after 9/11, Quebec had a wildly unpopular PQ government, Israel was reeling from some of the worst years of the second intifada, I was a recent graduate from a university where campus tensions were at an all-time high, and I felt like I had things I needed to say.

Blogging was a relatively new method of communication at the time. It took off like wildfire because it provided a quick and easy way to frequently update a website. Before I launched the blog (on Blogger at the time on a Geocities domain, no less), I had a website that was coded by hand, in HTML written in Notepad of all things. I’d posted a number of rant-style “thoughts”, but the update process was cumbersome. And nobody much was reading it.

Then, I discovered blogs written by people who were saying smart things about the issues I cared about. Blogs not only provided commentary, but they provided interaction via commenting and trackbacks. It was an early form of social media that created community and led me to discover others — some like-minded, some on other side of the fence — who wanted to discuss, debate and analyze.

I wrote my inaugural post without expecting much. Ten years, 2,500 posts, more than 6,000 comments and countless friends, contacts and connections later, this blog’s still going. But much has changed. I’ve migrated from a hosted Blogger solution to my own WordPress, added my own domain name, and refreshed the look and feel (though it’s overdue for another facelift).

The world has also changed. In 2002 there was no Facebook, no Twitter, no Instagram. This blog was the outlet for a lot of those random thoughts, one-off posts, links and amusing images. Today, those social channels have become much more efficient means of sharing that type of content. I blog much less frequently today. Back in 2002 I was posting several times a week or even a day, but now I might post a few times a month, if that. My posts have become lengthier, because the shorter posts tend to be tweeted or shared to my Facebook page instead.

The topics of conversation on the blog have also changed. I’m a decade removed from the happenings at Concordia and can’t really comment on them anymore, and Israeli and Mideast politics make me weary and depressed so I don’t post as much on the subject anymore. These days, I focus much more on Canadian and Quebec politics — and when there’s no lockout, hockey.

Very few of the people on my blogroll from back in ’02 are still at it. Independent blogs have largely been swallowed up by larger corporate-funded media outlets. Some of the early bloggers became media celebrities, journalists or social media gurus. Others have moved onto other things. I have a lot less time these days and I blog in multiple places, so my attention is certainly divided.

But from time to time, this space still serves its original purpose as an outlet for the things I have to say. Even if those things have changed, too.

Ten years. If you’ve been reading since the beginning, thanks for sticking with me. And be sure to check out the Hall of Fame for some trips down memory lane.

Sanity prevails in the USA

Months and years of campaigning, more than$2.2 billion in election spending, over 100 million votes cast… and Americans in their wisdom decided to essentially maintain the status quo. President Obama returns to the White House for a second mandate. The Senate stays blue; the House stays red. But lest anyone was thinking that this whole thing was a giant waste of time, remember that it beats the hell out of the alternative.

I was on a plane for most of the evening, and while I was able to watch the results come in on satellite TV (thanks, WestJet!), I didn’t have internet access so no liveblogging of results. It was like a throwback to the pre-Web 2.0 years when you actually had to rely on traditional media sources for information. Well, unless you’re Barack Obama, author of the Tweet heard around the world.

The big vote

The race was close all night, but the nail-biter didn’t materialize. While both candidates were neck-and-neck in the popular vote for much of the evening, most of the highly contested swing states went one by one to Obama: New Hampshire, Iowa, Wisconsin, Virginia were called one by one for Team Obama. You could see the wind go out of the sails in the Romney camp as each one was declared, but Ohio finally solidified things shortly after 11pm ET. At that point, it was all over but the fat lady, whose singing will be heard in Florida just as soon as all those folks standing in line have a chance to vote.

Latest US election results 2012, as of 2:30AM ET on Nov 7th. Source: CNN.

So what happened to give the Obama team such a wide margin of victory, despite a 7.9% unemployment rate and widespread anger and disillusionment with the status quo?

Read the rest of this entry »

4 more years

Obama tweets "4 more years"

Media bias exemplified

With less than 24 hours to go until voting day in the US, it’s a classic case study in media bias to see what the various big news outlets have as their posted headlines.

Here’s CNN, reporting a statistical tie in the popular vote but an edge to Obama in the electoral college:

Here’s Yahoo News‘s election blog, “The Signal”, calling a wide margin for Obama:

Obama still poised to win 303 electoral votes on Tuesday

Here’s blogger Ezra Klein in the Washington Post, also predicting victory for Obama, albeit with a smaller margin:

Obama will win with 290 electoral votes

And finally, good ol’ FOX News, home of the Truthiness:

"Big 'What If?': With just hours to go, electoral map still in play"

Here’s hoping that FOX is once again posting misleading wishful thinking in the place of fact. I guess we’ll see tomorrow.

For what it’s worth, I predict that Obama will win, though I think it will be close.

Resign, resign, they shall resign

Quebec Solidaire Amir Khadirco-spokesperson (and general pain) in the ass Amir Khadir has stepped down from his party’s co-leadership role, though he will remain MNA for his riding of Mercier. I’ve narrowly escaped being represented by him by about half a block — though my local Pequiste MNA on this side of the street is not much of a consolation prize. At any rate, this leaves the relatively popular Francoise David — who was out in front during much of the last campaign — as the party’s sole spokesperson for now, and presumably leaves the door open for someone new to step up as co-leader in time for the next election.

QS is probably reacting to the upswing in popular vote that they enjoyed in the last election, which didn’t translate to seats but provided them with a foundation. Khadir has been a controversial, polarizing figure for most of his political career, and QS might be banking on more success next time around with a different face on their posters. Too, they may be reacting to the news this week that the NDP is considering forming a provincial party in Quebec, which would provide a federalist alternative for voters on the left who are unimpressed with their current options. QS is unabashedly separatist, but gets a lot of support from the progressive groups regardless of their stance on national unity, and a provincial NDP could siphon off some of that support… eventually.

Meanwhile in Laval, Mayor Gilles Vaillancourt plans to announce his resignation on Tuesday, according to new reports. He’s been hunkered down ever since the testimony of the Charbonneau Commission basically followed a trail of corruption right to his doorstep.

And here on the island, speculation is rife that Mayor Gerald Tremblay will step down as well. The wolves are circling here too, and Tremblay has a negative-a-thousand percent chance of getting re-elected or holding onto his job. Though there has been no official word yet, he probably has no choice but to step aside. The only question is whether there will be anyone worthwhile to take his place.

The opposition at city hall pretty much consists of bigots and crackpots — which is why so many of us knowingly voted for the crooks in the first place. But with anger over the impunity of the corruption — and the ill-timed tax hikes — at an all-time high, there may be no choice but to let those chips fall where they may. Personally, I don’t believe that the next mayor will be any better, since the corruption at city hall is so institutionalized as to be practically part of the walls. As Henry Aubin points out, simply booting the mayor without getting someone better in as a replacement won’t help much. It’s like covering up mould and mildew with a coat of paint; it does nothing to solve the underlying issue.

The Charbonneau Commission is bringing to light all sorts of allegations that most Quebecers assumed to be true for a long time. However, it risks being used — by the PQ, by the opposition — as a sort of witch-hunt tool. If all it does is to bring in regime change, the corruption will simply change hands to the new politicians. Meet the new boss, same as the old boss.

Update 11/05: Tremblay has made it official.

Bell’s purchase of Astral: CRTC says Non

The CRTC has actually momentarily remembered that its job isn’t to rubber-stamp requests from the big telecoms: It has squashed Bell’s plan to buy Astral and thus control a massive share of the telecom market:

“BCE failed to persuade us the deal would benefit Canadians,” said chairman Jean-Pierre Blais, who took over the post earlier this year and has quickly put a populist stamp on the regulator. “It would have placed significant market power in the hands of one of the country’s largest media companies. We could not have ensured a robust Canadian broadcasting system without imposing extensive and intrusive safeguards, which would have been to the detriment of the entire industry.”

Anglos are breathing a sign of relief because this will save TSN 690, Montreal’s English-language sports radio station (and official home of the Habs, when the NHL isn’t on lockout). Rival media conglomerate Quebecor is breathing a sigh of relief, because its dominance in the francophone market won’t be challenged by a Bell/Astral giant.

But there’s a bigger issue here, and one that should be of interest to all Canadians who are concerned about the extreme amount of media consolidation that we’ve witnessed in our country over the past couple of decades. When two or three companies are allowed to control both the media and the messaging via television, radio, newspapers, digital and mobile channels, we all suffer. Just about every Canadian has a nightmare story about one of the telecom giants (and Bell figures at the top of most of those nightmare story lists). Canadians already pay the highest cell phone rates in the world, and that’s only getting worse due to the lack of competition in the marketplace. The telecoms are all working hard to produce exclusive content, and are licensing it to their rivals for high costs. The limited choice in television service offerings is leading many Canadians to simply pull the plug rather than put up with poor service and content offerings for high prices.

Canadians are fed up. And plenty of them spoke up at the CRTC hearings. There were 9,700 interventions filed, and while many of them were from rival media conglomerates such as Rogers, plenty of others were from the general public. They were standing up to say that having one company in charge of nearly half of what we see, hear, read and watch isn’t in anyone’s best interest.

I’ve been really hard on the CRTC in the past for being in the pockets of the telecom companies and shirking its mandate to protect the consumer. Thanks to this decision, I have to issue this blog’s first-ever kudos to the CRTC. It’s a step in the right direction.  Keep it up.

I miss hockey

There’s nothing more depressing than a pub in late October with no hockey on the big screen.

Players, owners, settle this thing already. We need our hockey back.

Is Venezuela’s nightmare over? Sadly, no.

Update: Venezuelan election authorities have awarded Hugo Chavez the victory, with 54% of the vote, versus 44% for Capriles — a suspiciously high margin of victory. Sadly, it looks like the nightmare in Venezuela will continue.

- – -

Venezuelans went to the polls today in an historic election that, for the first time in 14 years, provided some hope that the country would extract itself from the iron rule of Hugo Chavez.

The results are being watched worldwide. Venezuela is one of the world’s largest producers of oil and the Chavez regime has firmly allied itself with Cuba, Iran, Bolivia and against the USA. Obviously there are wider geo-political implications here.

And the world’s Jewish community is watching closely too. As Ben Cohen writes in Ha’aretz, Chavez’s opponent, Henrique Capriles, is a Catholic with Jewish lineage and a descendent of Holocaust survivors, and the antisemitism card was widely used by the Chavez camp during the election campaign:

Chavez’s strategy in dealing with the Capriles campaign has avoided actual policy debate. He has focused instead on demonizing his opponent as, variously, an “imperialist,” a “capitalist,” a “little bourgeois,” and – inevitably, given Capriles’ Jewish origins and Chavez’s historic willingness to deploy anti-Semitism for political purposes – a “Zionist.”

These attacks have highlighted the vulnerability of the Venezuelan Jewish community, whose numbers have declined from 30,000 – before Chavez came to power – to just 9,000 now. As a September study by Tel Aviv University’s Kantor Center for the Study of Anti-Semitism noted, “recent years have witnessed a rise in anti-Semitic manifestations, including vandalism, media attacks, caricatures, and physical attacks on Venezuelan Jewish institutions.”

This election is about all Venezuelans, not just the small and besieged Jewish community, of course. People reportedly lined up for hours across the country, and transplanted citizens cast their ballots from around the world. The turnout is being reported at over 70%. And while some early exit polls are predicting a narrow Caprile victory, it’s bound to be close — raising questions about whether Chavez will respect the result in the event of a loss.

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