Saturday, February 28, 2009

The future of the news

Today's demise of the Rocky Mountain News gets me thinking about the future of news.

I say the future of news because most of what you hear on television and news radio, and read on blogs, comes from newspapers. It is newspaper publishers who maintain those news bureaus in faraway places, support the wire services, and pay the stringers in places that don't warrant a bureau.

It is newspapers that train and pay the researchers and writers who interview the sources, organize the facts, and provide context for the stories. It is newspapers that support those months-long in-depth investigations into corruption, fraud, and malfeasance.

It is newspapers that tell the human stories about regular folk, and recognize their achievements and contributions to the community. It is newspapers who follow up later to check out the longer term consequences of the headline stories.

Without all of this, our "news" would be puffed up press releases from corporations, politically slanted propaganda from governments, 20-second sound-bites from politicians, filler items about grilled cheese sandwiches that look like Jesus, and self-serving twaddle from celebrities and other egomaniacs.

A news radio station in my home town of Toronto promotes itself by claiming that "If you're reading it, it's history. If you're hearing it, it's news." This is complete bullshit. Other than the traffic report, virtually all of its news is recycled from the Toronto Star and the Globe and Mail newspapers.

I notice that my newspapers are getting thinner lately, due to reduced advertising in a tough economy. I am hoping that, unlike the Rocky Mountain News, these guys can stay the course. We need them.

An informed citizenry is the bulwark of a democracy.
Thomas Jefferson

Friday, February 27, 2009

The heartbreak of the lost follower

I lost a follower last night. It was twaumatic. It was my first twivorce since joining the twitosphere as a raw tweophyte. There was no final, lingering tweet. No gentle twetdown. Just my tweeps twotal rolling backwards by one right in front of my eyes.

Was it my bouts of twitterrhea, my inept retweeting, my occasional mistweet, or just my overall lack of twitterness?

I know I'm not one of the twitterati, but I was starting to feel like a real member of the tweeple. And then this.

Oh well, tweet on in the twilight and hope to find another tweetheart.

(Apologies to all non-Twitterers)

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Cashing in on sunshine

Mike Roach's roof will earn $14,000 per year, thanks to 100 solar panels and an innovative program launched by the city of Gainesville FL.

Roach's small mailing business will have two electric meters, one measuring power he uses, and the other measuring electricity his warehouse roof is sending back to the grid to be mixed with that from conventional power generators. Some think this is the best way to proliferate renewable energy sources like solar and wind.

The basis of the program is something called a "feed-in tariff." Providers like Roach are paid far more for their power than utility companies are allowed to charge the end user. Effectively, it's a subsidy, but it's hardly noticeable for power consumers because it's spread over all customers served by the utility company.

Of course, the power companies don't like this, but it's attracting a lot of interest from farmers, shopping centres, and other businesses with plenty of sun-exposed surfaces.

Hot child in the city

"Hurricane" Hazel McCallion has outlasted 8 prime ministers, and won 92% of the vote in her last election. She is reputed to be the world's most successful politician.

Eight-eight years old, 31 years in office, 11 election wins, mayor of Canada's 6th largest city, political legend, and FORMER PRO HOCKEY PLAYER (We aren't making this up!) Hazel demos her slapshot, and gets her own music video in this great clip from the latest Rick Mercer Report.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

The Girl Effect

Bad things happen to girls in many parts of the world. They are sold into the sex trade. 13-year-olds are forced to marry 60-year-old men. They are shunned, or even killed, if they are raped. Their genitals are mutilated. They have acid thrown in their faces because they tried to attend school.

The Girl Effect is dedicated to changing this, to giving girls a chance to get educated, stay healthy, remain HIV-negative, marry when they choose, raise a healthy family, contribute to their communities and their countries.

If you care about these issues, you must visit this website, and view the video.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Good to hear from you. Where you been?

Funny how it works. Every time the economy gets bad, I start hearing from people looking to "network" with me. I usually haven't heard from these folks in a couple of decades, but now they're out of work, or about to be, and they're my buds again. Always the same patter from whatever self-help/job hunt book/website they're reading.

So, here's a lesson in how life works, maties. If you haven't given me a call or an e-mail for 10 years or so, why would I jump into the batter's box for you now, promoting you to people in my network with whom I have built a relationship of trust and mutual respect? People who have helped me, and whom I have helped, because we cared about each other.

I actually hate the word "networking" because it implies you can exploit your relationships with people for selfish ends. It suggests there is a methodology, a system, for using people when you need them. That's just cynical.

If you really want a network of friends who can, and will, support you when you need help, start by offering help. Keep doing that, over and over and over, forever. To get started, think of a friend. If you have no friends, think of an acquaintance. Then ask yourself, "How can I help this person? What have I read today that might be valuable to them? What have they achieved recently that deserves recognition? What have I always admired about them that I have never mentioned to them? Who do I know who might buy their product or service?

If you aren't part of my life, I'm not part of your network.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Reptiles in the neighbourhood

Reporting today from sunny, sleepy Venice FL, where we awoke to read on the front page of the Herald-Tribune that reptiles are getting up close and personal right here in the neighbourhood.

The article called it "an invasion of reptiles, not just iguanas, but also the more muscular and often nastier monitor lizards and even pythons." Meg Lowman, director of environmental initiatives at New College 0f Florida went so far as to say the reptiles "may be on the verge of a major population explosion."

This is not welcome news for pet owners. A 4-foot lizard was caught in a local back yard, and there seem to be an unusually high number of missing cat notices being posted. But the worst is yet to come --- fearsome, alligator-like  Nile monitors are a "triple threat" fighter that uses tails, teeth and claws, and pythons have been spotted in a popular park.

Amy Meese, the county's natural resources chief is unfazed. She says the war is on, and "When it's over, the animals are no more." Until then, keep Muffy indoors.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Best acceptance speech ever

Mickey Rourke makes the acceptance speech every actor REALLY wants to make at an awards show. SALTY LANGUAGE WARNING (You expected something else from Rourke?) Watch it at: http://tinyurl.com/bu4483

Saturday, February 21, 2009

You gotta go

Some of you know that Sleeping Children Around the World is one of my favourite charities, and you may have supported my bedkit distribution trip to Bangladesh last October as a member of a SCAW team.

If so, you also know that all dollars donated for bedkits are used to purchase the kits. Travelling volunteers pay all of their own expenses, and administrative costs have been funded from an endowment created by late founder Murray Dryden and his wife Margaret. That's why Sleeping Children gets to call itself The 100% Charity.

But declining interest rates are putting pressure on the organization's finances, so it has created the The Pinehurst Club to help grow the Legacy Fund that covers operating overheads. The first meeting of this club will be held on Wednesday, April 29, at the Fairmont Royal York hotel in Toronto. The 7:30 a.m. breakfast meeting is being sponsored by TD Commercial Banking. Pinball Clemons is the keynote speaker. Individual seats $150. Tables of ten $1500.

See you there. eMail info@scaw.org for info and tickets.

Fed sees years of recession

Released this week, the Summary of Economic Projections attached to the minutes of the U.S. Federal Reserve open market committee said "All participants anticipated that unemployment would remain substantially above its longer-run sustainable rate at the end of 2011, even absent further economic shocks; a few indicated that more than five to six years would be needed for the economy to [return to] sustainable rates of output growth."

Friday, February 20, 2009

Snacks for Armageddon

The end of the world isn't so bad if you have Pringles and Lunchables. Check out John August's pilot webvideo The Remnants.

Geezer Rocker Watch

You know you have a drinking problem when Keith Richards tells you to ease up on the booze. Ronnie Woods has allegedly been warned that he could be dumped from the Rolling Stones' fall tour unless he reduces his tippling from the current "seven times the recommended number of alcohol units a week." More at MusicRadar.com.

Your tax dollars at play

The American political system has its shortcomings, but I've always admired its openness when compared to the Canadian system.

For example, the SEC's willingness to go after stock market slipperies, compared to the tepid efforts of our own OSC.

Did you know about the Federal Funding Accountabilty Act, which requires an online database of federal contracts and awards? Then-senator Obama was a co-sponsor of the bill, along with Tom Coburn of Oklahoma.

The result is USAspending.gov.

More than 20 states have also put up their own spending databases. Even Sarah Palin put up some spreadsheets and PDFs.

Messrs. Flaherty and Duncan, please take note.

Hi

Welcome to my blog.

My first blog Bangladesh Trip 2008 was so much fun that I just can't stop.

This blog will be my outlet for tersely cogent observations on the passing scene, spiced with the occasional rant and sweetened with the odd compliment.

I will tweet all new posts, so you are invited to follow me on Twitter.

Onward!