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Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Personalization Has Run Amok

Bad parking 1
Sunday morning, we were leaving the grocery store. This moron and his mate in a small black car eased into three small car spots. By parking at a right angle to lanes, we was able to use three small car spots with his single small car. He got out. His wife got our with the couple's Starbucks cups. He went to the trunk, fished out his reusable bags (aw... he's fallen for Thrifty's greenwashing). Then they traipsed into the grocery like all was right in their world.
And why would this be wrong? After all: he wanted three spots and grey haired baby got three spots. He personalized his parking preferences.
You go to Starbucks and you can personalize how much foam, de-caf, half-caf, room for cream, hot, cool, lots of water, no-whip, extra-whip, double shot, yadda yadda. Long gone are the days of getting a cappucino or a latte: you can have it exactly like you want.
Bad parking 2
On the roads, we've been lopping out lanes that can hold lots of cars capable of holding four or more people in favor of bike lanes. Bikes are personal transports. Three people ride: me, myself and I. The idea of letting everyone use the roads has been supplanted by Critical Mass. If you had a Whites Only highway, you'd be a pariah. But if selfish people comandeer a road, exclude cars and make the pedestrians feel like they're playing Russian roulette, they get an AttaBoy for being so proactive. Last week, a bicyclist almost killed my daughter in a cross walk. When I yelled at the bicyclist, he flipped me the bird. He had it right: his personalized route of choice was right through the middle of my little girl and the bicyclist almost got what he wanted. I love hearing bicyclists on the sidewalk call, "watch out!" to people who don't think to look behind them while they're walking. Bicyclists don't have to share the road, they have to expect others to share the road.

I caught a whiff of this trend starting in the 1990s. When I was almost out of retail hell, I worked in the mens wear selling blue jeans. Levis was able to make personalized jeans: jeans that were custom made to your dimensions. They coupled automated manufacturing with the supply chain. No longer did you have to live this jeans that matched your waist and leg measurements, you could have it your way.
Social Media is the culmination of this concept. You don't follow all of the news, you follow your own track of news and interests to the exclusion of what else is happening in the world. Are there break-ins next door? Who cares: you're into Bonsai Kittens. It's ironic that something with "Social" in the term is so capable of allowing you to make very selfish choices. Our world has become so complex, that people are simplifying it by abrogating their social contract to be part of the world around them. When people do that: two lanes isn't enough for your bicycle; continents can sink without concern; and anywhere you stop is your personalized parking spot.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Are We $10 away from Solving Homelessness?

The question was Tweeted "vwould (sic) you support a regional levy (10$ per household) to help end homelessness?" to the Victoria people.
That's one of those great questions: "Would I pay $1 to win $1 million?" Duh! Of course I would pay $1 to get a million. Moreso, I would pay $10 if that was all that it took to end homelessness and the suffering of the homeless. But just as I'm not going to make a million-to-one return on my dollar, $10 isn't going to end homelessness and it's ridiculous to think so.
Homelessness is like the common cold. There are a hundred varieties so one solution isn't going to do it.
As I said before, there are the dilettantes-- children of well-to-do locals who are downtown because it's hip (everybody hates a tourist). There are dilettante homeless: those who summer here like its the soup kitchen version of the Hamptons. There are the mentally ill: budget cuts and the mainstreaming of mental illness has made institutionalizing them unlikely.
There are drug addicts who can't hold it together. In a recent TV News piece, they showed a woman smoking up
crack 5 times in a single day until the view of a video camera. At $5+/rock and a minimum of five smoke-ups in a day: she's spending $750 per month on crack, which is comparable to the going rent in town for a bachelor suite. So, she's not poor: she's a drug addict with a healthy amount of money.
There are people who are down on their luck. Usually, you think this is all of the homeless population, but it's actually just a portion. We need a proportional response to the faces of homelessness to address them with financial aid, drug treatment, forced relocation and in some cases they need to be charged with the crimes they commit.

What would $10 do to end homelessness? It would throw a million dollars a year at the problem. Scenario 1: Let's assume that there's no infrastructure in the way to siphon the cash and every dollar goes into the pockets of the poor. There are an estimated 750 homeless in Victoria. Evenly distributed, they would get $1330+ per year or about $111 per month in benefit from this levy. That's not even 1/6 of a crackhead's habit, so how could it help?
Scenario 2: Affordable Housing. Condos are going for about $250,000 in Victoria. Let's assume that we can make affordable housing for $100,000 per unit. Your million dollars a year will pay for ten of the homeless people to become homey. Cue the slow clap: at this rate we'll solve homelessness in just 75 years.
Scenario 3: Let's say 1/3 of the homeless are drug addicts and we're going to round them up, tie them down and treat them. First off, it's a massive violation of civil liberties. Second, people who don't want to clean up, will relapse. So, we dole this money on the 250 drug addicts who need this million dollar levy. At $4000 per head, let's hope the drug treatment takes the first time around, because drug beds and trained professionals are expensive. If you want to solve the problem, you don't hire discount caregivers to stretch the money.

A million dollars a year will not go very far. But this does beg the question: there are a 100,000(+/-) residences in the CRD. Where are the hundreds of millions of dollars in municipal taxes, parking, fees, fines and levies going now? Could the City of Victoria and the other municipalities help out the homeless with what amounts to less than 0.5% of the budget? Why are we getting hit up for yet another levy? If homelessness is important, maybe some of the other shopping spree items (sewage treatment, Blue Bridge, etc.) could be slowed down to make the funds available.
I think we'll be lucky if we get to the end of the Victoria Mayor's term without being poorer than the homeless at the rate he's spending our money. It all reminds me of the Burnside Gorge Community Center. He cut the ribbon with a lot of hooplah and showed off the big screen TVs. Two weeks later, the TVs were stolen. Two weeks after that, I visited the site for a birthday party: the doors were locked (no money for staffing?) and there were builders liens taped to the front window. Will I drive up to the City of Victoria border one day and see the same?

Monday, August 23, 2010

Make Millions In Minutes-- Sign Up Now!

The title is a little hyperbole but it's close to the claims I'm getting in from these spammers/scammer/shrewd businessmen. One I saw this morning: Mike Filsaime mentored one of these characters to a product launch that netted $250,000 in a week. Really? I'm mean: really?
If it's possible to make $250k in seven days, then everyone should be doing it, right?

So here's the challenge. Make me rich through online marketing, guys. Take me and mold me into a millionaire.
- I write about programming, Drupal, Cthulhu, polymer clay, fiberglass, geekdom (eg. Star Trek), Victoria current events, dieting and cooking. It's what I know about that I want to write about.
- I don't have a book. Well, to be technical: I wrote three unsalable novels, one unfortunate screenplay, one teeny cookbook, one massive IT book and a full novel that reads "All work and no play makes Jack a Dull boy" repeated 7600+ times.
- I don't have a website. Again, to be technical: we have our "company" website, my personal site, a few blogs that I am slowly chloroforming, and a string of sites that have as much popularity as a BP Free Hugs kiosk.
I have an Adsense account. It makes less money than a hobo in the desert.
I have used AdWords: it's a total dud for generating sustained revenue, likely because it drove traffic to a non-existent product. These online marketers are big on "products."

I am throwing down the gauntlet:

To: Joel Comm, Michael Cheney, Mike Filsaime, Jeff Johnson, Rachel Long (and the nameless ones who I have had GMail auto flag as spam)
Subject: Proof In Pudding Please

Dear Sirs/Ma'am,
Your plans work or they do not. You talk about lots of people who have made large sums of cash, but you are vague on the details. For example, the 4-hr. Work Week, is clear about how to keep the time-thieves at bay and how to delegate mundane tasks. Your problem is that you sell nothing more than a "system" or a "method" without more in-depth details. Are you teaching me how to bake bagels, make porn or sell e-books? I can't tell.
Has anyone made money with your system? If so, let's see names and contact emails of people who have actually profited from listening to you. C'mon: if this works well, you have many people to draw from and a couple should be so grateful that they can dish on details.

Yours Truly,

Mike DeWolfe

I think that there is no one out there who actually benefited from their system. Instead, they benefited themselves. Their system is the huckstering of the promise. This is the digital version of Amway. I can slam Amway because whole "upstream downstream" scam of Amway is so well known that even Amway dropped their own company name. I do believe that this handful of people have made money themselves and they've done so on the backs of others. If so, there should be legions of victims. Are you there? Did you fall for the Get Rich Quick schitck, but instead contributed to the cash pile that a few dubious people have been gathering? If so, I'd love to hear what you were promised and how your money and effort didn't turn into anything. How much did they soak you for? Did they hit you with recurring charges? Tell me how! (use the comment system, please).

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Why Etsy Sucks

*** DISCLAIMER: I tried and left Etsy some time ago. The recent experiences speak not to Etsy, but to the dynamics and shortcomings of Etsy's model ***
Thanks Canada Post
I fight crickets. Crickets are that sound you hear when nothing else happens. Comedians hear it when they suck. I hear it when I put something out there and no one notices it. For example, over a year ago, I began re-imagining lawn ornaments as zombies. I dislike lawn ornaments, so I thought it was a befitting response to give the critters an undead patina. In the last year, I sold one, gave one away and then a month or so ago, I got a request to send out another one-- for cash! I mailed it. Supposedly, the address was incorrect, so it meandered back. Canada Post wanted to charge me to send the item, and they wanted to charge me to get it back. I sent it under a rate to be delivered in 5 business days. It took 15 business days to wander back. I was able to argue into not paying to get back what Canada Post failed to deliver. I heard a rattle when I obtained the package. One side was caved in. It was clear that a 2:1 ratio of packing peanuts to goods was not good enough. The gnome was smashed up. The sloppy handling of packages benefits Canada Post: the way to ensure that your package arrives safe is to really overpack it and up its gross weight. I packaged up an alternative gnome for my understanding customer and sent off of. The first time, it cost $26.20, didn't get delivered and did return busted. This time, I added a lot more packaging (including an additional layer of cardboard). To deliver this new package would cost $44+. Thanks, Canada Post!

Either we suck at shipping or shipping sucks. When we sold alot of stuff via eBay, shipping was our Achilles Heel. A $10 book cost the buyer $20 ($10 for the book, $10 for the postage). The math doesn't work. When it's mailed there is a chance it won't arrive because of the delivery chimps (I worked in Canada Post-- there is total disregard for the packages). This is why I have not embraced Etsy. My items at Etsy never sold. Items that hit the front page moved. Items that got attention through outside means sold. It you listed an item Etsy all you accomplished was wasting some time and funding Etsy. Some people sell stuff via Etsy. When I do the math, I shake my head. A great mentor, Richard Tucholka from Tri-Tac Games gave me some insight in the formula for manufacturing. Your manufacturing cost has to 20% of your intended retail price. He wasn't trying to rip people off-- to the contrary, he nailed it. Let's take one of his cool books (eg. a Fringeworthy supplement):

$2.00 - Printing
$2.50 - Royalties, profit, Michigan yacht tax, etc.
$1.00 - Distributor cut
$4.50 - Retailer mark-up
$10 - Retail price

If you handcraft an item for Etsy, it's manufacturing cost needs to look something like this:

$2.00 - Supplies (rafia, wool, glue, etc.)
$20.00 - Construction labour (1 hr. @ $20/hr.)
$10.00 - Listing time (photography and copywriting) - 0.5 hrs. @ $20/hr.
$0.55 - Etsy listing and comission, if sold.
$32.55 - Retail price

As a customer, would you pay $32.55 for an item that had $2.00 in supplies???

For me and my lawn ornaments, I cheated the curve. I figured that a $30 lawn ornament-- after I do my handiwork-- is worth $35. I could have delusions that I've made it become a $100 artifact, but that's a demented fantasy. So, I widen that gap of $35 retail vs. $30 market baseline by buying the lawn ornaments off season. These bunnies and gnomes are plastic gold in May, but come August, they're the ugly girls at the prom. I buy them cheap, doctor them and let them linger for 9 months listening to the sound of the crickets.

Buying them cheap doesn't get past the Postal problem (no wonder people go Postal). This isn't the problem we see in retail. I've worked retail, I've seen the shipping costs. The cost per item drops because of the items are bundled by the distributor. There is a baseline expense per package. Ramping up the size of the package and its weight doesn't make an exponential expense: it levels the curve. But that theory can't work. The market is made of individual crafts sold to individual people. You can't make someone buy multiple items.
So, in a market where unique creations go to individual buyers, how can you beat the curve?

Some thoughts:

Sell the idea, not the product. I can't work a craft show because of how many people walk by items and say, "oh-- I could make those." Yes you could, Brainiac. Thanks for the demoralization. Martha Stewart has founded an empire (its appropriate theme song is the Imperial March) by showing people how to fashion things out of craft supplies (ah, what a lovely coffee table you made out of ribbon and polymer clay). Make videos and photo essays on how you did it. Then, monetize the how-to with Google Adsense.

Give up on Etsy. Unique handicrafts and the Internet mail order don't mix. Maybe that's true. When you weigh how much you would get paid slinging slurpees, maybe the handicraft thing isn't cost effective. Sell your items at craft fairs. Market them yourself for the rules you decide to practice.

Distribute. If you could get your items to a shop that people could walk into, you could follow the traditional distribution and retail model. The problem with brick-and-mortar is that they are fixed in one spot. The Internet beats storefronts in that a website is every and nowhere so it fits better. This is especially true in that your unique item cannot appear in two stores at the same time.

Distribution Hubs. Ship all of your items to a more central location then sell the items for there. It doesn't get past the gnome smashers, but it means that your items could be shipped from a cheaper jurisdiction (eg. bulk ship away from Canada Post and to the US where shipping is much cheaper). This approach has a long list of downsides. So much so, it's a near total fail.

Wait for Transporters. The Internet can transmit photos of cool items, but you still have to physically move the items themselves. Fablabs-- or 3D printers-- are still fringe items. You can buy them, but they are expensive, slow and few people have them. So, the only way to get a good distribution model for unique is wait for science fiction to become science fact and just beam your handicrafts to waiting customers. Yes, that idea is crazy but so is the idea that you can get rich from Etsy.

So? What do you think? Do you make money through mail order? Are your customers happy? What's working for you?

Friday, August 20, 2010

What the Walmart is your problem!

Walmart, not beloved at all, now has a new purpose: you can use it as a profane word.

What the Walmart is your problem?

You can stick your opinion in your Walmart!

I got Walmarted by a bunch of sailors on shore leave.

What the Walmart is that?

Oh, Walmart me!

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Predator Stalks Quadra-Hillside Area Targetting Boys

This came from a wall post on Facebook. I thought it was important that this information "jump the wall":

"some creep in town tried to snatch my little buddy [Name Omitted] the other day , mom and dad are not happy and neither am I.I hope someone out there finds him before I or his parents do... "

This morning around 11:30, my son, [name omitted], and his friend were chased by a car, while walking. The man in the car got out, & attempted to abduct them {it seems} but thankfully the boyz were together and ran as fast as they could away..the man got back in his car and continued to chase them. While the car chased, [name omitted] friend pulled out his cell and called 911, which spooked the driver so he took off!

If you are driving around today..or walking, please be on the look out for a bright green {almostneon} Civic type, 2 door car. Man was tall, had blonde hair tied in a ponytail & brown eyes. this is my love the police station @ 250-995-7654 quote case:10-32948.{you can also call me on my cell @ [number omitted]}

thank u for just reading! this mumma isn't happy and hopez this douchebag getz caught!!!!>_<


this happened in the Quadra~Hillside area of Victoria! left off Hillside heading towards Hillside mall!

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Top Ten Teas

I realized that I like tea. I may be a tea snob. Here's my top ten teas. I like them hot and iced. Best of all-- I like a strong cup of tea poured over a cup full of ice.
  1. Japanese Green Tea
  2. Red Rooibos
  3. English Breakfast
  4. Orange Pekoe
  5. Jewel of India (from Silk Road)
  6. Chamomile
  7. Earl Grey
  8. Oolong
  9. Apple Tea
  10. Jasmine Tea

Monday, August 16, 2010

Nanaimo2Victoria : Dead Cars and Happy Bicyclists Get a Police Escort

Traffic was backed up for hours on the single highway that goes south on the island into Greater Victoria. The record heat was compounded by traffic moving from 10 to 30 kmh down the highway. The net effect left many cars overheated and left for dead on the side of the road. There are claims that this was because of a poorly planned bike event. The "Nanaimo to Victoria" (N2V) charity ride run that was even given a police escort so that it could occupy the whole of the southbound route.

I guess "sharing the road" means something different to a bicyclist. As motorist, it means I'm supposed to accomodate those on bikes. As a bicyclist, it means "Get off the road-- I have sense of self righteousness and your vehicle uses gasoline."

If your car was one of the ones that paid the price for this charity, here's a list of sponsors you can thank for helping to make this all possible:
  • La-Z-Boy
  • Oak Bay Bicyles
  • Penninsula Co-op
  • Old Victoria Water Company
  • Harbour Side Mechanical
  • Garden City Transportation
Victim reports:

Why Aren't Bikes Licensed?

There are more bicycles on the road than there are motorcycles. You can find them anywhere: on highways, side roads, foot paths and sidewalks. In Vancouver, 1600+ bicycles are reported stolen each year. In the 1920s, you didn't need a drivers license nor did you need your car licensed. Cars were uncommon, so there was no need to catalog automobiles or vet their drivers. As the volume of wheels on the road rose, licensing came into play. It's about time this happens for bicycles.
I'm not talking about requiring insurance: if a bicyclist injures themselves that's their own matter. I'm not talking about licensing bicyclists: many of the people who bicycle are unable to pass any other sort of driving test, so it would be unfair to bar them from cycling. I'm just talking about making bicycles non-anonymous vehicles.
If all bikes needed a legitimate license, then stolen bikes would either pack the same stolen plate making detection easy; or they would need a new plate which would raise a flag.
I'm not going to pretend otherwise, my chief reason for pushing this idea would be to get the bad actors off the road. Bad bicyclists would be easier to identify. When they strike a pedestrian, they could be described better than "a guy in jeans and a t-shirt" or when the whizz through an intersection and cause a pile-up of cars that swerve to avoid them, they would have less anonymity.
We would not be the first jurisdiction to license our bikes. California state law has provisions for licensing, leaving it to each municipality to decide if they should or should not license bikes. The city of Davis CA does license the bikes. It's clear that this license doesn't cause wind resistance or any other of the other complaints that accompany the call to license. Detroit had a law on the books since 1964, but when city council there tried to push adherence Cyclists Unite formed up organized resistance to the legislation.
Why is there active resistance? Who does the lack the licensing help? Bad bicyclists wouldn't be able to ride into the sunset after hitting pedestrians or causing accidents. Bike thieves would have a harder time moving stolen bikes.
So why the resistance? Is this crypo-libertarianism? There are calls for regulating the Internet that are pushed back because, "we don't need more legislation." Cellphone companies love this dynamic. While I can complain if my landline has spotty service or bad billing practices, both the cellphone companies and the CRTC remind me that celluar service isn't so heavily regulated. Is the "do we need more regulation" call keeping the stickers off of bikes?
The biggest battle-cry against licensing comes from the concept that it could put a chill on alternative transportation thereby bringing about accelerated global warming. In other words: bicyclists are okay using our sidewalks as velodromes, but they will park their bikes if asked to stick a $10 label on their bike. Are bicyclists really so tepid when it comes to combatting climate change?
Everything else on the road gets a license plate. Those other vehicles also require insurance in case of accidents. And, those other operators need to be vetted through a driver license process. All I'm suggesting is the first step: license bikes.

Friday, August 06, 2010

Why haven't you joined the Pirate Party?

You need to join the Pirate Party of Canada.
Don’t take the “Pirate Party” as a gag party, like a modern day version of the Rhino Party. Look at some of the party names: “Canadian Conservative-Reform Alliance Party” (CCRAP) or Social Credit (was that a Facebook version of Visa?) or the PDA (“Progessive Democratic Alliance” not “Public Display of Affection”).
The Pirate Party isn’t just about piracy or the freedom to get movies from Bit-torrent. It’s about our future-- it may be about the survival of the species and our planet. I kid you not.
Intellectual property-- the concept that an idea is like a physical creation that is boxed; or reproduced and sold for money; or owned by one person at a time-- it’s all a faulty concept rooted in a time when intellect was misunderstood. Those obnoxious ads that runs in front of a video nowadays ask if you would shoplift? Of course you wouldn’t: taking a physical object deprives someone else of that physical property-- that is how property works. Look at a piece of intellectual property such as a movie: If people pay to sit in a room and watch the movie, it’s all legal. If you’re invited into the room, it’s legal. If you sneak in and watch the movie, are you a thief? If watch a movie and you have a lousy memory that intellectual property fades from your mind-- you could keep going to the movies to see that movie again and again: reacquiring the intellectual property like it was the visual version of a bag of popcorn. What happens if you’re like me? I have a photographic memory: I watch a movie and it’s in my brain. I can re-run it or play segments when I’m bored. Did I steal that intellectual property as a side effect of how my brain works? Back to that shoplifting question: there’s one purse and once a single purse snatcher has it, it’s gone for the next person who comes along and wants that purse. Play a movie in a theater for one person or 300 it’s the same movie played to the same room. Intellectual property does NOT work like physical property. When I buy lumber, I can cut it any way I choose. If I made a bench our of some 2x4s, I could sell that bench. If I bought a comic book, I could pop out the staples and wallpaper my basement with its pages. Why can’t I white-out the word balloons and put my own words in its place? Intellectual property storage takes mass and delivery, but the property itself has no mass and can be moved around at nearly the speed of light. Steal it and the original remains intact and unharmed. Sell it and you still have it to sell again. Sell one copy or a million and the price is the same for everyone. Who’s stealing from who?
We have been on a march for thousands of years: the march of discovery and innovation. During the Stone Age, the advances were tiny (a better way of tying a spearhead to a staff, for instance). The pace of innovation has been accelerating. Now, it’s a breakneck pace. People are building on foundations of people who came before them. You don’t need to learn how a computer works or fashion one out of parts-- you only need buy one then create on that platform. If the information is available, you can build on it. Because of the nature of intellectual property, innovation is choked off. If you improve on a drug, you’re violating the pharma patents. If you accidentally parallel someone else’s innovation you can violate someone else’s patent through your your innovation. Squatters on intellectual property can knee-cap innovation and slow the pace by making outside re-use impossible. The Free Open Source Software movement shows how faulty this model is: software developers let out their products with the code attached and available for re-use and alteration. The outcome is a better product. Some pieces of software have rapidly evolved through this process, it’s happened for very little money and it is improving our lives. Many of the underlying communication systems we use every day are built atop of this open source software. If patent holders and copyright holders can rest on their laurels, they don’t have to innovate. Worse still, they can stymie the innovations of others. The capitalist system that got us into this mess cannot be used to get us out of this mess of environmental disasters, economic disparity and general misery worldwide. Tell a person living on parched earth in East Africa that we can't irrigate his fields with desalinated sea water because the precursor research for the technology is locked up in patents held by large companies who would happily spend millions to keep their intellectual property under lock-and-key. Go down to the Gulf of Mexico this Fall and tour the ravaged towns and let them know that we could have tamed global warming if only we could have done a mashup of a dozen technologies held by multi-nationals, but that no one could afford to license all of these technologies solely to experiment and build on top the previous innovations.
Moving away from technology think about post-modern art, rap music and the concept of the mash-up. We have a crazy amount of media in our world: TV shows, movies, music, print, Internet traffic. All of these torrents of information are out there. What if Andy Warhol was sued for coloring a Campbell’s soup can? Should we throw rapper in prison for sampling a couple seconds of music? Should the guy who re-did the Shining trailer as a comedy get a criminal record? There is an inherent confusion in the concept of intellectual property. You can buy it like lumber. You can go to jail for stealing it. But you can’t slice and dice it once you own a copy of it? This model does protect creators, in theory. But it only offers significant protection to the large corporate interests. When was the last coffee shop concert where police swept through looking for illicit recording to protect the artist on the stage? When the CD levy went into effect, it ensured that money that the likes of Sarah Maclachlan lost through illegal burning of her music was recouped. But, it make it that much more expensive for the indie artist with a stack of burnable CDs and a slim profit margin.
The current system looks for way to keep the creations of people under lock-and-key. It doesn’t find a way to let it out. The RIAA and MPAA are focussing on penalties and litigation. They need to take a page from Youtube. Youtube scans its content for intellectual property. It does then do a ‘content match’ and couples a video with advertising to drive revenue to the creator of the said intellectual property. Instead of bottling it up, it monetizes it.
The RIAA’s penchant to sue people for downloading is putting a chill of copying CDs. If they succeed, then the reams of old intellectual property they have is still salable and profitable. They can sit tight and sell more copies of old Rolling Stones CDs. Which song resonates more? ‘Satisfaction’ or some indie song that doesn’t get air time? Because they can perch on old material and regurgitate, the record industry doesn’t need new material. It’s the dead zone of pop music that’s hitting sales, not downloads. It’s a dead zone because it’s cheaper to re-issue old music than it is to nurture new talent. The same is true from Hollywood. Once they have a franchise, they milk it for the last drop. The concept of intellectual property is making for a stagnant and boring marketplace: the big players are holding position through litigation; and the upstarts are shouted out by the big guys. If there were a best-before date on content, then companies would not be able to keep spitting up the same-old, same-old. They would have to keep going out there to find new talent. And the rip-mix-mashup crowd could mine the expired content for their own usage.
The Pirate Party’s overhaul of intellectual property concepts is the central plank of their platform. The RIAA’s attacks on downloaders is their desperate attempt to keep the status quo even if they have to criminalize a lot of their audience. Because downloading is hard to track down, they will have to strip out our privacy to get to the downloaders. In other words, to be certain that you’re not breaking the law, RIAA, MPAA and similar organizations want to have easy access to the flow of your communications as well as your hard drives (those on your MP3 player, your phone and your computer). This surrender of privacy is one-sided: they want to cruise through your emails and your iPod, but you are not allowed to know who is doing, why and for what purposes. Once they collect this data, they can use it for whatever purpose. They should use it solely for the pursuit of criminal proceedings, but they are not bound by that limitation, once they grab that data it’s their intellectual property. They could use it to craft a better demographic understanding of their users (eg. “people are willing to go to jail for this song, we should make more like it”). At the very least, I don’t like the idea that my crude joke to one friend could get ‘out there’ and I have no freedom to speech-- the freedom to speak to this one person or that one person and control my own speech as I choose. If the RIAA and MPAA have their way, the freedom of speech I will be allowed to retain is the right to not speak.
The Pirate Party isn’t about eye patches, it’s about taking the blinders off. It’s about freedom of speech, the preservation of privacy and changing our laws to foster innovation. In Victoria, we’re doing a first meet-and-greet to see who’s in the community. You should join the Pirate Party ( You should join us: Monday August 16th at 7PM - Cook St. Starbucks - Victoria BC.

Feel free to reproduce this post in whole, in part, or how you choose.

Thursday, August 05, 2010

Go Green Not Blue

With all of this hooplah over the Blue Bridge at the foot of Johnson Street, I have to ask why? As in "Why are we not decommissioning the Johnson St. Bridge?"
For a long time, Greater Victoria has been on a vendetta against the car. Esquimalt Road lost lanes. Bay Street lost lanes. UVic has been slowly turning parking lots into buildings. Our city needs to go Green and get rid of the Blue Bridge.
The Johnson Street Bridge facilitates a tremendous amount of automobile use. Repairing it will cost a lot of money. Replacing it will use up a huge amount of steel, concrete and it amounts to massive exercise in carbon escape.
The City of Victoria turned from its pattern of maintenance expenditures in 2007 to spend just a fraction on the bridge as it aged. The City has the right idea: let it rot. Make a reasoned guess as to the remainder of its lifespan. Then start doling money on the bridge that is key for infrastructure and transport: the Bay St. Bridge.
If you think the idea of decommissioning a bridge in Victoria is unheard of, think again. The original Point Ellis Bridge ran into what later became the BC Hydro yard. And, the bridge that abbreviated the trip from downtown to James Bay was replaced by infill-- so much infill that they were able to seat the Empress into what used to be James Bay-- an actual bay.
How can a left of center City Council-- one that has the spokesman for local cycling on council-- how can they not be in favour of continuing their trend of abolishing roads; and making cars as popular the KKK? You would think they would leap at the chance to both save the taxpayers money and promote an alternative to building more roadways.
To Dean Fortin who wants to get us into millions in debt and to Ross Crockford who wants to make sure we keep an artifact of iron in place, I say: Go Green Not Blue.

Tuesday, August 03, 2010

Meatheads Mar VEMF

For the last several years, I've been going to VEMF-- the Victoria Electronic Music Festival. It was great when it was at Market Square: the space was a well with great acoustics. When it was moved up to Centennial Square it was okay. I liked the irony that the derelicts who nearly lived in Centennial Square were pushed out by a bunch of 20-somethings, loud music and a big beer garden.
This year was a lot more meathead-centric. I couldn't quantify it this year at first. It felt like a different mix. The beer garden was full of morons in trucker hats who probably didn't know the difference between Moby and Orbital. A friend of mine was nearly pushed into the fountain went two yayhoos were carousing with each other.
It turns out it wasn't our imagination (from the TC):

Victoria police arrested at least 10 people in response to 35 incidents in and around the event at Centennial Square. There were 10 fights, seven drug overdoses, three arrests for intoxication in a public place and several assaults and instances of mischief, domestic disputes and property damage, said Staff Sgt. Kerry Panton.

“There were seven overdoses and lots of alcohol — there was a beer garden there,” he said. “There was someone arrested in the area with ecstasy. Virtually all of the complaints were drug- and alcohol-related.”

Because of the morons-- the same morons who give the police excuses to strip search bus riders on Canada Day and the same morons who shut down First Night years ago-- (old) people are questioning if VEMF should be allowed to return. In its present form, I question if it should as well.

Some thoughts for how to de-meathead-ify VEMF:
- Go back to Market Square. Market Square has been under poor management for a number of years, but maybe they could be convinced to host the event again. I know their beleaguered retailers would love the foot traffic in the nearly-abandoned mall space. The space then isn't public space and it was a few fixed entrances. Bar the morons and their friends.
- Make it a ticketed event. You could not charge for tickets (just make having a wristband necessary); or you could put the event on the other side of the penny-gap. Make it an event that either need to show your iTicket (a $0.99 app you download from iPhone to show you have paid to attend) or you need a wristband for admission. That $0.99 expense is important because morons can't pay for anything but beer and McDonalds, so you would weed them out.
- Open some of the nightclubs at noon. This event runs from noon to 10PM outdoors. Why not put the event in range of some of the hosting night clubs. For example, put the event in the Capital Iron parking lot and keep the doors (and bars) open at Evolution from noon on. Heck, Victoria hates cars: barricade the foot of Discovery for the weekend to turn it into a permanent crosswalk.
- Call it. Consider downtown dead. By moving the event maybe it changes it up. See if Mayfair or Hillside Mall could give up corners of their parking lots. Many of the people at VEMF came out from Gordon Head, Oak Bay and other suburban areas, so why not put the event closer to the people? Those areas are well served by buses and it may change it up.

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