Archive for December, 2009


  • 3B, my best term by academic performance since first year, by a fair margin, not fully related to sudden spikes in intelligence or work ethic. Fun times with 4 midterms and 12 job interviews in four days just before the reading week. I finished with more job offers than midterms failed, so I consider it a success.
  • Last work term, went reasonably well.
  • 4A, went pretty okay in the end, though at some points it felt like more work and less results than 2B two years ago. Special thanks to ECE, as usual.
  • Two projects I wanted to do, Take the GRT one of them, pretty much fizzled out. Not too thrilled about that, but that was the year.
  • Fell in love with Toronto. Because every building is a shop and every person is a shopper.
  • Fell in like with Montreal. The visit was too short, I will be back.
  • Became significantly jaded with Waterloo. Not its fault, really, but on categories influenced by size it can’t compete, and those became important.
  • Wheels fell of the Flickr train, and I now have a 11-month backlog. The fact I insist on uploading chronologically except in special circumstances does not help.
  • Managed not to buy another camera(s), but it doesn’t look like I will last long into 2010.
  • Completed my conversion into an appalling hipster. Music spam: Year of Broken Social Scene in the first half, and Cocteau Twins in the second half. Unsurprising, really. Four great releases to start off: Junior Boys, Metric, Phoenix, and Röyksopp. A new múm album leaked just before summer started and it proved to be the perfect summer album.
  • Other notable new albums from Young Galaxy, Think About Life, Mew, The xx (just barely, listened in late December).
  • Saw live: Bloc Party, Hexes and Ohs, Goran Bregović, Bell Orchestre, Broken Social Scene (@ Harbourfront, yes), M83, Think About Life, Young Galaxy, múm, Junior Boys.
  • You don’t have a clue.
  • Love and mathematics.

Stalin ad portas

[December 16, 2009; morning.]

He’s the Scrawny Seventeen-year-old Conscript. He’s the type you conscript when you’re desperate in a war, or when your military doctrine calls for use of lots of cannon meat. The USSR found itself in both situations, and so the Scrawny Seventeen Conscript makes up one half of the vanguard flag-bearers posted by the company on the north roadway of University Avenue just east of Westmount Road today.

Why does University Avenue have two roadways during World War II, why it looks exactly the same as it does now, or indeed why it is called University Avenue, I do not know.

I couldn’t tell you why товарищ Сталин himself is in command of the company either, but that much is indisputable, and he is firmly planted on the southern roadway, calling out orders.

The American force is visible, easily; the vanguard placed a little past Minota Hagey, with main group slightly further back.

You can tell the Scrawny Seventeen Conscript is not comfortable here. He would much rather be someplace safe, or at least safer. He has the look of negative anticipation on him; the one when you hope an exam you’ve understudied for will be easy, or when you hope your evaluation will go better than it really should.

Unfortunately, everything seems to point to exam being worse than you hope it won’t be. After unambiguous preparations, a perfectly clear order to charge ahead sounds.

The Scrawny Seventeen Conscript, pressure and fear finally driving him over the edge moments after the order, plugs Stalin with three bullets.

Stalin is indifferent; he would rather get shot than retreat. Americans are winning the war, and have to be stopped. He is hurt, of course, badly, but the attack would go on.

The second flag-bearer is not afraid; whether it is machoism, adrenaline, or actual skill, he is not affected by the shooting and the subsequent scuffle as the Scrawny Seventeen Conscript is subdued. He was ordered to charge, and he does.

Why are flag-bearers leading the charge in 1940s, I do not know.

Befitting (European) military strategy circa 1410, the American vanguard counter-charges at her opponents. She is a young woman; this is unsurprising.

After very brief scuffle, the Brave Flag-Bearer breaks the American’s wooden standard, which she considers very improper and offensive. We are shown a picture of the broken standard. The link is a direct JPG URL of a Facebook picture.

The battle continues in the background.

We find out all of Stalin, the Scrawny Seventeen Conscript, and the Brave Flag-Bearer survived.


Randomly browsing around one day in October, I found a blog post entitled Lechistan 2150.

Apart from the Lechistan call-out (a name which I will always think of fondly due to a story I was told in grade school); the standard Eurabia stuff, which has been rebutted so many times surely I of all people don’t need to; and the mixed peoples note, which I can only applaud; we have:

The information revolution means that attempts to ban corrupting influences in the media are fairly pointless; those mobile phone-sized things have so much memory and power that it is as if you could carry all of today’s Internet in your pocket. But the availability of so much information, paradoxically, has led to many people paying much less attention to things electronic, and information from these sources is regarded rather as fast food, burgers etc. are treated today, i.e. insufficient, plastic, diversionary, dubious. The written word is the source of authority; calligraphy is once more a valued skill.

Is it going to happen? Whose opinion would you value more, your good real-life friend, or that of one of your 600 Facebook “friends” or 300 Twitter “followers”?

But will you think of a hand-written letter more than of an email?

The State of Canadian Cellular Industry

As of my October bill, Rogers charges me 15 cents for incoming text messages. This is in addition to 15 cents for outgoing text messages I was being charged previously. The cost to the customer to get rid of this is $5 per month for a messaging pack with a generous 250 outgoing messages included. The cost to the provider to provide text messaging is essentially zero as the messages piggyback on the necessary control channel.

I also cannot get caller ID — an integral feature of the network since the first GSM standard, something that actually takes Rogers effort and costs money to disable — without paying an extra $10 each month for some insane cable-network-inspired value pack which in addition to fundamental GSM features includes a lot of crap I don’t care about. (It’s $10 because getting just the texting would be $5 and getting 500 MB of BIS data is $25. That’s a subject for another day.)

This is on top of my $57.45 (legally advertised as $50) regular monthly fee for some number of minutes and 500 MB of data and BIS access.

But wait! Rogers Wireless ends system access charge, a September Toronto Star headline triumphantly proclaims. So my bill will only be $50.50, right?

System access charge, in case anyone doesn’t know, is the marketing-produced gimmick in which a company claims to charge a fee for system access on top of your other fee for system access and gets to advertise only the second fee. Just like you pay $20,000 for a $20,000 Benz, and $40,000 to drive it off the dealer’s parking lot.

Only, to sweeten the deal in addition to dropping its $6.95 a month system access fee, Rogers will add a “government regulatory recovery fee” in the amount of “$2.46 to $3.46” (presumably, $2.46 to those who worship to a makeshift Rogers shrine, $3.46 to others), as well as raise the “base price” of its plans — that’s the advertised one — by $5.00. Congratulations, your price to sign up for a $50 plan just went down from $56.95 to $57.46 plus worship (plus more additional fees).

Of course, the Canadian wireless industry is well-known for pampering its customers. For instance, they’re reducing your local-calling area to serve you better. Of course, the very concept of long-distance calling has stopped existing sometime in 1980s, but who’s keeping score?

Mine is the best deal in Canada I was able to find in January 2009 coming with my own unlocked GSM BlackBerry (carrier subsidy = $0). Even that required a 1 year contract.

I’d say it’s a pretty healthy industry.