COOL NEWS

Greetings,

Alright, remember that “very exciting news” I had last week (Of course you do, it’s right below)? Well, here it is.

I’ve landed a new job. It’s the position of Senior Writer with IT World Canada’s Network World publication. I start next week – I’m extremely excited. I’m really looking forward to it.

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PERSONAL UPDATE, PAC-MAN & QUEEN’S PULLS OUT

Greetings,

I’ve not been posting this week because I’ve got some very exciting news. I can’t post it yet, but I will either later today or tomorrow. I was at the Jays game last night, watching the team get beaten badly by those pesky Oakland Athletics. As long as I can remember they’ve been a royal pain for the Jays.

HARD DRIVE: In lieu of the fact my computer’s 80 gigs of memory is quickly approaching its storage limit, I decided to go out and buy myself a second hard drive to add onto my computer. It’s installed and ready to go, and after a bit of tinkering, my computer now has a storage capacity of 330 gigabytes. That may sound excessive, but it will last for years.

PAC-MAN: Here’s a really cool article from CBC.ca on Pac-Man – still one of the most fun video games ever produced. Highly recommended.

QUEEN’S: My alma mater has followed suit with other universities and has pulled out of the annual Maclean’s university rankings survey. Here’s the press release.

QUEEN’S FOOTBALL

Greetings,

My friend Neate and I got into a bit of a debate today over a project at Queen’s, my alma mater, that’s got a few people I know pretty annoyed.

Queen’s has unveiled a new football stadium plan. The new field will be built adjacent to Richardson Stadium, with Richardson being torn down and being replaced with practice fields. Apparently, this field plan was released at a charity golf tournament.

Queen’s is undergoing what could be called the largest capital expense plan in the university’s history right now. In the wake of all the new buildings on campus in the past eight years – the revamped Agnes Etherington Art Centre, the two new residence halls, the BioSci Complex, the new Commerce and Engineering buildings to name a few – the university is making a concerted effort to put its money where its mouth is and to show that “quality” can’t simply be demonstrated through students and reputation alone can’t ensure a constant flow of students and new faculty, research grants, et al.

The new projects on the horizon include the $300 million Queen’s Centre, the complete re-building of University Avenue and Union Street and finally, this football stadium.

Buildings like these cost a fortune, and you’re not going to get the money to pay for it strictly through government operating grants. You’re going to need alumni donations.

One of the big problems with alumni donations at Queen’s has to do not only with scale of donations, but how the money has been earmarked. The vast majority of folks with the funds to donate en masse – those wealthy Commerce graduates, for example – will donate to projects, understandably, that fit their interests. The Commerce buildings and Engineering buildings, for example.

In this particular example, Queen’s football does indeed need new facilities. Richardson Stadium is falling apart and decaying, so any new home for the Gaels would be useful.

The problem has to do with priorities. There’s one distinct group here that has been sorely neglected at Queen’s in terms of alumni donations – the Arts.

Truth be told, there aren’t a lot of extremely wealthy Arts graduates out there who can pony up the millions required to build a brand new Arts building Queen’s so desperately needs. The Arts programs are housed in several key areas: John Watson Hall, Mac-Corry Hall, Kingston Hall, Convocation Hall and Ontario Hall. While Kingston Hall and Convocation Hall are in relatively good shape, John Watson is definitely not. Ontario Hall, the home of the Fine Arts program, is one of the oldest buildings on campus and structurally unsound in some areas.

In other words, the homes of several key programs at Queen’s – those same programs trotted out in admission books as examples of the Queen’s Advantage – are in a very sorry state.

I don’t blame Queen’s for this. The money programs, like Commerce or Engineering, clearly will take the lead on alumni donations because of their perceived “value” in translating into wealth later on. Arts doesn’t do that as easily (although it’s a misnomer to assume Arts degrees are less valuable than a Commerce degree) on paper. Those wealthy millionaires from companies that donate to their alma mater aren’t all made of Bill Gates-esque stuff that ensures a social conscience first – they will donate to things that benefit them and a broader canvas of students who fit their interests.

On the other hand, it’s a bit morally and financially convenient for those donors to make donations for a football field. These donors, the ones who complain about the decline in quality of Queen’s, are the same ones who voted for the Tories in the mid-1990’s, the same ones who voted in a government that cut government operating grants, made mammoth tuition hikes a reality and then put tax breaks in place that allow them to write off such colossal donations to their alma mater for something that benefits them more than current or future students. Must be nice how you can say how you’re supporting Queen’s by donating money to programs and projects that reinforce an ideology of turning Queen’s into the Canadian version of Harvard, sans public money.

What bothers me so much about this football plan is how it feels like an act of pandering to wealthier alumni who are putting the proverbial cart before the horse; football is a luxury for Queen’s. Education comes first, and this action can’t be seen as positively benefiting Queen’s in the long-term.

First off, let’s look at the main problem with this: the student population. While Neate seems to think games at Richardson Stadium are populated with 5,000 people per game, let’s look at the reality. The vast, vast majority of those fans are alumni and not students. Queen’s students may go to one, possibly two games during the year. While Neate likes the idea of a world of the past when community-driven football games were major events at Queen’s, the reality is that world is gone now. Football is not a long-term investment like it once was at Queen’s, and students shouldn’t be blamed for that either.

Second, football is a male-only domain at the Canadian Interuniversity Sport level. With a campus that is more and more turning towards a female majority, what sense does it make to invest in a sport that doesn’t always reflect them? If anything, why isn’t Queen’s making a stronger effort to earmark alumni donations into a “general” pot of money that can be put towards programs like the Fine Arts or Drama, which clearly have a larger female population? How is this considered long-term thinking?

Finally, athletics in general at Queen’s are important. Yet this is also predicated on the idea of accessibility for everyone, not for a sport that, at its heart, excludes people. Why is a football field being considered instead of, say, that long-rumoured Phys.Ed Field House that could house a multitude of sports that everyone can do? Why football?

I know I’m talking about a fantasy world. I also know football is an easy sell to older alumni who remember those days of Frank Tindall-run Gaels clubs that dominated university football and feel that glow of nostalgia. I’ve only donated to Queen’s once since graduating and that was for CFRC – my old radio station that I hosted at for three and a half years. But after everything I’ve done for Queen’s, I’ve decided I won’t donate any money to the school until some kind of plan is set out for the Arts. Every other sector of the campus has gotten support, capital projects and loads of money – it’s time for the Arts to get some.

I know I’m not alone in this department; many folks I’ve known won’t donate either due to their interests – ironically, the largest majority of students at Queen’s – not being listened to. While it’s easy to say, “if you’re not donating, you’re part of the problem and creating a vicious cycle,” I can assure you if Queen’s released a plan for a new Arts building, the donations would definitely be in.

Finally, I know the argument goes that once you create a project like a new football stadium, the alumni whom have had their interests satisfied through a project like this will likely help to create more opportunities for more projects in the future. Problem is, has that been proven? What studies indicate that is the case? And more to the point, would the money even be there? Donor fatigue is a very real problem here.

I don’t think the idea of a new football stadium is bad. I encourage the idea if it is cost-efficient. Yet priorities are important for Queen’s. The real Queen’s Advantage is not on the football field, but in the classroom.

THE BEST OF BRITAIN, RELAKKS, PETER WORTHINGTON AND MACLEAN’S

Greetings,

Anybody who knows me will understand that I’m a huge Anglophile. I love Britain and everything about it. British history, culture, BBC Radio One, Radio Four, BritPop, everything about it. Maybe it’s because I grew up in a very Anglo-friendly home and used to read up on British history with almost-religious devotion (how many 14-year-olds can say they preferred reading on the nature of William the Conqueror’s invasion of England in 1066 – yes, I’m a huge nerd). I also deeply admire the BBC’s commitment to amazing quality journalism. Finally, one of the great pleasures of going online is being able to tune into Radio One and listen to a pop music radio station that’s unabashedly fun and not willing to take itself too seriously.

Today, I heard a track on Radio One that’s a bit edgier than usual. Lola’s No Strings – a pretty brazen track. It’s a bold move on Lola’s part and will probably generate some controversy in the U.K. and make her a huge star. It’s predictable pop music, but some more modest folks out there might find it a bit risque.

RELAKKS: The Pirate Party in Sweden has developed a commercial software piece that employs darknets. Darknets are anonymous corners of the internet that have no IP address listed so they can’t be traced. The software is being deployed as a secret way to share music files online in lieu of various laws that are clamping down significantly on online file-sharing.

PETER WORTHINGTON: I don’t support this column at all. I defend Worthington’s right to publish his views, but and please feel free to read it – I can’t support his views here.

MACLEAN’S SURVEY: With 11 universities in Canada pulling out of Maclean’s annual survey of schools, this has to be a significant blow to the quality of the survey. One question though: why hasn’t Queen’s pulled out yet? You’d think, after schools like the University of Toronto have pulled out, Queen’s would follow suit.

AIDS 2006


Greetings,

In light of the AIDS 2006 conference in Toronto at the moment, here’s a link to watch the ongoings online. I strongly recommend you check it out. Also, here’s a background link.

Incidently, sending Tony Clement in to answer for our Prime Minister’s inability to show up at a major international event? Man, these are the times when I feel embarrassed to have Harper as our PM. Scheduling a trip to Alert right during an event of this scale smells like political pandering to Harper’s base.

DOCTOR WHO, SEASON THREE, NETWORKED GENERATIONS AND DAVID FROST


Greetings,

DOCTOR WHO: Season Three filming has begun for Doctor Who. I just wrapped up watching Season Two (ah, the beauty of BitTorrent, what a wonderful piece of software) and it was fan-freakin’-tastic. It’s definitely the most emotional Doctor Who episode I’ve ever seen (hint: an unexpected, really bad villain from Season One battle the Cybermen in a huge war in central London near Canary Wharf – it’s like nothing you’ve ever seen before in Doctor Who and an unexpected ending to the season and a show regular).

The new companion for the Doctor is Freema Agyeman, who will play Martha Jones in Season Three (she’s also in the next-to-last episode of Season Two as another character at the Torchwood Institute, but apparently this continuity issue will be explained when she’s introduced in Season Three).

NETWORKED GENERATIONS: The BBC has a really interesting article on the continued transition of NetGen (short for Net Generation) into mostly digital media and shifting further and further away from radio, print and television. I think this study is a bit deceptive, though. I think the idea that young people don’t listen to the radio, read or watch television programs is nonsense – what has changed is youth sticking to scheduled programming, not abandoning programming altogether. Youth don’t stick to scheduled programming. It just doesn’t happen anymore. Music downloads, podcasts, personal video recorders – if anything, young people are consuming more radio, television and written content, but just not in the manner older generations do.

DAVID FROST: My pal Neate has scored a major coup with his post on David Frost, the Svengali-like character whom is alleged to have intimidated and bullied his so-called “Brampton Boys” hockey players and was the alleged target of a murder-for-hire scheme involving former NHL player Mike Danton. Apparently, Frost’s wife has opened up a juice bar in the entertainment district of Kingston, Ontario. He’s also been seen “around” the place. Public opinion of the place and him, well, check out the link. It’s anything but kind, and deservedly so.

U.K.-U.S. BOMB PLOT: Man. Anybody else kind of creeped out by this potential scenario?

THE DOMESDAY BOOK, LIMEWIRE, WIKIPEDIA, BLUE JAYS AND JAYSON BLAIR


Greetings,

Some interesting tech news and other bits posted today.

THE DOMESDAY BOOK: Britain’s most amazing historical artifact is now available online for average folks to check out. This is a hugely important document in British history. Think of it as one of the Western world’s first real attempts at a census of sorts. It can still be used as evidence in land property disputes in England.

LIMEWIRE: Uh oh. The RIAA in the U.S. has finally gotten around to a lawsuit against LimeWire. I’m surprised this didn’t happen until now. Where, oh where, will everyone get their bootleg copies of Warren Zevon discs? Ricky Martin B-sides? Guess it’s back to mp3 blogs…

WIKIPEDIA: The New Yorker has a great piece in its recent issue on Wikipedia – the best experiment online today. Really worth your time, do check it out.

BLUE JAYS: Man. Why is it so hard to be a Toronto sports fan? Is this karma for years of unbridled success by the Jays in the late 80’s/early 90’s? How is it all four major sports franchises are such abominations of mediocrity? Will Toronto ever get a winning team, as in a championship winning team, again? Must I wait another generation? After last night’s sixth straight loss, you have to wonder, would John Gibbons run out onto the field in a fit of hysterics, frustrated at his team’s decline and yell, “help me, help me Jesus, help me Tom Cruise!!!”

JAYSON BLAIR: Of course you remember Mr. Blair – the dude who brought about one of the greatest frauds in journalistic history (Stephen Glass shares that honour with him). Here’s a very interesting interview with the guy.