I just wanted to share an event that I think is particularly interesting and could be something of interest to my readers. I’m hosting an event with my MeetUp group this Wednesday, June 19th, 2013 (TOMORROW).
For those of you who have not heard of Government 2.0 or Open Data, the idea of both is to connect citizens with their elected officials in a more meaningful way.
Through use of emerging web 2.0 principals, technology and data sets, we are working towards creating a new definition for participatory democracy.The event is called: Crowdsourcing Canada’s Open Data Institute and promises to be a lively discussion with two of Canada’s Government 2.0 and Open Data advocates: Jury Konga and Dennis Brink.
I’ve attached a poster for the event (it’s free, you know!) and I really would love for you to be there (if you’re interested) or pass it on to someone who may be interested! This is my MeetUp group’s 5th event and we hope to continue bringing Toronto into the Government 2.0 scene in the future.
Does the Government of Canada need to reveal the parameters of it’s intelligence operations?
Several groups including Amnesty International Canada, OpenMedia.ca and the Council of Canadians have called for more transparency from the government regarding surveillance metadata. This push came last week when The Globe and Mail reported that in 2011, “Defence Minister Peter MacKay approved a secret electronic eavesdropping program that scours global telephone records and Internet data trails – including those of Canadians – for patterns of suspicious activity.”
Secretly conceived in 2005 by former defence minister Bill Graham, the program was temporarily put on hiatus in 2011 due to backlash from federal watchdog agencies, who expressed concern over warrantless surveillance of Canadian citizens (rightly so).
The data collection is headed off by an arm of the Department of National Defence, the CSEC, or the Communications Security Establishment Canada; and while other countries (U.K., U.S.A.) have legislative oversight of this agency and the data collection, Canada does not. The question is why? Amidst all the issues with the NSA in the U.S., at least they have legislative oversight committees watching and regulating the work. These committees are put together by elected officials and are independent of the cabinet, a stark contrast to the CSEC, which has no oversight. With the U.S. system, at least there is some non-partisan oversight (granted, I’m assuming that elected officials truly do listen to their constituents and their wellbeing), something that Canada needs to implement ASAP. This is something that we, the citizens, can push for. I understand as well that even if there is some oversight, there is no guaranteeing that an agency like this will ever work in our favour, but any transparency would be welcomed and is a necessity—we must fight to protect whatever rights that we have left.
While metadata is not so specific that it reveals what is being said, it still can give information on where you’ve been, who you’ve been with, what websites you’ve frequented, who you know (and how well you know them! eeeek). How is this data being harvested? How anonymous is this data?
I take contention with the idea that the government can know what we are up to, without any suspicion of crime or threat, while our elected officials are allowed to conduct their business in private. How is that fair? Why, in this age do I still have to worry about the possibility of my government spying on me, or if they are going to be using my own life’s happening against me? Also, what if this ‘metadata’ is being passed on to other agencies? How secure is my information? I’m pretty sure that in the last year, I’ve heard reports of government ministries loosing significant amounts of data on citizens. Thank you but no thank you. I’m increasingly becoming aware and worried about how my data is being used, and what information is out there on me.
In light of all the scandal surrounding the United States’ NSA data collection, I think it is absolutely imperative that Canada creates a form of legislative oversight over this agency. Look, I understand that collection of data is going to happen now, with all the arguments about security and past events supporting those arguments, but my main issue with all of this is how much is being decided for us citizens without public consultation. Further, I fear that there is probably not enough security over this data, and I worry about potential abuse. If I am to live in a big brother world, I would rather I have some say in it and at least have some knowledge of what is happening. This is why I think it’s SO important for people to recognize that our government needs reform; that our government only works for you if you get involved, and that in our digital world it’s so simple to get involved and know what is happening.
I guess that Canada can’t be considered as a democratic nation anymore when all the work that our government does is done in secret, without consultation, hidden away until scandal pushes it out. Sounds a bit neo-fascist or autocratic if you ask me.
With that, I will leave you with an amazing new Rap News on the NSA and Snowden.
Spring is almost here. I’ve been doing really well with keeping up on a promise I made myself this year: to read as many books—we’re talking the real deal, paper, binding, ink, the whole shebang-type of books— as possible. I’ve probably finished anywhere between 4-5 (much more than last year at this time) and this is also amidst my usual online readings. So, it’s easy to say that I’m pretty proud of myself (but what’s new, anyways? haha).
In an effort to keep this momentum moving, I stumbled upon this list and think that I am going to take it on as my Spring and Summer quest. I’m all about the questing. The list is entitled “Life-Changing Books: Your Picks.” The website, Open Culture, asked their readers which books made the most impact on their lives. It’s a bit older of a list, but with some really notable reads. Going through it, I really can feel the passion of what a good story, a good book, and a good message can have on a person. It made me go back and think about the books that have touched me; the ones that have transformed me and made me into the person that I am today. Books have always been a big part of my life; from fantasy to anime, to big think and social movement books, with each book I’ve read, I’ve become a different, a new person.
While I’ve read some of these books already, I think that I will even go as far as revisiting them and taking them in as an adult or with this current frame of mind.
Here are my top 10 that I am REALLY excited about:
- A Short History of Nearly Everything – Bill Bryson (I’ve had this for ages, taunting me from my shelves.
- Disturbing the Peace – Vaclav Havel
- Healing Invisible Wounds: Paths to Hope and Recovery in a Violent World – Richard Mollica
- How to Read a Book – Mortimer J. Adler and Charles Van Doren
- The Brother Karamazov – Fyodor Dostoevsky
- The History of Sexuality & Discipline and Punish – Foucault (ANYTHING by Foucault, someone in my life has really made me want to read his stuff.)
- The Journey to the East – Herman Hesse (I’ve read Siddhartha, would love to explore more of his work)
- The Stranger – Albert Camus
- Now What? 90 Days to a New Life Direction – Laura Berman Fortgang
- Language in Thought and Action – S.I. Hayakawa
Now, there are a million other suggestions by way of comments at the bottom of the post, so what I have seen and listed above is just the beginning. I can’t wait to sink my teeth into these books.
There are very few things that I can emphatically say have changed my life. Yoga is one of them. My university time is another; heck, meeting certain people have changed my life. But probably one of the biggest and most influential things on my health, wellbeing and world has been Meghan Telpner.
Meghan Telpner is a Toronto-based nutritionist who has just released a book entitled Undiet. Two years ago, my sister (who works for Random House) laid her peepers on Meghan on Breakfast Television one morning talking about health. The rest is history. Bhavna, my sister, approached Meghan for a book and soon through her process of editing the book, we started to follow Meghan’s teachings. For the first time ever, I had a control over my health and my body. I felt amazing. Everything worked in unison and I soon found out that I had certain allergies that I didn’t know existed (gluten is a BIG one).
I have become a one-person PR machine in my circles, lauding everything that this woman has done. Her approach is fun, easy and seriously life changing. When I started to actually live by Megan’s simple guidelines, taking in account her recommendations and making her recipes, I soon found that I felt the best I’ve ever felt, and on top of it all as a happy side effect, dropped nearly 20 lbs. in the last 3-4 years. Mind you, this weight loss can also be attributed to doing a ton of yoga, but as we all know, what is a workout regime without a proper diet?
Here is a link to one of my favourite recipes: Gluten-Free Chocolate Pancakes! I made these with my sister recently and let me tell you… amazing. We had them for dinner! Here is a picture:
Anyway, I think that everyone should read UnDiet, Meghan’s new (and first) book. It’s amazing, beautiful and inspiring, just like Meghan herself. Do your body and life a favour and pick up a copy. You can buy it at Indigo or just find it on Amazon. Her website also has a great blog where you can try out her stuff before committing to buying a copy of UnDiet.
Here we go with the Earth Hour stuff again, and we all know that I’m a curmudgeon.
Earth Hour is coming up on this Saturday, March 23rd at 8:30 P.M.
I really don’t see how turning off all your electricity for ONE hour on ONE day is an effective way to teach people how to properly use their energy. This is the problem with popularized “activism;” while there is great amount of awareness about energy put forth for one day, there is no push for a full-out change, education or a critical look at how our public policy or society views energy usage as a whole.
We have one day, Earth Hour, which is supposed to ‘help’ climate change, but in fact does nothing. We do the day, feel good, and go about our lives with no major change until the next Earth Hour day in the next year over. This is just like any other situation of “slacktivism.” From pressing a Facebook “like” button to simply RTing something, what difference does it make in the grand scheme other than stroking one’s ego and creating a false sense of action? What we do need is a dialogue, a discussion and a reeducation on what it means to use energy. There needs to be an emphasis on the responsibility of energy usage. Perhaps it all needs to be reframed? Maybe we need to understand that to be energy conscious – which seems to be synonymous for many that we must sacrifice a lot – does not mean that we must go live in a cave.
Now, I don’t want to say it doesn’t garner any positive attention; just look at what I’m saying here, in this specific post. Would I have been likely to write something so against it and try to push out other ideas if I hadn’t come across it in my Twitter feed this morning? Probably not. I understand that Earth Hour is often a “symbolic” event (just as many other modern-day, digitally-pushed activist events seem to be /sarcasm), representative of a bigger thing (what bigger thing?), but I just am so wary to believe that it has anything but a short-term, minute effect on only a small fraction of the world (that being the Western world; what about developing nations? Some of the major energy concerns of our time are coming out of places who have no real care for any of the energy policies being unrolled by initiatives such as the Kyoto protocol). We have to become better acquainted with the consequences of our excessive energy use. With that being said, what of the impact that our government resources and systems use? What about changing our focus on sustainable production and start working on holding governments — who fail to uphold promises, accountable for their actions?
Not to condescend but, I think that if you’re an elementary school child, then Earth Hour would be a great starting point and finishing point. Teaching this in schools is a great starting point to get children to find weight in being energy conscious. Personally, I don’t really think that an adult should applaud themselves for partaking in this event. Should we be proud that this is the extent of what we are capable of? I am ashamed that as an adult, all I can fork over is a measly hour a day, in a whole year, to even just create the façade that we are doing something good for our world and our future. Don’t even get me started on the things that we do spend an excess of time on (doing our nails, watching two scantily-clad men bludgeon one another, reading celebrity gossip, watching cartoons, drinking, et cetera…) and justify enough to spend countless hours on, every week, of every month in our life. We have deluded ourselves so much.
In short I put this to you concerning Earth Hour: why must we be regressed to luddites to understand how to effectively, and responsibly use this resource? Why can’t we as adults, with the ability and capacity to understand the depth and breadth of our past and present actions take responsibility on in a larger way?
It just doesn’t make sense to me, this whole Earth Hour campaign. Actually, I get it; it’s easy, it’s personal, it’s controllable and you don’t really have to change your whole life to be a part of the pseudo-”change.” Earth Hour fails us in the idea that it’s only us who is responsible, but I really think it’s that plus a systemic change that is needed. This year, instead of just turning your lights off, getting off your phones and computers, think about taking another hour to bone up on your country’s public policy and policies on energy, pen a note to your elected official and then pat yourself on the back.