Perspectives on US Power

Post ImageJust got back from the opening session of the conference, which we followed up by taking a trip to Boston Pizza. The attendance isn’t huge, but it’s a decent size, maybe 100 people in total. Tonight there was one panel, with three speakers, followed by wine and cheese (or beer and cheese if you’re me). We got all the usual stuff at registration – a lanyard with a nametag, a folder full of conference stuff, etc.

First, a brief rundown on the state of affairs at this conference. The location is not the best in the world, because all we could hear in the background tonight was the volleyball/dodgeball being played in the gym adjacent (but a level below) to the conference room. There is no wireless access, which kind of surprised me, but there are some wired jacks, so I am bringing a network cable tomorrow – I just won’t be able to make it an entire day without Internet. And most disconcertingly, Megan and I are probably the youngest at the conference, with maybe only six to ten other people even close to our age range. So at a conference about globalization and changes that may only manifest themselves twenty years from now, almost no one who will be affected is represented. Sad; though Dickson made a good point that the conference really wasn’t advertised to anyone other than the academic-types taking part…only because I was browsing around did I find it.

Tonight’s session was titled, Perspectives on US Power – Quebec, Mexico and English Canada. The three panelists were Dorval Brunelle from Quebec, Alejandro Alvarez from Mexico, and Ricardo Grinspun from Ontario (unfortunately I cannot link to their bios directly, but you can get to them from the speakers page). I must say, of the three, I liked Mr. Brunelle best – he is an excellent speaker and added just the right amount of humor, deliberate or otherwise (at one point when talking about Quebec he said “my country” when he meant to say “my province”). Believe it or not, I took notes tonight so I could process what I heard. Here are some highlights:

  • It was mentioned that Norway is celebrating their 100th anniversary this year.
  • Mr. Brunelle on the USA: “Everyone there is either caught in a hurricane or asleep at the switch.”
  • A joke someone told Mr. Brunelle: “Canada is the only country in the world with two capital cities: Washington and London.”
  • The main point of his speech was that thus far, Quebec has managed to stave off rampant privatization that other provinces have seen because most politicians are too afraid to make drastic changes in the province.
  • Mr. Grinspun talked about proposals for deeper integration with the United States, and warned that proposals for a common currency will most likely reappear sometime in the future.
  • TINA – “There Is No Alternative” (the way our politicians have marketed integration with the United States to us)
  • Mr. Grinspun basically said that Canada is on a path of further harmonization with the United States, a path which must be resisted to “strengthen democracy and improve sovereignty.”
  • We learned from Mr. Alvarez that after the fluctuations in oil prices in the 70s, the US embarked on a major restructuring of the economy which greatly affected Mexico. The result has been that the Mexican states that share a border with the United States have the best standard of living, while those further south (with the exception of Mexico City) have the lowest. The problem is that the majority of the population is in the south, not the north.
  • The so-called “NAFTA+” is really all about US Security interests.
  • The question was raised: “In the wake of the terrible hurricanes, will the US pursue the resources of others even more aggressively than they already have?”

All that from only the first session. This is definitely going to be an interesting conference!

Read: Globalism Conference

Resisting the Empire: Challenges to US Power

Post ImageI am off tonight to the opening of Resisting the Empire: Challenges to US Power. It’s a conference taking place here in Edmonton at the University of Alberta, sponsored by the university’s Globalism Project and the Parkland Institute. I was looking at upcoming events at the UofA over the weekend, and came across the conference. It interested me enough to register, and share it with Megan who is also attending.

Just like previous conferences I have attended, I’ll be using a special image (shown at right) for posts related to this conference. I hope they let me in tonight – I faxed the registration earlier this week but didn’t hear anything back. Given the current economic and political climate, the content of the conference should indeed be interesting.

I am by no means anti-American, but I am not really pro-Canadian either. I am looking forward to finding out whether or not this is a USA-bashing conference, or something more intelligent.

Read: Globalism Conference

UAlberta Podcasting?

Post ImageDoes anyone know of any podcasting projects taking place at the University of Alberta? If you do, leave me a comment or drop me an email or something. So far the only “podcast” I have found was created by the Libraries:

iPod Walking Tour – Main Floor Services
This is an audio tour. Please download the file to your iPod (or any other mp3 player), and then come and explore the Main Floor of Cameron Library.

You can get to the mp3 file (which comes in both English and Mandarin -language versions) at While this technically is not a podcast (as there is no RSS feed to subscribe to), it’s a step in the right direction, and the URL is clearly indicative of more content in the future. And it should be noted that the Libraries provide a number of other RSS feeds already.

Differences in CAB

So far this year I had been avoiding CAB (Central Academic Building) on campus like the plague. Today though, I decided to check it out. I have a lab Tuesdays at 2 PM, so I have a little time to kill between classes. Every other day I can just go to the office.

Anyway, as I’ve been sitting here, I’ve noticed a number of differences:

  • As Dickson noted, it seems the food services company Aramark has their own wireless network. Of course, it’s secured, but that’s okay because the ualbertawireless network works here (that’s what I’m connected to).
  • They are now speakers on the pillars playing what sounds like The Bounce (lots of hip hop whatever it is). This just adds to the noise, but I guess it would be worse.
  • Maybe I’m blind, but I don’t see the microwaves! Looks like they have disappeared.
  • The have big, plastic, funky napkin holders at the checkouts now that only let you take one napkin at a time. That didn’t prevent me from taking a stack anyway though!
  • There’s no one here anymore. Four years ago I could walk into CAB and be sure to find at least one table of “the group”. Now I’m hardpressed to find someone I know at all.

And as much as things change, the more they stay the same. I bought a slice of pizza, and purposefully used my debit card. And not surprisingly they still charge a 35 cent surcharge. Bastards.

I need to find a place on campus that is quite and has reliable wireless. Any suggestions?

Back to School: Part 2

Today was my last “first class” for this semester. I had CMPUT 410 this morning, which is “Web Based Information Systems”. Here’s the description and objectives from the CS site:

Overview of Web technologies and applications. This course is project based and addresses issues such as web-based applications and databases design and implementation, XML data exchange and modeling, application component integration over the Web, security mechanisms, and Web Mining for intelligent web-based applications.

Expertise and skills in web technologies are very sought for in the current market place. This course is intended to present the students with the basic knowledge needed for professional web information systems development. This course will also introduce current advanced technologies used for web-application development.

So basically, stuff I do on an almost daily basis. The description the professor gave of DNS this morning wasn’t what I would consider “extensive”, so I think I’ll be okay in this class. It fulfills a requirement at least. One nice thing about Computing Sciences courses is that almost everything is online, including the outline, notes, assignments, solutions, exams, etc. If only all courses could be so forward-thinking!

After class I met Megan in CAB and we hightailed it over to the PowerPlant for a pint and pound of fries. Just like old times! And it really was too, as the service in the PowerPlant remains extremely slow, though our server was at least friendly this time. And Megan is right, the place smelled better when they allowed smoking inside. The funny thing about this year is I have this incredible urge to avoid CAB at all costs. Having spent every day there for the last four years must have made me hate the place, I don’t know.

We’re a long way from my vision of wireless everywhere. I really wish the University would just spend the money to blanket the entire campus with wireless access. I can’t get a connection in any of my classes this semester (as my CMPUT class is, very oddly, in the Civil Engineering building). For a list of buildings with wireless and wired access, check out Academic ICT (formerly CNS (not sure I like the name change)).

Back to School

Post ImageAs the years have gone by, I have found that I look forward to the first day of school less and less. This year was no different, as I almost didn’t go back. Nevertheless, I couldn’t help but feel a little excited this morning as I made my way to my first class. The usual stuff goes through your mind – this is going to be interesting, I’m going to keep up on my readings, I’m never going to skip class, etc. It never works out that way, but there’s no harm in trying right?

My first class today was SOC 300, or “Principles of Sociology”; clearly, one of my electives. There are many things about this class that made me feel old. First, SOC 300 is the same as SOC 100, but only first and second year students can take SOC 100. Second, the majority of the class (judging by the hands that were raised) are third year students, not fifth year. The professor didn’t teach any material today, just went through the outline and gave a brief introduction. Near the beginning of the class he asked how many people in the class of roughly 200 were Sociology majors. Not a single hand went up; it was rather funny!

My second class was ECON 222, or “Technology, Institutions, and Economic Growth”. Again, I couldn’t help but feel a little old. One kid walked into the class and I swear he looked like he belonged in high school. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t look that old either, but this kid was just incredibly young. I was also the only one who said anything the entire class besides the professor (I asked him to clarify if something he said was in real or nominal terms). I think back to my first and second year, and I realize I didn’t say anything back then either. Must be a student maturity thing.

My last “first class” will be tomorrow morning, so we’ll see how it goes. Both of the courses today seem like they will indeed be interesting, so that’s always a good thing. A couple of other notes:

  • I absolutely hate how the Tory building doesn’t have wireless, drives me nuts.
  • My SOC 300 professor very loosely defined “mass media” as television, radio, newspapers, etc. because they are media outlets that reach a mass audience. I think I have come to prefer the term “mainstream media”, as a website or blog or podcast could also be considered mass media in that they can reach the masses. They might not, but neither does the Food Network.
  • It never ceases to amaze me how some people just saunter along in the middle of a major thoroughfare. Do they not realize there are people behind them?
  • I didn’t see anyone in my classes today with a laptop, let alone a Tablet PC. Granted it is only the first day, and there was very little work done. There were a few laptops out in the common areas though.
  • For the fashion-minded among you – I have decided that girls in pink tops and white bottoms look good, but not the other way around. You might not think so at first, but wait until you see them sitting almost side by side as I did today. Pink pants just don’t do it for me.

Changes at Light Speed

Post ImageLife is funny sometimes. One day, you’re just working away and things are pretty much status quo. The next day, you’re registered for school and your brother arrives in Edmonton! At least, that’s what happened to me in the last two days.

It wasn’t too long ago that I was still unsure of whether or not I was going back to school this semester. I feel like a break, like I don’t want to be in school. I gave it quite a bit of thought, and had some good reasons for just working for the semester, but then I started talking with an advisor and reality hit me like a brick. Our post secondary school system, which we pay like $500 per course for, isn’t really setup to allow taking a break right in the middle. The University seems to want you coming back, spending the money – imagine that!

I flirted with the idea of graduating with a general science degree and just a minor in Computing Sciences as I only needed one more course to do that, but I decided against it. I am going to try and finish what I started, the Specialization in Computing Sciences with a Minor in Business. So I’m now registered in three classes, meaning I’m once again a full time student.

At the same time, I found out that my brother was coming to Edmonton to attend Centre High this year. Apparently the high school in Inuvik was deemed unsafe, as the majority of the building’s pilings are rotting. So in what was probably the fastest turnaround time ever, the decision was made for Tom to come down and live with my grandparents, just as Kim did last year. Kim and I picked him up from the airport tonight, and tomorrow he registers for classes (a little late, just like me). I’ve created a photoset for Tom’s arrival in Edmonton, so you can see the initial three pictures here.

I’ve got to get Tom blogging now! Kim has started once again – she posted today.

Interac Done Right

Back in September of last year, when I was still attending class often enough to need to purchase lunch on campus, I wrote about the Interac Surcharge Insanity at the University of Alberta. To refresh your memory:

Today at CAB I decided I wanted Chinese food so I went over to the cafeteria place to get some. Grabbed my good old Coke, and headed to the counter to pay using my debit card. What happened next I was not prepared for. I was shocked…they wanted to charge me a 35 cent surcharge for using Interac.

I griped about the situation, and even wrote a cleaner version of my post which got published in the Gateway. I haven’t been to campus in a very long time, and even longer to buy food on campus, so I don’t know if things have changed. My guess is no, since lowering fees isn’t exactly natural to a post-secondary institution. What I can tell you though, is that not all companies are taking part in the surcharge madness!

BCOM Computer in Edmonton (and they have a Calgary store too) knows how Interac should be done. On every item they sell, there are two prices. One is the regular price, and the other is listed as a “cash rebate” price. What I didn’t realize until today however, is that you can use either cash or Interac to get the rebate price!

That, my friends, is exactly how Interac should be done. They save money by having me use my debit card, so they pass the savings on to me. Now if only we could get the University to do the same thing!

Read: BCOM Computer

University of Alberta to buy Bay building

Post ImageThe University of Alberta is gearing up to buy the ancient Hudson’s Bay building in downtown Edmonton. The purchase would solve two major problems – what to do with the aging building in the heart of our downtown, and how to deal with the space crunch for the ever growing university.

If the deal goes through, as many as 1,000 continuing education students would take both day and night classes in the building as early as September 2006.

The university’s research transition facility and its more than 90 academics would also set up shop in the building. They would be joined by 30 workers from TEC Edmonton, a joint partnership between the city and the university, which is associated with the research operation.

I really hope this goes through, and it seems quite likely now. Mayor Mandel has long supported such a deal, and new university president Indira Samarasekera has also placed her support behind the purchase. And the good news is that the university has no plans to make CHUM (which owns A-Channel, and The Bounce) to move out.

I really like the idea – it makes a lot of sense. The LRT directly connects the building to the current university campus, and having a downtown presence will definitely help both businesses and the university. Thank goodness the proposals to turn the building into a parkade were turned down – a downtown University of Alberta location sounds much better for our city.

Read: Edmonton Journal