Daily Archives: October 12, 2007

Type in the Toronto Subway


An amazing article about the history of, and degradation of, type in the Toronto Subway system by the indomitable Joe Clark. Anyone who loves design, typography, and information design would do well to read this (admittedly, you’ll need an hour or two to get through it all).

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John Moore on Spinning John Tory’s troubles


History may be written by the victors, but the vanquished always try to get in their licks. When it became clear last week that John Tory and his Progressive Conservatives weren’t going to achieve their dream of a majority government in Ontario, his supporters cranked up the spin machine. I could hear its whirring behind the calls I took about election issues on my Toronto radio show. Conservatives were hoping they could deny the punditocracy an unflattering portrayal of their leader and party by preemptively offering their own narrative. I’ve noticed three principal themes.

The first is the rather huffy assertion that the voters are simply misguided — or even out and out stupid. Admittedly, this is an argument raised only by the most embittered. (It should also be noted that the left has been known to trot out the same complaint as well: When George W. Bush was re-elected in 2004, Britain’s Daily Mirror ran a full-page cover featuring the President, along with the banner headline, “How can 59,054,087 people be so DUMB?”)

Whether from left or right, it’s a patronizing supposition. Every party plays to the same electorate. To dismiss one portion of the voters is to slander the entire population. Worse, it suggests a level of arrogance since it presumes that the superiority of your party is so self-evident that only an idiot could fail to recognize it.

A somewhat more sophisticated talking point is that John Tory is just too good a man; that he was an innocent eaten alive by the savagery of our political process. No small number of my talk-radio colleagues argued that Tory’s devouring would become a cautionary tale for any other titan of business who might consider a life in public service.

John Tory is indeed a good and decent man with an admirable record in the private sector and in public service. But to represent him as some kind of wide-eyed Tyro is a stretch. Tory contested one of the most competitive mayoralty races in Toronto’s history and nearly won. He fought two party stalwarts for the leadership of the provincial Conservatives, won a seat in the Ontario legislature and served two-and-a-half years before the launch of the campaign.

He’s a big boy, capable of taking on all comers. He wasn’t the victim of a vicious and soulless process. He made his own mistakes — first in running to head the wrong party, and second in embracing a faith-based schools policy that any Ontarian (save for his advisers) could have told him would become an unrecoverable fumble. Tory has not been consumed by the process nor suffered character assassination at the hands of the Liberals. In a fair fight, an able man has simply failed to win the population’s favour.

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Conservatives in Ontario defeated themselves in the 2007 Ontario election


The real losers of the election were the conservatives. However, they really were not defeated by the Liberals. The conservatives actually defeated themselves. Why do you say? (1) They selected to attack Dalton McGuinty constantly during the election did not help. We already knew that Dalton McGuinty broke promises; however he did say that he would let Ontarians judge him. He also said many times “we are still working on that”. He effectively diffused any criticism by appearing to take the higher ground. (2) Faith-based funding was a bad misread. Essentially they failed to realize that people were generally either afraid of Islamic schools (ignorance of the voter of course) in receiving funding or worried about the health of our public schools in the province. I will not get into an argument on whether we should or should not fund religious schools, but the fear in Ontarians was there. They should have known that Ontarians were simply not ready to deal with the problem, not matter how worthy the cause. (3) A failure to articulate what the PC Party would do for the province of Ontario. Somehow the message was not heard by the public; maybe to no fault of their own? Maybe it was the media? Nevertheless, the message did not resonate with voters. (4) Finally, at this is the biggest, the destructive elements within the PC Party who essentially did not like John Tory in the first place. There was a movement to “Vote for the Tories, not Tory”. This was a direct aim at the leader from neo-conservatives in the party that want to go back to the Harris years of power. Love them or hate them, they do exist. It is not fiction! Right-wing elements of the Progressive Conservative party that want to make it “less progressive”. Unfortunately, in the end the PC Party can only look in the mirror for reasons. PC support was not unified and a large majority of conservatives decided to just sit on the hands and stay home. John Tory is still seen in a positive light, and an honest person, even amongst non-conservatives in the province. Even Bill Murdoch, conservative MPP, was challenged by the ever-increasing popularity of the Green Party. With there influence spent and the ever shrinking power based ruralized, the future may get bleak for conservatives. If the PC’s decide to go the neo-conservative route, and it plays out in the public eye as an “internal turf” of their leader, it maybe many years before they ever hold the seat of power in Ontario again.

 

By: Andy MJ
a.k.a “The GTA Patriot”
Toronto, Ontario

 

Gas-fuelled power plant on agenda for Toronto and Mississauga


Buried in the release of Ontario Power Generation’s 2006 financial results last Friday was an intriguing paragraph: “OPG is exploring the potential development of a gas-fuelled electricity generation station at its Lakeview site and is continuing with the decommissioning and demolition of the Lakeview coal-fired generating station.”

There is, as you might expect, a story behind this story and it sheds some light on how dysfunctional our electricity system has become over the past few years.

First, some background:

Ontario Power Generation, or OPG, is one of the successor companies that emerged when Ontario Hydro was broken into pieces in 1997. Still government owned, it runs all the old Ontario Hydro power plants, including the coal-fired facilities, which contribute to our air pollution and global warming and which the governing Liberals have promised to close.

In 2005, OPG’s Lakeview site, along Mississauga’s waterfront, became the first of the coal-fired plants to be closed.

But the Ontario Power Authority – an agency set up by the Liberals to plan for future electricity needs – says a replacement power source will be needed in the Mississauga area by the year 2011.

Hence, OPG’s interest in building a gas-fired plant on the old Lakeview site.

OPG has lined up a partner for the project – Enersource, the local electricity distributor, which is 90 per cent owned by the City of Mississauga and 10 per cent by Borealis, the infrastructure investment arm of OMERS (the municipal employees pension fund).

Also reportedly backing the project is Hazel McCallion, Mississauga’s formidable mayor (although, uncharacteristically, she did not respond to requests for an interview for this column).

With such an array of backers and a province thirsty for more power, the Lakeview project would seem to be a sure thing.

But not so fast. The power authority wants a competitive process before making a decision on a new plant. In this respect, the authority insists it is just following government policy, although insiders suggest the authority harbours a bias against OPG and in favour of private-sector suppliers.

As it happens, there is at least one private-sector firm interested in building a new gas-fired power plant in south Mississauga – Sithe Global, which already has regulatory approval for a site called Southdown (on the east side of Winston Churchill Blvd., between Royal Windsor Dr. and Lakeshore Rd.)

And more private-sector suppliers might come forward if they were allowed to make bids based on the OPG-owned Lakeview site, as the power authority has apparently suggested – to vociferous objections from OPG.

In any event, the power authority says the competitive process won’t begin until next year. That will create a tight timetable, however, as the electricity is said to be needed by 2011, and it takes three years to build a new gas-fired facility.

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Windows Live Spaces users get new Facebook-like features


Microsoft is adding a new Windows Live Events service to its line-up. At the same time, it it is providing a general update to Windows Live Spaces that makes the platform look and feel more like Facebook by showing users a feed of what their contacts are doing.

Windows Live Spaces users gets new Facebook-like features Microsoft has been hinting that it was considering a multi-million dollar stake in Facebook, while saying next-to-nothing about its Windows Live Spaces Facebook-alternative. Now that talk of a Facebook investment seems to have waned, Live Spaces — Microsoft’s social-networking/blogging platform – seems to be a more visible priority.

Windows Live Events is going to be part of the core Windows Live suite, as well as an adjunct to Windows Live Spaces. The Live Events service won’t be flipped on immediately for all users, the Softies cautioned; it may take a while before the events.live.com link takes them to the new service. The rollout of the new events service commenced at 8 p.m. (EST) on October 11.

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Patent suit against Linux has a Kevin Bacon-esque connection to Microsoft


It appears as though the first patent suit against Linux — targeting Red Hat and Novell — is now official. According to Groklaw’s Pamela Jones:

IP Innovation LLC has just filed a patent infringement claim against Red Hat and Novell. It was filed October 9, case no. 2:2007cv00447, IP Innovation, LLC et al v. Red Hat Inc. et al, in Texas. Where else? The patent troll magnet state…… [this is] The first ever patent infringement litigation involving Linux. Here’s the patent, for those who can look at it without risk. If in doubt, don’t. Here’s the complaint [PDF]….The plaintiff is asking for an injunction, along with damages.

Jones goes on to cite some relevant points of the complaint but then, like the Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon, unearths a potential connection to Microsoft. According to a story posted by Patent Troll Tracker well before this lawsuit turned up, IP Innovation LLC is a subsidiary of Acacia Research Corporation which the site classifies as a patent troll. This past July Acacia hired Jonathan Taub away from his job as Director, Strategic Alliances for the Mobile and Embedded Devices (MED) division at Microsoft and then, just last week, it hired Brad Brunell away from his job at Microsoft where, among other jobs, he served as General Manager, Intellectual Property Licensing.

The blogosphere is likely to have a field day with this connection and I suspect that dumpsters will be dived in hopes of finding a less tenuous connection to Microsoft. The timing of the suit seems rather serendipitous given both the timing of Brunell’s move as well as the threats that Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer issued last week — ones that specifically mentioned patents (vs. the other form of intellectual property; copyrights). Even so,

Is there a connection? Well, there’s no smoking gun at this point. And if there was such a connection, you can’t help but wonder why Novell would be named in the suit since Microsoft and Novell are now working together to better integrate Windows with Novell’s Suse Linux and the arrangement includes patent protection for Novell. So, you’ll have to judge for yourself what’s going on here.

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