Archive for September, 2009

Sick and moving

September 29, 2009 Comments off

Hey folks - a combination of moving house this weekend, limited Internet access and a nasty cold means no meaningful blog post today. Excuses, I know, I know. I should be back up and running full tilt later this week. Y’all come back now, y’hear?

Categories: Uncategorized

The problem with porn and net neutrality

September 28, 2009 Comments off

I’m on this week’s episode of CBC Radio’s Spark, talking about net neutrality. If you want to have a listen, that stuff starts at about the 49:27 mark. We’re discussing the events of the past week down in the United States, where the regulating body - the Federal Communications Commission - announced it will enshrine net neutrality principles as law.

The FCC’s move comes at a time when our own telecommunications regulator, the CRTC, is mulling whether it should recommend new rules here in Canada. The CRTC held hearings this past summer, attracting an unprecedented level of interest from the public. With the United States moving towards adopting new rules that will prohibit internet service providers (including cellphone carriers) from unfairly interfering with their customers’ traffic, the pressure is on the CRTC - the regulator is supposed to announce its opinions some time this fall. Some have argued that our telecom laws are already strong enough - others have suggested that Telus’s blocking of access to a union website a few years ago and the ongoing situation with Bell throttling peer-to-peer file sharing are just two examples that our laws are too lax.

Ultimately, the power and decisions rest with the government, and it’s here that Canada and the United States couldn’t be further apart. President Obama immediately voiced support for the FCC’s plan, but in Canada, the Conservative government is the only party that has not voiced explicit support for net neutrality. The best we have is this statement in the House of Commons last year from former Minister of Industry Jim Prentice:

I bring up net neutrality here not only because of my personal interest in the issue, but also because it has significant implications on pornography. Invariably, the first sort of content that internet providers and governments alike target for blocking is porn. I’ve written on numerous examples of this, from China to the United Kingdom to India to Australia.

Personally, I take a pretty hard line on this - if the material, regardless of what it is, is legal within a country, adults should not be blocked from accessing it online in any way, shape or form. In other words, if you can buy a Vivid DVD down at the local sex shop, there’s no reason you shouldn’t be able to get it online too.

Porn producers feel the same way, so they’re generally big supporters of net neutrality.

There is one big problem, though: it’s ridiculously easy for anyone - children included - to get access to porn online. If you go to any number of porn sites, you’re simply asked to verify that you’re over 18. Click a button and you’re in. In the case of the plethora of YouTube porn clones out there, you’ve got instant access to a veritable cornucopia of porn video, all for free.

I’ve yet to hear a decent explanation as to how this has been allowed to happen. I remember in the early days of the web, there were a number of adult verification services out there and you generally couldn’t get easy access to such sites without a credit card. Somehow over the years, that’s gone out the window and now it’s like the wild west. I imagine that competition and piracy pushed producers to offer more and more of their stuff up for free, without age verification, and nobody stepped up to police them. As many countries have found, it’s just easier to block them all outright.

If net neutrality is to apply to porn companies, to where ISPs in developed countries such as the U.K. and Australia don’t try to block access, they’re going to need to come up with a solution to this problem. Otherwise, they’re going to continue to get targeted no matter what kind of neutrality rules are in place.

Categories: cbc, internet, net neutrality, sex, spark

Don’t let armageddon catch you with your pants down

September 25, 2009 Comments off

Have you ever wondered what to do if a nuclear bomb should go off near your house? I know that’s something that keeps me up most nights. Cold War be damned - I’ve watched enough 24 to know we’re only minutes away from that stuff happening every day!

Well there’s no need to worry anymore because the people at have got us covered with their new “Dirty Bomb Emergency Kit.” According to the website (which I found out about thanks to Defense Tech), the kit “detects radiation and significantly removes radioactive material from human skin and other surfaces after a dirty bomb attack or other radiological events.” Whew. Thank goodness.

The kit contains Nukepills’ “Quick Decon Mass Effect” radiation decontamination spray. These “water-based liquids come in convenient-to-use color-coded 32 oz. bottles with accompanying trigger sprayers. Our solutions are made from cosmetic-grade, FDA-approved materials and are not radioactive before use.” Also included are enough face masks for the whole family, towelettes, rad-waste bags, and to be sure, PDF instructions. All of this can be yours for the low, low price of $250.

Awesome. Just awesome.

Categories: nuclear, war, weapons

The Jedis hate our way of life

September 24, 2009 Comments off

This blog may be one-third about war, but that doesn’t mean I always have to stick to real war. Today, I’m posting about my favourite fictional war, or wars, to be more accurate. Star Wars, to be exact!

Somebody posted the video below on Facebook the other day, and I laughed myself silly. It’s three stormtroopers talking about their own personal September 11, the destruction of the Death Star (the first one). It’s satire at its finest, with the troopers quoting many of the same lines and conspiracy theories we’ve heard in the eight years since the real September 11. My favourite is the theory that the Emperor was secretly behind the Death Star’s destruction just so he would have an excuse to invade Hoth. “Jedis - they hate our way of life.”

Now, to quote Lance Storm, if I could be serious for a minute…

Like many people, deep down, I still find 9/11 humour a little unsettling. Three years ago, when I was working at the National Post, I had the privilege of going down to New York to cover the fifth anniversary of the terrorist attacks. I interviewed the heads of two financial companies - Cantor Fitzgerald and Alger Management - that had been all but wiped out, yet against the odds they had managed to survive and rebuild.

Interviewing their respective CEOs, Howard Lutnick and Dan Chung, was a profound experience. During our talks, these two grown men became very emotional and came close to tears as they told stories of their slain friends and colleagues. As a business/tech reporter, you don’t often experience real emotion on the job, so the interviews moved me pretty deeply. Although I didn’t lose anyone I knew in the attacks, they did become a little more real for me.

I wish I could link to that story as I think it was one of the best things I’ve written, but alas, it has somehow been scrubbed from internet history (perhaps if any Posties are reading this, they can help out?).

In any event, the beauty of comedy is that above all, it is a medium of truth. Just as court jesters were the only ones allowed to tell the truth in medieval times without fear of execution, so too are today’s comedians and satirists the people we rely on to express things we maybe don’t want to face up to.

At the risk of overthinking this harmless Star Wars skit, it does expose how absurd some of the analysis of 9/11 was and continues to be, doesn’t it?

Categories: Star Wars, war

Subway challenging but McD’s is still king

September 23, 2009 Comments off

Advertising Age reports that Subway is on the verge of surpassing McDonald’s as the world’s biggest fast-food chain, at least as far as number of restaurants is concerned. Subway is expecting to have 31,800 locations open as of this week, about 500 shy of McDonald’s 32,158.

In terms of how much money the chains earn, though, McDonald’s has little reason to sweat. The average U.S. McDonald’s made $2.3 million in sales last year, compared to a relatively minuscule $445,000 for the average Subway. All told, Subway - which is owned by Connecticut-based Doctor’s Associates Inc. - is only making about half as much as McDonald’s.

Market share-wise, as the pie chart above illustrates, McDonald’s is also still king, nearly doubling Subway. Yum Brands, which owns KFC, Taco Bell and Pizza Hut, is running a close third to Subway.

Categories: food, kfc, mcdonald's, subway, taco bell