Categories: personal, politics

canadian = black

When I worked in New York in a financial brokerage house in 2000-2001, my colleagues (I think it was Manus, a short funny Italian from New Jersey; and Bill, my office-mate, from Texas; and probably a few others) told me that in the banking/finance business – at least their end of it – “Canadian” was a code word that actually meant “black.” I had the impression the term had been used like that for years.

I think we were at lunch, and they were all talking about someone or other, and Manus said, “Oh, he’s Canadian,” and I perked up and said, “Oh really, where is he from?…” and of course they all laughed and told me it meant black.

I guess it was so you could say nasty things about “Canadians” without anyone getting pissed off.

I totally forgot about that, till I just saw this in the Boing:

The Canadian National Post looks on with mild horror as American linguists report on the growing trend in the American south to use “Canadian” as a masking euphemism for black people, so that white racists can say socially inappropriate things without tipping listeners off about the cancer in their souls.

I would point out to Cory Doctorow, though, that (I hope) he’s got his definition of euphemism wrong. Since a euphemism is: “the substitution of a mild, indirect, or vague expression for one thought to be offensive, harsh, or blunt….”

I can buy that the term “Canadian” is mild, indirect, & vague; but I think that calling “black people” offensive, harsh or blunt … is not what Cory meant. Presumably he meant Canadian as a euphemism for more offensive words for black people (you know, like the n-one we’re not allowed to write).

But even there, it’s not really a euphemism, but rather a way to disguise direct racial insults, eg. “Oh, don’t work with him, he’s a Canadian.” Etc.

Anyway funny when little quirks of language pop up 8 years later in the newspaper as “new” linguistic habits. Funny in a sickening sort of way.

Categories: personal

test the nation & gay people of colour

So I was on the silly quiz show, Test the Nation, on CBC, as a member of the blogger team (the questions were on 21st C trivia, with a focus on tech, gossip and news … guess which team won?).

It was nice to meet some new cyber scribes from around the country, and I had a good time talking to the fellow-misanthrope cab driver Gord at the pub afterwards. But I just read this review of the experience from James Viloria, a Montrealer with the blog, Gay Person of Colour. It’s strange when you live in one sort of environment, and realize that others – because of who/what they are and who/what the rest of the world is like – have such a different experience of the universe. Says James:

I was apprehensive about wearing a t-shirt that had printed on it the words “gay persons of color,” but I managed to muster up the courage to wear the garment on the show and enter proudly for the first time in my life into a situation where everyone would be immediately aware of the fact that I was gay. Wow! For me, this was significant, and even more important than my insecurities that were somehow resolved was the fact that I was welcomed by so many of my fellow bloggers and other contestants on the show as their equal, as a human being, as me.

I didn’t talk much to James, but I’m glad he had the kind of experience I would expectmost of us take for granted – but clearly is not a given even in liberal cities like Montreal.

[via Teamakers]

Categories: personal

Test the Nation

I will be on CBC TV tonight (Sunday, Jan 20, 8pm) on Test the Nation if anyone wishes to watch.

I’m on the blogger team.

Categories: montreal, personal

Little Maghreb

This shocked me:

Nearly half of Montreal’s 63,000 immigrants [from] Morocco, Algeria and Tunisia arrived here after 2001 and they’re quickly making their presence felt.

What a change in seven years! I haven’t noticed, though the guy who installed my Videotron modem was from morocco and we had a good chat about life back there, and the Moroccan poufs in our house (that we bought from that great little Moroccan store on Duluth). Well …

Walk a few minutes east from Saint-Michel metro and you’ll find yourself in one of Montreal’s most recent ethnic neighbourhoods: the Petit Maghreb, a 15-block strip of North African business along Jean Talon Street between St. Michel and Pie IX boulevards.

Anyone fancy a tagine sometime soon?

[I’m loving, by the way].

Categories: personal


1. i will prioritize
2. i will focus
3. i will complete

Categories: personal

social web fatigue, and doing what’s important

I’m suffering a bit from social media fatigue, like everyone I guess. All this stuff – twittering, and building your audience, and debates about whether facebook is good or bad, and linkbaiting and SEO and new tools and old tools, widgets and do-dads: just making my head hurt.

All of us, and all of you (and me), should just forget about all that stuff, and ask ourselves: What is important to me? What do I really, truly care about? If I could improve something in the world, what would it be?

And then think about ways to do that. If you do it well, I am convinced that the audience, and the living-you-need will come.

If you are not convinced that what you are doing is important in some way, then why are you doing it? Why don’t you spend your time on something you think is important?

And by the way, lest I sound like a preachy jerk, I’m talking as much to myself as I am to anyone else.

Categories: personal, politics, video

alive in baghdad staffer killed

from BaghdadBrian in the twittersphere:

Alive in Baghdad correspondent Ali Shafeya was killed on December 14th, details are still coming in. He was 24, survived by mom and sister.


but is that worth even one human’s life? We are still not 100% sure its not the assignment we gave that killed him.


We’ve raised $90, can anyone else help Ali’s family pay for the funeral? his brothers and father are all dead. survived by one sis & mother


you can make a donation to suport his family to via paypal, please note that it is for Ali’s family.

for more details, see:
* alive in baghdad

UPDATE: Following brian’s posts on twitter over the past 18 hours or so has been pretty intense. Blow-by-blow of a guy both updating as the info comes in, and struggling with the hard reality of death all around the amazing citizen journalism project that he started in a war zone. Further, he’s been wondering whether the investigative assignment that Ali was on may have been the cause of his death (he was shot 31 times by the Iraqi National Guard). He’s considering closing the project down.

I can’t even imagine. I keep thinking about the safe little projects I work on, imagining what it would be like to have a web project where people started dying. It’s so easy to start good web projects. But it takes so much courage to continue in the face of reality this bloody.

I met Brian briefly at Podcamp Boston. I wish I had met him sooner – I was just leaving. I would have loved to talk more with him – of all the projects at that conference, his is – to me – by far the most important. AiB is exactly why the web changes things – even if it has been mostly ignored.

Categories: personal

on not getting things done

So a while back I started using iGTD, mac software to implement the Get Things Done project management methodology. I reported on the software and the method a few times, with this “final” assessment.

Well, time has gone by and the famous black clouds of GTD guilt (as Maurizio calls them) started gathering slowly, then eventually exploded into a couple of months of total inability to … get things done.

I sat down two weeks ago and went through all my projects. Turns out I have sixteen (16) project on the go, on ice, in development, or in disarray, including a number of “real life” non-profit things I do, away from my cmputer. So part of my inability to get things done, I think, was the sheer number of things I ought to get done. But so often I would sit down and go thru the interminable list of things and projects, most of them still on the list because they are unpleasant (eg. sorting out Collectik finances, god help me). And because of the sheer number and sheer range i would sort of catalog thru all of them, stomach turning at each new undone-thing-to-do, and finally … not get anything done.

I became oppressed by iGTD (an old story I am told).

Every six months or year or so I reorganize everything, to try to get projects back on track. So it’s time for that again. And I’ve identified what I think is a major problem with GTD for people like me: too much choice. The philosophy behind GTD is that you separate things into contexts (things you do by email, things you do by phone, things you do online/offline etc … you make up your own contexts). You can sort by project (eg LibriVox or Collectik etc), or context (email or phone etc): and another principle is that anything that can be done in less than two minutes should be done NOW. Those are the worst. Phone calls are my absolute least favourite thing in the world, and so I just don’t get them done even if they will take 2 minutes.

But the big problem is too much choice. iGTD turns into one of those massive menus at mediocre restaurants, where there’s a huge page for sushi, a huge page for pasta, a huge page for burgers and twenty other pages. Lots of options, none of them appealing. And you *know* none of them will be very good.

When I was in university I wasn’t the most conscientious student. I was doing a BSc in Mathematics & Engineering, and a BA in Philosophy at the same time. Which meant that the month around finals was crazy: I usually had 2-3 big philosophy papers (plus all the reading), and since throughout the term I usually was not studying or doing many of my engineering assignments, by the time finals came around I had to learn whole courses in the space of a couple of weeks; and since my mid-terms and assignment marks were weak, I had to ace my finals to get thru.

So in order to make sure I passed everything, I would break all my tasks down into hour-long chunks (learn chapters 1-3 of Fluid Dynamics Text; reach ch 6-9 of Kant; write 2 pages of paper on Nietzsche; do practice exam #2 from Abstract Algebra). Then I would schedule everything into a 9-hour study day, with nice long breaks for lunch and dinner.

The last month of each term was so intense, but also thrilling – my mind was running on high-octane, I was processing so much, and it was exhilarating (tho I wouldn’t recommend this as a good-practice study habit).

Fast-forward to 2007, and last month I had a mild breakdown, well, not a breakdown, but I realized how totally ineffective I’ve been for the past few months, and it was starting to drive me crazy. So I went back, for the first time, to my university study plan, and reproduced it for November and December.

I attacked all my projects and sorted out things needing to get done in discrete chunks (eg. edit chapter 2 of Boundary Conditions; record War and Peace, chapter 20 for LV; organize Collectik finances and taxes; write copy for new start-up site … etc). So far so iGTD.

But I *also* estimated time required to do these things, something that iGTD is missing.

The I made out a calendar of November & December, broken into 1-hour chunks, and started slotting things in, trying to keep things variable (writing, finance, web), and making time for coffees, lunches etc. This was my first week on the new plan.

I didn’t get everything done, but I have a much better handle on what needs to be done, and how long all of it will take. And instead of a huge list of iGTD staring at me, I know, at least, that at 10am on Tuesday, I am supposed to be going thru Collectik contract bugs, and from 1pm to 3pm I am supposed to be editing my novel.

I feel better … let’s see how long this lasts.

Categories: personal, politics

airport security

Security Guard: What is in this tube?
Me: Prescription skin cream.
SG: What is it for?
Me: ?
SG: What is it for?
Me: … Um… a skin condition.
SG: Did a doctor prescribe this?
Me: Yes.
SG: Do you have a note from the doctor?
Me: The prescription label is on the tube. Right there [pointing].
SG: So you don’t have a note from the doctor?
Me: The doctor’s name is on the prescription label.
SG: [reading] …
Me: [waiting] …
SG: Do you need this cream?
Me: Yes.
SG: So you are saying you need this cream?
Me: Yes.
SG: But the prescription label says: “Apply to affected areas twice a day *if* needed.”
Me: [silence]
SG: It says, “If needed.”
Me: Yes.
SG: So do you need it or not?
Me: Yes.
SG: You need it?
Me: Yes.
SG: OK, but next time get a note from a doctor.

Categories: personal, web, writing

blog commenters

The people who comment here tend to be thoughtful and interesting even if I don’t agree with them, so whenever I see discussions about commenters on blogs acting like tools, I think, oh well, don’t seem to have that problem here.

Then every once in a while I post something that seems to attract attention from strangers. This post about Steve’s experience trying to delete a Facebook account, for instance, keeps getting new commenters (four months later), some of them apparently clueless, and some of them just jerky.

I’m glad I don’t have to deal with jerky commenters every day