A Certain Irreverence

Traitorous Depravity

Posted by Ben Trafford

Albion Falls in Hamilton, Ontario

Corporal Cirillo died for Canadian values, the values of liberal democracy, of freedom and due process, or government whose legitimacy arises from a care for all Canadians and a willingness to put evidence above partisanship, compromise above political point-scoring.

When Public Safety Minister Steven Blaney responds to this martrydom to the service of freedom with an assault on that freedom, he betrays us all. He betrays Canada, Canada's values, and the lives of the soldiers who died to uphold them. To greet the news of a dead soldier with a call for increased, unwarranted, unaccountable surveillance and arbitrary detention powers is beyond cynical. it is an act of traitorous depravity.

- "On Parliament Hill, an attack on Canada itself"

I can't say it any better or more clearly than this.


Why Canadians Programmers Don’t Work Here.

Posted by Ben Trafford

Picture of a programmer putting his fist through the monitor.

Canadian firms compete with Silicon Valley for software engineers

This story is awful. It's amusing as hell watching Canadian companies making excuses for why so many of our people head south. And quoting HootSuite -- what a joke.

Here's why Canadians work in the U.S.: more money, less bullshit. HootSuite is currently advertising for a senior engineer -- whom they will likely pay anywhere from $90k to $110k Canadian a year. The same engineer would make $150k in Silicon Valley.

Moreover, on top of being able to do their job, HootSuite wants "thought leadership" (i.e. you write articles, have a big ol' GitHub account, and speak at MeetUps) and they also want you to have a religious belief in Agile methodology.

By comparison -- in the U.S., they want you to be able to code reliably. That's it. All the other stuff is icing. And they'll pay you handsomely for it.

All the sad explanations of Canadian companies as to why they can't attract talent are complete malarky.


The Best Explanation for Why Spanking is Stupid and Wrong.

Posted by Ben Trafford

A picture of a crying child.

From my good friend Mikael Andersson:

Cultural customs are terrible things that twist people's minds up.

Yes, every kid is different and there's no way to adapt a specific parenting formula to a random child and get a reproducible outcome. But just as surely as nobody of sound mind and morals in today's society would say "I'd let my 4-year old have a cigarette if they felt like one, because I think raising my child to make their own choices is important", neither would they say "some wives just need a good slap in the face now and then to keep them in line" or "some people need to be raped to make them learn their place". Because current cultural norms do not allow such opinions under any circumstances.

That is not to say the outcome wouldn't be - from the perpetrator's perspective - a positive one. Perhaps that serial cheating wife -would- stay 'faithful' after a broken nose or two. Perhaps that cocky convict -would- lose his attitude and find Jesus after the prison guards had their way with him.

But from the studies, we know there are adverse effects. Even if, from an objective societal perspective, the end effect is a net positive, we know it's hellish and/or mentally damaging for the individual to become broken and live in fear. By and large, we frown on "solutions" of this type. For some reason, the culture of beating your kids to instill respect or "get attention" is still prevalent in North America, which lets people make excuses for it instead of seeing the absolute but obvious moral stance that'd be in line with the rest of the moral and legal rules we live by: you do not physically assert your dominance over anyone for any other reason than to prevent immediate physical injury to themselves and others.

I cannot fathom why this rule is in place for everyone in society except for those who are the most vulnerable and impressionable.

This is the best explanation I've ever heard on this topic. No other discussion should be necessary.


Child To Be Stolen For Her Own Good.

Posted by Ben Trafford

CPS logo with a red slash through it.

Read this: http://www.freerangekids.com/6-y-o-who-walked-alone-to-post-office-may-be-removed-from-her-home/

This is horrifying. You know, I was raised by a parent who professionally interacted with the Canadian version of child protective services all the time. The staggering incompetence, the arrogance, and the overreaching is horrifying. In Canada, it's next to impossible to challenge these people.

I cannot imagine some stranger trying to take my child. I agree that children need to be protected from real abuse, but their method of handling it is awful, and only likely to traumatize the child.

The stupidity and casual cruelty of these organizations astounds me.

Even more to the point: I find it very interesting to read the comments on stories like this, the ones about people pushing back against unjust authority. Especially in the U.S., about half the comments on these articles read, "Well, if you weren't doing anything wrong, why didn't you cooperate? You're just picking a fight to make a point. You should comply. Comply and everything will be fine."

I am amazed at how quickly people are willing to give up their rights in the face of authority figures -- and even more amazed at how much they demonize people who don't.



Thoughts on Aaron Swartz.

Posted by Ben Trafford

Aaron Swartz

As many of my readers will know, internet activist Aaron Swartz committed suicide on January 11th. I have very mixed feelings on this case. I don't think that a young man who had well-known depression issues should've been encouraged to take on the U.S. legal establishment, for example. I also think the prosecutors were overzealous, especially considering that the allegedly infringed parties either didn't pursue prosecution or specifically requested that leniency be granted. It's fairly clear that the only people who wanted Mr. Swartz to go to prison were the prosecutors involved in the case.

However, what baffles me the most is the reaction of right-wing commentators on this case. Aaron Swartz was waging a battle against injustice and tyranny, in his own mind and in the minds of the many people who supported him. I don't actually think the way he went about it was very smart, but he did a lot of other smart things that make it fairly clear this young man wasn't some crook who was out to rob people of their money.

And yet the reaction from the right wing types is that he was just a thief, a common criminal, and that he got what he deserved.

I wonder if they'd say the same thing about the Founding Fathers of the American Revolution? Like Swartz, they were upper class, privileged white males. Like Swartz, they decided the law was wrong, and that they didn't want to pay for the law said they should. Like Swartz, they believed that they were in a battle against tyranny, a stance that around 20% of the colonies' population heartily disagreed with. In any sense of the word, they were criminals.

I don't see the logic in being a supporter of the U.S. revolution while casting people like Swartz as unrepentant villains. I guess the victors do write the history.


Bill Hill (1950-2012)

Posted by Ben Trafford


Bill Hill passed on October 19th, 2012. The inventor of Microsoft's ClearType and a pioneer in digital publishing and typography, he was a humble giant in our field.

I had the opportunity to meet Bill on a few occasions. I found him to be a generous, kind and insightful person. And whether or not you're a Microsoft fan, there's no doubt that ClearType was a leap forward in digital typography. Sixty-two years old is way too young to lose such a great mind.

My thoughts go out to his family and friends.

An article on him from Forbes:


And Bill's blog, always a favourite read, is here:



Alan Turing.

Posted by Ben Trafford

Picture of Alan Turing with text.

Think about this: if Alan Turing hadn't been driven to suicide, he could've been productive well into 1970s, possibly even the 1980s. Think of what this man accomplished in the first 20 years of his career -- and then tack on another 40. What a horrific, tragic loss -- and all due to homophobia.


Going Black to Protest SOPA.

Posted by Ben Trafford

Anti-SOPA avatar.

This blog will go black to protest SOPA for the entirety of January 18th, from midnight PST to midnight PST on the 19th.

SOPA is very bad news  for everyone. As in, everyone, American or not.


Bill Mumy on nerds.

Posted by Ben Trafford

I like science fiction people.  There’s a large percentage of them that take things too seriously, and within any fan group there’s people that just go, “Oh, danger, danger,” but for the most part science fiction people are very pro-environment, they’re very pro-space program, and they’re very good about having no prejudice about other people, no racism, no bullying.  They’re the outcasts, kind of.  They’re not the handsome jocks.  They’re more or less the nerds and they get a better perspective of their place in the planet in conjunction with the other life forms that we share it with, and I like and respect them for that.

- Bill Mumy, recently

I doubt I've heard a better description of my favourite social circle than this.


Thoughts on Occupy Wall Street.

Posted by Ben Trafford


I find that, among my friends, the response to the OWS movement is cut into two clear camps: OWS is ineffectual and people should stop wasting their time and work within the system to change the system, and people who are rah-rah supports. I fall into the latter camp, and here's why:

The system is broken. The whitewashing of political lies (weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, Canada needs more prisons, etc.) with no consequence. Mass banking fraud with no consequences. Corporate taxes dropping through the floor; corporate influence in politics becoming unbridled.

The system elects people with the right connections -- our democracies have become oligarchies. And even when a candidate makes all the right noises, like Obama, they get into office and change their tune fairly rapidly.

Some people complain that OWS accomplishes nothing, and that the protesters are just layabouts who expect a handout. To them, I say: get a clue. Actually look at the pictures of the people protesting -- the senior citizens, the veterans, the middle class people who woke up one morning and discovered their investments had evaporated.

The OWS movement is raising these issues in the international consciousness -- people are hearing a different message than the corporate media wants them to hear. And governments are showing their hands, replying to peaceful, legal protests with overwhelming force. That, more than anything, is cluing people into the real nature of this struggle, and the truth the OWS message represents.