Portal to Platform - My Experience with the new iGoogle

iGoogle iGoogle was a personalized start page that originally was a great way to pull information from my gMail, Calendar and RSS Reader into one page. Google opened the portal to allow third party objects to be put onto the iGoogle page of a specific user. Now they have gone a step farther making the iGoogle page a 'desktop alternative', with expandable windows and interaction rather than just a read-through.

Given a news readout from my home town to the European underground, anything I want can go into this new web application. Come to think of it, you can enjoy it too - as sharing of modules or tabs is one of the promising new features.

Don't consider this to be an article - this is an endorsement. If you want better access to information and library style aggregation tools, use the new iGoogle @ www.google.com/ig

Fall Events Intermission

Kurtis McCartney Circle-KOk, I will be taking an intermission from the Apathy Series in order to address some other important fall events. I've already overlooked Thanksgiving, as it is a family holiday event, though I cannot pass up the opportunity to point out upcoming fall events.

Halloween: Filled with win and glory, this holiday is great in so many ways. Plenty of freebies all around, including chocolate, candies, gummies, crisps, pastries, caramelized fruits, and the occasional soda - thats the kind of 'free' that I could get behind. Also it is great to wear costumes in public, and it is no longer the subject of awkward silences.
I will likely be paraded around as a pirate by Alie this Halloween - so you might as well check these videos out:

American Thanksgiving: Though I have experimented with going meat-free, Thanksgiving is what always brings me back. This seems to be as good an excuse as any to turn down the furnace, turn on the oven and enjoy some delicious turkey.
I'm still waiting for one of my Veg friends that can properly prepare tofurkey to send me an invite. Meh...

November 5th: To some it will be Guy Fawkes day, and others will be preparing for arguably the worst month for University students. Some notable events going on during this day include a Jam Making event hosted by local environmental and Greentech advocate Ken Thompson, otherwise known as ChopS. The event is sponsored by OPIRG of Brock University, more information about when and where can be found on their website.
Check it out: http://www.OPIRGBrock.org

I will likely be having my own event in Welland, including a bonfire and some anime - depending on the weather.

Hope to see you out there this fall.

Apathy: Referendum and Election policies of BUSU

Brock University Students UnionDouble Standard - Elections and referenda are two different entities, since 2007 when the bylaws regulating elections and referendum were separated. This separation affords BUSU greater control over a referendum, their only effective method to change the constitution.

Another problem involves rejecting "NO" campaigns in acclamation elections, or in some cases no elections at all for acclaimed members - individually or as a slate taken to the entire student population. Though this would stretch the elections budget it does not mean it will break the budget. Every nomination period is planned to be funded for a full scale election, and these funds remain unused as unelected members form the student government.

Referenda - Often criticized by opponents of these motions, the BUSU referenda almost always passes. This precedent has generated a lot of criticism regarding mis-communication between BUSU and the students and . The BUSU bylaw on 'Referendums' also limits how students outside of BUSU elected and staff members can use this tool. Referenda cannot be used to pass new mandates, propose

Executive Elections - Many students will only see these elections as the candidates receive considerable coverage in the local media and plaster every unpainted wall in the university with posters. BUSU execs are the only paid and elected representatives of the organization, though the pay is kept to subsidize travel and living expenditures while the execs leave their other jobs during their term. Though I appreciate every candidate that says they will decline the money, as it should not be a luxury.

Council Elections - These elections are rarely held, if students do not follow the nomination process in numbers that call for an election then all of the applicants are acclaimed. This means that any student, radical or not, can effect change within the union. These changes can be lasting and damaging, but the twenty-five to one hundred random people that signed their nomination form should think that they are capable. Student apathy has damaged the BUSAC to the point where it has become a joke, most of the work goes to paid staffers in the BUSU office and the executives themselves. An increase in student involvement, separating the executive from the council, and creating a comprehensive elections/referenda bylaw could curb this trend and restore confidence in the institution.

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Apathy: OPIRG-Brock

OPIRG apathyOPIRG is an asset to Brock University and its students. Again, this is an organization I have been directly involved with and I will attempt to focus on its shortcomings with regard to involvement, apathy, and advocacy.

Student Involvement at OPIRG-Brock is phenominally low, for an organization that is funded and benefits all students it hardly receives adequate recognition. In turn most students actually do not know what OPIRG is, how they are already involved, and what they can do with these amazing resources. Though outreach has been lacklustre, this can be attributed to a number of external factors. Involvement levels can only increase if OPIRG becomes more relevant to mainstream student interests. Fostering the development of campus standard working groups. One of their most impressive working groups already implemented is the Food Not Bombs program held every sunday in Montebello park until November. When that working group suspends its mission for the winter it will leave an involvement gap for many of its members. Revision: Most Food Not Bombs members will be joining the new DIY Collective, keeping the active members and raising student involvement. Congrats OPIRG!

Ineffective Outreach - Though progress and growth have been consistent at OPIRG they have seen fewer students showing up for events annually. Though much of this can be blamed on the ipod-social culture and disenfranchised students that focus on personal pleasure over the opportunities OPIRG provides, OPIRG itself cannot blame the member base. They have been using funds to improve posters, press releases, and their web presence - though volunteers have been a key component to this marketing push.

Ineffective Advocacy - Advocacy is actually quite stong outside of the University, thanks mostly to the Amnesty International working group. Unfortunately the advocacy presence for issues inside of the university is either non-existent or undocumented. As I continue to dig through information about other PIRG units in Ontario this is actually a very important point that is not addressed at Brock University. With some major changes to the mission of Brock University (focus on research, cancelling three year degree programs, etc.) the Brock chapter of OPIRG is strangely silent, and the green initiatives are only starting to be organized - nothing has been implemented (See Organize, Implement, Maintain, Improve cycle).

Hostile Community - One name familiar to most OPIRG members is Brian, a former BUSAC councillor whose sole reason for seeking election to BUSAC was to cut funding to OPIRG. Brian harassed OPIRG members, verbally and physically, for more than two years before eventually having a restraining order placed against him. Though he is not the only person hostile to the leftist agenda within the organization, although this agenda is not bad it is brought upon by its elected board and it will take a lot more than two shouting students to create an equalizing change.

Summary - This organization is actively pursuing an anti-apathy agenda with a focus on awareness rather than involvement. This brings out the strongest voices in the Brock community to effect change that will have a lasting effect, without contest. Understanding that focus is important when I suggest that OPIRG should continue its steady and slow growth rather than making dangerous changes. Any of their anti-automobile campaigns will assure you that unmanaged speed can be very dangerous.

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Apathy: The opposite of good is not evil.

Club Fair 2006I've already received feedback regarding the first two segments of the Apathy series (planned to be a twelve part series). Many people seem to be very confused about what apathy is and why it is very dangerous to a community or society.

Indifference - One of my favourite extreme examples of apathy inaction is found in the Boondock Saints, a movie. Corruption and unchecked power gradually put the community of two Irish Catholics in Boston in peril. Everybody silently complies to the wrongdoings because nobody has the strength to fight it. Even the beginning of the movie points out the true story of Kitty Genovese, who was stabbed to death in public. Simply put by the priest "..there is another kind of evil which we must fear most, and that is the indifference of good men". That indifference is apathy.

I'm not asking the Brock students to become vigilantes. I hope that the students of Brock can become aware of what they are funding, why, and how they can use the resources provided to them.

Corruption - Without advocacy from any level the organizations that hold power are destined to become corrupt. When, rather than if, this corruption sets in the students watching it unravel will likely come to Brock and graduate before all of the reform needed to return to balance has been implemented. Balance between interests and responsibility, and the representation of diverse interests from the Brock community should be sought after persistently.

Hostility - Most hostility between organizations and students at Brock is not about disagreements, it is about miscommunication. One organization could be promoting the benefits of an initiative while another attacks the costs of implementing an initiative. When people argue like this it becomes impossible to comprimise and come to an agreement. If a scientific approach can be taken to problem solving at Brock the hostility that leads to apathy can be averted. Simply Put:

  • What is the problem or interest?
  • What are our options and what are the costs?
  • Which solution best fits our model
  • Accomplish the task, either fast or cost effective - never expect both
  • Uphold the value of that accomplishment

It is impossible to proceed effectively if these steps are not taken in order as part of a development cycle. Much like my favourite cycle in policy (Organize, Implement, Maintain, Improve) this setup has already been accepted in organizational documents, unfortunately students often make shortcuts on policy that come back to haunt them when they actually do have to tackle a controversial issue.

No Fun - This may seem unimportant, but I want to remind everyone that you only get to live once. During this life there are some worthwhile struggles, though not everything should be a struggle. Taking the fun out of being a Brock student is the greatest consequence of apathy. Though some may point out that the Niagara club scene is on the upswing that leaves many people, like myself a non-alcoholic, with few choices for social gathering. Please don't force the geeks of Brock to be shut-ins, they need to make that choice on their own.

If you agree that the opposite of good is apathy, rather than evil, then I hope you can take the steps needed to build pride in your community academic or otherwise.

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Apathy: BSA (Business Students' Association) of Brock

Business Students of Brock UniversityThis organization benefits from having some of the brightest and best trained individuals out of the Business Program at Brock University.

BUSU, CFBU, The CSC, OPIRG, Brock Pride, Brock Press, and Athletics at Brock are all egalitarian organizations. The BSA is not an egalitarian organization. Other important points to remember about this organization include:

  • It is not a part of BUSU, and is not accountable to students
  • It is acting independently from its faculty
  • The space it is given on campus is greater than that alloted to Brock Pride
  • It is not alone, the CSC (Computer Science) exists in parallel

What most of this boils down to is that the funding that it receives from BUSU, and the space that it receives from the university are not tied to a tangible benefit for all students. This problem means that the BSA should be reliant on its faculty and members to administer and fund its initiatives. Otherwise open your doors to the students at large.

Though the Computer Science students also have their industry organization with an office on campus, not once has that organization demanded funding outside of the department. The CSC also acts as an egalitarian point of access to the ACM and IEEE at Brock University. The CSC is funded by the faculty and grassroots fundraising. All Computer science students pay an additional fee to the faculty for use of printing equipment during their classes. All students enrolled in COSC classes enjoy this service - regardless of faculty

I cannot even begin describe the apathy that a non-egalitarian organization produces. Please stop unplugging the students from a great organization on their campus.

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Apathy: CFBU 103.7fm (Brock Radio)

CFBU 103.7fm at Brock UniversityCFBU stands at the start of my list of campus activities devastated most by widespread student apathy. During my time on their Board of Directors at CFBU (as a BUSR representative) I noticed some disturbing trends. In point for, here are the big problems:

  • Anti-BUSU Attitude, Anything but BUSU
  • Focus on community rather than campus radio
  • Closed door policy on newcomers
  • Top-down management, without any appeal structure
  • No accountability clauses on student funding
  • Unwillingness to adapt to new technologies

Each of these points represents actions taken by staff and hosts to inhibit development. Though CFBU has since re-introduced web streaming services they still cannot allow catalog or allow for adequate online access to older spoken word shows. Some hosts have taken it upon themselves to post their own shows on their personal blogs.

Involvement - The lack of student members at the station, financial accountability, and its distance from campus are the three major factors inhibiting the change that is needed to bring Brock Radio and CFBU back to life. Student apathy can be curved by making CFBU relevant to the students of Brock, not necessarily relevant to BUSU.

Money - Cutting off funding and starting from scratch in an attempt to impose the accountability clauses for the students of Brock seems unlikely, meaning that change has to be evolutionary rather than revolutionary. Funding currently stands at $1.50/Full Credit, $0.75/Half-Credit, to the sum of $140,000+ per year. This sum increases every year that new students come to Brock, though CFBU is without growth relative to this change.

Location and Barriers - The CFBU office downtown is frequently empty and left behind locked doors that some members cannot even access. Even I wasn't allowed free access to the facility when I was a legal representative of the organization. Imagine how difficult it is for new volunteers trying to start a show.

Please get involved with CFBU, ask them and organizations on campus to bring CFBU out of exile and back to campus. Brock Radio needs to be at Brock University.

Update (Fall 2013): Turns out after years of apathy the situation has never changed. The best plan as presented by Danielle Hunter is to defund. The students in favour of saving Brock Radio also see the need to defund in advance of a reboot. They propose to reboot BUSR and implement undergraduate student requirements in exchange for undergrads money. All of this is pending a referendum asking to end the current BUSR levy on students. This doesn't exempt BUSR from collecting grants or other funding for campus radio, which means that CFBU shouldn't overstep its rights and apply for the same grants that BUSR has been after the undergraduate levy is gone.

Options remain to find funding from the faculties, graduate students association, and other established entities on campus. I'm sure Sodexho would be open to the idea of promoting their on campus locations, for a fee and if CFBU hosts would stop publicly criticizing BUSU, Sodexho, and the University Administration. All of that negativity is a root cause for student apathy - if students don't care then they shouldn't pay. Any community member is still welcome to pick up their $25 membership card, unless that has been phased out too.

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City of Welland Bicycle and Pedestrian Innovations

City of Welland at 150 YearsThe City of Welland has often been the source of innovative ideas and ambitious projects, although from time to time it must import its innovation after the fact. As the jobless masses in Welland increase in numbers many of these people are losing their cars, trucks, vans and motorcycles. Cost of insurance, fuel, maintenance, loan repayment, and parking are moving beyond the means of some citizens. This shift in users from driving to cycling and pedestrian travel. I hope that the City of Welland, and its partners, can implement the following changes to ensure that the city isn't crippled by its lack of diverse infrastructure:

Cycling Innovations:

  • Bicycle racks on Long Range Welland buses
    • Esp. the University, Pelham, and Port Colborne Routes
  • Bicycle lanes on arterial roads, with intersection markers
    • Keeps cyclists safe and roads clear
  • Seasonal timetable for service delivery
    • Smart development to add new opportunities

Pedestrian Assistance:

  • Install Sidewalks around ALL Residential and Commercial facilities
    • Accessibility set as a priority, especially for Elderly Chair Riders
  • Enforce Sidewalk clearing bylaws or assign it as a City service
    • Dangerous liability vs. Job creation opportunity (Public or Private)

These measures are not extreme, and depending on implementation are not costly. Rebuilding the electric train system would be extreme and expensive, luckily I'm not calling for that for now. If you agree please express these goals to the division managers and elected members in Welland.

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Welland All-Candidates Debate (2008 Federal Election)

The all-candidates debate held at Brock University included Malcolm Allen(NDP), Alf Kiers(Con.), John Maloney(Lib.), Jennifer Mooradian(GRN), Ron Walker (CPC-ML), and Jodi DiBartolomeno(Ind.). Apologies to those that did not attend, this is a review and commentary regarding the event - not the election. Candidates appeared in the following order:

Ron Walker, Marxist-Leninist

Ron Walker, Communist Party (Marxist-Leninist)Economy: "If anyone thinks Canada can stay the course and wait, they are gravely mistaken." This has been driven by Harper's competitive focus leading to an unsustainable economy.
Jobs: Focus on getting reformed criminals back to work to prevent more crime and boost the economy. Spoke about the economic paradigm in relation to the ecological paradigm and how sustainability is what could save our economy.
Health Care: Spoke against health-care privatization and a system of unstable subsidies.
International Relations: Took an apologetic approach to our international aid, with a focus on our nearly non-existent presence in the prevention and treatment of aids. Claims that we owe the people of Haiti a great debt after their latest coup. Spoke out against our ongoing embargoes and silence regarding American policies hurting the developing world.
Environment: Corporations in our forests, depleting our resources. Multi-national corporations taking equipment out of our communities. Guarantee access to information and allow to recall the member of parliament mid term. Recognised climate change in Canada and the participation of NGOs in promoting global governance against climate change. Chastised the Conservatives for ignoring the issue and the Liberals for neglecting a risk that they recognized.

Malcolm Allen - New Democratic Party

Malcolm Allen, New Democratic Party (NDP)Education: Malcolm Allen focused on meaningful training institutions, with a focus on career placement and opportunity. Numerous attacks against the existing Conservative system.
Economy: Attacks include how the Conservatives have failed Auto Assembly Workers, Auto Parts Workers, Canneries, Group Agriculture. Big oil, Big Banks and Big Losses - average income in Niagara is said to have gone down 1000$ in the time the Conservatives have been leading.
International Relations: Focused on mortality rates in these nations since Canada bailed on funding their changes, and ending how multi-national corporations make these nations poorer.
Poverty: Action plan to eliminate poverty by 2020, by phasing in a 5000$ child benefit credit as well as guarantees that no level of government will be taking that money away. Unfreezing the minimum wage to make sure that the poorest people in Canada can survive. investment in Green Jobs to train young persons and retrain unemployed Canadians. Also creating a position in the federal government to oversee how multi-national corporations operate Canadian industry.
Electoral Reform: Enact proportional representaion as a response to electoral reform. Abolish the senate altogether as a source of corruption. Regulate against having members cross the floor.
Environment: Recognizing the Conservative Clean Air act which has not come into function across Canada. Reductions of Greenhouse gases exponentially below 1990s levels, no fuzzy numbers, solid goals. They intend to attack greenhouse gases and work with all of their partners to reach those targets.

Alf Kiers, Conservative Party of Canada

Alf Kiers, Conservative PartyEconomy: Focused on developing an economic growth strategy. His Niagara plan includes forming a stronger voice, competitive environment, target major employers, improve infrastructure, and re-branding the Niagara Region. Claims that unemployment is at its lowest in over thirty years, which Maloney took great exception to. "In 2000 and 2008 our budgets allowed tax breaks to corporations in order to promote Canada as a great place to set up shop."
Child Poverty: Spending 130$ Million on why child poverty is on the rise in Canada, and claims that creating jobs is the best way to fight poverty.
Jobs: Welland needs a strong voice at the table to insure that our community is relevant to the federal government.
Electoral Reform:Promoted an elected senate and proportional representation. Called carbon taxes ludicrous and called for making efficiency a priority.

John Maloney, Liberal Party of Canada

John Maloney, Liberal Party of CanadaEducation: John Maloney held to increasing funding for infrastructure, new buildings and transportation to campus.
Jobs: Agreed with Kiers on the development initiative to generate job opportunities. Rebutter to Keirs claim that unemployment would be at its lowest level in thirty years.
International Relations: Taking a stand for developing democratic institutions in developing nations around the world. "If we help the at home we will not have to harbour them as refugees, they will be happy at home".
Child Poverty: Spoke about the 30-50 plan to eliminate widespread poverty 30% and child poverty by 50%. A 350$ child tax benefit per year. Child tax benefit from 1000$ to 1850$ as well as a focus on a child care and early learning programs across the country.
Economy:Maloney has advocated bringing an economic development plan to Niagara in the same way that the Maritimes, Quebec and Norther Ontario have done in the past. Taking a pro-active stance on identifying failing industry and protecting Niagara through the economic development plan. Complete the twinning of the peace bridge, bring the 406 to Port Colborne, and the mid-Niagara Corridor.
Electoral Reform: Electoral reform was a trigger for discussion about how Harper fixed election dates and then broke his own law at a cost of 300$ Million. Proportional representation was highlighted as a failure in multiple provinces. Liberals made committee chairs and the house speaker elected from within the membership.

Jen Mooradian, Green Party of Canada

Jen Morradian, Green Party of CanadaEducation: Equated post-secondary funding to preemptive anti-poverty system. Offered non-descript solutions involving theoretical alternatives in public transit. Promised funding to increase the number of tenured positions.
International Relations: No new aid commitments since the early nineties, while most of the world lives and dies in poverty.
Child Poverty: Addressing it in a systematic way including homelessness, all citizens having access to a guaranteed annual income, stronger than minimum wage. By addressing the problem the greens claim to present a comprehensive solution.
Jobs: From her perspective we need to bring work and trade back to the local level so that farming families can afford to continue working for decades. Technological changes away from GM toward innovative businesses coming to Welland.
Electoral Reform: Claims the electoral system does not work and advocates toward partisan representation. Creating a citizens assembly as a ballot question. Renew commitment to fixed election dates to allow governments to finish their work without fear of dismissal.

Jodi DiBartolomeno - Independent (Fmr. NDP)

Independent Jodi attacked both Jack Layton and his deviations and incumbent Maloney for sitting idly by while the Conservative government engaged in activities he wouldn't stand for. Especially concerned about the funding going into international aid and how some of our greatest international missons have been cut while no rel benefit has been seen domestically. Canada should not be in the business of keeping developing nations out of the global economy. This has created widespread brutality and injustice in the international private sector. Spoke about how Americans and the WTO halted the domestic manufacture of pharmaceuticals in developing nations. Addressing poverty by focusing on Globalization, how Conservativea nd Liberals legislate poverty into our standard of living rather than taking the battle against poverty overseas. "De-industrializing more and more leading to widespread joblessness and poor children tend to have poor parents". Brought a focus to economic nationalization where Canadians are active in a global economy. Spoke about revering free trade and globalizing forces. Promotes a move toward proportional representation, which seems strange to promote as an independent candidate. Shifting our energy sources rather than simply taxing carbon emissions, went so far as to claim that Carbon taxes are ineffective if not tied to development - Attacked Jack Layton's (and Barack Obama's) policy of cap and trade taxation.

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