Stéphane Dion and Quebec Separatism

Digging in the crates over the Christmas holidays led to a journal article read in my days as a political science major at Simon Fraser University. Writing an article titled "The Dynamic of Secessions: Scenarios after a pro-Separatist Vote in a Quebec Referendum" in the September 1995 edition of the Canadian Journal of Political Science, a professor at the Université de Montréal reviewed several books by his contemporaries discussing what impact--economic, bureaucratic, political, etc.--the largely French-speaking province of Canada deciding to leave confederation would have both on the "Rest of Canada" (ROC) and the newly created country itself. The author of that article: the former leader of the Liberal party of Canada, Stéphane Dion.

Along with Jean Chrétien, then prime minister of Canada, Dion architected the Canadian government's position on the conditions under which Canada would negotiate with a separate Quebec. Reading Dion's review article after more than a dozen years to simmer, Dion appears to have clearly thought about the questions surrounding what happens not leading up to the referendum, but in the days after a Yes vote.

I offer for consideration the sections in the article I highlighted back in 1997, well after the 1995 referendum. (I was at basketball practice in high school the day of.) In this section, Dion reviews Nationalism et démocracie: réflexion sure les illusions des indépendentistes québecois by Jean-Pierre Derrienic, Dion writes:

the secessionist claim of legitimacy is certainly disputable. The position adopted by Quebec secessionist leaders suffers from a double moral standard: allowed a right to secede from Canada, they deny anyone the right to secede from an independent Quebec. They cannot justify such a double standard on the grounds of either Canadian Constitutional law or public international law. They consider a 50 per cent plus one vote sufficient to justify secession, while democratic conventions hold that critical decisions, those that cannot be reviewed without high costs, must be taken by qualified majorities.

I appear to have spent most of my attention towards the article looking at the 50%+1 rule. I also highlighted the following text along with a footnote. First the text:

As fro the 50 plus one rule, the view that a slight majority for the Yes vote in Quebec is sufficient to secede is likly to be challenged if the proportion of citizens that agree with this rule remains so low, both in Quebec and the ROC.

In the footnote for that section, I highlighted the following: “With respect to the 50 per cent plus one rule, only 19 per cent in the ROC and 43 per cent in Quebec think that it is sufficient to allow secession.”

Dion concludes with his estimations of what will happen during the referendum (saying in a footnote that “[a] Yes victory seems to me unlikely”). Though by this time a staunch federalist, Dion admits there was one very compelling reason to secede from Canada:

intellectual curiosity. One would like to know which scenario is the most accurate: the inevitable secession, the impossible secession...or the Parizeau scenario [i.e. a smooth secession]. As a political scientist, my clear interest lies in voting Yes. But I am a citizen, after all!

Spanning Sync Keeps My iPhone and iCal, My Mac and Google Calendar Synchronized

Synchronizing your calendar between devices is still a mess. My personal calendar is on one account, my work calendar is shared with my personal account, and my girlfriend shares her calender with me as well. Initially I tried NuevaSync's Microsoft Exchange server to have over-the-air synchronization, and that worked well, allowing me to create events and have them appear, right away, on the Google Calendar account without intervention from iCal. The downside of NuevaSync was that every calendar event appeared as if it were on one calendar, so I couldn't tell which was work, which was her event (imagine everybody's surprise if I were to show up to an appointment she had with a heath care professional!), and which was a personal life event.

Google had CalDAV integration in beta, and recently launched it as an official service. That worked to keep iCal on my Mac synchronized well, but I could not add events from my iPhone. Having to move events over after a sync is not a habit I'm willing to form.

Spanning Sync is the least worst option, an endorsement that probably won't appear on their site. Through Spanning Sync, I get all my events in neat calendars but still have to manually synchronize the iPhone with the computer. It's something I have to do periodically anyway, so no loss there. The holy grail, of course, is direct, instant iPhone-to-Google Calendar synchronization.

Boris schooled me to Spanning Sync's referral program, which means that when anybody clicks through his image link, he gets a cool $5 sent to his PayPal account. Anybody clicking through that image also gets a cool $5 off the product. So in the spirit of trying to get something for free in an honest way, I encourage those frustrated with the state of calendar synchronization to click the image at the very top here to get me a fin, the term for a 5-dollar bill I learned from watching The Simpsons.

2008 Intentions (One Month Left)

Long-time readers will remember that on January 1st of this year, I posted a list of New Year's Intentions. Events blew most of them off-course.
  • Start a savings and/or investment account and make regular deposits.
I have a moderately-high-interest savings account, currently with exactly 43 cents in it. After realizing how much money it could make while sleeping, I understood the power of such an account, but could not get into a rhythm of saving regularly. K has shown me the way with regards to tracking spending and earnings. Although my situation is much worse than I imagined, I now know enough to make goals with numeric values involved.
  • Fix Urban Vancouver.
Not done.
  • Go on a real vacation where I don't check work email.
Done, though the best vacation was a staycation. It enabled me to attend a friend's father's funeral and to attend my girlfriend's graduation ceremony and recharge without the stress of travel. Definitely doing at least one week-long staycation per year for the foreseeable future. I did not go to Portland, Oregon.
  • Continue bookshelf sustainability.
So far so good. As the result of a move, I identified a few books to donate, and last night I looked at my bookshelf and set myself a goal of donating about half (let's go with a third for now) of them by the end of 2009.
  • Bike to and from work each weekday for a month.
Failed. Living closer to work means it takes an hour to walk, and instead of biking to work taking double the time it does to bus, it takes about the same amount (including walking and the daily morning and evening nightmare that is Cambie St. near Broadway).
  • Take a full weekend and get rid of stuff in my closets.
Spring cleaning succeeded, and moving led to getting rid of even more stuff. It's time to spend 2009 removing everything but the most important things, including scanning and discarding photos and documents and buying a multi-tool.
  • Write Christmas cards to my friends.
In progress.
  • Rediscover my sense of wonder.
The month of August 2008 will go down in history as the month I rediscovered my sense of wonder, in a way I couldn't have possibly imagined.
  • More GlobalSat GPS logger tomfoolery.
I bought an iPhone instead, so the GlobalSat sits on a shelf. Want it?
  • Dance again.
  • Learn to sing.
  • "Accidentally" break the kit lens on my camera and replace it with something decent.
No time for dancing, singing or photography lessons this year.

Currently Reading: Dumbocracy and Radical Acceptance

Those that follow me over at All Consuming know that I use the service to catalog some of the media I partake in. It will also show up in my shared items feed when I remember to note that I've watched a movie or read a book. I'm currently reading two books, one sent to me for free by its author and another lent to me by my girlfriend. The first is Dumbocracy: Adventures with the Loony Left, the Rabid Right, and other American Idiots by Marty Beckerman and the second is Radical Acceptance: Embracing Your Life with the Heart of a Buddha by Tara Brach.

Dumbocracy: Adventures with the Loony Left, the Rabid Right, and other American Idiots by Marty Beckerman

Beckerman, you'll remember, is the author of Generation S.L.U.T., a fictional novel of teenagers and sex in middle America, read at a time when sex wasn't a part of my life. Having three years of experience, now, I know a little bit about how complicated that can make life, yet in the book love did not inform many of the decisions and actions taken by the characters. In his non-fictional account of spending time with extreme liberal and extreme conservative forces in the United States, it's clear a chapter or two in that he exposes discrepancies between what those forces propose and the methods they use to enact what they propose. Based on a little bit of interaction with both Beckerman himself and reading interviews and his other writings, he projects a high intensity that calls into question his belief that he speaks for the political centre. This, keeping in mind, after only having read a tiny portion of the book so far.

Radical Acceptance: Embracing Your Life with the Heart of a Buddha by Tara Brach

Radical Acceptance, on the other hand, picks up for me where Buddhism Plain & Simple by Steve Hagen leaves off. In Hagen's book, we get a sense of what Buddhism is, where Tara Brach relates Buddhism to our daily, psychological life. Karen, who lent me the book, recognized I was struggling with the way I was dealing with some strong emotions in the last few months during this, the current episode of my life which people close to me are familiar with. While Dr. Brach's prescription—such as it is prescription—has much for me to in turn struggle with in understanding, putting some of them into practice, particularly the acknowledging and naming of emotions when they are particularly strong, has improved my mental state over its previous state. Some concepts and approaches to explaining them fall short of my full grasping, as I resonate with some of it and outright reject—more like fail to let myself grasp—other parts. More full sentence than two-word phrase, "nothing endures", from Hagen's book, resonated so much with me when I read it that it became a tagline for this website. While the brain fully understands it, the heart needs some convincing. It's with Radical Acceptance, having read half-through, that I've found ways to deal with some of the changes up until the 30th year of existing on this planet that I refused to believe are could happen in my life.


Going to close comments here for a while here on Just a Gwai Lo in order to focus on the upgrade of the site to Drupal 6 and to attend to things that don't necessarily involve ethernet cables and IP addresses. (And some that do.) Catch me on Twitter.

Knight Foundation's News Challenge: What Project Would You Like to See About Vancouver?

Last night I attended a presentation by Susan Mernit (Twitter) about the Knight News Challenge, an initiative by the Knight Foundation to promote democracy and discourse through innovative digital (and social) media projects. My notes on the presentation, which I first heard of through my employer, comprise only the 4 elements that the screeners look for in filtering out the good proposals for grant consideration:
  • it must be innovative, groundbreaking or new in some way. Not going to just do community journalism based on blog software. Failure is an option: Knight thinks that if half the projects don't fail, they're not trying hard enough.
  • it must be an open source project, not just code, but the lessons and value of project have to be scalable and replicable. You can commercialize the project, but something needs to be documented and exportable.
  • it must serve the public interest. Newspapers dying because of the web, but also because of corporitization. Knight intends to promote democratic discourse through the program. The project needs to make people more informed citizens.
  • it must serve a specific geographic community. It can be a test-bed for a wider project, but the test-bed must happen in a real place, with the possibility of exporting to other places.
(Drupal came up a lot. Boris and I shared a moment.) She cited EveryBlock multiple times, especially during my question which was to get her to talk more about the discourse promotion than the journalism aspect. I can't get excited about EveryBlock until either Vancouver, B.C. (the city in which I currently reside) or Portland, Oregon (the city I have a crush on) get included in the data sets. I understand the importance of it—that it scrapes government websites or taps into their knowledge stores and makes it presentable so that citizens can have informed discussions about important issues in their neighbourhoods—but until it comes to my neck of the woods, I can't be expected to fully resonate with it. That speaks less to the Knight Foundation's goals than it does to EveryBlock as a specific example: I have some very vague ideas of what to propose that involve Urban Vancouver as a starting point (either as a brand or reinvigorating the sadly neglected community site or building upon its function as aggregator of Vancouver bloggers). Boris suggested a wiki page for people to collaborate, and thought to use the wiki as the place to do it. He suggested VancouverKnightNewsChallenge, and before he finishing talking I had created the page. Ideas don't necessarily need to get posted there: they can go on your own site or even stay private until you propose them. What's missing in the digital sphere of Vancouver that would enhance the discussions citizens are having about the city and the region? Do we need an EveryBlock for Vancouver, or has that been done for other cities? Maybe we can do something a little different?

TransLink iPhone App Available at

Igor Faletski's screenshot of the TransLink iPhone web app showing his bookmarked buses

More TransLink mobile integration heroism from the folks at Handi Mobility here in Vancouver: Igor Faletski today officially announces something I knew unofficially-officially yesterday via Twitter: as viewed in the iPhone is a web application that gives transit riders quick access to bus, SkyTrain, West Coast Express, and SeaBus information in a pleasing interface. Users of the site can bookmark not just most-used routes but individual stops along that route, and the bookmarks themselves show the next 3 scheduled buses to arrive at that stop. It's already came in handy with a couple of trips last night. No more sending text messages and waiting to receive them for information the next bus! Now I just wait as long as the Internet takes to deliver the information.

I love the nice TransLink logo icon for when you "Add to Home Screen" and the bookmarking functionality. What, I don't have to sign up for an account to do that? Neat! I like the iconography at the top, though it's too bad there's no distinctively "Vancouver" bus that one can play off of. I like the alert bar at the top, but who has seen it change on the website? Maybe the one or two times it snows we'll get a notification that SkyTrain is down again. The part of the web app I'm not feeling is landscape mode: my expectation for landscape mode, iPod app aside (and even there it bothers me) is to see the regular portrait mode screen but wider and/or bigger text. In the case of the TransLink web app, it delivers city transit maps (and miscapitalizes the name of the regional transit authority) and in PDF form. Is it just me or can I not zoom in on them? Regardless, I don't see myself using the maps all that much. Transit is more point-to-point (how do I get from GM Place to Lougheed Mall?) than trying to find myself and where I need to go on a static map. More integration, if possible, with Google Maps' directions (or Google Transit) is needed, though Apple and/or Google have some work to get that happening.

I'm looking forward to the fully-qualified app that one can download from the App store, which promises location-awareness ("show me the buses that stop near me") and getting the Buzzer blog (coming October 6th, evidently, at on the iPhone through the app. Also promised, according to a post over at Techvibes, "rider-feedback", which presumably includes a panic button or the ability to tell Coast Mountain Bus Company that their operators are taking personal calls while driving. And, hopefully, point out the awesome drivers as well.

New Westminster Explorer

Last Sunday, in an attempt to escape some personal doldrums, I set out to New Westminster to enjoy the walk outlined by John Atkin in his book, SkyTrain Explorer: Heritage Walks From Every Station. New West holds a strong place in B.C. history, having the distinction of being British Columbia's capital city, though it doesn't hold much in my imagination, spending most of my time in Vancouver or its suburb to the East, Burnaby. I've spent far more time in Surrey than in New West, and New West has always been closer!

Galbraith House in New Westminster

I followed the trail set out by Atkin except for a couple detours, both pointed out by him. I erroneously fully crossed the pedestrian bridge over the rail tracks, stopping past the point where Atkin recommended to see the back of the old CPR station, now The Keg restaurant. Heading back, onto Columbia, I wanted to see “the wonderfully illustrated neon and backlit plastic signs along Begbie and Front Streets denoting Ladies & Escorts, Mens and Licensed Premises”. Maybe I didn't look hard enough. My other detour was to take a look at Galbraith House on 8th (pictured), near the end of the walk. Though not in and of itself unwelcome, a phone call from my sister prevented me from finishing the walk in time to get back to my place in time for an appointment.

I liked walking around downtown New West, and look forward to walking the previous chapter's route, around Columbia Station. I wonder if the city will be as quiet as it was on that sunny Sunday.

This walk, more than others, drove home the sense that I am not a flâneur, someone who strolls the city in order to experience it and notice it, or at least resist the label. Things generally have to be pointed out to me, be it either my girlfriend ("hey, Richard, look at that!") or a celebrated Vancouver neighbourhood historian in a book. I neither seek out nor get a lot of resonance from exploring the city. I acknowledge that the act of noticing mundane things and documenting them fills me with a small joy every time I do it, but I'd hate for someone to make it more than it is. Lately I struggle with people attaching too much significant to regular things, in part because I feel left out from the significance-making but also in part because I don't care. I struggle with opinions held about the "city lecture set", people whom I call friends but wonder why they fuss over the history of a city which a large percentage of the residents don't even come from.

(For an interesting discussion on going from flâneurs to planners, see Grant McCracken's article on Morgan Friedman's presentation and advice on the subject. thx gordonr)

I undertook walking around predefined routes of SkyTrain stations because, one one hand, I sit at my desk too much and feel I can't participate in conversations about the city, but on the other hand, I love SkyTrain. To a guy who had train wallpaper in his room and who grew up 2 blocks away from a still-active small town train station, it's the neatest thing in the world. I don't love SkyTrain walks as much as the mode of transportation that gets me doing them. I don't love walking around unknown city blocks as much ... as much as what? It drives home for me the unanswered question "what do I love doing?" The question, part of a longstanding thread where I compare myself to others and come up short, haunts me because I surround myself with people who have figured this question out and are either doing it or seeking it out. It haunts me because if everybody has a story, then what's mine?

An Act of Will That Set the Tone for the Day

Deepa Ranganathan: We liked our new [sleep] schedule the way it was. It had given us a newfound sense of control over our lives. We started each morning with an act of will that set the tone for the day. We went to work early and finished early. And if the evenings were a bit less fun than before—even a lot less fun—we also remembered how we often stayed up late into the night, zombified, both of us staring silently into our laptops. Our new routine seemed like a commitment to live a more virtuous life. (via Sameer)


Unless the list is crazy long, like it can be for operating systems, I realized that I read software changelogs pretty closely. This site now has one, with an RSS feed. It will be a sort of commit message, listing additions and changes worth mentioning about the live site. (Can somebody remind me later on to tell you how I setup my staging environment? Yes, for a personal blog.) It will not include updates to Drupal modules run on the site unless it makes a dramatic difference. The changelog will include changes to layout or the underlying Drupal theme and addition of content sections. The first entry? That I created a changelog in the first place. You can find out which version of Drupal I'm running via the usual open secret method, though I will make a note of it when I do upgrade.


The past year, especially the past six months, have revealed sides of me I didn't necessary want to know about. A slightly fuller range of emotions and a slightly fuller range of experiences up until today, which marks the end of one decade and the start of another. My girlfriend and I will celebrate it quietly by re-watching episodes of a certain science fiction TV thriller she has yet to catch up on. In the past year of reflection I haven't come up with anything resembling a 5-year plan. Instead of retirement objectives, I've a better sense of who I am. Instead of setting big goals for the rest of my life, I made small changes. Small changes like acknowledging that biking to work is the form of exercise that gives me the most satisfaction, helping solve two problems--weight stagnation and mental sluggishness--that irk more than plague. It's not social like basketball (my true love) or dragon boating or floorball. It gets me somewhere, up and down hills and past soccer pitches and baseball fields and cars and, more dishearteningly, other cyclists whizzing by. No longer do I type two spaces after a sentence. I don't buy fancy coffee anymore, partaking only when it's free and only often enough, not too often. Ice cream only consumed outside the house, that is, no containers of it allowed in the freezer anymore. A smarter routine at work, finding its way into my personal life (why is it hardly ever the other way around?), which means less social media during the day. It works out: I'm looking forward to the era of social media divestiture anyway. Today, when other thirtysomethings welcomed me to the club, I joked that now I have to spend the next 30 years undoing the damaged caused by the first 30 years. That's a joke at my own expense, among the many bad habits not yet discarded, and really, my life up until this point has been easier than I'd like to admit. If daily urgency at work, as opposed to the weekly urgency of months past, is an unwelcome if necessary change, then I need to assert my right to relaxation to ease the belly stress. More swimming in the pool, going out less, working out with a physical destination rather than a number on a scale in mind, and more Sunday brunches on Commercial Drive are included in the self-prescribed remedy. It doesn't feel like thirty, yet. Maybe, as one person already suggested today, I just need practice.

Giro di Burnaby 2008 Photos

One of the Symmetrics boys (by West coast chick)

After finally finding some time to browse through the bookmarks created over the week, I was able to look through the link to the Flickr search for "Giro di Burnaby", the annual bike race in Burnaby Heights. Race organizers closed down Hastings between Willingdon and MacDonald and the crowd gathered to watch the road Criterium bike race in Vancouver's suburb to the East. I posted my own crappy cameraphone photos and video, with other formats (digital SLR and it works, fisheye film) to come in that set. In the meantime, check out the far superior sets from Carol Browne, Jon Christall, Stewart (first photo of the 2008 Giro di Burnaby from his photo stream), Kati Debelic (first photo in a more general Cycling set; that's her photo at the top), as well as the set by MJXWDY.

(The photo at the top, titled "One of the Symmetrics boys", is all rights reserved but used with permission by Kati Debelic.)

Just an iPhone

If you really must know, yes, I'm getting an iPhone. It was not a no-brainer until very recently, when Rogers/Fido offered a promotional 6 GB plan for $30 on top of a voice plan. Still not a no-brainer, because after some speculation, about whether my plan was eligible for the most coveted of mobile computing platforms, I called Fido today to find out if I'm eligible for that which must be worshiped and/or bitched about. The plan has nationwide Fido-to-Fido calling, necessary for calling the girl while we had our long distance relationship, my being in Vancouver and her being in Toronto; unlimited weekends and evenings; something called "Can. ID" (can someone enlighten me as to what that does?); and that's it for exactly 30 dollars a month. That last point is important because it qualifies me for the $249 8 GB iPhone, not the $199 8 GB iPhone, which comes with a plan of more than 30 dollars a month.

Added to my current plan are Caller ID and 50 monthly text messages. No voicemail for quite some time now: it was always quicker for me to call the person back and ask them what they were calling about then to listen to the message, find a pen to write down the number (which requires rewinding not being as fast a write as people are talkers) and forget to delete the message, then listen to my voicemail later on wondering if it was a new message or not. Visual Voicemail looks interesting, but I don't get enough phone calls to warrant paying for it. Forgetting to ask the helpful French-accented Fido representative if I could keep the add on features, I still assume the answer is yes.

Frequently Asked Questions

What am I going to do with the iPhone?

Re-document my world, using Drupal of course, since the phone has GPS and there are going to be all kinds of cool applications on it. (Drupal + Location is in currently in a state of flux and I already have some geolocation stuff happening on this site and am planning more.) And listen to music and watch videos. Not making or receiving many phone calls, I don't really care all that much about the phone part of the iPhone.

Could I have bought an unlocked N95 at a cool $600 from an unknown Craigslist posting?

Absolutely. The 3-year contract the Rogers/Fido alliance goes in the "cost" column, and at $400 maximum to exit and not anticipating a move outside Canada in the next 3 years, that's something I can handle. The N95 is nice, but I can't stand the complete lack of usability on the Series 60 operating system. Everything's a pain. Everything on the iPhone looks so smooth.

When am I getting it?

Not today, and likely not this weekend. I'll wait until next week when the rush dies down a little bit. People are saying that stock is low today as well.

Does that mean you, dear reader, should get an iPhone too?

You don't have to get an iPhone.

What about your existing iPod mini, GlobalSat DG-100 GPS logger and Nokia N70 cell phone?

I never got Internet sharing between a Series 60 phone (like my Nokia N70) working with my Mac, and now I don't have to! The iPod, GPS unit and N70 will get new lives for people that don't have an iPhone. Since I don't have the latter yet, it'll be a few months before I give them away.

Happy America Day!

There's still time. Happy America Day!

Best wishes to my American friends on their national holiday!

Timelapse video by Paulo Ordoveza.