Category Archives: Friends



Thank you to Rick for inviting me to post this on the Smatters blog! I’m very happy to be guest blogging. The purpose of this series is to give my American friends a better understanding of the political system in Canada. Again, as with part one, this is all from memory, so please forgive me my lapses (and Canadians, please do correct me if I’m wrong).

Part the Second: Parliament and Parties

Canada’s federal legislative branch is the Parliament. It’s comprised of two houses – the House of Commons and the Senate. Unlike the US Senate, the Canadian Senate is appointed. Similar to the US Senate, it is rife with scandal (Google “Mike Duffy,” for example) and obstructionists (Google “Canadian bill C-279,” for example).


A Primer on Canadian Politics (for Americans) – Part 1

Thank you to Rick for inviting me to post this on the Smatters blog!  I’m very happy to be guest blogging.  The purpose of this series is to give my American friends a better understanding of the political system in Canada.

Part the First: Head of State

Canada is a part of the British commonwealth; what this means (amongst other things) is that officially, the head of state is the reigning British monarch; ie, currently, the Queen. Her representative in Canada is the Governor General. This position was much more meaningful in the days when the monarchy was more deeply involved in administrative affairs, and communication technology involved slow, fallible wooden ships. Now the position seems a lot more ceremonial; however, the Governor General still does have to sign off on various official acts in Canada – calling an election, forming a new government, and proroguing parliament.

“Proroguing,” as I understand it, is when the prime minister decides to close shop on the sitting parliament for a while. There may be legitimate uses for it, but it can also be kind of a bullshit move. The current prime minister (Stephen Harper, Conservative Party) prorogued parliament in late 2009, ostensibly because he wanted Canada to focus on the winter Olympics in Vancouver, but immediately before the prorogue there was a lot of grumbling in parliament and the press about some shady dealings he’d supposedly been involved in; speculation (on the left, anyway) at the time was that he just didn’t want to answer questions and he hoped it would blow over. Anyway, the Governor General rubber stamped the prorogue, parliament went home for a few months, the Olympics were awesome, and the furor over the issues did quiet down.

So clearly, the Governor General’s position (and by extension, the Queen’s role) is still important in Canadian politics. If the Governor General hadn’t signed off on it, parliament could not have been prorogued, the prime minister would probably have been asked to answer some uncomfortable questions, and possibly there would have been a call for a vote of no confidence in his leadership.

Next installment:  Parliament!  (No, not George Clinton’s Funkadelic.)

Do Zombies Stink?

This question arose in an after-dinner conversation last night. A quick Google search on nearby phones uncovered little to clear up the subject, so I figured it was my duty to post something about it.

I admit I’m not up on the state of the art in zombie movies. Most of my knowledge was acquired from cheesy horror comics in my youth. Of course, everything we know about zombies comes from media depictions: written stories, TV, and movies. So the question of zombie odor doesn’t really apply to audiences. “Smellivision” was never a popular concept.

So, what do zombies smell like?

Continue reading Do Zombies Stink?

Backlighting remains tricky

Friend and colleague John posted a comment on backlighting, noting that part of a stop can significantly improve exposure. I think there are two observations worth making here:

  1. Automation is stupid. Until we get Do What I Mean brain interface debugged, cameras will make a best guess.
  2. This is what I like about photography: the opportunity to exert control over how the image gets captured.

Although I learned a bit about photography years ago, I still blunder with camera settings. I didn’t mind the shutter speed while snapping pics of dancing. I find I have to literally exercise a special bit of my brain to look at the lighting of a scene. Otherwise I fail to assess backlighting or realize that the shadow will make a huge black slash through the image.

I find that I rely heavily on Photoshop-like software to redeem over- and under-exposed photos. It’s usually good for 1 or 2 stops on a digital camera, though the colors may suffer. Unfortunately there’s no related technology to un-blur a moving subject.