Monthly Archives: March 2008


For those who missed it, the Montreal Canadiens officially clinched a spot in the 2008 NHL playoffs with a 7-5 win over the Ottawa Senators tonight, continuing their dominance at the top of the Eastern Conference.

With five games left (one against Ottawa, two against Toronto and two against Buffalo), there’s no mathematical way for our team to finish out of the playoffs. Barring some unlikely surge by the Senators combined with a five-game losing streak for the Canadiens, we’ll also finish first in the Northeast Division, which will ensure a top-three (and realistically, a top-two) finish in the conference, giving us home ice advantage and an easier opponent (*cough*Boston*cough*) for the first round of the playoffs.

That’s way better than even the most optimistic of pundits had the team finishing in their preseason predictions.

Part of it is because the team has been lucky, with no major injuries. Part of it is stellar performances from young players. Part of it is Alex Kovalev. Part of it is Carey Price. And we all know part of it is the sheer force of my will.

How far will we go? Farther than last year, that’s mathematically certain now.

Police brutality protests revisited

Montreal’s annual march against police brutality generates a lot of news coverage the only way that protests generate news coverage: by causing destruction.

The mainstream media will give it a photo or short video clip highlighting the worst infractions, with a short brief mentioning how many people showed up, how many were arrested and what kind of damage there was. The next day, we might see an editorial decrying violence to make a point.

The alternative media, meanwhile, will go a bit more in depth about the protesters’ motives (without questioning those motives or the reasons given for them). They’ll also go in depth about accusations of police brutality, usually without trying to get the police’s side on the matter.

The truth, meanwhile, seems to be lost in the middle as the media takes one side or the other.

When I wrote about the protest last year, I concluded that “The entire purpose of anti-police brutality protests is to prompt police brutality.”

While I still believe that to be true (having police brutality at an anti-police-brutality protest helps the protesters’ case — or at least they think it does), I should expand on it a bit. It becomes an excuse for both the police and the radical elements of the anonymous, anarchist, anti-capitalist army to descend into pointless violence just to express their frustrations.

A semi-anonymous person interviewed by The Link said it much the same way (emphasis mine):

“I think in the same way that some of the protesters feel it’s a day they can let out their frustration, I think a lot of the cops feel that way too. And they like it that way,” said Paquette, who’s been homeless in Montreal for over 10 years. Few participants were willing to give their names to the press for fear of recrimination.

You’d think they’d find some more healthy and less expensive way to do so. Maybe a game of paintball or something?

I don’t mean to make light of the situation (though compared to things that happen around the world, with people dying and stuff, it’s kind of hard not to laugh at these people by comparison). But both sides use excessive force with no useful purpose, and nobody seems to care.

The protesters come from various backgrounds. Some are homeless people tired of being banned from every park and pushed out like some fruitcake nobody wants to eat. Some are legitimate victims (or friends of victims) of police brutality who want to speak out. Some are student activists who will support any leftist cause even if they don’t fully understand it. Some are radical anti-capitalists wearing ski masks who think that trashing a few McDonald’s signs will somehow bring about a new world order.

And, yes, some are undercover cops. (I don’t want to minimize how boneheaded an idea that was, and how negatively it affected the reputation of the SQ and all other police forces dealing with protesters, and though we can never be entirely certain, I’ll assume that most of the radical protesters aren’t undercover cops.)

The actions of some protesters are bent out of a (perhaps understandable) frustration. But that frustration isn’t a license to damage property or throw rocks at police. You can’t simply take advantage of the mob in order to shield yourself from consequences.

And that peaceful mob consciously shields the lawbreakers out of some twisted sense of solidarity. In Montebello, those who took rocks got singled out by the crowd, who made it clear that they would not be protected. That earned the legitimate protesters brownie points. It made regular people sympathize with them, and made the police (and their agents provocateurs) turn into the bad guys.

If that happened here, public opinion about these protests would change considerably.

The police, meanwhile, could use these protests as a opportunities to be the bigger person. But they don’t. They respond to transparently ineffective attacks on their massive body armor by literally chasing down protesters like a herd of wild bulls. They use force indiscriminately, against protesters, passers-by and journalists who get in the way. They make arrests by rounding people up like cattle, hitting them with a fine and then releasing them a few blocks away. They make people agree not to participate in protests in order to escape prosecution.

I want to re-emphasize that last sentence in case anyone missed it: Those who are arrested, whether they did anything wrong or not, are told to sign agreements saying they won’t participate in public protests. It’s legal, because people have the choice of going through a long court battle and facing jail time, but only Jaggi Singh is going to go through that on principle.

All this to say that those who take a side in this are either clueless, delusional or lying.

Other coverage of the protest:

Elsewhere in the blogosphere:

Media ignore, patronize young people

The Vancouver Sun’s Kirk Lapointe points to a new survey that shows the Internet doesn’t connect well with older people.

Besides the obvious “well duh” response to this, allow me to turn it on its head a bit: Is it that the Internet appeals to the young, or that traditional media sources appeal to the old?

Let me give you an example: Open your Saturday newspaper. And if you’re under 35, open your parents’ Saturday newspaper. Take a look at the sections:

  • Homes: Assumes that you own a home and are for some reason constantly renovating it. Little discussion of issues facing apartment-dwellers, if at all.
  • Cars: Usually multiple sections a week dealing with new vehicles. Out of those 10-20 articles a week, rarely will any focus on bicycles or other alternative forms of transportation. Even used cars get very little coverage.
  • Working: Assumes you work in a cubicle as an insurance adjuster, and are looking for a new job as an insurance adjustment manager at another company. Minimal discussion of working at minimum-wage jobs, contract jobs, freelancing or other non-suit-and-tie careers.
  • Comics: The vast majority of which are ridiculously unfunny because they’re designed primarily not to offend grandma.
  • Crosswords and other ancient games: Either they’re too simple (like Wonderword) or too time-intensive (like the New York Times crossword). Sudoku is about the only thing in there that comes out of this millennium, and every newspaper on the planet has one of those.
  • Wine and fine dining: Pages and pages devoted to this stuff. Some have entire sections devoted to just wine. No other food or drink gets such prestige.
  • Fashion: Concentrates on what crazy expensive fad you can buy into instead of how you can adapt the clothing you already have to make yourself more fashionable. Regurgitating a Gucci press release is more important than coming up with original DIY styles.
  • Travel: Focuses on far-away places and expensive touristy trips instead of regional destinations or economical/environmentally-friendly/unusual vacations.

The reason behind these are obvious: That’s where the ad money is. Car companies pay for the biggest ads, so their sections are the largest, even though buying a new car is hardly the most important thing you have to deal with on a weekly basis.

I’d be willing to forgive these things if they were counterbalanced with sections that appealed to young people. But look for sections on gaming, education, the environment, Internet issues, technology or science and you come up far short, if you find anything at all. When a paper does cover some of these issues, they cater even those articles to their “general” audience, which means they have to explain what a blog is and what Facebook is all about. It comes off sounding patronizing and very uninformative.

So without newspapers and other traditional media to turn to, is it surprising that they’re finding what they need online?

Bus schedules formatted for cellphones

Here’s an interesting little website: It scrapes the STM’s website for bus departure times and reformats them in an easy-to-read-on-mobile-phones page.

It’s not perfect (it doesn’t do holidays and other special situations, for example), and in many cases it’s probably easier to call the AUTOBUS number and get the automated voice to tell you departure times. But if for some reason the STM’s website is too cumbersome for your cell, this site might just be useful for you.

UPDATE: And here’s a website that acts as a Google Maps frontend for the STM’s Tous Azimuts service.

Montreal Geography Trivia No. 18

Design a trip, using only public transit, from the eastern tip of the island of Montreal to the southern tip of the island, that has the least possible number of transfer points. Assume you can leave at any time during the week, and use any combination of STM buses, metro lines and AMT commuter train lines.

For bonus points, calculate the time between departure and arrival.

UPDATE: Nice to see almost everyone saw through the southernmost-tip trap. It is, in fact, way out west in Sainte-Anne-de-Bellevue and not in Verdun or LaSalle.

Tim gets the correct answer below, with two transfers:

  1. 410 Express Notre-Dame (AM rush hour only) from 100e/Bureau to Lucien L’Allier train station
  2. Dorion/Rigaud train to Sainte-Anne-de-Bellevue station (select times only)
  3. 251 Sainte-Anne to Ste-Anne and Kent

The disadvantage to this route is that it only works on weekday mornings, and it has to be carefully synchronized to the train. The only route that doesn’t involve more than 30 minutes of wait time at any stop departs at 5:55am and arrives at 7:53am, for a total of 118 minutes (1:58).

Not including the train, the trip would involve three transfers: (184), green line, 211, 251

Outside of rush hour, it adds another: 86, 186, green line, 211, 251

At night: 362, 364, 358, 356 (the fastest travel time: 160 minutes or 2:40)

In other words, not a trip I’d recommend taking daily.

Who got the Facebook scoop?

I was all excited when I saw a post from TQS’s Jean-Michel Vanasse praising a rival network’s coverage. Finally, I thought, we’re starting to see the pointless war between networks start to mellow.

Unfortunately, he was being sarcastic. Pointing out that a recent EXCLUSIVE SPECIAL REPORT OMG from another network (he doesn’t name it, and a quick search doesn’t find it online it’s TVA’s J.E., and the video is online) copies one he did in October.

The amazingly important issue? That lots of Facebook users will accept people they don’t know as friends.

I know. Get that Pulitzer engraving pen ready, folks.

What’s hilarious about all this is that Vanasse himself was scooped by Jean-René Dufort’s Infoman, who set up a profile for a wanted murderer and got politicians and celebrities to befriend him a month earlier.

Not only did the Infoman report come out before the others, it’s a whole lot funnier and more interesting.

Junk journalism is popular

Associated Press announced it is beefing up its celebrity news coverage by adding 21 reporters to the beat.

It might be easy to condemn AP for the move, since the wire service alone seems to affect more than half the news articles you see in your daily newspapers (The Gazette, which cut Canadian Press and therefore AP as well last summer, relies on Reuters, Bloomberg, Agence France-Presse, Sports Ticker, New York Times, LA Times/Washington Post and its own Canwest News Service for wire stories).

But the move is simply a reaction to the demands of AP’s members, who are increasingly demanding more celebrity gossip. Setting up a gossip news site is like opening a McDonald’s franchise: It’s embarrassing and unhealthy, but it’s an easy way to make money if you have no ideas.

I guess it’s also like porn that way, if you need a second analogy. But respectable organizations aren’t going to publish outright porn… yet.

Of course, AP says it isn’t out to do trash celebrity journalism, publishing pictures of people without makeup, digging through trash or just plain annoying people trying to go through their daily lives and pretending that’s news.

So I guess it’s more like opening a Subway franchise then. (Or Maxim/FHM, if you’re on the porn analogy route). You can pretend what you create is food, but you still can’t call yourself a chef.

To those of you who care about celebrity gossip, you have only yourselves to blame for this. There could be real journalists tackling real issues in the world, but instead they’re constantly monitoring the status of Britney Spears’s underwear.

Industry is at fault for HDTV confusion has a story* about an industry-commissioned survey that shows Canadians don’t quite understand everything about HDTV. Sharp, which commissioned the survey, pulls right out of its ass the theory that “jargon-laden tech reports” are to blame for the problem, especially among women. It’s the media which is not doing a good job explaining HDTV’s technical intricacies to consumers.

While technology articles in newspapers and tech segments on TV news are, indeed, either confusingly jargon-laden or condescendingly over-simplifying, I don’t think they’re the reason for all the misinformation about HDTV.

Instead, I blame the industry itself:

  • An industry that defines “HDTV” as anything above NTSC standard, which could mean a bunch of different formats because the industry couldn’t set a proper standard.
  • An industry that compresses video signals over digital distribution systems to cram more channels in, making some digital signals better than others.
  • An industry that combined HDTV with a change in aspect ratio that served to confuse people into thinking the two were the same.
  • An industry that can’t agree on an optical media format for HDTV.
  • An industry that uses terms like “1080p” which means nothing to people like me, and then tries to develop brand names like “Full HD” which makes even less sense. (Is there a “Partial HD?”)
  • An industry that has developed five different types of cable connectors for video
  • An industry that uses closed, proprietary protocols so that consumers are forcibly tied to cable boxes forced on them by their cable or satellite companies instead of being able to buy televisions with digital tuners built-in.
  • An industry that converts HD to SD to HD, or SD to HD to SD, resulting in black bars all around images once they’re actually shown on TV screens.

But I don’t expect Sharp to bring that up when they’re busy masturbating over how great they are.

Another example of investigative journalism

*Dear CBC: If you’re going to rewrite a press release, maybe you should make it slightly less obvious that you’re doing so. For example, you could change the headline. Or you could find another source to quote. Or you could not copy and paste half the press release into your article.

For example:

The knowledge gap persists despite a truly healthy market for flat panel TVs. Overall, the market grew by 72 percent last year, with sales of LCD TVs growing by 84.4 percent. For 2008, projected sales figures from the Consumer Electronics Marketers of Canada (CEMC) indicate a market demand of 2.75 million units.
The poll reports Canadians have a basic understanding of the differences between flat screen technologies – 53 percent prefer LCD to plasma screens – yet few Canadians feel themselves to be truly knowledgeable about the technology.
Women are especially unaware of HDTV features; almost 60 percent said they were not at all knowledgeable about the latest advancements, compared to less than 40 percent of men polled across the country. The jargon-laden language of tech reports may be an issue, with 29 percent of Canadians getting their information about new models from TV ads and programs, compared to only 20 percent from print media and 16 percent from weblogs and product websites.

That was from the press release.

This is from the CBC story:

The knowledge gap persists despite a truly robust market for flatpanel TVs, according to the findings from Nanos Research, commissioned to do the survey by Sharp Electronics of Canada.

Overall, the market grew by 72 per cent last year, with sales of LCD (Liquid Crystal Display) TVs growing by 84.4 per cent, Sharp said. For 2008, projected sales figures from the Consumer Electronics Marketers of Canada (CEMC) indicate a market demand of 2.75 million units.

The poll reports Canadians have a basic understanding of the differences between flat-screen technologies — 53 per cent prefer LCD to plasma screens — yet few Canadians feel themselves to be truly knowledgeable about the technology.

Women are especially unaware of HDTV features, the survey suggested. Almost 60 per cent said they were not at all knowledgeable about the latest advancements, compared to less than 40 per cent of men polled across the country.

The jargon-laden language of tech reports may be an issue, with 29 per cent of Canadians getting their information about new models from TV ads and programs, compared to only 20 per cent from print media and 16 per cent from weblogs and product websites.

Notice some similarity? (I’ve bolded all the changes the CBC made.) I’m just going to go ahead and assume the CBC did not, in fact, check to make sure these statements were true.

(And another thing: “weblogs”? If people don’t understand what a blog is, what makes you think they’ll understand “weblogs”?)

Gravenor comes clean

Today’s Gazette has a business feature article from Kristian Gravenor, who when he’s not blogging owns an … err … affordable apartment building in Verdun.

Confessions of a slumlord goes into how he purchased the building and some of his issues raising money from residential and commercial tenants. Sadly it leaves you wanting more, and the sidebar with tips on dealing with tenants doesn’t seem enough to satiate the hunger for interesting slumlord stories.

Playing with new toys

I’m experimenting with some plugins and widgets and toys in order to boost my visitor count make this blog better for its loyal readers.

One thing you may have already noticed is that individual post pages now have links to related posts (as determined by that post’s tags). Since I tend to write about similar things, you’ll likely find those posts interesting. Related posts are also included in the RSS feed, which you should subscribe to.

Meanwhile, I’m still experimenting with some social bookmarking techniques. I’ve setup an account at, which allows me to share websites and pages I find interesting. I also have my Google Reader shared items, which allows me to share some of the blog posts I read that I find particularly interesting. You’ll find that feed currently being burned so I can track its popularity.

Unfortunately, I’m having trouble combining the two together and/or automating their inclusion into the blog. has a feature that automatically posts links to your blog (as you see below), but it’s not very configurable, and I don’t find that many links that would necessitate a daily post.

If anyone has any ideas on how I can automate, say, a weekly roundup of my (God that’s annoying to type) bookmarks and Google Reader shared items into a weekly blog post, please let me know. Surely someone has thought of this before, but Google hasn’t helped me.

Links for 2008-03-22