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Open Letter to Paul Calandra, MP [Sep. 26th, 2014|12:52 am]
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Paul,

It's late here as I write this, and I've had a long day and an early morning ahead of me. I really should go to bed, but I've just had the misfortune of watching your buffoonery during question period and I can't go to sleep without first letting you know what a disappointment you are to me. Maybe if I knew you I wouldn't find this disappointing at all. Maybe you are fundamentally a trivial clown, a frivolous little person at heart, but as someone who was elected to parliament one might imagine that you could at least try to rise to the position.

I have been a member of many associations, sat on boards, been treasurers, chairs and other things and quite a few of those associations have been rinky-dink and some have even been slip-shod but never have I seen such an embarrassing display of tom-foolery. Your behaviour shows contempt for parliament and contempt for the people of Canada. You have made a laughing-stock of your party (good) and of our country (shame).

You owe me an apology, and you owe it to the country too. You also owe Israel an apology because you childish display reflects poorly on those you purport to do it for. No one wants their case argued by an apparent fool.

I hope you find the shame and humility that will lead you to being a better person.
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An email to my MP [Aug. 5th, 2014|02:46 pm]
Dear XXXXX XXXXX M.P.

I write because, once again, I am driven to it despite my feeling that it is a pointless act. My concerns are always out of step with those of the media (and therefore the population and the politicians which absorb its message) and particularly out of step when it comes to which people in the world we are happy to see slaughtered.

Currently, I think it is fair to say, the world is properly appalled at the cruelty being poured out on Gaza but will do nothing because the ruling classes favour Israel. However, at least the people of Palestine have the benefit of having their suffering documented.

Meanwhile the people of East Ukraine are also being shelled and injured and killed but by the people who call themselves their government and we see and hear almost nothing. There are many differences between the situations, of course, but many similarities in the propaganda used to justify the violence.

In both cases we blame the victims and call them terrorist to justify killing them. In both cases the victims are people who want their autonomy from governments we have decided to support. While the death toll in Palestine has risen to almost 2000 now the UN acknowledges that at least 1200 people have been killed in East Ukraine.

In both cases we claim that the aggressor has a "right" to be killing people.

In Palestine Israel has a "right" to self defense but Palestinians are never afforded any such right despite living under an eight year siege and decades of displacement after being militarily driven from their land.

In Ukraine we say that the Kiev regime has the "right" to exercise their sovereignty. Technically this is even correct yet this was the situation in Libya when rebel forces took over Benghazi but we did not say that Gaddafi had a right to exercise sovereignty and nor do we seem keen to extend that right to Assad. But in Ukraine the situation is even more egregious because the rebels in Donbass, unlike the rebels we supported in Libya and the rebels we support in Syria (which are also the rebels we don't support in Iraq) are not interested in anything but their right to self determination.

In Libya the rebels we supported were intent on sweeping across the country to take Tripoli and topple the regime there. In Syria the rebels we support are intent on sweeping across the country to take Damascus and topple the regime there.
In Ukraine, the rebels we do not support are intent only on making their region independent from Kiev. They have made no move whatsoever to push across the country and topple the regime we support in Kiev.

All through this troubled time in Ukraine we have heard the powers that be tell Russia to de-escalate the situation but only one party has been in a position to de-escalate and that is the government in Kiev. They are the ones who are attacking East Ukraine. Defenders cannot de-escalate, only aggressors can. Imagine coming across someone being raped and instead of taking on the rapist we tell the victim that fighting back is only making it worse for her. It would be impossible, I would hope, for any normal person to take that position (unless they themselves also feared the rapist) because the fundamentals of the situation would be plain. The fundamentals in Ukraine are equally plain to me.

I understand that many people do not see it the way I see it because many people look no further than what they are told and the people are chastised for "swallowing Russian propaganda" just as they once were chastised for swallowing Palestinian propaganda once upon a time if they pursue other than the specially selected news.

I know one email cannot change a mind - I watch our media too and I can see the attractiveness of the narrative, but underneath that storyline is a bloody reality that is markedly different.

I don't expect any change to come from this email. I don't expect to save a single life, but I must write it because I have no power to do anything more as far as I can see but I refuse to have done nothing at all.

Sincerely
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And the Google brought forth ... this [Dec. 27th, 2013|08:58 pm]
From usenet to Deja to Google....
It was electronic, ephemeral and now ancient history but by a happy circumstance the bits fossilized and were preserved.

And having a pleasant stroll on the shore of google groups I kicked over a rock and the following lay beneath. Seventeen years ago I wrote, in response to one of the annoying cranks on talk.origins:

------------8<------------------

On 01-Aug-96 17:40:25, ksjj spake unto All on the matter refered to as "Re:
(012)which is it?"!
[...]

>> the majority, they have failed to demonstrate the validity of their
>> position to even a significant *minority* of scientists. They have failed

>> to deliver any "goods," whatsoever.
>>
k> well then would you please tell me how a dead puddle of GUE evolved into
k> living things?
Thankyou for asking your standard nonsense question. As a curtesy this
standard nonsense reply has been generated. A copy goes by e-mail as an
added bonus. Please feel free to ask this question again if you require
another copy of this reply.

----start - standard gue question reply----

The dead puddle of gue was dead, remained dead and never became alive. it
is, to this day, dead, puddley and guey and it posts to talk.origins using
the monikers "ksjj" and "karl".

----end - standard gue question reply----


+ _                    /^^      (    Stephen X. Xxxxxxx             ) +
|(_ [_  _  _ [_  _  _  |OO    O  (    e-mail:                       ) |
|,_)[_ (-'[_)[ )(-'[ ) @ \  o    (       xxxxxx@vcn.bc.ca           ) |
+       ~ [      ~     |o~ .      (_________________________________) +
--
All opinions herein have been quality tested and aged in oak vats.
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Things I learned about ffmpeg [Jul. 30th, 2013|02:55 pm]
This isn't an entry so much as a brain dump. There I things I've learned about ffmpeg and learned them more than once. That's not very smart.

One thing is that on ubuntu (and debian) what you get when you type ffmpeg in a shell is actually avconv and a message saying that ffmpeg is deprecated. Actually ffmpeg is alive and well and still called ffmpeg - the ffmpeg codebase was forked over a spat and the two have since gone their own ways but what works for one mostly works for the other and vice versa for now.

So, for the sake of clarity, what I'm using is avconv pretending to be ffmpeg and if what I type now doesn't work for you (me) at some point in time - it's just that things may have changed or the forks could have diverged or you might be using real ffmpeg whereas I'm not.So I have a JVC Everio video camera which claims to be HD and produces AVCHD files with the extension .MTS

The claimed HD is 1080 but importing it to edit quickly revealed heavy interlacing artifacts because the actual video is not progressive but 1080i (interlaced). The other thing that became apparent was that the frame rate reported by ffmpeg when I query a video "ffmpeg -i video.MTS" is 59.96 fps but this is actually the field rate.

The pixel dimensions are 1440 x 1080 instead of 1920 x 1080 so if you just use ffmpeg to dump raw ppm (the funnest stuff to dump) then the aspect ratio is all pooched when you put it back together.

Since I wanted to do some playing about with the frame data I thought the easiest way to do it would be to pipe my video into a little filter (written in C because that seemed easiest) and then rebuilt into a modified movie. The basic methodology (and first try) was more or less:

ffmpeg ppm data to pipe -> read ppm data and output modified ppm -> from pipe ffmpeg ppm to movie which is spelled-

ffmpeg -i in.MTS -f image2pipe -vcodec ppm - | ./myfilter | ffmpeg -f image2pipe -vcodec ppm -i - out.mpg

which means:
input spec
-i in.MTS (the input file is in.MTS)
output spec
-f image2pipe (the output will be image data to a pipe)
-vcodec ppm (the format of the piped data will be a series of ppm images)
- (the output is to stdout)

| ./myfiler | (this pipes stdout to my filter and then the stdout of my filter to the stdin of the next command after the pipe '|')

input spec
-f image2pipe (the input is image data from a pipe)
-vcodec (the input is in ppm format)
-i - (the input is the stdin stream)
output spec
out.mpg (the output movie file is out.mpg)

And the result of this is twofold. The aspect ratio of the output file is squished horizontally, and the new file plays twice as long and half as fast as the input (actually a little slower than half as fast).

What happens is that the input stream is decoded to 60 frames per second and the output file is built at 25 frames per second. But, worse than that, the input file is decoded as doublets of the combined interlaced fields so that frame 1 and 2 are the same as each other, frames 3 and 4 are the same, etc. In effect 60 frames are output per second but only 30 frames are unique. Each pair of even and odd frames contains the even and odd interlaced scan lines and that looks crap.

frame_closeup

In my filter I tried to stomp out the alternating scan lines to remove the comb effect and separate out the fields but it wasn't completely successful.. Even though the scan lines on the wheels of the little robot look like they alternate in a well behaved way, the red traffic cones have a different pattern with pairs of lines from each field being adjacent, i.e. 1&2, 3&4, 5&6, 7&8

I have no idea if this is an artifact introduced by ffmpeg or whether this is an artifact created in camera but it's very annoying.

A little googling lead me to a filter parameter which can be used to remove interlacing quite well - yadiff. In fact, and even better, if you give yadiff=1 for the filter you get de-interlaced data for each field (which means that your 60 field per second video can be converted to a 60 frame per second video with progressive scan.

So adding -vf yadif=1 to the output of the first ffmpeg 60 de-interlaced unique frames per second - good for my purposes.

(More later)
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Quiet 'round here [Jul. 29th, 2013|05:27 pm]
I'm not much of a blogger, it seems.
Oh, I type copious verbiage and I'm sufficiently opinionated, but I just don't do it 'round here ... (hears Counting Crows in head)

Nope. I do most of my ranting at whyzzat.com

Guess I need the stimulus of other voices to get me worked up.
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Concerning Ignatief [Oct. 31st, 2012|12:25 am]
in response to a friend who forwarded me this link: http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/politics/michael-ignatieffs-timely-warning-on-the-politics-of-fascism/article4753299/


Dear friend,

so I gave the article a read and I still think he's a smart and decent guy but that is why he got raped. They are noble words but they come across, to me, as sad as the words of a gentleman who walks into a pub brawl and thinks that Marquees of Queensbury rules were handed down by God, inviolable and sacrosanct and after receiving a brutal headbutt to the nose and a broken bottle in the family jewels ends up sprawled in his own blood mumbling "jolly unsporting old chap".

He approached politics as having something to do with governance and compromise but found himself in the pen with some thugs and dirty scrappers who didn't care about the rules. He recognizes how the system is but he can only advocate "ought" and there is precious little practical plan to bring about ought but to appeal to everyone to "do the right thing". I am reminded of a joke in which Genghis Khan comes across some peasants and decides to take the opportunity to exercise his sword arm. He has all the peasants kneel in a line and starts going down the row chopping heads off one by one. One of the peasants says to one next to him - "we should defend ourselves, we must fight back" to which his neighbour responds - "shhhh. You will make him angry".

The fact is that a small well armed band of radicals can make the majority kowtow. But a weak opposition is effectively a servile opposition. If one side is at war then the other side cannot stand about trying to be reasonable. The fact is that we don't have the system that Iggy thinks we ought to have, we have the system that we DO have and the opposition that we elect has to make war with those that war against them. There is a perceived danger that once the good guys have won they won't dial back on the war but war is expensive and it tends to end as soon as the need passes. Europe tried appeasing Hitler (mostly because England was in no position to start any wars at that time) but eventually Hitler was only pushed back when his war was answered by war.

Now that covers only Parliament (and the Provincial Legislators). The elected opposition in those places need to fight hard and look like they are fighting hard. But theirs is a very difficult position because they often feel like they don't have a mandate to fight that hard and they are many small pockets of resistance fighting against a unified enemy. The radicals in the House of Commons and the radicals in the Provincial legislatures are coordinated by the same people who coordinate the tone of the news and who fund the right wing think tanks that produce the arguments and "data" that support the kinds of legislation that the monied interests write and hand to the various governments to pass. The largest umbrella group that I know of doing that is ALEC.

I realize that Iggy was pointing a finger southward but all that is happening down there has been field tested in South America, Maggie's England, and in state and provincial legislatures in North America and even at Vancouver City Hall under Mayor Gordon Muir Campbell, who started his rightward lurch with cessation of open town-hall meetings. The first thing power does when it's about to turn on the people is go quiet - operate in secrecy - practice press discipline.

It may be that Parliament is a lost cause. It may be that the nature of politics means that politicians cannot speak truth to power. Those who speak their conscience are quickly hounded out of the system or are compromised (aren't they, Iggy?). It may just be that the rest of us, the people of North America need to start viewing our government as the enemy and not allow them to hold on to even a loin cloth of legitimacy. Now I'm not proposing that we engage in a shooting war because those sort of things can usually only be done with outside help and arms - plus they tend to be a cure worse than the problem and exactly the wrong kinds of people rise to the top in those environments. No, we need something more Gandhi in style. It will mean people being willing to get beaten by the enforcers and spend time in holding pens and court rooms and jails and it will require distribution and political working groups and alliances and new paradigms and models - something like the Occupy movement - or maybe exactly the Occupy movement. It will take more people making more decisions and agreements about the kinds of neighbourhoods and cities and provinces and countries we want to live in and once enough dedicated and talented and social minded people have been schooled in that sort of work then we can start cleaning all the legislative houses positively and peacefully.

Of course, power never cedes easily.

in Friendship, Love and Truth,
Fluffy McDeath
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Technology makes you free [Oct. 19th, 2012|11:31 pm]
to make secure calls over the net, to use the awesome power of your desktop, or the amazing convenience of your mobile,

and it's everywhere you go.
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I just wrote another email to a politician [Oct. 4th, 2012|10:09 am]
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With header and footer stripped - here it is:
---

______________,

It has been a while since I wrote on the matter of Syria and I hate having to do it because I always feel that I will be construed as an Assad apologist and I truly have no love for the man but still the situation of the people in Syria becomes worse because we (France and the US principally but also Canada others) continue to push for war. Some call me cynical for saying that and yet every action we and our allies take move us closer to that eventuality. It is like watching a bully instigate a bar fight by a thousand provocations and each time blaming the victim if they respond - or don't.

Human Rights Watch rightly criticizes the Assad regime and we pay attention but when Human Rights Watch tells us that the rebels torture and execute Syrian civilians we are deaf to it. When a Syrian bomb falls in a civilian area we are properly appalled but when a rebel truck bomb wrecks a hospital or a suicide bomber kills a crowd of people in a market we shake our heads and say "stuff happens in a war". If rebels in Canada were behaving as these rebels are behaving we would correctly know them as terrorists. The terrorism has been of such a scale that even the media has been unable to ignore it though they fail to call it that.

We have failed to call for the rebels to stop striking civilian targets and we have failed to blame the rebels for fighting in civilian areas - something that, had they not been western sanctioned terrorists we would have castigated them for saying that they hide behind "human shields".

We have failed to act as honest brokers. We continue to encourage the armed factions who, German Intelligence seem to have recently admitted, are composed largely of foreign fighters and Al Qaeda affiliates (as was the case also in Libya).

Now Turkey has been given the opportunity to escalate the situation which they have gleefully taken and seem keen to leverage further and we have said we will back them on that. Though it is clearly insane for Assad to deliberately involve Turkey by deliberately targeting Turkish civilians this is precisely the narrative we choose to pursue. Whether it was a deliberate calculated attack by Assad forces or an attack instigated by a defecting general or an attack by rebels with captured weapons the whole episode deserves to be approached with caution until we understand it and then brought to an international body for adjudication and resolution.

At least Baird recognizes this in public statements: "We obviously recognize that every country has a right to defend itself. I think we do have to appeal for calm, to not let this situation escalate out of control," - though I note that he does not extend the right to self defence to the government of Syria with respect to our proxy fighters within its borders.

I believe that Turkey would love to see this escalate out of control as they believe they can count on NATO to step in if they can provoke further attacks - I believe that NATO is eager to step in to help Turkey if they can provoke a Syrian response and I believe that Canada will happily supply pilots and other of our resources to help in destroying the wealth, history and people of yet another strategically important bit of land.

I am truly sick of these games that kill. If we wanted to change the world for the better we would push for slow peaceful changes and grow a better, safer world organically but we are ruled by impatient greedy people who use the organs of state (including the elected representatives, I am sorry to say, albeit without their knowledge) to benefit their business interests.

I know from talking to colleagues about world realpolitik that it takes more than a few desperate emails to change a person's mind - why would someone want to believe that the world was the way it is when nice moral fairy tales of good vs evil are so much more comforting? Why would a sane person wish to acknowledge their own part in a system which is so obviously at odds with their own morals?

Wars, in retrospect, when looked at with a dispassionate eye, make much more sense as struggles for territory and resources (whether that is oil, sugar cane, rubber, or human workers) than as morality fables. The older the war the plainer we see it. We can be more honest about history because all of the people involved are now dead but history isn't dead. We continue to make history today, even this moment, but we can't see it yet. All the forces of history are still acting today and the causes of our conflicts remain the same as do our methods for starting and escalating them.

Yours, with increasing disquiet,
___________________
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Speaking of Twenty Years ago [Jul. 17th, 2012|05:56 pm]
I finally got around to plugging my video encoder into my VHS player and played some old tapes through there.
These two gems are from that aforementioned time - back twenty years ago. It's not such a long time ago but it's a very different time. Back then Jian Ghomeshi wasn't doing Q, he was singing about the Gulf War (the first one, with the first Bush) and about Green Eggs and Ham - and I? I was doing stuff like this:




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So I'm just sitting here when twenty years go by [Jun. 1st, 2012|11:14 am]
I'm taking some time off work - because I have to. I also should but I'm doing mostly because the company has decreed that we can't all just sit around building up our holiday time. So I have a week to catch up on all of those things I've been putting aside and so far I have not managed to catch up at all. I have, however, started several new things that will eat up time. I'm quickly finding out how busy I was when I was unemployed. Even without the giant sinkhole of "work" there isn't enough time to do all of the things I want to do.

So what am I doing right now? Just sitting in Continental Coffee on the Drive, typing words that only I will read - me and google and the NSA, but other than that, only me - when all of a sudden this old guy walks past the window and I know his name is Brian. In a moment he has passed by but he's old and that means that I must be too because we're about the same age. How strange.

And now I am looking out of the window and I see, in a car that has just pulled up outside the coffee shop, a woman who I had coffee next to yesterday on the other side of town. Is there a coffee shop circuit that I'm unwittingly a part of? I'd ponder upon it but I have to go in a moment to meet someone down the street.
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