December 26, 2008

Thoughtful graffiti in Berlin

I just came across something that Nick from Death Cab for Cutie made a post about...which is this piece of graffiti he found in Berlin:

And when we touch


It reads “and when we touch we’re not really touching. if our atoms did not repel one another we’d pass through each other like galaxies, unscathed." I thought it was a really interesting quote...and got me thinking about the nature of being connected...especially being back home with family in Boston...while all of my friends are hundreds of miles (kilometres) away in different directions.

It turns out the quote is probably paraphrased from a section from Bill Bryson's book: A Short History of Nearly Everything and I think it's worth sharing:

The great Caltech physicist Richard Feynman once observed that if you had to reduce scientific history to one important statement it would be: 'All things are made of atoms.' They are everywhere and they constitute everything. Not just the solid things like walls and tables and sofas, but the air in between. And they are there in numbers that you really cannot conceive.


Because they are so long-lived, atoms really get around. Every atom you possess has almost certainly passed through several stars and been part of millions of organisms on its way to becoming you. When we die, our atoms will disassemble and move off to find new uses elsewhere as part of a leaf or other human being or drop of dew. Above all, atoms are tiny , very tiny indeed. Half a million of them lined up shoulder to shoulder could hide behind a human hair.


By the early twentieth century it was known that atoms were made of parts but it wasn't known how many parts there were or how they fitted together or what shape they took. Rutherford was born in New Zealand, but in 1895 he won a scholarship that took him to the Cavendish Laboratory at Cambridge University, which was about to become the hottest place in the world to do physics.


In 1910, Rutherford (assisted by his student Hans Geiger) fired ionized helium atoms, or alpha particles, at a sheet of gold foil. To Rutherford's astonishment, some of the particles bounced back. This was just not supposed to happen. After considerable reflection he realized there could be only one possible explanation: the particles that bounced back were striking something small and dense at the heart of the atom, while the other particles sailed through unimpeded. An atom, Rutherford realized, was mostly empty space, with a very dense nucleus at the centre. This presented one immediate problem. By all the laws of conventional physics, atoms shouldn't therefore exist.


Let us pause for a moment and consider the structure of the atom as we know it now. Every atom is made from three kinds of elementary particles: protons, which have a positive electrical charge; electrons, which have a negative electrical charge; and neutrons, which have no charge. Protons and neutrons are packed into the nucleus, while electrons spin around outside. The number of protons is what gives an atom its chemical identity. An atom with one proton is an atom of hydrogen, one with two protons is helium, with three protons is lithium, and so on up the scale. Each time you add a proton you get a new element. Neutrons and protons occupy the atom's nucleus. The nucleus of an atom is tiny - only one-millionth of a billionth of the full volume of the atom - but fantastically dense, since it contains virtually all the atom's mass. As William H.Cropper has put it in his book ‘Great Physicists’, if an atom were expanded to the size of a cathedral, the nucleus would be only about the size of a fly - but a fly many thousands of times heavier than the cathedral.


It was this spaciousness - this resounding , unexpected roominess that had Rutherford scratching his head in 1910. It is still a fairly astounding notion to consider that atoms are mostly empty space, and that the solidity we experience all around us is an illusion. When two objects come together in the real world - billiard balls are most often used for illustration - they don't actually strike each other. 'Rather,' as science author Timothy Ferris explains, 'the negatively charged fields of the two balls repel each other, Were it not for their electrical charges they could, like galaxies, pass right through each other unscathed .' When you sit in a chair, you are not actually sitting there, but levitating above it at a height of one angstrom (a hundred millionth of a centimetre), your electrons and its electrons implacably opposed to any closer intimacy.

December 25, 2008

Proposition 8: Keith Olbermann's Special Comment, The Laramie Project, and Jack Black

Something I missed in Canada was Countown with Keith Olbermann, but I did hear about his special comment about proposition eight in California. It was pretty upsetting to go to class the day after election day and talk more about prop. 8 than Obama's election. It's a sad day when bigotry and hate overpower tolerance and hope.


Finally tonight as promised, a Special Comment on the passage, last week, of Proposition Eight in California, which rescinded the right of same-sex couples to marry, and tilted the balance on this issue, from coast to coast.

Some parameters, as preface. This isn't about yelling, and this isn't about politics, and this isn't really just about Prop-8. And I don't have a personal investment in this: I'm not gay, I had to strain to think of one member of even my very extended family who is, I have no personal stories of close friends or colleagues fighting the prejudice that still pervades their lives.

And yet to me this vote is horrible. Horrible. Because this isn't about yelling, and this isn't about politics. This is about the human heart, and if that sounds corny, so be it.

If you voted for this Proposition or support those who did or the sentiment they expressed, I have some questions, because, truly, I do not understand. Why does this matter to you? What is it to you? In a time of impermanence and fly-by-night relationships, these people over here want the same chance at permanence and happiness that is your option. They don't want to deny you yours. They don't want to take anything away from you. They want what you want—a chance to be a little less alone in the world.

Only now you are saying to them—no. You can't have it on these terms. Maybe something similar. If they behave. If they don't cause too much trouble. You'll even give them all the same legal rights—even as you're taking away the legal right, which they already had. A world around them, still anchored in love and marriage, and you are saying, no, you can't marry. What if somebody passed a law that said you couldn't marry?

I keep hearing this term "re-defining" marriage. If this country hadn't re-defined marriage, black people still couldn't marry white people. Sixteen states had laws on the books which made that illegal in 1967. 1967.

The parents of the President-Elect of the United States couldn't have married in nearly one third of the states of the country their son grew up to lead. But it's worse than that. If this country had not "re-defined" marriage, some black people still couldn't marry black people. It is one of the most overlooked and cruelest parts of our sad story of slavery. Marriages were not legally recognized, if the people were slaves. Since slaves were property, they could not legally be husband and wife, or mother and child. Their marriage vows were different: not "Until Death, Do You Part," but "Until Death or Distance, Do You Part." Marriages among slaves were not legally recognized.

You know, just like marriages today in California are not legally recognized, if the people are gay.

And uncountable in our history are the number of men and women, forced by society into marrying the opposite sex, in sham marriages, or marriages of convenience, or just marriages of not knowing, centuries of men and women who have lived their lives in shame and unhappiness, and who have, through a lie to themselves or others, broken countless other lives, of spouses and children, all because we said a man couldn't marry another man, or a woman couldn't marry another woman. The sanctity of marriage.

How many marriages like that have there been and how on earth do they increase the "sanctity" of marriage rather than render the term, meaningless?

What is this, to you? Nobody is asking you to embrace their expression of love. But don't you, as human beings, have to embrace... that love? The world is barren enough.

It is stacked against love, and against hope, and against those very few and precious emotions that enable us to go forward. Your marriage only stands a 50-50 chance of lasting, no matter how much you feel and how hard you work.

And here are people overjoyed at the prospect of just that chance, and that work, just for the hope of having that feeling. With so much hate in the world, with so much meaningless division, and people pitted against people for no good reason, this is what your religion tells you to do? With your experience of life and this world and all its sadnesses, this is what your conscience tells you to do?

With your knowledge that life, with endless vigor, seems to tilt the playing field on which we all live, in favor of unhappiness and hate... this is what your heart tells you to do? You want to sanctify marriage? You want to honor your God and the universal love you believe he represents? Then Spread happiness—this tiny, symbolic, semantical grain of happiness—share it with all those who seek it. Quote me anything from your religious leader or book of choice telling you to stand against this. And then tell me how you can believe both that statement and another statement, another one which reads only "do unto others as you would have them do unto you."

You are asked now, by your country, and perhaps by your creator, to stand on one side or another. You are asked now to stand, not on a question of politics, not on a question of religion, not on a question of gay or straight. You are asked now to stand, on a question of love. All you need do is stand, and let the tiny ember of love meet its own fate.

You don't have to help it, you don't have it applaud it, you don't have to fight for it. Just don't put it out. Just don't extinguish it. Because while it may at first look like that love is between two people you don't know and you don't understand and maybe you don't even want to know. It is, in fact, the ember of your love, for your fellow person just because this is the only world we have. And the other guy counts, too.

This is the second time in ten days I find myself concluding by turning to, of all things, the closing plea for mercy by Clarence Darrow in a murder trial.

But what he said, fits what is really at the heart of this:

"I was reading last night of the aspiration of the old Persian poet, Omar-Khayyam," he told the judge. It appealed to me as the highest that I can vision. I wish it was in my heart, and I wish it was in the hearts of all: So I be written in the Book of Love; I do not care about that Book above. Erase my name, or write it as you will, So I be written in the Book of Love."

It really was an embarrassing moment when I heard that measure passed. I've written about how people can be a little pessimistic when it comes to government...and that any great achievements stemming from the recent election will take time...but this is really a giant leap backwards. One of the most telling differences about what the definition of freedom is can be seen when it comes to equal rights. In California, proposition is "direct democracy" at work...and that people are free to make the rules, but in Canada, as was seen when the Border Patrol stopped the radical American hate group known as the Westboro Baptist Church; freedom means equal rights. That same group threatened to protest a showing of the Laramie Project in Vancouver...but again did not show. I'm glad they did not make it...but it's awful that anybody would be so filled with hate to even consider it.
Sometimes there is not much you can do about people like that... except to keep them out of your country. That reminds me of something Kurt Vonnegut said
"Laughter and tears are both responses to frustration and exhaustion. I myself prefer to laugh, since there is less cleaning up to do afterward."


And that brings me to another reaction to prejudice and hate:

Americans Abroad: Going to University in Canada

I was just looking at boston.com for some local news, and what do I find but an article about how going to University in Canada is a great idea. It's nice to see in print what I've know for years, that Canadian schools are on par with many American schools as far as quality but much more affordable. They listed a few of Canada's top universities: McGill, St. Mary's, Dalhousie, University of Toronto, and Concordia but left out...let's see...the top three primarily undergraduate Universities in Canada: Acadia, UNBC, and Mount Allison, which has come first place over a dozen times in the survey's 18 year history.

With most Americans I've talked to knowing only McGill, and maybe U of T...Americans should research different Universities before deciding on name alone. Size, especially can make the difference: McGill has 33,000 students and U of T has 70,000. Compare that to the small class sizes available with under 2,300 full-time student at Mount Allison. I don't mean to do the admission's department job for them...but when I read articles like this one...that are about Canadian schools, but leave out some of the best ones, it is worth commenting on.


Canada: passport to higher ed, lower cost

Over the years, Americans have often turned to their Northern neighbor in times of need or convenience, whether to evade the draft or buy prescription drugs. Now, as the US economy heads south, growing ranks of New England students are looking north to Canada as a college destination.

Colleges in eastern Canada report mounting interest this fall among high school seniors from the Northeast, with a recently stronger US dollar making already low tuition costs even more of a bargain for Americans.

Although applications for next academic year are not due for at least a month, schools from Toronto to Halifax say many students in the Boston area and throughout the region are drawn by the allure of an international college experience relatively close to home.

Dalhousie University in Halifax, for instance, said requests for information from New England students have tripled this fall. McGill University in Montreal, where 100 students from Massachusetts enrolled this fall, and the University of Toronto, Canada's largest university, have also seen a new level of interest from across the border.

The number of Americans studying abroad has more than doubled in the past decade, and high school counselors say the influx to Canada reflects a broader trend of students attending foreign universities full time.

Since 2001, the number of American attending college in Canada has risen by 50 percent to about 9,000, according to Canadian Embassy in Washington.

Now, with the greenback packing more punch (as of Tuesday, one US dollar was worth $1.21 Canadian dollars), Americans' dwindling college savings go that much further, said recruiters and guidance counselors.

The Canadian dollar's "decline is unfortunate for us, but good for American students," said Adam Lotesto, a recruitment officer at the University of Toronto. "They can have a great education at a great value."

Because they are publicly funded and heavily subsidized by their government, Canadian universities are generally less expensive than American private schools and some public universities, even for international students who pay more than their Canadian counterparts.

American students can also receive US government-backed loans to attend Canadian colleges and are eligible for merit-based financial aid from the institutions, although public financial aid is restricted to Canadians.

Canadian colleges say they have increased recruiting throughout the region, particularly in the Boston suburbs, to build upon rising demand. Dalhousie University has doubled its number of high school visits and college fairs in New England in the past two years, and earlier this month, the Canadian Consulate in Boston held its first college fair, drawing scores of families and school counselors.

"Students are willing to look more broadly geographically," said Brad MacGowan, a college counselor at Newton North High School, which has sent 10 students to McGill in the past three years. "And Canadian colleges are looking for them."

The Canadian Consulate has been hosting meetings between college recruiters and high school counselors for years.

The colleges say the increased interest owes as much to their strong academic reputations, diverse student bodies, and settings in attractive cities such as Toronto, Montreal, and Halifax as cost. American students had been applying to Canadian colleges in greater numbers for several years, even when the weak American dollar drove up tuition costs before its reversal, they note.

But this fall, economic concerns have assumed a renewed prominence.

"The big piece is the cost," said Chuck Bridges, vice president of external affairs at St. Mary's University in Halifax, which charges about $16,450 tuition in US currency. "We figure it's roughly half the cost of a comparable university in New England."

Average tuition and fees for full-time undergraduate international students are $14,487, according to government statistics, far less than for many US private four-year schools and some public research universities. Canadians pay substantially less - sometimes a small fraction - than foreign students, giving universities a strong incentive to recruit internationally.

For Ian Sandler, a senior at Brookline High School who is applying to McGill, the prospect of attending a renowned university at a discounted price is enticing.

"With the current economic situation, it's definitely in the back of my mind," he said.

But just as important, he said, are McGill's academic strengths, its size - about 24,000 undergraduates - and location in Montreal, a cosmopolitan yet highly livable city.

That's also the sales pitch at McGill's rival, the University of Toronto. Rob Steiner, the university's assistant vice president for strategic communications, said the school and the city offer vast cultural diversity for students eager for a cosmopolitan environment in their native language, relatively close to home.

"An hour away from Mom and Dad but a fundamentally different setting," he said.

For most students, Canada more readily conjures images of caribou and frozen tundra than bright lights and big cities. College counselors say few students suggest Canadian schools at the start and often greet the idea with frowns and furrowed brows. Yet in a chilly economy, they are warming up to the idea.

"Students don't usually come in and say, 'I want to go to Canada,' " said Joan Casey, a Brookline education consultant. "But then they hear about the cost and think: '$18,000 for everything? That's pretty amazing.' "

Counselors said students are also drawn to a simple admission process at Canadian schools, which rarely includes an interview or essay, and relaxed admission standards compared with selective US colleges. Facing far less competition, students with so-so grades and SAT scores can land at a better school than they would otherwise, counselors say.

"It's pretty tough for an American student with that kind of profile to get into an urban university at that price and caliber," Casey said of top Canadian schools.

Emily Acevedo, a senior at Brookline High School, has set her sights on Concordia University, a 45,000-student college in Montreal. She initially visited schools in North Carolina and Virginia, but found their college towns too small and confining.

She loves the idea of studying in an exciting place she's never been, and her parents love the Canadian cost. Off went the application a few days ago.

"Extra stamps and all," she said.

Thinking of a New Year

A little reflection a few days before the new year:The new year is looking better already.

December 23, 2008

Thomas d’Aquino on Canadian-American Relations

Speaking of Canadian-American relations, below is a recent article to president Bush by Thomas d'Aquino. In it he describes how the US and Canada are "bound together not merely by geography and history, but by common values of freedom, democracy and self-determination — the belief that individual men and women should be entitled to achieve to the fullest of their potential, regardless of the circumstances of their birth or position."

While that last sentence seems incredibly corny, I tend to agree with most of what he said in the rest of his article, especially about joint American-Canadian security. But d'Aquino has been criticized in the past for his environmental policies. One section of what he said I do have a problem is where he said:
Prime Minister Stephen Harper has signalled his desire to help forge a common North American climate change policy that would bring down emissions of greenhouse gases without further damaging an already fragile continental economy. Canada, home to the world’s second-largest oil reserves, can also play an important role in strengthening American energy security and reducing your country’s dependence on hostile oil-exporting regimes.
I really am not sure how the environmentally-unfriendly and unsustainable Oil Sands in Alberta will mix with Obama's policy of investing in clean, renewable energy resources.

From a recent mayors' conference:
"... the production of tar sands oil from Canada emits approximately three times the carbon dioxide pollution per barrel as does conventional oil production and significantly damages Canada's Boreal forest ecosystem - the world's largest carbon storehouse ..."

Althought I really don't see how the oil sands would fit into the larger environmental and economic vision of the Obama administration, but I am hoping for greater US-Canadian cooperation when it comes security and trade.

Thomas d’Aquino: You've got a friend
Posted: November 19, 2008, 7:28 PM by NP Editor

The following is an open letter from Thomas d’Aquino to the soon-to-be 44th president of the United States

By Thomas d’Aquino

Dear President-Elect Obama,

In exactly two months from today, you will stand on the steps of the United States Capitol and take the oath of office to become your country’s 44th president. Countless millions around the world will celebrate your inauguration, yet it is doubtful that you will have much time to savour the occasion. Rarely in recent history has an incoming administration inherited such seismic challenges: the global financial crisis, economic gloom and the threat of protectionism, two wars, international terrorism and the risk of global climate change, to name only a few.

Fortunately, you and the American people do not confront these daunting challenges alone. Everywhere, friends and allies of the United States are committed to helping in the task of restoring prosperity and promoting the cause of peace.Let there be no doubt: the world needs a strong, united and confident America.

Perhaps nowhere else on earth is the American Dream better understood than in Canada. Our people are bound together not merely by geography and history, but by common values of freedom, democracy and self-determination — the belief that individual men and women should be entitled to achieve to the fullest of their potential, regardless of the circumstances of their birth or position.

Canadians and Americans are cousins, figuratively and in many cases literally. We are also friends, colleagues, co-workers, customers and business partners. Millions of jobs depend on the goods and services that flow back and forth across our shared frontier every hour of every day. Cross-border investment and trade enable millions of American and Canadian families to put food on the table, to finance their children’s education, to pursue a better life for themselves and future generations.

In your election night victory speech, you spoke of the need, in the months and years ahead, to restore economic growth, put people back to work and open doors of opportunity. You spoke of America’s determination to defeat those who would tear the world down, and support those who seek peace and security.

Canadians share those goals and will actively support you in those objectives.

Since 2001, Canadian soldiers, aid workers and medical personnel have been in Afghanistan to help Afghans rebuild their country as a stable, democratic and self-sufficient society. Canada, with 2,500 troops on the ground, has suffered disproportionate fatalities. Our federal government has stated its intention to end Canada’s military role in Afghanistan in 2011, but our commitment to combating extremism is unshakeable. Among other measures, Canada will continue to help train Afghan military and police, strengthen democratic institutions and supply humanitarian aid. As you have made clear, the solution in Afghanistan is not just military — it is political and economic.

Like you, Canadians believe that closer multilateral co-operation is essential to achieving enhanced international security, prosperity, humanitarian rights and environmental protection. Now more than ever, it is vital that we take down walls and build bridges among nations, on issues ranging from climate change and international trade to the regulation of financial markets and the protection of consumer health and safety.

None of this will be easy, but in a number of areas there is good reason for optimism. Already, Prime Minister Stephen Harper has signalled his desire to help forge a common North American climate change policy that would bring down emissions of greenhouse gases without further damaging an already fragile continental economy. Canada, home to the world’s second-largest oil reserves, can also play an important role in strengthening American energy security and reducing your country’s dependence on hostile oil-exporting regimes. There is clear potential for our two countries to work more closely in expanding resource production and the infrastructure needed to move resources from remote areas to the industrial heartland.

Cross-border co-operation also will be critical in responding to the current financial crisis. Canada and the United States are each other’s most important economic partners and we must make every possible effort to work together to restore confidence, encourage investment and create opportunities for future growth.

Fortunately, there is much that we can and should do to ensure that our economies and our societies emerge stronger than ever from the current downturn. Workers and enterprises in both our countries depend on the smooth flow of goods, services and people across the Canada-United States border. To enhance their ability to compete globally, we need to recapture the co-operative spirit, momentum and sense of urgency that guided the initial work of the Smart Border initiatives in the wake of the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. At the same time, closer bilateral regulatory co-operation would reduce costs and delays for shippers and enable governments to focus scarce resources on more urgent issues of security.

Above all, the United States and Canada must be vigilant in resisting the siren call of protectionism. Open markets and open trade have always been vital to the health of our economies, and history shows the folly of responding to a slowing economy by raising barriers to the free flow of goods and services. By improving continental co-operation, our two countries can set a positive example at a time when multilateral progress under the World Trade Organization is stalled.

Canada and the United States are neighbours, friends, partners and allies. We have shown an impressive ability over the years to work together in ways that have strengthened our societies and produced tangible benefits for our people. As you prepare to take office, we hope that you will seize the opportunity to build on this proud record and help shape an even stronger Canada-United States relationship that will once again be a model for the world.

Financial Post
is chief executive and president of the Canadian Council of Chief Executives and chair of the Canadian Secretariat to the North American Competitiveness Council.

Photo: Jason Reed / Reuters


Boston Revisited

I got back to Boston a few days ago...it's a really beautiful city. While it's been nice to have some time off of classes and studying, I've been missing my friends lately...they've all gone home too...except one international student staying on campus for the break. After four months of spending all my time less than a minute away from my best friends to being 920 kilometres away from anybody but family it was a little tough.

As I said before...I've only lived in Boston for about a week before I got back. It's a great city...but it felt a little strange...like I was just a tourist. (Side note: Locals will know you're not from Boston if you follow the cross-walk signals.)


Today I had the chance to walk around the city a bit and took some pictures...some of them re-makes of earlier ones plus a little snow. Despite all of the noise and lack of working cross-walk signals it was really nice. I'm getting a bit more used to the idea of spending the summer here. It'll be yet another opportunity to start over in a new city with new people and then move on.

I got around to finishing my holiday (come get me Bill O'Reilly) shopping and applied for my passport, which is required to cross into the US land border crossings starting this summer.

Assuming all goes as planned I'll be posting a lot more about Boston in about four months. Once I get all of my grades back I'll be writing a little retrospective about my first semester classes. But for now take a look at a few pictures of Boston:













Visiting Mount Allison

As it gets closer and closer to the new year I'm reminded of when I first visited Mount Allison in February. I know I've talked about it before...but as it's getting closer and closer to admissions deadlines...if you've given any thought to Mount Allison and you're not sure about it, you can schedule a visit very easily. When I visited we got caught in a blizzard..and it was freezing cold the entire time...and most people were smart enough to stay indoors...but walking around campus it was really worth it. To be able to see where I might be living was great...and really reassured me I'd be happy there.

And again, if you have any questions or comments please feel free to post them by clicking on the comments link below.

Ghost Bees at Struts

In my last few days in Sackville before I came back to Boston for Christmas I went to a small performance at the Struts (Sackville's Artist-Run Art Gallery) and saw the interesting artwork they have up followed by a few warm up artists (part-time garage band type groups) followed by a duo that more than made up for the earlier acts. Ghost Bees was an amazing end to the night. (There a lot of great bands from Canada...and I'll be posting about some of my favourites soon. For now there is the playlist to the right.) From CBC Radio 3:

Ghost Bees’ are twin sisters Romy and Sari Lightman, and Amber Phelps Bonderoff. Over antique mandolin, guitar, and violist accompaniment, Ghost Bees’ weave delicate harmonies, dispensing dramatic tales and sorrowful lament like a two headed balladeer
In the formative stages of thier career, Ghost Bees have already embarked upon two cross-Canada tours, as well as performances in New York, New Orleans, LA, San Francisco, and various cities throughout the California Coast. In November 2006, Ghost Bees released a self titled EP, selling nearly 1000 hand-made copies of the album at live performances.

In April 2008, the band will release their debut album, Tasseomancy. Recorded and produced by YouthClub Records coordinator, Andy March (Museum Pieces), Tasseomancy is a collection of songs imparting tales of past empires and great great ancestry; fabled figures and forgotten woe, with vocals appendage together like bones. The sisters’ literary tales emit a sense of mesmerizing fantasy and nostalgia, resurrecting the experience of their birth in Sinai and the terror of the Pol Pot Regime in Tear Tassle Ogre Heart. The whimsical melody in Vampires of the West Coast illustrates the sisters’ ability to erect dark inventive landscapes within the mundane. Ghost Bees’ lyrics address the perils of the bleak and frightening and create delicate and chimerical songs that are overwrought with intensity and intuitive harmonies that are eerily unusual and equally as captivating. Ghost Bees create their music within the majestic hearth of Halifax, Nova Scotia

"As duo Ghost Bees, twin sisters Romy and Sari Lightman make music snuggled between slumber and waking state - a still, peaceful, little disorienting and slightly strange place". - the coast
Sinai was their opening song:





December 22, 2008

The Canadian Invasion

Speaking of border crossing and national security. I just stumbled
acrossa couple pretty funny videos parodying the Department of
Homeland Security's over-zealousness...along with a few jabs at Canada:






To be serious for a minute there are also new border crossing
requirements that Canadians and Americans should be aware of:

The Department of State recommends that travelers apply now
for travel documents that will be required at all land or sea border
entry points as of June 1, 2009. On that date, under the Western
Hemisphere Travel Initiative (WHTI) U.S. citizens will be required
to present a government-approved document that denotes both
citizenship and identity when entering the United States.

With few exceptions, Canadians and Americans will need a
passport or enhanceddriver's license to cross the border
beginning June 1, 2009. The State Department even set
up a flash website devoted to clearly explaining the new changes:
http://www.getyouhome.gov/

"Homeland Security"

A few weeks ago, as I was checking out what the
other Mount Allison Bloggers were writing about,
I came across a
little snippet about Jerilea Zempel.
Apparently over the summer she created an 'artistic
exhibit'consisting of a black SUV covered in yarn on
the University's Swan Pond.


Jerilea Zempel - c. SCS
It was originally described as an exhibit transforming "an oversized, macho, gas-guzzling vehicle into a technological ghost by shrouding it a white, fuzzy cover, reminiscent of women’s handwork from another time, another place."

However, after being stopped at the border she was pulled aside and her car was searched and she was questioned, and she was finally welcomed to the US, she responded “US..SR,” under her breath, and "At that moment the car cozy in Sackville took on a new absurd and infuriating meaning: it was my Homeland Security Blanket."

Somehow the Colbert Report picked up n the "story" and had a short segment about it. Because of a recent deal between CTV owned-Comedy Network and Comedy Central, you can't access videos from the Comedy Central website from Canada or access Comedy Network website from the US. So here is the link to the video in Canada (which doesn't offer an embed option) and below is the video for people in the US:

Her story is a bit more about overzealous border guards
than "Homeland Security" It's certainly not as alarming
as stories detailing new, expanded authority given to
border guards allowing them to
"copy books, documents,
and the data on laptops and other electronic devices
without suspecting a traveler of wrongdoing" and to stop,
search, and
detain anybody they want without probable
cause within 100 miles of the border. There have been a
lot of measures that intrude on personal privacy and the
Constitution...but this one seems to cross the leap cross
over the line bit too far.

I understand how it is important to be able to set up
checkpoints past the physical border, but in practice
is far too widespread to be limited to legitimate
national security concerns, as internal security is not
the job of the border guards.