Jan 30, 2010
You might have noticed something about my site has changed
On January 29, 2010, Amazon.com removed all my books from sale on their online store. I wasn't singled out for persecution; all of my peers who publish at Tor Books, and indeed all authors associated with MacMillan Publishing, had their Amazon.com pages killed. (You can still see the pages, but you can't buy anything.)
Up until yesterday, I linked from this website to Amazon, as a matter of convenience for fans who might want to buy my books after browsing these pages. Granted the sheer arbitrariness, pettiness, and anticompetitive nature of the sudden price war between Amazon and MacMillan, I have removed all purchasing links to Amazon from my site, and will not be re-linking even if they restore the frozen pages.
This type of action holds authors and readers hostage to a commercial war between publishing giants. It puts a lie to the idea that we can choose where to buy books in a free marketplace, because this kind of strong-arm tactic is likely just the beginning. Things are turning nasty in the book world, and it's authors and readers who stand to lose the most.
Dec 04, 2009
Here's just one example of how a sophisticated propaganda campaign aims to derail Copenhagen
Passed on for your consideration, an excellent analysis of the latest propaganda piece to hit the climate debate: the so-called "Story of Cap-and-Trade" video on YouTube. Now, triangulate that with this recent study by the Center for Public Integrity.
It's hysterically funny that some people think climate scientists are involved in a conspiracy to trump up global warming; if they are, they're doing so for free and at risk of their careers and reputations. One can only admire evil conspirators who work so selflessly for... what kind of gain, exactly? On the other hand, the motives of the people with the fossil fuel money are very clear, as is the paper trail that leads from them to many of the same lobbying agencies that the tobacco companies used to try to keep us smoking. But... nah... it couldn't be them that're lying... could it?
(Oh, and if you're confused about who to believe, how about Scientific American? They have an excellent article on which climate-change denial arguments are bogus, and why.) An excerpt:
Claim 5: Climatologists conspire to hide the truth about global warming by locking away their data. Their so-called "consensus" on global warming is scientifically irrelevant because science isn't settled by popularity. It is virtually impossible to disprove accusations of giant global conspiracies to those already convinced of them (can anyone prove that the Freemasons and the Roswell aliens aren't involved, too?). Let it therefore be noted that the magnitude of this hypothetical conspiracy would need to encompass many thousands of uncontroversial publications and respected scientists from around the world, stretching back through Arrhenius and Tyndall for almost 150 years. (See this feature on “Carbon Dioxide and Climate,” by Gilbert N. Plass, from Scientific American in July 1959.) It is also one so powerful that it has co-opted the official positions of dozens of scientific organizations including the U.S. National Academy of Sciences, the Royal Society, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the American Geophysical Union, the American Institute of Physics and the American Meteorological Society.
Claim 5: Climatologists conspire to hide the truth about global warming by locking away their data. Their so-called "consensus" on global warming is scientifically irrelevant because science isn't settled by popularity.
It is virtually impossible to disprove accusations of giant global conspiracies to those already convinced of them (can anyone prove that the Freemasons and the Roswell aliens aren't involved, too?). Let it therefore be noted that the magnitude of this hypothetical conspiracy would need to encompass many thousands of uncontroversial publications and respected scientists from around the world, stretching back through Arrhenius and Tyndall for almost 150 years. (See this feature on “Carbon Dioxide and Climate,” by Gilbert N. Plass, from Scientific American in July 1959.) It is also one so powerful that it has co-opted the official positions of dozens of scientific organizations including the U.S. National Academy of Sciences, the Royal Society, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the American Geophysical Union, the American Institute of Physics and the American Meteorological Society.
Oct 04, 2009
Access is an issue, but it's a geographic one. I was lucky I live in Toronto
In July 2008 I learned I would have to have heart surgery to replace my defective ascending aorta. Since I also had a bicuspid heart valve, my surgeon and I discussed whether to replace that at the same time. This conversation did not involve money, because money wasn't a consideration for either of us. Neither my insurance company nor any level of government were even consulted, because it was a matter between my doctor and me.
We decided to leave the valve where it was, for now. I got to set the date of the surgery, and with some irony decided on the day after my birthday: September 5. The surgery would happen at Sunnybrook Hospital in Toronto. (Sunnybrook is a teaching hospital and research center, but because there's only a single tier of health care in Canada, everybody in the community has equal access to it, regardless of their demographic. My GP is at Sunnybrook, but I needed no particular privilege to get her.)
At this point, all sorts of things were set in motion, but all I had to worry about was keeping in good physical shape, not getting sick--and banking blood. This last activity is an option for major surgery, where you may go through many units while on the table. What you do is donate to yourself ahead of time. So, on two occasions prior to the surgery, I went downtown to the blood bank to get drained. The procedure was, of course, to flash my OHIP card and then fill out a form; and then to get hooked up.
Having already been entered into the system, the process on the day of the surgery was even simpler: I just showed up, lay down on a gurney, and was taken to the OR.
--Actually, that's not quite true. I had to sign a waiver: $3.00 for the use of the phone next to my bed, once I got up to the recovery ward.
Having a so-so time
The surgery went really well--five hours in a cradle of crushed ice, with no pulse and my chest splayed open. It was afterwards that things got a little dicey.
My heart wouldn't settle down. Rhythm problems afflict about a third of heart surgery patients, so it wasn't at all surprising--to them. To me, though, the next ten days were hellish, because with my heart popping into atrial fibrillation at the least provocation, I couldn't even get out of bed. The first few times it happened, they cardioverted me (which is to say, they put the paddles on me and stopped/started my heart). After the third time, they decided something a little gentler was called for, and put me on a drug called amiodarone.
Amiodarone is sometimes called "the devil's anti-arrhythmic" because it's incredibly effective--and has incredible side effects. --Side effects like crystallization of the corneas, and stiffening of the lungs. For the first three days I was on it I threw up constantly. To cope with that, they fed me a cocktail of other drugs with exotic names.
All told I spent eleven days in hospital--six more than usual. Normally they kick you out less than a week after the surgery. Normally, they don't ply you with all the drugs I ended up taking. But, because I had my surgery in a public system, the extra time and the cost of those drugs weren't factors in anybody's decision-making. I got the care I needed, and when I did go home I was ready for it.
I was also, by the way, in a semi-private ward, meaning I shared a room with two other guys. We had physios, TV, 24-hour nursing care (of course), and utterly abysmal food that was the only element of the system prepared by a private company. (They should be shot for giving nauseated heart patients meals consisting of two slabs of white bread with a dry piece of turkey breast between them; my wife snuck in rich pate-and-crackers, and fresh raspberrries--high-iron foods, both.) I'd brought in my iPod and a portable DVD player, and watched many episodes of Avatar: The Last Airbender while waiting for my heart to settle down.
All this did end up costing us; aside from the $3 waiver, there was about $100 in parking that my wife paid for. For everything else, however, economic considerations were simply not a factor; nor was access.
Then I got home, and had to face six months of recovery. Luckily, a system was in place to help me with that, too.
Sep 26, 2009
Peter Jones, one of my teachers at OCAD, alerted us today to a new innovation strategy just announced for the U.S. by President Obama. From the press release:
The mission of the Office of Innovation and Entrepreneurship is to unleash and maximize the economic potential of new ideas by removing barriers to entrepreneurship and the development of high-growth and innovation-based businesses. The office will report directly to Locke and focus specifically on identifying issues and programs most important to entrepreneurs. Working closely with the White House and other federal agencies, this new office will drive policies that help entrepreneurs translate new ideas, products and services into economic growth. The office will focus on the following areas:
* Encouraging Entrepreneurs through Education, Training, and Mentoring
* Improving Access to Capital
* Accelerating Technology Commercialization of Federal R&D
* Strengthening Interagency Collaboration and Coordination
* Providing Data, Research, and Technical Resources for Entrepreneurs
* Exploring Policy Incentives to Support Entrepreneurs and Investors
Not very many years ago, Canada's federal government was funding foresight exercises into subjects such as the future of health care and national security. Under the conservatives, these initiatives have dried up (along with so much else). Where's Canada in the new economy of the 21st century?
Sep 17, 2009
First in a series to counter the lies and confusion spread last summer about Canadian health care
I carry my Ontario health card (OHIP card) in a plastic sheath in my wallet because it's falling apart. I've had it for twenty-five years, ever since I moved from Manitoba to Ontario. Previously, I had never bothered to sign up with the health plan in whatever province I was living in; heck, I was young, and I would get treated anywhere anyway on the basis of my Manitoban origin.
Since I suspected I was settling in Ontario for a long time, I put in the extra effort to stand in line for a few minutes and get the card. Modern cards have a photo and stuff, but this one, which is still good, just has my name and number. It's all I've ever had to show in a hospital or clinic.
About ten years ago, I started having palpitations. (Incidentally, they followed a particularly nasty bout of the flu--which, however, bad, still wasn't as bad as the Swine flu is reputed to be; so get your vaccinations, please.) I was working downtown, nowhere near my doctor of the time; so, like any Canadian in trouble, when I had an episode, I went to the nearest emergency ward. I walked in, flashed my card, and was put through triage.
The reason this is significant is that my heart kept popping back into normal mode before they could get the leads on me to find out what was happening. So I kept going in; somebody suggested I wear a halter monitor, but we caught up to the problem before I had to. In any case, I never had any financial hesitation about visiting the ER because, as a Canadian, the very idea of any financial calculation being involved in such a decision is foreign to me, and repugnant. Nor did I ever have to do anything but flash my card at the door as I came in. No papers to sign. No waiver to pay. (If there are cashiers at Canadian hospitals I've never seen one, and I don't know where they're located.)
So, here's the essence of the great Orwellian big-brother health care system we live under: my card is ancient, cracked and falling apart, and doesn't even have my picture on it. Every now and then, I wave it at somebody in a pro forma sort of way. Something bureaucratic happens when I do this, but I don't know what it is and don't care; and if I didn't have a card something else bureaucratic would happen that I similarly don't need to care about. No agency of the government has ever interceded in my life regarding my health care; I've never been told nor asked by any government entity to take any test or have any treatment. My health is a matter entirely between me and my doctors and no one else has any say in it.
Health care, in Canada, is you and your doctor. It's nobody else's business; and that little card has no sinister government apparatus behind it. All it does, as far as I know, is keep things between you and your doctor.
Which is what the government should do about your health.
Dec 02, 2008
We're fighting for fair copyright laws. This film shows how
Canada is fighting its own copyfight these days, with proposed legislation that would be worse than the copyright provisions now in place in the States. Michael Geist has been leading the fight against such changes, and now he's co-produced a film that examines how Canadians feel about copyright. Geist produced the film with Daniel Albahary, and it asks Canadians the question - "why copyright?" You can watch it at Geist's website, here.