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The Saxby Blog



Thoughts on media, culture, society and business



Updated: 2009-04-04T09:28:24.075-05:00

 



Get your Saxby fix over at www.apt613.ca

2009-02-16T13:20:30.370-06:00

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Hey there loyal readers! Ok... reader? maybe? Anyhow, my blogging focus has been elsewhere of late working on the much more interesting Apartment613 site. A small group of Ottawa-based folks are working on digging up interesting events and stories to post. If you are looking for more of the interesting prose you've come to expect from the Saxby Blog - you're best bet is to subscribe to www.apt613.ca. Comments welcome!



Interview with rob mclennan of the Ottawa Small Press Book Fair

2008-11-13T10:57:07.116-06:00

For those of you on one-hundred mile diets, you might want to think about getting some literature in your system. This weekend marks the fourteenth anniversary edition of the Ottawa Small Press Book Fair – proving that you can in fact buy-local when it comes to books. The event takes place on Saturday from noon-five at the Jack Purcel Community Centre on Elgin Street. To find out what the event was all about The Saxby Blog got in touch with rob mcLennan, who runs the fair, with a couple of questions. saxby: How would you characterize the local press scene in Ottawa?rm: I would characterize it as pretty interesting. I mean, we’ve been running a small press book fair since 1994, so there must be enough publishing happening in Ottawa to keep it going. The range of materials go from literary trade publishers such as Penumbra Press and Buschek Books to chapbook publishers such as Dusty Owl Press, Bywords Quarterly Journal and above/ground press, to smaller publishing enterprises, including Max Middle’s Griddle Grin publications and jwcurry’s Room 302 Books. I’ve always enjoyed the range.saxby: How did the small press book fair get started? What role or need to you see the fair meeting?rm: The fair started when I thought we should start one, and my friend James Spyker agreed, so we started it, with the first fair being held in October 1994. After the first fair he moved to Toronto, so I’ve been doing it by myself twice a year since. I see the fair as allowing publishers and publications to not only be introduced to each other, but introduced to the community at large. So many of these publications were hidden in random bookstores, certainly never in one central place, and certainly never talked about, so they appeared to be completely invisible to most of the community. I was enormously frustrated by that, considering a city like Toronto with such a strong small press community, or even The Word Bookstore in Montreal being such a central hub of literary publishing in that city. Why couldn’t we acknowledge that we already had the same, and then work to build on it?saxby: What is your background? How did you get involved in the small press book fair?rm: My background? I stared writing poetry and fiction in high school, started making chapbooks in 1991 or so, started above/ground press officially in August 1993, and had already been organizing readings around town here and there for a little bit by then. The small press book fair just seemed the next logical step, you know? And I’d already been reviewing for a year or three as well, starting in with the weekly Ottawa X-Press in the middle of 19994 as well, writing a weekly column of book reviews. I did that for about four and a half years. I knew about the Toronto Small Press Fair, so why not one of ours?saxby: Any local authors or publishers you would like to plug?rm: All sorts! There are always too many to mention in one place and at one time, but what about Marcus McCann, Shane Rhodes, Amanda Earl, Pearl Pirie, The Puritan, Mark Frutkin, Clare Latremouille, Andrew Steinmetz, ottawater, Christine McNair, Nina Berkhout, Roland Prevost, Michael Blouin, Colin Morton, Matthew Firth, John Metcalf, Charlotte Gray, Ritalin, Ottawa Arts Journal, Cameron Anstee, Jennifer Mulligan, Emily Falvey, Arc Poetry Magazine, Gwendolyn Guth, John Lavery, Monty Reid, Rhonda Douglas, The Peter F. Yacht Club, Chaudiere Books, In/Words, Elizabeth Hay, Elisabeth Harvor, Sandra Ridley, Stephen Brockwell, Armand Ruffo, Wes Smiderle, as well as what I have already mentioned in earlier questions?saxby: Anything else of interest?rm: All sorts of things there as well. The Ottawa International Writers Festival is perhaps the best thing to happen to Ottawa literature in decades. We have some of the best national and international writing going on in this city of ours, so why is it we have the worst per-capita city arts funding in all of Canada? And why, even now, do we hear the threats of further cuts? Perhaps I should have stayed in Alberta. You can get[...]



If You Want to Read This the Saxby Blog Needs Some Photo ID

2008-11-12T22:06:57.506-06:00

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What’s the best way to ensure that no real change occurs in our political system? Ensure that no one with any real grievances against the system gets to vote, or at least make it as complicated as possible.

Elections Canada has introduced new guidelines that required that voters present a photo ID that included a current mailing address or a piece of official mail combined with photo ID.

The night of the election, Elizabeth May mentioned her fear that the homeless and transient might not meet the needed requirements, as they are unlikely to have up to date identification or get utility bills regularly. Students, anyone who just moved in the riding or folks who might be a little disorganized are likely going to have trouble.

Perhaps the greatest problem was that the first I heard of the new rules (at least the first I remember hearing about it) was on the radio the morning of the election. With record low voter turnout, perhaps now is not the time to make voting more burdensome. Getting people to the polls seems hard enough, we can’t be turning them away and sending them home to collect photo ID and utility bills. If this is an unavoidable precaution, we need an explanation why and a solid campaign to ensure that people know that they won’t be able to vote without it.

I’m not sure what needs to be done here – but I do think that it needs to be communicated quite a bit better. Take a look at the new rules and spread the word for next time (it’s perhaps not that far off).

I couldn’t actually even find anything simple on Elections Canada’s website to describe the new rules. They did apparently send this flyer out – but I don’t seem to remember getting one.

Here’s the legislation from the Library of Parliament, that should clear any confusion up!

Photo Credit: D'Arcy Norman




The Saxby Blog Presents Bizarro Cultural Moment: Japanese Edition

2008-10-16T08:00:01.862-05:00

(image) I recently went to visit my sister in Japan (something that perhaps warrants more of a blog post than this… perhaps next time). There was an article in the Japan Times about a worker at Toyota who had died from over work. He apparently dropped dead after working a crazy amount of overtime (mostly unpaid).

What I found most bizarre about this was that the Japanese have a word specifically for this phenomenon: “Karōshi.” In my thinking, once you need a word for this specifically, it’s time to rethink a culture’s work-life balance.

I like to think of myself as hardworking, but by Japanese standards I’m probably pretty sedentary – what with taking time to sleep and all.

In Japan there is even a formal system for compensating the families of those who work themselves to death. It’s funded by companies, and pays out a portion of lost wages to the family.

The Japan Times points to the increasing use of temporary employees, who are generally lower-paid and have little job security as a factor driving up work stress in the country (and at Toyota specifically).

I think that this is some kind of warning… Toyota employees are perhaps a sort of capitalist canary in the mineshaft. They are telling us that we need to slow down, pay people what they are worth and let them live meaningful lives.

This is obviously not just a Japanese phenomenon. Lots of workers in lots of places are victimized, threatened and under-valued. I just hope that I don’t need to use the word Karoshi ever in my own career.




Word of Mouth Marketing Meets Thirsty Localvores

2008-10-10T14:21:16.196-05:00

A couple of ideas got mixed up in my mind last week and I think that something interesting perhaps came out: I heard a piece on television on word-of-mouth marketing, where an expert of some kind was talking about how to get people talking about brands and services. I wasn’t really listening that closely, but I do remember the example that he talked about was an airline that gave free massages to passengers in first class – the thinking being that whenever they got to the meeting, conference or wedding that they are flying to, they won’t be able to stop talking about the great experience they just had. Word-of-mouth references mean a lot to us and can drive significant amounts of business – which is perhaps sort of obvious. I’ve been reading Deep Economy by Bill McKibben, which discusses the need to refocus on local economic systems and start to buy stuff from people we know and who live closer to us. The thinking being that money spent locally circulates within our local economy creating more vibrant economic opportunities for us closer to home. Again - sort of obvious. The connection that I'm making here, which also might be quite obvious, is that local economies make for good stories – meaning that they should be easy to market by “word of mouth.” I’ve been buying wine from Sandbanks Winery in Price Edward County for two years now and I’ve told the story of visiting the winery, tasting it there and meeting the wine-maker with almost everyone who I’ve shared a bottle with. I even once drank a bottle of the wine while camping within a few miles of the winery – which must warrant some kind of 100 mile diet merit badge. Not to use too many booze examples, but the same is happening all over the place for Beau’s Brewery in Vankleek Hill. People visit the brewery, taste the beer and then talk about the experience when the order pints of it at Ottawa pubs. Molson would have to hire a lot of “word of mouth” marketers to get that kind of discussion (wait for it…) brewing. Local producers seem to be doing a good job of creating stories and genuine experiences for their customers. Big companies are trying to cash-in on the same phenomenon though artificially constructing these experiences for us (the stupid Red Bull Flugtag comes to mind). I know which I prefer. We should buy more stuff from people we know and that we can experience fully. We should try not to fall for the constructed version of "experience" offered by big box “main streets” and canned promotional events that leave us wanting something more. [...]



Facing foreclosure from loyal readers, the Saxby Blog ventures comment on the current economic crisis

2008-10-09T00:00:56.059-05:00

I’ve been thinking a bit lately about whether I should be supportive of the Wall Street bailout (not that my support really matters in this case, but regardless...). I’ve discovered that I really have no clue. I really tried – but wow stuff is really hard.On the surface, bailing out a (seemingly) corrupt banking sector for loosing a bunch of money on risky loans seems nuts. If I don’t keep the student loan payments flowing I get screwed by the bank. Why the double standard for the investment banks? Shouldn’t we let them fall if they can’t compete under these market conditions? Isn’t that what they would do to us? The scope of the current crisis makes this a lot more complicated. Pretty much anyone without a pension holds some kind of mutual fund, and it looks like this crisis is slaughtering the value of those assets, perhaps putting people’s retirement at risk. It seems naive to assume that we can let the infrastructure of our financial system crumble, while still relying on it to fund our golden years. In the end, I have no idea of how bad things really are. I don’t really trust the guys who are poised to take in the 700 billion bailout to tell me, and just about every politician seems to be trying to use this for their own political gain – so they really can’t be trusted either. Is this really going to crush my parent’s pension plan and keep people in the office for another ten years? It seems that this one got past the financial press too. We’ve got some smart folks writing a lot of column inches about the intricacies of deals and the ups and down of the market each day – but it seems that overall we were slow to piece together the parts of this crisis until things were crashing. Can we hold CNN responsible here for not pointing out the risks behind mortgage-backed securities? Earlier today I listened to This American Life’s attempt to explain the crisis in plain language and they did a great job, but they still spent an hour on basic finance 101 in order to get us up to speed with what was going on. I’m realizing that my entire opinion on these issues is really based on “experts” and pundits speaking in the press. When things get complicated we need to get help understanding them. I think part of the problem is that there are so few people who really knew what was going on, and most of them were making piles of money on the system. We also don’t really have a popular media vehicle that can communicate complicated information like this to the public. Normally we don’t need to care – we have regulators out there looking after this stuff. But now American’s hard earned tax dollars (and soon perhaps our Canadian tax dollars too) are being used to fix a problem that none of us really get. That’s kind of messed up right?Perhaps I can be comfortable blaming Wall Street, while at the same time recognizing the need to cover for their mistakes.H/T: The Inside PR podcast got me thinking about some of this stuff today - interesting discussionPhoto Credit: epicharmus[...]



The Saxby Blog Presents Bizzaro Culture Moment: Now Guilt Free with Only 100 Calories

2008-12-10T23:01:57.552-06:00

(image) It’s great that the industrial food production machine has finally come up with a way to rid our culture of our incessant gluttony by packaging things for us in convenient 100 calorie portions. I had a double take at the grocery store the other day when I noticed the there are now 100 calorie granola bars on the market. In inspecting the package for both the 100 calorie version and the regular version I was again astounded to realize that the regular size granola bars of the same brand only have 140 calories.

Not being that big to begin with, the 100 calorie version we can assume would have about what - one whole less bite of granola? When we are making healthy purchase decisions based on limiting our granola intake I start to wonder. When we are buying a specific package of granola bars to limit our intake of one bite of granola I really start to worry.

Can our consumer culture really have gotten this off-track? Have granola bars now gotten so good that we can’t help but gorging ourselves on the entire full-unit sized bars?

When healthy eating means buying more processed crap in smaller sizes or pumping ourselves full of the chemicals in diet food, I can’t help but wonder if we’ll ever really get it. Obesity is a problem. Most people eat too many calories. People eat crap all the time that they think is good for them. Limiting our granola bar intake to 100 calories is part of the problem, not the solution.




The CBC Prices Their Own Brand Out of Reach

2008-12-10T23:01:57.758-06:00

(image) Big news this past week – CTV scored the rights to the most recognizable anthem in Canada – the theme from CBC’s Hockey Night in Canada.

From the news reports, it looks like CTV is planning on using the song during broadcasts on TSN. A couple complications surface here. This theme song seems so wrapped up in the brand of Hockey Night in Canada, that another network won’t easily be able to re-purpose it. Keeping it tied to sports content might make this easier – but I can’t imagine that in listening to the tune on TSN, viewers will be reminded of much more than to tune into CBC that Saturday.

The CBC invested a lot in the brand of Hockey Night in Canada and used this theme song as a core part of that. Their success with the show, and the brand more generally, is placing some of the content outside of their price range.

when engaging external assets for their development, there seems to be a liability faced by brands. When you are really successful, you better hope that you own the full rights to your content or you might risk pricing yourself out of your own brand.

I’m sure there are other great examples of this playing out – perhaps where sponsorship properties become linked to brands, the success of the property might price it outside of the original company’s range. I’d be interested in suggestions to look at.




Guest Post from the Saxby Blog

2008-12-10T23:01:57.992-06:00

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To commemorate the moving of two of my favourite people from Halifax to Vancouver this month, take a minute to check out their blog at charityheartsvancouver.blogspot.com. As a special treat you can also read my guest blog post from earlier today.

Had a great weekend of good food and conversation - best of luck Matt and Charity for the next leg of your trip.



Note to Ottawa City Council: How to Keep Needles Off Lawns

2008-12-10T23:01:58.407-06:00

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A note this week on the Ottawa City Council requesting money from the provincial government to beef up their ability to clean up dirty needles reminded me, yet again, of the silliness surrounding this issue in Ottawa. Let’s hope that the needle exchange program doesn’t fall to the same fate that the crack pipe program has in Ottawa (the city cancelled it, the province funded, leading to general confusion). A few reminders for the city council, while they weigh their options on this one:
  • You need to think about the goals of a program when you evaluate it. Cancelling the crack pipe program because people found used crack tools on their front lawns is like failing the LSAT because you can’t boil an egg properly. The program wasn’t designed to keep pipes off of lawns.
  • The needle exchange program in Ottawa is meant to provide safe injection tools for intravenous drug users. This can help reduce the transmission of blood-borne diseases and can reduce the general risk of being a drug user. Incidentally, also saving the health system thousands in treatment costs and providing one-less barrier to recovery for addicts. Good goals, requiring sound policy – just not a program designed to get used needles off the streets.

I hope that someone comes through for the dollars to pick up used needles in Ottawa before the Council tries to get the needle exchange program to meet these goals. They might as well try to build needle cleanup into the mandate of the public library, or the City’s art funding program or, better yet, perhaps it could be a special program of the Mayor’s office.

(Photo courtesy of Mel B)




Online Music Comes of Age… or How I Learned to Legally Consume Music Online

2008-12-10T23:01:58.750-06:00

A couple of things have gotten me thinking this week of the way that the Internet is affecting the music industry. It’s old news that the Internet is sucking away artist royalties and the industry is working to claw back cash from listeners through restrictive DRM and additional fees placed on media devices.What got me thinking this week was that I consume nearly all of my music in a digital format now and, to the best of my knowledge, I do it all legally. Perhaps this indicates a coming of age for online music. Perhaps this means that new business models for online delivery are finally materializing. Perhaps this means nothing more than I am a sucker for starving artists and that the end of the industry is still upon us. Regardless, here is my personal case study in legal, digital and quality music listening.eMusic: A good friend of mine signed onto emusic a while ago and I finally got on board this month. For ten bucks a month you get 30 downloads (plus 50 free when you first sign up). I found there was piles that I wanted here and the 30 second samples (just like iTunes) got me buying some stuff I loved by had never heard. eMusic apparently has developed relationships with smaller labels to deliver DRM-free releases of their artist while still making sure everyone gets paid.cbc.ca: I’ve become addicted to the CBC’s newish service Concerts on Demand. They record shows all around the country and then host them on their website. You can play them by the track or by the full show.myspace: I don’t have a myspace page and for the most part I’ve never really used it, but I still find myself going to artist pages to see what songs they have posted up.seqpod: This is a playable search tool (hat tip Dave) that I use all the time. You can search for songs or artists, it find them on the web and plays them from the original location. You can even make playlists of them. I don’t understand search well enough to know how how it tags what songs, but I use this often when I want to listen to something once and don’t want to commit to buying the track.Finding live shows: Not that I make it out to see live music very often, but when I do I almost always find shows listed online (Ottawa Express, Punk Ottawa, artist myspace pages, etc). It seems that online databases mean that if something is happening you can find out about it easier and faster.This isn’t really intended as a commentary on illegal downloading, but rather just perhaps an indication that if you would like to find legal ways to consume digital music it can be done. Perhaps this could end some of the debate around special fees placed on iPods and end some of the guilt around consuming while not supporting the arts.[...]



Also Blogging: What's Interesting About the Groundswell?

2008-12-10T23:01:58.951-06:00

(image) Today on the Marketing Over Coffee and For Immediate Release podcasts they mentioned a new book/ report/ model by Forrester that attempts to classify users (participants) of social media onto a ladder of sorts. The 12 step spectrum moves from inactives, through the collectors, ending on “creators.” I think the approach is interesting and could probably help organizations understand that they can’t just implement “some social media” and hope it works, but rather have to consider the audience and approach.

With the proliferation of online communities, networks and tools, we can benefit from a more nuanced understanding of what they are for and how people use them. This risk of every company or organization just signing up to Twitter and hoping for the best can be moderated by adding some analysis and understanding to the planning process.

What I find most interesting about the approach offered here by Forrester are the levels in-between inactive and creators. Forrester does an interesting job in pointing out the value offered by other forms of interaction with social media. For example, the “collectors” are responsible for the coding and editing of the web 2.0 experience through services like Digg and del.icio.us.

Also of note: the title seems to make reference to a concept similar to “croudsourcing” that came up on an episode of CBC’s spark earlier in the month. Interesting…




Stop-loss and Mental Health

2008-12-10T23:01:59.538-06:00

(image) According to the NY Times, this morning of the 513,000 active duty troops in Iraq 197,000 have been deployed more than once and 53,000 have been deployed more than twice. They also report that the risk of mental illness, in this case depression, anxiety or acute stress, increases from 12 to 19 to 27 percent respectively as the number of deployments increases.

Having absolutely no experience in armed conflict and little ability to understand he extreme situations that these troops face, I was forced to turn to Hollywood for an example of this problem. In watching the recent Kimberly Pierce film Stop-Loss, I was struck by the difficulties troops face in returning home and the challenges that their families must prepare for. The film depicts a group of friends from Texas who return home from Iraq to face drinking problems, marital issues, metal illness and finally unplanned redeployment through a little-known clause in their contract.

As western countries continue commitments in Iraq and Afghanistan, troop levels and the frequency of redeployment is likely to surface as a significant concern. As the US faces challenges in filling their ranks, there is growing concern that a smaller and smaller number of families are going to bear the brunt of the risk and pain from this conflict.

We owe these families just, fair and equitable treatment. If we ask them to make these sacrifices for our “liberty,” “freedom” or other abstract goal, we also owe them just wars in which to fight for these things.



Beijing 2008: Sport, Politics and Human Rights

2008-12-10T23:01:59.758-06:00

With the Dali Lama threatening to resign, protesters in the streets of major cities around the world and journalists banned from the scene, the discussion of how to deal with China’s crackdown on protestors in Tibet has shifted into a debate over boycotting the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games. Protestors this weekend helped to make the link between human rights and the Olympics by interfering with the lighting of the Olympic flame in Olympia Greece. The high-profile and well-respected Reporters without Borders is calling for a boycott and making the link between these games and the Moscow Olympics of 1980. While it doesn’t look like the needed momentum is building for a full scale boycott of the Olympics and several activist groups linked with Tibet say a full boycott is not preferable, many are arguing that countries should take a balanced approach and just not show up to the opening ceremonies. Many critics of a boycott (including International Olympic Committee President Jacques Rogge) have argued that hosting the Olympics in China can open lines of communication and that boycotting will hurt no one but the Athletes. I tend to disagree, and although I see the value in maintaining an open dialogue with China, it’s difficult to see where that is occurring. I can understand that athletes are just athletes and we can’t expect them to correct the entire world’ ills, but in reality the Olympics stand for more than simply excellence in sport. Why condone sending thousands of journalists into Beijing to cover track and field, when China concurrently bans them from entering Tibet. If China would like the international community to descend on Beijing for an orgy of sport and excellence (and the subsequent positive PR garnered from such an event), it seems reasonable to demand they live up to international standards of press freedom and human rights. If we truly want to use the Olympics as an opportunity to encourage human rights in China (and it seems that it is our responsibility to do so) I would argue that we need to keep the idea of a boycott on the table, demand that the press are given the same access to Tibet that they will have to the long jump field and ensure the all-important stakeholders (Sponsors, the Canadian Olympic Committee, Media) are aware that if China doesn’t shape-up that there is an appetite for a boycott or other action. Here in Canada even the on-time and on-budget Vancouver 2010 Olympics have faced steady opposition from some local poverty and environmental groups. It seems that as much as it would like to think that they can isolate sport from politics, the two are very much intertwined and perhaps that is not such a bad thing. [...]



Branding Melita... or Can a Giant Talking Banana Save a Small Prairie Town?

2008-12-10T23:01:59.953-06:00

(image) CBC’s evening news program As It Happens recently featured an interesting tidbit on the town of Melita, where a town committee in charge of tourism is pitching the idea of constructing a large, talking, rotating banana to help draw tourists into the town. The town apparently is slightly warmer than the surrounding areas, so has developed a reputation as the local “banana belt.”

As it Happens reported that local residents will have an opportunity to express their vision for the town in a public vote on the idea of the giant banana. What might seem like a trivial expression of democracy-gone-silly could point to an important vision for local politics. With declining populations, changing economic structures and possible cultural stagnation, it is crucial that residents work to define what they want their towns to be and what their vision for the future is.

So will the talking banana save Melita? Probably not, but I hope it brings them some attention (which it obviously has). Tourism could be a positive economic diversification for towns like Melita, but visitor rates will probably not increase based on the banana fame. On the other hand, having a town committed to improvement and a population engaged in a process of defining what they want their brand to be can only be a good thing.




Laying the Groundword for The Saxby Blog Live: Podcamp Toronto Day One

2008-12-10T23:02:00.105-06:00

(image) Day one of Podcamp Toronto this weekend brought all of my social media insecurities to the surface. I spent the day learning from the pros in the Zero to Podcasting workshop and discovered the huge power of a medium that I had no clue how to participate in. A couple of items of note surfaced from today.

1. Copyright law creates some significant complications for podcasters - but some interesting things are coming of their copyright work-a-rounds. The concept of "podsafe" music is creating new avenues for independent music producers to have their work heard (see the podsafe music network or garageband.com).

2. The knitting world has developed something of a subculture around podcasting. The host of Purl Diving shared her experiences of being one of the first in the world of knitting podcasts.

3. Podcasting is a significant way to construct personal brand. Not only were there many "celebrity" participants from the world of social media in attendance, providing examples of self-made celebrity, but some of the discussion focused on the importance of owning your online name and brand (there should be more on this in tomorrow's session).

Overall the conference seems well-attended and phenomenally well-organized. Looking forward to more tomorrow.



Recommended Reading from the CLA

2008-12-10T23:02:00.793-06:00

(image) Today the Canadian Library Association released its listing of books that have garnered complaints from patrons at Canadian libraries, or as I like to call it “recommended reading” for 2008! The books were targeted due to their inappropriate content (homosexuality, sexually explicit content or religious views), making them particularly tantalizing for progressive and open-minded readers. You still should be able to get any of these hot titles at your local library. Kudos to the hardworking and free-speech-committed folks at public and school libraries for that!



My Vote for Lessig 2008

2008-03-09T10:17:23.255-05:00

The renowned and always interesting Lawrence Lessig has launched a new project called “Change Congress,” where he lays out some interesting and compelling ideas about how the American politician system needs to be adjusted. The website features a 10 minute video where he lays out his plan for “change” and his ideas to fundamentally alter the relationship between Washington and the interests it regulates. Lessig is asking for public feedback and support as he considers a run for congress in 2008.

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This is worth thinking about for a few of reasons:
1. Pretty much everything that Lawrence Lessig is involved in is phenomenally interesting (see Creative Commons and Free Culture)
2. His model is simple to understand and compelling
3. His use of social media and technology could produce an interesting funding model and campaign structure for a congressional campaign
4. He has gotten some media coverage of note (see the Economist blog from February 20)

Whatever comes of the Lessig 08 campaign, there are some ideas here worthy of consideration. I for one would vote Lessig (and maybe even join his facebook group) in an instant.



Betting Your Retirement on Climate Change

2008-02-21T10:26:48.616-06:00

If all the news about climate change has got you nervous about the future of mankind, you can at least ensure that your future finances garner some benefit. At the beginning of February, Scotia Securities launched their Global Climate Change Fund. The press release form Scotiabank states that “The fund's investment strategy is long-term and designed to benefit from those companies adopting technological and environmental practices that mitigate and address the implications of climate change.”

The focus of the fund will be on nine different themes relating to climate change, such as alternative technologies or carbon trading systems - in essence, supporting companies creating solutions to combat climate change.

I have always found ethical investing to be an interesting concept and providing resources to companies creating the technologies to fight global climate change seems productive. Ethical funds could also provide an good alternative for people who want to make sure that their philanthropic goals and their for-profit investing align.

The caution with this type of fund is going to be the criteria used to evaluate the companies included. Marketing the fund “green” is a great plan for Scotiabank, but the ethical investor will need to dig a bit deeper and find out what this actually means. The Scotia securities fund, for instance, includes nuclear in its list of sustainable energies, something which many environmentally conscious investors might disagree. It will be interesting to see what specific companies end up in this fund and whether Scotiabank can pierce through the greenwashing and make sound environmental investments.




Corporate Responsibility 101: How not to behave if you are Canada’s largest drugstore chain

2008-03-08T18:18:01.268-06:00

In a recent editorial, the Canadian Medical Association expressed concern over Shopper’s Drug Mart’s practice of “poaching” pharmacists from international geographies. Spoecifically, the CMAJ was concerned about the retailer’s practice of recruiting from AIDS infected regions of Africa, offering salaries that African employers could not possibly match. Shopper’s Drug Mart has four recruitment events listed online for South Africa for 2007 (interestingly it is the only international recruitment effort listed).


Should a Canadian employer be using South African educated graduates to make up for labour shortages in their North American stores? Probably not. But if you are the most powerful drugstore chain in Canada what are you to do?


The CMAJ proposes the funding of studentships at Pharmacy schools in Canada, a suggestion that seems to carry merit. Shoppers Drug Mart already leverages a scholarship program to recruit within Canada. Programs of this kind could be expanded in an effort to fill employment gaps with home-grown graduates.


When viewed broadly, a company’s Corporate Social Responsibility Program should include not only ethical employment practices, but also ethical recruitment practices. An engaged employer would be encouraging a viable supply of qualified labour. If the only way that Shopper’s Drug Mart can fill their open positions is to poach qualified talent from the countries who need it the most, then they aren’t doing enough to support pharmacy education and recruitment in Canada. We should be holding them to a higher standard.

Find the entire CMAJ editorial online.