Author Archives: Darcy Casselman

Writer of the Daleks

An open letter to Nicholas Briggs, executive producer for Big Finish and voice of the Daleks on Doctor Who:

Dear Mr Briggs,

I recently had the opportunity to re-listen to the Dalek Empire series and was once again taken aback not just by the masterful story-telling and compelling human drama, but also by the portrayal of the Daleks. It occurred to me that you, sir, have a better understanding of the Daleks than any living writer who has dared undertake them. Dare I say, I believe you have shown a better understanding of what the Daleks are and why they are a true menace than even Terry Nation himself, the man who created them.

It further occurred that the Daleks on television seem to have lost their way. After Mr Shearman’s brilliantly realized Dalek, they’ve gotten a bit silly again.

I don’t demean in the slightest the formidable skills of the Doctor Who television writing team. In my opinion, the Daleks have never quite lived up to their full potential on television. What is needed, I think, is a true expert to provide the standard to which future writers can aspire. That expert, Mr Briggs, is you. I believe the time has come for you to give voice to the Daleks in the one way that matters most: as their writer for television.

Think of it! A pair of episodes modelled after your Dalek Empire stories in the main range, where the Doctor, as necessary, wins the day but where there is a true victory of the Daleks. And then, having restored themselves to their former glory, the way is paved for a series of Dalek Empire spin-off serials which showcase the true menace of the Daleks when the Doctor isn’t there to save us. Proper sci-fi space adventures of the sort so sadly lacking on television these days.

And what could be more fitting for Doctor Who’s 50th Anniversary year than a celebration of the creation which made the show a hit? After all, Doctor Who’s 50th anniversary is the Daleks’ as well.

Please be sure to pass my proposal along to Mr Moffat when next you see him. You may assure him that you were reluctantly driven to make this suggestion on behalf of your mutual fans, and that it is in no way mere crass self-promotion on your part. Thus assured, I have every confidence that he will see the wisdom of this idea and give us a 50th anniversary of the Daleks which lives up to the high standards we Big Finish listeners have for the Doctor’s greatest foe.

Dear Blog

I still love you. Really, I do. It’s just that between work and Kwartzlab and Ellen (who continues to be awesome), it’s like I haven’t had time for you.

I know, that’s just an excuse. If I really loved you, I’d make time. It shouldn’t be like this, but would you even believe me if I promised to do better? We all know how that goes, in the end.

No! No, I’d never break up with you. Really, I… I just need more time, that’s all.

You’ll forgive me?

Don’t be like that, of course you have a choice.

Honey, Twitter and I are just friends! You know that.

Wait! I know you’re upset, just… wait!

Come back!

I haven’t…

You…

Never mind.

By-Election

Here we are less than a year from the last provincial election and I’m going to the polls again.

Just my riding and one other, though. Only the good people of Vaughn have similar luck.

Actually, I was a little bit giddy when our long-standing MPP, Elizabeth Witmer announced she was resigning to take a plum government appointment. Not because I was ecstatic to see her go (we could, after all, do much worse), but because the result of last year’s election was an ever-so-slim Liberal minority. Picking up this one seat in a by-election would put them in a majority (sort of, but I’ll get to that). So the stakes are super-high. Which means this is going to be interesting.

And call me weird, but I like interesting in politics. So long as nobody has to suffer too much for it.

Eric Davis (Liberal)

Ads on Facebook Yesterday I am, for the record, a card-carrying member of the Liberal Party. I am such not because I love them whole-heartedly and unreservedly, but because I think they generally tend to go in the right direction, but I feel like they need a prod every once in a while when they start going off track.

And at this point I feel like they’re going off track.

A win in this by-election would not give the Liberals an actual majority (even assuming they hold Vaughn). The house would be tied with ties broken by the speaker. They wouldn’t be able to pass whatever bills they wanted because the speaker will not vote to pass bills. But any nonconfidence motion would be defeated because the speaker will always vote to continue debate. It would give the Liberals breathing room but not carte blanche.

I do actually want the Liberals to serve out a full mandate. I think there’s a lot of stuff they’re doing that’s good. And I think if an election happens, the PCs will likley win and start undoing the good stuff they’ve been doing. And I’d rather that didn’t happen.

But I’ve been incredibly unimpressed by how McGuinty has chosen to run his minority government. When you have a minority, you have to actually work with other parties. He seems entirely unwilling to do that. He seems intent on running from the Stephen Harper play book. I really hate that. I understand politics can be a rough game and playing nice isn’t always the best way to go, but you measure success based on whether or not what you’re doing is actually working, and it’s hard to say what they’re doing is actually working. The PCs are an incoherent mess but they’re still beating the Liberals in the polls.

Eric Davis isn’t helping them much for me, either. Sure, he’s a bit cuddlier this time, talking about his family a lot, but otherwise he never strays from the talking points, to the point where you never get much of a sense of his own personality. I’m not confident that if I came to him with a problem that went against Liberal government policy that I’d get a fair hearing. I would expect to be brushed off. Because he’s a party guy. He’s not terrible–I voted for him last time. But it seems to me he’s just a place-holder for the party.

What really gets to me more than anything, though, is how they’ve gone about fighting this by-election. They engineered this thing, giving Witmer her appointment. I expected them to be better-prepared. But it seems like they’re flailing around uselessly. What’s worse–as soon as it looked like the NDP had a chance to take this thing, they swung into attack mode. When the Liberals start launching ridiculous American-style attack ads against the NDP, it never goes well. I think that’s a big reason they were decimated in the last federal election. Attack ads turn people off. They’re only good for making voters stay home. The Liberal vote is soft. When the Liberals attack the NDP, more Liberal voters stay home than NDP voters. Because the NDP voters are angry and the Liberal voters are disillusioned.

I mean, look at this. It’s just plain deceptive. And I hate it.

Liberal attack flyer (front) Liberal attack flyer (back)

I could write an entire blog post about everything that’s wrong with this flyer.

C’mon guys, you can do better than this. You’ll have to do better than this if you want me to vote for you.

Tracey Weiler (Progressive Conservative)

As far as I can tell, the Tories are going to do pretty much everything the Liberals are going to do (except, of course, for all the things I actually like), but they’re going to be meaner and angrier about it.

I was never going to vote for them anyway. We still haven’t recovered from the damage they did last time they were in government (and this is something else that I’m annoyed at McGuinty about).

Stacey Danckert (Green)

The Green Party is my go-to vote when the Liberals are pissing me off for whatever reason. And, if I’m honest, I love the Green Party. We’ve had some really good Green candidates. They bring things to elections that would never be aired if they weren’t there. And their platform more closely reflects my views than the Liberals. But only just.

Ms Dankert’s pitch is she could be like Elizabeth May in the Ontario legislature. Except she’s wrong. Elizabeth May is an outspoken defender of what she believes in in a Conservative majority government. She’s very good at her job. But practically speaking, she’s largely impotent.

If a Green won this one seat, she’d have real power. She would hold the deciding vote on whether the Liberal government lived or died. She could use that power to push for policy changes. She could manoeuvre the political waters, negotiate hard and make things happen.

I don’t think Stacey Danckert has it in her.

If she was Elizabeth May, I’d vote for her in a second.

Catherine Fife (New Democratic Party)

I’ve never voted NDP. I don’t particularly like NDP policies. Some of them I do, and on some issues I agree with them more than I agree with the Liberals, but I usually get the impression the NDP and I see the world differently. C’est la vie. I do respect them, however.

Catherine Fife is clearly the best candidate of the four parties. She’s smart and well-spoken and I think would do a fine job if elected. I think she would take my dissenting viewpoint seriously, at least more seriously than Mr Davis. (James from King & Ottawa disagrees, but then she won’t be in a position where she has to defend whatever bad thing the government might hypothetically be doing to me).

And she has momentum. Her signs are everywhere. The Record is running editorials about how she might actually win. It’s plausible she has a chance. For the first time since the NDP was the CCF and Waterloo was part of a much more rural riding, the NDP could actually take this seat.

So what the hell, I’ll get on board. Like I said, I like interesting in politics, and handing this seat over to the NDP would certainly be interesting.

My one reservation for voting for Catherine Fife is the message it sends to NDP party strategists. If they get it into their head that the Orange Wave is sweeping across Ontario and they need to topple the government ASAP in order to bring about the second NDP coming, that will make me very sad. Because I have a strong feeling it’ll mean Tim Hudak will become premier. And I don’t want that.

If this were a general election, I doubt I’d be considering voting NDP. If Catherine Fife turns out to be an OMG AWESOME MPP and the Liberals roll out another red-painted dog, maybe. We can talk. But I’m pretty sure my vote will be different in the next real election.

All the fear tactics about the NDP during this by-election are just stupid and wrong. It’s still a Liberal minister who will be negotiating with the unions. If they really want to break the unions, the Conservatives will gleefully help them out with that. Giving this seat to Catherine Fife doesn’t significantly change the political landscape in practical terms. What it does is send a message.

I want the Liberal government to serve out its mandate. But I want them to do it in a way that doesn’t make me hate them. Which means Dalton McGuinty needs a smack upside the head. If the first NDP MPP for Kitchener-Waterloo is what it takes, I’ll happily jump on that bandwagon.

The Others

There are ten candidates running in this election, not four. Communist Party candidate Elizabeth Rowley has been very vocal about being excluded from supposed all-candidates meetings (including the one I had time to go to). And I agree with her. I respect anyone for expending the time and energy to run in an election. I also think minor parties get majorly shafted by our first-past-the-post system. The least we can do is hear them out come election time.

I haven’t had time to go digging around their websites or anything, though. I make no pretence about being a serious reporter. As with Stacey Danckert, this would be a fine time to vote for a strong independent. I don’t think we have one of those, though. Because if you’re the sort of person who could pull off the political manoeuvring necessary to work your one vote to our advantage in this minority parliament setting, you’d be the sort of person who could make yourself heard even with the media steadfastly ignoring you.

To her credit, Ms Rowley is making herself heard. Trouble is, I’m a bit of a bourgeois capitalist, which makes it hard for me to vote Communist.

If the four candidates with party name recognition aren’t doing anything for you, I’d seriously consider checking out the minor party candidates and independents to see if one of them does. You never know.

Smartphone

This is not the first time I’ve bought a smartphone. Back in 2004, I did a bunch of research and bought a Palm Tungsten W through Rogers.

It didn’t end well. I cancelled my contract within a month and vowed never to do that ever again.

Well, it’s been nearly seven years, which isn’t exactly never. But I bought a smartphone.

Keen observers of culture and technology will be the first to tell you that things have changed a bit in the meantime. Pretty much everyone I know has a smartphone. My sisters have smartphones.

Thing is, I have wanted access to email and IM ever since I held one of those LCD RIM email pager thingies back in 1998. But the combination and hatred and distrust of cellphone providers, coupled with a distate for the direction general purpose computing is being taken by device manufacturers has kept me out of the game.

This isn’t something I wanted to rush into. I’ve been thinking about it for months, mulling over the various options and trying to figure out what I’d be comfortable with.

The provider was a toss-up between Wind and Koodo. Koodo has the cheapest smartphone plan at $30/month with a sort of pay-as-you-go thing for data. But they’re tied to Telus, one of the Big Three cellphone providers in Canada (admittedly, the least offensive one, not that that’s saying much). Wind is a new entrant, and I have no small desire to help support new entrants in the market. Being new, however, they don’t have great coverage. Meaning I’d be without data service whenever I went home to Belleville.

For the phone, I really wanted something with a keyboard, but I also wanted to get the newest Android version, Ice Cream Sandwich. That, coupled with the recommendation of the awesome online comparison tool Sortable (and local startup), I decided to get the Galaxy Nexus.

Koodo doesn’t offer the Galaxy Nexus and it’s $600 unsubsidized, which tipped the balance towards Wind. And, honestly, not having to worry about data usage is pretty nice.

A few observations:

  • A smartphone makes eating out alone slightly less socially awkward, but walking down the street slightly more.
  • Twitter was made for smartphones, but I kinda knew that already.
  • Podcasts work better this way, but podcast client software isn’t nearly as good as I’d like it to be. It’s better than my previous (mostly manual) process, and frustrating close to what I want, which makes the gaps that much more noticeable.
  • Angry Birds Space! Woo!
  • I miss having a physical keyboard. I’m using Swype, and it’s pretty cool, but auto-correct makes me sad.
  • Another drawback of the Galaxy Nexus is the lack of an SD card and USB mass storage access. This probably isn’t a big deal to most people, but I like having access to file systems. And there are a whole bunch of apps that seem to expect you can access an SD card directly for import or export.
  • Those are the only two faults I can find with the phone, really. I don’t have much to compare it to first hand, but it’s a great little machine.
  • I’ll probably post a round-up of apps I like once I’ve done some more exploring.