Gotcha! This is why piracy happens

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Stata

This summer, I took a two-week long course on systematic reviews and meta-analytic techniques for which there was some required software, in this case, Stata. As a McGill student, I was encouraged to buy the student version, which was about $50 for “Stata Small.” Not bad. I’ve paid more for textbooks. So I got out my credit card, bought the license, installed it on my computer, and ran the very first example command of the course. I immediately got a string of red letter error text.

The error message was telling me that my license did not allow me enough variables to complete the command. I checked the license, and it said I was allowed 120 variables. I checked the “Variable manager” in Stata, and I had only assigned 11 variables. (I checked the variable limit beforehand in fact, and made sure that none of the data sets that we’d be working with had more than 120 variables. None of them came close to that limit.)

So I emailed Stata technical support. It turns out that the meta-analysis package for Stata creates “hidden variables.” Lots of them, apparently. So many that the software cannot accomplish the most basic commands. Then they tried to up-sell me to “Stata SE.” For $100 more, they said, they would send me a license for Stata that would allow me to run the meta-analysis package—for realsies this time.

I asked for a refund and decided that if I really needed Stata, I would use the copy that’s installed on the lab computers. (Now I’m just using the meta package in R, which does everything Stata does, just with a bit more effort.)

For the record: I am perfectly fine with paying for good software. I am not okay with a one-time purchase turning me into a money-pump. I thought that the “small” student license would work. All their documentation suggested it would. If I had upgraded to “Stata SE,” would that have actually met my needs, or would they have forced me to upgrade again later, after I’d already made Stata a part of my workflow?

It probably would have been okay, but the “gotcha” after the fact soured me on the prospect of sending them more money, and provided all the incentive I need to find a way to not use Stata.

iTunes

A few years ago, I bought a number of pieces of classical music through the iTunes Store. I shopped around, compared different performances, and found recordings that I really liked. This was back when the iTunes store had DRM on their music.

I’ve recently switched to Linux, and now much of the music that I legally bought and paid for can’t be read by my computer. Apple does have a solution for me, of course! For about $25, I can subscribe to a service of theirs that will allow me to download a DRM-free version of the music that I already paid for.

This is why I won’t even consider buying television programmes through the iTunes Store: It’s not that I think that I will want to re-watch the shows over and over and I’m afraid of DRM screwing that up for me. It’s because I’ve had some nasty surprises from iTunes in the past, and I can borrow the DVD’s from the Public Library for free.

For the record: I do not mind paying for digital content. But I won’t send you money if I think there’s a “gotcha” coming after the fact.

I’m really trying my best

People who produce good software or music should be compensated for their work. I don’t mind pulling out my wallet to help make that happen. But I don’t want to feel like I’m being tricked, especially if I’m actually making an effort in good faith to actually pay for something.

Since DRM is almost always fairly easily circumvented, it only punishes those who pay for digital content. And this is why I’m sympathetic to those who pirate software, music, TV shows, etc.

BibTeX

@online{bgcarlisle2015-4459,
    title = {Gotcha! This is why piracy happens},
    journaltitle = {The Grey Literature},
    author = {Benjamin Gregory Carlisle},
    address = {Montreal, Canada},
    date = 2015-05-22,
    url = {https://www.bgcarlisle.com/blog/2015/05/22/gotcha-this-is-why-piracy-happens/}
}

MLA

Carlisle, Benjamin Gregory. "Gotcha! This is why piracy happens" Web blog post. The Grey Literature. 22 May 2015. Web. 21 Sep 2017. <https://www.bgcarlisle.com/blog/2015/05/22/gotcha-this-is-why-piracy-happens/>

APA

Carlisle, Benjamin Gregory. (2015, May 22). Gotcha! This is why piracy happens [Web log post]. Retrieved from https://www.bgcarlisle.com/blog/2015/05/22/gotcha-this-is-why-piracy-happens/


Yes, it’s racist

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Judge Eliana Marengo recently told another human being that she had to be stripped of her identity and publicly humiliated in order to have her case heard in a court in Québec. That is to say, the judge refused to hear the case while she was wearing a hijab.

For clarity, Article 13 of the regulations of the Court of Quebec make no reference to headscarves. This was just one judge’s decision to make life harder for another human being. And it was racist.

Wait, how was it racist?

This is a point that people keep refusing to understand. I have written previously about how you can be substantially racist, sexist, homophobic, transphobic, etc. without ever actually making reference to a person’s race, sex, orientation, gender, etc. This is exactly the same thing.

A policy that makes life harder for one group of people is discriminatory against that group, regardless of how obliquely that group is singled out in the wording of the policy itself. And it’s still discriminatory even if that policy contains an ostensibly non-racist/non-sexist/etc. counter-example to ward off suspicions of racism, sexism, etc. (Cf. the Charter of Values and conspicuously large crucifixes).

It is laughable that Marengo invoked equality to justify her racist abuse of power. She deigned to instruct us in righteousness by telling us, “The same rules need to be applied to everyone.” To get an idea of how the rules are applied to everyone in Québec, I have compiled Table 1, below.

White people do religious stuff in the public sphere in Québec all the time. Nobody minds. Nobody gets upset. Certainly nobody refuses to give them the basic justice that all humans are due. But when one private person of colour wears a hijab to court, suddenly a) it’s fair game to publicly humiliate them and strip their identity, and b) it’s hitting below the belt to call it “racist” when it happens.

Table 1: A convenience sample of conspicuous religious accommodations in the province of Québec, indexed by race

Religious thing Private or public? Who did it? (Race) Is it okay in Québec?
Prominent crucifix in legislature Public White Okay!
Giant cross overlooking biggest city in province Public White Okay!
Big white cross dominating the provincial flag Public White Okay!
Nearly every street and city named after a Christian saint Public White Okay!
Private person wearing hijab in court Private POC “This is unacceptable! Religious people are always demanding more and more accommodations. This is not about race at all!”

BibTeX

@online{bgcarlisle2015-4434,
    title = {Yes, it’s racist},
    journaltitle = {The Grey Literature},
    author = {Benjamin Gregory Carlisle},
    address = {Montreal, Canada},
    date = 2015-02-27,
    url = {https://www.bgcarlisle.com/blog/2015/02/27/yes-its-racist/}
}

MLA

Carlisle, Benjamin Gregory. "Yes, it’s racist" Web blog post. The Grey Literature. 27 Feb 2015. Web. 21 Sep 2017. <https://www.bgcarlisle.com/blog/2015/02/27/yes-its-racist/>

APA

Carlisle, Benjamin Gregory. (2015, Feb 27). Yes, it’s racist [Web log post]. Retrieved from https://www.bgcarlisle.com/blog/2015/02/27/yes-its-racist/


In defense of #selfies

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Someone felt good enough about her appearance that she took a picture. Let us all ridicule her for that.

Someone felt good enough about her appearance that she took a picture. Let us all ridicule her for that. HA HA.

It is fashionable these days to tease people who take selfies, or to look down one’s nose at those who do take selfies, or to dismiss them as juvenile, feminine, vain, or generally bad for reasons unspecified.

You’ve seen it before. Maybe you’ve done it yourself. You see someone pull out a phone to take a selfie, and you make a joke about it, or someone complains about how “everyone is always taking selfies.”

There’s a sort of a snobbish “I’m better than that” attitude that comes along with all these condemnations. The commentator looks around after the comment was made, grinning in a most self-satisfied way, as if he has said something most original and daring. There’s a smug, superior, aren’t-I-clever-for-going-against-the-grain vibe that I get from people who say things like that, and I just can’t handle the hypocrisy anymore.

First off, when you condemn selfies and those who take them, you are not saying anything clever or original. It’s not funny. It’s not illuminating. You haven’t picked out some interesting and unremarked-upon feature of human experience that no-one else has noticed. (Not that I’m claiming that any of the following ideas are original to myself either—plenty of other people have had reasoned pro-selfie positions. Consider this more of a rant than a claim to an original philosophy.)

Further, you are not some brave individualistic rebel among a flock of narcissistic sheeple. If anything, this makes you more like a corporate shill, helping to ensure that a new generation of young people is intimidated into believing that they have good reason to be insecure (and thus prepared to spend money to make that feeling go away). There are, after all, entire industries whose business model depends on encouraging our insecurities and preying on them. So if you’re feeling smug about being the lone wolf who’s bucking a terrifying trend of vanity, you should consider that every single person you’re criticising has been told “you’re not good enough and you should feel bad about it” in a million subtle (and also a million not-so-subtle-and-corporately-funded) ways for their entire life.

When you say things like, “No one wants to see your selfies,” you are not actually commenting on the value of the photographs that you’re disparaging, even if you think that’s what you’re doing. You’re coming closer to making a commentary on your own value as a friend, though. With a statement like that, you’re saying, “I don’t care about you, how you look, or what you’re doing. I don’t care that you felt good about yourself today.” And when you say things like that, you’re telling everyone in earshot that they shouldn’t expect positive feedback or encouragement from you.

It’s the same sort of attitude that you get from people who say things like, “Don’t tweet about what you had for breakfast,” or “You don’t need to make a Facebook post every time you go for a run.” You know what? If you care that little, no one’s forcing you to use social media. You can leave the party if you’re not enjoying it.

And this is why the whole thing is hypocrisy: When you say, “How egotistical—my friend posted a selfie,” what you are really saying is “I don’t care about my friend—if she is feeling good about her appearance, or what she’s doing, or if she just wants some positive attention from her friends, then that is unimportant or offensive to me somehow.” And that attitude—trying to make someone feel bad, just so you can have the satisfaction of looking down your nose at her—is so much more self-absorbed than posting a selfie.

As for me, I do care about my friends, and when I see a friend’s selfie go by on my Twitter feed, I want my first thought to be “Aww, isn’t that cute,” and not “How can I make that person feel bad?” That’s the kind of person I want to be.

BibTeX

@online{bgcarlisle2014-4276,
    title = {In defense of #selfies},
    journaltitle = {The Grey Literature},
    author = {Benjamin Gregory Carlisle},
    address = {Montreal, Canada},
    date = 2014-10-15,
    url = {https://www.bgcarlisle.com/blog/2014/10/15/in-defense-of-selfies/}
}

MLA

Carlisle, Benjamin Gregory. "In defense of #selfies" Web blog post. The Grey Literature. 15 Oct 2014. Web. 21 Sep 2017. <https://www.bgcarlisle.com/blog/2014/10/15/in-defense-of-selfies/>

APA

Carlisle, Benjamin Gregory. (2014, Oct 15). In defense of #selfies [Web log post]. Retrieved from https://www.bgcarlisle.com/blog/2014/10/15/in-defense-of-selfies/


The morally tone-deaf handling of the Gee-Gees scandal by CBC and The Ottawa Citizen

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The University of Ottawa hockey team was suspended recently as a result of being implicated in a sexual assault scandal while at an away-game in Thunder Bay on the weekend of Feb 1, 2014. Today, The Ottawa Citizen and CBC both published articles highlighting how terrible it is that this happened—for the hockey team. They couldn’t be bothered to even consider the actual rape victim in either of their articles or CBC’s video.

For clarity, I’m assuming that the guys in these articles are just as innocent of the sexual assault as they say they are. The hockey player in the CBC video wasn’t even in Thunder Bay. This is not the issue.

But even if they had nothing to do with the sexual assault and even if they were completely ignorant of the whole thing, these articles and the CBC video are absolutely inappropriate and morally tone-deaf to the situation.

Names “smeared”

Burns, who wrote an open letter to the president of his university, complains that his good name has been “smeared.” The players’ names have not been smeared. University-level hockey just isn’t that big a deal to anyone who’s outside of it. No one knows their names, and anyone who does will be close enough that they can defend themselves.

Somehow CBC wants us to simultaneously believe that the suspension has irreparably hurt the future of the young man in the video while we sympathise with the lack of closure that he must be facing, due to the fact that he’s going on to semi-pro hockey abroad in a couple weeks. (Wait, I thought his future was ruined?)

Anyway, it’s not like we’re living in a world where being the perpetrator of a sexual assault carries much stigma. (C.f. CNN’s coverage of the Steubenville rape case.)

Betrayed by the university

These hockey players say they feel betrayed by their university. The university did not betray them. The teammate who committed a sexual assault betrayed them. The university is taking an appropriate action by holding off on honouring a team that has been implicated in an accusation of sexual assault. Can you imagine being the victim of the assault and knowing that your school was throwing a party for the hockey team, or holding a special ceremony in their honour?

These athletes won’t get to go to a couple of parties, and they might have to settle for having their jerseys mailed to them rather than being presented at a big ceremony. These are emotional wounds that will heal in time, I’m sure.

Basically, these articles are about some star athlete who, in light of someone having been raped, decided to write a letter to the media, and rather than writing a single word about how terrible it is that someone was sexually assaulted, he complains about how unfair this all is to him. In four words, his letter can be summed up as: “But what about me?”

Even though he’s a big-man hockey player, this whole situation just isn’t mainly about him, and he should have the perspective to see that. No, it isn’t fair that he doesn’t get to go to these parties, and I can understand him feeling frustrated. But by writing a letter like this, he is turning the situation around to focus on the plight of the “poor star athlete who doesn’t get to go to a party,” when in the big scheme of things, that is nothing compared to a woman who has to go through life dealing with the fact that a member of his hockey team raped her.

Media ethics—or, how CBC and the Ottawa Citizen failed

If I was just meeting one of these hockey players and we were hanging out casually, and he was saying how he wished he could go to the athletic department party or have his jersey presented at a special ceremony, I think I would totally sympathise with him. That’s natural—he’s supposed to enjoy those things. That doesn’t make him a bad person.

The problem is that the guy is publicly demanding that he be given these honours, and that in the face of an ongoing rape investigation. And to make it worse, reading over Burns’ letter, it’s not clear that he understands or even cares that someone was raped. It’s not mentioned once. It’s not even an afterthought. The letter, and the articles by CBC and the Ottawa Citizen lack a certain perspective that should be present when considering the consequences of an investigation of a sexual assault.

Despite its handling by the Ottawa Citizen and by CBC, the Big Story here is not (or shouldn’t be) “rape complaint ruins party for innocent hockey players,” and the big moral concern isn’t that younger hockey players might be discouraged from playing. Trust me, kids will play hockey whether you throw fancy parties for them afterward or not.

The Big Thing that we should be worried about is whether or not this kind of story discourages victims of rape from reporting it, and what this says about how we view sexual assault. By taking the focus off the appropriateness of the university’s response and pointing toward the “terrible injustice” done to these hockey players, we are implicitly saying that one complaint of rape is less important than 26 guys being denied the chance to go to a couple of parties. I don’t think that is the message that CBC or the Ottawa Citizen wanted to send, and I don’t think that’s the kind of world I want to live in.

BibTeX

@online{bgcarlisle2014-4106,
    title = {The morally tone-deaf handling of the Gee-Gees scandal by CBC and The Ottawa Citizen},
    journaltitle = {The Grey Literature},
    author = {Benjamin Gregory Carlisle},
    address = {Montreal, Canada},
    date = 2014-04-2,
    url = {https://www.bgcarlisle.com/blog/2014/04/02/the-morally-tone-deaf-handling-of-the-gee-gees-scandal-by-cbc-and-the-ottawa-citizen/}
}

MLA

Carlisle, Benjamin Gregory. "The morally tone-deaf handling of the Gee-Gees scandal by CBC and The Ottawa Citizen" Web blog post. The Grey Literature. 02 Apr 2014. Web. 21 Sep 2017. <https://www.bgcarlisle.com/blog/2014/04/02/the-morally-tone-deaf-handling-of-the-gee-gees-scandal-by-cbc-and-the-ottawa-citizen/>

APA

Carlisle, Benjamin Gregory. (2014, Apr 02). The morally tone-deaf handling of the Gee-Gees scandal by CBC and The Ottawa Citizen [Web log post]. Retrieved from https://www.bgcarlisle.com/blog/2014/04/02/the-morally-tone-deaf-handling-of-the-gee-gees-scandal-by-cbc-and-the-ottawa-citizen/


The Kübler-Ross stages of grief and an open-source solution to the death of Google Reader

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Over the past week, I was actually in the middle of writing a blog post about how I sometimes toy with the idea of switching to Ubuntu, just so that my technological life is not entirely beholden to any particular company’s corporate whims. I didn’t quite finish that post before Google very famously killed off its well-loved news aggregator, Google Reader. Most users of Google Reader are going through the classic Kübler-Ross stages of grief:

  1. We all experienced the initial shock and denial. (“What? There is no way they’re shutting Google Reader down.”)
  2. Anger followed.
  3. Then the bargaining.
  4. Next people will get sad about it. They probably won’t blog sad things about Google Reader, though, out of fear of looking pathetic.
  5. As far as acceptance goes, lots of people are now trying to profit from this, by selling their own alternatives to Google Reader. Digg has decided to make building a new aggregator a priority. Users are largely scrambling to find another reader.

My solution to the Google Reader problem

I used to use Newsfire before I switched to Google Reader, but in the time that has elapsed since then, they started charging $5 for it. That’s not a lot, but then I was getting Google Reader for free, so I kept looking. Besides, Newsfire is a newsreader that’s all stored locally on my computer, and my ideal solution would be cloud-based.

I looked around at the currently-available web offerings, and I couldn’t find any that were very appealing. I nearly despaired myself, when I found an open-source web-based solution.

This won’t work for everyone, but it will work for anyone who already has access to a web server with the following capabilities:

  • Apache
  • MySQL
  • PHP
  • Cron jobs

I installed a copy of the open-source RSS reader, selfoss on my web server, and I have been using it instead of Google Reader. I’m pretty happy with it. I’ve had to make a few changes already, but it seems like a good solution to the problem. Here are the advantages, as I see it:

  • Web-based, so it will work on all my devices
  • It’s hosted on my own server, so it will work as long as I keep paying my hosting bill
  • The software won’t be “updated” (read: altered arbitrarily) unless I want it to be
  • No one will decide later that there needs to be ads on my news reader

Good luck in finding a solution to your Google Reader problem!

BibTeX

@online{bgcarlisle2013-3362,
    title = {The Kübler-Ross stages of grief and an open-source solution to the death of Google Reader},
    journaltitle = {The Grey Literature},
    author = {Benjamin Gregory Carlisle},
    address = {Montreal, Canada},
    date = 2013-03-14,
    url = {https://www.bgcarlisle.com/blog/2013/03/14/the-kubler-ross-stages-of-grief-and-an-open-source-solution-to-the-death-of-google-reader/}
}

MLA

Carlisle, Benjamin Gregory. "The Kübler-Ross stages of grief and an open-source solution to the death of Google Reader" Web blog post. The Grey Literature. 14 Mar 2013. Web. 21 Sep 2017. <https://www.bgcarlisle.com/blog/2013/03/14/the-kubler-ross-stages-of-grief-and-an-open-source-solution-to-the-death-of-google-reader/>

APA

Carlisle, Benjamin Gregory. (2013, Mar 14). The Kübler-Ross stages of grief and an open-source solution to the death of Google Reader [Web log post]. Retrieved from https://www.bgcarlisle.com/blog/2013/03/14/the-kubler-ross-stages-of-grief-and-an-open-source-solution-to-the-death-of-google-reader/


This happens every single time I write a blog post on WordPress

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Has this happened to anyone else? I swear, it happens every single time I try to write a blog post on WordPress.

  1. Type most of a paragraph
  2. Try to switch to another tab by pressing command-2 or another number
  3. The WordPress text editor interprets that to mean, “Convert this paragraph to a level-2 heading”
  4. I press command-Z to undo the accidental formatting
  5. The WordPress text editor interprets that to mean, “Undo the accidental formatting as well as the last 30 seconds of typing”
  6. I try pushing command-shift-Z to redo it
  7. Command-shift-Z does nothing
  8. Angrily re-type what I already typed, 30 seconds ago

It’s pretty standard across browsers that the keyboard shortcut command-[1–9] selects the [1-9]th open tab in that browser window. This is a bug, not a feature.

BibTeX

@online{bgcarlisle2013-3279,
    title = {This happens every single time I write a blog post on WordPress},
    journaltitle = {The Grey Literature},
    author = {Benjamin Gregory Carlisle},
    address = {Montreal, Canada},
    date = 2013-03-2,
    url = {https://www.bgcarlisle.com/blog/2013/03/02/this-happens-every-single-time-i-write-a-blog-post-on-wordpress/}
}

MLA

Carlisle, Benjamin Gregory. "This happens every single time I write a blog post on WordPress" Web blog post. The Grey Literature. 02 Mar 2013. Web. 21 Sep 2017. <https://www.bgcarlisle.com/blog/2013/03/02/this-happens-every-single-time-i-write-a-blog-post-on-wordpress/>

APA

Carlisle, Benjamin Gregory. (2013, Mar 02). This happens every single time I write a blog post on WordPress [Web log post]. Retrieved from https://www.bgcarlisle.com/blog/2013/03/02/this-happens-every-single-time-i-write-a-blog-post-on-wordpress/


What is the Harper government’s position on homosexuality?

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Mixed messages from the Harper government on gay rights

While campaigning in 2011, Harper repeatedly indicated that he was not interested in opening up social issues like abortion or gay rights. But then, in January of 2012, a lawyer for the federal government informed a lesbian couple who was married in Canada that they couldn’t be divorced, since their marriage wasn’t recognised in Florida and England, where they lived. This was considered by most to be a transparent and spineless way to undermine homosexual rights without bringing up the debate in parliament.

After the scandal, Harper backpedalled and told everyone, “We have no intention further of opening or reopening this issue.” Rick Mercer sarcastically added to this quote, “… but my darn lawyers do!”

Similarly, just today on the CBC, we found out that the Harper government has been funding a right-wing political and religious group called “Crossroads Christian Communications,” which had anti-gay propaganda on its site until someone noticed it. According to the CBC, this group has been working in Uganda, where it is still a matter of debate whether homosexuality merits a death sentence.

Again, the government response was, “Canada’s views are clear — we have been strongly opposed to the criminalization of homosexuality or violence against people on the basis of their sexual orientation.”

I’d like to point out that this is not exactly a resounding affirmation of homosexual rights. This was a chance for Canada to stick up for a bullied and vulnerable minority on a human rights issue, and all they can say is, “Yeah, don’t kill them, I guess.” Further, I don’t think that the government of Canada’s views are clear at all. We’re getting mixed messages on this subject, to say the least. So I checked out the Conservative Party website. Their platform makes no reference to homosexuality at all, as of 2013 February 10.

Curiously, the only time their party platform even mentions minorities is when they indicate that they will “support religious freedom” abroad through CIDA, the agency that was funding the anti-gay religious group in Uganda. It’s difficult to believe the government position that CIDA funds are doled out “on merit” and without regard for the creed of the group receiving the funding when the Tory platform explicitly states that they will ensure that CIDA supports religious groups:

Around the world vulnerable religious minorities are subject to persecution, violence, and repression. … But we can and should do more to respond to the plight of those who suffer merely because of their faith. We will … ensure that the Canadian International Development Agency works with groups supporting such vulnerable minorities.

“Here for Canada,” The Conservative Party Platform 2011, page 40

Conspicuously absent is any mention of the persecution of homosexuals.

This is the Harper government’s position on homosexuality

As best I can tell from what the Harper government is saying and doing, their position on the matter is as follows: They don’t care about homosexuals or their rights, one way or the other. They couldn’t be bothered on the issue in the slightest.

If they were against marriage equality for gays, they’re in the perfect position right now to do something about it. They have a majority government. They could force a bill through the House of Commons making it illegal for the gays to get married, and the rest of the country would be as powerless to stop them as we were when they shoved the omnibus bill down our collective throats. And if they were in favour of gay rights in any meaningful sense, we’d get more than halfhearted apologies after they secretly fund right-wing Christian anti-gay groups working in Uganda where homosexual rights are terrifyingly few.

The position of the Harper government seems to be one based on political expediency rather than any sort of ideology.

This is why you should be angry, no matter what position you take on homosexuality

The Harper government is using this as a wedge issue—trying to cozy up to the far-right in Canada by sending the message that they’re the only game in town for those who are opposed to gay marriage, while at the same time denying that they are even taking a position or opening the debate at all, to appease their more left-leaning supporters.

This should anger you regardless of your political position.

If you have a liberal bent and you think that gays should have marriage equality and the same rights as anyone else, you should be angry because Harper is secretly funding groups with anti-gay agendas abroad and just making life difficult for homosexuals at home. And this is being done, not because they particularly care about the issue, but just for political gain with right-leaning Canadians.

However, if you are of a more conservative opinion and you are opposed enough to homosexuality that this issue would sway who you would vote for, you should be angry because Harper is using your position for his own political gain, all while never actually planning to act on it. Harper is not on your side. He’s just “winking” at you during strategic moments.

BibTeX

@online{bgcarlisle2013-3233,
    title = {What is the Harper government’s position on homosexuality?},
    journaltitle = {The Grey Literature},
    author = {Benjamin Gregory Carlisle},
    address = {Montreal, Canada},
    date = 2013-02-11,
    url = {https://www.bgcarlisle.com/blog/2013/02/11/what-is-the-harper-governments-position-on-homosexuality/}
}

MLA

Carlisle, Benjamin Gregory. "What is the Harper government’s position on homosexuality?" Web blog post. The Grey Literature. 11 Feb 2013. Web. 21 Sep 2017. <https://www.bgcarlisle.com/blog/2013/02/11/what-is-the-harper-governments-position-on-homosexuality/>

APA

Carlisle, Benjamin Gregory. (2013, Feb 11). What is the Harper government’s position on homosexuality? [Web log post]. Retrieved from https://www.bgcarlisle.com/blog/2013/02/11/what-is-the-harper-governments-position-on-homosexuality/


Catch-22 in mental health: An open letter to Andrew Williams, CEO of Stratford General Hospital and Randy Pettapiece, MPP

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Dear Andrew Williams and Randy Pettapiece,

Recently, my father was hospitalised for schizophrenia in the psychiatric ward at the Stratford General Hospital. This was good news. It was a welcome change after months of increasingly abusive and dangerous behaviour on his part that affected the entire family. Not only was he suffering from disordered thoughts and paranoid delusions, he lost his impulse control with regard to money (and some other things as well). Due to his condition he lacks the ability to deal with his own finances. He was admitted to the Stratford General Hospital and shortly thereafter, a medical tribunal determined that he was not competent to make his own medical decisions. My mother was assigned to be his medical decision-maker and power of attorney.

Yesterday, we found out that some unscrupulous lawyer visited the Stratford General Hospital to arrange the papers so that my dad could transfer his medical decision-making and power of attorney away from my mother, and give it to another patient on the psychiatric ward. As far as we know, this other patient is just some guy that my dad met less than two weeks ago when he was admitted. The name sounds made-up, though, so for all we know, it’s not his real name. This “other patient” could even be a delusion of my dad’s.

Needless to say, we were upset.

We contacted the lawyer to ask him what he thought he was doing. He said he didn’t do anything—that it was my dad who made it happen, and that he had training to determine when someone was competent to make such decisions. We will be inquiring about what legal options we have against this individual.

When we told our own lawyer about the problem, his administrative assistant broke out laughing, because it was such a ridiculous turn of affairs. He advised us to get a letter from dad’s psychiatrist, and on the basis of such a letter, it would be possible to have this transfer of power of attorney reversed. This seemed reasonable. On contacting the doctor, we were told that he could not release such a letter, since my dad has requested that his medical information not be shared with us (one of his paranoid delusions is that we’re out to get him), and my mother no longer had her status as his medical decision-maker and power of attorney.

In the face of this Catch-22, we’re not sure what to do next. As of today, the doctors at the Stratford General are still refusing to provide a letter indicating my dad’s condition, because they are afraid of being sued.

I’d like to emphasise at this point that the unscrupulous lawyer got paid for what he did. Paid with money. He came in to the locked ward of the Stratford General and walked out substantially richer, thanks to money he took from a person who was determined by a medical tribunal to be incapable of making his own medical decisions.

If someone walked into a hospital and found an old woman with dementia and exploited her condition for his own financial gain and gave her nothing in return, that conduct would be reprehensible, but it still wouldn’t be as bad as what this lawyer did to my dad yesterday. Not only did he take money from someone whose mental condition renders him incompetent to handle his own financial affairs, but he made it a thousand times harder for us to get my dad back on his meds to stop the paranoia and abuse.

But the really perverse part about this whole system is that if I were to march into his office and punch his face in like he deserves, somehow I would become the bad guy. (For the record, though, I would never do this.)

I have two questions. One for the CEO of the hospital and one for the MPP for Wellington-Perth.

Andrew Williams: When do your doctors plan on doing the right thing for their patient and his family?

Randy Pettapiece: What pressure are you going to bring to bear on this situation? Can you help us to ensure that the lawyer is dismissed from the bar in Ontario, and that my father receives the care he needs?

Yours angrily,

Benjamin Carlisle MA (Biomedical ethics)

Cc: Leona Aglukkaq MP, Deb Matthews MPP, Dr Brian Goldman (feel free to spread this around)

(Edit 21h00—the original version had more cursing, but as my friend advised, “Try not to swear so that your interlocutor doesn’t have an excuse to dismiss you.”)

BibTeX

@online{bgcarlisle2012-3132,
    title = {Catch-22 in mental health: An open letter to Andrew Williams, CEO of Stratford General Hospital and Randy Pettapiece, MPP},
    journaltitle = {The Grey Literature},
    author = {Benjamin Gregory Carlisle},
    address = {Montreal, Canada},
    date = 2012-11-16,
    url = {https://www.bgcarlisle.com/blog/2012/11/16/catch-22-in-mental-health/}
}

MLA

Carlisle, Benjamin Gregory. "Catch-22 in mental health: An open letter to Andrew Williams, CEO of Stratford General Hospital and Randy Pettapiece, MPP" Web blog post. The Grey Literature. 16 Nov 2012. Web. 21 Sep 2017. <https://www.bgcarlisle.com/blog/2012/11/16/catch-22-in-mental-health/>

APA

Carlisle, Benjamin Gregory. (2012, Nov 16). Catch-22 in mental health: An open letter to Andrew Williams, CEO of Stratford General Hospital and Randy Pettapiece, MPP [Web log post]. Retrieved from https://www.bgcarlisle.com/blog/2012/11/16/catch-22-in-mental-health/


How seriously should I take my clinical evaluation?

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In nursing school at McGill, after every semester of clinical, there is a summary evaluation of my performance in the clinical setting. This evaluation includes a checklist of different things we’re graded on, divided into sections like “professionalism,” “technical skills,” “patient collaboration,” etc. Under each section, for every category, one receives a mark ranging from “unsatisfactory” to “meets expectations” and all the way up to “well above expectations.”

I have been sceptical about this mode of evaluation since last semester for a couple of reasons. First, I have a problem with the idea that one has to exceed expectations in order to receive full marks in a class. If I were to exceed expectations in certain ways, it would be very bad. Imagine if I took it upon myself to exceed expectations in the area of my technical skills and administer an IV medication. (This is something I have not been trained to do.) I would probably be expelled from the programme on the spot. But the biggest problem with this philosophy of evaluation is that you can’t, by definition, expect someone to exceed your expectations.

Setting that aside, my other major worry was that all the categories of evaluation were very subjective. I had no way to know if the marks I received were anything more than a reflexion of how much my clinical instructor liked me.

Fortunately, at the end of last semester, I noticed that there was one item on the checklist that was completely objective: The third box under “professionalism and responsibility” is an evaluation of punctuality—whether or not I showed up to clinical on time. This particular evaluation admits of absolutely no subjectivity or judgement on the part of the evaluator. It is something that I should be able to self-evaluate with complete accuracy, and there should be no variation between the mark I gave myself and the mark my teacher gave me. After all, my mark in this section should be a function of the time at which I arrived for clinical.

And so, I decided to do an experiment. I arrived at least a half hour early for every single clinical day this semester. There was not a single clinical day where I showed up on the floor and in uniform less than half an hour in advance of our starting-time. I didn’t do this in secret either. I made sure that my clinical teacher knew that I was there before she was, and that I was reviewing the chart before the day began.

My thinking was as follows: if I get anything less than “well above expectations” on my evaluation for that category, it means that there is some major disconnect between my actual performance and the grade I was assigned.

I received a mark of “meets expectations” from both my obstetric and paediatric teacher in that category. This was doubly shocking, because they had both explicitly commented on the fact that I was always early for clinical in the “comments” section.

I pointed this out to each of them in turn, and they were both very willing to change my mark. In the end, the difference between “meets expectations” and “well above expectations” doesn’t matter that much for this course. Clinical is pass/fail, and so if I had received a 100% in the course, I would get the same “satisfactory” mark on my transcript as if I had received a 65%.

That said, it’s hard for me to take evaluations seriously now. If even the grade I received for punctuality was coloured by the biases of my teachers, how much more were the grades I received in the more subjective categories affected by their prejudices?

BibTeX

@online{bgcarlisle2012-2811,
    title = {How seriously should I take my clinical evaluation?},
    journaltitle = {The Grey Literature},
    author = {Benjamin Gregory Carlisle},
    address = {Montreal, Canada},
    date = 2012-04-13,
    url = {https://www.bgcarlisle.com/blog/2012/04/13/how-seriously-should-i-take-my-clinical-evaluation/}
}

MLA

Carlisle, Benjamin Gregory. "How seriously should I take my clinical evaluation?" Web blog post. The Grey Literature. 13 Apr 2012. Web. 21 Sep 2017. <https://www.bgcarlisle.com/blog/2012/04/13/how-seriously-should-i-take-my-clinical-evaluation/>

APA

Carlisle, Benjamin Gregory. (2012, Apr 13). How seriously should I take my clinical evaluation? [Web log post]. Retrieved from https://www.bgcarlisle.com/blog/2012/04/13/how-seriously-should-i-take-my-clinical-evaluation/


Is McGill a “cash for degrees” scam?

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Today I received the following letter in the post from the OIIQ (the Order of nurses and man-nurses of Québec) which I will quote at length.

Le 22 décembre 2011

Monsieur Benjamin Gregory Carlisle,

Subject: Return of your registration certificate

Your name did not appear on the lists of students registered in nursing that we received from the educational institutions. Accordingly, please return your registration certificate as soon as possible in the enclosed return envelope.

Conversely, if you are still registered, contact your educational institution without delay so that they may confirm that information to us.

For any inquiry, please contact the Registrar’s Office.

We thank you for your cooperation.

Regards

This sort of thing makes me wonder at what point I should start thinking that I fell for one of those “cash for degrees” scams. On the one hand, the classes that I took were held in buildings on the McGill campus, but on the other hand, I don’t think I ever asked my teachers for proof that they work for McGill. In fact, if I wasn’t actually enrolled at McGill, that might explain the terrible difficulty I’ve been having with Financial Aid at McGill and with OSAP.

I sent an email to the administrative assistant for nursing at McGill, but she is out of the office until January 9th. I guess I’ll find out then what’s going on.

BibTeX

@online{bgcarlisle2011-2607,
    title = {Is McGill a “cash for degrees” scam?},
    journaltitle = {The Grey Literature},
    author = {Benjamin Gregory Carlisle},
    address = {Montreal, Canada},
    date = 2011-12-28,
    url = {https://www.bgcarlisle.com/blog/2011/12/28/is-mcgill-a-cash-for-degrees-scam/}
}

MLA

Carlisle, Benjamin Gregory. "Is McGill a “cash for degrees” scam?" Web blog post. The Grey Literature. 28 Dec 2011. Web. 21 Sep 2017. <https://www.bgcarlisle.com/blog/2011/12/28/is-mcgill-a-cash-for-degrees-scam/>

APA

Carlisle, Benjamin Gregory. (2011, Dec 28). Is McGill a “cash for degrees” scam? [Web log post]. Retrieved from https://www.bgcarlisle.com/blog/2011/12/28/is-mcgill-a-cash-for-degrees-scam/


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