Classifying the critters of UBC

Andrew investigates a slimy specimen

An invitation for Fab File readers in the Vancouver area

Who: Andrew MacDonald, Department of Zoology, green college resident
What: A lesson in love and appreciation of biodiversity
When: November 1st 8:00 – 9:00 p.m.
Where: Green College coach house, UBC

We live each day surrounded by birds, insects, plants and invertebrates: but how well do we really know them? In this talk Andrew MacDonald will share what he knows about the identification and natural history of the (non-human!) organisms in and around Green College, UBC.

The talk will involve photos, recordings and specimens of organisms in and around our campus.

(Insider knowledge: Andrew is one of the college’s most enthusiastic story-tellers. He has inspired a sense of wonder in many of our residents, and we’re excited to spread–for instance–some of his beetle-mania!)

Please join us. And stay for dinner if you can!


Big reporters do cry

Dave Seglin's polished photo on the CBC's website

I’m used to way he signs off on his radio stories — the expected: “Dave Seglins, CBC news.”

During the Russell William‘s trial, he remained composed, at least on air, as he covered the horrific details.

Before today, I couldn’t have imagine Seglins, a seasoned reporter and radio show host, coming out of the experience “a blubbering mess.” But in a cautionary tale that he wrote for J-source, Seglins makes no claim to newsroom bravado and admits to his own trials and tribulations.

“To my own surprise, and terror, I melted down, incapacitated by several bouts of anxiety, panic and uncontrollable dread that I’ve never felt before — and hope never to again,” confesses Seglins.

“There was no real rest. No decompression. The depravity in the story kept escalating.”

Seglins describes pushing through the physical and emotional exhaustion, working well into the night only to awaken in time to line up outside the courthouse starting at 4:45 a.m. the next day, for several days.

“I’m finding it hard to talk with anyone about this,” he explains, now that the trial has ended. “The only ones who can really appreciate the torture of those long days are the others who were there in the court.”

As a young journalist, I appreciate knowing that even seasoned professionals sometimes need help, whether it’s back-up during the reporting or counseling after the fact. It was brave of him to share his struggle, and I think all  journalists would do well to read the story behind the statements I’ve picked out: One reporter’s trial.

Remember, we are people first.

Toronto newspapers on their choice for mayor

Image by Fabiola Carletti

As a displaced Torontonian in Vancouver, I’ve been watching my city’s election coverage from afar.

Although polls are far from perfect, it’s been interesting to follow the numbers and try to guess at what the final tally will look like. For some time now, it’s been two-choice chatter in the T-dot: Will the next mayor be Rob Ford or George Smitherman? (Joe Pantalone being the only other highly-visible contender to have kept his name in the hat.)

I, for one, am not a betting woman. Suspense gives me the spins, so someone please tell me when it’s safe to look.

Anyway, since voting day is only one sleep away, I thought I’d round up the endorsement editorials of the four mainstream Toronto newspapers to save you a few google searches.

I’ve only included the beginning of the articles, and encourage you to click through for the full editorial.

Another day, another mayor.

George Smitherman. Photo by Shaun Merritt on Flickr.

The Toronto Star: George Smitherman

With eight days left in the municipal election campaign, three main candidates remain standing in the race for the Toronto mayoralty: Rob Ford, Joe Pantalone and George Smitherman. Each has endured the rigours of a gruelling, months-long campaign in a bid to serve Toronto’s 2.6 million people. Each deserves respect for his effort. But only one candidate has the proven political skill, government experience, commitment to change, negotiating ability, compassion, drive, determination and charisma that — taken together — would amount to an effective mayor. George Smitherman is that candidate. (Continue reading…)

The Globe and Mail: George Smitherman

Toronto is a city suffering from structural problems that need to be overcome over the next mayor’s four-year term. The voters now have a choice between two flawed candidates, neither of whom has a convincing account of how he will bring about these changes; a third does not accept the fact that the city is in any trouble.

Rob Ford’s standing in the polls is a loud and clear message from the citizens that all is not well – in particular that they are at the limit of their toleration for new taxes and tax increases. More than any other candidate, he has captured the mood of voters, who are frustrated, even angry. (Continue reading…)

Rob Ford. Photo by Shaun Merritt on Flickr.

The National Post: Rob Ford

Toronto desperately needs change at City Hall. Spending has increased 43% since outgoing mayor David Miller took office — salaries and benefits by 47%. Over that same time, revenue from user fees and permits rose nearly 30% and property tax revenue by nearly a quarter — far outstripping the city’s population growth. The city has anywhere from 15% to 25% more employees than it did in 1998, depending on whose numbers you go by, and very little to show for it. All candidates in this campaign agree the city faces a $503-million budget shortfall for 2011. (Continue reading…)

The Toronto Sun: Rob Ford

The current political regime in charge of City Hall needs to be dragged kicking and screaming into a new era where taxpayers come first. In this election, there is only one candidate running for mayor who is both promising that kind of profound change and who has a credible record indicating he’ll deliver it. That’s Rob Ford. He’s the only person running for mayor who can get this enormous job done. (Continue reading…)

So, who will be able to print the “we-told-you-so” headlines? In such a tight race, it’s hard to say.

Worth noting, though: when discussing the widespread “guesstimating” with a Calgarian friend, she reminded me of a simple point: Pollsters tend to call residential house phones and, as she asked matter-of-factly, “how many people under 30 do you know who have land lines?”

But does this mean the cell-phone-touting teens and twenty-somethings will show up in droves and confound the pollsters as they seem to have done (at least partially) for Nenshi in Calgary? Or will they vote for “x-men”?

(I know one 19-year-old who seriously plans to do just that.)

As much as I hate ending posts this way: only time will tell.

Do you know where your e-waste goes?

Image from PBS FRONTLINE/World

Hey readers! Do you live in the Vancouver area? If so, I’d like to invite you to attend the following event that I’ve organized for Green College, the UBC residence at which I currently reside. The guest speaker is a friend and former resident who recently graduated from my J-school program at UBC.

If you can’t make it, you can watch the documentary on this blog. I’ve embedded it into an earlier post. Either way, please check it out! It’s 20 minutes extremely well spent.

Event Details:

Jodie Martinson holds her new Emmy. Photo courtesy JM.

Who: Jodie Martinson, former Green College resident and documentary filmmaker
What: Ghana: Digital Dumping Ground — screening, followed by Q&A
When: Nov. 7th, 2010 at 5:00 p.m.
Where: Green College coach house


Jodie Martinson, a recent graduate from the UBC School of Journalism, has already earned an Emmy for her documentary film work.

She is among the first group of Canadian students to ever win the prestigious award, having beat out established heavyweights like 60 minutes, 48 Hours and Nightline. Under the leadership of Peter Klein, UBC associate professor and former 60 minutes producer, a ten-student troupe crafted an investigative news documentary called “Ghana: Digital Dumping Ground which aired on the PBS documentary series FRONTLINE/World in 2009.

The documentary follows the trail of discarded computers, or e-waste, to three communities in Ghana, China and India. Along the way, the investigative team uncovers serious threats to the environment, public health, human rights and information security.

On November 7th at 5:00 p.m., Martinson will return to Green College, her former home, and talk about the making of the film as well as the issues that inspired it. Please join us for a screening followed by a Q&A, and stay for dinner if you can!

No Sane, No Gain

These are some of the signs being voted “most sane” in the lead-up to Jon Stewart’s Rally to Restore Sanity (an effort to “take it down a notch” for America). I had a good laugh browsing the gallery today.

The top-voted sanest signs

Here’s one I quite like:

It’s funny ’cause it’s true.

In fact, many of the most popular signs are reassuringly reasonable…like the classic:
“I disagree with you, but I’m pretty sure you’re not Hitler.”

Check out the full gallery at

(For the record, there’s a typo in sign #4. Seems the sane also misspell things from time to time.)

Spinning Climate Change

How does evidence of climate change come to matter for different social groups?

I’ve posted this video as a follow-up to an earlier post.
It’s the end result of filming and editing a lecture delivered by my thesis supervisor.

Video synopsis

UBC  journalism professor Candis Callison delivers her lecture “Spinning climate change, vernaculars and emergent forms of life.”
The original event took place on Oct. 7th, 2010 at the Green College coach house on UBC campus.

In her talk, Prof. Callison complicates the notion that scientific information will straightforwardly inspire action to counter environmental problems. Her research provides insight into how Americans within five distinct social and professional groups are translating, transforming, and re-articulating climate change for a diverse citizenry and wider publics.

“More information is not the point. You’ve got to find ways to link [climate change] to what people already care about.”

Speaker: Prof. Candis Callison, UBC School of Journalism
Venue: Green College, UBC
Date: Oct. 7th, 2010
Filming and Editing: Fabiola Carletti, Journalism grad student and Green College Resident

Gay is not a synonym for stupid

Last night, a trending topic on twitter* really annoyed me.

The offending tag was #stopthatthatsgay, and people (who may or may not realize how public and permanent their tweets are) were making inane comments like:

Recently, the media has reported on a string of suicides by gay youth and youth perceived to be gay. Many of these kids were routinely mocked or beaten up at school, and these tragedies have prompted a very public conversation about ending homophobic bullying. When I saw the trending topic last night, I thought about the banality of torment.

This morning I woke up to see that my words were being re-tweeted by many other concerned twitter users:

I also received a link to a petition to stop the tag and a link to a more general awareness-raising site “Think Before You Speak” that is trying to discourage the derogatory use of phrases like “that’s so gay.”

I also saw counter-tags like #loveislouder, #itgetsbetter, and #carryonthatscute. I hope that anyone struggling with bullying sees the support, and not just the insensitivity.

And, if you really want to use the word “gay” as an adjective, at least use it correctly.


gay – bright and pleasant; promoting a feeling of cheer; “a cheery hello”; “a gay sunny room”; “a sunny smile”
cheerful – being full of or promoting cheer; having or showing good spirits; “her cheerful nature”; “a cheerful greeting”; “a cheerful room”; “as cheerful as anyone confined to a hospital bed could be”
gay – full of or showing high-spirited merriment; “when hearts were young and gay”; “a poet could not but be gay, in such a jocund company”- Wordsworth; “the jolly crowd at the reunion”; “jolly old Saint Nick”; “a jovial old gentleman”; “have a merry Christmas”; “peals of merry laughter”; “a mirthful laugh”
joyous – full of or characterized by joy; “felt a joyous abandon”; “joyous laughter”
gay – given to social pleasures often including dissipation; “led a gay Bohemian life”; “a gay old rogue with an eye for the ladies”
indulgent – characterized by or given to yielding to the wishes of someone ; “indulgent grandparents”
gay – brightly colored and showy; “girls decked out in brave new dresses”; “brave banners flying”; “`braw’ is a Scottish word”; “a dress a bit too gay for her years”; “birds with gay plumage”
colourfulcolorful – striking in variety and interest; “a colorful period of history”; “a colorful character”; “colorful language”
gay – offering fun and gaiety; “a festive (or festal) occasion”; “gay and exciting night life”; “a merry evening”
joyous – full of or characterized by joy; “felt a joyous abandon”; “joyous laughter”
gay – homosexual or arousing homosexual desires
homosexual – sexually attracted to members of your own sex


Again, thanks to everyone who re-tweeted my response — you’ve made today much more bright and gay than yesterday! And, since I started with a little humour, I’ll end with a musical number created back when proposition 8 sought to restrict the definition of marriage in California to opposite-sex couples — a situation that got better.

(By the way, I should say that many religious groups opposed proposition 8. For instance, the California Council of Churches stated that Proposition 8 would infringe on the freedom of religion for churches who wish to bless same-sex unions.)


*In case you don’t use twitter: trending topics (or TT) come up on the sidebar to list what people are tweeting about. Often times, these topics are preceded by a “#” (or hash tag) to make it easier to mark the phrase off as a topic of conversation.)