Mein Name ist

My name is Mike Patterson. That’s almost what it says on my birth certificate; it actually says Michael. It also says Michael on my university ID card. There’s some other very similar variants on pieces of government ID, some include my middle initial or full name. Few people use Michael and fewer still even have reason to know my middle name. I’ve no real reason to use any other name, save for convenience – both my own, and for other people. Mike, as you might know, is a pretty common name, particularly amongst North American males, and doubly so amongst those of my generation.

Depending on context, I have a lot of other names to which I might respond. Depending on the context, I might also not respond, as they tend to be, well, contextual.

At work I’m usually just Mike, but I might be mpatters. That used to be my email address and it will still work, but I now tend to publish mike.patterson. I also use that for email addresses elsewhere, sometimes; my alumni forwarding account, for instance. Since my name is published in our directory as Michael though, some people do call me that, and I don’t bother correcting them. I might not immediately respond though.

On Twitter, I’m snowcrashmike, but nobody uses that anywhere else. Some very old IRC hands might know me as kraig, and I used that on MUDs. I also go by kraig on LiveJournal and Dreamwidth, and some people who met me first through those communities tend to use it as my name, even in voice conversations. In some web communities and games (Forumwarz, for example) I’m generally kraig or kraigu, but sometimes kraigus.

In the very long ago, I used to use BlackSpy as a BBS handle, but that was too overloaded when I switched to IRC. Nowadays on IRC networks I tend to use kraigu. My Steam name varies, I usually set it to earless wondercat, but I often play with it: earless wunderkatze, earless dyingcat (I do a lot of dying in online games), fearless wondercat, feared blundercat, beerless wondercat… well, you get the idea. But usually people call me just earless or wondercat in in-game voice chat, it makes things easier.

Sometimes, in certain circles, I might be just [. I don’t even remember what my FIDONet handle was.

I’m old enough that things like IRC were fairly new when I was coming of age, and young enough that identity is really a fairly slippery thing. I’m old enough to still value some privacy and think that for some people it matters quite a lot, young enough to realise that not using your real name doesn’t mean you can’t be found. I’m experienced enough to know that a middle ground is very difficult to find, wordly enough to know that different cultures approach “true names” in vastly different ways, and finally, practical enough to not really care what name it is that people actually prefer – I try to find out what it is, and use that.

I think realnameonly policies are unnecessarily invasive, don’t do what proponents claim they do, and insensitive. In short, I think they’re misguided at best, generally no better than security theatre, and at worst, just flat-out stupid. Nobody else has the right to tell me who I am, nor do they have the right to tell anybody else who they should be.

Why security and usability *must* go hand in hand

Article: “Why security and usability don’t go hand in hand.”
Wrong. In fact, so wrong I’ll say it several more times. Wrong wrong wrong wrong wrong wrong. The most succinct way to say why is this:
If it isn’t usable, it’s not secure. If it’s not secure, it isn’t usable.
Not only do they go hand in hand, they absolutely must go hand in hand. These are not two axes that must be constantly balanced against one another. That view is outmoded and grounded in the idea that we make something secure by making it less usable, and you make it more usable by making it less secure. Why must that be?
Consider this: if something is “secure” but not “usable,” what will those who need to use it do? Figure out a way to make it usable, which will almost certainly obviate whatever security measures were put into place. If something is “usable” but not “secure,” well, that speaks for itself. Expect to see articles on pogowasright and security mags lambasting your laxness.
I’d say I can’t believe this is even a question, but obviously it is, ergo I must believe. But I don’t have to be happy about it.

History is Boring: Dangerous Chain Letters

My boss told me about a letter he’d received and briefly summarized the content. (I should note he was fairly disgusted by the content; somebody he knew had forwarded it to him.) I’m interested in “common-sense” views of things like justice and philosophy, but as a (former) historian I’m also interested in the misuse and misunderstanding of history. The letter I will discuss is a prime example of both. While I won’t claim that the content of the letter is necessarily commonly accepted, I will claim that it’s full of a lot of the semi-historical tripe that probably resonates more strongly with our fellow citizens than we might like to think.
The following is slightly edited for formatting, but not at all for content:

A Letter to the Editor
So many letter writers have explained how this land is made up of immigrants. Maybe we should turn to our history books and point out to people why today’s Canadian is not willing to accept the new kind of immigrant any longer.
Back in 1900 when there was a rush from all areas of Europe to come to Canada, people had to get off a ship and stand in a long line in Halifax and be documented. Some would even get down on their hands and knees and kiss the ground.
They made a pledge to uphold the laws and support their new country in good and bad times. They made learning English a primary rule in their new Canadian households and some even changed their names to blend in with their new home. They had waved good bye to their birthplace to give their children anew life and did everything in their power to help their children assimilate into one culture.
Nothing was handed to them. No free lunches, no welfare, no labour laws to protect them. All they had were the skills, craftsmanship and desire they had brought with them to trade for a future of prosperity.
Most of their children came of age when World War II broke out. Canadians fought along side men whose parents had come straight over from Germany , Italy, France, Japan , Czechoslovakia , Russia, Sweden, Poland and so many other places. None of these first generation Canadians ever gave any thought about what country their parents had come from. They were Canadians fighting Hitler, Mussolini and the Emperor of Japan. They were defending their freedom as one people.
When we liberated France, no-one in those villages was looking for the Ukrainian-Canadian or the German-Canadian or the Irish-Canadian. The people [of - sic] France saw only Canadians.
And we carried one flag that represented our country. Not one of those immigrant sons would have thought about picking up another country’s flag and waving it to represent who they were. It would have been a disgrace to their parents who had sacrificed so much to be here. These immigrants truly knew what it meant to be a Canadian. They stirred the melting pot into one red and white bowl.
And here we are in 2008 with a new kind of immigrant who wants the same rights and privileges. Only they want to achieve it immediately and by playing with a different set of rules, one that includes a Canadian passport and a guarantee of being faithful to their mother country.
I’m sorry, that’s not what being a Canadian is all about. Canadians have been very open-hearted and open-minded regarding immigrants, whether they were fleeing poverty, dictatorship, persecution, or whatever else makes us think of those aforementioned immigrants who truly did adopt our country, and our flag and our morals and our customs. They left their wars, hatred, and divisions behind.
I believe that the immigrants who landed in Canada with those principles deserve better than that for the toil, hard work and sacrifice as they searched for a better life. I think they would be appalled that they are being used as an example by those waving foreign country flags, fighting foreign battles on our soil, making Canadians change to suit their religions and cultures, and wanting to change our countries fabric by claiming discrimination when we do not give in to their demands.
Its about time we get real and stand up for our forefathers rights, we are
CANADIAN Lest we forget it. I am a Canadian & proud of it!
NO MORE POLITICAL CORRECTNESS
NO MORE not saying CHRISTMAS in stores and our schools!
MERRY CHRISTMAS to all !!!
I want to retain my Canada of Birth !!!
P. S. — Please pass this on to everyone you know!!!
KEEP THIS LETTER MOVING!!
Hope this letter is read by millions of people all across Canada!!

First of all, I can only assume that this was adapted from a letter decrying the decline of American immigration. The “melting pot” phrase is distinctly American; Canadians tend to pretend that we have a “cultural mosaic,” although it is possible that the authors prefer the former phraseology. No doubt the writer would declaim the mosaic idea as a phrase coined by the “politically correct”, but he’d be wrong – the phrase dates back to the 1930s, in reaction to the American ideals.
This is not to say that our “system” is necessarily any better than the American one. I’m just pointing out that most people who have studied the history would know the difference.
The second paragraph talks about a rush from Europe in 1900 and the learning of English. Canadian immigration policy before 1945 was fairly racist. Our policies favoured Anglophone immigrants, particularly from the United States and England, ignoring those lacking the skills government thought were required to settle the West. Experienced farmers were explicitly targeted. Immigrants of other linguistic backgrounds and nations tended to be accepted for unskilled labour only; building the railroads, for example.
In other words, we only wanted immigrants who already spoke English, and those who couldn’t got to pay a tax just to be allowed into the country, so they could do the jobs nobody else wanted to do. Cultural assimilation was not required, as we were just importing more people like we had already.
While it’s true Canadian labour law was virtually non-existent before the 1930s and the development of Canada as a welfare state, that’s not necessarily something of which to be proud. It is untrue that “nothing was handed” to early immigrants. Early immigration to Canada was characterized by land grants: the Dominion Land Act of 1872 gave 160 acres of land for $10 to anybody who met previous conditions and would promise to stay on the land for three years and to improve it.
Given that a large number of immigrants to Canada in the early 1900s came from the British Isles or the US (roughly 2.2 million of 3 million between 1900 and 1915, see here for details online), it is unsurprising that Canadians signed up in droves for service in 1914 and 1939.
Despite the letter’s assertion, Japanese and German immigrants were not really encouraged to sign up for the military, however, and their numbers were overwhelmed by their British counterparts at any rate. In fact, during the war years Canada had concentration camps of its own, most notably for Japanese-Canadians but those of German and Italian descent were roughly-treated as well.
The statement “None of these first generation Canadians ever gave any thought about what country their parents had come from,” isn’t entirely correct either. The wars were extremely unpopular in Quebec, and conscription was required in both World Wars to keep the promises of the Prime Ministers Borden and King. The conscription crises caused severe damage to Anglo-Franco relations in Canada. Quebecois saw the wars as problems between the British and German empires, and for the most part wanted nothing to do with dying for an English King.
Canadians have not always “been very open-hearted and open-minded regarding immigrants” fleeing anything at all. We had no rules set aside for refugees; instead, we treated them as we would have any other immigrant. Canada was overwhelmingly anti-Semitic in the 30s, and this combination was – literally – death for Jews seeking asylum from the Nazis. We were not alone in our anti-Semitism, but that does not excuse it. Those fleeing poverty usually only found more of the same in Canada, and were deported by the thousands during the Depression.
Regarding the assertion that hatred and divisions were somehow magically left behind by recent arrivals to Canada, one needs look no further than the continuing rift between Anglophones and Francophones in Canada. Hatred came to a head in the mid-1970s, but did not disappear by any means.
Five minutes with Google (or, dare I say it, a good history book) should demonstrate the fallacy of this letter. The fact that it has any traction at all is testament to poor historical education in our schools and Canadian racism. The letter’s author should follow his or her own advice and hit the history books, because the “facts” presented within are unadulterated bullshit. Whoever passes it on as fact should hang their head in shame.

Steve Simmons shows us how it’s done

Canoe article
Steve Simmons shows us how it’s done in the highly respectable mainstream media.
Highlighted in green we see what Mr. Simmons, who presumably has a journalism degree and therefore also possesses the highest possible level of ethics seen in writing, thought was the most important thing about the case. She was 16, had a threesome, and liked hockey players; ergo, she’s a puck bunny.
Highlighted in red we see what Mr. Patterson (that’s me in this case, not my father) thought was probably the most important thing about her testimony. I’m a scumbag blogger who writes the word “shit” because he can, and I possess no ethics whatsoever.
Contemplate this with me for a moment, if you will. We have a 16 year old girl; she can get married (with permission) and drive a car (with an adult licensed driver present), but that’s pretty much it. She’s not old enough to drink, smoke, serve her country, or even get a good job, because she’s not mature enough to understand what signing a contract means. We also have a 16 year old boy, same deal, perfectly normal except he also happens to be a hockey player.
And we have that boy’s 29 year old coach, having a threesome with this boy and this girl. A coach we know has control issues. Do you suppose it’s outside the realm of possibility that he might have said, “Gee, playername, I like your girlfriend, she’s hot. Do you like your ice time?” Indulge me and suppose with me a bit further; maybe he doesn’t even need to say that last. Everything we know about this man – which, yes, is inadmissible in court, but I’m not a judge and neither are you – says it’s pretty likely.
She’s a puck bunny, David Frost is merely disgraced. And we wonder why women won’t testify at rape trials, or why this no-longer young woman didn’t want her name to be published. “What does she have to fear?” If you didn’t already know, now you do.
If writing shit like that is what makes somebody a respected professional journalist, I’ll stick at home with my couch and decent paycheque, thank you very much. Fortunately, we have Gare Joyce’s ESPN column from a few weeks ago to provide a much better story about what went on.

Tempests in teapots are insignificant only if you’re a coffee drinker

Hawker Tempest
If you hadn’t heard, webloggers are in the news again, this time after one got kicked out of the press box at an Oilers game.
Some would say this is not a journalist vs blogger pissing match, but journos and PR reps alike are pulling out the same tired old tropes. There’s definitely some serious antagonism and holier than thou ‘tude floating around.
Elliotte Friedman:

You can write whatever you want from your couch. If you never have to show your face, there are no repercussions. No one is going to call you on something face-to-face.

JJ Hebert of the Oilers, being the professional that is, wished Zack Stortini on David: “I’d like him (Berry) to go talk to Zack after. There might not be much talking!” (Staples piece.) It’s telling that Hebert is behaving exactly as he would say us “non-professionals” do.
Friedman and Hebert represent polar opposites; most, of course, fall somewhere in the middle.
One thing that bugs me and I’ve yet to see is: what. on. earth. does going to journalism school and “earning your stripes” have to do with whether or not somebody should (or should not) be in a press box? In other words, what makes journalists so special?
What’s different about journalists? I can think of three arguments, only one of which makes any degree of sense. The first is that you are, by definition, a “professional.” I’m happy to say that you don’t need a degree in something to be a professional in that field. I make a decent living as a system administrator with a Bachelor of Arts in history. You’re a professional because you get paid to do something you’re good at, and no degree automatically grants either the paycheque or the ability.
The second argument is that you need to “put the time in.” Sounds like something journalists say to make themselves feel better over having had to do the same crappy work they’re wishing on everybody else. Don’t buy it. Sure, you’ve got to walk before you can run, but some people catch on to running more quickly than others. The reaction from some people is to try to help those run faster. The reaction from others is to tie irons to the runner’s ankles and say whoah, you need to do the same crap I did first, sonny boy!
Noctua minima, The Little Owl
The third argument builds a bit on the first two, and it’s that if David Berry had gone to the same schools as everybody else and put in the time at the same crappy jobs everybody else had, he’d have automatically known The Rules about a press pass. Sit down, shut up, and only ask questions when the people who got you the pass told the organisation you would. Indulge me for a moment. My profession takes a lot of flak for assuming that people know things, and for sneering at those who don’t live up to our high standards of computing knowledge. A lot of that flak is well-deserved. See where I’m going? Maybe David could have been told The Rules up front. “You’re a new guy, here’s your pass, by the way, all you’re allowed to do is to watch the game and get quotes,” is probably all it would have taken.
When I’m looking for a good sportswriter, I care about what they write, and how they write it.
All I ask is that you write well. Write poorly, and you don’t deserve to be read. I don’t care where your degree is from or what obscure rituals you had to go through at your gig with Birdcage Liner Daily or who on the team will talk to you. I *do* read mc79 because he’s got some interesting ways of looking at games and the players who play them. I *do* read James Mirtle, David Staples, and Lowetide because they can write coherently. There are a lot of people I *do not* read, both webloggers and mainstream “been there done that” types that Kevin Lowe has on his speed dial, because they can do neither. Either they never had the abilities in the first place, or they have long forgotten them.
I don’t begrudge the Edmonton Oilers to make a profit from their endeavours. But if the Oilers want me, or anybody else, to go to their website first for “e-news” (or whatever that execrable term Watt used was), they need to make it worth my time. I’m not saying David Berry or anybody else in particular could do a better job of that than they are right now. I am saying that right now, they’re halfway through the season, 13 points out of the playoffs, and they can’t decide who should start in goal.
They could do much better. Yes, it’s hard to sort the wheat from the chaff in the blog world. Somehow Ted Leonsis does it. Do the Oilers want to admit that they are, at best, second-best? At anything?
Jason Gregor is correct, of course: most blogs are horrible. What he left out is that most sports columns are equally horrible. The accountability he and most others talk about only means that the reporters are unlikely to relieve themselves in the same place they lay their heads at night; it’s no guarantee of quality, intelligence, logic, or even all but a veneer of rational civilization. Somebody who willingly co-writes with a fella calling himself “Wanye Gretz” and posts Googled drunken party pictures, and another fella who may not actually “drop the F bomb” but is willing to all but hold up a sign saying it ought to remember that, and JJ Hebert and his ilk should look in the mirror while making accusations of attacking those who cannot defend themselves.
(That’s a Hawker Tempest in the first photo, by the way. See what I did there? Yeah, I’m not above a little wordplay either.)