BCBusiness: FounderDating – It’s like OkCupid for entrepreneurs

Founders spend countless hours sweating over their projects, and often that sweating won’t be done alone. Adding a co-founder to the mix can bring a whole other realm of skills and experience. But what if you just don’t get along?

Those hours spent together can make or break a company, regardless of how good the idea is. How, then, can someone with a great plan find a person they can work with who has the skills they need? Enter FounderDating, a site that promotes itself as a way for co-founders to find one another in an environment where the personal comes first.

Read more here

BCBusiness: General Fusion adds NASA, White House Talent

A Vancouver fusion power company has secured the help of a NASA astronaut and President Obama’s former climate change czar as it prepares to prove its technology

General Fusion Inc. announced Tuesday that it has appointed astronaut Mark Kelly and former Environmental Protection Agency administrator Carol M. Browner to its nine-member advisory council.

“It’s a great step forward in getting outside expertise from some of the best people in the world for the different challenges we’re trying to tackle,” says CEO Nathan Gilliland.

Read more here

Tensions erupt over Hans Island

This article originally appeared in the Syrup Trap

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A polar bear eats a seal carcass in front of Hans Island, which is by far the most interesting thing ever to happen there. In fact, this isn’t even Hans Island. But would you know the difference? No. You wouldn’t. Because it’s Hans Island.

HANS ISLAND (The News Desk) — A long-simmering territorial dispute over an unremarkable island between two second-rate nations has finally erupted, causing worldwide confusion over where Hans Island is and why it matters.

Hans Island, the bitterly contested island between Canada and Greenland, is under siege from both sides of the Kennedy Channel within the powder keg that is the Nares Channel, and everyone from political scientists to Arctic historians have some idea what is going on.

“It was only a matter of time before things got heated up there,” explained UBC professor Michael Byers. “Everyone wants a piece of Hans Island.”

Ordinary Canadians were quick to claim to have any idea what was happening between the two northern nations.

“It’s got me worried, that’s for sure,” explained a visibly unsure George Anders. “You never know what can happen down there. Over there. Up. Whatever.”

The office of U.S. President Barack Obama issued a statement in an attempt to diffuse tensions.

“Dear Sir/Madam,

I want to express my sincere congratulations/condolences/concern for the situation in YOUR LOCAL AREA. Please rest assured, ISSUE is at the forefront of my mind and that of the entire staff.”

Obama wasn’t the only world leader to wade into this murky issue.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has offered to wrestle both Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Greenlandic Prime Minister Aleqa Hammond. If either leader survives, he or she will be allowed to keep the nondescript cold rock of Hans Island.

Among the international bluster, Hans Islanders themselves have spoken up, saying that they have no idea who any of these people are, and would everyone please be quiet, because there’s a seal over there. ♦

Photo via Jimmy Thomson

Irony, and why Our Contempt for Hipsters is Ruining Africa for Everyone

In 1996, writer David Foster Wallace published an essay, “E Unibus Pluram: Television and U.S. Fiction” in Review of Contemporary Fiction. In the essay, Wallace explained his reasoning as to why television had been so successful in maintaining its position in the centre of popular culture for half a century, despite ever-present complaints regarding its lowest-common-denominator content (catering to the “vulgar, prurient and dumb[1]” common tastes of the common man). He argues that if the viewer knows, consciously or unconsciously, that television watching is dependent on voluntary complicity in the “lowness” of the medium, then television must have developed a sophisticated means of keeping the viewer interested – enter irony.

Irony is television’s way of preventing the viewing public from giving in to its (rational) conscientious qualms with an average television dosage of six hours per day. In order to prevent the public from turning the channel or finding new amusements, television has begun to consume itself, making jokes at its own expense in a self-aware scheme that rewards the viewer for being “in” on the joke.

In Western culture, through a sort of cultural osmosis due to massive overexposure, irony has thus become a vital means through which young people interact with the world; nowhere is this more obvious than in hipster culture.

Hipsters, by definition, identify negatively with current popular culture. Something “cool” to the general public is to the Hipster profoundly uncool, and vice versa – by associating ironically and insincerely with things that have fallen out of fashion, the Hipster asserts his or her disattachment to and aloofness from the public’s tastes. This creates a quick-rolling cycle of adoption and abandonment of fashion and music products, because once a fashion item is associated with Hipsterdom the elite must move on: only the subculture’s lowest echelons identify themselves as Hipsters.

Take for example possibly the first ubiquitous symbol of the hipster (besides, arguably, the Polaroid camera): the fixed-speed bicycle. Technological improvement (in gear-shifters that allow uphill cycling, brakes that really work, and non-banana seats) had rendered the fixed-gear bicycle obsolete by the mid 1980s. However, it was readopted by the Hipster as an extension of thrift-store fashion shopping, proving how committed the Hipster was to the uncool, impractical, etc. Upon widespread adoption of the fixed-gear bicycle, however, the cycle has turned on itself and hipsters themselves sneer at the lesser echelons still sweating on their banana seats.

Hipsterdom and its ironic approach to the world is fairly benign as long as it remains confined to the racks of Value Village, hunting for sweaters with elk on them. However, as Rob Horning lamented in “The Death of the Hipster”, nothing is more than a “signifier of personal identity” to the Hipster, because “they reduce the particularity of anything you might be curious about or invested in into the same dreary common denominator of how ‘cool’ it is perceived to be.”

This is where irony, insincerity, and their current manifestation, the Hipster, become a real problem for young people. When every statement, belief, or cause is scrutinized for its “coolness” rather than its real merit or individual appeal, it becomes painfully hard to honestly commit oneself to something without fear of scorn.

Worse still is the association of absolutely anything creative, courageous, innovative, social, or born of any aesthetic but that of the shopping mall or FX Television, with Hipsterdom and the accompanying scorn. Producing a photo project? Hipster. Ordering a fair trade coffee? Hipster. Wearing a hat your girlfriend knitted for you? Hipster. Learning to play an instrument, learning a new language, baking your own bread, ordering a microbrew, going to a locally-produced documentary screening? What are you, some kind of Hipster?

A real-world application of this regretfully, and allegedly accidentally, appeared in my school newspaper, of which I was an editor when the article appeared. The article in question – run directly opposite an article congratulating students returning from volunteering in Africa – dealt with the altogether cynical and unproductive thesis that Africa had become a “fashionable” place for young people to volunteer, and that it was chosen for its sentimental caché rather than any specific real or perceived need.

The problem I had with the article is that it makes no difference why young volunteers choose to participate in programs, only that they participate and grow through helping others. Everyone benefits from these programs when they are properly administered, regardless of the reasons for which the participants have chosen one place over another. To look down upon this experience is as cynical as it is damaging to the well-being not only of the principal benefactors, but also of the potential participants who might be turned away – or the former participants who no longer feel proud of what they’ve done but instead simply uncool.

David Foster Wallace concluded his 1996 essay with a prediction. He suggested that as a reaction to the hipsters’ sneers, a new form of rebel would emerge, characterized by a heartfelt sincerity and an equal indifference to scorn. This would be an anti-rebel, really, with an inward-facing strength rather than an outward-striking insecurity. Thus far however, the Hipster still rules, and the rest of the world’s hatred of his fetishization of the cool continues to cost more than just a flea-market cardigan and a pair of Ray-Bans.


[1] DFW, “E Unibus Pluram: Television and U.S. Fiction”. A supposedly fun thing I’ll never do again, 1996. Wallace explains that although television caters to a “low” set of tastes, that does not mean that they are meant to appeal to “vulgar, prurient and dumb” people; rather that people’s “low” tastes have more in common than their sophisticated tastes.

Unfollowing the downtown eastside

“We’re living at a time when attention is the new currency. Those who insert themselves into as many channels as possible look set to capture the most value.”
-Pete Cashmore, Founder of Mashable.com

Every notable corporation, public entity, and public person in Canada uses social media to some extent. Even my mother uses Facebook (relentlessly). Most people who do not engage in social media, it seems, do so out of protest or privacy concerns; we take it for granted that those who don’t use social media avoid it on purpose. Why shouldn’t we? The United Nations declared Internet access to be a basic human right two years ago, and as a G8 country, Canada can afford to provide it.

Not everyone has access, though, and if attention really is the new currency, we may be further impoverishing our poorest citizens.

Most of us have data available on our smartphones, so we can check in any time we like with Facebook, Twitter, or news apps. These are basic acts that we do sporadically all day, every day. Are people without smartphones or readily available computer terminals really missing out?

For the uses most people get from social media, the answer is probably no – the ability to chuckle at a cat meme is a low-priority accomplishment, in evolutionary terms, anyway. But when it comes to larger social issues, social media is more and more becoming the measure we use to tell who is switched on, and who doesn’t care.

Take Idle No More, for example. The First Nations-driven movement started with a hashtag, yet in a community with a massive Aboriginal representation, many people in the Downtown Eastside likely don’t know anything about it. The goals of the movement likely directly affect them, but their voices are silenced through a disconnection from the medium in which the movement lives. For most of us, social media is a luxury, but as it becomes central to our identity as citizens we need to make sure it is open to everyone.

What do pipelines and condos have in common?

What do pipelines and condos have in common?

Ivan Drury, a well-known social activist in the Downtown Eastside, says it’s all about displacement.

“Environmental destruction is one of the forces that brings indigenous people to the Downtown Eastside,” said Drury, standing outside the Carnegie Centre where a protest march was about to begin. “They make a place for themselves here, then they get pushed out by gentrification.”

Ivan Drury holds a banner on the steps of the Carnegie Centre before the march begins.
Ivan Drury holds a banner on the steps of the Carnegie Centre before the march begins.

It’s a new angle on the Northern Gateway pipeline, one that in a year and a half of following that controversy I hadn’t heard before. It could be, however, that as the #idlenomore movement is starting to coax multiple threads of discontent into one greater protest against neocolonialism, Northern Gateway and gentrification really don’t need to be considered as separate issues anymore.

“Pipelines and gentrification are two points in a system,” says Drury.

I spoke briefly with an aboriginal woman named Levi. When asked for her last name, she replied mater-of-factly, “I don’t have a last name. I’m homeless.” She went on to point out the irony of being homeless on her own land.

This sentiment of injustice and exclusion is the unifying factor that has allowed #idlenomore to gather previously independent causes under one umbrella. As the march began at the corner of Hastings and Main, about two dozen people joined in. Probably fewer than half of the marchers were aboriginal, but the chants were nevertheless heavy on the land rights language.

Approaching the corner of Carrall St. and East Hastings St., the protesters were chanting “No pipelines on stolen native land,” as passers-by slowly swelled the ranks to around 40. A policeman got out of his car to walk casually behind the marchers. Sounding slightly defensive, he admitted that he hadn’t known the march would take place, but that he was just there to keep people safe.

The modest march finally arrived at its destination, a much larger protest gathering steam at Victory Square. Here, more messaging indicated an even broader pool of support for the demonstration. People hoisted signs warning of natural gas fracking, chanted slogans about Stephen Harper, and held banners deriding the tar sands. Everyone knew that this was a Northern Gateway demonstration, but it’s clear that the grievances run much deeper than one project. As #idlenomore has shown, the tent is big and there’s always room for more.

Save On Meats and the Nosalgiashake

Stepping into Save On Meats is meant to feel like stepping into the diners of yesteryear. One red brick wall is lined with booths complete with aluminum-trimmed tables, while the opposite wall is one long wooden bar with soda-shop style padded stools. Hanging above the bar are the feature design element of the restaurant, cartoon representations of the food done in simple 50’s drive-in style.

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The cartoons grace the cover of the menu as well, acting as branding along with the restaurant’s famous flying pig, which hangs outside in fluorescent pink, just as it did in 1957 when the butcher shop first opened. After a brief closure in 2009 when its original owner retired, it was reopened with the restaurant in 2011 by Gastown restaurateur Mark Brand.

This isn’t the East Hastings Street of the 1950s, however, when it was the upscale shopping hub of downtown – and Save On Meats reflects that. The butcher shop employs some of the disadvantaged East Hastings Street residents, people who find it difficult to find employment even in their own neighbourhood. More recently, Brand introduced sandwich tokens that customers can purchase to hand out to panhandlers instead of money. And overall, the restaurant’s menu, which features a handful of filling items for under five dollars, is designed to feed people for cheap.

Late on a Saturday or Sunday morning, this place can be a nightmare for a group trying to find a seat, but when four of us walked in on a Wednesday evening, we had our choice of booths. We chose the “VIP” booth at the back, which can seat around eight people, because we were expecting a few more to join us. We immediately flipped to the back of the menu, because we knew what we were there for: boozy milkshakes.

The restaurant has four signature alcoholic milkshakes, plus the option to create a custom combination. Wanting to maximize our milkshake flavour exposure, two of us settled on splitting two milkshakes: the Rumnana and the Warm Polar Bear, both $10. The Rumnana is a classic banana milkshake with a shot of white rum, while the Warm Polar Bear tastes like a candy cane, with peppermint schnapps and Kahlua. The Rumnana was the less rich of the two, which – trust me – is a good thing. By the end, the richness of both milkshakes was weighing me down and made the final sips almost a chore.  On top of the plate of bacon-chocolate cookies, the milkshakes certainly made the trip downtown worthwhile.

The décor and the menu recalled a time when curvy women in polka dots graced drive-in movie theatre screens and pin-up posters

 

When we finally managed to gather the willpower to stand up, the bill was a reasonable $25. As the last people to leave, we found that we were holding up progress on a photo shoot – voluptuous women with giant hairstyles had indeed been walking past us to and from the washroom-turned-changeroom for the past 20 minutes. It’s easy to see why Save On Meats would be an ideal shooting location for retro plus-sized clothing. The décor and the menu recalled a time when curvy women in polka dots graced drive-in movie theatre screens and pin-up posters. It may seem like a leap to say that that aesthetic can be revived with a milkshake, but the tall, frosty aluminum cups in which our drinks arrived could beg to differ.

Government announces ban on gas drilling in Sacred Headwaters

This article originally appeared on the Tyee December 18, 2012

The B.C. government announced Tuesday that an agreement had been reached to ban gas drilling in the Sacred Headwaters. The ban will take effect on the day that a four-year moratorium on all activity related to coalbed methane extraction was set to expire.

Shell Canada has relinquished its tenure on the area, after a prolonged battle that dates back nearly a decade. In 2004, Shell was first granted the rights to the land, which is estimated to contain some 8.1 trillion cubic feet (230 km3) of methane gas, in the northern B.C. Tahltan First Nation territory.

In 2005, nine Tahltan elders were arrested while blockading the road. Since then, several environmental groups have joined in the fight to protect the area, and in recent weeks there has been growing anxiety about the expiry of the moratorium. Talks have been under way, but no details were released until Tuesday.

“The government of British Columbia would like to thank the Tahltan Central Council and Shell for their commitment to positive communications during the last few years,” said Energy Minister Rich Coleman in a press release issued jointly by the government, Shell, and the Tahltan Central Council. “Together, we have put agreements in place that respect the interest of all three major parties and have tangible benefits for British Columbians.”

In exchange for giving up on the project, in which Shell has already spent money preparing for gas extraction, the company received $20-million in royalty credits to build a water recycling project. Royalty credits are deductions against future royalties owed to the provincial government, not upfront cash.

“Good water management is central to sustainable operations,” said Lorraine Mitchelmore, president of Shell Canada, in the same press release. “We now focus on growth opportunities with better commercial and geological prospects in Northeast British Columbia.”

The environmental groups involved in the protest are counting the ban as a win.

“Taking on big-energy giants like Shell is no easy feat,” said Karen Tam Wu of Forest Ethics in an email to supporters. “Wins like this take patience and determination.”

While this project has been cancelled, the province has yet to issue a permanent ban on oil and gas development in the Sacred Headwaters (also known as the Klappan Valley).

“Our people do not want to see it developed,” said Anita McPhee, president of the Tahltan Tribal Council in the joint press release, “and we look forward to working with B.C. on achieving permanent protection of the Klappan.”

Jimmy Thomson is completing a practicum at The Tyee.

Fracking ban in Sacred Headwaters set to expire Dec. 18

This article originally appeared on the Tyee blog, the Hook, December 14, 2012.

A moratorium on a large coal bed methane project in northern B.C. is about to expire. The moratorium has prevented Shell Canada from conducting “any oil and gas activity or related activity” in the Sacred Headwaters project since December 2008, according to the original Order in Council.

While First Nations, environmental groups, and the provincial NDP are calling for the moratorium to be extended, negotiations around the future of the area between Shell, First Nations and local stakeholders are ongoing, a spokesperson for the B.C. Ministry of Energy, Mines, and Natural Resources confirmed.

The spokesperson would not comment on the nature of the discussions, saying that further details would be made available when an agreement is reached.

The project is located in Tahltan First Nation territory. Anita McPhee, president of the Tahltan Central Council, also would not comment on any negotiations with the province, but said she is determined to protect the Sacred Headwaters.

“We’re not going to stop until there is permanent protection in the Klappan.”

The Klappan, as the Sacred Headwaters basin is sometimes known, is located at the head of the Skeena, Stikine, and Nass rivers.

The BC NDP recently weighed in on the issue.

“Coal bed methane development could see hundreds of gas wells drilled in these pristine river headwaters, along with construction of hundreds of roads and pipelines to support them,” said NDP mining critic Doug Donaldson in a recent email to supporters. “It could contaminate groundwater and river water downstream, and put at risk significant wild salmon spawning beds.”

The original government document that ordered the moratorium has provisions for Shell to have resumed operations two years after the moratorium was issued, as early as 2010. This was on the conditions that the company first conduct an assessment of the impact the operation would have on water quality, that First Nations and other local communities be provided with sufficient information on coal bed methane extraction, and that this all be done to the satisfaction of the minister.

Karen Tam Wu, who is in charge of the advocacy group Forest Ethics’ campaign to prevent Shell from developing the natural gas deposit in the region, says she is optimistic about the outcome of the ongoing discussions.

“I’ve heard the government is going to come down on the right side of the fence on this,” she explains. “I’m holding my breath and my fingers are crossed.”

On Friday morning the Senate approved Bill C-45, the omnibus bill, which included provisions to eliminate the Hazardous Materials Information Review Commission. This was the body responsible for, among other things, monitoring chemicals used in hydraulic fracturing operations like the Shell project in the Sacred Headwaters.

Disclosure of the composition of the chemicals used in fracking is mandatory in B.C. as of April 1, 2012, and the registry is publicly available. However, many chemicals can be protected as trade secrets.

The HMIRC’s responsibilities will be transferred to Health Canada, which in April announced that it would be cutting 840 jobs.

More British Columbians oppose Gateway pipeline after map controversy, ad blitz: poll

This originally appeared on the Tyee blog, The Hook, on December 11, 2012

A new poll suggests that 60 per cent of British Columbians now oppose the proposed Northern Gateway bitumen pipeline. And according to the results, controversy over Enbridge’s tanker route map — which omitted 1,000 square kilometres of islands in the Douglas Channel — didn’t help: 58 per cent of respondents who saw the map said that it worsened their opinion of the project.

Commissioned by the Gitga’at First Nation and carried out by Forum Research, the poll (hosted on this website) is the most recent survey of public opinion surrounding the pipeline project. Forum Research contacted 1,051 British Columbians, asking the same central question as in two other polls they have conducted on the issue: “Are you in favour or opposed to the Northern Gateway pipeline which would carry crude oil from the Alberta oil sands across the Rocky Mountains to the BC coast at Kitimat to be shipped by tanker to refineries in Asia?”

The poll comes six months after the start of a major, multimillion dollar ad campaign from Enbridge, which included TV and radio spots, and newspaper and online ads. It found that 86 per cent of respondents had seen some advertising from Enbridge in the last six months. Of those 86 per cent who had seen ads, 46 per cent had not changed their opinions, while 37 per cent said it made their impressions of the project worse.

“We don’t have the resources to fight Enbridge’s multi-million dollar advertising campaigns,” said Cam Hill, Gitga’at councillor, in a statement released with the polling results.

“What we do have is the truth, and the truth is that a single oil spill in B.C.’s coastal waters could wipeout the traditional foods that feed our people. We don’t want dead water.”

Last August, critics attacked Enbridge’s depiction of the Douglas Channel, minus the channel’s many islands, in a promotional video, accusing the company of misleading the public. An Enbridge spokesperson, Ted Nogier,told the Times Colonist that the map was for “illustrative purposes only,” and that it wasn’t to be taken as an accurate depiction of the channel.

Earlier polls from Forum have given similar results, but the trend in their results points toward growing opposition. Last January, opposition was 46 per cent, and by April it was at 52 per cent.

The Tyee has not yet been able to reach Enbridge for comment.

Jimmy Thomson is completing a practicum at The Tyee.