Thoughts on culture, education, and having been a Canadian in the US
Random header image... Refresh for more!

Posts from — January 2008

Check out

In the news today:

Inuit filmmaker Zach Kunuk and his co-producer Norman Cohn grabbed worldwide attention for their film “Atanarjuat” when it won a medal at the 2001 Cannes Film Festival, but neither expected the accolades and attention to trickle down to others telling aboriginal stories.
That’s why the two have started a new service allowing such filmmakers from around the world to share and show their work on a website that could become the YouTube of aboriginal cinema.
“(We) are an example of how you can actually succeed and find an audience in this world, but we’re the only ones who have been able to do that,” said Cohn.

The duo’s new website, called, has already gathered 100 films and videos from four countries in the four weeks since it began.

Source: Macleans

This new site is extraordinary and well worth checking out.

January 16, 2008   Comments Off on Check out

Moving to Canada

Every semester, two or three students who don’t know me drop by my office to ask for advice about how they could move to Canada. I don’t usually have much advice to give them, having only experienced the bureaucracy involved in moving the other way. Today, though, as I was diligently casting my votes in the Canadian Blog Awards I discovered a great blog called “We Move to Canada” that over the last few years has documented a couple’s move from NYC to Toronto.

I’ve only read a few postings on the blog, but have added it to my feed list. One of the things I found fascinating was the insights these blogger offer into what Canada is all about. In fact, it all makes me a bit more homesick than usual. Here’s a bit from a Globe and Mail piece that Laura Kaminker wrote about their move North:

We left behind a large, affordable apartment, great jobs, good friends and nearby family. Waiting for us in Canada was a rented house and a small band of well-wishers we met through my blog ( We clutched our résumés, our faith in ourselves and our sense of adventure.
What would we find? Other than Tim Hortons and Don Cherry, the new coins and the new spellings — would it all be pretty much the same?
We knew life in Canada would be different, if only for how we see the United States: foreign wars for profit; unchecked poverty and its twin, rampant violence; increasing government intrusion into citizens’ personal lives; media controlled by the government, and a government controlled by religious fanatics; a corrupt, antiquated election system.
But contrary to what some Canadian cynics say, Canada is not only defined as “not the United States.” Its identity is more subtle than that of the U.S., but then, it’s a more subtle country. Canada doesn’t go around thumping its chest declaring itself The Greatest Nation on the Face of the Earth. Canada speaks more quietly.
I think when Canada speaks, it uses “we” more often than “I.” One might sum up the difference between the U.S. and Canada as individualism vs. community. Of course, both countries have both, but there is an unmistakable difference in emphasis.
The most obvious example of this is national health insurance. Ensuring that every person has access to basic health care requires some sacrifice from everyone — and that’s a trade-off most Canadians willingly accept. Despite whatever problems the system may have, the vast majority of Canadians agree that everyone must contribute toward this greater good.

I’m looking forward to catching up on this blog and to reading it regularly. It got my vote in the blog awards, too.

January 16, 2008   3 Comments

What if Canadians could help choose the next leader of the US?

This news story made me chuckle today.

When we talk about the differences between Canadian and American politics in my classes, student frequently say: “So, the Conservatives are the equivalent of the Republicans and the Liberals are the same as the Democrats, right?” Ummm… no.

In a poll conducted in Canada over the last few days, 1000 Canadians were asked which current candidates they’d favour to be the next president of the US. The results were pretty revealing, I think, of some of the differences between our two countries’ political landscapes.

The survey, provided exclusively to The Canadian Press, says 49 per cent of Canadians expressed a preference for Democrats while only 12 per cent did the same for Republicans.
Even self-described Conservatives — who are supposedly more ideologically in tune with the right-leaning Republicans — favoured the Democrats by a 47-23 margin.
[. . .] Among Republican candidates, Canadian respondents favoured the most socially liberal one.
Former New York City mayor Rudy Giuliani had the support of 6 per cent of respondents, followed by John McCain at 3 per cent, Mike Huckabee at 2 per cent and Mitt Romney at 1 per cent.
In a hypothetical presidential election between Mr. Obama and Mr. Romney, respondents favoured Mr. Obama 49 per cent to 11. And if only Conservatives voted, Mr. Obama would still have won by a 50-17 margin.
I’ve got to think that Mike “Congratulations Canada on preserving your national igloo!” Huckabee is happy that he’s facing voters in New Hampshire tomorrow and not New Brunswick. For one thing, I imagine he might be wondering how he’d fit all those reporters on his dogsled. I keep wondering when that clip from Rick Mercer’s show is going to make the news here in the US.

January 7, 2008   No Comments

Free online courses getting major audiences

Online university courses big hit (CBC News)

The free online courses offered by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) are getting more than a million hits a month, an example of the burgeoning interest in internet education.

Including translations on MIT’s OpenCourseWare (OCW) site, the total rises to about 1.5 million hits.

MIT math professor Gilbert Strang says having a world audience 'is just wonderful.'

MIT math professor Gilbert Strang says having a world audience ‘is just wonderful.’

(Steven Senne/Associated Press)

Math professor Gilbert Strang’s 18.06 linear algebra course (using and understanding matrices) is the most often downloaded, MIT’s website said; users view his lectures about 200,000 times a month.

I love this story for two reasons. First, as a creator of a couple of online courses with many more in the pipeline (hockey and Canadian literature is next on the agenda), I’m excited about how all these developments are going to transform education. Second, I just had to include the photo of Professor Strang to point out how much tidier my office is compared to his. I feel much better now. Back to work!

January 3, 2008   1 Comment

City of Champion Bloggers

Edmontonians blog their way to a world record

Less than a day into the new year, the City of Champions gained a new set of world record holders.

“We will be setting the world record for the largest community blogging event in the world,” organizer Marilyn Jones said when the three-hour event kicked off at 1 p.m.

“Because no one has done this before, we will be setting the record today. And I suspect that by this time next year, we will have a challenge – perhaps from Calgary,” she said.

(Thanks to Steve Cavrak for passing this along)

January 2, 2008   No Comments