Quick Hits - May 28

I’m busy and tuckered out and preparing for the Fathom Five launch in Ottawa, so I thought I’d take it easy today and post another set of quick links.


Congratulations to Josh Gould who won the secret contest I was running on this blog, a contest called Who Will Post the 5000th Comment on Bow. James Bow?

Actually, Josh posted comment #5001 (see it here), but since I inadvertently posted comment number #5000, I can’t accept my own prize.

So, Josh Gould wins a signed copy of Fathom Five, which I’ll happily send to him if he contacts me by e-mail with his mailing address. Congratulations once again, Josh, and thanks to all 5,000 commentators who participated.

Speaking Of…

Of those 5000 comments (5003 as I write this), a quick search in Movable Type’s back end shows that I contributed 560 of them. And all under my own name. What I have not done, unlike certain members of the Canadian Taxpayers’ Federation is commented to my own posts under a pseudonym in order to make it appear that there was a vigorous community discussion going on. (Good lord, what a hoot!)

What is Whistleblowing?

I was uncertain what to make of the Conservative government’s decision to arrest a civil servant who leaked the party’s Green Plan to the press. The individual in question is playing the martyr card, and the decision does seem to fly in the face of Stephen Harper’s calls for whistleblower protection. However, a conversation with Greg Staples set me straight.

Jeffrey Monaghan is not a whistleblower. A whistleblower is an individual who breaks silence and reports on an organization’s illegal activities, and while the Conservative’s Green Plan has been harshly criticized in many quarters, it’s not an illegal document. Monaghan is entitled to his opinions, but if he felt strongly that the document was bad policy, the only legal recourse he is morally entitled to have is to resign from the civil service. He did not do this.

Yes, the Conservative response of arresting Monaghan and hauling him out of his office in handcuffs is heavy-handed and needlessly intimidating, but I would expect that any worker who did what Monaghan did, would not be holding his job at the end of the day. And not collecting severance or unemployment insurance either (since you don’t get these things if you’ve been fired with cause).

The Toys of My Youth

It’s heartening to see of the toys of my youth make a comeback.

One of my favourite toys from my childhood was my Brio trainset. It was a bunch of low-tech wooden cars running on interlocking wooden track. It was an elegant design: simple, flexible and darn near indestructible. I would build subway networks in my room.

So sturdy were these track pieces that my parents were able to dig them up from the basement a few months ago. They’re scuffed and marked up (with station names in old magic marker ink) but perfectly serviceable. And they were quickly augmented by more pieces from a Thomas the Tank Engine set.

It seems that Brio’s patent on the wooden track pieces expired a few years ago, allowing a manufacturer licensed to produce Thomas the Tank Engine trains, to make use of the technology. And those who don’t want to spend the premium on these licensed items can get a bare-bones set from their local Ikea.

Recently, visiting a toystore, I find three manufacturers making use of the same type of track: the Thomas the Tank Engine people, a generic company called Maxim Enterprises, and Brio. Brio appears to have dealt with the expiration of its patent by making its equipment more complex. Its trains now offer push button sounds.

Happily, Vivian enjoys the track pieces, and I have an excuse to add to her set.

Now if only I could find who it was that made those die-cast double decker buses of my youth. These hefty toys featured a little catch that allowed you to open and close its doors, and the wheel width was exactly the right width to fit in the Brio track grooves, allowing me to run my own trolleys through my model towns.

The die-cast buses I see today don’t fit on these tracks, being built more in scale.

Anybody know what I’m talking about?

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