Colin's Journal

Colin's Journal: A place for thoughts about politics, software, and daily life.

November 29th, 2002

Bowling for Columbine

I’ve just returned from seeing Bowling For Columbine, the latest film by Michael Moore. I’ve not seen any of Michael’s other films, only the TV Nation series that he did a while ago. The film style is very much his own, although being longer than TV Nation he gets into it in a more serious way.

There’s a lot in this film, and it’s certainly not just about guns. The comparison between Canada and the US regarding prevalence of guns is an interesting point (especially while I’m living here!), but some of the numbers presented are misleading.

For example the film takes the number of fire arms in Canada (approximately 9 million – estimates and sources can be found here), and determines that with a population of around 10 million house holds (population of 30 million) that 9/10 house holds have guns. The maths of course is bogus, while there are around 9 million fire arms they are concentrated together, with gun owners likely to own more than one gun. According to this paper based on the International Crime (Victim) Survey from 1996, around 22% of house holds in Canada has one or more fire arms. The point still stands however that with US gun owning house holds coming in at 48% (see the same paper) it’s not just a straight matter of gun ownership that can explain the nearly 10 times difference in gun related deaths (figures from the movie).

The thesis put forward by the film is that Americans are perpetually afraid – they are constantly being told about dangers in their society, and as a result are more likely to see gun ownership as a part of defence. This added to the sheer number of guns is what causes the number of gun related deaths. It’s an interesting idea, certainly supported by the type of news coverage that I’ve seen in the US, but I’m not sure how well it would hold up to proper analysis. While the number of gun owners in Canada that deem their ownership of guns being for defence is low, this is not true of Austria.

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November 29th, 2002

Quick round-up on software

A quick round-up on some recent software releases: Mozilla has released version 1.2. Mozilla is my favourtite web browser when I’m stuck on something other than Linux (where I use galeon). There’s also a new version of the stable linux kernel 2.4.20, although I’ll wait a few days for some feedback to come in before I upgrade myself.

On the subject of software that hasn’t been released: I’ve now handle text encodings other than ASCII in my weblog system. This means that I can quote prices in pounds properly (£ – see?)! I hadn’t spent any time worry about text encoding until I found that it didn’t work, but now I think I’ve got it nailed down pretty well. Internally everything uses unicode, all weblog posts are stored in XML in UTF-8, and you can specify what character encoding the HTML templates and resulting files should use. The bit that seems like a bit of a hack to me is that I can’t find out dynamically what encoding the GUI is using (written in wxPython) – so it’s currently hard coded.

The feature that I’d like to work on next will be a simple web based entry editor so that I can make postings while on the move – it should be simple enough to implement so it shouldn’t take long. I definitely want to have it finished for Christmas, otherwise it’ll be very quiet around here!

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