One way tickets to Mars

Matt Damon is so cool that he makes a movie entertaining, even when most of it is about getting stuck alone on a planet for a year. The number one activity for a good twenty minutes of the movie was planting potatoes with human feces (he was running out of food and he needed fertilizer), but you were still glued to your seat, fascinated about what came next. If you have yet to watch The Martian, do so. There is enough Matt Damon and enough science in this fiction to make it worthwhile, but it is also a movie that will seem dated in 10 years.

That is because by 2016 there will already be astronauts chosen for the first trip to Mars. By 2023 we could have a base in Mars. By 2027 we could have people there (potato farming could really happen in Mars by then!). If you would like to apply click here. Just be aware that they can fly you there, but you are not coming back. The technology to bring people back isn’t here yet. Unlike the movie, you would be signing up for a one-way trip.

When the not-for-profit leading the project, Mars One, made their first announcement two years ago, 10,000 people emailed asking to apply. Seems farfetched, but in reality this would be the greatest adventure humankind has ever undertaken. Even if it meant never seeing your family or maybe anybody else—ever again. If you are that first lucky human to step on Mars, your name will be etched in stone for all of history.

To put it in perspective, Cristopher Columbus travelled 5,000 km to cross the Atlantic. The first Apollo mission travelled 384,000 km to go to the moon. The distance to Mars is 54 600 000 km. Going to Mars is a big deal.

Nobody will remember Matt Damon in 50 years, but everyone will know the name of the first person to set foot on Mars. Apply while you still can!

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School Trustee Howard Kaplan Dies at 72

Flags in local schools were flown at half-mast when news broke. Howard Kaplan will be remembered as an activist in the local community that cared deeply about public education and issues of equity. He was first elected TDSB Trustee in 2010 and was re-elected in 2014. He fought for early childhood education programs, equity in education and was a very active member in the community.

Howard became ill recently and was waiting for a liver transplant.

He wrote on Facebook in November:
“I’ve been diagnosed with an auto-immune condition: IgG4-related sclerosing cholangitis. Look it up, it’s too complicated to explain it here. What it means is that I will eventually need a new liver. I am currently undergoing a battery of tests to see if I am a suitable candidate for a transplant: I have to be healthy enough — good heart, lungs, kidneys, etc; and I have to be sick enough — my liver has to be really bad. Accordingly, my energy level fluctuates day-by-day. I don’t know from one day to the next how much work I can do. It will get worse as time goes on until I get a new liver… if I’m a suitable candidate. As far as my work as a Trustee goes, I’m doing what I can, when I can. Staff are aware of my condition, and are taking on some of my constituency work.”

On behalf of The Downsview Advocate we send his family our deepest condolences during this difficult time -he was a great man that did very good things for this community.

Big Telecoms raising your internet price

Your internet bill is going up soon -if your service is with Bell or Rogers.

The two companies announced earlier this month that the price of their services are going up across the board. I got my letter just last week.

As consumers, we do not have much of a choice as far as internet services are concerned. In Canada and particularly in Ontario, the variety of services are not great. Bell and Rogers own most of the network infrastructure. Almost all the other service providers “rent” their wires to provide the service into your home. They can offer some savings but depend on the big companies for servicing and repairs. The experience of calling Acanac or another one of the little internet providers with a technical service request when your internet is down is, as one could imagine, not always pleasant. You can almost imagine some Rogers’ tech guy dragging his feet in order to avoid having to fix the issue of the start-up competitors.

Bell has now started a legal process to stop even this small measure of competition from happening. The CRTC, the government body that regulates the Big Telecoms, ruled earlier that Bell, Rogers and Telus have to provide their networks at wholesale prices to smaller companies. They are legally required to do so. Bell is arguing that this is causing them to stop investing in their network and that that in turn would lead to job losses.

You have not heard much about this on the news yet and maybe you will, because this will hit all of us in the pocket books. But it is hard not to be cynical about the small amount of coverage on the news on this type of issue when Bell and Rogers in particular have so much influence over the media that is available to the public (Bell for example owns CP24, CTV, The Globe and Mail and others). It is even harder to believe that the Big Telecoms are arguing that the subpar network that they are making available to us in Toronto under near monopoly conditions needs to be protected from competition in order for us to see improvements.

City Councillor Mike Layton is moving a motion at the City of Toronto to get the City to take the side of consumers on this. You can see his motion here:

The City of Calgary already did so earlier last month. They had a 30 page report challenging Bell on the grounds that more competition is needed to improve the service.

The Big Telecoms have not invested in the network in our area. Canada has a very unreliable system, by world standards, and high internet speed is not found in all neighbourhood, least of all Downsview. We need competition to keep the big companies honest.