January 31, 2005

Meatriarchy Joins Brigade

Welcome to our most recent member, The Meatriarchy, now occupying a new URL.

Posted by Nicholas at 06:09 PM | Comments (2)

Freedom to work . . . in a brothel?

Ghost of a Flea links to a Telegraph Online article:

Under Germany's welfare reforms, any woman under 55 who has been out of work for more than a year can be forced to take an available job — including in the sex industry — or lose her unemployment benefit. Last month German unemployment rose for the 11th consecutive month to 4.5 million, taking the number out of work to its highest since reunification in 1990.

The government had considered making brothels an exception on moral grounds, but decided that it would be too difficult to distinguish them from bars. As a result, job centres must treat employers looking for a prostitute in the same way as those looking for a dental nurse.

When the waitress looked into suing the job centre, she found out that it had not broken the law. Job centres that refuse to penalise people who turn down a job by cutting their benefits face legal action from the potential employer.

Update, 4 February: Darcey, at Dust My Broom calls my attention to a hoax alert for this story.

Posted by Nicholas at 02:46 PM | Comments (0)

Lies, the Law, and Liberty

Wendy McElroy addresses the perverse incentives in current legal practice that encourages (or even subsidizes) lies:

The false accusations that grab the spotlight are usually connected to sexual abuse and celebrities. For example, one headline last week read, "H.S. Coach Awarded $4.5 Million for False Accusation in Sex Case: No Charges Were Ever Filed Against Patrick Gillan."

Nevertheless, Gillan's mug shot was displayed on TV and in several newspapers, along with the accusation. Another headline stated, "Woman Who Accused Celine Dion's Husband of Rape Gets Prison." The article went on to explain, "A woman who tried to extort millions of dollars . . . has been sentenced to up to five years in prison."

But the false accusations that impact most people are more commonplace. They often occur in the process of divorce, in battles over custody and child support. For years, advocates of fathers' rights have accused the family courts of being "anti-male" and of rubber-stamping women's claims. And, judging by increasing interest in concepts like shared custody, their voices are being heard.

Unfortunately, the sensational headlines along with men's disillusionment are creating something of a backlash against women who make any allegations at all — true or false. The backlash should be directed against the legal system itself for offering incentives to lie.

Posted by Nicholas at 12:04 PM | Comments (0)

The 14th Raising of the Red Ensign

Nathan has raised the Red Ensign again, providing a sample of some of the best posts from the Brigade over the last couple of weeks. Excellent work, Nathan!

Posted by Nicholas at 11:49 AM | Comments (0)

Spam Elimination, Raging Kraut Style

Last week, Ray demonstrated his patented method for eliminating spam commenters:

Raging Kraut Expandable Fist

Posted by Nicholas at 10:15 AM | Comments (2)

QotD: Germany

Nowhere in the world (except, perhaps, in Israel or Russia) does history weigh as heavily, as palpably, upon ordinary people as in Germany. Sixty years after the end of the Second World War, the disaster of Nazism is still unmistakably and inescapably inscribed upon almost every town and cityscape, in whichever direction you look. The urban environment of Germany, whose towns and cities were once among the most beautiful in the world, second only to Italy's, is now a wasteland of functional yet discordant modern architecture, soulless and incapable of inspiring anything but a vague existential unease, with a sense of impermanence and unreality that mere prosperity can do nothing to dispel. Well-stocked shops do not supply meaning or purpose. Beauty, at least in its man-made form, has left the land for good; and such remnants of past glories as remain serve only as a constant, nagging reminder of what has been lost, destroyed, utterly and irretrievably smashed up.

Theodore Dalrymple, "The Specters Haunting Dresden", City Journal, 2005-01

Posted by Nicholas at 12:01 AM | Comments (0)

January 30, 2005

The Bunny Suicides

Today's weird link of the day, contributed to the Lois McMaster Bujold mailing list by M. Traber: Bunny Suicides.

Update: A subsequent post to the mailing list pointed out that this is an unauthorized post of material that originally was published in a book.

Posted by Nicholas at 03:36 PM | Comments (0)

QotD: Golden Gate Bridge

It's the pride of every Californian that the Golden Gate Bridge's pedestrian area remains remarkably free of nets, high fences, and other barriers to jumpers. A couple years ago, Tad Friend described this phenomenon, and the strange silence of both officials and local residents about how common Bridge suicides really are. Although officials worry that Steel might inspire copycat jumpers, my concern is that more attention to this topic will eventually drive park officials to put up some sort of unsightly barricades. The suicide-readiness of the Golden Gate Bridge is a luxury I have not (yet) availed myself of, but it's nice to know it's there.

Tim Cavanaugh, "Why Kill Yourself...", Reason Hit and Run, 2005-01-20

Posted by Nicholas at 12:05 AM | Comments (0)

January 29, 2005

QotD: Europe

From my observations of the French, they still feel French, indeed quite strongly so. Nearly half a century after the Treaty of Rome, they can't be said to like the Germans; to think otherwise is to mistake a marriage of convenience for the passion of Romeo and Juliet.

A common European identity therefore has to be forged deliberately and artificially; and one of the imperatives for attempting to do so is the need of Germans for an identity that is not German (the other, which dovetails neatly, is the French drive to recover world power). And since the Germans are very powerful in Europe, by weight of their economy, their need to escape from themselves by absorbing everyone into a new collective identity will sooner or later be perceived in the rest of Europe as the need to impose themselves — as a return to their bad old habits. New identities can indeed be forged, but usually in the crucible of war or at least of social upheaval: not, in the context, an inviting prospect.

Theodore Dalrymple, "The Specters Haunting Dresden", City Journal, 2005-01

Posted by Nicholas at 09:36 AM | Comments (0)

January 28, 2005

An Australian Discovers Canadian Winter

Kirrily "Skud" Robert is enjoying her winters in Canada:

Things you didn't know about snow

Just some random trivia for Australians and others who don't live where it stays below freezing for months on end. Ten facts about snow and related subjects.

1. When it's cold enough, your nostril hairs freeze together. This is actually fun, in an odd way.

. . .

10. The Inuit do not in fact have sixty words for snow, but Anglo-Canadians come close. The following are all words for frozen precipitation either as it comes down or afterwards, and each has a specific meaning: snow, sleet, slush, hail, ice pellets, freezing rain, blizzard, winter storm, frost, powder, sheet ice, accumulation, dump, black ice, drifts, flurries, snowbanks, snowstorm, whiteout, icicles, ice dams, and [. . .], snood (rhymes with hood, not food). Then there are things made from snow (snowman, snow angel, igloo, snow fort, ice palace, ice sculpture) and semi-permanent icy or snowy landscape features (icebergs, glaciers, snowfields). [. . .] However, I am reliably informed that when it comes to snow, there is only one proper adjective.

She then followed this up with a further posting for the uninitiated:

Ten more things you might not know about cold climates if you are Australian or whatever:

1. Dehydration. Gah. The climate here sucks moisture out of you worse than anything I've ever experience in Australia. Sure, both places you have to drink litres of water every day, but when it's not hot and you're not *noticeably* sweating, it's harder to remember.

. . .

8. Small children are approximately spherical. It's really quite cute watching them try to move their limbs when padded with parkas and snowsuits which take up greater volume than their bodies. Think Kenny from South Park.

Posted by Nicholas at 03:17 PM | Comments (0)

The Red Ensign Cabal

Last night, at an undisclosed location, a sinister group of bloggers gathered to lay plots, drink copious quantities of beer, and be generally a huge pain to the wait staff. I smuggled a camera in, cunningly disguised as a PDA, and took some surreptitious photos to be used in evidence:

Chris Taylor, Alan McLeod, and Ray the Raging Kraut

Here we have the ringleader and two of his henchmen: Chris Taylor, Alan McLeod, and Ray, the Raging Kraut.

Also in attendance was Damian "Babbling" Brooks, who managed to avoid being in most of the photos:

Ray and Damian

At some point, my careful concealment of the camera was at risk:

Chris Taylor suspects something

To feed the throngs, entire herds of animals were slaughtered:

Pic036_27Jan05.jpg

And the alcohol started to take effect:

The rage phase begins

Just before the raid, it became apparent that I was not the only spy in the group:

Another photographer is discovered

The topics of discussion ranged far and wide, including digressions from Damian on graphic novels, from the Raging Kraut on his soi-disant bloodless coup, and from Alan on Kingston and how it rocks. Chris Taylor was his usual reserved self, clearly taking mental notes for his own devious purposes.

Posted by Nicholas at 10:57 AM | Comments (10)

QotD: Canada

Canada may be the nicest country on earth. Bad things don't happen in Canada, or at least not very often, because Canadians are far too nice to let them.

Unfortunately, here in America, bad things are what we call "news". Canada's undoubtedly a land of rich blessings for its residents (weather aside), but it makes it a little hard to write about.

Jane Galt, "Blame Canada . . .", Asymmetrical Information, 2005-01-18

Posted by Nicholas at 09:43 AM | Comments (0)

January 27, 2005

A discussion on the future of the Canadian military

I should have pointed to Heart of the Matter the other day. There's a very good discussion underway there. I threw in my $0.02 in the comment thread, but I'm enjoying reading the other participants' thoughts.

Hat tip to Damian for the original pointer.

Posted by Nicholas at 04:12 PM | Comments (0)

A whole new meaning for the term "Churchillian"

I'd forgotten about the little reptile who penned the article "Some people push back", but apparently he's still around:

University of Colorado professor Ward Churchill, who sat down the day after September 11, 2001 and wrote an article condemning the victims of the attacks as "little Eichmanns," will be a headlined guest of New York’s Hamilton College: Controversy festers on Hamilton campus again.

Hat tip to Damian Penny.

Posted by Nicholas at 02:27 PM | Comments (0)

User Friendly Goes Dot Mil

I meant to post this just after the story arc started, but just plain forgot: User Friendly, 17 January. This will particularly appeal to you former military types now sitting on your butts in IT jobs. . .

Just keep clicking Next Cartoon until you're up to date.

Posted by Nicholas at 12:26 PM | Comments (0)

NAFTA Viewed from Below the Border

Virginia Postrel has written a New York Times article on what happened to Canadian business after NAFTA:

Before the U.S.-Canada Free Trade Agreement in 1989, one in four Canadian industries — from dressmakers to breweries — were protected by tariffs. What happened when they faced untaxed competition from south of the border? My new NYT column [registration required] looks at a pathbreaking empirical study, using both industry and plant-level data. The article, by Dan Trefler of University of Toronto, is well-known in Canada, where, as econ papers tend to do, it has been kicking around for years in working paper form. But its lessons are remarkable. Even in an advance economy with sound macro policy, simply cutting tariffs can lead to huge productivity gains.

Posted by Nicholas at 12:04 PM | Comments (0)

The Disaster From Outer Space

Reason's Ronald Bailey talks about some of the legitimate reasons to get back into the space exploration business:

Assuming that Spaceguard did identify an asteroid that was going to strike the Earth several years in advance, what could be done to deflect it? Not much, right now. In November 2004, the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics called for stronger measures to protect our planet from impacts, including the creation of an agency directly responsible for planetary defense, the development of techniques to deflect menacing NEOs, and eventually, test missions on non-threatening NEOs to make sure those techniques work.

One proposal for diverting NEOs, devised by SpaceWorks Inc., is called "The League of Extraordinary Machines." This plan involves an armada of small spacecraft attaching themselves to the NEOs surface. Once attached, the landers would heat up and eject material from the asteroid's surface as a way to change its path away from the Earth.

Posted by Nicholas at 11:49 AM | Comments (2)

Wine Microreview: Remo Farina 2001 Ripasso

Last night, we were looking forward to a nice dinner at home (it's becoming a rare occurrence for all three of us to sit down to a meal at the same time). To go with the tomato pasta we opened a bottle of Remo Farina 2001 Valpolicella Ripasso. This was a Vintages release from late last year (I haven't seen it in any of the local Vintages outlets since then).

Ripasso is the "middleweight" Valpolicella: inbetween the ordinary Valpolicella and the Amarone. The difference between the basic wine and the Ripasso is that the juice for the Ripasso is fermented normally, then put in casks with the lees from the Amarone for a few weeks. This normally means the Ripasso picks up colour and flavours from the richer Amarone, but is not as expensive as the Amarone (typically half to one-third the price of an Amarone from the same winery).

We've been very happy with the Ripassos we'd tried so far, but this one was a real disappointment. The Remo Farina tasted much more rustic and bitter than any Ripasso we've tried before. It had some plummy aroma, but the fruit on the palate was more than masked by the bitterness of the other flavours. The finish was short (which under the circumstances probably helped).

All in all, not a good wine at all: we've had $7 Montepulciano d'Abruzzos that had much more interesting flavours than this. Avoid at all costs!

Posted by Nicholas at 11:28 AM | Comments (0)

QotD: Bloggers

This was a birthday party, not a blogger meeting. You could tell it wasn't a blogger meeting because NO ONE WAS SPEAKING ELVISH OR KLINGON, and several of the people there weren't virgins.

Steve H., "Cracking on Crackers", Hog On Ice, 2005-01-21

Posted by Nicholas at 12:03 AM | Comments (0)

January 26, 2005

To Improve Your Geek Quotient. . .

. . .you can convert an old rotary telephone to a cell phone.

To prove that I'm not really a true geek, I'm not absolutely clear on why you'd want to do this. . .

Hat tip to James Bryant, who posted this link to the Lois McMaster Bujold mailing list.

Posted by Nicholas at 12:55 AM | Comments (0)

QotD: Drinking in Upper Canada

As in England, Canadian inns sprang up along coaching routes. Horses and passengers needed rest and refreshment, and before long there was no shortage of places offering such services. By the time the traveller up Yonge Street got to Holland Landing, he could be in quite a state. Given that tavern-keepers usually treated coach drivers to free drinks in return for bringing passengers their way, the driver might be in even worse shape.

Nor was the early Canadian drinker certain of what was in his drink. McBurney and Byers offer a few recipies of the day. Wisely they note: "These old recipies are presented for interest only; they should not be used." I'll say. Their recipie for port calls for 28 gallons of cider, 9 gallons of whiskey, 15 pounds of white sugar, as well as cinnamon, cloves, orange peel, ground cochineal, carbonate of potash, and — if necessary — two ounces of ground alum. I don't think that's the way they make it in Portugal. There are no grapes, for starters. I'm trying to imagine how I'd feel the next day. Now I'm trying to stop imagining how I'd feel the next day.

Nicholas Pashley, Notes on a Beermat: Drinking and Why It's Necessary.

Posted by Nicholas at 12:02 AM | Comments (3)

January 25, 2005

Counterfactual Hits the Mark

Fish. Barrel. Bang!

Posted by Nicholas at 03:21 PM | Comments (0)

Wine Tasting at Pepperberries Bistro

Last night we had the opportunity to attend a wine tasting event at our local restaurant, Pepperberries Bistro (the only place in Brooklin to find a nice wine selection). Because Elizabeth and I both have food allergies, we were very pleased to find that they were willing to make some changes to the menu to accomodate us. We've been to Pepperberries many times, but this is the first time that both of us were free on an evening that co-incided with one of their special occasions.

We were joking with one another that, with our luck, the wines tonight would all be from Andrés Wines (one of the biggest wineries in Canada, and notorious for the 1970's pop-wine Baby Duck). We both laughed at that thought. Less than a minute later, John Byberg (the owner) came in to introduce the wine rep for the tasting . . . from Andrés Wines. [Shudder]

To be fair, our impressions of Andrés products were shaped by the very first organized wine tour we were on, over ten years back, which included visits to Hillebrand, Kittling Ridge, and Andrés (in descending order of both interest and appeal). Andrés was industrial wine . . . it was really a big chemical plant that happened to produce grape-based alcoholic beverages, and made few concessions to the romantic image that wineries are busy cultivating nowadays. Since those dark days, Andrés has spun off a separate winery for their vinifera wines, Peller Estates, and also own Hillebrand which produces some quite acceptable wines (as we discovered during the meal).

Anyway, back to the event last night. . .

The meal opened with an Asian hot and sour soup with a chicken shiitake dumpling, matched with a Fetzer 2002 Gewürztraminer. This was a very good pairing, as the wine was a wonderful complement to the flavours of the soup. Unlike a lot of New World Gewürzes (Gewürzen? Gewürzii?), this had more of an Alsace-style body with more body and a slight oily texture in the mouth (this might not sound too good, but believe me it's excellent).

The second course was a green salad with sautéed wild mushrooms matched with a Trius 2002 VQA Barrel Fermented Chardonnay. The salad dressing was the Pepperberries Lemon Myrtle dressing and was just an amazing complement to the wine (we bought a bottle of the dressing on the spot, it was that good). The Chardonnay was lightly oaked and very creamy, with cedar on the finish.

The main course was pork tenderloin medallions (which Elizabeth really enjoyed) in a port wine jus. My main course was a small filet mignon (which I appreciated equally). The wine was a Trius 2002 VQA Red (a Meritage blend of Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Merlot, but they choose not to call it a "Meritage" for some reason). Another good choice for both main courses: the nose was dominated by the Cab Franc with strawberry and violets and a body with what is often called "fruit forward" flavours and a good finish.

Dessert was apple strudel with wattleseed ice cream accompanied by a glass of Peller Estates Founders Series Vidal Ice Wine. Elizabeth, being unable to have the strudel, had a gluten-free carrot cake which she enjoyed immensely. I'm not a huge ice wine fan, but this was quite tasty, with peach and honey flavours and a very long finish.

Posted by Nicholas at 10:06 AM | Comments (1)

QotD: St. Paul

The anti-booze activists of the church tend to waffle a bit when you bring up the wedding at Cana. It's a metaphor for something else, they might say, or they come up with biblical quotes to justify their stance, most of which come from that Saint Paul chap, as far as I can figure out. Look, I'm sure Saint Paul was a decent fellow and good to his mother, but he was not a barrel of fun. Old Miseryguts — as I'm sure his former friends called him after his conversion — was against practically everything that makes this vale of tears at all palatable. You will look in vain for a joke of any sort in either of the Epistles to the Corinthians, and the Thessalonians don't get off much lighter.

Nicholas Pashley, Notes on a Beermat: Drinking and Why It's Necessary.

Posted by Nicholas at 12:08 AM | Comments (0)

January 24, 2005

Perry de Havilland on "Battlestar Galactica"

Perry starts his mini-series review by stating early on that he's not a looking-back-with-longing fan of the original TV series. Which is good, because I like Perry's writing and I'd hate to have to consign him to the outer circles of hell. Anyway, I think I may have seen all of half an episode of the original show and thereafter referred to it as "Cattlecar Galaxative".

To my surprise, and probably even more to his, he liked the mini-series and now has hope for the full-blown series to follow:

Wow. A show which truly, truly, truly does not pull any punches and proffers a middle finger to the sugar coating of so much of Hollywood's offerings that are aimed at the mainstream. We see nothing less that genocide: the steady nuclear annihilation of the human race. We see men women and children (yes, children) killed pitilessly on one of the darkest bits of sci-fi drama I have ever seen: the Götterdämmerung on 12 planets. Moreover we see the handful of dazed and traumatised survivors on the Galactica and the refugee fleet which forms around this last remnant of the human military, act like, well, people who have just seen their entire civilisation and 99.9% of their species exterminated by an implacable enemy.

I'm still not totally convinced, but I'll try to keep an open mind on this. After all, when I heard that Joss Whedon was doing a "western in space", I expected something awful. Instead, what I got was "Firefly", one of my favourite TV shows (unfortunately, not too many others agree with me there, so it got cancelled). I treasure hopes for the upcoming movie.

Posted by Nicholas at 04:55 PM | Comments (0)

Modern Fashions

The invaluable Flea linked to this posting by SondraK.

This is the sort of thing that makes you wonder if progress is really all it's cracked up to be. Oh, and be sure to read the comments: they're worth the price of admission all over again.

Posted by Nicholas at 03:58 PM | Comments (0)

Arts and Crafts Furniture From Wine Barrels

A posting on a woodworking list I subscribe to pointed me to Whit McLeod's website. He advertises his furniture as being created using reclaimed wood from the California wine industry.

I don't know that I'd ever buy any of his products, but I have to admit that I think the whole idea is very cool.

Posted by Nicholas at 11:27 AM | Comments (2)

"El Neil" is THAT kind of uncle

L. Neil Smith writes about the differences between being a child today and being a child a generation ago:

[. . .] the message listed fun things we all did as children — all of us who are over 35, that is — that the Safety Nazis would be aghast at today. Things like drinking from the garden hose, or not wearing helmets when we rode our bikes. According to those Nazis, says the message, we should all be dead by now. It was pretty funny, and I could have added a few more items, myself, most of them involving firecrackers.

Hell, I used to chew on my dad's split-shot fishing sinkers, cast of pure lead, which will surprise none of the people who don't like me.

Many of the items on the list amused me, as they were meant to do, taking me back to a bygone era (I'm way over 35) in which I grew up. One of them, however, seemed to leap off the page and slap me in the face:

"We would leave home in the morning and play all day," says the message, "as long as we were back when the street lights came on. No one was able to reach us all day." And it's completely true. Even my own mother, who was a nervous, overly-protective woman, expected my brother and me to be somewhere else most of the day, doing who knew what.

Probably something involving firecrackers.

I always hesitate to disagree with El Neil, but the point he goes on to make is that children were in less danger then than now. I see his point, and I agree that there was less danger, but children were certainly not in no danger even in those idyllic days. A woman I know was nearly raped — at age seven — less than a block from her home in Toronto in the late 1950's. She was saved by the intervention of her mother, who scared off the teenage assailant (but who didn't believe her daughter when she was told that it was more than just "wrestling" that got over-enthusiastic).

The perception of danger to children was far lower in those days, and the media coverage of horrific crimes tended to be local only (and therefore more immediate, but less likely to inculcate a belief that the danger was omnipresent). Rape and sexual assault was still regarded as being partly or wholly the victim's fault in those days: and therefore much less likely to be reported. "Good girls" didn't get into that sort of scrape, so if a girl found herself victimized she had the choice of reporting it (and proving herself to be, by definition, a "bad" girl) or pretending it never happened.

The past, we are told, is a foreign land. This is true even when the past is still within living memory.

Posted by Nicholas at 10:33 AM | Comments (0)

QotD: Socialism

No one is truly an adult in the nanny state. We are all mewling, suckling babes, requiring constant care and supervision, lest we poison ourselves on freedom or some other noxious substance, or suffocate in the complexities of the big bad world.

Alan of "Occam's Carbuncle", 2005-01-21

Oh, and Brooksie, lad? You trying to horn in on my territory? Do we need to arrange for pistols at dawn? ;-)

Posted by Nicholas at 12:16 AM | Comments (2)

January 23, 2005

Damian Brooks On Why It's a Dog's Life In Today's Army

I must have had a bad connection, because I didn't find this posting by Damian Brooks until today. Among other things, he admits to liking CBC shows (1, taxpayers for the education of) and that he expects "some of my fellow Tories clamouring to kick my latte-quaffing-granola-eating-Trudeau-smooching tail out of the CPC treehouse, and change the secret handshake so I can't bluff my way back in."

Go. Read. Laugh. That is an order!

Posted by Nicholas at 10:41 PM | Comments (0)

Linehan leaves Vikings Staff to join Dolphins

Scott Linehan, Minnesota's offensive co-ordinator for the past three seasons has accepted an offer to join the Miami Dolphins staff at the same position. Here's how Jim Souhan envisages the change:

Linehan [. . .] might continue to develop and flourish in the NFL. But he has just left [Vikings QB Daunte] Culpepper for A.J. Feeley, has just left an open-minded boss for new Dolphins coach Nick Saban, who makes Apocalypse Now's Colonel Kurtz look like SpongeBob SquarePants.

Picture the Dolphins' first offensive meeting:

Linehan: So, who's our quarterback?

Saban: I watched a snail crawl along the edge of a straight razor. That's my dream. That's my nightmare.

Linehan: A.J. it is.

Posted by Nicholas at 12:33 AM | Comments (0)

QotD: Winston Churchill

It did not take me very long to find out that Mr. Churchill was very apt to express strong opinions upon purely technical matters. Moreover, not being satisfied with expressing opinions, he tried to force his views upon the Board [of the Admiralty]. His fatal error was his entire inability to realize his own limitations as a civilian. I admired very much his wonderful argumentative powers. He surpassed the ablest of lawyers and would make a weak case appear exceedingly strong. While this gift was of great use to the Admiralty when we wanted the naval case put well before the government, it became a positive danger when the First Lord started to exercise his powers of argument on his colleagues on the Board. Naval officers are not brought up to argue a case and few of them can make a good show in this direction.

Vice-Admiral Sir John Jellicoe, Second Sea Lord of the Admiralty 1912-14, quoted by Robert K. Massie, in Castles of Steel.

Posted by Nicholas at 12:10 AM | Comments (0)

January 22, 2005

Where did the Battle of Bosworth Field take place?

The Flea brought this Independent article to my attention:

Visitors to one of the most important battle sites in British history, immortalised by William Shakespeare with Richard III's desperate offer of his kingdom for a horse, are almost certainly visiting the wrong spot, expert analysis of the evidence has concluded.

Leicestershire County Council is to embark on a three-year archaeological and topographical research project to identify where the Battle of Bosworth was really fought in 1485, marking the end of the Wars of the Roses and the beginning of Tudor England. The battle was the last time a British king was killed on the battlefield.

I've always been a bit of a Ricardian at heart (my wife was active in the Richard III Society for many years), so this is of interest to me. I took part in the 500th anniversary re-enactment of Richard's coronation, playing the part of the Earl of Northumberland (in the dress rehearsal which was videotaped for local cable) and the Earl of Lincoln (in the public performance). The recording showed up on Toronto area cable several times over the last twenty-odd years.

One question raised by the linked article:

The studies could even shed light on whether, as is commonly held, Richard was betrayed by his supporters or whether Henry, subsequently crowned Henry VII, was a superior commander.

I don't know whether there's any real chance of Henry being shown to be the better commander: Richard had spent most of his adult life fighting battles with notable success, while Henry had not had anything like the same fighting experience. Henry won the battle because Sir William Stanley's forces came in on the side of Tudor (and literally on the side of Richard's forces, outflanking his right wing). Richard's attempt to cut through the Tudor centre was repulsed after he reached the Tudor standard-bearer and Richard himself was killed. He died in a risky attack that, had it succeeded, would probably have won the battle in spite of the flank attack by the Stanley forces.

Posted by Nicholas at 01:51 PM | Comments (2)

New Blog-meme: "Posting the Cat"

In the same sense that a TV show is said to "jump the shark" when it reaches the creative point of no return, the blogospheric equivalent is said to be "posting the cat".

I guess I'm already over: I posted the cat twice in my first year of blogging.

Posted by Nicholas at 12:48 PM | Comments (0)

QotD: Writing as a Career

Leftist writers raised in affluent circumstances — as I think even they would admit, in honest moments — suffer from heroic self-image as an occupational disease. And perhaps this is equally true of the conservatives as well. But when you come from the actual working class — when your father is someone who actually helps assemble buildings, as opposed to designing them — you can never, as a professional intellectual, shake the suspicion that you are going to get caught and sent back to [earn] a proper living. I think it's part of why relatively minor career crises have such a shattering effect on my nerves; as a columnist I've turned out to be much more of a cowardly beggar for editorial reassurance than I ever thought I'd be. It's because I see my career subconsciously, and always will, as the product of some inchoate power's inexplicable carelessness.

Colby Cosh "Who let him in?", ColbyCosh.com, 2005-01-19

Posted by Nicholas at 12:01 AM | Comments (0)

January 21, 2005

Different Learning Patterns

Gerard Van der Leun is offering printable forms for note-taking that he says were the best he's ever used:

Deceptively simple, the Cornell System supplies an armature that both organizes notes and encourages review and summarization. I use it for reading, research, and for planning and organizing projects from the simple to the complex.

As an added advantage, I find that rigorous use of the Cornell system also aids and improves memory.

He's got three downloadable PDF files including the instructions for using the system and two variants of the basic note-taking page. If it looks like this sort of thing is useful to you, Gerard asks only that you pass it along to someone else.

I find, as one of the commenters to this posting, that I took terrible notes in school and that I actually did better academically when I stopped trying to take notes and instead listened to the lectures. But I'm no doubt in the minority in this, as in so many other ways.

Posted by Nicholas at 06:30 PM | Comments (0)

Links, Rankings, TTLB, and The Brigade

As I've occasionally posted, I'm still trying to figure out both my traffic patterns and my linking policies. I do try to provide direct links to those blogs which link to me, and I was depending on the TTLB Ecosystem report to find when new links appeared (I only get trackback pings from other MovableType blogs, not blogs using other software). Over the past day or so, I was finding — yet again — links disappearing from the TTLB list.

This time, I thought I'd better check to see what was going on. A couple of Brigade members have been inactive for long enough that they're no longer being counted by the TTLB stats, even if they still have static links on their pages. Some of them have ceased to link to any of the other Brigade members (probably because they were using the old blogrolling script).

What's most frustrating is finding that active blogs are still linking to me, but are not showing up in the TTLB lists at all. (I know: NZ Bear provides the service at no charge, so who the heck am I to complain?) So, if you're currently linking to Quotulatiousness and I'm not reciprocating, please let me know and I'll fix that!

Posted by Nicholas at 11:39 AM | Comments (4)

First New Recruit of 2005

Welcome to Striving Against Opposition, the newest member of the Red Ensign Brigade.

It's been a while; I was getting thirsty. Cheers, Chris!

Posted by Nicholas at 10:15 AM | Comments (1)

QotD: Football

It's often said that football games are taken as metaphors for the success or failure of groups; that if a football team wins, those who root for the team think this is an omen their lives will go well, while a loss is seen as a bad portent. But why are football games seen as omens? Because so many people are involved. It is impossible to field a football team without a lot of people working together cooperatively. In that, football is like real life and engages emotions in a way other sports do not. A basketball team can win if one star throws in 50 points; a baseball team can win if one slugger hits two home runs; a football team simply cannot win unless everyone cooperates. This makes football a metaphor of the larger world, where for the typical person, everyday life is a cooperative effort.

Gregg Easterbrook, "Why football is the most emotional sport, and there she is, Miss Cue!", NFL.com, 2005-01-11

Posted by Nicholas at 12:04 AM | Comments (0)

January 20, 2005

Wine Review: Cilento 2002 Shiraz

I've enlisted a wine reviewer to provide a slightly more educated viewpoint on wine than I'm able to do. Because I don't have his formal okay to publish his name, I'll just call him Deep Cellar:

Initial Impressions:

a. Good clarity — looks healthy to me
b. Nice rich color — purple, indicating youth and vitality
c. First sniff — nothing unpleasant, some "woody" notes, damp fire-pit perhaps.
d. After a swirl — much more fruit, earthy tones, a little forest floor (lacking the strength in mushrooms you enjoy), rotting softwoods — all of the above after a rain in springtime — highly reminiscent of an overgrown northern Ontario hiking trail (very appealing).
e. Third sip — Very little in the way of tannins, nice typically peppery finish, although it lacks the robust kick the Aussies come across with, lighter in body but pleasant; fresher and cleaner than the standard, really good acid! Nice balance, although the finish falls a bit short, however I'm left with a really sexy kind of vanilla/oak flavor dusted with a little apple peel. There's a little date or fig in here, but other than that the dominant fruit escapes me.

Summary:

This would be fantastic on a summer evening — especially for people who can't stand white wine. It'd be a great introduction to the bigger, wilder, more "untamed" red wines we know and love. I guess it's kind of half-way between a Beaujolais and a mild Cabernet Franc, or a Cab. Franc/Cab. Sauvignon blend (heavier on the Franc though)

Posted by Nicholas at 05:11 PM | Comments (0)

Penny To Invade Toronto!

The feared godfather of Maritime blogging, Damian Penny, will be met on the beaches by the local chapter of the VRWC, supported by the Toronto battalion of the Red Ensign Brigade.

As a humanitarian gesture, I have already issued warnings that "photos" will be taken and may even be published, in violation of the Geneva, Islamabad, and Canberra conventions.

Posted by Nicholas at 05:02 PM | Comments (2)

Another Journey in Deepest, Reddest America

Iowahawk displays his stylistic brilliance in the retelling of the horrific tale of a journey into the heart of darkness:

We all have a mission, I thought. For those faceless students: diversity seminars, Nam Jun Paik film retrospectives at the Union, maybe Dollar Pitcher Nite at the Airliner. For me: Von Drehle.

It — or rather, he — is the mission that has brought me to this dismal and lonely outpost on the edge of reason. Tomorrow I will make the dangerous trek north on Dubuque Street to Exit 242, merge into the river of semi-trailers on Interstate 80, and head west into the great red unknown between here and Boulder.

It is the same route Von Drehle followed before he went missing: I-80 to Nebraska, then south on highway 77 through Kansas, Oklahoma and Texas. Ironically the Post had sent Von Drehle on his own mysterious mission — to learn why the natives were suddenly agitating against Post subscription offers. He went missing on January 11, emailing his final story draft with a cryptic personal note: "the horror . . . the horror."

My entree fork toyed with the competently-prepared lamb shank in merlot reduction, as I pondered the even more ironic irony that this ironic mission would take me to regions that were reportedly unfamiliar with irony.

Posted by Nicholas at 12:17 PM | Comments (0)

QotD: Bureaucracy

In the bureaucratic welfare state, administrative problems grow geometrically with the number of administrators, who devise rules ostensibly to guarantee probity and increase efficiency, but whose effect in practice is to increase the number of administrators necessary to achieve any given end.

Theodore Dalrymple, City Journal, 2005-01

Posted by Nicholas at 12:31 AM | Comments (0)

January 19, 2005

Wine Movies

Reason Hit and Run points to a review of the movie Mondovino which apparently is to be released in North America later this year. One of the comments was quite good (reacting to a flippant comment in the posting, not the movie):

Being both a free-marketeer and in the wine industry, I find it odd that someone from Reason would bitch and moan about people who "contribute to the notion that $50 for a dinner bottle is sane". I have a certain disdain for Parker (mainly, his affinity for syrupy aussie shirazes and his snubbing of anything that's not opulent and slutty), but, please...market prices are market prices, set by demand. Econ 101, anybody? As long as people will pay $50 for a dinner bottle, then the people will pay it. As of now, we're seeing a consumer backlash against arrogant producers trying to pawn off their lackluster Napa cabs as world classics, and who have no notion of a price ceiling.

Sadly, when you go deeper than my level (retail), you see that, many times, the tail wags the dog when it comes to pricing. Most consumers won't take a wine too seriously if it costs $12, so producers set the price artificially high in order to garner respect. I suspect that the wine industry is not alone in this trend, but given the highly subjective nature of what constitutes "good" wine, we are especially susceptible to it.

Evan Williams

Posted by Nicholas at 05:55 PM | Comments (0)

Search Engines

I noticed a surge of visits from people using MSN Search this week, so I was curious to see what they all were looking for (and whether they were likely to have found it by visiting here). The list was limited to the last 100 visits, so it's too small a sample to be statistically valid, but it did include some odd queries:

  • "Male bonding in sports". Okay, I post about my favourite football and soccer teams, but I doubt whether this search was considered a success by the user.
  • "Picture of Randy Moss". Close, but no cigar. I diss Randy a bit here and there, but I haven't posted any photos of him.
  • "Chontosh". Many searches for his story. That was one of my first posts last May, so it's odd that it's suddenly become much more popular . . . except that the officer recently received the Navy Cross (I think), so his story is again in demand.
  • "Church signage". Bingo! (If you'll pardon the expression.) An exact match not only to topic title but to actual content. A rare thing in search results, it seems.
  • "Minnesota Vikings joke". Pretty close here: they've done a lot to make themselves into a sad, long-running joke for the last few years. I'm still bitter about the playoff loss to Philly, but I wouldn't really call 'em a joke. Unless there's no improvement next season.
  • "Western civilization is morally superior". Okay, now we're getting more positive, although I'm sure there are many, many bloggers who talk about this particular idea much more (and much more coherently) than I do. Still, a pretty good match.
  • "Jeremiah Trotter". I mentioned him in the Eagles-Vikings game wrap-up as the Philadelphia player of the game. A match, but I'm surprised that it appeared high enough in the search results that someone visited the site for that brief entry.
  • "Broom myths". Dunno. I got nothin'.
  • "Information on human instinct". Hmmm. Another fuzzy match. I comment about it now and again, but I'm hardly a primary source for information or links on that topic.
  • "NFL Playoff Tree". I should post more about the NFL. . .there seems to be lots of folks looking beyond the FoxSports, ESPN, and other primary sports websites.
  • "if i mooning in public display and what will happen". Randy Moss again. Another fuzzy search string which oddly brought the user here.
  • "Costume sex". Uh, well, moving right along. . .
  • "Porn stars". Hmmm. What's the time-stamp on these last two? And how far down the list did my site appear?
  • "Authority respect". Oh, good, we're back on to something that at least has some match on the site.
  • "Public sex acts". Cripes! Why did Al Gore invent this internet-thingy for? It seems like everyone is just searchin' for sex!
  • "Transforming into a girl". I just don't know. . .
  • "Porn and relationships". At least this one sounds like an information query, not just a random match to unrelated items.
  • "Male on male sex acts". I'm going to have to wash out my site meter if this keeps up. . .
  • "Socialist health care". Yay! A related search and a valid match. My day wasn't wasted.
  • "Adult entertainment". There are two ways to interpret that phrase. Unfortunately, the correct one is probably the "sin and skin" concept.
  • "Polly Pockets". Yep. Mentioned here once or twice (and always in quotes from Mr. Lileks, I suspect). Given the thousands of sites devoted to the fans of this toy, I'm astonished to find that this site was close enough to the top of the results to be visited.

A weird assortment of accurate and misleading search results. Based on the sample, I need to post more about the NFL and military happenings, and avoid any mention of the adult entertainment industry.

Posted by Nicholas at 12:46 PM | Comments (0)

Words as weapons

James Lileks doesn't like what he heard yesterday:

I listened to some of the Dr. Rice hearings today. Listening to Sen. Boxer is like having someone pump six gallons of lukewarm tea up a catheter tube. Slowly. It's like being beaten to death by a moth. The rest of the questions were a bit more adept, inasmuch as they postured and preened with greater skill — but I kept wondering, who's their audience? Who are they talking to? Who is this supposed to impress?

Posted by Nicholas at 11:19 AM | Comments (0)

QotD: Humanity

For many years I regarded the camel as evidence that the Creator has a sense of humour — but these days I move more and more to the opinion that people provide the strongest case.

James M Bryant, posted to the Lois McMaster Bujold mailing list, January 2005

Posted by Nicholas at 12:40 AM | Comments (0)

January 18, 2005

How would the Flea pimp _this_ ride?

The Flea would consider the Ford SYNUS as his next "Fleamobile".

On first glance, it looks like a Honda Element without the plastic body panels. On second glance, it looks like it might be a good vehicle to take to work. My work. Where one of the most common group email messages is from reception, asking "the owner of vehicle license plate ABCD 123 to contact the front office" (because their vehicle has been damaged in yet another parking lot "incident").

No need to go underground for protection, Ford debuts a concept vehicle that offers rolling safety for the city streets. A virtual fortress on wheels, the Ford SYNUS features armored trucklike styling, with cartoonish flair, right down to a driver-side door combination lock and a four-spoke, vault-style handle that operates the rear hatch.

Based on the Ford Fiesta, a pint-size B-car popular in crowded countries where narrow roads are consumed with urban traffic, the undersized SYNUS is completely buttoned up for occupant safety. When parked in "secure mode," the SYNUS closes protective shutters over the windshield and side windows. Narrow windows located behind the B-pillars and on the roof are fixed and bullet-resistant.

Posted by Nicholas at 04:02 PM | Comments (1)

Spain Joins Madcap Lawsuit League

According to an AP news report, a British bank has been ordered to pay damages of 1.1 quadrillion euros by a court in Madrid:

A Spanish judicial body said Tuesday it will investigate how Barclays bank received a court order to pay 1.1 quadrillion euros ($1.4 quadrillion US) in compensation to the former owner of a Spanish bank it acquired a quarter of a century ago.

The amount — a quadrillion is a 1 followed by 15 zeros — is the equivalent of 1,400 times Spain's gross domestic product, or the wealth that Spaniards could generate in 1,000 years, news dailies said, triggering speculation that the figure may have been the result of a typographical error by the Madrid court.

A new record, we may be sure. How long the record will stand? When does the next media circus court case come to order?

Posted by Nicholas at 03:22 PM | Comments (0)

Liberal Mindset, in a nutshell

It's an industry that is in Canada. You have to recognize that it is, otherwise you'd have to wipe out the whole industry.

The speaker is former federal cabinet minister Judy Sgro, and the topic was exotic dancers, but it's actually a wonderful encapsulation of what the Liberal Party really thinks about business. You either go out of your way to support it or you work as hard to ban it. Binary. It's good or it's bad: no fuzziness, no neutral ground, no gray areas.

When it's as starkly put as this, you can quickly understand why Canadian businesses are falling all over themselves to bribe donate money to the Liberal Party: they have to stay on the "good" side or they're risking everything.

Once upon a time I thought that the NDP was the greatest threat to Canada's economic and social future. Now I realize that the NDP are pretty small-time operators compared to the post-Pearson Liberals: the NDP actually believe in something, but the Liberals only believe in whatever it takes to stay in power. And, you have to acknowledge their amazing success in doing just that. We still have the theoretical ability to change the governing party, but on a practical level, they've proven that they can get away with just about anything and Canadians won't throw them out.

Posted by Nicholas at 01:40 PM | Comments (3)

An impassioned review of Altoids

Dong Resin tried some new Altoids cinnamon chewing gum. I think he enjoyed it:

Okay. Little tablets. I'd better grab six or seven, I want to see what the fuss is about. I know it's supposed to be strong, but so's the coffee in Starbucks and that pussy-ass hot sauce with the dead guy wincing on the label, so there's probably a little wiggle room with regards to what's "strong", here. F*cking American public is all soft and fat these days, so even the gum wearing the metal plating should be no big deal to an espresso drinker like myself.

Oh god...
Gaaaaah! Gatha gatha tha! Gaaaaaaaaaaa!
Shit, did I say that out loud? Great, now people are looking at me. I can't feel anything below my nose. I think I'm drooling. Yep, all down the shirt. Shit. f*cking gum. Jesus, is this strong. Tastes like straight-up whiskey. God, it's getting stronger as it breaks up. Gauh! Why? Why would they even make gum like this? Who the f*ck is this for, cannibals? "That missionary was tasty and all, but now me have stubborn ass-breath." "Me have just the thing for that."

* Excerpt slightly bowdlerized to keep my PG rating.

Posted by Nicholas at 12:21 PM | Comments (0)

And now, the news

In Latin. From Finland.

I don't know enough Latin for this to be of any use at all to me, and I think I've met one Finn in my entire life, so my working knowledge of Finnish isn't even a joke.

Posted by Nicholas at 10:24 AM | Comments (0)

QotD: Science Fiction Fandom

When I went to my first science fiction convention [. . .] I noticed a couple of things.

The first was that nobody at these gatherings, at least as far as I could tell, actually read science fiction, or much of anything else.

There were plenty of board gamers. (This was long before computer gaming or even Dungeons and Dragons; the hottest item on CRT was Pong, or early versions of Star Trek eating up mainframe time across the country.) There were plenty of self-proclaimed artists of one kind or another, and hordes of kids — of all ages — who loved to dress up in costumes.

Another thing I noticed was that these conventions, or "cons" as they were called, seemed to be the only social life most of their attendees had, a sort of portable soap opera migrating from city to city throughout the year. The atmosphere was heavy with prehistoric rivalries and hatreds, grudges and vendettas, sometimes going back decades.

Actually, the first thing I noticed — although I was too polite to put it first here — was that the vast bulk (and I use the term advisedly) of female attendees could have used a carload of deodorant and long-term memberships in Weight Watchers. Which, of course, was why events like these were the only social life they had. Nobody else wanted them hanging around.

L. Neil Smith, "The Security Syndrome", The Libertarian Enterprise, 2005-01-15

Posted by Nicholas at 12:44 AM | Comments (6)

January 17, 2005

Lileks Fisks the Toy Industry

James Lileks has a daughter, too old for diapers but too young for reform school. At least, given the sort of toys he's trying to protect her from, the second option isn't really an option:

Perhaps the reason the usual suspects have clammed up about the Perfidious Influence of Barbie has to do with her rival doll, those how-to-be-a-hooker role models called Bratz. I cannot tell you how much I despise Bratz. Granted, I'm not the target market. They're aimed at tween girls who naturally gravitate toward grown-up things, like emulating the fashion sense of coke-addled trust-fund heiresses.

Bratz have exaggerated facial features, come-hither eyes, and lips that look as if they are attempting to throw up an exploded airbag. (If any real person had lips like those, people would assume she was swelling up from an allergic reaction to an insect sting and jab her repeatedly with those antidote pens.) They have "a passion for fashion," which in this sense is defined as bling-spattered hoochie-suits you'd never see anyone wear on the street unless they were walking back and forth on a corner, waving at cars.

And, as if that wasn't enough to turn you off the idea of having kids:

Here's the thing: All the parentz I talk to hate Bratz. Hate them. Did we ask for these little doxies? No. In fact, we want the opposite. If you're listening, O Shapers of Popular Culture: Can we have perhaps a few years of merry innocence before the toy and clothing industry makes little girls feel like they must walk around bowlegged in Hello Kitty thongs? Apparently not: The Bratz line has been extended now to include Li'l Bratz, who look like the junior high girls who cut class to smoke cigarettes and throw soda bottles at the goody-goody Polly Pockets heading off to choir practice. I expect by year's end we will see Fetal Bratz, which consist entirely of large disembodied lips with a gold, jewel-encrusted umbilical cord. It's a viable tissue mass with attitude! Buy the video! It's an ultrasound set to a slammin' beat!

Posted by Nicholas at 11:50 AM | Comments (0)

Herculaneum Library Threatened

A report in the Telegraph Online discusses the threat to the recently discovered papyrus library in the excavations of Herculaneum, in the shadow of Vesuvius:

An earthquake or volcanic eruption is likely to destroy a library of ancient books at Herculaneum, near Pompeii, before they can be excavated unless urgent action is taken, according to the founder of a new group based in Oxford.

Scientists have discovered new ways to read 1,800 charred manuscript scrolls already found in the ruins of the so-called Villa of Papyri at Herculaneum, a city that, like neighbouring Pompeii, was buried in volcanic matter when Vesuvius erupted in AD79.

Scholars are convinced that many more scrolls lie awaiting discovery there, among which are probably lost books by great authors such as Aristotle and Livy.

Posted by Nicholas at 11:14 AM | Comments (2)

More "Flea Territory" Poaching

The last time I wandered into Ghost of a Flea territory, he retaliated by sending lots of traffic my way. Being ornery, I'm not going to let him get away with that, so here's another link you might otherwise only find at the Flea:

The Guinea Pig Rumblestrutting Popcorning Dancing Page

And no, you can't have those ten seconds of your life back. Sorry.

Posted by Nicholas at 10:55 AM | Comments (5)

Red Ensign Raised Again

Jay Jardine hosts the latest raising of the Red Ensign.

In his introduction, he commits a great quote which I can't avoid reproducing here:

While Mr. Trudeau was exactly right in saying "the state has no business in the bedrooms of the nation" he, alas, felt the state had plenty of business everywhere else. Survey the conventional wisdom in the Canadian media, or even when talking to the average Joe in the street, you'd be under the impression that things were always and forever meant to be this way — a nation that values socialist health care above just about anything else, espouses squishy multilateral foreign policy and derives national identify only through contrasting its social programs with its more imposing southern neighbour.

Posted by Nicholas at 10:37 AM | Comments (0)

QotD: Culture

Culture, like politics, is not immune to these billowing waves of combat. And we can look to the past to see that cultural repercussions usually follow from battles. The catalysts for modernism were Verdun, the Somme, and the general carnage of the First World War trenches. Out of those infernos spread the belief that the old foundations of staid manners, traditional genres of art and literature, unquestioning patriotism — dulce et decorum est pro patria moria — and national politics had somehow led to Europe's millions being gassed and blown apart for years in the mud of the French countryside without either victory or defeat.

Perhaps the present brand of postmodernism was born primarily in France as well. After the humiliating drive of the Panzers through the Ardennes in May, 1940, the collapse of Europe's largest army in six weeks, and the rescue by the Americans and the British in August, 1944, theories were easier to accept than facts. For a few elite but stunned postwar Frenchmen, fiction was more palatable than reality, text and discourse a refuge from a truth as unacceptable as it was bothersome.

Victor Davis Hanson, Ripples of Battle

Posted by Nicholas at 12:24 AM | Comments (0)

January 16, 2005

Vikings vs Eagles

As I've mentioned before, I'm a long-time Vikings fan. Today's divisional match-up between the Vikings and the Philadelphia Eagles is going to be an emotional game: either triumphal, if the Vikes play like they did last week against Green Bay, or depressing, if they play like they did too often during the regular season.

The last time the two teams played was early in the season at Philly, where the Vikings dominated the stats, but lost the game. Philadelphia's leading receiver, Terrell Owens, is out with an ankle injury, and the Eagles haven't played a serious game for nearly a month. This gives the Vikings a better chance, but they're still 8 point underdogs going into Philadelphia this afternoon.

I'm hoping for a Viking win, but I don't expect one: the team has been too inconsistent to expect two great games back-to-back. But I'd love to be wrong about this.

Update: Final score 27-14 Eagles. Culpepper did what he could, but he threw two interceptions (one was not his fault, the other clearly was), passed for one TD and ran in another, but the rest of the team didn't put in the same kind of performance they did against the Packers last weekend. The star of the game was Eagles' Linebacker Jeremiah Trotter, who did huge damage to the Vikings gameplan and blew up multiple plays.

While the Eagles didn't play a fantastic game, they certainly displayed more consistency than the up-then-down Vikings, and benefitted from the Minnesota mistakes (pass interference penalties totalling 78 yards, blown playcalls on trick plays, and some unlucky breaks). Philadelphia will now host the Atlanta Falcons in the NFC Championship game next Sunday.

Posted by Nicholas at 10:59 AM | Comments (0)

QotD: Air Travel

Long before 9/11, restrictions on smoking and seatbelts had remorselessly expanded into a culture of trivial but total coerciveness that Americans would rightly reject in any other environment. Airlines assume passengers will put up with anything because they've got no choice. But, while it's true this is a big country, an awful lot of travel is descretionary. Even business travel. Psychologically, we're stuck in the mid-19th century when the original travelling men spent eleven months of the year on the road because there was no alternative. The railroads have gone, the telephone's arrived, and so's video conferencing, and electronic networking, but guys are still on the road, flying off to lunch in Houston and a presentation in Denver and all kinds of other engagements they don't really need to be physically present at. The FAA and the airlines have blithely assumed that they can triple the amount of time you have to allow for a flight to New York for a business lunch without companies calling into question the necessity of that lunch.

Mark Steyn, "Flight from Reality", The Spectator, 2001-11-17

Posted by Nicholas at 12:07 AM | Comments (0)

January 15, 2005

It had to happen. . .

This is one of the oddest links I've posted in quite a while:

The 3rd Annual Nigerian EMail Conference:
"Write better emails. Make more moneys."
.

Including highlights like:

  • Keynote Address:
    Dr. Hamza Kalu's adds some historical perspective in his keynote address: "From Postal Scams To Email Scams: We Have Come a Long Way Infant Child."
  • Debate:
    Attend a lively debate between Lady Mariam Abacha and Mr. Godwin Oyathelem. Topic: "The effectiveness of using all UPPERCASE characters."
  • Practical Discussion:
    Mallam Mahmud Abacah answers the question, "Are 10 million emails a day too many?"
  • Competition:
    Other countries are now adapting our business. Is this a threat or an opportunity?
  • Tech Session:
    Mrs. M Sese-Seko reveals valuable secrets in her session titled, "Those Pesky Email Headers"
Posted by Nicholas at 10:26 AM | Comments (2)

QotD: Murder

[M]urderers are of all criminals the most prone to genuine remorse and self-reproach. Burglars rarely reproach themselves; rather, they are full of condemnation of others, from parents and police to physicians and politicians. But even murderers whose whole lives have, in retrospect, been but a preamble to murder experience a change of heart once they have killed. Their murder acts on them like a religious conversion (to which, indeed, it is sometimes a prelude); and while some killers remain psychopathically indifferent to their crimes, they are relatively few. I have met Hannibal Lecter types, but not often.

Theodore Dalrymple, "A Murderess's Tale", City Journal, 2005-01

Posted by Nicholas at 09:28 AM | Comments (0)

January 14, 2005

Randy Moss fined $10,000

As predicted earlier, Randy Moss, Minnesota Vikings wide receiver and agent provocateur, has been handed a $10,000 fine by the NFL for taunting the Green Bay fans near the end of last weekend's wildcard playoff game.

Moss reacted with the same suave, sophisticated arguments we've all come to expect from him:

"Ain't nothing but 10 grand," he said as he stood at the door of his automatically started, warming truck in sub-zero temperatures late Thursday afternoon. "What's 10 grand to me?"

Moss added that next time he might shake something other than his derriere.

Clearly the money isn't going to be missed in Randy's bank account: he made $5.75 million for just the regular season games this year. Unfortunately, a more meaningful penalty — a suspension — would hurt the team far more than it would hurt Moss: Minnesota struggled badly when Moss was injured for several games in the latter part of the season.

As Moss left the team's Eden Prairie training facility, a reporter asked him if he had already sent the check.

"When you're rich, you don't write checks," he said. "Straight cash, homey."

Classy, Randy. Very classy. Exactly what we've come to expect from you off the field.

Posted by Nicholas at 01:49 PM | Comments (0)

Sgro to leave cabinet

Damian Penny links to a Toronto Star article (registration required, unfortunately) reporting that Federal cabinet minister Judy Sgro is resigning over further allegations that she abused her position as Minister for Stripping Immigration Minister:

Sgro's decision to step aside came only hours after the Toronto Star obtained a copy of an affidavit in which pizza shop owner Harjit Singh claims Sgro pressed him to supply food and workers for her campaign last spring.

Singh, a father of three facing deportation from Canada, alleges in the sworn affidavit filed in the Federal Court of Canada in Toronto yesterday that when word of his arrangement with Sgro started to leak out, Sgro suddenly reneged on the deal and last month ordered his arrest and removal from Canada "to save her job."

Last night, federal sources confirmed that Sgro, 60, already at the centre of an ethics investigation over her conduct as immigration minister, would be leaving cabinet until she can clear her name.

Posted by Nicholas at 11:49 AM | Comments (1)

Frank J asks "What is a Blog?"

Frank J. does the world a huge favour by dispelling some myths about bloggers and blogging:

MYTH: A blog is the mixture of hair and unidentifiable gunk that clogs up a drain.
FACT: "Blog" is short for "weblog," and, while sometimes more disgusting than what's found in a drain, blogs hardly ever interrupt the flow of water.

MYTH: Bloggers are partisan hacks.
FACT: We lack the editing and proofreading to have the status of "hacks."

MYTH: Bloggers are just a bunch of ill-informed polemicists writing in their pajamas.
FACT: Not all bloggers wear pajamas while blogging. I myself wear boxers, a gun belt, and a bandolier. One of the contributors to Power Line is famous for wearing a gorilla costume while writing.

Hat tip to the The Puppy Blender.

Posted by Nicholas at 11:17 AM | Comments (0)

Lileks' MicroBleat

Jon often talks about doing a parody of James Lileks' blog-that's-not-a-blog, The Bleat. He can give up now. Lileks already did one:

Anyway: long day blah, blah errands blah Gnat said the cutest, blah, spent night on book again, many pages blah blah etc. whatever, midnight approaching, must now finish Backfence yadayada, had a spare half hour and decided against Indistinguishable Bleat #98324 in favor of Joe. See you Monday.

Posted by Nicholas at 10:18 AM | Comments (0)

QotD: Education

Our schools have fulfilled the liberal educators' every dream, abandoning educational achievement as their goal and systematically replacing it with nurturing self-esteem — or at least self-conceit — leaving their pupils unaware of their own disastrous ignorance, unable even to read properly, and without a counterweight to their chaotic home environments.

Theodore Dalrymple, "A Murderess's Tale", City Journal, 2005-01

Posted by Nicholas at 12:21 AM | Comments (0)

January 13, 2005

Poaching on "Ghost of a Flea" Turf

. . .except without the paeans to the glories of Kylie Minogue.

I got this weird little timewaster from a mailing list I can never manage to keep up to date with (between Christmas Eve and New Year's Eve, they racked up well over a thousand posts).

I tried playing three times, and only managed 37 metres before it all went pear-shaped for the hapless drunk on my third try. Thus proving that I'm not particularly good at this sort of thing, I guess. Quoting from the original mailing list posting:

The object of the game is to keep the drunk walking in a straight line by moving your mouse to the left or right (no clicking). You can't see the mouse so it makes it a little challenging. Apparently the record is 82 meters.

Posted by Nicholas at 05:46 PM | Comments (2)

QotD: Respect

In order for society to work, people's first instinct has to be to respect authority. Sometimes authority is wrong, but usually, it isn't, and the proper thing is to presume authority is correct until you have reason to believe otherwise. Kids learn respect for authority by dealing with their fathers. Sure, Mom is an authority figure, too, but who is the nuke in a healthy home's authority arsenal? Dad. When you find yourself in your room dreading the sound of Dad's car in the driveway, you know you are in deep, deep trouble.

If you don't respect Dad, you probably won't respect the police, either. You probably won't respect anyone.

Steve H., "Daddy Just HAAAAAD to Marry a Feminist: Hollywood and Madison Avenue Tell us About Healthy Relationships", Hog on Ice, 2005-01-12

Posted by Nicholas at 12:39 AM | Comments (0)

January 12, 2005

Colby Cosh on our vulgar, prurient interests

I have no idea how I managed to miss this Colby Cosh item from last month:

[W]hat's funny in 2004 is that if the Internet has taught us anything, it's that we are stultifyingly different from one another in our vulgar, prurient interests; while you sleep at night, or try to, your neighbour on one side is practicing animal-costume sex, on the other side someone's dreaming sweatily about being a tree frog devoured slowly by a mandrill, and across the way that nice Episcopalian pastor is ordering female-newscaster-humiliation porn from Japan. There is no longer any fantasy or practice so obscure that it doesn't have its own community and artistic genre (which is itself a "long tail" phenomenon). I suspect that the net, for better or worse, is the new background against which we see homosexual domesticity becoming an accepted aspiration, porn "stars" transforming into celebrated mainstream figures, and visible sex acts infiltrating art cinema. "As long as they don't frighten the horses" has gone from being a joke to the actual rule of 21st-century conduct — and wringing one's hands about it probably makes as much sense as resenting the tides of the sea.

For those who are not too jaded, several of those odd notions are hyperlinked in the original article. Colby, I salute you for going far beyond the call in finding ways to advertise without seeming to pander. Much.

Posted by Nicholas at 05:32 PM | Comments (0)

Offensiveness Explored

Theodore Dalrymple examines the recent uproar over the play by Gurpreet Kaur Bhatti which was hurled from the stage in Birmingham by an outraged Sikh community (or at least, activists proclaiming themselves to represent same):

For some of our intelligentsia, there could be no more reassuring proof of theater’s continuing importance in our society than a riot occasioned by a play. Recently in Birmingham, a mob attacked the local Repertory Theatre, forcing the closure of a play and the evacuation of the audience.

Posted by Nicholas at 02:58 PM | Comments (0)

QotD: Canadian Youth

Based on my own experience, people my age have no business deciding the future of this country. Obviously there's the knee-jerk socialism inculcated by public schooling, and Canadian media. It seems to be a passing attachment, however, and is often shaken by getting a job, and realizing that earning money is hard work, and is remarkably unrelated to the unquestionably sordid practice of stealing from poor people.

More pernicious, and ultimately, in my view, far more dangerous — should my generation ever locate their polling stations — is a poisonous, systemic anti-Americanism. The young people I know hate the United States, and hate Americans. Many people have seen the infamous poll released last June which indicated that 40% of Canadian teens viewed America as "evil." Many people were surprised by the results. So was I.

I thought the number was low.

The average youth voter, in my personal experience, has, at most, three political principles:
1) Equality is good. (Usually interpreted as equality of results... equality of opportunity is probably 'racist' and 'greedy.')
2) Everything is relative. "Good" and "Evil" are anachronistic terms devoid of meaning . . . they're just, like, your opinion, man.
3) George Bush is the living embodiment of all that is Evil. He is, literally, the anti-Christ, and he feeds on the blood of puppies and minorities. Plus, he thought our Prime Minister's name was Poutine.

Joel Fleming, "The Youth Vote", Joel Fleming, 2005-01-06

Posted by Nicholas at 12:23 AM | Comments (0)

January 11, 2005

American [Film] Digest

This review, by Jeremiah Lewis, is the most recent of several positive references to the film "Sideways":

The Romans had a saying: In Vino est veritas, which means "In Wine is truth." Perfection is hard to come by, but Sideways comes very close to achieving it, unwrapping a prized bottle of veritas and allowing us to revel in its aroma. Jim Taylor and co-writer/director Alexander Payne have popped the cork off one of the last unopened bottles of unique film material and poured a perfect glass for us to savour and taste in all its exquisite nuance.

It is too tempting to forego the metaphors Sideways provides; like a thick cluster of the finest Pinot grapes, it relishes each comparative note and sensation, and sheds a full-bodied warmth on the lightly cultivated corner of relationships known as heterosexual male friendship. It is no less insightful in addressing issues like self-esteem (not the namby-pamby PC stuff, but the true essence of evaluative self-worth), commitment, and honesty.

Working from Rex Pickett's unpublished novel, Payne and Taylor invoke a male bonding experience that exposes, for better and worse, the insecurities of middle-age men.

I'm hardly a film buff of any stripe, but when so many people start pointing out that a film is worth watching, I eventually get around to it.

Ever so slightly later Update: Of course, others disagree with Jeremiah.

Posted by Nicholas at 05:40 PM | Comments (0)

A Fun Online Toy

Grant McCracken linked to the Face Transformer, which allows you to play with your own face using their various transformations. Amusing, and (in my case) rather disturbing.

Posted by Nicholas at 03:57 PM | Comments (0)

Blogging Tories

Greg Staples indulges in the first blog round-up for the new-ish Blogging Tories blogroll. There's some cross-over between the Red Ensign Brigade and the BT list, but there are plenty of blogs listed there that may not have come to your attention (and certainly hadn't come to mine until now).

I'm not planning on joining the BT list for a couple of reasons, first and foremost being that I'm not a Tory. They're trying to construct an online "big tent" in hopes that they can encourage more fringe Tory sympathizers to give their party a chance next time around in the election sweeps (coming to your local polling station within the next 18 months). I do wish them luck, as the Libertarians are not likely to threaten to take any seats by then.

Posted by Nicholas at 02:32 PM | Comments (0)

You've already seen this. . .

. . . if you read Instapundit.

Austin Bay now has his own blog. And about bloody time, if you ask me.

There isn't a lot there yet, but that's bound to change. . .

Posted by Nicholas at 02:04 PM | Comments (0)

This is where the real decisions are made

Linked from Virginia Postrel's site, a ZDnet article discussing how the next generation of DVDs will come to market:

The concept may seem odd, but history has proven the adult entertainment industry to be one of the key drivers of any new technology in home entertainment. Pornography customers have been some of the first to buy home video machines, DVD players and subscribe to high-speed Internet.

One of the next big issues in which pornographers could play a deciding role is the future of high-definition DVDs.

The multibillion-dollar industry releases about 11,000 titles on DVD each year, giving it tremendous power to sway the battle between two groups of studios and technology companies competing to set standards for the next generation.

This should be no surprise to anyone with a passing familiarity with the close linkages between new communication technologies and the sex industry. Church leaders were against the spread of printing because it allowed the most salacious works to be widely published (it also allowed bibles to be similarly distributed, but they didn't want to allow the bad with the good). Motion pictures were widely denounced as immoral and pandering to the basest instincts of "the mob". Radio was similarly pilloried, and most of you will remember who was most active in attacking the Internet and for what reason. . .

Posted by Nicholas at 10:47 AM | Comments (2)

QotD: Moral Relativism

In Jakarta, aside from flags at half-staff, we have seen no signs of mourning for the victims: while employees and dependents of the American embassy spent their holiday loading trucks and putting together medicine kits, the city's inhabitants went ahead with New Year's parties; nightclubs and shopping centers are full; and regular television programming continues. At least 120,000 of their fellow countrymen are dead, and Indonesians hardly talk about it, much less engage in massive charitable efforts. The exceptionally wealthy businessmen of the capital — and the country boasts several billionaires — haven't made large donations to the cause of Sumatran relief; a few scattered NGOs have done a bit, but there are no well-organized drives to raise funds and supplies. We have seen nothing akin to what happened in the USA following the 9/11 atrocity, or the hurricanes in Florida of this past year.

The Sri Lankan's words echo in my mind every day, "Why do we want to bother with this? We all know you Americans will do everything." With the exception of handful of Western countries, most of the world would appear inhabited by the sort of Eloi-type creatures depicted in that old sci-fi flick based on H.G. Wells' The Time Machine, passively watching as flood waters or Morlocks drag their fellows away.

Begging the pardon of the cultural relativists, but might we not be allowed to raise — ever so gently, of course — the possibility that these differing reactions to human suffering, show Western civilization as the best we have on the planet? Maybe, just maybe Western civilization is morally superior.

The Diplomad, "Death in Nasty Places: Who Cares?", The Diplomad, January 10, 2005

Posted by Nicholas at 01:14 AM | Comments (0)

January 10, 2005

QotD: Minnesota Vikings

Little is surprising about a Vikings game filled with mistakes and missed opportunities. But when the Vikings aren't the team blowing tackles, committing ill-timed penalties and failing to take advantage of an opponent's errors, things certainly seem amiss.

Tom Pelissero, "Vikings rediscover winning ways", KFAN Sports, 2005-01-10

Posted by Nicholas at 05:31 PM | Comments (0)

Randy Moss, Gifted Athlete and Idiot

Damian Penny remarks on the remarkable Randy Moss:

Million dollar hands and a ten cent brain

If the NFL were a high school, Terrell Owens would be the class clown, while Randy Moss would be the overgrown, sweaty lout who laughs uproariously at his lewd comments to the girls.

(I have to admit, when Moss "mooned" the crowd after scoring a TD yesterday, I did laugh — not in a "that's funny" manner, but in a "can you believe this guy?" manner.)

As many people have pointed out, Randy Moss may be the best wide receiver in football. As even more people have pointed out, he has all the emotional maturity of a ten-year-old. Yesterday's stunt (pretending to drop his pants, mooning the audience at Lambeau Field, then rubbing his buttocks against the goal post) should merit a hefty fine from the league — and if the league doesn't do it, then Vikings owner Red McCombs and coach Mike Tice certainly should.

Moss is immature, as so many professional athletes are at the beginning of their brief, lucrative careers. Moss isn't a rookie: he's been playing for several years — he has no excuse for this kind of juvenile idiocy. And, worse, he genuinely believes that he needs no excuse.

Posted by Nicholas at 04:46 PM | Comments (0)

Congratulations Jon and Martina!

My virtual landlord, Jon, and his wife Martina are the proud parents of a little girl. Samantha Piasecki was born on Sunday afternoon, weighing in at 7lbs, 7oz.

No word yet on how new big brother Jamie is taking the intrusion of a new baby into his life. . .

Posted by Nicholas at 11:29 AM | Comments (0)

QotD: September 11

Neither diplomats nor strategists immediately could grasp that the world — as happened after Salamis on September 28, 480 B.C. or the Fall of Constantinople on May 29, 1453 — had suddenly cracked open and would not be put back together with quite the same pieces. Thus the 9/11 tragedy and its aftermath in Afghanistan and Iraq led to fundamental rethinking about NATO, the role of the United Nations, and American relationships with continental European countries. Europeans loudly pronounced a new anti-Americanism and talked of a separate "German way"; American silently seethed and were resigned to give them their wish. After September 11, Europeans vented against the American protectorate even as average citizens in Des Moines and Tulare quietly shrugged and likewise asked why the United States at great cost is defending a continent that has a larger population and economy than its own.

Victor Davis Hanson, Ripples of Battle

Posted by Nicholas at 01:22 AM | Comments (0)

NFL Playoff Picture

I wrote a few days ago:

My long and distinguished history as the worst prognosticator will be on full display here:

  • NFC Wildcard: Seattle over St. Louis. The Rams have won both regular-season meetings, but Seattle isn't as bad as that record might indicate. They'll win, but not big.

Well, I'm zero for one so far: St. Louis beat Seattle 27-20, making them the first 8-8 team in league history to win a playoff game. I'd be more thrilled if a) I liked the Rams, and b) I hadn't picked Seattle to win this one.

  • AFC Wildcard: San Diego over NY Jets. It seems weird to see the Chargers in the playoffs. It'll seem even weirder to see them in the divisional round.

Zero for two, now. The Jets kept it close enough to go into overtime, then the Chargers missed a field goal but the Jets kicker was more accurate. Final score 20-17 Jets.

  • AFC Wildcard: Indianapolis over Denver. Peyton Manning at home? Big points, no joy for the Broncos.

Aha! Justified in my preconceived notions! Indy 49, Denver 24. Indy advances to face the fearsome Patriots in their home stadium (and pray for unseasonably warm weather to allow Peyton Manning to work his alchemy with the football).

  • NFC Wildcard: Minnesota over Green Bay. The Pack won both regular-season meetings, but by a total of 6 points, both last-minute scores. They have the advantage of playing at Lambeau, but the Vikings have a lot to prove.

The Vikings ran up a 17-0 lead about seven minutes into the game. The Pack closed the gap to 7, but never went ahead. Final score: 31-17 for the visiting Vikings. The Vikings are the second 8-8 team in league history to win a playoff game, and the third visiting team to upset the favoured home team this weekend. Minnesota now go on to revisit Philly, where they lost an ugly game earlier in the season.

Posted by Nicholas at 12:54 AM | Comments (0)

January 09, 2005

Church Signs

I was driving through the little village of Goodwood the other day when I saw this sign. I rarely pay attention to church signage, but this one was funny enough that I had to pull over and get a picture:

Church sign

Posted by Nicholas at 11:12 AM | Comments (2)

Andrew Strikes a Blow For Clear Thinking

Andrew, at Bound By Gravity does a bit of clarification on current environmental paranoia:

Even though human industry causes pollution and the Earth is warming, it does not immediately follow that human industry is the root cause of pollution. In fact, this is another example of myopic human conceit at work; we are always so sure that we are the cause of everything on this planet that we fail to realize that the planet has its own agenda, and we're not a huge part of it.

Consider this [article including interesting graphs].

The particular graph Andrew reproduces on his site (from the original at the link above) shows two of the more recent temperature variations, the "Medieval warm period" and the "Little Ice Age". I'm not totally sold on the accuracy of the graph, as it is an attempt to synthesize a clear picture from varying sources of data (which allows the introduction of errors both inadvertant and deliberate in many such surveys), the anecdotal record does bear out the overall truth of the story. Western Europe was much warmer in the period from 1000 to about 1350 and then significantly colder from there until the mid 1800's.

Posted by Nicholas at 10:47 AM | Comments (1)

QotD: Wine Glasses

I used to think it was a silly affectation to drink different wines from different style glasses, but I have finally become a convert.

I now definitely prefer drinking hearty, macho reds from my Spiderman glass and lighter, fruity whites from Sponge Bob.

puester@worldnet.att.net, posted at Rec.humor.funny Jokes

Posted by Nicholas at 10:23 AM | Comments (2)

January 08, 2005

A UN Tax? Where does Paul Martin sign up?

Kate reports:

Not content with taxing its' own citizens, France seeks to enlarge the tax base by suggesting that there should be an international tax and will try to pitch the idea at the next G-8 meeting reports The Australian:

FRENCH President Jacques Chirac made a new call today for an "international tax", saying such a levy would help generate funds to help poor countries and those hit by disasters such as the Asian tsunami.

Because, as we all know, the Western world has been incredibly stingy in their response to the crisis caused by the tsunami in the Indian Ocean. So little money has been promised by individuals that the only fair way to grab the funds is to make volunteer contributions somehow less valid than mandatory levies through the taxation bureaucracy.

"These events stress the need to increase public aid towards development and to find innovative financing mechanisms such as an international taxation," Mr Chirac said in a New Year speech to the Paris diplomatic corps.

Then, Kate asks the inevitable question:

I, once again, am forced to ask — what are the odds that a Canadian Liberal government will not support any UN/French initiatives on international TAXATION?

Odds against? No. Odds in favour, certainement, mon ami!

Posted by Nicholas at 12:53 AM | Comments (0)

QotD: MSM

[. . .] the ripples of battle in their formal sense are guided by the presence of historians, and that means originally Westerners, and more recently in large part Europeans and Americans. And such distortions do not always play out in bias toward Westerners, especially in the present age. In April 2002 the Israeli Defence Forces entered the West Bank community of Jenin to hunt out suspected suicide-murderers, whose comembers had blown up hundreds of Israeli civilians over the prior year. Although fewer than sixty Palestinians were killed in Jenin — the great majority of them combatants — the world media seized upon the street fighting, dubbing it "Jeningrad" as if they were somehow the moral equivalent of one million Germans and Russians lost at Stalingrad. Yet just days after the Israeli withdrawal from Jenin, Pakistan squared off against India. The stakes were surely far higher: One-fifth of the world's population was involved. Both sides were nuclear powers and issued threats to use their arsenals. In the prior year alone nearly four times more Indians and Pakistanis were killed than Palestinians and Israelis. By any calculation of numbers, the specter of the dead, the geopolitical consequences, or the long-term environmental health of the planet, the world should know all the major cities in Kashmir rather than a few street names in Jenin. And if the world sought to chronicle destruction and death in an Islamic city, then by any fair measure it should have turned its attention to Grozny, where an entire society of Muslim Chechnyans was quite literally obliterated by the Russian army.

The idiosyncracies of historical remembrance of battle do not hinge alone on the presence of a Socrates or Teddy Roosevelt in the ranks. Sometimes there are wild cards of culture and politics as well. In this case and at this time, the fact that Israelis fit the stereotype of affluent and proud Westerners abroad while the Palestinians were constructed as impoverished and oppressed colonial subjects brought to the equation the sympathies of influential Americans and Europeans in the media, universities, and government — the prominent and sometimes worrisome elites who determined to send their reporters, scholars, and diplomats to Jenin rather than to Islamabad or Grozny.

Victor Davis Hanson, Ripples of Battle

Posted by Nicholas at 12:45 AM | Comments (0)

Trolling for [Non Spam] Comments

Ben, at Tiger in Winter, borrowed a meme from Alan, at Gen X at 40, so it's now free for others to jump on board:

Who the heck are you, my loyal readers?

I know Jon, my virtual landlord (of course), and Clive, and Chris, and Fred. Lynn occasionally drops in for a comment or two, and Bren (the wine lush), but who are the rest of you?

Posted by Nicholas at 12:26 AM | Comments (5)

FOAD, Spam Commenter!

You know, clearly the bastard who's littering my comment section with P*nis Enl*rgement, Onl*ne P*ker, V*agra, and Ph*ntermine ads took the week between Xmas and New Year's off, because he's making up for lost time this week. I've banned nearly a hundred of his zombie IP addresses since Monday: given my daily traffic, you'd think he'd be polluting Instapundit or Daily Kos instead of my little piece of the 'sphere.

Anyway, I apologize if you've been bothered by any of his garbage: I delete and ban as fast as I can, but since he's clearly using a 'bot, and I'm just human, the temporary advantage is always his: I can't clean and ban as fast as he can post. But I'll get caught up eventually.

And he'd better hope I never run into him in meatspace: I'm not a trained killer, but I know how to maim fingers as required.

And I shouldn't need to say this, but please don't feed the troll: don't click on any of his links — that's how he makes a living. Starve the f*cker!

Posted by Nicholas at 12:13 AM | Comments (0)

January 07, 2005

Brian Micklethwait on why this crisis is different

Brian Micklethwait writes about why so much private aid is flowing to help the victims of the tsunami:

This catastrophe is, it seems to me, an exception to a rule which is now widely accepted among the donation-giving (as opposed to donation soliciting) classes. This rule is: that most of what passes for Foreign Aid these days is pointless, or worse. Personally I believe this, and I now believe that a lot of other people believe it too, and have believed it for some time.

Take the Sudan. Suppose you throw money into that mess. Who gets their hands on it? Starving people? Maybe. But a lot of it surely goes instead to the people who are inflicting rather than suffering from the starvation. The starvation-inflicters control the country like prison guards, and they demand tribute from Aid Agencies as a price for the Aid Agencies bringing their Aid to a few of the starvation-sufferers.

This is exactly my own feeling as well: far too much of what passes for charity is (at best) fractionally beneficial to the intended recipients, and far too much of it ends up in exactly the wrong hands: either the criminals who steal the donations or the "armies" and bureaucrats who are often the primary cause of the crises.

[Aid workers in this case], it seems to me, have one huge advantage compared to the circumstances that pertain in other disasters. They have a definition of cleaning up. They have an objective. Basically, very approximately, very roughly, as best they can, as imperfectly as they must, they are trying to restore the state of affairs that existed before the Tsunami struck. And, they can be confident that if they do manage an approximation of this Herculean labour, the local people whom they are seeking to help will then know just what to do. They will get back to getting on with their lives. Their lives worked okay before. They can work okay again. Meanwhile, they need a helping hand. A big one. But only for a while.

Other 'disasters', of the sort that are said to have 'root causes' (i.e. complicated and controversial and intractable causes), but upon which we are nevertheless nagged to shower Aid, have no such simple and shared objective to get everyone who is trying to help to actually help.

Aid of the second sort, is really just guilt payments: there is little or no hope of the donations actually making the situation better for anyone (except the criminals and oppressors), and a strong likelihood of making it worse. Perpetuating oppression and misery is a terrible way to assuage a general sense of guilt! And yet that's exactly what seems to happen in many cases.

To summarise, this disaster is (a) exceptional in being one that good people have been allowed, by circumstances and by local politicians, to deal with; and (b) it is exceptional in that it is actually reasonably correctable. Money will, in short, not do that much harm, and could do a hell of a lot of good.

Note that I am not just saying that this is how I think it is. Maybe I am totally wrong. Maybe the politicians are screwing up everything, and maybe the idea that there is a status quo ante which can in any imaginable way be returned to is utter nonsense.

I don't think Brian is wrong here, and he makes some excellent points that I haven't scraped off and reposted here. Do read his whole article!

Posted by Nicholas at 06:28 PM | Comments (0)

NHL Strike vs. The Canadian Economy

Jon has a very good post up (which I meant to link to yesterday, but didn't get the chance). In summary, the NHL strike is a big issue to a lot of Canadians, but claims that it's had a huge impact on the economy are, at very best, overwrought. I'm not a hockey fan, and have no dog in the fight between the billionaire owners and the multimillionaire players, so it matters little to me personally whether the strike is resolved sooner or later.

The pretence that the strike is responsible for the current downturn in economic indicators is very quickly struck down by Jon's figures: the direct economic effects of the NHL strike are infinitismal compared to much more credible movements in the economy as a whole.

Posted by Nicholas at 12:36 AM | Comments (0)

QotD: The PATRIOT Act

The Patriot Act and its progeny are the most abominable, unconstitutional congressional assaults on personal freedom since the Alien and Sedition Acts of 1798 made it a crime to libel the government. With them, Congress and the president have attempted to legitimize the exchange of liberty for security. In effect, the government says, "Give us your freedoms, and we will protect you." Such a satanic bargain misunderstands the nature of freedom and historically never has worked.

No rational person has ever voluntarily given up his own freedoms. Sacrificing freedom has never made us safer, just less free.

Andrew P. Napolitano, "Our liberty under siege", Baltimore Sun, December 29, 2004

Posted by Nicholas at 12:01 AM | Comments (0)

January 06, 2005

When Clear Writing Loses Out to Weird Jury Decisions

This link was posted to a tech writing mailing list I lurk on: Toilet Brush Warning Wins Consumer Award:

DETROIT - The sign on the toilet brush says it best: "Do not use for personal hygiene."

That admonition was the winner of an anti-lawsuit group's contest for the wackiest consumer warning label of the year.

The sponsor, Michigan Lawsuit Abuse Watch, says the goal is "to reveal how lawsuits, and concern about lawsuits, have created a need for common sense warnings on products."

The $500 first prize went to Ed Gyetvai, of Oldcastle, Ontario, who submitted the toilet-brush label. A $250 second prize went to Matt Johnson, of Naperville, Ill., for a label on a children's scooter that said, "This product moves when used."

Further comments, I'm sure, would only add to the mountain of evidence that juries in certain jurisdictions are packed with the only people who couldn't come up with a way to convince the judge to let them escape jury duty. And that most judges would consider an IQ above room temperature to be adequate reason.

Posted by Nicholas at 03:14 PM | Comments (0)

Canadians and Authority Figures

I pulled this off a mailing list I belong to. The names have been omitted to protect the innocent:

Bob (last name withheld) wrote: A couple of years ago, My Son the Cop was motorcycling in northern Alberta (or maybe it was BC). He had a 12 gauge shotgun with him for protection from Mother Gaia's larger furry children.

As he was paying the fee for a tent site in a park, the uniformed representative of the provincial government said: "You have a firearm with you?"

MStC: Yes, 12 gauge double.

URPG: Very good. When you go to bed tonight, have the gun loaded and in the sleeping bag with you.

MStC: Well, ah, urm . . .

URPG: Are you listening? It's important. If a bear comes into your tent, fire right through the sleeping bag.

MStC: But it says here (gesturing with park brochure) NO FIREARMS IN THE PARK.

URPG: Listen! What I'm telling you is important. You can get a new tent and a new sleeping bag, but . . .

MStC: You guys out here don't pay much attention to what your government tells you, do you?

URPG: Would you if your government told you the silly things ours does?

Posted by Nicholas at 12:15 PM | Comments (0)

QotD: Vancouver

As a resident of Toronto, I am a bit reluctant to write about Vancouver. Torontonians and Vancouverites don't get along very well, even though it is only the regular infusion of Torontonians that keeps Vancouver from losing its status as a city. Scratch a Vancouverite — not that it's a practice I advocate — and chances are you'll find an expatriate Hogtowner. Like religious converts, these newfound westerners are the most wild-eyed believers in the mythology, the most likely to promulgate the idea that Vancouverites routinely go skiing in the morning and sailing in the afternoon. There is no recorded instance of anyone actually skiing and sailing in the same day, but the belief that it can be done holds a lot of people in thrall. In fact Vancouver's traffic nowadays makes such a practice unlikely, and in any case Vancouverites don't have the time for it, having to work like Torontonians to make the payments on their leaky condos.

What the residents of these two cities have in common is an irrational smugness, an utterly unfounded belief that they are living in the best city in the world. We grasp desperately at warm comments from visitors, keen to be noticed by outsiders. The best of all is when we get acknowledged by international studies that rank the cities of the world. These surveys invariably come up with widely divergent results, and sometimes Toronto does well and other times it's Vancouver.

Nicholas Pashley, Notes on a Beermat: Drinking and Why It's Necessary

Posted by Nicholas at 12:54 AM | Comments (0)

January 05, 2005

Woodworking Project, Part the First

I've had one person ask for some photos, either because he's interested in woodworking or (perhaps more likely) he doesn't believe that I'm actually getting anything done. Given my traffic levels, this counts as a request by a statistically significant part of my audience, so here goes:

Featherboard

This shows the featherboard I mentioned yesterday. Its purpose is to keep steady pressure on the waste side of the cut, so that the clean edge of the workpiece is kept firmly pressed against the tablesaw's rip fence on the right side of the picture.

Lee Valley roller stand

This is the Lee Valley roller stand. It works quite well, certainly better than the shop-built adjustable sawhorses I was using in this role beforehand.

Finished boards on workbench

This is a small pile of finished boards sitting on top of the workbench. The big yellow and black box in the background is the DeWalt planer.

Plane with jointer fence

This is the hand plane I was using to get clean edges on the flattened boards. This side shows the Lee Valley jointer fence I picked up a couple of years ago, but just got around to trying out (it was on sale, what can I say?).

Sawdust and shavings

Last picture for now: proof that I didn't just go to a Borg and buy finished hardwood!

Posted by Nicholas at 11:43 AM | Comments (0)

NFL Playoff Picture

My long and distinguished history as the worst prognosticator will be on full display here:

  • NFC Wildcard: Seattle over St. Louis. The Rams have won both regular-season meetings, but Seattle isn't as bad as that record might indicate. They'll win, but not big.
  • AFC Wildcard: San Diego over NY Jets. It seems weird to see the Chargers in the playoffs. It'll seem even weirder to see them in the divisional round.
  • NFC Wildcard: Minnesota over Green Bay. The Pack won both regular-season meetings, but by a total of 6 points, both last-minute scores. They have the advantage of playing at Lambeau, but the Vikings have a lot to prove.
  • AFC Wildcard: Indianapolis over Denver. Peyton Manning at home? Big points, no joy for the Broncos.

The two top seeds in each conference, the Eagles and Falcons in the NFC and the Steelers and the Patriots in the AFC benefit from having the weekend off while the wildcard teams fight it out.

  • NFC Divisional: Philadelphia over Minnesota. This is a replay of a regular-season game where the Vikes self-destructed. Minnesota would have to play far better than they did in the regular season to win this one. I'm a Vikings fan, but I can't see the Vikes beating the Eagles at home this year.
  • AFC Divisional: Pittsburgh over San Diego. The Steelers have the best show in the AFC this year; the Chargers won't be able to overcome.
  • NFC Divisional: Atlanta over Seattle. Michael Vick is the Atlanta attack. If he's healthy, this is an easy win. If he's not, it's a coin-toss.
  • AFC Divisional: Indianapolis over New England. Weather could be a huge factor in this game, but if the great outdoors isn't a factor, the Colts should come away with a win. If it's an ice-bowl, the Colts are going home early.

The conference championships will be:

  • NFC Championship: Philadelphia over Atlanta. No question about it.
  • AFC Championship: Pittsburgh over Indianapolis. Also no question about it.

An all-Pennsylvania Superbowl this year. I'll have to say it'll be the Steelers this time around. Philly just doesn't have enough firepower to knock out the Steelers, but the reverse isn't true.

Posted by Nicholas at 11:29 AM | Comments (0)

January 04, 2005

12th Raising of the Red Ensign

Jason has done a bang-up job of collecting some of the most interesting and topical posts from the 40+ members of the brigade in the 12th Raising of the Red Ensign. Great job, Jason!

So, what are you all waiting here for? Go! Go!

Posted by Nicholas at 01:17 AM | Comments (0)

Woodworking as a hobby

For the first time in literally months, I got down into the basement today to do a bit of woodworking. I'd like to say that woodworking is one of my hobbies, but that's being a bit more pretentious than I can justify. Let's say that I aspire to being a competent woodworker (several of my ancestors were cabinetmakers and carpenters), but for now I'm an apprentice abuser of wood.

I got a few woodworking accessories over the holidays, plus a number of hints that it'd be nice if I got busy and built some furniture soon. Today was my first opportunity to do something about it. One of the gifts was a Lee Valley roller stand, which looks a bit over-engineered in the photo, but works very well indeed. So far I've used it as outfeed support on both the tablesaw and the planer, with excellent results. I also received a pair of monster clamps by Jorgensen. These are big enough to be quite useful as weapons, should the need arise.

This is one of my first forays into using what I call "real wood". Most of my previous projects have been plywood and pine, with only two projects in oak (a bookcase and an entertainment unit) — and for those two, I had lots of help. I'm using Cherry for this new project.

One of the advantages of working with plywood and pine is that they're generally available in known dimensions (although the relationship between the "formal" size and the actual size seems to be drifting further apart). Hardwoods, like Oak, Cherry, and Maple, are generally not available in standard sizes. This means that for a project involving "real wood", a good portion of the initial time investment is devoted to creating the proper sized pieces of wood with which to start building the project.

This means, for example, starting with a "rough cut" board, which means that it's somewhere in the 1-2" thick range, anywhere from 3-8" wide, and up to 8-10' long. And the "rough" is literally that: the saw marks from the mill are often still clear — and jagged. To turn this into something useful, you need to perform a few arcane tasks: face jointing and edge jointing. You have to establish a flat face on the board from which all the other dimensions will be taken. The power tool to do this is called a Jointer (or, in some areas, a Joiner). I don't own one of these yet, so I have to fake it.

I select, as carefully as I can, rough boards that don't exhibit cupping, warping, or twisting (which thins the ranks of usable boards pretty effectively, I must admit), then run them through the planer to get the two faces of the board flat and parallel to one another. That done, I use a hand plane with a jointing fence attached to square off one of the long edges of the board, then rip the other edge on the tablesaw (you need a square edge on one side to safely use the tablesaw . . . you're asking for problems to do it any other way).

When I first bought my tablesaw, my much-more-experienced-in-woodworking friend Clive also had me buy some accessories (stabilizer disks, link-belt, push-sticks & paddles, and a featherboard). Until today, I'd never been able to find a use for the featherboard: it just seemed like it did nothing but get in the way of making cuts on the saw. Today, I finally found out what a featherboard is so useful for: it saves you driving splinters into your hand as you press the good-on-three-sides boards against the tablesaw rip fence, and also discourages you from doing some stupid take-your-hand-too-close-to-the-blade trick that you might otherwise be inclined to do.

I'm a slow worker, when it comes to woodworking, so it took me most of the day to get to the point of having enough wood planed and jointed to actually get started on the project itself. Tomorrow should be the start of a glue-up for a pair of side-table tabletops, and I'll have to go to a lumber store to find some stock that'll be thick enough to use for the legs of the tables, but at least I've finally started doing something with the basement full of tools and rough wood, so I should be hearing fewer complaints from SWMBO (She Who Must Be Obeyed).

Posted by Nicholas at 12:45 AM | Comments (5)

January 03, 2005

QotD: Food

I used chicken because I was tired of looking unsuccessfully for goat. You can get goat if you go where people from the islands live, but that would be a lot like work.

You roll the roti up and eat the curry like a bear eating a Cub Scout in a sleeping bag.

Steve H., "Roti Stuffed With Curry: Green and Mean", Hog on Ice, 2005-01-01

Posted by Nicholas at 03:06 PM | Comments (2)

Tales of Canadian Retail

Subtitled: Why Foreign Companies Do So Well In Canada.

As I recounted here a month or so ago, after losing my cell phone, I indulged in a new Treo 600 combination PDA/Cell/MP3 Player/Digital Camera. It allowed me to stop carrying two units on my belt (Visor PDA & cell phone), which lowered my nerd-boy quotient and raised my techno-geek ratio. Of course, the unit didn't have all the extra bits and pieces (like a belt carrier and recharging/synchronization cradle), so I had to buy them too. The belt clip and case were in stock, but the cradle had to be ordered in. They promised to have it in for me the following Tuesday.

The same weekend, I took a badminton racquet in to be restrung: I'm not a pure power player, so I only need to get my racquets restrung every few years. I took it in to the only sporting goods store in the Whitby-Oshawa area that handles badminton racquets (lots of places for tennis & squash, but only one for badminton). They, of course, didn't have any string in stock, but they'd order it for me and should have the racquet ready to go the following weekend.

The next Sunday, I head over to Pickering Town Centre to collect my Treo cradle, only to find that they'd "accidentally ordered the wrong item" and it wouldn't be in until the following Tuesday. I then went over to Oshawa to pick up my racquet. Wouldn't you just know that they'd forgotten to order the string and it would be another week before it was ready.

Cycle on a few weeks, with new excuses coming up each time. It has now been six weeks since I foolishly paid for these items, and I still don't have either one in hand. But I've had lots of interesting reasons offered why they couldn't get the job done: "This isn't a popular unit, so they don't stock this item." "It's on backorder from the manufacturer." "This is such a popular unit that they can't keep the accessories in stock." "Oh, someone accidentally sent us the wrong item. We'll reorder for you."

Update, 7 January: I finally got a call from National Sports last night . . . my restrung racquet is ready to be picked up. Bell World, the ball is now firmly in your court.

Update, 8 January: National Sports didn't end up charging me for the raquet restringing, or for the string itself. This might be a typical thing for an American company to do, but it's actually a bit surprising to find a Canadian firm doing it. Unfortunately, the occasional Canadian firm that goes far beyond the call (Lee Valley Tools, for instance) are vastly outnumbered by the surly types who feel that selling you what you want is a huge favour and you should be grateful to them.

Posted by Nicholas at 09:08 AM | Comments (4)

January 02, 2005

Vikings back into playoff picture

I didn't get to see anything other than a couple of highlights, but Minnesota lost today at Washington, 21-18, but still managed to squeak into the playoffs after a Carolina loss to New Orleans. I sure hope that they fix a few of the problems they've had on both sides of the ball before the first wild-card games kick-off!

Posted by Nicholas at 04:35 PM | Comments (0)

QotD: Jazz

The opening note of Jazz, Ken Burns' [. . .] series for PBS, comes from trumpeter Wynton Marsalis, who's not playing but lecturing. "Jazz music objectifies America," he tells us, then offers a lesson about what jazz really is. The form's great power emerges from musicians who "negotiate their agendas with each other." According to Marsalis (he's Lincon Center's artistic director for jazz), that negotiation, that handing off and passing around of inspiration — that jam — is jazz's transcendence.

Most jazz musicians would agree. As the cliché goes, it's one thing to do a show for your paying customers, playing what they expect and have paid to hear, but after the squares go home, you can stop blowing shit and make another kind of music altogether. Yet many musicians would also agree that, more often than not, it's a lot more satisfying to play that personal kind of music than it is to sit and listen to it. Jazz musicians involved with each other in intimate creativity may well be negotiating their way to improvisational sublimity, but they've often left the audience out of the musical deal. This is a central but rarely acknowledged tension in Burns' documentary treatment.

Charles Paul Freund, "Epic Jazz", Reason, January, 2001

Posted by Nicholas at 11:53 AM | Comments (0)

January 01, 2005

Random Moaning

Once upon a time, back when I had such a thing as un-allocated free time, I founded a historical society. It was a good hobby for me at the time: I could write, research, publish, and network with people much better informed about the topic (the old Toronto, Hamilton & Buffalo Railway) than me. It cost me a fair amount of money to get started, as this was early in the home internet boom, so most of the people who shared my interest were not yet online. This meant that to communicate with them, I had to print a dead tree edition of my publication and mail it out.

I spent several years publishing the quarterly journal, TH&B Focus, quickly moving from being primarily a writer to being primarily an editor and layout artist: I really knew a lot less about the railway than most of my subscribers and (especially) my contributors. Six years on, I'd burned out. I could no longer keep up my involvement in the publication, and I was lucky to find a team to take over the publication for me.

Even before I founded the organization, I'd been running a mailing list for the minority of folks who were online in those days. This was before Yahoo, Onelist, eGroups, and other free mailing list providers were both dependable and ubiquitous, so again, I was paying to support my hobby. Eventually, enough of the membership of the society were active online that we started publishing a web site to support the organization, at www.thbrailway.com. And things were good.

Skip ahead a few years, and the original ISP with whom we were contracting was taken over by another ISP. At some point during the change-over, one or another of the ISP's changed the contact information for our registered domain from me to their customer support department. This meant that when the domain eventually came up for renewal, the renewal information was not passed to me or to the society treasurer, and therefore we did not renew the domain.

So, of course, someone else has grabbed the domain name once it went through what the laughingly call the "redemption period", and is probably now a porn site of some sort.

Posted by Nicholas at 10:16 PM | Comments (2)


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