April 30, 2005

QotD: Western Teenagers

Pessimists see in the lethargic teenagers of the affluent American suburbs seeds of decay. But I am not so sure we are yet at the point of collapse. As long as Europe and America retain their adherance to the structures of constitutional government, capitalism, freedom of religious and political association, free speech, and intellectual tolerance, then history teaches us that Westerners can still field in their hour of need brave, disciplined and well-equipped soldiers who shall kill like none other on the planet. Our institutions, I think, if they do not erode entirely and are not overthrown, can survive periods of decadence brought on by our material success, eras when the entire critical notion of civic militarism seems bothersome to the enjoyment of material surfeit, and an age in which free speech is used to focus on our own imperfections without concern for the ghastly nature of our enemies. Not all elements of the Western approach to warfare were always present in Europe. The fumes of Roman republicanism kept the empire going long after the ideal of a citizen soldier sometimes gave way to a mercenary army.

Victor Davis Hanson, Carnage and Culture

Posted by Nicholas at 09:49 AM | Comments (0)

April 29, 2005

The Tiger on the prowl

Ben, The Tiger in Winter, has a couple of very thoughtful posts on why the Conservatives are having trouble breaking through, in spite of the ongoing mass of corruption that is the Liberal government.

Go read 'em, even if you're not partial to Stephen Harper's fascist horde. . .

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

Jon continues the Earth Day celebrations

Jon had me drive the getaway vehicle as he took some drive-by photos of ecological devastation along Highway 404 yesterday afternoon. Go see a small sample of all the trees being destroyed to allow an HOV lane to be added to the highway.

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

QotD: European Military Superiority

Many scholars have been reluctant to discuss the question of European military superiority because either they confuse it with larger issues of intelligence or morality or they focus on occasional European setbacks as if they are typical and so negate the general rule of Western dominance. In fact, the European ability to conquer non-Europeans — usually far from Europe, despite enormous problems in logistics, with relatively few numbers of combatants, and in often unfamiliar and hostile terrain and climate — has nothing to do with questions of intelligence, innate morality or religious superiority, but again illustrates the continuum of a particular cultural tradition, beginning with the Greeks, that brought unusual dividends to Western armies on the battlefield.

Victor Davis Hanson, Carnage and Culture

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

April 28, 2005

Light posting day alert

Work is.

I may have time to post something later in the day, but no guarantee either way.

Posted by Nicholas at 01:38 PM | Comments (0)

QotD: The Western Way of War

Free capital is the key to war making on any large scale, what Cicero called "the sinews of war," without which an army cannot muster, be fed, or fight. Capital is the wellspring of technological innovation, which is inextricably tied to freedom, often the expression of individualism, and thus critical to military success throughout the ages. That capitalism was born in the West, expanded through Europe, survived the alternate Western-inspired paradigms of socialism and communism, and found itself inextricably tied with personal freedom and democracy in its latest global manifestation explains in no small part Western military dominanace from the age of Salamis to the Gulf War.

Victor Davis Hanson, Carnage and Culture

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

April 27, 2005

ADSL Speed Challenged

Ami Ben-Bassat provides striking proof that even Snails are faster than ADSL!

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


Nick Packwood, who linked to the Serenity trailer yesterday, has some gorram good news and bad news:

Serenity sneak preview
Curse you, Seattle, Austin, Sacramento, Boston, Altanta, Chicago, San Francisco, Las Vegas, Denver and The Portland of Oregon! For Joss Whedon has a Serenity announcement to make to you [ . . . ]

No Canadian venues. Or even American venues that I'd have a reasonable chance of driving to (Boston and Chicago are both about 12 hours from here). Damn!

Posted by Nicholas at 12:47 PM | Comments (0)

Sneak peek at L.M. Bujold's next novel

Lois McMaster Bujold's next novel, The Hallowed Hunt, will be published next month. Right now, the first chapter is available on the HarperCollins website. Chapters 2-4 will be made available over the next few weeks.

Note: Unlike previous samples, this is made available as a PDF, so you'll need Adobe Acrobat Reader or an equivalent package to read the sample.

For a lot of Bujold fans, the "Chalion" series of fantasy novels are an unwelcome distraction from her "Vorkosigan" science fiction stories. Her last novel, Paladin of Souls won me over to the new fantasy works. Go have a read: it's free, and you might just enjoy it.

Posted by Nicholas at 09:05 AM | Comments (0)

Unscientific Poll Tracking

The polls continue to trend towards minority Conservative government, if an election were held today:

Click to enlarge

Most recent polls from Ipsos-Reid (23 April) and Decima (25 April).

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

QotD: The State

The great trouble today is that we have too many laws. I believe that primarily a government has but two functions — to protect the lives and property rights of citizens. When it goes further than that, it becomes a burden.

John Nance Garner, Vice President of the United States 1933-1937

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

April 26, 2005

50's Images without modern ironic re-envisioning

Virginia Postrel linked to this site which will appeal to anyone who enjoys the images of the 1940's and 50's without the baggage of actually having experienced that era.

New (or perhaps more correctly, "new") stuff is blogged here with some running commentary.

Posted by Nicholas at 03:38 PM | Comments (0)

Wine Tasting in May

I just signed up for a Vintages "Classics Collection" wine tasting for May 17 in Toronto. It certainly sounds interesting, with lots of wines on the tentative list that I've never had a chance to sample. I've never been to an organized tasting of this type, and from the listing, it appears as though you select one wine from each of 14 flights, with a bonus 15th flight consisting only of Château Margaux 1999.

If this is the case, it'll be tricky trying to decide which one of the flight to sample in several cases. Champagne or Meursault? Pauillac or Saint-Émilion? Brunello or Chianti Classico Riserva? Côte-Rôtie Brune et Blonde or Hillebrand's Trius Grand? (Okay, that one is a slam-dunk, I agree!) Gevry-Chambertin or Vosne-Romanée? Barbera D'Asti or Barolo? Graham's Vintage Port 1983 or Chateau Ducru-Beaucaillou 1999 2e Cru?

I can hear your sympathy already.

Posted by Nicholas at 02:49 PM | Comments (0)

Welcome the Raging Ranter and A Chick Called Marzi

The newest member of the Brigade is The Raging Ranter. Welcome to the unit! Mine'll be a Chateau Margaux '99

Update: A Chick Named Marzi has also hoisted the Red Ensign today.

Posted by Nicholas at 01:24 PM | Comments (0)

QotD: History

A statesman has not to make history, but if ever in the events around him he hears the sweep of the mantle of God, then he must jump up and catch at its hem.

Otto von Bismarck

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

April 25, 2005

Red Ensign Standard No. 20

The 20th Edition of the Red Ensign Standard has been raised at canadiancomment. Go see what the other members of the Red Ensign Brigade have been blogging about for the last two weeks!

Posted by Nicholas at 04:51 PM | Comments (0)

Dale Amon thinks about spaceports

Dale Amon does a bit of interpretation of Richard Branson's foray into space tourism:

Now notice he is considering more than one spaceport location. He is not talking of abandoing the US launch site in the Mojave. He wants to add another site for suborbital fares. He would have two sites at which he could operate suborbital space ship take offs and landings.

Branson is in the airline business and knows better than I what the size of the market is for people who want to take a short suborbital tourist hop . . . versus the number of high value business people who would pay extraordinary fares to reach the antipodes in 45 minutes. British Air refused to sell him the Concordes, but Richard might just laugh last and best.

Inference two: I expect we will at some point see a proof of concept flight of a Rutan vehicle which leaves the Mojave on a suborbital intercontinental ballistic trajectory and lands in Australia. If he has a vehicle capable of carrying 6 paying passengers for tourism, that same vehicle with a lone pilot can probably boost onto a trans-Pacific trajectory.

Posted by Nicholas at 01:56 PM | Comments (0)

"Serenity" trailer release on Tuesday

Nick Packwood also scouted out Joss Whedon's announcement of the (non-spoiler-free) trailer for the Firefly movie Serenity, due in theatres in September.

I can't wait: I've watched the DVD set over and over again (commentary tracks included). Roll on September!

Posted by Nicholas at 12:50 PM | Comments (0)

This is just Wrong

Nick Packwood, ever alert to the trends that shape our world, finds that there has been a convergence between the corset and body piercing. Squick.

Posted by Nicholas at 12:41 PM | Comments (0)

Today is ANZAC Day

This is the Anzac Day homepage.

Posted by Nicholas at 12:18 PM | Comments (0)

The Ghost of the Airborne Regiment

According to a report by Scott Taylor in The Halifax Herald, a careful reading of the new defence plans may resurrect the Airborne Regiment:

Well, one of the few nuggets of heretofore unannounced "new" developments turns out to be another case of Back to the Future (or of history repeating itself).

In addition to increasing the manning levels of the JTF2 and adding to its integral combat support, transportation and intelligence capability, General Hillier talked about the establishment of an elite battalion to augment the commandos.

This new unit would be based on a light infantry battle group, manned with the fittest and most dedicated soldiers, and would need to be highly mobile in order to serve as a rapid reaction force to global hot spots.

So let's see now. "Light infantry" means no armoured vehicles, and "rapid deployment" would best be facilitated by paratroops.

In other words, the Liberal government is planning to re-establish the very same airborne regiment it disbanded in disgrace almost exactly 10 years ago.

After the Canadian Airborne Regiment's disbandment, the army brass maintained a limited airborne capability by forming three separate parachute "jump" companies.

These were attached to the light battalions of their parent regiments in the Royal Canadian Regiment, the Princess Patricia's Canadian Light Infantry and the Royal 22nd (Vandoos) Regiment.

This very same system of far-flung jump companies had been attempted in the 1950s until it was deemed to be "unworkable." The solution was to create a single airborne regiment to fill the hole as Canada's rapid reaction force.

The more things change . . .

Not to mention pegging the "Irony" meter.

Hat tip to Spotlight on Military News.

Posted by Nicholas at 12:11 PM | Comments (4)

No surprises, just depressing reading

The Canadian Press is reporting that all the problems the Canadian Armed Forces have been experiencing have not evaporated with the announcement of new funding:

Canada's armed forces are so underfunded and overstretched that the government's much-lauded budget commitments may not come close to fixing them, suggest documents released to The Canadian Press.

Economic impact assessments filed by all three services paint a picture of a decaying military that is, as the navy commander put it, fast approaching the point of "critical mass in its ability to execute its mission."

The navy is docking ships, the air force is grounding planes and the army may someday be unable to meet overseas commitments without significantly more cash, say the documents, obtained under access to information.

It may come as a surprise to reporters, but as Damian Brooks has pointed out, the "new" money that the government promised is as much illusion and deception as it is PR fodder. Little or no actual funds would be provided to the military until years four and five of the plan — and is dependent upon the current government managing to pass the budget anyway.

Posted by Nicholas at 11:59 AM | Comments (0)

Living in a nascent police state

"Lady Liberty" has a bad day, attributing the bad day to fear:

By definition, a police state is one in which the citizens are afraid of the police. Thanks to Supreme Court rulings that say the police can pull you over for pretty much any reason at all including the fact that you seemed a little nervous; to other rulings that suggest drug sniffing dogs aren't really a bona fide search or that saying "no" to a search is justifiable cause for a search; to stories of cops who plant evidence or who — with some justification — are so nervous themselves on traffic stops that they overreact, sometimes with deadly force; I'm invariably afraid of the police.

By definition, a police state is one in which most aspects of citizens' lives are tightly controlled or at least subject to oversight. Thanks to overzealous drug war crusaders, I can't freely buy over-the-counter medications when I want to, and certainly not in any quantity. Thanks to overzealous terror war crusaders, I can't mail books to my elderly mother without enduring a hopelessly serious game of "twenty questions."

By definition, a police state is one in which the police can arrest you at virtually any time. Thanks to a virtual labyrinth of tax laws, any of us could be subject to detention at any time for breaking laws we didn't know existed; far worse, we could find ourselves in trouble for following a law that ensured we broke another one because the two are direct contradictions of each other. In other words, the tax code is such that, if some authority wants an excuse to come after you, one's tailor made and ready to go.

In many ways, the growth of new laws, rules, regulations, and "precautionary measures" has been unmatched in the last three-and-a-half years. You don't have to be paranoid to feel that your day-to-day activities are more and more tightly constrained by new controls.

War is said to be the health of the state, and the kind of war the United States is currently fighting is a massive I/V drip of steroids for rent-seeking bureaucrats, petty power-hungry officials, and the kind of small-souled, blue-nosed conformists who attempt to stamp out the new, the different, and the challenging.

Posted by Nicholas at 11:31 AM | Comments (0)

QotD: Terrorism

Others among the influential for a moment after the retaliatory strikes of October 7, 2001, talked of moral equivalency — the conventional wisdom that American precision targeting of an enemy in time of war carried the same ethical burden as the terrorists' deliberate mass-murdering of civilians at peace. But billions worldwide knew that the selective wreckage of al-Qaeda safe houses in Kabul was not comparable to the smoldering crater that was once the World Trade Center. Why else were terrorists and the Taliban hiding in mosques and infermaries to avoid American bombs while their own manuals instructed killers to commit mass murder in Jewish hospitals and temples? So the reality that average folk viewed on their televisions made them question the bottled piety of the last decades that they heard from a powerful and influential few. And in that moral calculus, September 11 shocked an affluent and at times self-satisfied American citizenry into confessing that it was no longer either too wealthy, too refined, or too sensitive to kill killers.

Victor Davis Hanson, Ripples of Battle

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

April 24, 2005

N'Awlins Memories

The Imperial Armorer, aka the Castellan of Castle Argghhh! and his lovely lady have been touring New Orleans. It was only a month ago, but it seems like so much longer since we were on the road.

Posted by Nicholas at 09:55 PM | Comments (0)

Aaron Rodgers' Draft Analysis

Until a couple of days ago, the two top candidates for number one in the draft were Aaron Rodgers and Alex Smith. Smith got the call from San Francisco, but Rodgers dropped in the draft. Here is his analysis of the draft as it rolled past him (according to "The Loop"):

1. San Francisco, Alex Smith, QB, Utah.
I thought I was going No. 1 until a few days ago, when I heard the 49ers were going in a different direction. That's OK. Alex and I are both very talented, and I look forward to our first matchup.

2. Miami, Ronnie Brown, RB, Auburn.
I figured the Dolphins would pass on me, since their biggest need was for a dope-free running back. South Florida's humidity would have created hair issues for me anyway.

3. Cleveland, Braylon Edwards, WR, Michigan.
Edwards is the kind of playmaking receiver every team needs. If I had him to throw to at Cal, then Alex Smith would still be stuck here, enjoying the veggie tray in the green room.

[. . .]

9. Washington, Carlos Rogers, DB, Auburn.
Gee . . . apparently now I'm not even good enough for Daniel Snyder. How sad is that?

10. Detroit, Mike Williams, WR, USC.
The Lions like Jeff Garcia and Joey Harrington? To paraphrase Terrell Owens, if it looks like a rat and smells like a rat, then you better draft Aaron Rodgers!

11. Dallas, DeMarcus Ware, DE, Troy.
By my count, my net worth has dropped about $20 million today. Not only that, but now Paris Hilton is refusing to take my calls.

The poor bastard dropped all the way down to Green Bay at the number 24 slot. Green Bay certainly got a great value for their pick, but you have to feel sorry for Rodgers.

Posted by Nicholas at 10:08 AM | Comments (0)

First day of the draft

Minnesota surprised most of the commentators by passing on wide receiver Mike Williams to take Troy Williamson (South Carolina) instead. The explanation on several Vikings fan sites is speed: Williamson is much faster than Williams, and therefore would be a better fit with the Vikings' vertical passing attack. As I mentioned in my last draft posting, I don't follow college ball, so I have to take what I read in the various mock drafts as my primary source of information on the drafted athletes.

With their second first-round pick, the Vikings took defensive end Erasmus James of Wisconsin. This is to address another need on the team: insufficient pressure on the quarterback from the DE position. James certainly seems to have the requisite qualities to perform well in the NFL, and he is reportedly completely recovered from a hip injury which cost him the entire 2003 season.

In the second round, Minnesota selected offensive lineman Marcus Johnson, who can play any position on the line except centre. Drafting Johnson implies that the team is no longer interested in re-signing David Dixon, which I think is a mistake: Dixon may not be an every-down player, but he's certainly got another year of football left.

By the time we get to the third round, I no longer have any name recognition left, so this is straight from the newswires. The third-round choice was Dustin Fox, a defensive back from Ohio State. This appears to be a pick for depth: the Vikings backfield is as good as it has been for over a decade after some great recruiting efforts during the free agency period. I expect Fox to contribute on special teams this year, but not to join the starting line-up (except in case of injury to a current starter).

The Vikings have four picks remaining in tomorrow's wrap-up of the college draft, barring trades with other teams.

Posted by Nicholas at 01:13 AM | Comments (0)

QotD: Cats

Like 95% of men in America, I am one hundred percent in favor of cat-hunting, although I am not part of the 75% who support hunting non-feral cats living in their girlfriends' apartments.

Steve H. "Time to Shoot All the Cats", Hog on Ice, 2005-04-14

Posted by Nicholas at 01:02 AM | Comments (0)

April 23, 2005

QotD: Nuclear Power

Nuclear certainly has problems — accidents, waste storage, high construction costs, and the possible use of its fuel in weapons. It also has advantages besides the overwhelming one of being atmospherically clean. The industry is mature, with a half-century of experience and ever improved engineering behind it. Problematic early reactors like the ones at Three Mile Island and Chernobyl can be supplanted by new, smaller-scale, meltdown-proof reactors like the ones that use the pebble-bed design. Nuclear power plants are very high yield, with low-cost fuel. Finally, they offer the best avenue to a "hydrogen economy," combining high energy and high heat in one place for optimal hydrogen generation.

Stewart Brand, "Environmental Heresies", Technology Review, 2005-05

Posted by Nicholas at 12:16 AM | Comments (0)

April 22, 2005

Delinking weight and longevity

John Luik discusses the implications from the publication of the findings of a study on weight and mortality in the Journal of the American Medical Association:

It isn't just that they were fudging the numbers, it is the scope of the fudging that is so breathtaking. For the last few years Americans have been subjected to an incessant barrage of warnings about the risks of dying from being fat. The most dramatic of these came last year in a study from the US Centers for Disease Control that suggested that some 400,000 lives were lost each year due to obesity and that obesity related mortality would soon overtake tobacco as the leading cause of death in the US.

But in a study released this week by the CDC and published in the Journal of the American Medical Association ("Excess Deaths Associated with Underweight, Overweight, and Obesity"), the public health community has finally owned up to their massive fib by acknowledging that the number of deaths due to obesity in the US is closer to 26,000 not 400,000 as previously reported. This means that if these numbers are correct — which is questionable — then obesity goes from being the leading or second leading cause of death to perhaps the seventh leading source of premature mortality.

As I wrote in a post last year:

As an exercise, I plugged my own figures into the BMI calculation, to find that I'm technically considered obese (BMI 30.4). This was a bit disturbing, as I know I'm overweight, but not hugely so (pun unintentional). So, I plugged in the numbers for just before I got married, when I was almost literally starving, and found that that weight was considered "ideal" (BMI 21.5). This little exercise has persuaded me that BMI as an analysis tool is significantly flawed. . .

. . . at least as an individual tool for gauging your own health. As a "public health" tool, it's remarkably useful — for sowing fear, uncertainty, doubt, and (possibly) mass self-loathing. The kind of tool a soul-dead bureaucrat loves to have available.

Back to Luik's article:

Apart from this huge downward revision in the numbers of people supposedly dying from fat, there are several things in this study which signal the end of any legitimate linkage between obesity and premature death. First, for the merely overweight with BMI's from 25-30 there is no excess mortality. In fact, being overweight was "associated with a slight reduction in mortality relative to the normal weight category." Being overweight not only does not lead to premature death, something that dozens of other studies from around the world have been saying for the last 30 years, but it also carries less risk from premature death than being "normal" weight. In other words the overweight=early death "fact" proclaimed by the public health community is simply not true.

'Simply not true' is a bit of an understatement. Try: 'actually in direct contravention of the demonstrated facts'. Kind of like a statement from the Prime Minister's Office, now that I think about it.

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

I'm shocked, shocked . . .

The Register reports that:

Porn represents 20 per cent of police IT capacity

Randy coppers in New Zealand waste so much time surfing for porn while on the job that fully 20 per cent of police computer system capacity is devoted to storing the images, an official audit has revealed.

The investigation, begun five months ago, found vast reams of sexually-explicit material, some involving violence or simulated violence, and some even involving bestiality. The material in question was discovered accidentally, during an investigation of alleged police misconduct unrelated to porn surfing.

Staff hoarding images described by Police Commissioner Rob Robinson as "shockers" include a superintendent, three inspectors, and about 40 women officers or civilian staff, the New Zealand Herald reports.

Well, it just goes to show that police officers are human beings after all, eh?

In an unrelated story, The Register also reported that:

Email destroys the mind faster than marijuana

Modern technology depletes human cognitive abilities more rapidly than drugs, according to a psychiatric study conducted at King's College, London. And the curse of 'messaging' is to blame.

Email users suffered a 10 per cent drop in IQ scores, more than twice the fall recorded by marijuana users, in a clinical trial of over a thousand participants. Doziness, lethargy and an inability to focus are classic characteristics of a spliffhead, but email users exhibited these particular symptoms to a "startling" degree, according to Dr Glenn Wilson.

Posted by Nicholas at 11:35 AM | Comments (0)

Celebrating Earth Day in the Office

Jon followed his own advice for celebrating Earth Day, taking a Cox & Forkum cartoon and enlarging it:


That's his poster, propped up on the meeting room window ledge behind both our cubes. I don't know if he's got the stones to leave it there all day . . .

Update: Jon has posted some explanatory material here.

Posted by Nicholas at 10:14 AM | Comments (2)

"Chequers" for the 21st Century

Well, Paul Martin gave it his best shot. I listened to his "I am not a crook" speech in the car on a Rogers affiliate radio station. No time was given to any of the opposition to rebut, and the Rogers station had a well-trained seal give a capsule summary of what Mr. Dithers had just finished saying.

Victor, who was in the car with me during the speech, said something to the effect of "well, at least he's going to get tough with the people who broke the law". Victor is 14: he naturally assumed that the Prime Minister of Canada was being honest, forthright, and plain-spoken in his speech. Adults who haven't been following the revelations from the Gomery Scandalathon — anyone who gets their news from the CBC, f'r instance — may well agree with Victor's summary.

For the sake of argument, I have to assume that if you're reading this posting, you're already aware that the old "Peace, Order, and Good Government" compact with the people of Canada is dead and buried: the bastards in Ottawa have so far departed from ethical conduct that they no longer imagine that anyone cares if they steal, lie, intimidate, or God only knows what other crimes they commit. No matter what your political flavour, you have almost certainly held the belief that Canada's government — no matter how bullheadedly stupid they might appear — were as honest as possible. After the revelations of the past week or two, you'd have to be wilfully blind and/or insane to think that the federal government retains any shred of decency or deserves any mercy from the voters.

Canada's system of government is so badly broken that I've finally despaired of getting it fixed. Mr Chretien's legacy is one to go down in the history books: he had to destroy the country in order to save it. The Liberal Party is done. It's over: all rats may now abandon ship with no further ado. The taint of corruption is so strong that no rational person should be willing to remain associated with that stinking corpse of the former "Natural Governing Party". But some will . . . just in case it's not quite dead yet.

Further reading: Andrew, at Bound By Gravity, Greg, at Political Staples, and Debbye, at Being American in T.O.

Posted by Nicholas at 01:03 AM | Comments (0)

QotD: Urbanization

The environmentalist aesthetic is to love villages and despise cities. My mind got changed on the subject a few years ago by an Indian acquaintance who told me that in Indian villages the women obeyed their husbands and family elders, pounded grain, and sang. But, the acquaintance explained, when Indian women immigrated to cities, they got jobs, started businesses, and demanded their children be educated. They became more independent, as they became less fundamentalist in their religious beliefs. Urbanization is the most massive and sudden shift of humanity in its history.

Stewart Brand, "Environmental Heresies", Technology Review, 2005-05

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

April 21, 2005

NFL Draft

I don't follow college football, so everything I know about the athletes entering this weekend's draft is based on what I've read in the last couple of weeks. (Quick translation: I know nothing.)

The Minnesota Vikings have two first-round picks — their own pick at number 18 and the pick they received from Oakland as part of the Randy Moss trade at number 7. This draft is widely viewed as "weak", meaning that there's a big quality drop-off after the first "x" number of picks (the "x" is usually the draft pick before the writer's local team is picking). It is unusual in that there hasn't been a concensus top pick emerge from the pack.

There are mock drafts galore out there (I won't even try to link to 'em, as they're all in flux at this point anyway), and here are some of the most common names appearing: Alex Smith (QB), Ronnie Brown (RB), Aaron Rodgers (QB), Braylon Edwards (WR), Carnell Williams (RB), Antrel Rolle (CB), Mike Williams (WR), Cedric Benson (RB), Adam Jones (CB), and Derrick Johnson (LB). These are the top ten, according to the Scout Network's mock draft as of 8:00 this morning. If the drafting teams agree with Scout's analysis, the San Francisco 49ers would take Smith as the first pick, while the Vikings would draft Mike Williams as their replacement for Randy Moss.

The Vikings have done a very creditable job of managing their off-season strategy, signing several good players during the free agency period to bolster the team on the defensive side of the ball. The Vikings have had a bottom-of-the-league defense for several years which has more than counterbalanced their top-of-the-league offense (see their post-season record for proof of this).

Minnesota has maintained a draft philosophy of taking the best player available — by their ranking, not the popular press rankings — rather than drafting to fill immediate needs. This makes a good deal of sense, as rookie players often flounder for their first season or two before becoming solid contributors to a team (running backs are about the only position for which this does not seem to be generally true).

The Vikings have fewer holes to fill this time around, but even the best-balanced team has needs to address. There probably isn't a replacement for Randy Moss in this draft: selecting a wide receiver with their first pick would saddle that player with the fans' too-high expectations. Several writers are calling for Minnesota to take a running back with the number 7 pick, even though that's already an area of strength for the team (Michael Bennett, Onterrio Smith, Mewelde Moore, and Moe Williams). When I first heard this, I thought it unlikely, but it actually does make some sense; the 2005 Vikings will have to depend on their running attack more than in any year since Robert Smith retired, and none of the current backs have established themselves as the man. Drafting a marquee running back allows the Vikes to trade Bennett or Smith for either more draft picks or improved picks.

The team still needs to address a few more defensive positions (outside linebacker, defensive end, and safety), but those are not critical needs — but if Shawn Merriman or Derrick Johnson was still on the board as Minnesota's second first-round pick comes up, I'd expect them to grab one of those two linebackers.

A big area of concern for the Vikings has been the kicking game. They haven't had a dependable punter or place-kicker with sufficient range and accuracy for several seasons. After trolling the retirement homes (Gary Anderson, Morten Andersen) over the last few years, they still don't have anyone on the roster who they can depend on. Drafting kickers is even more of a crapshoot than quarterbacks: it's often said that kickers need to bounce around for up to five years before settling down and becoming as dependable as they need to be.

The rumour de jour has Miami trading their #2 pick to Minnesota for their #7 and #18 picks. I rather hope not, but if the Vikings think that their best bet is to grab the higher pick (Braylon Edwards, perhaps?), they must be pretty certain about it. The swap would certainly be a good thing for Miami who need to stock up just about every position on the field right now.

Posted by Nicholas at 09:12 AM | Comments (0)

QotD: Culture

The first generation to experience a cultural innovation, and almost every generation is the first to experience something, usually takes it hard. There is no parental wisdom on offer. There is no "oral culture" that records the misadventures of the previous generation. There is only a new imperative that has to be satisfied. (Personally, I believe this is the only way to explain the disco clothing innovations of the 1970s.)

Grant McCracken, "Gender Watch", This Blog Sits at the, 2005-03-24

Posted by Nicholas at 12:08 AM | Comments (2)

April 20, 2005

Bob's back!

Bob Tarantino has been out of town for a bit, not blogging. To make up for this terrible lapse, he's back with a vengeance: gutting the Globe & Mail:

So when confronting the front page of the Tuesday, April 19, 2005 edition of the Globe and Mail, the dominant picture you were presented with was . . . Lance Armstrong. Evidently, Lance Armstrong has announced that he will be retiring in a few months. He hasn't actually retired, he's just announced it. But his picture occupied two-thirds of the above-the-fold front page of the Globe. I have no doubt that Lance Armstrong is a great guy, and I am sure that the world of competitive cycling will be grievously wounded by Lance's impending departure from its ranks. I don't however, have the first bloody clue why this is front page news in one of Canada's national newspapers.

You know that little item I mentioned above about the testimony before Gomery? That was below the fold. Under the heading "Opponents intensify bid to drag PM into scandal". Below the fold, where it competed with, and I swear to God I am not making this up, a story about a guy in Vancouver who sleeps from 8:30pm to 1:00am every night, "breaking" news about new indictments in an Italian murder which happened nearly a quarter-century ago, and a story about an Indian immigrant physician who is leaving the country in frustration over his inability to licensed to practice medicine here. Except for that last story, what are any of these doing on the front page? Even the story about Allan Swine Kerr's testimony paints it as if it's negligible score-settling. In other words, the Globe is taking sides in the pathetic schismatic war amongst the Chretienites and the Martinites.

The weird thing I've found, in talking to people who don't read the Globe at all — almost all of them think of the Globe as being a right-wing, conservative paper. It's been so long since the Globe was anything other than a cheering gallery for the Liberals, yet the "popular" opinion still has them representing the "right".

Posted by Nicholas at 05:58 PM | Comments (0)

You could bribe me with a wine cellar

Canadian Press (via Yahoo) reports that a wine cellar and $12,500 worth of wine featured in the Sponsorship scandal:

Boulay told the inquiry Guite approached him in the summer of 2001 with the offer to build a wine cellar for his home.

The ad man couldn't resist the offer, drafting a $25,000 budget for his former benefactor.

Half of the money was used to buy 100 bottles of wine while the other $12,500 paid for materials to build the cellar.

"I decided to make an investment in my home and I decided to have a wine cellar built," Boulay told inquiry counsel Marie Cossette.

"I think he was also moving into a new home and he was making a wine cellar and he knew I wanted one as well."

Boulay said Guite made no profit for his work. Guite built the cellar himself, which seemed to amuse inquiry judge John Gomery.

"I have heard many things said about Mr. Guite but I have never heard that he was involved in the construction of wine cellars," mused the judge.

A hundred bottles at an average price of $125 would be quite the bribe! Not to mention building the wine cellar to store them all in. I'm planning to build a small wine cellar in my basement in the next year or so, but I doubt that I'll be able to budget even 10% of what Boulay's wine cellar materials cost.

I knew I should have skipped all those ethics classes . . .

Hat tip to Angry in the Great White North.

Posted by Nicholas at 04:07 PM | Comments (1)

Hitchhiker's Guide reviewed

The BBC had a review of the new Hitchhiker's Guide movie today:

Don't panic — The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy is not as bad as I had feared. Then again, it is not as good as I had hoped.

Stuck in development hell for the best part of 26 years, Douglas Adams' book has finally reached the big screen — four years after the author's death.

Adams' deceptively complex novels are crammed full of witty erudition, great gags and lengthy digressions, so it was always going to be a struggle to turn it into a neatly packaged two-hour movie.

Posted by Nicholas at 03:05 PM | Comments (1)

Band names

Victor is part of a newly formed rock band (he's got the most dangerous role: he's the drummer). To be helpful, I thought to suggest some possible names for the group. Something meaningful and memorable. Except, of course, that I have close to zero creativity:

  • The Snöt Röckets
  • Aurible Nöyz
  • Frëndled Grüntbüggly
  • Mötörbreath
  • Skülls mit Skilz
  • The Raging Roids
  • The Whine of Despair
  • ängsty

Any suggestions from my highly talented and creative readership? (Please keep it PG-17!)

Posted by Nicholas at 08:17 AM | Comments (3)

QotD: The Liberal Party

Unlike their supposed analogues, the Democrats in the United States or Great Britain's Labor Party, Canada's Liberals are not a party built around certain policies and principles. They are instead what political scientists call a brokerage party, similar to the old Italian Christian Democrats or India's Congress Party: a political entity without fixed principles or policies that exploits the power of the central state to bribe or bully incompatible constituencies to join together to share the spoils of government.

As countries modernize, they tend to leave brokerage parties behind. Very belatedly, that moment of maturity may now be arriving in Canada. Americans may lose their illusions about my native country; Canadians will gain true multiparty democracy and accountability in government. It's an exchange that is long past due.

David Frum, "Woe Canada", New York Times, 2005-04-19

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

April 19, 2005

Kicking Dallaire off the pedestal

This article originally appeared in the National Post, which is why it didn't come to my attention until now:

This is part of a larger pattern of wilful blindness. In Shake Hands, Dallaire frequently mentions looking the devil in the face, and he appears to believe in the objective reality of evil. Yet except for one disclaimer, he presents Rwanda's indigenous evil as the fault of the devious French, the greedy Belgians — and of course the Americans. As Dallaire sees it, it is not tribal hatred, but "colonial discrimination" that was the root cause of the genocide.

[. . .]

What Dallaire has done, in other words, is to have taken a story of horrific black on black murder facilitated by the UN, and adapted it to the specious, one-size-fits-all anti-Western narrative popularized by Noam Chomsky and Michael Moore — glossing over his own less than honourable role in the process.

Given the political culture in this country, it is easy to see why Dallaire has become such a celebrity. But one hopes he understands why others — Belgians and Rwandan Tutsis, for instance — may take a somewhat less generous view.

Hat tip to Spotlight on Military News.

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

Online Fame Measurement

On a mailing list I belong to, the topic of how to measure your "Internet Fame" came up. Here is the canonical method of measuring your own Net Fame Score (refined from original sources by Bob Netzlof):

What you do is:

  1. Do a Google search on your name. Write the number of hits on line 1.
  2. Do a Google search on "Monica Lewinsky". Write the number of hits on line 2.
  3. To obtain your Net Fame Score, divide the number on line 2 into the number on line 1.
  4. Report your NFS as some number of Lewinskys, milliLewinskys, or microLewinskys, as appropriate.

There seems to be little point in reporting Net Fame Scores in the nanoLewinsky or smaller range.

If, as some argue, the declining popularity of Monica Lewinsky as a subject of web pages and usenet posts is inflating Net Fame Scores, the base could be shifted to some other well-known personality. One could then compute scores in Jacksons, or Wojtylas, or Tuckers, or whatever. It would be desirable to limit the number of different bases, to reduce the number of conversion factors needed.

As the carefree days of the Clinton White House fade into distant memory, it will be necessary to adjust the scale to accommodate the even-faster-fading of temporary celebrities. For a more 2005 variant, try using "Paris Hilton" as the baseline value.

Posted by Nicholas at 03:00 PM | Comments (2)

Telephone Polls

I got an email from Elizabeth a little while ago, mentioning that the local Conservative Party had called to get her opinion on some current matters. Here's what they asked her:

  1. Did she agree that the government should be honest and forthright?
  2. Did she agree that the Federal civil service needed to be reduced in size?
  3. Did she agree that the Canadian government should join the US missile defence program?
  4. Did she agree that the traditional view of marriage as being between a man and a woman should be upheld in law?
  5. Had she voted Liberal in the past?

Well, at least those were the gist of the questions asked. Here's what they really should have been asking, to capitalize on their reputation in Ontario:

  1. Do you normally wear a burkha? If not, then why not, you harlot!?
  2. Do you approve of stoning as a penalty for blasphemy? If not, are there convenient supplies of hand-sized stones around your house?
  3. Do you agree that capital punishment is warranted for littering?
  4. Are you now, or have you ever been a member of the Liberal Party?
  5. What's your address, and is there enough room to put up a burning cross?
Posted by Nicholas at 01:54 PM | Comments (1)

Hillier's descent into Hell

The blogosphere's view of General Hillier, the new Chief of the Defence Staff (CDS) has been generally positive: he's been doing and saying the right things since he took on the job. Not everyone is convinced, however. Here is a Globe and Mail report by Michael Nickerson on some concerns with Hillier's performance:

The Swiss Army knife is world renowned; a device with which to whittle wood, pop a cork, and make like MacGyver in a pinch. Every conceivable option is provided, depending on your price point and whether you want the bonus, handy cuticle trimmer. Yet, when push comes to shove, you'll probably want a sharp, straightforward blade that's easy to reach and doesn't require six steps to implement. Simplicity always wins the day.

General Rick Hillier, Canada's chief of defence staff, not only should know this, given his field experience, but I suspect does know this. This reality makes his recent media tour, a politically considered attempt to sell his military vision, all the more perplexing.

Essentially, it appears that Gen. Hillier wants a knife that will do everything for a buck-ninety-nine. And that just might be the sort of pocket change he ends up with in the defence budget.

Nickerson also points out the big weakness in Hillier's current line of argument:

The biggest problem with the magical Hillier salesmanship tour is that the General assumes his line of credit will never be cut off. As many have pointed out, while casting a cynical eye upon the Liberal plan for national defence, only a tenth of the promised $12.8-billion in defence funds will see its way into the department's coffers in the first two years, and that assumes the Liberals will last long enough in Parliament to write the cheque. As Gen. Hillier has already noted, the first order of business is patching holes and purchasing such basics as ammunition, and at the rate Cormorant tail rotors are failing, patching holes may be all Gen. Hillier can do for the foreseeable future.

Given all of that, it's an impossible situation that Hillier has found himself in: he must co-operate with the political process or find himself summarily dismissed. He must put the best possible interpretation on any positive signs — knowing that many (most? all?) of them are purely PR gestures with no real hope of being implemented. He has to do what he can to maintain the already fragile morale of the Forces, letting them know that he's really on their side, even if he has to do the politician's dirty work for them. I don't envy him that task.

Posted by Nicholas at 11:12 AM | Comments (0)

QotD: Moore's Law

Moore's Law is a violation of Murphy's Law. Everything gets better and better.

Gordon Moore, quoted in "Happy Birthday: Moore's Law at 40", The Economist, 2005-03-26

Posted by Nicholas at 12:29 AM | Comments (0)

April 18, 2005

Supporting the troops

Virginia Postrel linked to this rather funny advice letter to those who want to send care packages to the troops in Afghanistan:

VII. The meanest thing you can do to a soldier is to send generic, not name brand goods. It's worse than taking a dump in a cardboard box and shipping it over. Did we piss you off somehow? Generic brand is essentially the MREs of Care Packages. It's cruel and unusual punishment for service to our country.

Posted by Nicholas at 03:19 PM | Comments (4)

Fear and Loathing in TechWriterWorld

The current disaster agitating the collective Chicken Littles of the technical writing world is the purchase of Macromedia by Adobe. Many feathers are being ruffled, and much running-in-circles is being accomplished.

Scott Adams, the creator of the Dilbert comics, once joined the big technical writing mailing list under a pseudonym. He left the list after a couple of weeks and added new character called "Tina the Brittle Tech Writer" to the Dilbert world. The denizens of the list were outraged, and much fuming and snarking ensued . . . proving that Adams had absolutely nailed the character of Tina.

These days, when someone asks me what I do for a living, I tend to evade the question a bit. "Oh, I work in software." If pressed, I'll name my employer, but it takes a persistent questioner to get me to admit to being a tech writer.

Tech writing. It's not what I am, it's just what I do. [Hangs head in shame.]

Update: In counterpoint to the unsteady manic-depression cycle of tech writing (or insurance sales: see comments), I offer the uplifting tale of training budgets, BOFH style.

Posted by Nicholas at 09:50 AM | Comments (1)

Cross-country riding — literally

This week's Libertarian Enterprise starts off with an interesting kind of cross-country riding:

Skinny as a rail and pure cowboy to the toes of his boots, Texan Howard Wooldridge is a retired cop on a cross-country ride from California to Manhattan. He figures he'll get there by late October, maybe early November. And this is not his first such trip.

Howard is the US coordinator of the Long Riders' Guild, an invitation-only organization of "equestrian explorers," each of whom have ridden more than 1,000 continuous miles on a single horseback journey. This is at least Howard's third time crossing the US, his most recent ride having been from Savannah GA to Newport OR in 2002.

[. . .]

Howard isn't crossing this continent just "because it's there"—he's making this ride on behalf of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition. LEAP is an association of current and retired police officers who believe that America can best solve its national drug-crime problem by ending drug prohibition, much as it solved its very first national crime problem by ending alcohol prohibition. Howard's usual way of putting it is to say he believes that the most productive way to address drug use is through doctors and clinics, not judges and prisons.

I'm usually pretty wary about this sort of activity: doing some sort of unusual journey to "raise awareness" about an otherwise unrelated topic. This is perhaps why I'm not a natural marketing person . . . the connection isn't clear to me, and therefore I suspect it's not going to be clear to the general public either.

But then again, perhaps I'm just too cynical for my own good. . .

Posted by Nicholas at 09:17 AM | Comments (0)

QotD: Wine from Wal-Mart

Only in America

Did you know that Wal-Mart is the biggest retailer of wine in America? Rumour has it they are working on a line of inexpensive private label brands to compete with Yellow Tail and Two Buck Chuck. Ideas so far have included:

  • Martha's Sour Grapes
  • Shotgun Chardonnay
  • Chef Boyardeaux
  • White Trashfindel
  • Chateau Traileur Parc

Billy Munnelly, "What's hot, new & happening", Billy's Best Bottles Volume 21, No. 4, Spring 2005

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

April 17, 2005

QotD: Taxes

Not paying taxes is against the law.
If you don't pay taxes, you'll be fined.
If you don't pay the fine, you'll be jailed.
If you try to escape from jail, you'll be shot.
Thus I — in my role as citizen and voter — am going to shoot you — in your role as taxpayer and ripe suck — if you don't pay your fair share of the national tab.
Therefore, every time the government spends money on anything, you have to ask yourself, "Would I kill my kindly, gray-haired mother for this?"


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

April 16, 2005

Off to a tournament. . .

Posting will resume after my brief foray into badminton tournament-land: the Lindsay club's annual open tournament. There are five teams (two men and two women per team) attending from the Bowmanville Badminton Club. Of that five, we are acknowledged to be the weakest team. I expect a lot of low-scoring games today . . .

Posted by Nicholas at 07:10 AM | Comments (3)

QotD: Radio Stations

The Eagles, more than any actual country acts, are responsible for the current denatured state of "Country" music. "In the nineties," says Considine, "a whole generation of Stetson-topped singers and pickers insisted that the Eagles were as much an inspiration as Hank Williams (if not more)." That jibes with my experience: It takes me ten minutes to figure out whether I'm listening to a country station or some reanimated corpse of KlassiK RocK.

Tim Cavanaugh, "Why Don't You Come to Your Senses?", Reason Hit and Run, 2005-03-30

Posted by Nicholas at 12:02 AM | Comments (0)

April 15, 2005

Regulation and the economy

A recent Economist article (registration required) discusses the impact of regulation on the economy:

Cost-benefit analysis — which typically quantifies the attractions and drawbacks of a regulation, converts them into dollars or euros, then tots them up — sounds both dull and innocuous. But its findings can be revealing. For example, Robert Hahn, a scholar at the American Enterprise Institute in Washington, DC, calculates that over 40% of American regulations impose costs that outweigh the benefits they confer. What might a similar review of the European Union's regulatory rule-book reveal? How many of the 90,000 pages of the acquis communautaire might be safely torn out, to the net benefit of the union?

To be honest, I'm surprised that the figure of 40% is so low: I would suspect that either Hahn's study only encompassed a particular area of regulation, or the study's "benefits" were overvalued. But I'm a cynic.

Cost-benefit analysis is one of those easily misunderstood boogeymen of economics: they try to put a price on people's lives! Many people find this morbid and creepifying (to borrow a phrase from Mal Reynolds). But it is actually a remarkably useful economic tool: unless you can quantify the costs of a course of action, you cannot discover whether the action is worth taking (economically speaking).

Those who question cost-benefit analysis doubt that a price tag can ever be put on life. How could one seriously count the cost of death and injury caused by road accidents, for example? But, as Robert Frank, an economist now at Cornell University, has pointed out, even the fiercest critics do not get their brakes checked every morning. They have more pressing uses of their time. Road safety, then, does have an opportunity cost, and an economist will want to know what it is. Thus, when the CPR accuses economists of "pricing the priceless", most economists would plead guilty as charged.

Cost-benefit calculations are key to understanding what the effects of regulations on the economy might be, both positive and negative. Every economic decision you make has benefits and associated costs; in most individuals' experience the obvious costs are easy to identify, and the benefits clear. Calculating these for regulations which affect millions of people in sometimes impossible-to-foresee fashions is much more tricky.

Cost-benefit analysis does not always argue for less regulation. It weeds out regulations that do not pay their way, but it can also identify measures not on the statute books, that should be. For example, defibrillators installed in workplaces might be a cost-effective way to save victims of heart attacks. The White House's Office of Management and Budget has sent about a dozen letters to the agencies it oversees prompting them to investigate such potentially beneficial regulations.

Every now and again, I find The Economist wavers from its staunch free market ideals, and the above paragraph illustrates how far they can wander these days. The example is a good one, in that if the installation of defibrillators could save more lives, then there's a good economic argument to do it. However, why is it incumbent on the government to regulate this? Surely employers will do things which will improve the health of their workforce — and saving the lives of heart-attack victims on the job is clearly one such measure. Why have more employers not done this? There are two possible answers: cost-benefit analysis does not support the contention, or the risk of legal action outweighs the potential benefit in other ways (i.e., does the employer take a higher risk of being sued by making the equipment available?).

Actually, a third possibility occurs to me: that there are regulations against employers making defibrillators available in some or all circumstances. That's perhaps the most likely alternative in our modern over-regulated world.

Posted by Nicholas at 04:40 PM | Comments (0)

Liberty! Equality! Same Price For Haircuts!

The Last Amazon points out the absurdity of involving the Ontario Human Rights Tribunal in questions of whether a hair salon should be allowed to charge their female customers more than men:

I am literally outraged that the provincial government thinks it has the right to tell retailers, hair stylists or dry cleaners what they can or cannot charge for their goods or services. Furthermore, I am incensed that the Ontario Human Rights Tribunal (which already has a backlog of far more serious cases to hear) could potentially be further burdened by having to adjudicate the cost of shirt versus a blouse that these "gender based pricing" issues will generate.

She also points out that it's not necessarily sexist or discriminatory to charge customers different prices for similar services:

I have a good friend who owns a unisex hair salon. She charges women more for the same services she offers for men. Here's the difference: she can wash, cut, blow-dry and style three men's hair in one hour's time. A simple hair cut for a woman takes 40 minutes to 1 hour because their hair is longer. Not to mention that the styles women often desire require more hair products. But you know, if you're a woman; there is nothing to stop you from going to a man's barbershop to get your hair cut. And speaking from personal experience — they won't charge you a different rate but they won't wash. Style or dry your hair either.

[. . .]My dry cleaner doesn't ask me if I bring in a man's shirt if it's for me or my sons. But if it's a tailored woman's shirt with darts over both breasts and in the back he charges me more. You know why? It takes longer to press. No darts, no pleats and all cotton — same price as a man's.

I'm sure that there are still troglodytes and Neanderthals out there who try to charge women more than men for no reason other than sexism, just as there are still racists and bigots who still try to charge blacks, Asians, or "obviously gay" customers more. A few probably still survive from the golden age of White Man's Privilege (whenever that era is officially defined in the histories). Trying to address a few isolated cases by legislative fiat over the entire economy is just plain absurd, however.

In any case, merchants who try to pull stunts like this are just begging to lose business to those competitors who don't. If you suspect that someone is trying to cheat you, why would you deal with them again? Rational people don't go back to be ripped off repeatedly (unless there _are_ no other businesses to choose).

Posted by Nicholas at 04:15 PM | Comments (3)

Nasty, Funny, Football Welfare Queens

Matt Welch claws the eyes out of those billionaire welfare bums, the football team owners:

But These Welfare Queens Are Manly!

The state of New Jersey has finally spread 'em wide enough for football's "New York" Giants to accept building a new $750 million stadium in the swampy Meadowlands. Battered-wife quote of the day goes to acting Joisy Governor Richard Codey: "This will be the best deal for the taxpayers of any stadium deal in the NFL."

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

Hamster History of England

An odd link of the day from yet another mailing list I rarely participate in: The Hamster History of England.

Posted by Nicholas at 09:48 AM | Comments (1)

New ways to waste your time

Chris Greaves called this Toronto Star article to my attention:

Rogers and Bell announced they will soon introduce wireless television applications on cellphones, both in deals with MobiTV, a U.S.-based global television network targeting cellphone users. Rogers plans to introduce the system in the next few months and Bell next month. The system works through the phone's wireless browser.

I'm the last one to criticize new tech toys (after all, I'm still happy with my not-quite-new-anymore Treo 600), but this is not a good development. I've already been assaulted by "businessmen" carrying on loud arguments by cellphone in restaurants, waiting rooms, line-ups, and just about everywhere else a cellphone can maintain a signal. This little innovation will allow all the non-Alpha types to be just as annoying, rude, and loud by proxy: even with headphones, you'll be able to hear plenty of jarring soundtrack from five metres away (think teens and tweens with their Discman volumes set to 11).

Some observers question whether such gadgets are taking a bite out of time that should be spent working. There's the Internet at our desks and cellphones in our pockets or purses. There are more than 17 million wireless devices in Canada, according to the Canadian Wireless Telecommunications Association.

"Canada's had no growth in overall productivity the last couple of years," said Douglas Porter, deputy chief economist at Toronto-based brokerage BMO Nesbitt Burns. "Any other distractor, like this phone, could lead to future decrease."

You can say that again. Except for blogging, of course, which is a known productivity enhancer.

Posted by Nicholas at 09:42 AM | Comments (0)

QotD: Biotechnology

Along with rethinking cities, environmentalists will need to rethink biotechnology. One area of biotech with huge promise and some drawbacks is genetic engineering, so far violently rejected by the environmental movement. That rejection is, I think, a mistake. Why was water fluoridization rejected by the political right and "frankenfood" by the political left? The answer, I suspect, is that fluoridization came from government and genetically modified (GM) crops from corporations. If the origins had been reversed — as they could have been — the positions would be reversed, too.

Ignore the origin and look at the technology on its own terms. (This will be easier with the emergence of "open source" genetic engineering, which could work around restrictive corporate patents.) What is its net effect on the environment? GM crops are more efficient, giving higher yield on less land with less use of pesticides and herbicides. That's why the Amish, the most technology-suspicious group in America (and the best farmers), have enthusiastically adopted GM crops.

There has yet to be a public debate among environmentalists about genetic engineering. Most of the scare stories that go around (Monarch caterpillars harmed by GM pollen!) have as much substance as urban legends about toxic rat urine on Coke can lids. Solid research is seldom reported widely, partly because no news is not news. A number of leading biologists in the U.S. are also leading environmentalists. I’ve asked them how worried they are about genetically engineered organisms. Their answer is "Not much," because they know from their own work how robust wild ecologies are in defending against new genes, no matter how exotic. They don't say so in public because they feel that entering the GM debate would strain relations with allies and would distract from their main focus, which is to research and defend biodiversity.

Stewart Brand, "Environmental Heresies", Technology Review, 2005-05

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

April 14, 2005

I'd often wondered . . .

TNT explains the mysteries of bra sizes.

Posted by Nicholas at 06:17 PM | Comments (0)

Summarizing the KoC vs Lesbian Wedding case

Damian "The Babbling Man" Brooks rounds up some good links on the Knights of Columbus versus Ms. Smith and Ms. Chymyshyn court case. I think he's got the correct interpretation of what's gone on: the KoC was set up as an easy target for legal terrorism. This was emphatically not really about intolerance or religious bigotry; it was really about Smith and Chymyshyn trying to make a legal mountain out of a moral molehill.

As I've said before, I'm in favour of gay marriage (or some form of legal equivalence that does not force religious organizations to perform marriages which would be a violation of their religious beliefs). I'm not in favour of trying to use the courts and the police to enforce someone's vision of mandatory tolerance, which is the most likely outcome if this case is decided against the KoC.

Posted by Nicholas at 05:34 PM | Comments (0)

The election's already lost: Jon's analysis

Now that the Conservative Party has demonstrated their deep commitment to [bad] science, [dis-]honesty, and political slime, they've decided that everything they've said about the Kyoto treaty for the past umpteen years was bogus and that they'll bend themselves over a tree stump for votes, Jon explains why he won't be voting Tory next time around:

At best, Canada will face a few multi-billion dollar fines from the World Court or the UN or some other nebulous body who will promptly use those funds to support a third-world dictatorship, or to buy peacekeepers and aid workers a fresh round of underage sex slaves. Again, why would this boondoggle be any different?

At best, Canada's Kyoto commitment will make the Liberal sponsorship scandal and the billion dollar-plus gun registry money laundering operation look like small change. Peanuts. Trifles.

I think Kyoto is a huge con-job, but I was reassured that no matter what Chretien or Martin said, there was little chance of the treaty actually being observed. Now that Harper and the Tories have flip-flopped, there's nothing to stop the most intrusive of bureaucracies to extend their tentacles into every aspect of life in Canada.

Welcome to the desert of the real, Neo.

Posted by Nicholas at 04:41 PM | Comments (0)

Wine Snobbery

Natalie MacLean publishes a free email newsletter on wine (you can subscribe here). This is from yesterday's edition:


While I'd be loath to stock in white zin (or other beverages that are almost, but not quite, entirely unlike wine), Natalie makes a good point here. You should be drinking wine to enjoy it: if you happen to enjoy drinking sweeter, less strongly flavoured wines, then that's what you should do — and ignore the Robert Parker-wannabe who sneers at you for your choice. You wouldn't impress someone with that kind of attitude no matter what you chose to drink, so why pretend to bother?

Update, October 2006: I've noticed a number of Google searches coming to this entry looking for "Conrad Edgeback". Clive mentioned this name in the comments. If you're still interested, the gentleman you're looking for is "Konrad Ejbich".

Posted by Nicholas at 03:32 PM | Comments (1)

Our next big crisis: "An acute shortage of dead people"

Ronald Bailey dissects the story for you:

As a consequence of the looming unnatural prolongation of the ancient cycle of birth and death, Mann outlines an improbably dystopian vision of greedy geezers growing ever richer as their deserving children languish in poverty. "In the past, twenty- and thirty-year-olds had the chance of sudden windfalls in the form of inheritances," writes Mann. "Some economists believe that bequests from previous generations have provided as much as a quarter of the start up capital for each new one — money for college tuitions, new houses, new businesses." Apparently, Mann thinks that parents today only invest in their children — pay for piano lessons, braces, college tuitions, or make them partners in the family business — because they know they're going to die soon. What makes him think that aging decimillionaires in the future won't have any money to spare for their indigent children? And just where does Mann think geezers will be investing their money so that they can take advantage of the magic of compound interest that he says will make them so rich? It's got to go into, yes, new businesses, new technologies, and so forth.

Posted by Nicholas at 10:44 AM | Comments (1)

Contrarian views

On a soccer coaching list I subscribe to, a link to this San Diego Union Tribune article was posted. It's another call for action in sports:

Let's stop tolerating all abusive coaches
By Mike Giuliano

He yelled profanities at our kids. He called them names. He became a serious challenge to the development of their self-esteem. He was spiteful toward them. He was downright mean to them.

And we paid him many thousands of dollars to do all of this to our sons and daughters.

I know, scores of columnists and talk-show hosts have lamented the sorry state of youth coaching in our society. They scare us with stories of abuse, both physical and mental, all in the name of winning. And yet, every week, I hear and see scores and scores of atrocities that don't make it on the talk-show circuit.

And off we go, wringing the consciences of parents and grandparents reading the article. And it does address an issue that should bother the readers. Abuse of this type has no place in amateur sport:

Last summer I attended a high-powered club tournament in the East. I had the unfortunate opportunity to witness a coach in the middle of a halftime meltdown. With sweat streaming down his face, he proceeded to direct a profanity-laced assault at almost every player on the team. To win this tournament meant scholarships for all of them to major colleges, he screamed, adding that their uninspired play was sure to sicken the recruiters, just as it sickened him. On and on he went, and yet the parents of the players sat nearby through it all, straining to hear with one ear while exchanging chatter about the latest community gossip with the other.

This is a bit different, however, from the image the writer conjured up in the opening of the article. Had the coach been abusing a team of pre-teens, this would be totally unacceptable to anyone (I would hope). A team of college-scholarship-bound athletes is quite a different group of people with strong goal-orientation and (I would also hope) the ability to take criticism. This example shows an over-the-top coach, but I've certainly endured similar rants from bosses in some of my early jobs and I was not a highly trained soccer star.

The author also waves that wonderful "self esteem" flag, but that's a rant for another time.

I think we may be going too far to attempt to protect our kids from the real world by making even their most competitive environments less challenging (the "Nerf"-ing of kids' lives). How much of a shock is the real world going to be to someone who's never been exposed to the good and the bad of real personal conflicts outside the home?

I'm far from recommending that every kid be put through an old-style boot camp complete with Drill Instructors and obstacle courses: although, for some, that'd be a very valuable learning experience. What I am trying to point out is that extending the comfortable, as-stress-free-as-humanly-possible environment of the daycare into the late teenage years is probably the worst thing you can do to your kids in the way of preparing them to cope with real life.

Posted by Nicholas at 10:14 AM | Comments (0)

QotD: "Supersized" Religion

I agree with [this] point but feel it should be extended beyond the world of documentaries for the scandalization of earnest middle-class undergraduates. While true of the puritanical organic lobby, a Supersized ethical position is also advanced by all too many Christians. Indeed, this is where the green-thinkers derive their theology in the first place. Gluttonous McDonald's visits are on a long list that includes some items mentioned once or twice in scripture such as gay sex, polycotton and women letting their hair down in church and plenty of things from cocaine to coffee which are nowhere to be found in the Bible. The notion is that some things, while pleasurable, will prevent your immortal soul from making it to heaven and that for your own good you must be prevented from enjoying them. That this makes a nonsense of free will, shows precious little faith in the free gift of Grace and that some "sins" are singled out for hysterical attention while most are ignored entirely does not bother puritans historical or contemporary. And the fact most people worship at a different altar altogether does not cross their minds at all.

Nicholas Packwood, "Religion in general", Ghost of a Flea, 2005-04-13

Posted by Nicholas at 12:09 AM | Comments (0)

April 13, 2005

The hi-tech version of "The British Disease"

Back in the dreadful 1970's, the British working man was renowned throughout the world for, well, not working. Strikes, go-slows, work-to-rules, job actions, pickets, and skiving off were the common complaints of both employers and the general public. The Register does some hard investigative journalism to discover that nothing has changed:

New figures have shown that Brit workers lead the world in "desk skiving" — the art of aimlessly faffing about at their posts when they should be lining shareholders' pockets with filthy lucre. Shockingly, the maths demonstrate that a third of workers may be taking fourteen days extra hols a year while a hard core of eight per cent admit that they are texting, doing personal emails or surfing the web for interesting stories on skiving British workers for an astounding 12 weeks per annum.

Posted by Nicholas at 11:41 AM | Comments (0)

Ralph Peters shoots down the USAF

Today's New York Post has a column by Ralph Peters which will make it unsafe for him to fly anywhere within range of a USAF intercept base:

I had written columns critical of the platinum-plated F/A-22, the most expensive fighter in history and an aircraft without a mission. So the Air Force decided to lobby me.

Those two generals spun the numbers until the stone-cold truth was buried under a mantra of "air dominance," imaginary combat roles and financial slight-of-hand. Still, I wanted to be fair. I took them seriously and investigated their claims.

Not one thing they said held up under scrutiny.

Morally bankrupt, the Air Force is willing to turn a blind eye to the pressing needs of soldiers and Marines at war in order to get more of its $300-million-apiece junk fighters. With newer, far more costly aircraft than the Marines possess, the Air Force pleads that it just can't defend our country without devouring the nation's defense budget.

To cap off the initial hit, he also goes on to say "The Air Force hasn't forgotten how to fight. But it only wants to fight the other services."

I know that inter-service rivalry has a long and painful tradition in most national histories, but this is one of the most bitter diatribes I think I've ever read in a public forum. Is it really this bad between the flyboys and the ground pounders?

Posted by Nicholas at 11:22 AM | Comments (2)

Meetings, bloody meetings

Last night, under some persuasion, I attended a meeting of the local STC chapter to listen to Chris Greaves talk about business communications. I've known Chris for more than 20 years, but we'd lost touch and I hadn't actually seen him in over 14 years.

The meeting was quite well-attended, and I encountered a few friends and acquaintances from jobs past (in some cases long, long past). Chris himself was in fine form, loosening up the room with some corny jokes (at least, most of the attendees would have assumed Chris was joking . . . I suspect he did nothing more than tell the truth in an amusing fashion). He emphasized getting to the essence of business communications: it's not business communication unless you are exchanging paper — and one of those pieces of paper has to be a cheque.

Chris also provided some advice for people submitting business proposals and people writing resumés: tailor the document to the specification. In the case of a business proposal, ensure that you address all of the requirements. In the case of a resumé, re-iterate all of the skills requested in the job ad. Both types of document have the same basic goal: to get you in the door for an interview. The way to maximize your chances of doing that is to ensure that your document/resumé matches what they think they're looking for.

He also discussed the importance of focussed business cards: most business cards contain too much clutter. He's against the use of logos, generic graphics, ideograms, cartoons, and other such non-text elements. His belief is that the essential purpose of a business card is to convince someone to call you: the single telephone number is critical. It's so critical that on one of his own business cards, all that appears is his phone number — in 48-point bold type, front and back.

I'd tell you more, but Chris would probably have me bumped off if I spilled too much of his sooper-secret-skillz here.

After the meeting, Jon and I had coffee with Rob Hanna, who is suffering from the technical writing world's greatest affliction: the urge to create a Universal Information Model (it's our equivalent of the fiction writers' "Great American Novel" syndrome). I enjoyed listening to his basic overview, and I think he'll be well received at the conference he's going to be presenting at later this year. The problem, as always, with UIM's is that they need to be implemented by mere humans with agendas of their own. I encouraged Rob to find ways to make his model more palatable to those who will be most likely to fight against any sort of changes to their jobs. If he can do that, he's at least got a shot at some success, if not quite fame and fortune.

Update: I forgot to mention the most poignant part of the evening: when a frickin' speechwriter from the Liberal Party of Canada started working the room in hopes of drumming up some non-political work. He was peppering his routine with disarming comments like "we're all on the way out now".

Posted by Nicholas at 10:14 AM | Comments (2)

QotD: Politics

[T]here is a clear similarity between the Prime Minister's cabinet and the wardrobe/closet from the Narnia Chronicles: neither has any back to it and people who spend an excessive amount of time in either find themselves in a fantasy land.

Eric Kirkland, 2005-03-24

Posted by Nicholas at 12:19 AM | Comments (0)

April 12, 2005

Duelling quotes at Bound By Gravity

Andrew has a talent for picking up apposite quotations. He demonstrates it wonderfully here.

Posted by Nicholas at 05:04 PM | Comments (0)

"Get yer programs! Get yer programs here!"

An interesting experiment in scorecarding the scandals is happening here. Hat tip to Being American in T.O. for the link.

Posted by Nicholas at 04:59 PM | Comments (0)

Python flame-out

Terry Jones, once a brilliant British comedian, has unfortunately been infected with the Greyface virus, which has maimed his comedic genius:

A report to the UN human rights commission in Geneva has concluded that Iraqi children were actually better off under Saddam Hussein than they are now.

This, of course, comes as a bitter blow for all those of us who, like George Bush and Tony Blair, honestly believe that children thrive best when we drop bombs on them from a great height, destroy their cities and blow up hospitals, schools and power stations.

It now appears that, far from improving the quality of life for Iraqi youngsters, the US-led military assault on Iraq has inexplicably doubled the number of children under five suffering from malnutrition. Under Saddam, about 4% of children under five were going hungry, whereas by the end of last year almost 8% were suffering.

It's a sad, sad fate for Mr. Jones. To have to write such unfunny lines after a career of making people laugh until they were ready to be sick. [An unkind person might make reference to Mr. Creosote here, but I strive to avoid such unkindness.] It would almost make you think that Mr. Jones was one of those people who struggle to find the cloud to every silver lining, the thorn to every rose, the bad side-effect of every good deed.

Update, 14 April: In the comments, Fred mentioned that he'd seen a debunking of the original report somewhere, but had not kept the URL. He did find this this post, which covers some of the same ground.

Update, 15 April: By way of Tim Blair, this is another fisking of Mr. Jones' column.

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

Helicopter woes

The ongoing helicopter purchase nightmare to replace the old Sea King with a more modern aircraft has been mentioned many times before. One of the contenders to replace the Sea Kings was the Cormorant by Agusta Westland. The government had arranged to buy the Cormorant, but then the Liberals came to power and abrogated the deal (at a cost of hundreds of millions of dollars in penalties).

Eventually, by separating the contract for the Navy's helicopters from the search and rescue helicopters, some Cormorants were bought. These helicopters have been a maintenance headache of the first order:

The air force has had to replace a vital part that holds together the tail rotor of its 15 new search-and-rescue choppers 87 times, the Sun has learned. The unusually high breakdown rate of the tail rotor half hubs has exhausted the Canadian Forces' supply of spare parts and required engineers to work around the clock to find a solution to the breakdowns.

Maj. Alain Robichaud, service manager for the Cormorant fleet, said the hubs have been replaced 87 times on the 15 new Cormorant helicopters since the military first began flying them in October 2001.

It's not at all uncommon for new aircraft to have design flaws or require some in-service modifications. Replacing a particular part 87 times indicates either a serious design flaw or a particularly bad manufacturing effort. Either way, the manufacturer should be devoting a lot of effort to fix this ASAP.

This still doesn't retroactively justify the Chretien government's absurd cancellation of the original Cormorant order: that was pure politics, nothing else.

Maj. Marty Zimmer, search-and-rescue operations spokesman, said so far, the parts shortage hasn't affected the military's ability to answer distress calls.

And Zimmer said he and the air force continue to back the chopper, and believe they're "wonderful machines."

Agusta-Westland program director Morcello Corsi said the ongoing tests of the half hubs, new spares and creation of a new part will be provided at his company's cost.

Posted by Nicholas at 12:00 PM | Comments (0)

QotD: The Liberal Party

I keep replaying Scott Reid's comment in my mind . . .

. . . "Paul Martin is the wire brush that will scrub clean this stain on Canadian politics."

Honestly, now, if you moved this metaphor any closer to the bathroom, there'd be no room for anybody to sit down. What have we come to when the communications director for the prime minister of Canada comes within an ace of referring to his own party as a filthy toilet in need of some elbow grease?

Colby Cosh, ColbyCosh.com, 2005-04-09

Posted by Nicholas at 01:02 AM | Comments (0)

April 11, 2005

Polls: Ekos, 11 April

Another poll, this linked from Small Dead Animals:

Percent in
2004 Election
Liberal2536.7 (Down 11.7)
Conservative36.229.6 (Up 6.6)
NDP20.515.7 (Up 4.8)
Bloc Quebecois12.612.4 (Up 0.2)
Green54.3 (Up 0.7)
Posted by Nicholas at 06:13 PM | Comments (0)

Canada's Militia

The Canadian Armed Forces have reserve and regular components. The army reserve forces are called the "Militia", and have traditionally been called upon to provide individual and small-unit detachments to support the regular army in times of need. The Militia has been shrinking over the years, and is now down to less than 16,000. Here is a quick summary of the government's approach to fixing the problems of the Militia:

According to Brig.-Gen Dennis Tabbernor, director general land reserves, there are 15,500 army reservists serving in the militia. Five years ago, it was announced with much fanfare that under the reserve restructuring program, the Canadian militia was to grow to 18,500 by the year 2006. So it seems that, with one year left on its own projected timetable, the Liberal government has finally allocated funds for taking on the 3,000 reservists the Forces are short — and called it an "increase." This, of course, is nothing new for our long-neglected militia.

Back in the early 1990s, the regular force was being rapidly reduced from a Cold War strength of 90,000 down to the current level. It was then decided that three of Canada's nine infantry battalions would become "10-90" organizations. This meant that these battalions would consist of 10 per cent regulars who would act as administrators and train the remaining 90 per cent reservists.

While this ambitious plan (dubbed Total Force) may have looked good, its creators never really had a chance to overcome the initial logistical and administrative nightmares.

The regular army has always had a schizophrenic view of the Militia: as a source of reinforcements and as a competitor for government funding. Soldiers in the regular forces are better trained than reservists, but generally much less well-educated. Reservists sacrifice their evenings and weekends and take time away from their civilian employment to train, yet the government seems to have a talent for actively wasting the talents the reservists may bring with them:

Hard-pressed regular force officers determined the militia could best assist them by taking up the slack in various service support roles.

A proposal was drafted to convert the militia's existing under-strength, underequipped infantry and armour regiments into mobile bath and laundry units and military postal stations. Needless to say, the army reserve leadership went bananas when they heard about their intended fate.

"Citizen soldiers aren't going to volunteer their spare time and subject themselves to the strict service code of discipline just to wash socks and sort the mail for full-time soldiers," they argued.

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

Colby Cosh puts the boot into ad agencies

Colby Cosh drops a few anvils all over the ad agency world:

The government buys a lot of things from a lot of firms. Why, one might ask, was it advertising that proved to be the vulnerable, maggot-ridden part of the system here? A political party needs many things besides advertising; it might do contra deals with anyone in exchange for illicitly supplied goods or services. So what are the salient properties of ad agencies that make them such a fine field — so we are told by the industry's leaders — for corruption?

First of all, they provide a service, rather than goods, making slippery accounting much easier. Secondly, the agencies in question tend to be of the right size to foster like-mindedness and to protect corporate secrets. At an enormous company, you'd be bound to have one cranky Conservative-voting guy in the mailroom who blew the whistle on the whole deal. At a very tiny one, you might not have the margins to — in essence — lend money to a political party in the hope of getting a manifold return on investment later.

But one wonders just how much of it boils down to this: that ad agencies tend to be staffed by mercenary pricks whose work has no easily quantifiable value to anybody. As I understand it, these agencies do little or none of the actual creative work themselves; their job is to develop "strategies" for media buying and maintain contacts on the artistic and production side. And deciding where to place an advertisement, in the oligopoly-ridden Canadian market, is not exactly rocket science.

Ouch. And again, ouch. I've never worked in an ad agency, so I can't say from personal experience how close to the mark Colby is here. But the evidence certainly seems to support his reading of the facts.

Posted by Nicholas at 04:09 PM | Comments (0)

Fran Van Cleave on CIA Drug History

Fran van Cleave takes a nostalgic wander down the CIA's own particular memory lane:

Incredibly, while SS Hauptsturhmführer Dr. Plottner was spiking coffee with mescaline for his captive patients at Dachau, and the Japanese were torturing their Chinese prisoners with psychological warfare, officers in the CIA's precursor agency, the OSS, were dosing scientists in the Manhattan Project with concentrated liquid marijuana.

As documented in The Search for the Manchurian Candidate: The CIA and Mind Control, by John Marks, a former officer in the State Department, it was all about "eliminating the will of the person examined."

The scientists vomited up the marijuana concentrate, but enjoyed smoking tobacco-laced joints, revealing many personal details while high. However, they did not appear to relinquish their wills, which was a great disappointment to the OSS, despite the good luck they'd had "cleansing" the Army of suspected communists with dope-fueled confessions.

The CIA was chartered in 1947, with MK-Ultra (the 'MK' stood for mind-control) funded in 1953, and the Agency set out immediately to enlist both drug industry giants and major colleges in its quest for perfect control over humanity's minds.

Eli Lilly, Harvard University, the University of Illinois, the Massachusetts Institute of Mental Health, and Canada's McGill University all took CIA money to run ethically dubious LSD experiments on mental patients, college students, and drug addicts. The explosion of academic outrage that caused Dr. Timothy Leary to be fired from Harvard did not come about because of his use of LSD, but because of the way he used it — as a means of individual enlightenment, with a bit of anti-authoritarian nose-thumbing thrown in.

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

Polls: Ipsos-Reid, April 8

As I did during last year's pre-election run-up, I'll try to keep track of the polling numbers as they roll around:

  Quebec only
Bloc Quebecois
  Quebec only

This information is from the summary provided by CTV on their website.

Posted by Nicholas at 03:05 PM | Comments (0)

Red Ensign Raised Again

Sue has raised the Red Ensign Standard 19. With all the postings from all the members of the Brigade, this is nothing like an easy task. Thanks for taking this on, Sue!

Posted by Nicholas at 12:09 PM | Comments (0)

RAH Extremely Limited Edition

Robert A. Heinlein's collected works are to be republished in an extremely limited cloth-bound edition, priced at $2500 for the entire set (and only 5,000 sets are planned). I'm a huge fan of RAH, but I certainly don't expect to be one of the lucky 5,000.

Hat tip to Reason Hit and Run.

Posted by Nicholas at 11:52 AM | Comments (0)

Stalking the Flea's turf, again

According to The Gematriculator, my site is 31% Evil. Jon's site is 37% Evil.

Strangely, when I tried to run The Flea's site, I got an error — proving that the FLEA IS EVIL!!!

. . . or that his site was larger than 100K. Whichever.

Posted by Nicholas at 11:10 AM | Comments (2)

Weird Stickley Furniture Example

As I mentioned yesterday, I found an odd-looking piece of furniture in an antique store on Saturday.

As often happens in antique stores, there wasn't room to move it away from other items.I didn't feel dedicated enough to try to take a photo from every angle.


This is the information provided with the piece . . . which is already leaps and bounds more information than you'd normally get in typical antique stores. I'm only familiar with Stickley's better-known Arts and Crafts line of furniture and other household items . . . I didn't even know that Stickley had other lines.

Posted by Nicholas at 10:16 AM | Comments (0)

QotD: Journalism

Friends, when a man shoots himself in the foot, that's journalism; but when he does it four or five times at once, from different angles, it can only be described as ballet.

Colby Cosh, "A useless living dead", ColbyCosh.com, 2005-03-28

Posted by Nicholas at 12:35 AM | Comments (0)

April 10, 2005

Yesterday's trivia

I was out and about all day yesterday, hence no blogging. It was a great day, weather-wise, and I managed a personal best: the earliest day in the year I've ever managed to get a sunburn. Of course, I was assisted in this by my ever-receding hairline . . . my forehead and my scalp under the thinned-out hair on the top of my head are now glowing red. And that was from just two hours of sitting in the bleachers yesterday morning, watching Victor's first Rep soccer try-out of the season.

Victor wasn't happy with his performance, but he's got three more chances to improve (Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday evenings).

Elizabeth and I drove out to Port Hope in the afternoon to have lunch at Dr. Corbett's Inn, but unfortunately it was also some high pagan holiday in town: "Toss Your Granny On Her Fanny" or some such tomfoolery. The place was just hoaching with tourists, some of 'em rolling monster inner-tubes and wearing odd costumes.

We did manage to squeeze in to the bar at Dr. Corbett's (thanks Dave!), and eventually the crowds subsided enough that we could walk the streets safely again. Elizabeth noticed an odd piece of furniture in one of the antique stores, which claimed to be a "Gustav Stickley" tea trolley. I'll post some photos of it later, but it certainly didn't look very Stickley-like to my untutored eye.

I also overheard an amusing conversation in "Furby House Books", an independent bookstore on the main street:

Customer: Have you met many of these authors? [pointing at small table of Canadian authors who had done book signings in the store]

Store employee: . . . oh yes, I met this author [pointing to a book by Ted Barris], and he was very nice and friendly even if he does write books about evil things like war [said with a very pronounced sneer, as if Barris was a convicted child molester].
I also met David Suzuki [said caressingly, with true love in the voice], but he was too important to speak to insignificant people like me . . .

Posted by Nicholas at 10:26 AM | Comments (0)

QotD: Time

If you ever wish you could have more time to get something done, just remember: if you did have more time, you wouldn't get more done. The extra time would melt away, and you'd be back feeling pressure to get it done in too little time. You might as well enjoy the free time and not moan about the things you didn't achieve. Idle moments at the dining table, talking about this and that, are much more your real life than all those grand accomplishments, achieved and unachieved.

Ann Althouse, "Easter and the end of Spring Break", Althouse, 2005-03-27

Posted by Nicholas at 12:02 AM | Comments (0)

April 09, 2005

QotD: Canada

By demanding that "the government" — any government, feds, provincial, municipal, preferably all of them — carry on frantically legislating into the wind, the angry talk-show callers were, in effect, being just as victimologically inclined as the somnolent correspondents of big media. Fuming and furious, they were tonally different but philosophically indistinguishable, both parties subscribing to the view that Canadian citizens are the passive charges of the nanny state and that nanny needs to put more safety bars round the nursery.

Mark Steyn, "We need professional help", Western Standard, 2005-04-04

Posted by Nicholas at 12:01 AM | Comments (1)

April 08, 2005

The New, New Math

Keith does his math homework. Sadly, whie the answer is right, it's still wrong, wrong, wrong!

Posted by Nicholas at 05:25 PM | Comments (1)

Topical poster

Counterfactual tells it like it is.

Posted by Nicholas at 04:56 PM | Comments (1)

PQ offers to return money

The Parti Quebecois has issued a letter to Justice Gomery, offering to refund any donations that were made by employees of Groupaction (that is, funds skimmed from the Sponsorship account) if they are provided with the names of the employees who made the donations. According to the testimony of Jean Brault, over a dozen employees were given year-end bonuses to reimburse them for their contributions to the PQ.

The Liberal Party, of course, cannot match the gesture as they are, by their own admission, millions of dollars in debt.

Posted by Nicholas at 03:41 PM | Comments (0)

Weird eBay auctions

Some wanker is offering to sell permanent advertising space on his John Thomas, The Register reports. Starting bid is reportedly £3,000.

Posted by Nicholas at 02:52 PM | Comments (0)

Excellent text now online for free

The book Economics in One Lesson by Henry Hazlitt has been made available online in a free edition by The Foundation for Economic Education. If you haven't read this book yet, now you have no excuse.

Hat tip to Jane Galt

Posted by Nicholas at 02:25 PM | Comments (0)

Kate's Photo of the Day

Modern urban life.

Posted by Nicholas at 11:46 AM | Comments (0)

Ahenakew on "Canadian Holocaust"

The hate-speech trial of David Ahenakew (link requires Yahoo login) has turned into a series of accusations against non-aboriginal Canadians:

David Ahenakew says aboriginal people have been the victims of a holocaust that has lasted 500 years and Canadians should be put on trial for their treatment of them.

The 71-year-old former head of the Assembly of First Nations and member of the order of Canada is charged under a section of the Criminal Code that prevents the wilful promotion of hatred. The charges were laid after he called the Jews a "disease" and suggested the Holocaust was justified in an interview more than two years ago.

"I'm a holocaust victim," Ahenakew shouted Thursday under cross-examination on the final day of his trial.

"We lost over 100 million people over the last 500 years."

You'd think, if Ahenakew felt so strongly that Canada is a totalitarian state, that he'd have been less willing to accept Canada's highest civilian honour. Instead, he clearly feels that many Canadians are to be hated:

"Thousands and thousands of Canadian people — they should be here answering questions about hatred toward the Indians," Ahenakew said.

Posted by Nicholas at 11:30 AM | Comments (0)

"In the long annals of judicial stupidity. . ."

Theodore Dalrymple discusses the rights and wrongs of a recent British court case:

She lost the case, and also an appeal, but won at the last hurdle. The Guardian reported that after her victory, she said she "could scream with happiness."

When they heard of her victory, many Muslim women around the country must have wanted to scream with quite different emotions, despair and rage prominent among them. For Lord Justice Brooke’s ruling, that Shabina Begum’s human rights had been denied, and that she had been discriminated against illegally on religious grounds, displayed a complete and invincible ignorance of the social context of the case. Lord Justice Brooke saw no evil, heard no evil, and felt no evil. In effect, therefore, he was giving succor to those Muslim men who still abuse women in a medieval fashion.

Regardless of whether Shabina Begum acted in this case without duress and of her own free will, which seems to me highly unlikely given that the traditional place of Muslim women is not the public spotlight, the fact is that substantial numbers of young Muslim women are virtually enslaved in Britain; they grow up in what can only be called a totalitarian environment. I know this from what my patients have told me. They are not allowed out of the house except under escort, and sometimes not even then; they are allowed no mail or use of the telephone; they are not allowed to contradict a male member of the household, and are automatically subject to his wishes; it is regarded as quite legitimate to beat them if they disobey in the slightest. Their brothers are often quite willing to attack anyone who speaks to the women in any informal context. They are forced to wear modes of dress that they do not wish to wear. Their schooling is quite often deliberately interrupted, so that they are not infected by Western ideas of personal liberty; ambitious for a career, they are kept at home as prisoners and domestic slaves.

This sort of case is coming to light more and more frequently, where the stated goals of the plaintiff are actually in direct opposition to the underlying "real" goals. Unfortunately for Muslim women especially, the surface appearances are often sufficient for the legal system, despite the pernicious effects of the legal outcomes.

Hat tip to the "vacationing" James Lileks.

Posted by Nicholas at 09:59 AM | Comments (0)

QotD: Wine

If it's red, French, costs too much, and tastes like the water that's left in the vase after the flowers have died and rotted, it's probably Burgundy.

Jay McInerney, Bacchus & Me: Adventures in the Wine Cellar

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

April 07, 2005

Now that it's legal . . .

. . . let's all give a big vote of thanks to The Captain's Quarters. You rock, Sir!

Posted by Nicholas at 05:59 PM | Comments (0)

The Flea posts a self-portrait

The Flea shows his self image for the world to see.

To design your own Superhero, go here.

Posted by Nicholas at 02:42 PM | Comments (0)

Gomery lifts publication ban

The publication ban imposed on testimony from the Gomery inquiry has been lifted:

The judge heading the federal sponsorship inquiry lifted a publication ban Thursday on some of the potentially explosive testimony he has heard in the last week.

Justice John Gomery's ruling came a day after advertising executive Jean Brault finished testimony that is reportedly a political bombshell for the federal Liberals.

Gomery imposed the ban last week because jury selection in Brault's fraud trial was scheduled to begin on May 2 and the judge said making the testimony public could jeopardize Brault's right to a fair trial.

But on Wednesday a Quebec judge delayed the trial until June 6 - a decision that may have influenced Gomery's decision to partially lift the ban.

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

Countdown to 14:00 hrs

The publication ban on testimony at the Gomery inquiry may be set aside at 2:00 this afternoon. Or not. Angry in the Great White North has more:

If he lifts the ban, expect a furious melee as the media rushes out massive stories to bring everyone up to speed. Then impromptu news conferences from the Prime Minister, the Leader of the Opposition, leaders of the major parties, senior cabinet ministers, junior cabinet ministers, backbenchers, and the guy who waters the plants at the House of Commons. Action and reaction in rapid succession for at least 24 hours, including the stuff we haven't heard yet since Captain Ed's source has decided to keep quiet for a spell. Then the pollsters will hit the streets, and polling results will dominate the news. Finally, as the public opinion trends become clear, one way or the other, the question of elections will be debated.

Also expect a massive drop in traffic to blogs.

That last part has already happened at a lot of blogs already. My traffic peaked on Tuesday, at approximately five times normal, dropped off to just over twice normal yesterday, and appears to be running about 30% higher than normal now. I'm hoping, of course, that the 30% is new regular readers, but that won't be clear until next week at the earliest.

Posted by Nicholas at 11:40 AM | Comments (0)

New British Special Forces Regiment

The Guardian has a brief report on Britain's newest unit:

The Special Reconnaissance Regiment, the SRR, is the first special forces unit to be created since the end of the second world war and will be based in Hereford, home of the SAS.

The regiment, consisting of women as well as men, will be fully operational from today. The Ministry of Defence refused to disclose its size of but it is likely to be less than half the size of the SAS, which consists of some 450 elite troopers.

Update 8 April: Samizdata has more information on the new unit.

Posted by Nicholas at 11:15 AM | Comments (0)

Transformation of the Armed Forces?

The new Chief of the Defence Staff, General Rick Hillier is creating some waves with his most recent proposals:

Canada's new defence chief wants to revamp the command structure of the Canadian Forces under a new "CanadaCom" banner that unites the army, navy and air force under leaner, more focused leadership similar to the U.S. military's approach.

Defence Minister Bill Graham told a military symposium in Ottawa yesterday the upcoming defence policy review will make that key recommendation, which he said is the brainchild of his new chief of defence staff, Gen. Rick Hillier.

Earlier this week, Gen. Hillier told the House of Commons defence committee the integrated command approach is better suited to the realities of fighting terrorism and other non-traditional military threats.

However, much still remains to be done to improve the efficiency of the Forces:

Gen. Doug Dempster, director-general of strategic planning. "We're trying to make the Defence Department as adaptable and agile as the Canadian Forces need to be in operations."

Mr. Graham also said he wants to fix a nagging problem in the Forces — its long procurement process that he said resulted in a "12-year quest" to buy new backpacks, and the recent decade-plus process to replace the aging fleet of Sea King helicopters.

Mr. Graham said he will ask Public Works Minister Scott Brison to consider the possibility of allowing the Defence Department to take over responsibility of tendering future contracts for large military purchases.

The departments now split the tendering process.

It's a bit facile to attribute the saga of the Sea King replacements as merely being a result of a slow "process": that's a completely different, almost completely politically driven nightmare.

Update: The Babbler isn't quite as willing to suspend his sense of disbelief yet:

The Honourable Sock Puppet for National Defence is now telling Canadians - with a perfectly straight face - that he's going to take politics out of the military procurement process.

Has anyone clued this second-tier Ditheral into what's gone on at the Gomery inquiry and beyond this week?

Update the second, 8 April: The Babbler comments at some length:

The more I read about the U.S. unified command plan (UCP), the more I realize I'm unqualified to comment substantively about it. Moreover, I'm not entirely familiar with the org-chart at NDHQ. And until we know exactly what Gen. Hillier is proposing, a proper analysis is impossible in any event.

Having said that, one aspect of this discussion seems clear to me: the current command structure in Ottawa hasn't functioned particularly well, and it needs to change.

Having been out of any military involvement for nearly 25 years, I'm even less qualified to comment on these changes than Damian. [Pause] Not that it's stopped me before . . .

Posted by Nicholas at 11:01 AM | Comments (3)

QotD: Coffee

Without a quart of coffee in the morning, I will be functionally retarded. I will stare at the wall like a stunned carp until noon. I will take things out of the refrigerator and put them in the pantry when I'm done with them. I will put toothpaste on my toothbrush and then attempt to shave with it. I will open peanuts, throw out the insides, and eat the shells. People at the grocery store will remind me to run home and put on pants. I will never turn my turn signal off. When my cell phone rings, I will answer my wallet.

Steve H., "I'm Going to Kill Myself: It's as Simple as That", Hog On Ice, 2005-03-18

Posted by Nicholas at 12:25 AM | Comments (0)

April 06, 2005

Minnesota coach to be fined

A report from Associated Press (link requires Yahoo login) says that NFL commissioner Paul Tagliabue will be levying a fine on Minnesota Vikings coach Mike Tice for his role in scalping Superbowl tickets:

Tice denied buying tickets from players since he took over as Vikings coach in 2002, but acknowledged last month that he resold some of his allotment of 12 Super Bowl tickets last season and had also resold his tickets as a Vikings assistant coach from 1996-2001.

[. . .]

Tagliabue said Wednesday that he was told this week by officials investigating the matter that there "were clear violations of our policies.''

"At some point, I will be imposing discipline,'' Tagliabue said. "I don't think it will include a suspension.'' He said "a fine or multiple fines'' would probably be appropriate.

Given that Tice had admitted to reporters just after the story broke that he'd been involved in selling some of his own tickets, I don't see how Tagliabue could have done anything less than imposing a fine or two.

Posted by Nicholas at 05:57 PM | Comments (0)

Aw, c'est dommage monsieur!

Quebec's Economic Development Minister, Claude Bechard, points to the group that is suffering the most from the scandal:

What is happening at the Gomery commision is making all politicians ill at ease. [. . .] It is clear that the big loser in this matter is the political class.

Well, under the circumstances, all I can say is GREAT!

Posted by Nicholas at 05:43 PM | Comments (3)

Gomery inquiry: PQ also implicated?

Damian Penny links to an article by Sun Media's Greg Weston on the other beneficiaries of "informal" funding:

A Montreal advertising firm that received more than $40 million in federal sponsorship contracts paid huge kickbacks to both the federal Liberal party and Quebec separatists, senior executives of the company have told Sun Media Newspapers. "I remember seeing the cheques," one former Group-action executive said of payments to the federal Liberal party in Quebec.

The man spoke on condition that he not be identified until he testifies at the Gomery inquiry in the coming weeks.

The executive said the president of Groupaction, Jean Brault, made no secret around the company about where the kickback cash was going and for what.

One is tempted to ask just who in Quebec politics wasn't receiving funds in this way?

Posted by Nicholas at 01:38 PM | Comments (2)

The Flea weighs in

Nicholas Packwood, aka the Flea, has some thoughts on the ongoing Gomery publications ban:

Over the last few days the Canadian blogosphere and mainstream media have been in knots over another publication ban this time related to massive fraud and political corruption. Once again the ban has proved controversial and once again it is in place to ensure a fair trial. For everyone who has argued for the lifting of the ban I ask this question: how many people seriously believe those men offering testimony to the Gomery Commission are innocent of the crimes for which they are charged? Frankly, had that thought even crossed your mind?

Because that is how our system of justice works. Those men are innocent until proven guilty in a court of law. Unless and until you would prefer another standard of guilt I suggest you give that thought some consideration before pointing fingers about the imminent collapse of democracy in this country. Justice Gomery is no fan of the Liberal government or its last incarnation under Jean Chretien. He is doing his job and in so doing he is defending our democracy.

Agree or disagree with him, Nick always has well-thought-out, well-written opinions when he can pry his attention away from "an ongoing paeon to Kylie Minogue's assets" or his notorious search-engine-baiting by seeding his posts with things like this:

I would not dream of publishing anything to do with the magic words Gomery, AdScam, Brault or "Belinda Stronach nude". But the point is not just what I publish or don't publish. It is the fact this blog is connected to the biggest, baddest, fastest fact-checking network humanity has yet to devise.

I'd accuse him of link-wh*ring, except he's one of the least link-needy folks in the 'sphere.

Posted by Nicholas at 12:39 PM | Comments (8)

US Supreme Court ruling upcoming on interstate wine sales

Reason Hit and Run provided a link to a Washington Post article on the case currently before the Supreme Court on allowing or banning interstate wine sales:

In a complicated web of state laws and regulations that date to the repeal of Prohibition, Swedenburg can ship wine to New York, for example, only if she establishes an office there, but the state allows its own wineries to ship to customers in state. The District of Columbia allows its residents to have no more than a quart a month shipped in from outside the city. Virginia residents can order two cases per month from any wine producer — in state or not — who has a Virginia shipping license.

Swedenburg has no intention of breaking any laws, especially while she is challenging the rules on interstate transportation of alcoholic beverages before the high court.

The stakes are huge. The case has been described as potentially the most significant test of states' constitutional power to regulate the alcohol trade since Prohibition. Over time, a victory for Swedenburg could revolutionize the way wine is sold. As of November, there were 3,382 bonded grape wineries in the United States, according to the trade publication Wine Business Monthly. "When it comes right down to it, people like to taste different wines from different places. And I consider wine an agricultural product that should be able to pass over state lines," Swedenburg says.

And, linked from the same Hit and Run post, the The Scotsman wins the bad wine pun award for their headline on the French vigneron protests: "French wine rebels employ brut force and dynamite".

Posted by Nicholas at 11:00 AM | Comments (0)

The Babbler Crosses A Line

Babbling Brooks just called me his "favourite Wine-Swilling, Quote-Spouting, Lazy-Ex-Reservist blogger". This is just a tad too far: you can accuse me of a lot of failings (goodness knows the selections are wide and varied), but I do not swill my wine. Unless it's that sweet crap they used to sell to underaged drinkers in Ontario back in the 70's and 80's . . . and even then only to pigs I didn't like.

Posted by Nicholas at 12:04 AM | Comments (2)

QotD: Whisky

I'm from Kentucky, and people tell me I should be loyal to Bourbon, but I see the whiskey hierarchy sort of like this:

  1. Scotch. Nectar of the Gods. Complex, smooth, and just the right thing to fill yourself up on before painting yourself blue and riding off to kick the crap out of a bunch of English gits. Lagavulin and Macallan (16 years) are the reason people have been able to tolerate life in the scrubby, bleak landscape of northern Great Britain. Or whatever the island that contains Scotland is called. For all I know, "Great Britain" includes the Falklands.
  2. Bourbon and sour mash. Only good for mixing, unless you spend at least forty dollars, because Bourbon is usually harsh. And that includes Wild Turkey. But the better ones are smooth and full-flavored, albeit about as complex as a Kool Pop. I like Blanton's. Maker's Mark gold is okay, but only if your friends are serving it free of charge. People holler about Knob Creek all the time. I'm suspicious of old-timey-looking products that didn't seem to exist until 1985. I suspect that it's a gimmick aimed at yuppie suckers, but I have not actually tried it.
  3. Irish whiskey. Wonderfully smooth; especially Black Bush, which is my favorite. Great subtle flavor. Even the cheaper brands are pretty good. But zero complexity.
  4. Canadian. This makes a good substitute for windshield-washer fluid. Absolutely the most boring whisky (with no "E") in the universe. Tastes like brown water. Alcoholics love Canadian whisky, because there's not much to it, and you can drink it day after day without much effort. I can't believe Canadians waste their time driving to the distillery to make this garbage. Laughable.

I guess now I'll get flames from the unfortunate people who enjoy Jack Daniel's, and from pedantic losers who drink obscure distilled beverages made in Wales.

Canadian Club and Crown Royal drinkers won't flame me until at least noon, because they are all alcoholics and won't be done with their morning retching until then.

I still need to find some really bad Scotch on a par with Jack Daniel's. Something packed in plastic bottles or even cans. You need a good cheap harsh whisky to marinate BBQ. The good stuff, I reserve for marinating myself.

Steve H., "Booze and Birds: My Stressful Life", Hog On Ice, 2005-03-20

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

April 05, 2005

Gomery Inquiry: Now the Gun Registry is mentioned

According to a post at Minority of One, the latest testimony implies a link to the federal gun registry. This should not be too much of a surprise: the gun registry was introduced as a cheap ($100 million) fix for all our worries about guns and violent crime. The registry has been around for years, and the cost has already gone well above $1 billion: lots of extra money that could easily be redirected if the right (that is, the wrong) people were involved.

Hat tip to (of course) Angry again.

Update: Kevin Schoedel comments to Angry's post:

Here's a back-of-the-envelope calculation. Gun owners: around 3 million. Index card: 3 x 5 x 0.005 inches. Gold: around 10 troy ounces per cubic inch, around CA$500 per troy ounce. Total: $1.125 billion.

The government has handed out nearly twice as much as it would cost for a gun registry on solid gold index cards.

It would be interesting to see where that money really went.

Posted by Nicholas at 07:13 PM | Comments (0)

Auditor General's Report now available online

The Auditor General's report on National Security in Canada — The 2001 Anti-Terrorism Initiative — Air Transportation Security, Marine Security, and Emergency Preparedness is now available online.

Hat tip to Small Dead Animals.

Posted by Nicholas at 06:35 PM | Comments (0)

Rights in Canada vs. Rights in the United States

I was reading some of the snide remarks that Andrew at Bound By Gravity was getting from some of his American readers after he decided to pull down his compendium of Gomery inquiry links. Some of these readers clearly had a fuzzy notion that Canadians and Americans have basically the same set of rights in their respective countries. Not so.

Most of the time, and in most situations, it'd be hard to point to practical differences between the rights of American citizens and the rights of Canadian subjects: they both inherit much from the British common law tradition. One key point of difference is the respective constitutions of the two countries: the US constitution explicitly recognizes that individual rights pre-exist, while the Canadian constitution explicitly grants certain rights (that is, the state gives rights . . . they do not pre-exist).

I was going to drone on at some length (and with little actual scholarship, I assure you), but Angry in the Great White North has already covered all of this ground:

The text of the Charter makes it clear from where these rights are derived. It opens with these words: "The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms guarantees the rights and freedoms set out in it subject only to such reasonable limits prescribed by law as can be demonstrably justified in a free and democratic society."

So the rights exist because we wrote them down, and they are subject to whatever limits the government can jam through parliament.

Compare this with the US Declaration of Independence: "We hold these Truths to be self-evident, that all Men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights"

In the US, citizens are free and have rights because they are human. No law can change that, no act of government can abridge the rights that flow from the state of being human.

If you're not Canadian and don't follow Canadian news (that is pretty much a tautology, of course), you might encounter the phrase "notwithstanding clause" whenever Canadian bloggers start whinging on about the political state of the country. Here's why it's always popping up:

But in Canada, it gets better. Not only is there the "reasonable limitations clause" I quoted above, but there is also the notwithstanding clause, which allows any government, federal or provincial, to pass legislation that contravenes the Charter, such legislation subject to a 5-year expiry (though it may be re-enacted by the normal legislative procedures). Trudeau was forced to put this in by the several of the provincial premiers who did not want to lose the power to make whatever law they saw fit to pass, Charter of Rights notwithstanding.

So in some circumstances, the Charter is about as useful as a chocolate barbeque fork.

Posted by Nicholas at 02:23 PM | Comments (2)

Latest Gomery Inquiry Clearinghouse

As many Canadian bloggers have felt pressured into taking down their links or even removing whole postings, My Aisling has stepped into the breach. That's where you can find all sorts of links to discussions about the Gomery inquiry, the publications ban, the DELETED American blog, and all sorts of informed and uninformed commentary.

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

Axworthy gets axed again

Let it bleed demolishes another column from Thomas Axworthy:

Evidently neither Thomas Axworthy nor the Star's editors have learned anything. The last time Thomas made an appearance hereabouts, it was in the guise of a laugh-out-loud funny missive about how (a) the long-gun registry was a "stunning success", but nevertheless (b) "gun-related violence stalks the land", and the way to reconcile those two apparently contradictory trends is to (c) (i) ban all guns, (ii) get the US to start patrolling the Canadian border, and (iii) "say no to poverty". At the time, I genuinely thought it would be difficult to compose a more nonsensical, contradictory and fact-hampered analysis than what Axworthy graced us with.

I was wrong. Today, we get Axworthy's supplemental thoughts on gun control. In order for his latest musings to make sense, you will to simultaneously ignore everything he wrote the first time around, and also accept it as canonical truth. That shouldn't be too hard, though: you had to go through the same exercise on an almost paragraph-by-paragraph basis in his earlier missive.

Posted by Nicholas at 11:57 AM | Comments (0)

Canadian sub (sob) story

The Ottawa Citizen is reporting that the Canadian sub saga has not improved since it fell off the front pages:

Taxpayers could be shelling out up to $465 million for upgrades to Canada's troubled second-hand submarines while navy officers hope to start receiving seed money in a few years for a new underwater fleet.

Officers had been planning to request initial funding next year for a mid-life upgrade program for the four used subs. That program was to begin around 2012, but could be delayed somewhat by problems the navy has been having in getting the Victoria-class boats operational.

I'm still an optimist about the sub purchase: for what the government was willing to pay, there was no better deal available or likely to become available. That still leaves the poor buggers who have to sail them holding the bag. Given sufficient funding, the problems with the subs are curable — unfortunately, that isn't a "given" at all.

However, because of the relatively low cost of the sub program — now at about $900 million — Mr. Gimblett argues that Canada can afford to invest a couple of more billion dollars in the Victoria-class if need be. He noted that Australia's program to build new submarines is costing about $5 billion.

"Somewhere between $2 billion and $3 billion is the cut-off point where you're reaching the law of diminishing returns," said Mr. Gimblett, a retired Canadian navy lieutenant commander now working as an analyst for Dalhousie University.

Posted by Nicholas at 11:23 AM | Comments (0)

Good advice to the right

Alan provides a welcome dash of common sense in the ongoing feeding frenzy of right-wing bloggers:

Take two steps back and shake your head

There's a whiff of triumphalism in posts on many right-of-centre Canadian weblogs over the yet to be confirmed, allegedly "explosive" testimony of Jean Brault at the Gomery Commission hearings. Let's not put the cart before the horse. The Liberal Party is an ancient and deep-rooted, albeit fruitless, vine, whose tendrils are anchored deep in the mortar of this country. It will not be dislodged by scandal alone. It must be pulled down from the brickwork and uprooted, and that's a task that will see us with backaches and blisters before it's through. So grab your work gloves and your shovel and let's get at it.

Very well put. The sense you might get, on wandering through the right wing of the Canadian blogosphere right now is remarkably similar to that you'd have found on the left of the American 'sphere just before the "Fake, but accurate" memo scandal forced Dan Rather to retire. It might, just might, be enough to unseat the Dithers government, but Canadians are remarkably long-suffering when it comes to Liberal misdeeds. An indiscretion that might get a Tory or NDP or Bloc MP thrown out of the commons somehow doesn't seem as damning if the guilty party has a Liberal membership card.

However, the old mantra of "Peace, Order, and Good Government" seems more and more ironic every day.

Posted by Nicholas at 01:07 AM | Comments (0)

QotD: Judges

Judges often ignore the law in order to deliver decisions that make them happy. I recall my Con. Law professor talking about this. He called it the "TTWILI" rationale: "That's The Way I Like It." A judge will look at the law, find that it directs a result he finds objectionable, and then come up with a way to defy the law. He'll pretend to misinterpret it, or he'll turn a blind eye to inconvenient facts, or whatever it takes. It happens every day. It's the judicial equivalent of jury nullification. And like jury nullification, it is perfectly legal, and there isn't a hell of a lot you can do about it once it's done. Like my father says, "A federal judge is the closest thing to God you will ever see on this earth."

Steve H. "About Injunctive Relief: Read Before You Criticize", Hog On Ice, 2005-03-23

Posted by Nicholas at 12:44 AM | Comments (0)

April 04, 2005

Jane Galt on Gay Marriage

As often happens, I'm late to the party on this one, but on the off-chance you haven't already read Jane's "really, really, really long post about gay marriage that does not, in the end, support one side or the other", then go do so now!

Oh, and a follow-up post, too.

Wow. I wish I could write that well.

Posted by Nicholas at 06:12 PM | Comments (0)

A Fifth of Blackadder?

A report in the Times Online indicates a possible fifth series for Edmund Blackadder:

A cunning plan is afoot to revive one of television's greatest cads. Edmund Blackadder, played by Rowan Atkinson, went "over the top" to almost certain death in the fourth series of the comedy 16 years ago.

Now, according to senior BBC sources, Blackadder is set to survive the first world war and appear in a new story with a strong anti-war message. The character may make his comeback as early as this autumn.

I would find it hard to imagine a more powerful anti-war message than the final episode of the fourth series, but I'm not a particularly imaginative person. The second and third series were among the funniest, most intelligent programmes ever exported from Britain. The fourth series was much, much grimmer: still funny, but the serious message always threatened to overwhelm the humour.

Posted by Nicholas at 04:19 PM | Comments (2)

Liberal Caucus Circles the Wagons

A report posted an hour ago to Canadian Press (link to Yahoo requires login) shows that some Liberal MPs are realizing that the time has come to decide who should be thrown over the side to feed the wolves:

A rattled group of Liberal MPs held a conference call Monday to prepare for a political bomb about to detonate at the sponsorship inquiry.

Quebec MPs held a telephone meeting with provincial cabinet lieutenant Jean Lapierre as a first item of business after Parliament reconvened following a one-week break. They filtered back into the capital as word spread that the sponsorship inquiry is about to get a whole lot messier for Liberals.

A temporary publication ban is blocking the media from providing details — for now — of last week's dramatic testimony before the Gomery inquiry.

It was a surreal conference call where MPs, hungry for details of last week's testimony, discussed the matter while some still had little clue about what was revealed.

I doubt that last statement. Most of the sitting MPs must be at least aware of the general scope of what's being revealed in this testimony, even if they don't know exact names, dates, or dollar amounts. Only freshmen MPs from outside Quebec could hope to plead ignorance on a case this big.

The Gomery Inquiry has been going on quietly for quite some time now, and it always had the potential to blow up into a big media circus . . . you'd have to be wilfully blind to the possibility that it could grow into a government-threatening affair. Scandal, especially financial scandal, is like Viagra for MSM outlets: lots of opportunities to sell newspapers or commercial airtime, a guaranteed audience, and that righteous feeling of being on the side of the angels.

Posted by Nicholas at 02:16 PM | Comments (0)

Repressing free expression in England

Philip Luty tells the tale of how his online writings triggered a major police effort which resulted in the arrest of two of his relatives. Luty maintains the web site thehomegunsmith.com, where he provides information on the manufacture of firearms.

While firearms may be all but totally illegal in Britain, information about them is not. Yet.

Posted by Nicholas at 08:57 AM | Comments (0)

Obvious security flaw

Jon often jokes about the safety conditions in factories — jokes with punchlines that include random body parts as packing material. this one isn't a joke at all:

A Malaysian businessman has lost a finger to car thieves impatient to get around his Mercedes' fingerprint security system. Accountant K Kumaran, the BBC reports, had at first been forced to start the S-class Merc, but when the carjackers wanted to start it again without having him along, they chopped off the end of his index finger with a machete.

Although security systems of this sort are typically fitted to high end cars (because of import duties, Kumaran's car is reported to have been worth $75,000 "second-hand" — under the circumstances, we think we'd have said 'at resale'), they're not in essence particularly high tech or high security. As is the case with most auto security systems, they're mainly a speed bump intended to make it sufficiently hard for the would-be thief to encourage them to look elsewhere for victims. The fingerprint readers themselves will, like similar devices aimed at the computer or electronic device markets, have a fairly broad tolerance, on the basis that products that stop people using their own cars, computers or whatever because their fingers are a bit sweaty won't turn out to be very popular.

Posted by Nicholas at 08:53 AM | Comments (0)

Word Substitution Game

I was reading Victor Davis Hanson's most recent article, when the following paragraph struck me as being particularly appropriate to the Canadian situation:

The villain is no longer the old idea of Aramco or 'big oil,' but the absence of transparency that allows an Arab elite to rake in billions without popular scrutiny. For all the hatred of Israel, millions in the Middle East are beginning to see that Arafat was more a kleptocrat than a leader [ . . . ].

See how accurate the statement is when we "localize" it:

The villain is no longer the old idea of America or 'big business,' but the absence of transparency that allows a Liberal elite to rake in billions without popular scrutiny. For all the hatred of America, millions in the rest of Canada are beginning to see that Chretien was more a kleptocrat than a leader [ . . . ].

Posted by Nicholas at 08:40 AM | Comments (0)

Gomery Information Clearinghouse

Bound By Gravity is your one-stop-shop for everything to do with the Gomery Inquiry. Andrew seems to be finding links for all sorts of fascinating posts. Keep up the good work!

Update: Andrew has removed all the posts that he'd accumulated. While I'm sorry he feels the need to take this step, I'm certainly not going to criticize him for it. Thanks for doing as much as you did, Andrew.

Posted by Nicholas at 12:59 AM | Comments (0)

QotD: Politicians

Q: How can you tell when a politician is telling the truth?

A: When he's curled up in a ball on the ground, crying.

Victor Russon, private conversation, 2005-04-03

Posted by Nicholas at 12:28 AM | Comments (0)

April 03, 2005

Colby Cosh on the Papacy

Colby Cosh has a good post up about the late Pope and some speculation on the next Pope:

Non-Catholics are rightly grateful that the Church, faced with the unexpected crisis precipitated by the premature death of John Paul I, chose a man with experience of the 20th century's worst ideological horrors. The direction Catholicism was to take still had not finally been settled in 1978; the church was still, then, emerging tentatively from the maelstrom of the Second Vatican Council. The Pope's influence stretches well beyond the Cold War proper. Marxist-influenced Liberation Theology was near the height of its prestige at the time of his election, and under a more accommodating Pope it could have survived as a vehicle for Third World socialism. It certainly has the better of the scriptural arguments.

In modern times, the eventual identity of the papal successor has been a surprise more often than not. On the other hand, the attention to the candidacy of Cardinal Ratzinger has become so intense in the past year or so that one half-expects to see him chosen quickly by a cardinal-electorate that is 98% composed of John Paul II's personal appointees. All things being equal, I should have much preferred the present pope to live on much longer, just to go on frustrating the dishonest liberal wishful thinking that characterizes most press coverage of the papacy. Reporters following the Vatican tend to robotically promote candidates representing "diversity" or "change"; any minute now I expect to pick up the morning paper and read the headline "Is It Time For A Gay Pope?"

I'm not Catholic, so the topic of who will become the successor to John Paul II is of only limited interest to me, but Colby is quite correct in his expectations for future newspaper headlines. I have carefully not been looking, but I expect that there have been, or will be, plenty of western journalists pushing for their own favourites as the next Pontiff. Given the population shift in the Catholic church since John Paul II was elected, a third-world candidate may at least have a chance of becoming Pope.

Posted by Nicholas at 06:53 PM | Comments (0)

Maybe we should invest in Barbados-based companies?

Kate shows the real Canadian flag.

Posted by Nicholas at 03:07 PM | Comments (0)

Report Card Analysis by Occam's Carbuncle

Alan re-interprets the arcane and mystical "Conservative party report card" from Andrew Coyne:

In short, the Conservatives deserve our condemnation because they have no cogent plan to tear down in a single term of office the socialist dystopia built up over the last 50 years.

I eagerly await, for the purposes of comparison, Mr. Coyne's corresponding analysis of Liberal policy.

And on top of everything else they did wrong, they didn't promise to give everyone a magic pony!

Posted by Nicholas at 02:52 PM | Comments (0)

Shhhhh! Gomery Publication Ban in Place!

Unless, of course, you were to go to some off-beat blog like REDACTED, where the ban is apparently not being enforced for some strange reason. You'd think he was based in another country, or something like that.

As loyal, law-abiding Canadians, none of us would be so curious about the doings of our Liberal masters to actually want to visit that site and search for things like, oh, I don't know, maybe "Gomery" or "Corruption Scandal", would we? I didn't think so.

Update: The Flea comments on the publication ban and how it affects bloggers in Canada and elsewhere.

Update, the second: After reading this, I've decided to be a bit more indirect about the link that used to appear in the original posting. Sorry for the slight inconvenience.

Update, the third: At the request of my virtual landlord, I've had to further obscure the information above. Sorry for the less-than-slight inconvenience. According to various sources, even mentioning the name of the American blog might be enough to trigger contempt of court proceedings.

Update, the fourth: After the third update, I was asked to observe the spirit of the request, not just the letter. The name of the blog has been removed from this post.

Posted by Nicholas at 11:23 AM | Comments (3)

QotD: War

A nation that does not prepare for all the forms of war should then renounce the use of war in national policy. A people that does not prepare to fight should then be morally prepared to surrender. To fail to prepare soldiers and citizens for limited, bloody ground action, and then to engage in it, is folly verging on the criminal.

T.R. Fehrenbach, This Kind of War

Posted by Nicholas at 02:09 AM | Comments (0)

April 02, 2005

QotD: Relationships

Do you know what the funny thing is about mixed signals, OCC? In most instances mixed signals are actually one loud, clear, unmistakable signal: "I'm a fucking mess! Run! Run! Run!" The reason you can't decipher the singular signal Alaska Boy is sending you, OCC, is because you're suffering from a bad case of Wishful Thinking Syndrome (WTS). This man is damaged goods, OCC, but you're so in love with him that you can't see him for what he is.

So how do we know he's damaged goods? Let's count the ways: For starters he's a single man who chooses to live in Alaska, which should be renamed the Alaskan National Damaged Goods Refuge.

Dan Savage, Savage Love, 2005-03-23

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

April 01, 2005

Parenting, in the good old days

Gerard Vanderleun recounts a tale from a by-gone era, when children did not have all the resources of the state to defend them from the consequences of their own actions:

It was a terrible moment, a humiliating moment [. . .] But humiliation was to turn to terror.

It got worse because, after my mother had stood there to witness my degradation, she looked into my eyes and spoke the words any child hates most to hear in this world: "Well, we will have to have a very serious talk about this. We'll start right after your father gets home."

". . . Right after your father gets home." In that era any sane kid's first thought after hearing those words was to wonder if he still has time to kill himself before that moment rolled around. You see, in those distant days, the fathers were at work and the mothers were at home, and when the fathers came home from work they were likely to be just a wee bit cranky from "the job." Hence, their mood was always going to hover somewhere between mildly irritated and homicidal, depending on what had happened at the office and in the bar car after work.

Posted by Nicholas at 04:48 PM | Comments (1)

The Tech Writing World is Aghast!

Adobe has announced that they'll be outsourcing development of their FrameMaker product line to Microsoft:

Adobe Systems Incorporated (Nasdaq:ADBE) today reported strong interest by Microsoft (Nasdaq: MSFT) in Adobe FrameMaker technology co-development.

Microsoft has said that the boom in XML development and publishing has left them in need of strong partnerships with companies that are leading the XML publishing market. To that end, discussions between both companies have led to a working agreement to co-develop a future release of Adobe FrameMaker.

"We had been seriously considering the discontinuation of the entire FrameMaker product," said Bruce R. Chizen, chief executive officer. "However, with the interest of a partner such as Microsoft to assist in the development costs and to help in the marketing and distribution through a variety of resellers, we re-evaluated our position. I'm very happy indeed to be able to state that we are going to continue the development after all."

Further in the press release, they point out the key part of the deal:

While Microsoft continues to be the most powerful company in the software market, most people agree that Adobe has shinier, and prettier marketing pamphlets.

Adobe therefore will develop and distribute the bulk of the marketing materials for FrameMaker. By continuing to use the same fonts, graphics and page size Adobe is showing a committment to the products longevity. Says Chizen, "make no mistake about this. We know that our glossy paper and great font faces, such as Minion and Myriad, continue to impress people who look for software. We plan to distribute marketing materials across the country and around the globe."

Posted by Nicholas at 10:24 AM | Comments (2)

Talk about your cool tech toys

A recent article in The Economist talked about a really interesting idea: the Fab Lab:

STAR TREK had the replicator — a device that could assemble any object, atom by atom. The Nutri-Matic vending machine concocted drinks molecule by molecule in "The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy", personalising them by analysing an individual's taste buds, metabolism and brainwaves (though then, it has to be admitted, turning out a beverage that tasted almost, but not quite entirely, unlike tea). Now, for those still stuck on Earth, Neil Gershenfeld, the director of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology's Centre for Bits and Atoms, has built version 1.0 of the personal fabricator, and it is already being deployed around the world.

The "fab lab", as Dr Gershenfeld has nicknamed his invention, is a collection of commercially available machines that, while not yet able to put things together from their component atoms, can, according to its inventor, be used to make just about anything with features bigger than those of a computer chip. Among other tools it includes a laser cutter that makes two-dimensional and three-dimensional structures, a device that uses a computer-controlled knife to carve antennas and flexible electrical connections, a miniature milling machine that manoeuvres a cutting tool in three dimensions to make circuit boards and other precision parts, a set of software for programming cheap computer chips known as microcontrollers, and a jigsaw (a narrow-bladed cutting device, not a picture puzzle). Together, these can machine objects with a precision of a millionth of a metre. The fab lab's purpose is to endow inventors — particularly those in poor countries who lack a formal education and the resources to implement their ideas — with a set of tools that can translate back-of-the-envelope designs into working prototypes.

This is exactly the sort of successor to the desktop printer that Jon and I have talked about several times. The idea of being able to "print off" a three-dimensional object is very, very attractive. Not that I personally have that sort of skill . . .

Posted by Nicholas at 12:32 AM | Comments (0)

QotD: Modern Parenthood

I took an informal poll of parents I know. At what age or stage of development can Mom or Dad go ahead and sit down, reasonably assured their little darlings will survive a solo whirl on the jungle gym? Instead of a hard-and-fast answer, what I got was the sense that we hover for numerous and complicated reasons. We fear school buses, babysitters, and sometimes even Grandma and Grandpa, who may not know any better than to let the baby cry a little on her way to sleep. We're scared adversity will scar our kids or, conversely, that they'll be bored — a condition that, left untreated, might turn them into school shooters.

But we also fear their independence. We're up there in the climber because we can't afford to miss a minute of face time, you see. We believe our physical presence is the linchpin to the children's emotional well-being and, although we never say so out loud, we want it that way — because it's central to our well-being. We're scared the kids will grow up to resent the fact that Mommy works, or — the biggest golem on the list — they just plain won't like us. And in an age of high divorce rates and transient communities, kids who don't like us suggest the possibility that we might really end up alone.

Beth Hawkins, "Safe Child Syndrome: Protecting kids to death", City Pages, Volume 26 - Issue 1267

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

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