June 30, 2005

NFL fines Vikings Coaches for Superbowl ticket scalping

The NFL disciplined Vikings head coach Mike Tice and two of his assistants in the Superbowl ticket scalping case. Tice has been fined $100,000 and Dean Dalton (running backs) and Rusty Tillman (special teams) were each fined $10,000 for their part in the racket.

In other NFL news, Patriots owner Robert Kraft says that he did give his Superbowl ring to Russian President Vladimir Putin. It was not stolen or mistakenly borrowed as implied in earlier accounts.

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

I wish my investment profile looked like this

Sorry for the dearth of new stuff . . . major deadline at midnight, so I'm just a tad busy. This is the first year of Quotulatiousness after I added a Site Meter counter to the page:

TotalVisits_July04_Jun05.png

Although there was some oddness during December and March (funny how the traffic drops off when people get vacation time, isn't it), the overall trend is pretty encouraging.

Posted by Nicholas at 03:49 PM | Comments (0)

QotD: Dentistry

Is my dentist not bound by the Geneva Convention?

Gerhard Kocher, Vorsicht, Medizin! Aphorismen zum Gesundheitswesen und zur Gesundheitspolitik, 2000 (English translation provided by the author)

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

June 29, 2005

Civilization IV preview

The preview for Civ IV is quite amusing. Hit the link and select the "Stream for free" link (you can download it if you're a member of Gamespot . . . which I'm not).

Posted by Nicholas at 04:51 PM | Comments (1)

New addition to toolkit

Went out to Markham Industrial to pick up my latest new tool:

KingFramingNailer_29Jun05.jpg

Jon says that the People's Liberation Army Navy will be naming a nuclear attack sub after me for buying Chinese-made tools.

Posted by Nicholas at 01:26 PM | Comments (6)

Putin pockets Superbowl ring

AP is reporting (link via Yahoo) that Russian President Vladimir Putin now has a Superbowl ring:

Russian President Vladimir Putin walked off with New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft's diamond-encrusted 2005 Super Bowl ring, but was it a generous gift or a very expensive international misunderstanding?

Following a meeting of American business executives and Putin at Konstantinovsky Palace near St. Petersburg on Saturday, Kraft showed the ring to Putin — who tried it on, put it in his pocket and left, according to Russian news reports.

It wasn't clear if Kraft, whose business interests include paper and packaging companies and venture capital investments, intended that Putin keep the ring.

I know that Superbowl rings are relatively enormous, and not the sort of thing that you'd wear casually. Does one of them qualify as a typical gift given to foreign heads of state? Would it cause an international incident to give an ugly piece of jewelry to the head of a former superpower?

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

Red beats Blue at Trafalgar re-enactment . . . or is it the other way around?

Yesterday's celebration of the 200th anniversary of the Battle of Trafalgar (where some guys beat some other guys, but we're not supposed to mention the war):

A spectacular fireworks display last night over the Solent followed by the illumination of the Fleet, brought the curtain down on a day commemorating the 200th anniversary of the Battle of Trafalgar.

The 10,000 fireworks launched from 35 pontoons and six barges could be seen five miles away.

On shore, 250,000 spectators had lined vantage points in and around Portsmouth to witness the event and remember a battle which had been fought at walking pace over nearly half a day rather than hours.

Earlier, as night fell, bursts of orange flame meant to simulate cannon blast illuminated the sky during a mock battle which included a replica 18th century frigate portraying HMS Victory — the flagship which Admiral Nelson had commanded in 1805.

A fleet of ships from all over the world lined up for Royal inspection in a celebration which also marked the death of Britain's greatest naval hero, Admiral Lord Nelson.

To avoid upsetting anyone, the re-enactment was carefully staged between equal sized forces of "Red" and "Blue", with no winners or losers, and all got a prize. Some participants were less happy with the entire proceedings:

The irony of commemorating their defeat with their former enemies did not go unrecognised by all those on board.

"A lot of seamen on the Charles De Gaulle found it bizarre to celebrate with the English a battle that we have lost — it was provocative," said Stephane Lombardo, a pilot with the French Navy.

"If they have had a chance, half of the sailors would not have come," he added.

To be fair, the impact of the loss on the French was less than the value of the victory to the English: Napoleon could continue to fight on land, while England could not have kept fighting if the outcome of Trafalgar had been reversed.

Posted by Nicholas at 10:46 AM | Comments (0)

Scotland bans the claymore . . . again

A report in The Scotsman details the push by the Scottish regional government to ban swords, knives, and pointy sticks:

Cathy Jamieson, the justice minister, published a consultation paper yesterday which recommended a ban on the sale of swords and severe restrictions on the sale of all "non-domestic knives".

If the restrictions are approved, only licensed shops would be able to sell hunting and sporting knives and anyone who wants to buy one will have to provide their personal details to the government as well as a good reason for ownership.

Ministers also announced plans for an outright ban on so-called stealth knives, police-style night sticks and truncheons, to be implemented within a matter of months.

Stealth knives, which are made up of non-metallic blades, are popular with criminals because they can slip unnoticed through metal detectors.

All these weapons will be banned without a consultation, probably by September, bringing Scotland into line with England and Wales.

There really is a problem in Britain, but banning knives and such will only start to tackle it. Next, all beer will have to be sold in plastic containers (broken beer bottles are better bar-fighting weapons than knives, really). That will promptly be followed by all other liquids. Sell your stock in the glass industry now.

Batons, which are really just specialized sticks, are included in the proposed ban. Normal sticks will be banned in the next session — including walking sticks (with or without concealed sword blades), cricket bats (England will never beat Australia again, so why bother encouraging the sport), and hockey sticks. Only licensed sporting goods stores will be allowed to sell any non-round wooden or composite sports equipment.

Tree branches will be covered in the session following that, with unlicensed possession of anything made of wood becoming an ASBO-able offense.

The police will have discretion to interpret the law on the carrying of offensive weapons, as they do now.

So, as long as you don't get up the nose of the investigating officer, you might just get off with a warning. Be in any way distasteful to PC John Peel, and you'll be up on charges faster than you can blink. Discretion is always part of the job of policing, regardless of what the written law may say, but actually writing in the discretion is a license for unequal application of the law. Do I need to say that this is a bad idea?

Hat tip to Elizabeth.

Posted by Nicholas at 10:23 AM | Comments (4)

QotD: Conservatism

I believe the very heart and soul of conservatism is libertarianism . . . The basis of conservatism is a desire for less government interference or less centralized authority or more individual freedom.

Ronald Reagan, quoted in "Inside Ronald Reagan", Reason, 1975-07

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

June 28, 2005

Grade 8 Graduation

Victor officially survived Grade 8. I even have photographic proof:

VictorGrad1578.jpg

Victor is the tall one. The short guy is the principal of his (now former) school.

After the formal graduation ceremonies, Victor and his immediate circle of friends grudgingly had some photos taken:

VictorAndMiniVictor_1579.jpgVictoriaDanielleJohnVictor1587.jpg

Victor and his "twin" brother. Who is shorter. And has curly hair. But otherwise they're quite alike. So I'm told.

Victor and "the Scooby Gang": Victoria, Danielle, and John

Every now and again, a photographic mistake can actually work in your favour. This is an example of what might have been a botched photo which actually (in my opinion) looks better due to unintentional camera artifacts:

VictorDramaticPose1580.jpg

Victor strikes a dramatic pose.

Posted by Nicholas at 11:43 PM | Comments (1)

Okay, just one post

Wouldn't this be just so ironically right?

Hat tip to Dusty.

Posted by Nicholas at 04:17 PM | Comments (0)

Another day of work, work, work

Too busy today to skive off and find interesting stuff to blog about. Victor's graduation ceremony (they have a graduation ceremony for Grade 8? Who knew?) is tonight, and I have to leave the office early to get home for that. Perhaps something will appear later tonight, but sorry, no promises.

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

QotD: Modern Medicine

You can't treat a car like a patient. A car needs love.

Gerhard Kocher, Vorsicht, Medizin! Aphorismen zum Gesundheitswesen und zur Gesundheitspolitik, 2000 (English translation provided by the author)

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

June 27, 2005

Interplanetary fireworks show on July 4

The Deep Impact spacecraft will attempt to nail a passing comet, Tempel 1, with an 820-pound "bullet". If it's successful, the firework display should be visible with the naked eye and scientists hope to reap some detailed information about the composition of comets:

Scientists hope the July 4 collision will gouge a crater in the comet's surface large enough to reveal its pristine core and perhaps yield cosmic clues to the origin of the solar system.

NASA's fleet of space-based observatories — including the Hubble, Spitzer and Chandra telescopes — along with an army of ground-based telescopes around the world are expected to record the impact and resulting crater.

The big question is: What kind of fireworks can sky-gazers expect to see from Earth?

Scientists do not know yet. But if the probe hits the bull's-eye, the impact could temporarily light up the comet as much as 40 times brighter than normal, possibly making it visible to the naked eye in parts of the Western Hemisphere.

"We're getting closer by the minute," Andrew Dantzler, the director of NASA's solar system division, said earlier this month. "I'm looking forward to a great encounter on the Fourth of July."

Posted by Nicholas at 10:23 PM | Comments (0)

L. Neil Smith pans the Supremes

L. Neil Smith has a column in this week's Libertarian Enterprise on the hot topic of the sudden lurch to the authoritarian side by the US Supreme Court:

The last couple of weeks have been illuminating, to say the least. In two separate declarations, the United States Supreme Court has given us all a lesson in civics that nobody should ever be allowed to forget.

In the first, the court held that, no matter what the Constitution says (or doesn't say) to the contrary, the federal government has the legal power to outlaw marijuana — or anything else, for that matter — and that power supercedes any right a state or the people have to disagree.

In the second, it asserted that government has a legitimate power to steal your home or anything else you possess and hand it over to whatever crooks shelled out the biggest contributions the last time around.

In some ways, the two decisions, Raich and Kelo are no surprise: they merely confirm that what the federal government has been doing for the past umpteen years is legal. Just like in Canada, Americans don't really own their property: it can be taken if the government chooses to, and some notion of compensation is offered. The legal marijuana movement has taken a huge body blow, as the court decided that even cancer patients, growing a few cannabis plants for their own use, are somehow having an impact on interstate commerce, and therefore the government can arrest them.

It's been a bad month for personal and economic liberty.

Posted by Nicholas at 09:40 PM | Comments (0)

Roman Invasion a PR stunt?

According to some new evidence (or reinterpretation of old evidence), some historians are making a case for the famous Roman invasion of Britain in 43 AD being little more than a public relations gambit to raise the popularity of Claudius Caesar:

Britain was home to Roman citizens some 50 years before the AD43 "invasion" date that generations of schoolchildren have been taught, new research has revealed.

The previously accepted version of the Roman invasion has its origins in the work of ancient spin-doctors trying to boost the reputation of the Emperor Claudius.

Archaeologists believe that a series of military artefacts unearthed in Chichester, Sussex, and dated decades before the AD43 date will turn conventional Roman history on its head.

The experts also believe that when the Romans arrived in Chichester they were welcomed as liberators by ancient Britons who were delighted when the "invaders" overthrew a series of brutal tribal kings guilty of terrorising southern England.

I probably won't get a chance to see the TV presentation until it makes its way over to Canadian TV (in a year or so, based on average times), so I can't comment directly about the show or its claims. It does strike me that this will only strengthen the segment of the population who already think that many historical events were "staged" (the 1969 Apollo moon landings being only the most widespread such notion).

Hat tip to Elizabeth.

Posted by Nicholas at 09:32 PM | Comments (0)

Football on game console, seamy-side up

Blitz: The League, a game title for Xbox and PlayStation 2 is due out later this year. It's not an NFL-sanctioned release, and does not use NFL team names or uniforms in their simulation. It does, however, include lots of things that the NFL would never allow in a licensed game:

On the field, there are grunts, taunts and big hits. Not to mention revenge and dirty play.

Players can deliberately injure opponents. Coaches can decide whether to let injured players heal or inject them with painkillers to get them through a game. Of course, freezing an injury can lead to even more pain for the player if he is hurt again.

When Blitz was a licensed game, the NFL used to scrutinize everything.

"There are so many things that the NFL always has not allowed us to do," Boyes said. "Right down to the intensity of tackles. We would have to submit them video footage of everything from the entire game and they would go through them and mark off 'Can't use this, can't use this.'

"Luckily we kept track of every move they ever cut. Just good accounting. We went through all our historical notes and found every one they had turned down and we turned all right back on."

I don't play any of the various game consoles, so I have no idea how good (or bad) this game might be, but it does sound as if they'll capture that vital XFL-market sector.

Posted by Nicholas at 09:22 PM | Comments (0)

Quiet 'round here, isn't it?

Work has accellerated towards that looming deadline I've mentioned once or twice. This week's postings will probably accumulate and be tossed out in a bunch as opportunity arises.

This posting is brought to you by Web Works Professional and Source Off Site Classic, both of whom are conspiring to hijack my machine for a few minutes, allowing me to post something really short.

Time's up.

Posted by Nicholas at 05:00 PM | Comments (0)

QotD: Persuasion

But I really do not expect people to agree with me. People haven't agreed with me as a soft Marxist, as a social engineering transport economist, as a quantitative economic historian, as a Chicago School economist, as a neoinstitutionalist, as a libertarian, as a global monetarist, as a free market feminist. No wonder they don't agree with me as a rhetorician of science.

Of course, like most people, I do assume that those people are wrong and I am right. (And in sober truth — can I confide in you as a friend? — I am right.)

Deirdre McCloskey, "The Rhetoric of Economics", 1998

Hat tip to Grant "I can take a hint" McCracken.

Posted by Nicholas at 08:09 AM | Comments (0)

June 26, 2005

This is why headline writers get paid more than mere reporters

Angry discovers just how much power a mere headline writer can wield over the residual impression a news article will leave a reader with:

So what's the point of playing these games with headlines? Whatever fleeting impression is provided by the headline is going to be replaced once you read the article.

An Online Publishers Association study in September of 2004 showed that newspapers are the first choice of a media source for 3.2% of the population, and second choice for another 6%. These are dismal numbers (television came in at 35% and 28%, and the Internet at 46% and 32%). Moreover, 95% of people spent less than two hours a week reading newspapers.

This suggests that few people exposed to newspapers actually spend time reading the articles — at less than 2 hours a week, there simply isn't enough time to read more than a couple of articles in detail. This might seem like a disappointment to journalists, but it is a huge opportunity for headline writers. Knowing as they do that few people will actually read the article, they can, if they so chose to, transmit a message via the headlines, since most readers are just glancing at the pages.

When I was young and not-quite-as-cynical as I am now, I often wondered why the reporters in the newspaper chose such odd headlines for their articles: I didn't grasp that the reporter had no control over the headlines, and that the headlines were much more likely to be tailored to a particular viewpoint regardless of the actual content of the article. It must have been disillusioning to young reporters to read their first bylines in the newspaper . . . and to find that the headline was so out-of-joint with the story.

And, as Angry points out, the headline is often the only impression the casual reader gets from the story, unless there's also an eye-catching picture to accompany it.

Posted by Nicholas at 01:42 PM | Comments (0)

USMC purchasing anti-IED vehicles

According to a news release on the USMC News website, the Marines are investing in some new vehicles developed in South Africa specifically for their ability to survive IED explosions with greater protection for personnel onboard:

With its flat bottom and soft-skin plastic doors, if a humvee is directly hit by a land mine or IED, most likely the passengers inside will lose their life and the vehicle will be destroyed beyond repair, said Maj. Gert de Wet, Central Command plans officer.

"In 1968, South Africans in conjunction with Rhodesians started developing the technology to create new vehicles that would counter the land mine threat introduced in the Bush War in Southern Africa. They developed the technology that created a new modular design for their military vehicles. For example, the vehicle’s wheels could be blown off in a mine/IED blast, but the passengers and the rest of the vehicle survived," said de Wet.

Here are a few officially released photos of the new vehicles:

USMC_Cougar1.jpgUSMC_Cougar2.jpg

Front view of the Cougar

Side view of the new vehicle.

The Marine Corps recognized these vehicles' successful track record and became interested in incorporating them into the fleet.

The Corps decided to do business with Force Protection, located in South Carolina, which is the company that developed a version of a Mine Resistant Ambush protected vehicle named the Cougar.

"These vehicles are all designed from the ground up specifically built to survive IEDs and ambushes. The v-shaped hull assists deflection of a mine or IED blast away from the vehicle’s capsule keeping the passengers safe and the vehicle intact. The vehicle is also built to rollover and is equipped with multi-point, racing style harnesses, so if the vehicle rolled 360 degrees the passengers inside would avoid injury," said de Wet.

Hat tip to Dennis Huff, who posted the link to the TacOps mailing list.

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

Steve H. expounds on Nerdness. Nerditude? Nerdulaciousness?

Over at Hog on Ice, Steve H. goes out of his way to vivisect those odd folks who qualify as "nerds":

In one form or another, we all become nerds.

What are nerds, really? Not just people who are way into math and science. No, in my opinion, a nerd is anyone who is so heavily into a pursuit other people find trivial that he becomes sort of a social untouchable.

Neat summary. That'll probably make its way into the Quotulatiousness database by itself. But it gets much better:

Example: SCA nerds. "Society for Creative Anachronism." I've written about these unfortunates before. In the process, I smoked out more than one reader who owns a codpiece and canvas tights.

They dress up as Renaissance and medieval characters — I think those are the eras they obsess on — and they go to festivals where you will see a heartrending panorama of pathological nerddom. They call each other "varlet" and crap. Like, "Forsooth, varlet, a pox on thee, for thou hast Bogarted the last hot cross bun." And I think they also hit each other with cardboard swords. I certainly hope so.

That last paragraph is much like what Jon often says about my occasional dabbling in the SCA . . . except Jon's not usually as polite as Steve is here.

It's not just hapless SCA types who benefit from Steve's verbal-surgery-without-anaesthetic, either:

Where was I? You don't have to be a science person to be a nerd. There are gun nerds. I got yelled at here for smirking about people who wear camo to the GUN RANGE. Like you have to SNEAK UP ON A PAPER TARGET. Hey, that's funny. I'm sorry if it hits close to home. What do you want me to do? Lie?

And most of those guys would pretty much have to sneak up on a target if they planned to hit it.

The post was originally inspired by one of Steve's regular readers who pointed him in the direction of some art supplies (Steve's does some cartooning on his Huffington's Toast parody site). She referred to the catalogue from that supplier as being "porn for calligraphers". Steve continues:

One of the signs of nerddom is the worship of celebrities who are only famous within your unique nerddom field. Let me quote a little subject heading from the catalogue: "CHERRYL MOOTE HAS DONE IT AGAIN!"

Right away, if you have any grasp of how nerddom works, you understand why that sentence cracks me up.

I have no idea who Cherryl Moote is, but you just know that if she walked into a calligraphy convention, people would grab their cell phones and call their best friends and whisper, "YOU'LL NEVER GUESS WHO JUST WALKED IN! CHERRYL MOOTE! YES, WAY!"

If she backed into your car in front of the Shriners' Hall or whatever building the convention was in, and you got out and started yelling at her for being a clumsy oaf who shouldn't be allowed to drive a golf cart with rubber bumpers, calligraphy nerds would storm up to you and yell, "I hope you realize you just insulted CHERRYL MOOTE!" And they'd look at you, waiting for the horror to sink in.

There are so many groups within which Joe or Jane Normal suddenly becomes a NAME, with a slobbering coterie of followers, fans, and (inevitably) sniping detractors and grumpy anti-fans. Celebrity and fame, writ extra-extra-small, if you will. The smaller the group, the sadder it is when the "micro celebrity" starts feeling as if the world outside their little nerd universe should also be paying them the honour and respect to which they now feel entitled.

The worst ones, in my experience, are the folks who achieve SCA fame by becoming King of their SCA kingdom. For some of them, it gives delusions of grandeur — especially if they have never achieved any distinction in the real world. There are few things more irritating than someone who tries to carry on as "Duke Sir Hauteur of Arrogance, O.L., O.P., K.S.C.A" or "Countess Clique of Gossipmongertown" when they're unemployable career students or just barely able to keep a minimum wage job. It's a hobby, guys!

Just because your prize marrow was featured on the front page of Gourd and Squash Journal doesn't make you famous in the real world. Your prize-winning model of a glue factory (complete with realistic smells) isn't going to be valued outside your sub-group of industrial modelling.

I guess sometimes it's hard to look at your friends' hobbies and decide whether the appropriate response is encouragement, or a Thorazine suppository followed by an abduction and an intervention assisted by electric shock to the genitals.

Of course, none of my hobbies are in any way weird or unusual. It's all those odd and obscure interests of other people that are subject to the raised eyebrow of barely concealed amusement or the clenched jaw of repressed contempt.

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

QotD: Government Power

For years, people in less than a dozen states have been smoking medical marijuana to help cope with such things as brain tumors and multiple sclerosis. The federal government, however, sees such attempts at pain relief as selfish. These people are undermining the war on drugs, the feds say. And, last week, the Supreme Court agreed. In a 6-3 ruling, the court confirmed that federal anti-drug laws overrule state medical marijuana laws. Federal power is far more important than some cancer-havin' stoner's excruciating pain. So now the feds can feel free to bust anyone who smokes, grows, prescribes, or distributes medical marijuana, even if they live in one of the few states where doing so was approved democratically.

Why is it the American government so hates average Americans?

I'm not really being facetious here. I think a strong case can be made, based on this decision, that the government actually hates and despises ordinary people—that they, in fact, wish pain on us.

Jonathan David Morris, "Smoke For Jesus", The Libertarian Enterprise, 2005-06-19

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

June 25, 2005

Hubble spies out Sauron

The Hubble telescope has captured an image that proves that Sauron escaped from Barad-Dur and is plotting his revenge:

Saurons_Eye.JPG

A spectacular, luminous ring offers the best evidence yet that a nearby star is circled by a newly formed solar system.

The ring is composed of dust particles in orbit around Fomalhaut, a bright star located just 25 light years away in the constellation Pisces Austalis — or the Southern Fish. A recent image captured with the Hubble Space Telescope — which makes the system look uncannily like the Great Eye of Sauron from the blockbusting Lord of the Rings trilogy — confirms that Fomalhaut’s ring is curiously offset with respect to the star.

I'd be plotting paths to the nearest volcano if I were you . . .

Hat tip to Pat Matthews.

Posted by Nicholas at 10:55 AM | Comments (1)

QotD: Freedom

A man is not free because he's permitted to vote for his political masters. The subjects of the late, unlamented Soviet Union enjoyed that "right". So did the subjects of Saddam Hussein.

A man is not free because some portion of his earnings is still his to spend on a variety of attractive goods. Not if the government can punish him for choosing goods it has not approved.

A man is not free because the long arm of the law has not yet descended on his neck. That's more properly called a stay of execution.

A man is free if, and only if, he has the unchallenged right to do as he damned well pleases with his life, his property, and with any other responsible, consenting adult, provided only that he respects the equal freedom of all other men.

Francis W. Porretto, "No Law Abridging", Eternity Road, 2004-09-13

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

June 24, 2005

Curry is addictive! Film at 11!

I'm a fan of many of the traditional Indian dishes we generically call "curry", but apparently I'm also addicted:

Mr Mohamad, an MP in Prime Minister Abdullah Badawi's party, says the food is laced with opium poppy seeds — known as kas kas in Malay, and used legally by chefs around the world.

He told parliament that it had become the norm for young Malaysians to hang out in Mamak restaurants into the small hours of the morning.

He believes they and many others have become addicted to the food and he called for kas kas to be banned.

However, Mr Mohamad stopped short of demanding that offending restaurant owners be locked up under Malaysia's Internal Security Act.

Now I understand why I get those inexplicable cravings for Dal or Channa Masala, or even Aloo Ghobi: it's not hunger, it's chemical withdrawal!

Hat tip to Fark.com.

Posted by Nicholas at 03:51 PM | Comments (2)

Canadian smugness undented by reality

A Globe and Mail article finds that a recent Pew study of attitudes shows that Canada still dwells in the mystical land of Smugistan:

Canadians, on the other hand, are utterly convinced of their popularity, with a breathtaking 94 per cent believing Canada is popular with others and only 4 per cent believing it is not liked.

Among developed countries, only the Dutch at 83 per cent, come anywhere close to Canadians in their conviction that they are beloved in the world.

But Canada doesn't win the sweepstakes as the world's leading land of opportunity. Asked where a young person should emigrate to in order to "lead a good life," Australia was picked by respondents in four countries, including Britain, the Netherlands, Germany and Canada. Canada was chosen as the leading land of opportunity in three countries — France, the United States and China. Two countries picked Britain and Germany.

Of course, even a bastion of self-regard sometimes has opinions about the world outside:

Canadians' views of American personal attributes are more negative than residents of any other traditional U.S. ally.

While 77 per cent of Canadians surveyed believe Americans are hard-working and 76 per cent believe they're inventive, 62 per cent say Americans are greedy and 64 per cent believe they are violent.

Hat tip to SOMNIA.

Posted by Nicholas at 03:07 PM | Comments (2)

Limitations of fixed-focus digital cameras

On Wednesday night, driving east out of Toronto at about 10:00 at night, the moon rising out of Lake Ontario looked just immense (and bright orange). I kept hoping I'd find a good spot to take a couple of photos, but between the need to keep the car on the road and the fact that I only had my Treo 600 with me, there was no opportunity.

When we got home to Brooklin, I took a photo, but it's really just an illustration of how a fixed focus camera is a poor mechanism for trying to capture what the eyes see:

MoonOverBrooklin_22Jun05.jpg

This article discusses the "huge moon" phenomenon we were observing that night.

Posted by Nicholas at 11:25 AM | Comments (0)

The kind of tale that grows in the telling

Victor got back from his class trip to Quebec City yesterday evening, and regaled us with his adventures last night. I'm not sure what Elizabeth expected, but the stories could almost have been taken from a WW2 prisoner-of-war movie, with curfews, guards prowling around the rooms, snap inspections, and post-lights-out visits from other "prisoners" who combat-crawl along ledges and jump over balconies. It sounds like all it needed to be complete were spotlights randomly playing outside the windows, air-raid sirens, and some marching jackboots in the background.

The floating poker game was usually in Victor's room, but (at least so far as I've heard) there were no tunnelling attempts. As to the less-exciting parts of the trip, those were breezed through in less than five minutes.

In summary, he had fun. He got so little sleep over the week that he was glazing over even while telling the tales.

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

QotD: Big Brother

I suppose my defeatist attitude is precisely what they — they being governments and corporations — are trying to cultivate with all of this oppression.

I don't relish the Winston Smith role. I'll just pass on the rats in Room 101 and skip right to the mindless, thoughtless bliss of Big Brotherly love without having to have it beaten into me.

Actually, it seems that Orwell was mistaken. Oppression does not have to mean dismal living conditions, horrible food, telescreen propaganda and rusty rationed razor blades. Big government can control people far more effectively by giving them a small slice of comfort and domesticity. Allow them a modest home. Encourage them to accumulate trinkets and toys and the occasional status symbol. Allow commercial marketing to develop the propaganda that shapes opinion and mood and sets people on the desired path. Commercial marketing is far more effective than state propaganda — "Drivers Wanted" has recruited more people than any poster featuring a stern and serious Uncle Sam. Keep them somewhat comfortable, keep them acquisitive rather than inquisitive, keep them entertained rather than informed — and no-one will be seriously tempted to pursue an alternative.

Jonathan Piasecki, private e-mail, 1999-07-07

Posted by Nicholas at 12:03 AM | Comments (2)

June 23, 2005

WSPQ? WTF?

I was sure I'd posted a link to the World's Smallest Political Quiz on the blog sometime last year, but perhaps I'm hallucinating again.

WSPQ_result.png

I must be getting more doctrinaire in my old age: I think I used to score 90/90 on the older version of the quiz.

Posted by Nicholas at 03:34 PM | Comments (0)

Vinbonics: a quick guide to wine language

Lileks seems to be getting into wine lately, and today he provided a link to a useful debunking of some wine tasting terms.

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

China cracks down on blogging . . . again

Myrick calls for help tracking access for Chinese blogs, as several Chinese blogs have become inaccessible from major cities in China.

"Sponsors of the current crackdown include . . ."

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

Brooklin's new newspaper

To my surprise, our little village now has a local newspaper:

BrooklinCitizen_23Jun05.jpg

The Brooklin Citizen is published as an insert to the Whitby This Week distribution in north Whitby. I'm sure they had some interesting ideas for naming the new publication. If they'd polled the original residents, I think we'd have ended up with names like this:

  • The Brooklin Invader
  • The Brooklin Outsider
  • The Brooklin Go Back To Toronto, Yuppie Scum!
  • The Brooklin Alienation

The village has grown over 500% in the past 15 years, with the current population estimated at 13,500. The original residents, to be polite, were uncomfortable with all their new neighbours.

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

More on the United Airlines pension situation

Ian Welsh has an interesting post up about the ongoing pension problems at bankrupt United Airlines. He starts off by quoting The Economist's "Buttonwood" column (subscription may be required for that link):

[I]n America... people are speaking openly of a taxpayer bail-out to rival the rescue of America's savings-and-loan (S&L) sector in the late 1980s. The pensions insured with the PBGC showed a shortfall... the PBGC needs an infusion of $92 billion in today's dollars to meet its future obligations....

Companies and asset managers have tended to take a laid-back approach to pension underfunding.... What is worrying about the latest numbers is that we are seeing them towards the end of a period of strong economic growth and corporate profitability, neither of which is likely to continue....

Ian points out what should be the most obvious point about this:

Let's get this straight — corporate officers knowingly underfunded pension plans, obeying the letter of the law but violating its spirit. But while doing so they also did something else — they knowingly decided to take a chance on violating their contractual obligations. In fact they didn't just take a chance on it — they made decisions which would almost certainly lead to them failing to meet their contractual obligations to their retired workers.

This illustrates one of the big problems with trying to legislate economic activities beyond the basics of providing penalties for force, fraud, and deliberate malpractice. The corporate officers who made those decisions clearly were more influenced by the "letter of the law": and they are, in effect, being rewarded for paying closer attention to the legal side than the business side:

Lets take United. What would have been the consequences of them going out of business? Their planes would have been bought up, their other assets would have been bought up, and facing less competition the price of airfares might have gone up slightly, making every other carrier slightly more solvent. Yes, their workers would have lost their jobs, but compared to pensioners they are in a better position to deal with it. Furthermore, if there isn't excess capacity in the industry they stand a decent chance of being rehired and if there is excess capacity then someone's jobs were going to be lost soon enough anyway.

But the consequence of relieving United of its debt, as Hale has pointed out, is that every other carrier who hasn't reneged on their pension plan, is now under pressure to do so, because they are operating under a liability which United is not. Moreover, lets face facts — United's management are incompetent. They fucked up. Instead of being punished for it, they have been rewarded by being given another chance.

There is a huge problem with the laws, as currently configured, when bad business decisions are rewarded. Bankruptcy is supposed to provide a safe harbour for companies which have a chance to recover, not a weapon for weaker companies to pull down competitors in their industry to the extent of forcing otherwise healthy companies to also take refuge in bankruptcy.

Ian offers a suggestion, which addresses some of the current flaws, but may well make other problems more acute:

So let me make a modest proposal. Pension obligations are effectively debt — effectively money owed to retirees.

If a company goes into bankruptcy and claims they need to dump their pension commitment then perhaps the pension commitment should have higher priority than the interests of the shareholders? Perhaps if a company can't meet its debts, can't meet its obligations, then it should actually be allowed to really go bankrupt. And perhaps, when it comes time to liquidate its assets, those should go to the pension fund first, to other debt holders second, and to the current shareholders third.

Ownership of a firm includes responsibilities, even share ownership. One of those, is that in exchange for a chance for better returns, you accept that you have very little collateral when the firm goes bankrupt.

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

Vilifying religion, Italian style

Jon sent along a link to this article on Oriana Fallaci:

Oriana Fallaci faces jail. In her mid-70s, stricken with a cancer that, for the moment, permits only the consumption of liquids — so yes, we drank champagne in the course of a three-hour interview — one of the most renowned journalists of the modern era has been indicted by a judge in her native Italy under provisions of the Italian Penal Code which proscribe the "vilipendio," or "vilification," of "any religion admitted by the state."

In her case, the religion deemed vilified is Islam, and the vilification was perpetrated, apparently, in a book she wrote last year — and which has sold many more than a million copies all over Europe — called The Force of Reason. Its astringent thesis is that the Old Continent is on the verge of becoming a dominion of Islam, and that the people of the West have surrendered themselves fecklessly to the "sons of Allah." So in a nutshell, Oriana Fallaci faces up to two years' imprisonment for her beliefs — which is one reason why she has chosen to stay put in New York. Let us give thanks for the First Amendment.

And yet another example of why "hate crime" laws are antithetical to free speech. I have not read Fallaci's book, so I can't say whether she does "vilify" Islam, but I think it is a fair bet that what she may have written about Islam and the growing Islamic population of Europe is only a pale reflection of the anti-Christian, anti-democratic, and anti-European writings that do not attract the attention of the courts.

Some breaches of "hate" legislation are more acceptable than others, especially in this case.

Update: Jon found a longer piece, which examines some of the claims against Fallaci's book.

Posted by Nicholas at 10:53 AM | Comments (0)

British eccentric wants Anne Boleyn pardoned

Marna Nightingale posted this link about a British amateur historian who is attempting to get a formal pardon for Henry VIII's second wife, Anne Boleyn:

The Home Secretary is being urged to pardon Anne Boleyn, almost 500 years after she lost her head.

An 85-year-old Battle of Britain veteran is calling on Charles Clarke to pardon Henry VIII's second wife because she was "obviously innocent" of the crimes of adultery, incest and witchcraft that led to her being beheaded in 1536.

Wg Cdr George Melville-Jackson, DFC, also wants her remains to be moved from the Tower of London to Westminster Abbey, to lie alongside those of her daughter, Queen Elizabeth I.

"Ideally, I would like her to be posthumously declared not guilty of the crimes she was convicted of because a pardon only means that you are being excused the crimes you have committed," Mr Melville-Jackson said at his home in Norwich yesterday.

"But I got a barrister's opinion and it seems that we would not be able to go to court to get a judicial review because, after nearly 500 years, there was not much of a chance of being able to come up with new evidence. So a pardon is the next best thing."

There's always something charmingly batty about Britain, isn't there? Of course, I have no grounds to criticize: I've been pushing to have Henry VII's usurpation declared illegal and Richard III returned to the throne.

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

QotD: NFL Team Owners

It's probably also worth noting that the new Vikings owner is very big on family. By my count, Zygi used the word "family" 1,068 times during the 45-minute interview session. He mentioned his family, the Vikings family, his partners' families, local families and the family business.

Asked about meeting the other NFL owners for the first time, Wilf said — you guessed it — they are like a family. Which I can see, particularly when I envision the Corleone family.

Tom Powers, "No news is good snooze with Wilf", St. Paul Pioneer Press, 2005-06-17

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

June 22, 2005

Not fitting anywhere on the left-right spectrum

I started writing this last night, and foolishly didn't bookmark which of the dozens of blogs I might have been visiting when the original thought struck me — which is why the post started off as if you'd already read "someone else's post" to which I was sort of responding. After that, the wine kicked in and I think I must have been free-associating, so I'm not even sure where I was going when I wrote it . . .

[Very early this morning] I just posted a comment over on someone else's blog, on a post which (so to speak) broke the world down into two camps: the left and the right.

I've never been comfortable with belonging exclusively to either camp: I'm pro-Capitalism (Right), but also pro-Freedom of Speech (Left), but I'm pro-Drugs (Left) and also pro-Military (Right). I'm pro-SSM (Left), but also pro-RKBA (Right). I'm against laws that restrict freedom of association, but I'm also against vandalism, trespassing, and picket lines.

In general, I'm in favour of ever-expanding personal freedoms, so long as they don't infringe on the freedoms of others. This means that I don't have a natural home in any of the major Canadian or U.S. political parties: each of 'em wants to restrict the freedoms of others in some major way.

On a not-very-closely related line, Perry de Havilland discusses the ongoing disaster that is the British Conservative party. It lost its way after John Major's last premiership (and a strong case could have been made that it was during, not after), and has been languishing in the electoral wilderness ever since. Tony Blair has successfully grabbed every plank of the Tory platform that had any appeal outside the hard-core Conservative grognards, and left successive Tory leaders with little to offer than either Little-Britainism or New-Labour-Lite. If Blair's eventual successors can keep this going, the Tories will swap places with the third-place Liberal Democrats permanently.

The Canadian Conservative party isn't much better off: Stephen Harper has brought them as close to power as they've been in over a decade, and even he hasn't been able to accomplish it — even with the most corrupt administration since Confederation as an opponent. Paul Martin is either the smartest guy to occupy 24 Sussex Drive (if he's been knowingly involved in the corruption) or the most clueless guy (if, as he claims, he knew nothing about the Sponsorship shenanigans).

Posted by Nicholas at 11:36 AM | Comments (0)

Kerry Howley in praise of Microsoft

Kerry Howley discusses some of the less-authoritarian-friendly aspects of Microsoft's recent accommodation for the repression of certain words on Chinese-language services:

There is something refreshingly frank about Internet censorship. This is not the self-imposed restraint of timid newsrooms, the gentle pressure of businessmen, or the closed-door dealings of a righteous panel. Type the words freedom or democracy in the title of a Microsoft-hosted Chinese language blog and you'll get an error message instantly, bright yellow, direct as a road sign: "Please delete the prohibited expression."

Since news surfaced last week that Microsoft has agreed to ban the use of certain words on its Chinese language blogs, the blogosphere has been berating Microsoft for practicing a capitalism so rapacious it would buttress communism. Reporters sans Frontieres blasted Microsoft for "collaboration" and a "lack of ethics"; elsewhere, the company is derided for caving in, and playing by the warped rules of a repressive state in the pursuit of profit. Microsoft fed the fire with a wooden rejoinder worthy of the Party itself. Recited one loyal project manager, "MSN abides by the laws, regulations and norms of each country in which it operates."

First, Microsoft is in a tough position: the Chinese market is too big to ignore, and sometimes businesses must act in certain ways to be allowed to conduct business in some countries. But, as I briefly touched on in this post, Chinese isn't quite as easy to be specific as some western languages — that is, there seems to be much more room for circumlocution in Chinese than, say, in English or French. Howley continues:

It's hard to imagine how such half-hearted restrictions would hinder the prototypically impudent blogger, but in a country with a rich tradition of dissident literature, few are even going to notice. Decades of state censorship have yielded a mastery of euphemism and allegory so subtle the Chinese government ends up promoting films meant to mock its rule. If any culture will find a way to discuss freedom while routing around the word freedom, it's China's.

Exactly.

Posted by Nicholas at 10:32 AM | Comments (2)

QotD: Dignity

There are many "progressives" who will claim to have been assaulted if someone makes a remark in their presence which troubles their conscience but who think it is a world of hilarity when an elected official, or anyone who has in fact accomplished something, is made a figure of fun at the hands of an actual assault. There is nothing surprising in this. Only another sad example of what now passes for a once noble aspiration of the left to find dignity in people's lives no matter their station or situation.

[Ghost of a Flea], "Law and order", Ghost of a Flea, 2005-06-21

Posted by Nicholas at 01:15 AM | Comments (0)

June 21, 2005

Colby Cosh on the liberating power of eBay

Colby Cosh's latest column is available online at National Post:

[I]n a decade, the company — founded on a lark by American coder Pierre Omidyar, and turbocharged by Montreal's Jeff Skoll — has transformed the way we see the world. Millions of people who think Friedrich Hayek is Salma's dad have learned first-hand about the behaviour and the signalling function of prices. Like a coal-miner's lamp, eBay has cast light on hidden wealth in the unlikeliest corners. It turns out there's money in everything from old cereal boxes to eight-track tapes to chunks of scenery torn from classic movie sets.

As if by magic, middle- and working-class people have been made free to engage in entrepreneurship without grovelling before a loan officer. Last year, the company estimated that 430,000 people worldwide were earning a living on eBay transactions. Think about that: nearly half a million souls liberated from the time-clock, the boss, and the carbon-belching daily commute. On these grounds alone, eBay may have done as much for human dignity as any motive force in history. Its unorganized, unsalaried "employee" base has become one of the planet's greatest clusters of labour. Citigroup, which has components dating back to 1812 and is said by Forbes to be the world's largest company, boasts a mere 300,000 employees.

I'm flat-out astonished at that 430,000 people estimate: that's about five to ten times what I'd have guessed. eBay really has been a transformative force if that number is accurate.

Posted by Nicholas at 03:41 PM | Comments (2)

When real life intrudes into blogging

Kim du Toit has an interesting post about how blogging has impacted his life outside the blogosphere . . . and not in a good way, at least financially speaking:

When The Mrs. and I first started DidToday, we discussed whether this blog, with its bad-tempered and foul-mouthed ranting, hoplophilia and pics of beautiful women, would be a liability for the company.

If it proved likely to be the case, what then? Should I just end the blog — say "Thanks for the memories", and quit?

In the end, we decided that attempting to rewrite the past three years, or trying to cover it up, would be worse — Google will not be denied — but at the same time this blog could be a liability for the company.

Well, it was, just this past weekend. A prospective investor, check in hand, decided to do a little last-minute research, and googled "Kim du Toit".

He’s no longer a potential investor.

I also realized, long before I started blogging, that there really is no privacy on the internet. Years before I started following blogs (or writing my own blog), it was clear to me that everything I'd ever written on various email lists, USENET groups, and other informal publications was going to be around long after I've shuffled off this mortal coil.

I try to be very careful what I blog about, in the personal sense, because bloggers have lost their jobs over flagrant (and sometimes not-so-flagrant) posts about their employers, customers, suppliers, and co-workers. I don't mention my employer here, and there is no way I'd discuss their business on the blog: it would be a violation of my employment agreement, but more importantly, it would be a breach of trust.

Kim has a tougher situation at hand: he is the public face of his employer, so everything he's posted on his blog is subject to scrutiny and may directly impact his business and their dealings.

Hat tip, again, to Jon.

Posted by Nicholas at 02:26 PM | Comments (0)

Another reason for drug decriminalization

A post at Hit and Run points to a recent study of the strong correlation of increased drug enforcement and increased crime:

A new study by LeMoyne College economists Edward Shepard and Paul Blackley, based on New York state data, finds that drug law enforcement is associated with increases in predatory crime. Possible explanations include diversion of law enforcement resources, violence generated by disruption of drug operations, and increased attraction to property crimes among people deterred from dealing drugs. "At a minimum," Shepard and Blackley conclude, "the empirical findings should raise serious questions about the effectiveness of drug enforcement as a crime control measure, and they suggest that significant social costs arise from existing approaches to drug control."

"Joe" adds the first comment to this post to illuminate a useful point:

Severe enforcement of drug laws changes the way the police interact with, and are perceived by, the residents (including the law abiding residents) of low income neighborhoods. The community policing model that worked so well in reducing crime in the 1990s in places like Boston become impossible when the police behave, and are viewed, primarily as the tough guys who kick in doors and arrest people, rather than the neighborhood beat cop who is part of the neighborhood's scene.

Posted by Nicholas at 02:04 PM | Comments (4)

Protesting is all very well . . .

. . . but this is disgusting. Protest the politicians, fine, but leave the bereaved families to bury their dead in peace and dignity.

Hat tip to Jon for the link.

Posted by Nicholas at 11:48 AM | Comments (0)

The Red Ensign Standard no. 24

A Chick Named Marzi has hoisted the 24th edition of the Red Ensign Standard. Go read what other members of the unit have been writing about for the last couple of weeks: I assure you there are many worthwhile posts to be discovered there.

Posted by Nicholas at 10:36 AM | Comments (0)

Rally for the right to ridicule

The British government is trying to pass legislation which will stifle any speech more shaded than a mild disparagement:

Mr Hytner said that Friedrich Schiller's Don Carlos — which starred Sir Derek Jacobi at the Gieldgud Theatre — promoted "unambiguous" hatred of Roman Catholicism and could fall foul of the new law. Mr Clarke argues that the bill, which is backed by some religious groups, including the Muslim Council of Great Britain, is needed to tackle racists who have targeted Muslims since the 11 September terrorist attacks.

He says it will end an anomaly under which Jews and Sikhs are protected against incitement to racial hatred, while other religious groups are not.

While it's good to see media figures realizing just how bad a law this is, it's disturbing that it's taken them this long to catch on. "Hate speech" laws are almost always bad for free discourse, and absolutely function as a chilling mechanism for much wider areas of public discussion than the segment the laws are aimed at.

Hat tip to Elizabeth for the URL.

Posted by Nicholas at 09:54 AM | Comments (0)

QotD: Entitlement Politics

My grandparents' generation thought being on the government dole was disgraceful, a blight on the family's honor. Today's senior citizens blithely cannibalize their grandchildren because they have a right to get as much "free" stuff as the political system will permit them to extract . . . Big government is . . . [t]he drug of choice for multinational corporations and single moms, for regulated industries and rugged Midwestern farmers, and militant senior citizens.

Janice Rogers Brown, Speech at McGeorge School of Law (Nov. 21, 1997). Linked from People for the American Way anti-Brown quotes page.

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

June 20, 2005

Error messages you may have seen

Fark has a thread on software error messages. I'm sure I've seen several of these before. . .

Posted by Nicholas at 08:42 PM | Comments (0)

Monument to the 1st Canadian Armoured Carrier Regiment

A memorial to a unique unit of the Canadian army will be unveiled in the Netherlands this month:

[. . .] the regiment with the motto Armatos Fundit ("Protecting Soldiers") sprang from an idea — the idea of Canadian general Guy Simmonds, who desperately needed a way to protect soldiers. For as part of British Gen. Montgomery's plan for the battle of Normandy, the Canadian infantry was tied up for weeks in meat-grinder battles on the left flank of the allied armies against powerful German armoured forces under Field Marshal Rommel.

Eventually, Rommel was wounded and fate took a hand. Hitler ordered a bold western thrust against the allies, aimed at Avranches, through a gap between Caen and Falaise. If the Allies could cut off this pocket jammed with SS panzergrenadiers, 400 Tiger and Panther tanks and hundreds of 88-millimetre cannons, the battle for France would be won.

Simmonds needed a way to move his infantry at high speed at night across rough terrain right through the heart of the Germans to seal the mouth of the bag behind them. It would be the kind of stunt invented by the Germans themselves — by such men as Rommel and Guderian. It was called blitzkrieg — "lightning war."

Simmonds found 76 "Priests" — American self-propelled artillery pieces that were being replaced by a new type of Canadian-made piece. Priests were like a tank but were open at the top and didn't have a turret. Simmonds had the guns taken out and extra armoured plate were welded across the gaps.

The "defrocked priests" thus became the first serious armoured personnel carriers. They could carry 20 men and their battle kit at 26 miles an hour with a thick wall of steel around them and a heavy machine gun to protect them.

The operation was a success. Allied fighters blasted the trapped German armour with rockets and all the firepower was brought to bear on them. The rout was complete. It was only a dispute between British and American generals about how to proceed that allowed many of the Germans to escape towards Paris. But it was the beginning of the end for the Germans.

Hat tip to SOMNIA.

Posted by Nicholas at 07:04 PM | Comments (0)

Enough circuitry to launch Apollo 11

CircuitBoard_20Jun05.jpg

The innards of a not-too-modern industrial coffee machine. It's in the coffee room down the hall from my office, and it looks like someone was so desperate for caffeine this morning that they tore the door open. We're all a little coffee-deprived this afternoon as a result. It did occur to me, as I passed the machine for the third or fourth time today, that there's probably more computing power in that board than the Apollo command module had available back in the 1969 moon mission.

Posted by Nicholas at 05:17 PM | Comments (0)

A beer for folks with gluten problems

I meant to mention this a couple of weeks ago, but it slipped my mind. The LCBO is now carrying a gluten-free beer from Quebec, La Messagere from Les Bieres de la Nouvelle France. It's priced at $16.95 for six . . . and you may have to ask them to dig it out of the back for you: both of the LCBO outlets we've found it at did not have it out on display.

While I wouldn't say it's the best beer I've ever tasted, if you have Celiac disease or other gluten intolerance problems, it may be the only beer you'll be able to safely enjoy. It's actually quite reminiscent of some wheat beers I've tasted, but I'm sure that Alan at A Good Beer Blog will want to mention it (if he hasn't already done so, that is).

Elizabeth used to really enjoy beer tasting, and she's been unable to indulge for years. La Messagere has been a very welcome addition to the LCBO product line.

Update: Oddly enough, Alan had posted something about some other beers from this brewery, and La Messagere was mentioned in the comments to that post. Synchronicity or what?

Posted by Nicholas at 04:37 PM | Comments (0)

New humane program for the suburbs

A rising problem in the suburbs is addressed with this innovative new catch-and-release program:

Suburbia Safer with Trap-and-Release Program for Lost City Dwellers

A new trap-and-release program for city dwellers found wandering aimlessly around the suburbs of major Canadian cities is bringing positive results, say officials with Suburban Environment Canada. [. . .]

McIntyre took us out to check on some of the traps, which are cleverly disguised as entrances to TTC subway stations. The first two were empty, but the third trap held a robust specimen, which McIntyre deftly stunned with a tranquilizer dart and then tagged with a small radio transmitter. As two assistants loaded the unconscious individual into a cage on the back of his pickup, McIntyre noted that of some 45 wayward city dwellers returned to Toronto since April, only three have subsequently been re-trapped in the same suburb. All three were neutered as a deterrent, although this later turned out to have been the result of a clerical error.

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

Feeding the Persecution Complex Department

Victor is off on a school trip to Quebec City today, so (of course) the "For Sale" sign went up on the lawn about five minutes after he left. We'll be able to get the entire house emptied by Wednesday evening, and the new owners can take possession at noon Thursday, just in time for Victor to arrive back on the doorstep Thursday evening.

Forwarding address? Why would we want to leave a trail?

"Ha ha HA! Mine is an evil laugh..."

Posted by Nicholas at 02:18 PM | Comments (0)

Wendy McElroy on the gender imbalance at colleges

Over the past fifteen years, there has been a steady increase in the proportion of women attending higher education and a steady decrease in the proportion of men doing the same thing. Wendy McElroy looks at the issue:

The National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) tracks the enrollment in all degree-granting institutions by sex. From 1992 to 2000, the ratio of enrolled males to females fell from 82 to 78 boys for every 100 girls. The NCES projects that in 2007 the ratio will be 75 males for every 100 females; in 2012, 74 per 100.

In short, your son is statistically more likely than your daughter to work a blue collar job.

The imbalance is much worse for low-income families, however:

Yet King insists there is no "boy crisis" in education despite the fact that data from Upward Bound and Talent Search show a comparable gender gap. (These college-preparation programs operate in high schools and received $312.6 million $144.9 million in tax funding, respectively, in 2005.) Of the students who receive benefits from those college-preparation programs, approximately 61 percent are girls; 39 percent are boys.

King's quoted explanation of the gender gaps: "women make up a disproportionate share of low-income students" who go on to college. Since low-income families presumably give birth to boys in the same ratio as the general population — worldwide the ratio is between 103 to 107 boys for every 100 girls — why are so few boys applying for assistance? A higher drop-out rate might be partly responsible, or boys may have no interest in higher education.

She also points to some trends which may account for more of the growing imbalance:

Among those who acknowledge the "boy crisis," explanations are vary and may all be true. Some point to the "feminization" of education over the last decade, which occurred largely in response to a perceived need to encourage girls. But, if boys and girls learn differently, then the changes may be placing boys at a disadvantage.

Others point to explicitly anti-male attitudes — that is, political correctness — within education. The website Illinois Loop lists "22 School Practices That May Harm Boys." One of them: "'Modern' textbooks and recommended literature often go to extremes to remove male role models as lead characters and examples."

Kleinfeld points speculatively to the impact of increased divorce and fatherless homes on the self-image of boys who lack a positive male role-model.

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

The ID theft epidemic

Another article in this week's Libertarian Enterprise talks about the rising tide of identity theft:

If Robert Douglas, co-founder of www.privacytoday.com has it right, there were 10 million cases of consumer ID theft in 2004, costing the financial services industry $50 billion and consumers $3 to $5 billion. According to Douglas in an April 14, 2005 C-Span interview, "identity theft" is the most common crime in the country today — as well as the fastest growing.

The crime is so lucrative, it's reported, in some cases organized crime figures have been threatening bank employees just to get customer info. According to a an April 17 article in the Washington Post, data aggregator ChoicePoint recently reported a theft of at least 110,000 identity files, and Time Warner just reported (May 2, 2005) data from 600,000 current and former employees missing. Lexus-Nexus has had 310,000 I.D. files stolen, and The Bank of America, 1.2 million. Just today, June 8, New York Times reports, "Personal Data on 3.9 Million Lost in Transit."

Scary indeed, but it gets even more scary:

According to over-optimistic government sources, you can get your identity back in approximately six years — if you spend thousands of hours filling out the correct forms and making phone calls. Experts say you never can.

Back in the late 1980's, I had a dispute with my bank over a credit card purchase. It was a bill for about $500 from a computer store that I'd done business with about a year earlier. I'd charged a $50 purchase on my MasterCard, and hadn't been back to the store since then. The bank mailed my statement with a new charge from that retailer, so I went to the store to find out what was happening. The store had been chained up by the bailiffs for non-payment of rent.

I got home and immediately called the bank to let them know that the store owner had apparently been fraudulently billing old customers and that the store had been closed by the sherrif. The bank told me, basically, that this wasn't their problem and that I owed them $500. It took me months to get them to reverse the charge, and even then, the reversal was marked as a "temporary credit". It took even longer to get them to remove the interest billed on that charge in the interim.

The good thing was that I had options: I could stop dealing with that bank and switch to a different bank, which I did. Eventually, I closed the account (after finally getting the bank to agree that I didn't owe anything for that incident), and haven't dealt with that institution again.

I don't have that option in dealing with the government — without physically leaving the country. And government files are becoming more and more attractive to ID thieves. Governments in the western world are also much more keen on gathering all your data together in one easy-to-manage database. This, I don't think I need to point out, is a bad thing both for your personal freedoms and for your increased risk of ID theft.

Oh, and just glide over the article linked above when the author takes a side-trip into the swamp of "income tax is voluntary": believe what you like, the government believes very strongly otherwise.

Posted by Nicholas at 11:26 AM | Comments (0)

The power drug

Jonathan Morris has some interesting things to say about the recent US Supreme Court decision on extending the Commerce Clause to cover marijuana grown and consumed by and for cancer patients:

I've discussed a number of civil liberty issues in my column the last few years. We can argue all day about forced mental screenings and the Patriot Act. But this goes beyond civil liberties. It goes beyond federal thugs tapping your phone and rummaging through your sock drawer. This ruling gets to the basic core of human decency. Here you have people with terrible, painful afflictions, who smoke pot because, God forbid, it actually makes them feel better. And Washington wants to stop them? What the hell for? Do they like watching people with tumors writhe in pain? Is that somehow fun for them?

The Constitution gives Congress the power to regulate interstate commerce. A few months ago, we learned that this includes the performance-enhancing drugs so popular amongst kids and Major League Baseball players. Now we learn that it includes legally prescribed pain relievers like marijuana, too. According to the Supreme Court, state medical marijuana laws are a problem because marijuana grown for in-state use could easily find its way to the interstate market. And since marijuana isn't legal on the national level, the feds are therefore entitled to stem its production state-by-state.

And he finishes off with the best power-as-a-drug metaphor I've seen in a while:

I don't know if the American government "hates" us, per se. They may have the best of intentions here. But if anyone stands to benefit from their medical marijuana policies, it's them — not us. People like to call marijuana a gateway drug, but, if you ask me, the true gateway drug here is absolute power. Washington took its first hit of the stuff when the threat of secession ended in 1865, and they've been gobbling up other checks and balances like Robert Downey, Jr., on a weekend coke binge ever since.

Posted by Nicholas at 10:50 AM | Comments (0)

QotD: Healthcare

From year to year, it is becoming more obvious: the goal of medicine is not health but the extension of the health system.

Gerhard Kocher, Vorsicht, Medizin! Aphorismen zum Gesundheitswesen und zur Gesundheitspolitik, 2000 (English translation provided by the author)

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

June 19, 2005

French waiters snobby? Mais non! C'est impossible!

I know you'll find this amazing, but I was shocked, shocked to discover that French wine stewards in British restaurants are biased in favour of French wine:

It would seem, according to snobbish French sommeliers, that the closest most Australians get to fine wine are the corks that dangle around their hats.

While New World wine has stormed the high street in recent years, concern is growing that when it comes to selecting the best bottles, snooty French experts are deliberately excluding many fine Antipodean vintages from restaurants.

The conspiracy theory is backed up by research which shows that while sales of French wine in off licenses represent only 17% of the market, restaurants still choose to have more than 40% of their stock from just across the Channel.

Imagine that: just because they're born in France, trained in French schools and wineries, and are effectively ambassadors for their native wines, they still brazenly show bias toward French wine! Who'd have ever thought of such a thing?

Posted by Nicholas at 04:06 PM | Comments (4)

The Barbarians have won: The Guardian

I read this piece in The Guardian and I was absolutely certain that it was an Onion-style send-up:

The Octagon library at Queen Mary, University of London, in Mile End, east London, is in the process of refurbishment and decided that it would have to dispose of its surplus books.

These have now been dumped in skips outside the library, to the outrage of staff and students who were clambering through them yesterday to find what they described as literary gems.

"This is a crass display of philistinism," said one staff member. "There are books dating back to the 18th century, there are first editions, there are copies of Voltaire."

Another lecturer looking through a skip said: "This is sacrilege. Look at all these books that are being thrown away without any thought. It is shocking."

It sounds to me as though the work of the true librarian — the preserver of knowledge and guardian of truth — has been totally supplanted by the spirit of the bureaucrat and the morals of the tone-deaf beancounter.

Hat tip to Marna Nightingale for calling my attention to the story.

Posted by Nicholas at 01:30 PM | Comments (0)

QotD: Nine-Inch Nails

Nine-Inch Nails [is] inspirational music for serial killers. Background music for having sex with dead bodies.

Steve H., "Music to Slowly go Insane By: A Partial List of Popular Musicians Who Should be Publicly Dismembered", Hog on Ice, 2005-06-13

Posted by Nicholas at 02:08 AM | Comments (0)

June 18, 2005

QotD: Canada

[Y]ou can end all argument on any issue in Canada by saying a proposal is "American-style". I'm waiting for someone to seriously argue for abolishing elections, since they lead to "American-style argument, disunity and wasteful spending on political campaigns".

Damian Penny, "More Chaoulli-related thoughts", Daimnation, 2005-06-13

And Dave Rudell formulates a Canadian version of Godwin's law in the comments to this post:

Maybe we need an analogy to Godwin's Law for political discourse in Canada. It could be something like; as the length of a political discussion among (between) Canadians increases, the probability of someone using the phrase 'American-Style' approaches one. Of course, we'd also have to add the corollary; the person who invokes the phrase 'American-Style' has probably just lost the argument.

Posted by Nicholas at 01:08 AM | Comments (0)

June 17, 2005

Search Engines

Every now and again I check to see where some of my traffic originates. A large percentage comes in from Google, Yahoo, and MSN search engines. Not that this is a bad thing: it's nice to have folks find my blatherings from outside the traditional blogosphere (sometimes it seems as if almost everyone who visits here is also a blogger).

Sometimes, however, I wonder just how my blog hits the search criteria shown. For example, among the last 100 visits, these have been some of the search strings used:

  • Pappenheim Rapier — okay, I've referenced my renaissance fencing activities a few times, so that's fair.
  • Rona Ambrose — Four hits here. I've mentioned her all of twice that I can remember, and I'm sure the folks on the Blogging Tories list are much more likely to have referenced her much more frequently than that.
  • NHL strike effects — I've mentioned the entire NHL in one posting (I'm not a particularly hockey-mad blogger, I guess).
  • Cilento wine — A brief review of one of their wines (2002 Shiraz).
  • Political simulation — A post about a Stardock game called "The Political Machine".
  • Order of canada ahenakew — Okay, this is a reasonable search. I did write about Ahenakew and referenced him being a member of the Order.
  • Football AND metaphor — A recent QotD post.
  • Canadian 1st SSF badge — Fair: a specific mention of the 1st SSF and the US Combat Infantryman's Badge.
  • Skinhead bloggers — Two hits for this one. One of my most-requested photos: from the November 2004 Toronto blogger get-together at the Bishop and Belcher.
  • Tina the brittle tech writer — Another fair cop: I mentioned Scott Adams' brief visit to the main tech writing mailing list and the almost immediate creation of the "Tina" character in his Dilbert comic.
  • Health effects of defoliant testing in gagetown — I referenced the then-breaking news about the Canadian government secretly allowing defoliants like Agent Orange to be used at CFB Gagetown.
  • Price of Remo Farina 2001 Valpolicella RIPASSO — Ah, yes, a wine I didn't give a good review for. I hope the searcher had a better experience with that particular Ripasso than I did.
  • Ratzinger "gay pope" — I've only mentioned the new pope once on the blog, but the string "gay pope" did appear in a Colby Cosh quotation in that entry, so this was a valid hit.
  • Movie-Mondovino — For a movie I haven't yet seen, this has shown up several times in my posts. I should get around to seeing it sometime soon.
  • Strict training AND S&M — This one had me scratching my head: I couldn't think of anything that seemed to match, until I remembered a throw-away line on the "hog slapper" post. What's worse: I foolishly ran that particular search on Google, and I showed up in the top 70 hits for that string. I suspect my PG-13 rating is suddenly at risk. . .
  • Words "boo daddy" — I was a bit puzzled at this one, but the string appeared in a quoted section back in September, so I guess it's reasonable.
  • Battle of Bosworth reenactment 1985 — I've mentioned good King Richard a few times . . . and it's only fair, as I was his chosen successor.
  • Toronto channel 47 TV show "night drive" — A false positive, I think: Garnet Rogers' song "Night Drive" is one of my favourite pieces, but I think the searcher was looking for a TV show of that name.
  • Saskatchewan diamonds — Another Colby Cosh article referenced under that exact title. Probably a valid search result.
  • All Saints Estate "Late harvest" Marsanne melbourne — I mention wine a fair bit, but I don't think anything here would be a good match for that search string.
  • What is a diktatorship — I've mentioned this idea several times, so perhaps it was a useful hit for the searcher (in spite of the speelign eroor).
  • Belinda Stronach nude — To my astonishment, there was only a single search for this in the past hundred hits. usually it's more like one in 20.
  • Group sex Edmonton Balaklava — I don't think this searcher found anything useful here, either.
  • Diane Schroer outside the beltway — Ah, yes, the transsexual former Army colonel who was illegally denied a job in the Library of Congress.
  • Oppossum Ontario Canada — I've used the word Oppossum just once, and it was a reference to an etched brass detail for modellers. Probably not a useful result.
  • Where do rivers run uphill — I've quoted David Friedman's "and the rivers will run uphill" a few times, almost always to indicate that something is incredibly unlikely.
  • Mike Giuliano film — I linked to an article by Mike Giuliano, but that's about it. 50/50 chance of that being a useful hit.
  • Geek culture mainstream — Okay, another 50/50 chance on this one: I'm geeky enough and link to plenty of Geek-friendly material.
  • JTF Presidential unit citation — This was news back in December.
  • General Rick Hillier — I've mentioned General Hillier several times, although I don't think I'm a primary source of information on him or his tour of duty at NDHQ.
  • Hollywood vines wine — Probably not a useful search, unfortunately: I don't write very much about Californian wines.
  • Fake prosthetics for passing drug urine tests — Ah, yes, Onterrio Smith's most recent claim to fame. The Vikings' running back has been suspended for the 2005-2006 football season, so hopefully we won't hear any new idiotic stunts from him.
Posted by Nicholas at 05:23 PM | Comments (0)

Argghhh's History Post for Today

The lead item in today's "what happened in military history" post at Castle Argghhh! is of interest both to Canadians and also to those Americans who still think the way to solve US-Canadian differences is by invading:

1745 American colonials capture Louisbourg, Cape Breton Island, from the French. Why is this significant? 1. It's the first time we Southrons (from a Canadian perspective) successfully invaded what is now Canada, and, (grump) the only times we've ever been truly successful is under Brit leadership engaging in French-bashing. 2. It set the stage for 1755, which marks the start of Cajun Cooking in what would become the US. The Brits expelled the Acadians (french colonists) from Port Royal... resettling them, among other places, in what is now Louisiana... "Cajun" is derived from Acadian (say it fast and drunk... ducking thrown crawdad heads).

Of course, Jon would still encourage you all to "Invade us! Invade us now!", but he's just a tiny minority voice up here in Soviet Canuckistan. And as soon as the authorities track him down, he'll be a very quiet voice indeed.

Posted by Nicholas at 03:59 PM | Comments (8)

QotD: Politicians

There are two types of politicians: the ones that are courageous and honest, and the ones that have a successful career.

Gerhard Kocher, Vorsicht, Medizin! Aphorismen zum Gesundheitswesen und zur Gesundheitspolitik, 2000 (English translation provided by the author)

Posted by Nicholas at 01:09 AM | Comments (0)

June 16, 2005

Not the same as it ever was

I've had this conversation with folks many times over the last few years, where some assertion is made that "pollution has never been this bad" or words to that effect. In almost every case, the person making that assertion is under 30. You'd pretty much have to be under 30, or to have lived far, far away from major population centres to seriously believe that.

Pollution is a problem. I don't dispute that. What I dispute is the notion that we are living in an ever-more-polluted world. As a child in the 1960's, I lived in an industrial town in the northeast of England. It was utterly filthy, 24/7/365. The streets were dirty, the air was visibly polluted, and the water stank (you needed to be a very brave and/or very stupid kid to go into the river). Most cities in England were like that, to a greater or lesser extent.

My family came to Canada in 1967 and we eventually settled in what is now Mississauga. The air quality was definitely better than what I'd grown up with, but we still had some days where the horizon was brown with pollution. Lake Ontario was visibly polluted, and the beaches were often unsafe due to sewage and industrial and chemical pollutants. The quality of life was definitely better in Canada than it had been in Britain.

Over the past 30+ years, most North American cities have become less polluted, not more. The air is less toxic, not more, and the water is far cleaner than it was. But that's not the message we get from government, media, and activist groups; they are almost unanimous in their outlook that things are worse and getting more so. They all push for more government controls to "save us" from ourselves. More police power to be handed to central authorities, more economic control to be ceded to bureaucrats, and more money to be spent on propagandizing "the truth about the environment".

It's not just environmental pollution that fits this pattern, but the environment is one of those issues that few people have negative feelings about, and most people can be counted on to instinctively (if you will) react to stories about degradation of environmental systems.

The more we can be persuaded that things are going to hell, the easier it is for us to decide that handing the keys over to the government can't make it worse. Too many of us are willing to cede that extra margin of self-reliance in so many different areas, either for fear of being responsible or out of mistrust for others' freedom of choice.

Bad news sells more papers than good news. Disasters are more telegenic than business-as-usual. Politicians appear more important when big issues are being decided than when they are discussing amendments to motions to existing legislation. Activist groups are only relevant (in their own minds, as well as in the view of the general public) when they are front-and-centre with their protests, petitions, demonstrations, and fiery denunciations for the TV cameras. Even the most upsetting, most alarming, and most troubling news has a built-in fatigue factor: the public tires easily and boredom quickly replaces the fear, disquiet, or dread. They don't call it the "news cycle" for nothing: novelty is important. All these elements work together to encourage overblown and alarming coverage of anything that can be considered "newsworthy".

On most measurement, things are not getting worse, but that's not newsworthy. Our society enjoys a better lifestyle than our parents' or grandparents' generations did. We still have problems, but the scale and immediacy of those problems is less than those faced just 30 years ago. Jon passed along a URL to a Powerline post which addresses some of these issues, and which triggered this little rant of mine. I thought it was worth bringing to your attention.

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

A good sign for Firefly fans

According to a poster to Slashdot, the Sci-Fi Channel will be broadcasting the original episodes of the Joss Whedon series — in correct order — later this summer. More information here.

Curiously, the article says that Sci-Fi Channel "will air all 15 existing episodes, including the three that never made it to TV, starting on Friday, July 22." As far as I knew, there were only 12 existing episodes, nine of which were shown on Fox before the show was cancelled. I would love to see another three episodes, but I suspect someone's done the math wrong for the article.

An amusing pastiche by Rei in the Slashdot thread:

Whedon: We will rule over this time slot, and we will call it... "This Time Slot".

Fox: I think we should call it... your grave!"

Whedon: Ah, curse your sudden but inevitable betrayal!

Fox: Ha ha HA! Mine is an evil laugh...now die!

Don't worry if this makes no sense — you'd have to have seen the pilot episode of Firefly.

Update: Clearly I can't count. There were 12 episodes televised by Fox (counting the pilot as two episodes), and three were complete but never televised (Heart of Gold, Trash, and The Message). All of them are included on the DVD set, with the pilot episodes stitched back together into a longer single episode.

Posted by Nicholas at 02:20 PM | Comments (2)

QotD: Freedom

Where government advances — and it advances relentlessly — freedom is imperiled; community impoverished; religion marginalized and civilization itself jeopardized . . . When did government cease to be a necessary evil and become a goody bag to solve our private problems?

Janice Rogers Brown, "Hyphenasia: the Mercy Killing of the American Dream," Speech at Claremont-McKenna College (Sept. 16, 1999). Linked from People for the American Way anti-Brown quotes page.

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

June 15, 2005

Chinese characters in tattoos

Victor got a henna tattoo at the Brooklin Spring Fair a couple of weeks ago. It's long gone now, but it was a set of Chinese characters on the back of his hand. He assured me that it meant something like "Strength and Courage", but he was just taking the word of the girl operating the booth. If you wonder what some Chinese or Japanese characters might actually mean, you'll want to bookmark Hansi Smatter, subtitled "Dedicated to the misuse of Chinese characters (Hanzi or Kanji) in Western Culture".

I especially recommend visiting that blog before you pay the tattooist for your full-torso tattoo full of cool oriental symbols. . .

Posted by Nicholas at 03:15 PM | Comments (2)

While I'm on a wine kick

A quote posted at Wise Wallet Wine to prove that wine review language can be even worse than you think:

The Open Mouth, Insert Rotor Blade Very Painful Quote of the Week: "This dark wine . . . helicopters into the mouth with spinning blades of intense fruit." (Andrew Jefford, Financial Times of London on a Georges Duboeuf 2003 cru Beaujolais.) Enjoy it tonight with novacaine and a transfusion.

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

Mondovino reviewed, with claws

I was perusing the list of links from Tom Wark's Fermentations and saw a link to The Wine Offensive, where this review of Mondovino appears:

I saw Mondovino last week just before I jetted out of town. Those quirky, stubborn Frenchmen just tugged at my heartstrings. What a contrast to the creepy, unabashedly capatalistic (Proustian, even) Mondavis.

But one of the criticisms I kept hearing about the movie, before I saw it, was the way that Lassiter portrayed some of his subjects unfairly. Allow me to disagree. I think everyone is portrayed quite fairly — as in, you can't edit someone into an asshole, without some footage of them being an asshole. I offer you some of the things, straight from the mouths of the following:

Sheri Staglin of Staglin Family Vineyards, talking about how good they are to their immigrant(Mexican) employees, "We know all of their names, and we give them t-shirts..."

This is after she makes sure to tell you that the veranda table is solid marble modeled after a table in The Godfather 2 and points out a sculpture in the garden made by the number one funk ceramic artist(wha?) in the US. Her husband then goes on to compare their property's allignment with Mondavi's and Opus One as very similar to that of the Washington Monument and the Capital building. I shit you not.

Posted by Nicholas at 02:25 PM | Comments (2)

Tom Wark on the Sideways effect

Tom Wark writes:

Actor Jason Priestley is filming a new television series entitled "Hollywood & Vines" in which the former 90210 star takes us on a "road trip" to the West Coast's wine regions. The British Columbia native is putting particular stress on his home region where they are producing stellar wines. All this emanates from the success of Sideways.

I've heard word from other very good sources that other wine series are being considered in Hollywood, including one from a Major Producer you all know, but I've been sworn to secrecy on that one. I suspect that advertisers like the demographics associated with wine drinkers as well as the success the subject matter of wine has demonstrated.

<Snark mode=ON>Oh, good. Another way to drive up wine prices by encouraging conspicuous consumption by expense-account boors and trend-obsessed ignoramusi<\Snark>

Actually, given the current market for new world wines, this may be a good or a bad thing: much will depend on where they intend to target in the wine-consuming marketplace. If they spend their airtime doing "Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous Winery Owners", then it'll have no real effect on the price of quality wines.

Posted by Nicholas at 02:03 PM | Comments (0)

Chris Taylor invades the wine-snob blogworld

Chris Taylor finally starts writing about wine: here, here, and here.

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

QotD: Writers and Editors

Tor editor Teresa Nielsen Hayden had a wonderful rant some years back. She had been talking to an animal trainer, who explained to her why otters were untrainable. Other animals, it seemed, when given their food reward or whatever by their human handler, would seem to think, "Great, he liked it! I'll do that again!" Otters, by contrast, would seem to think, "Great, he liked it! Now I'll do something else that's even cooler!" Writers, Teresa concluded in a moment of Zen enlightenment, were otters. At least from an editor's point of view.

When I boot up a new book in my brain, I am not greatly interested in what has and hasn't won awards. I want to write something else that's even cooler.

Lois McMaster Bujold, interview at Blogcritics, 2005-05-24

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

June 14, 2005

French carrier group departs from Halifax

The French navy's nuclear-powered aircraft carrier Charles de Gaulle and its escorting vessels left Halifax after an uneventful stay. The Halifax Daily News reported:

Au revoir, mes amis. Bon voyage. Through a thick blanket of fog, the 3,000 sailors of a French aircraft carrier's battle group slid out of Halifax Harbour yesterday.

The whirlwind four-day visit by the French and British sailors was everything local businesses — and police — were hoping for. Euros flowed into local coffers, and sailors stayed out of local jails.

Paul MacKinnon, executive director of the Downtown Halifax Business Commission, said yesterday that while bars and restaurants did well, so too did retailers.

Hat tip to SOMNIA.

Posted by Nicholas at 08:10 PM | Comments (2)

BMI is the control freak's WMD

As I've written before, I consider the widely used BMI measurement to be custom-designed for the hectoring nanny-state: it's a rare Canadian who is both healthy and has a "good" BMI. It's a scam for belittling and intimidating the general public, and a tool for prying more money out of the government for spurious "health-enhancing" programs.

Angry writes:

There are certain truths we hold to be self-evident.

I'm not talking about rights. That's passé. I'm talking about the fact that we're too fat.

You hear it all the time. Obesity is an epidemic. We eat the wrong things. Try this diet. Or this one. Or this one.

He then quotes extensively from a new article in Scientific American, which appears to support the BMI-skeptic position.

Posted by Nicholas at 06:33 PM | Comments (0)

This is interesting . . .

According to Bourque, former PC cabinet minister Jim Flaherty is rumoured to be making a move for Stephen Harper's job:

Bourque has learned that longtime Ontario Cabinet Minister and two-time provincial leadership contender Jim Flaherty may well be positioning himself for an early opportunity to unseat Stephen Harper, the disappointing Conservative Party incumbent, increasingly seen as a lame duck leader who's political capital may well have expired with his botched handling of recent national antagonism towards the long-governing Liberals. Sources tell Bourque that failed retail heiress Nicky Eaton hosted a swish gathering at her country estate in Caledon for Flaherty's intimates to discuss a bid for Harper's job.

Hmmm. Very interesting. I've met Stephen Harper and I think he's capable of being a good prime minister. I've not only met Jim Flaherty (I'm in his riding provincially), but I coached two of his sons in soccer. I have a good opinion of his potential as a leader as well. The question is, do I want to see Flaherty rise at the direct expense of Harper?

Hat tip to Sean, via Small Dead Animals.

Posted by Nicholas at 05:50 PM | Comments (0)

I'm not as smart as Sean

Sean, still guest-blogging for Kate at Small Dead Animals posted this link to a quick-and-dirty IQ test.

Your IQ Is 130
Your Logical Intelligence is Exceptional Your Verbal Intelligence is Genius Your Mathematical Intelligence is Exceptional Your General Knowledge is Genius
A Quick and Dirty IQ Test

If nothing else, it reminded me how much I used to hate word problems in school!

Posted by Nicholas at 05:37 PM | Comments (0)

Steve H. gives both barrels to the jury

I didn't follow the Jackson trial. I have little or no interest in whether Andrew Michael Jackson did or did not commit certain crimes. What little attention I've paid to the situation leads me to presume that he's guilty as sin, but he's entitled to a fair trial.

Steve H. explains why legal shenanigans not only continue to happen, but are part-and-parcel of the whole legal system:

My dad always says jury work is the lowest form of legal work. He says a jury trial is just a contest to see who is most popular among twelve simpletons.

The Jackson case proves it. The jurors admit they turned Jacko loose because his victim's mother was obnoxious. Yes, folks, it's true. In California, you can be raped legally, as long as your mother is a bitch.

Don't you ever wonder why it is that lawyers get away with what we do? Has it occurred to you that we can't ruin the world unless we can find imbeciles to help us?

No lawyer ever awarded anyone money in a tort trial. All we do is con the cretins in the jury box.

And, even more generally:

Just remember, for every greedy lawyer who wins a case, there are six or twelve certified pea-brains who deserve most of the credit.

Think about that, the next time you see a warning label on some harmless product like a paper bag or a pot holder.

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

Welcome to the latest member of the Red Ensign Brigade

Please welcome our newest Brigade member, Conservative Hipster.

Posted by Nicholas at 01:50 PM | Comments (0)

SUV owner accessory kit

I shouldn't poke fun, as I drive a small SUV, but this item will go a long way to prove that most SUV owners are sad, pathetic little wankers.

Posted by Nicholas at 11:57 AM | Comments (2)

A wet day for soccer

Victor's house league soccer team had a game last night at Jeffrey Park just west of downtown Whitby. I had to drive through some pretty impressive rain just to get home to pick him up:

Rain01_13Jun05.jpgRain04_13Jun05.jpg

Stopped in traffic on Dennison at about 5:05 in the afternoon.

Stopped in traffic on Warden at about 5:20 pm.

The rain lessened as I got further east, until it was just a light shower by the time I got home to Brooklin. Victor and I got to the field, and the only evidence of rain was the large puddles at the lower end of the parking lot. Both teams looked as if they'd be shorthanded, or perhaps not even be able to field a minimum number of players.

Teammates_13Jun05.jpgField_13Jun05.jpg

Victor (in the jacket), with two of his team-mates before the game. Ten minutes after the game started, they looked like their uniforms were all-black, not forest green.

The west end of the field, just before the game started — about ten minutes before the rain came down again.

Victor's team had a rough start to the game: they were down 3-0 by the half. The second half was much more competitive, but luck was definitely not with them: the play was all in the opposing team's half, but the players were hitting the post, the crossbar, or having the goalkeeper just barely get a hand on the ball to deflect it away from the net. I counted nine "sure goals" which weren't. If nothing else, they got lots of practice on corner kicks!

The luck stayed with the other team, however, as a long-range shot put them up by four about ten minutes in (the ball was perfectly stopped by the keeper, but squirted out of his hands and into the net).

Victor's team finally got on the board about a minute later, and the teams swapped scores for the remainder of the half, but they couldn't get closer than three. About ten minutes from full time, Victor rolled over on his left ankle, and play had to stop while he recovered (there were no substitutes for either team). He was hobbled, but stayed on the field. Two minutes later, he dropped back to the ground, as both legs were cramping up on him and he couldn't continue to play. His team played the remaining time down to only 10 (the other team's coach chose not to pull a player to keep the contest even).

The final score was 6-3.

This is the first time since Victor was 4 that I haven't been his coach (for outdoor soccer), and I'm finding it an odd experience. I have to keep my mouth shut when his coaches are giving instructions, and it took everything I had not to run out onto the field when Victor went down. I appreciate not having to run practices and putting up with parents who (er, like me) think they know better than the coach. It's a learning experience.

Posted by Nicholas at 10:54 AM | Comments (0)

Wine tasting notes from last month's Vintages Classics event

Someone wanted to see my tasting notes from the Vintages Classics wine tasting last month, so I finished transcribing my notes and put them into a Microsoft Excel file for downloading.

The "Comments" field is what various wine writers had published about the wines and Vintages included in the event booklet. The "Tasting Notes" field is where I reveal just how little I actually know about wine. The "Rating" is a simple numeric value (from 1-10) on whether I think the wine was worth the asking price. A "10" is a slam-dunk. A "1" indicates that you'd get better flavour by licking the condensation on the side of the slop bowl.

Posted by Nicholas at 10:15 AM | Comments (0)

QotD: Government

Where government moves in, community retreats, civil society disintegrates and our ability to control our own destiny atrophies. The result is: families under siege; war in the streets; unapologetic expropriation of property; the precipitous decline of the rule of law; the rapid rise of corruption; the loss of civility and the triumph of deceit. The result is a debased, debauched culture which finds moral depravity entertaining and virtue contemptible.

Janice Rogers Brown, "A Whiter Shade of Pale," Speech to Federalist Society (April 20. 2000). Linked from People for the American Way anti-Brown quotes page.

Posted by Nicholas at 12:14 AM | Comments (0)

June 13, 2005

Ordering Pizza the new, no-privacy way

I'd seen this a long time back, but forgot to bookmark the site. Here's how ordering a pizza will become a trip through your personal life (requires Flash player).

Hat tip to Eric Kirkland.

Posted by Nicholas at 02:36 PM | Comments (0)

In China, cigarette smoking is good for you

The Chinese market for cigarettes is 99% state-controlled. As a result, the government spends a lot of time and effort pushing the benefits of cigarette smoking:

Cigarettes, according to China's tobacco authorities, are an excellent way to prevent ulcers.

They also reduce the risk of Parkinson's disease, relieve schizophrenia, boost your brain cells, speed up your thinking, improve your reactions and increase your working efficiency.

And all those warnings about lung cancer? Nonsense.

You're more likely to get cancer from cooking smoke than from your cigarette habit.

Welcome to the bizarre parallel universe of China's state-owned tobacco monopoly, the world's most successful cigarette-marketing agency.

When the monopoly profits from this controlled trade go directly into the government's coffers (or, more likely, the private pockets of generals and high party officials), the chance that a dissenting view will be crushed approaches absolute certainty.

Hat tip to Jon.

Posted by Nicholas at 02:03 PM | Comments (0)

Hobbies with a sense of humour

Yet another example of injecting humour into leisure-time activities: model roadkill for 1/160th scale hobbyists. Samples include a turtle, a raccoon, an oppossum, a lawyer, a feminist, a liberal and a conservative.

Posted by Nicholas at 01:37 PM | Comments (0)

An amusing notion

This is something I happened upon, on a link from one of my various mailing lists:

Lawyer
Paleontologists measure food consumption by the Tyrannosaurus rex in lawyers, after the scene in the film Jurassic Park in which a lawyer is consumed in one bite.

Posted by Nicholas at 11:14 AM | Comments (0)

Excerpt from Thomas Sowell's newest book

The Libertarian Enterprise has a lengthy excerpt from Thomas Sowell's newest book, Black Rednecks and White Liberals. The book is available (on a link from that page) from Laissez Faire Books for $16.95 US.

What the rednecks or crackers brought with them across the ocean was a whole constellation of attitudes, values, and behavior patterns that might have made sense in the world in which they had lived for centuries, but which would prove to be counterproductive in the world to which they were going — and counterproductive to the blacks who would live in their midst for centuries before emerging into freedom and migrating to the great urban centers of the United States, taking with them similar values.

The cultural values and social patterns prevalent among Southern whites included an aversion to work, proneness to violence, neglect of education, sexual promiscuity, improvidence, drunkenness, lack of entrepreneurship, reckless search fro excitement, lively music and dance, and a style of religious oratory marked by strident rhetoric, unbridled emotions, and flamboyant imagery. This oratorical style carried over into the political oratory of the region in both the Jim Crow era and the civil rights era, and has continued into our own times among black politicians, preachers, and activists. Touchy pride, vanity, and boastful self-dramatization were also part of this redneck culture among people from regions of Britain "where the civilization was the least developed." They boast and lack self-restraint," Olmsted said, after observing their descendants in the American antebellum South.

I haven't read the book myself, so this is more in the way of a heads-up than a recommendation.

Posted by Nicholas at 10:29 AM | Comments (0)

QotD: Therapism

Therapism has caused a decline in the quality of our culture. People are now engaged in a kind of arms race, feeling obliged to express their emotions ever more extravagantly to prove to themselves and other just how much and how deeply they feel. This leads to the peculiar shrillness, shallowness, and lack of subtlety of so much of our culture.

Theodore Dalrymple, "Bad counsel", The New Criterion, 2005-06

Posted by Nicholas at 09:53 AM | Comments (0)

June 12, 2005

In praise of a tool

Part of my "free time" yesterday was spent finishing off the fence I started working on a few weeks ago. My original plan was to nail up the remaining rails and top-cap boards, and then build and hang the two gates. If any time remained, I thought I'd make an attempt at some decorative touches over the gates.

Well, the best-laid plans of mice and woodworkers, and all of that. I didn't even manage to get started on building the gates, and there's still a few bits of finish carpentry required on one short panel of the fence. But that isn't really the point of this little whine. The point was that the job took longer than I'd planned partly because I was missing an essential little tool: a Japanese nail set.

The big 3" nails I was driving were fine, until they were nearly flush with the surface of the fence . . . because most of them were being driven in at about a 45-degree angle to the face of the boards. You can only be as inaccurate as I am for so long before you're leaving so many marks on the surface of the wood that it looks like a monstrous demented woodpecker has been let loose.

Posted by Nicholas at 05:21 PM | Comments (0)

Mini restaurant review: 22 Church Street

If anyone remembers, I posted a brief review of a wine-tasting we'd attended at Pepperberries back in January. Last month, the chef who'd prepared the meal for that wine tasting contacted me to let me know that he'd moved to a new restaurant and they were hoping to put on a wine tasting in the near future. Because I'll be busy all next weekend (deadlines at work are starting to tower over the horizon), Elizabeth and Victor took me out for a pre-Father's Day dinner last night, and we decided to try 22 Church Street, the new restaurant.

The outside is a bit unprepossessing, being a converted house just south of Kingston Road in Pickering Village. A really positive thing is that the restaurant has applied for their BYOW license — making them part of a small, elite group of restaurants in Ontario. They have a shaded patio in the back, but the temperature and humidity persuaded us to stay inside for our meal.

22ChurchDiningRoom_11Jun05.jpg

The wine list isn't as extensive as I might prefer, but there's some reasonable choices on there (Elizabeth and I both ordered seafood, so we tried the Lou Black Chardonnay). Brian Cassibo (the chef) assures me that they'll be looking to expand their wine selection in the near future. The Chardonnay was actually a pretty good match with my scallops and Elizabeth's lobster, so it was far from a bad selection. Victor ordered the pork tenderloin, but he's not yet able to drink wine, so he cared little for our choice!

Victor_11Jun05.jpg Elizabeth_11Jun05.jpg

Victor, wondering why I'm suddenly messing around with my Treo

Elizabeth, just after Victor realized I was taking some photos (you can tell by the stern expression he's got).

Overall, we had a good time on this visit, and we'll be looking forward to the promised wine tasting sometime later this summer. You can check their current menu here, if you'd like to see what's on offer.

Posted by Nicholas at 01:18 PM | Comments (0)

News from a universe just next door

Paul Wells entitles this post "Earthquake", and for good reason. First, read the quoted material below, then check the extended entry for the punchline:

"It is false and tendentious to establish a link between private-sector participation in the health-care system and the degree of progressiveness of a society. How can you claim that societies like France, England or Sweden are less socially advanced than Quebec on the basis of private-sector participation in their health systems? It's easy to see this makes no sense.

"The Scandinavian countries themselves have private participation in their health systems. As far as I know, nobody accuses them of being socially backward."

Here's the alternate universe part of the whole thing:

This statement was made in Quebec's National Assembly during an emergency debate on Friday by Philippe Couillard. He is Quebec's minister of health.

He is a Liberal.

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

Google is everywhere

I thought Google was already the most wide-spread search tool in the world, but apparently they're still discovering new niches. The latest is a Google for Romansch, one of the tiniest linguistic groups in Europe:

Not many people have heard of Romansch. But in the future, those looking for websites in Switzerland may find themselves trying to decipher this Latin-linked language.

That's because Google Inc., the Internet's leading search engine provider, is now offering its service in Romansch, a language spoken by just 35,000 people in the mountains of southeastern Switzerland, the company said Wednesday.

The Swiss government has passed laws to protect the minority Romansch language, such as requiring its use in schools and on bank notes, but speakers will now have the opportunity to "tschertgar il web" - or search the web - in their native language.

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

QotD: Government

[M]ost libertarians see the government as the mafia's mildly retarded big brother.

Jonathan David Morris, "The Non-Aggression Principle", The Libertarian Enterprise, 2005-06-05

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

June 11, 2005

QotD: Hospitals

In a hospital, half of the patients get better food than at home.

Gerhard Kocher, Vorsicht, Medizin! Aphorismen zum Gesundheitswesen und zur Gesundheitspolitik, 2000 (English translation provided by the author)

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

June 10, 2005

Poverty in Ontario

Jon sent along this link to a Toronto Star article, with the comment that "this cannot be a Toronto Star editorial!" It is rather surprising to find that paper taking a such a careful stance on this notoriously hot-button issue:

Tempting as it may be for social activists to portray the poor in romanticized terms, it is not the basis for sound public policy. That is one of the lessons that emerges from a three-year study of 40 lower-income families struggling to survive in Ontario in the late '90s. The final report, entitled Telling Tales: Living the Effects of Public Policy, was released yesterday.

It is a useful antidote to a lot of the fuzzy thinking, academic theorizing and simplistic analysis that goes on in the social policy field.

The first quoted paragraph is already enough to have me checking the date, to ensure that it's not an April 1st story. But it gets more interesting still:

Not surprisingly, they found that almost none of their subjects moved up the socio-economic ladder. Even those who found work slipped back into poverty over the course of the study.

But there were surprises in the reams of data the researchers collected.

One was that a job — long considered the mainstay of a household's survival — actually plays a fairly limited role in keeping low-income families afloat. Participants cobbled together income from a variety of sources, got help from relatives and friends and depended on social supports such as subsidized housing and food banks. If any of these lifelines snapped, they were in crisis.

In other words, having raised a couple of generations of Canadians who accept and are perfectly comfortable with the concept of being dependent on others, there are now significant numbers of low-income families who are totally dependent on others for their necessities of life. The plight of those individuals and families when circumstances change is desperate indeed: they have no other resources to draw upon.

A second eye-opener was that people who have been cruelly stereotyped often do the same thing to others. It didn't take long for some of the study's participants to display racist, sexist, anti-immigrant and homophobic attitudes.

This one flabbergasted me. I grew up in relatively low-income areas, and it was far more common to hear all sorts of attitudes that — even for that time and place — were significantly more intolerant than would be acceptable in the wider society. I don't know whether the surprise is greater for the researchers or for the reporter, but clearly one or both are less familiar with life in poorer areas of town than they should be.

A third finding that caught them off-guard was that sole-support mothers don't want the government to hound "deadbeat" dads. Experience has taught them that these policies don't work, infuriate their former spouses and place them and their children in danger.

Another "duh" finding, but perhaps I should be happy that they were willing to publish it: it's certainly true that the current emphasis of the courts — punishing most or all non-custodial fathers pre-emptively — is a disaster for the very people who are supposed to benefit, the custodial parent and the children themselves.

Finally, the authors discovered to their dismay that most of the training programs offered by Ottawa and Queen's Park are totally out of synch with today's job market. They are designed to deal with brief interruptions in employment. Yet most of the participants in the study had never known — and never expected to know — steady work. They juggled two or three minimum-wage jobs or hired themselves out through temp agencies. The last thing they needed were courses in résumé writing or job-search techniques.

The Canadian government has been moving towards more private solutions to the unemployment and job-retraining areas, but the problem seems to be that public-service inertia transfers to the private firm, rather than initiative and task-orientation transferring to the public sector. This is typical of the kind of "privatization" governments tend to prefer: block transferring a job to a sole-supplier who is partly or wholly bound by pre-existing public service rules.

Posted by Nicholas at 04:31 PM | Comments (0)

Cricket, explained for baseball fans

As an expatriate Brit, I should be ashamed to admit that I know next to nothing about cricket. It wasn't a game we played in my home town. As a result, I actually learned something from Cricket for Baseball Players.

Posted by Nicholas at 01:54 PM | Comments (0)

Wine is not fattening!

Elizabeth and I had a disagreement recently, after a health professional had told her that having a glass of wine every day had a correlation with weight gain. Conveniently (for my side of the discussion), Natalie Maclean's latest newsletter flatly contradicts that:

QUOTATION REMOVED AT REQUEST OF NATALIE MACLEAN

It still doesn't give you carte blanche to get wasted every night on cheap rotgut, but it's nice to find that not everything that tastes good is bad for you.

Posted by Nicholas at 01:35 PM | Comments (1)

Graduation

According to an article in The Scotsman, Cambridge University is being pressured to reconsider their ban on graduating students wearing kilts:

But the interdict sparked fury among patriotic Scottish students, and the university has been inundated with e-mails from angry alumni demanding that the dress law be removed.

Yesterday, officials at the university admitted they were prepared to make exceptions for those who felt strongly about wearing their national dress.

A Cambridge University spokesman said: "These regulations have always been in place at the university but they were never enforced.

"Recently the number of people flouting and abusing the rules was becoming more prolific and extreme. If students feel strongly about the issue they can talk to the university and decisions will be made on an individual basis."

The kilt ban was sparked after university proctors — officials responsible for student discipline — complained about the variety of flamboyant clothing being worn to graduations.

Ye think they'd have learned from the last attempt to ban the kilt in the wake of the Rebellion of 1745!

Speaking of graduations (said he, switching topics), when did the idea of graduating from Grade 8 to high school become a formal occasion? My son is lobbying for a tux for his graduation later this month — I didn't think that would be an issue until Grade 12!

Posted by Nicholas at 10:04 AM | Comments (0)

QotD: Government

In short, the Legislature within its jurisdiction can do everything that is not naturally impossible, and is restrained by no rule human or divine. If it be that the plaintiffs acquired any rights, which I am far from finding, the Legislature had the power to take them away. The prohibition, 'Thou shalt not steal,' has no legal force upon the sovereign body. And there would be no necessity for compensation to be given.

The Supreme Court of Canada, April 2003

Angry in the Great White North provides some context for this rather bladder-loosening declaration.

Posted by Nicholas at 12:43 AM | Comments (0)

June 09, 2005

Boring, geeky army stuff

There's a fascinating post up at the Castle, talking about the next-generation of military vehicles the US has on the drawing board . . . and more importantly the command-and-control systems required to take full advantage of the new toys:

As I've mentioned before, a couple of years ago I worked ABCA exercises (the America-Britain-Canada-Australia Alliance). One thing about the Brit Army — they were far more comfortable working with the Marines than they were with the US Army — and while some of that was driven by cultural issues — the Brits are organized and used a lot like we do the Marines, and, well, they have some aspects of seeing themselves as peers to the Marines while the Army are slighty retarded younger brothers striving to show that we are too grown up (heh, let the snarks begin) . . . but the real issue is one of the US Army is so automated vice the Marines. The Brits are frankly just more comfortable hooking into Marines than they are the Army. They are (justly) concerned that the Army is so wired and used to being wired that, in effect, we are actually possibly *more* likely to engage a Brit formation in the wrong place at the wrong time because we are so used to the situational awareness we have from our systems they are concerned we will shoot first and ask questions later.

A couple of good points there, especially about the fundamental differences between the British Army and the US Army's typical deployment: the USMC are organized more like the Brits — and for totally functional reasons. The British army has been sealifted and dropped on foreign shores for centuries. It's how they expect to arrive at the point where they get to expend ammunition.

The idea is also mooted about opening the FCS to Britain and Australia (and possibly even Soviet Canuckistan), for economic and practical military reasons: it was already difficult enough to co-ordinate with their allies in the first Gulf War of 1991. Today, there are very few nations who can even pretend to have the technological parity to inter-operate with the US military, and all of them will be left in the dust when the new systems start to come into full production and distribution. And even the American military would appreciate design and development resources being contributed by their allies to offset the huge costs of these new systems.

I'm afraid I have to take the mention of Canadian participation as a friendly well-meaning red herring: who in their right mind would trust the current Canadian government to have any respect for other nations' military secrets?

Posted by Nicholas at 08:31 PM | Comments (1)

Photos and video clips from Vikings developmental camp

The local Minneapolis radio station KFAN has a useful site for Vikings information, including some photos taken at the developmental camps run last week and this week:

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

US Army's last farrier retires

A link in Spotlight on Military News led me to this article on the last farrier in the US Army:

For 35 years, as the official farrier at Arlington's Fort Myer, Cote tapped special shoes onto the hooves of horses that rode in nine presidential inaugurations, the funeral processions of presidents Lyndon B. Johnson and Ronald Reagan, and thousands of military burials.

Cote's horses rode in funerals for famous people as diverse as World War II Gen. Omar Bradley and the astronauts who perished when the space shuttle Challenger exploded in 1986. His small farrier shop on the grounds of Fort Myer's nearly century-old stables became an attraction all its own, visited by celebrities including actor Tom Selleck and model Christie Brinkley.

But the years of swinging the special horseshoe hammer took their toll. Cote recently had rotator cuff surgery on both shoulders and over the years broke his nose, jaw and ribs. He even suffered a collapsed lung. "Sometimes the horses will kick you, or fall on you, or run you over," he said.

As a result, Cote — the U.S. Army's only farrier — retired last week. Army officials say he will be sorely missed.

This is interesting to me, as two of Elizabeth's cousins have been farriers, and both of them were in the British military, although not in that capacity.

Posted by Nicholas at 06:49 PM | Comments (0)

French carrier arrives in Halifax

The French nuclear-powered aircraft carrier Charles de Gaulle arrived in Halifax harbour yesterday:

About 3,000 sailors who pulled into port Wednesday with a fleet of French naval vessels won't be at a loss for things to do during their stopover in Halifax.

"We're hosting our friends and allies from France — part of the task group we've been exercising with over the last few weeks," said Mike Bonin, a public affairs officer at Maritime Forces Atlantic in Halifax.

Six vessels from that task group are paying a visit to the home of Canada's East Coast navy, led by the French navy's flagship, a nuclear-powered aircraft carrier, Charles de Gaulle.

French frigates Tourville and Jean-Bart, nuclear submarine Rubis and supply ship Meuse also arrived Wednesday morning, along with the British destroyer HMS Nottingham, another vessel that took part in the naval exercises.

Posted by Nicholas at 05:52 PM | Comments (0)

Kids today, a curmudgeonly take

Gerard Vanderleun has had it with modern "permissive parenting". At least, I think that's the easiest way to summarize this post:

Children, having had some time to practice at life and get small motor skills and a sailor's vocabulary without losing the ability to screech like a disemboweled wombat at any instant and for no reason at all, present a more interesting buffet of brain disorders. Napoleonic complexes and the belief that their backsides produce nothing but moonbeams are common. Ditto a distinct inability to understand any time lapse at all between desire and gratification. Add onto those three items the realization that we have, as a society, decided that no actions of children — no matter how awful — are to have any consequnces other than a disappointed look and a time out, and you have the recipe for the inmates across the land to run their asylum homes. Which they do with predictable results.

In a simpler time, children's misdeeds and psychotic outbursts ( A frothing temper tantrum involving heel pounding and floor revolving on being denied a pack of gum was observed recently at a local supermarket), were controlled simply by referencing the "father" who would "get home soon." No longer. There is often no father that will be home anytime in the next decade and even when there is he is often inhibited in his impulse to renovate the insane child by the knowledge that the child knows how to dial 911 and will.

I no longer regularly travel by public transit, but one of the worst things was taking a bus or streetcar when the kids were getting out of school. Mob scenes, random violence, gang dynamics, and all sorts of pathological behaviour was on full display from the time the vehicle doors opened.

Some restraint, at least in the clothes and personal hygiene sense, remained among the private and Catholic schools who had school uniforms. Public schools, however, let the barbarians in the gates long ago:

Of course, by the teenage years, this ability to dress in a myriad of ways suggesting the increasing degeneration of the cerebral lobes has paired itself with the ability to attack parents in their sleep with edged weapons, so all restraint is lost. This accounts for many children — during the peak teenish years of their unbridled psychopathic and sociopathic insanity — to emerge from their million dollar homes and their personal SUVs with the look of a feces-smeared Balkan refugee with multiple facial piercings and a 'message' t-shirt promising to fight for the right to party like demented schnauzers.

Any responsible adult appearing in any of our cities and towns with this "look" would immediately be reported to Homeland Security, surrounded by Navy SEALS locked and loaded, and find themselves on a one-way flight to Guantanamo. But for our children, its "Hey, they're only kids. What can you do?"

Posted by Nicholas at 04:57 PM | Comments (1)

Guest blogger tries to appeal to da Canadian values, eh?

In a bid to widen her already vast audience, Kate's guest blogger Jeff goes for the traditional Canadian market:

In which I attempt to curry favor with Canadians by carefully caressing their cultural sensibilities

Is there anything in the world better than Anne Murray? No. No there most certainly is not!

Unfortunately, he misses the mark. "Sean" helpfully provides some clues in the comment section:

You know what would be better than Anne Murray? Rita McNeil in a G-string and pasties. Oh yeah, and Ashley MacIsaac standing behind her and flogging her pallid flesh with his violin bow while ripped on acid and screaming obscenties at the audience. And let's have Gordie Lightfoot table dancing somewhere in the background. Just because.

Those are some Canadian cultural sensibilities I could get behind.

Not.

All I can say is there must be some part of Canada where this would be considered good entertainment.

Posted by Nicholas at 02:37 PM | Comments (2)

So private healthcare isn't actually illegal in Canada . . . yet

Damian Penny covers off the key points of this morning's surprisingly sensible Supreme Court of Canada decision:

McLachlin, Major and Bastarache all ruled that the prohibition on purchasing private health care was not rationally connected to the goal of maintaining a public system, while Deschamps ruled that there was such a connection but that the ban was a disproprtionate means of attaining that goal. Justices Fish, Binnie and LeBel would have upheld the ban.

I'll need a lot more time to review the whole text, but here's the money quote from the headnote for McLachlin and Major's decision:

The evidence in this case shows that delays in the public health care system are widespread, and that, in some serious cases, patients die as a result of waiting lists for public health care. The evidence also demonstrates that the prohibition against private health insurance and its consequence of denying people vital health care result in physical and psychological suffering that meets a threshold test of seriousness.

Where lack of timely health care can result in death, the s. 7 protection of life is engaged; where it can result in serious psychological and physical suffering, the s. 7 protection of security of the person is triggered. In this case, the government has prohibited private health insurance that would permit ordinary Quebeckers to access private health care while failing to deliver health care in a reasonable manner, thereby increasing the risk of complications and death. In so doing, it has interfered with the interests protected by s. 7 of the Canadian Charter.

I'll be honest and say that I never expected a SCC decision on health care to come down remotely favouring private medicine. The coast isn't clear for all provinces, as the court didn't muster a majority for the proposition that the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms had been violated.

Posted by Nicholas at 02:00 PM | Comments (0)

Film lists ain't me, that's for sure

Over at Ghost of a Flea, Nick is listing some cult films. He is responding to a post on Protein Wisdom which claims:

[. . .] if you haven't seen you should see immediately or risk having protein wisdom sneer at you like certain embarrassingly reactionary rightwing blogs sneer at homosexuals and minorities of all stripes

Sadly, of the twenty films he lists, I've seen exactly two.

But it gets sadder: of the twenty films Nick lists, I've heard of exactly two.

Posted by Nicholas at 01:45 PM | Comments (4)

Judicial nominee has media in pants-wetting mode

A post at Hit and Run on the appointment of Janice Rogers Brown to the DC Court of Appeals links to a fascinating bunch of quotations. Expect to see a few of these pop up on the page in the near future.

Posted by Nicholas at 10:30 AM | Comments (0)

QotD: Creativity

Creative genius often seems to be ladled out to those who are manifestly unworthy of it. Indeed, artistic genius has been so frequently bound up with vanity, neurosis, lust, and the rest of the Seven Deadly Sins that it might be considered more of a curse than a blessing. The literature of the West is replete with stories of geniuses whose hubris brings about tragic consequences, from Oedipus Rex to Doctor Faustus to Frankenstein and beyond. Whether in art, science, or politics, creative genius is a form of power, and power, as we all know, corrupts.

Gregory Wolfe, "In God’s Image: The virtue of creativity", National Review, 2005-05-27

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

June 08, 2005

Greg "the junkie" Staples needs a fix

Poor Greg has been overdosing on his daily fix, and the supply has suddenly tapered off:

I need more of it or stronger doses to get me worked up. You mean no one has crossed the floor today. No back room deals have been made. There is no explosive news at Gomery. You mean I have to discuss issues! If the MSM doesn't do it how can I be expected to (that ones for you Paul Wells).

Hopefully some MP will go off their rocker today so I have something to talk about.

The sad, sad spectacle of the political junkie. Parents, don't let this happen to your kids!

Posted by Nicholas at 05:19 PM | Comments (0)

Occam proposes a Free Province Project

Occam is tossing out the suggestion that Canadian libertarians and small-government conservatives should emulate the Free State Project:

[. . .] there is simply no place for you in Canada. That country will continue to be governed without regard to your wishes. It will take your money and spend it on things you don't want it spent on, or worse, things you actually find offensive. It's government will do this without scruple, without regret, indeed, with a certain degree of bravado, a certain swagger, if you will. You won't be arrested. You won't be spirited off in the night, or be menaced by government agents skulking about your house. You will, however, be overtaxed and overregulated. The daily comings and goings of your life will come under ever more stringent control and close inspection. Your business will be hampered. Your private property ever more subject to the scrutiny and whim of agents of the state. Though you were born free and grew into an independent, thinking adult, the state will continue to mother you, whether you want it or not. And you do not. You'll carry on, of course, as I am doing, because this is your home, and you are loathe to leave it, but there will come a time when you realize that it has left you.

Jon, my virtual landlord, often comments that right wing bloggers will be the first ones carted off to the "Kyoto Camps". While I don't think that's the way the game will be played, it is hard to believe that the country will stop moving towards the ill-defined socialist paradise which is the inevitable destination if current trends continue.

Posted by Nicholas at 05:06 PM | Comments (0)

Human nature

Theodore Dalrymple reviews a new book by Sally Satel and Christina Hoff Sommers:

According to therapism, everyone who has ever witnessed anything unpleasant, or experienced loss or humiliation (which is to say, the great majority of humanity), is at risk of subsequent mental illness unless he expresses his feelings volubly and often, preferably as directed by a mental health worker. As the authors point out, there is no evidence that this is so — quite the contrary. As appetites grow with the feeding, so emotions grow with the expression. In fact, the evidence is very strong that most people are resilient, and that resilience is self-reinforcing. If, however, you persuade people that they are weak and fragile, that is what they will become.

At stake is our whole conception of what it is to be human. The common-law tradition is that everyone is responsible for his actions unless the contrary can be proved. Therapism, which has already subverted law to a considerable extent, believes that wrongdoing is itself a symptom. Man is a feather, blown on the wind of circumstance. There, but for the grace of my environment, go I.

Hat tip to Gods of the Copybook Headings.

Posted by Nicholas at 04:17 PM | Comments (0)

The latest Brigade recruit: mkbraaten.com

Another day, another new Red Ensign Brigade member. Today's newest member is mkbraaten.com. Welcome to the finest unit in the Canadian blogosphere!

Posted by Nicholas at 01:48 PM | Comments (0)

The Babbler goes for the patriotic angle

Damian provides some fodder for the would-be patriots among us:

Of course, I bring this to your attention because I feel strongly that we should celebrate our triumphs on the world stage, not because she's hot.

What's that? Why yes, I am sticking with that story, thank you very much for asking.

For those of you who are more visually oriented, he also provides a photo. . .

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

New motoring offence: driving while gay

Sicily may be a bad place to drive for gay men:

A court has intervened after Sicilian authorities had suspended a man's driver's license upon learning he was gay.

The court ruled, "It is clear that sexual preferences do not in any way influence a person's ability to drive motor cars safely."

The judges added that homosexuality "cannot be considered a true and proper psychiatric illness, being a mere personality disturbance."

License authorities discovered the sexual orientation of the 23-year-old man, identified by the Ansa news agency in Italy as Danilo G., when they discovered he had been exempted from military service because he was gay.

This one just floors me. The exemption from serving in the armed forces at least has some pretence of having a reason (however idiotic), but preventing you from driving because of your sexual orientation? Huh?

Posted by Nicholas at 12:44 AM | Comments (1)

QotD: Cynicism

Now, there's this about cynicism . . . It's the universe's most supine moral position. Real comfortable. If nothing can be done, then you're not some kind of shit for not doing it, and you can lie there and stink to yourself in perfect peace.

Lois McMaster Bujold, Borders of Infinity

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

June 07, 2005

The Robot Guy hoists the Red Ensign

Please welcome the newest member of the Red Ensign Brigade, Robot Guy.

He has some interesting thoughts on the book tag thing. He nearly scared me off by including some formulae in the post, but fortunately the words started up soon afterwards, so I think it's safe to read that post.

Posted by Nicholas at 04:58 PM | Comments (0)

Samizdata gets on the Olympic bandwagon

It might surprise you to find one of the Samizdata bloggers singing the praises of one of the bids for the right to hold the 2012 Olympic Games:

There is clearly everything to play for in a contest which is far from over and, despite all the predictions to the contrary, London is still in with an excellent chance of winning the right to stage the Games. It is for this reason that I feel compelled to impose upon my fellow contributors and our readers and ask them to join with me in grand effort to get behind the Olympic bid. The Paris Olympic bid, that is.

The amount of money that is wasted by cities and nations in pursuit of the right to host Olympic games is truly staggering. This is a good way to boost the careers of politicians and depress the incomes of taxpayers, for all bidders in general, but especially for the "winners".

Posted by Nicholas at 02:59 PM | Comments (0)

Steve H. discovers Calvados

Another blogger discovers the interesting apple brandy from Normandy called Calvados. It will never replace wine for me, but it's a very welcome post-prandial drink.

Posted by Nicholas at 02:44 PM | Comments (1)

D-Day, if it had been reported by today's media

Murdoc Online got an Instalanche for the comments on this post. Some of the more amusing ones:

Roosevelt, with only his poodle Churchill backing him up, escalates total war in Europe; rather than finding work for them Roosevelt sends thousands of underprivileged Americans to their certain deaths. Civilian casualties expected to be in the unacceptable range. This is too heavy a price to pay; bring the troops home now!
Charles

"Mistakes and miscalculations lead to hundreds of unnecessary American deaths on Omaha beach."
"Risky airborne operation ordered by Eisenhower"
"Thousands of paratroopers missing and feared dead after disorganized jumps"
"Allied troops untrained and unprepared for combat is Hedgerow country"
"Ike ignores advice of de Gaulle and orders risky invasion of France anyway"
Bram

US Soldiers Desecrate French Church by Killing Sniper in Tower
D-Day Protesters in New York: No Blood for Brie!
Sanctions Would Have Worked, Says League of Nations
Brainster

Unified Europe faces threat from US-led Assault
Eco-Disaster: The Normandy Coastline. Will it ever recover?
Bumperstickerist

Yes, media bias was alive in 1944, but between military censorship and a greater awareness among newspaper and magazine reporters, even bad news was presented very differently than it is today.

Posted by Nicholas at 11:51 AM | Comments (0)

The 21st century fight against slavery

Slavery, as everyone seems to believe, was invented just about 1650 (as Africans were abducted to work on American farms) and abolished in 1865. It seems to be presented entirely in an American context — and almost always with white Americans as the only, or at least the most culpable, perpetrators. It must come as a huge surprise to many people, given this extremely faulty background knowledge, that slavery is a huge problem now:

According to the 2005 Trafficking in Persons Report, released by the State Department on Friday, Laos is a significant source of trafficked persons and Thailand a frequent destination. In a few dismissive paragraphs, the authors skim over why this might be so. Trafficked women and children are presented as if lost in a vacuum, their lives stripped of circumstance. Reading the report, it seems completely plausible that a kid from New Jersey might wake up one day as a sex slave in Singapore or a camel jockey in Saudi Arabia.

But such a revelation can still be distorted to provide a very misleading picture of the extent and severity of the problem:

Slavery in all of its forms has become a priority of humanitarian assistance over the past five years, prompting a bumper crop of acronymed NGOs, inspiring turf wars among U.N. agencies, and energizing evangelical Christians in the U.S. Likely because it helps to drum up donations and political support from social conservatives, agencies focus on sexual slavery, which is only one aspect of a much larger global trade that puts men, women, and children to work in factories, fishing boats, and private homes around the world.

In deference to this trend, the State Department report is positively sex-obsessed. The authors devote a whole page to reminding us that "prostitution is inherently harmful" and the U.S. opposes its legalization. The victim profiles don't include a single adult male. In the U.S. media, New York Times columnist Nicholas D Kristof helped cement the myth that trafficking is equivalent to sexual slavery in a slew of confused, sexually charged columns about Cambodian sex workers. The way Kristof tells the story, the cause of sexual slavery isn't poverty, but pimps.

Political agendas set the tone for almost all discussion, and the renewed attempt to eliminate slavery is in no way different. Sex slavery is only a part of the much bigger problem, but it's the most media-genic.

Posted by Nicholas at 10:54 AM | Comments (0)

Media bias? What media bias?

It has been argued ad infinitum that the Canadian media has a strong bias in favour of the Liberals, and not just by those out on the right side of the political spectrum. This Toronto Sun article merely restates the case in terms of the recent decision by MP Pat O'Brian to sit as an independent:

O'Brien, who is opposed to legalizing same-sex marriage, said Martin had not, as he promised, allowed a "full and fair" debate on the issue and was instead just trying to ram it through.

Here's how to spot that our overwhelmingly pro-Liberal media are biased in favour of Martin over Harper:

Watch for how many of them argue that in losing O'Brien, Martin has demonstrated a clear inability to retain the loyalty of socially conservative Liberals, whose support he needs if his minority government is to survive for any length of time.

We predict there will be none, even though more than 30 Liberal MPs oppose same-sex marriage and Martin clearly can't afford to lose many more.

Despite that, count on our pro-Liberal media to never suggest that O'Brien's defection shows any failure on Martin's part.

Hat tip to Elizabeth for pointing out the article.

Posted by Nicholas at 09:54 AM | Comments (0)

QotD: US Military against journalists

On a May 13 panel at the National Conference for Media Reform in St. Louis, Linda Foley, the national president of the Newspaper Guild, said that the U.S. military deliberately targets journalists, "not just U.S. journalists either, by the way. They target and kill journalists from other countries, particularly Arab countries, at news services like al Jazeera, for example. They actually target them and blow up their studios with impunity." We have heard this before. Eason Jordan, then a CNN executive, said something similar on a panel at Davos, the annual economic conference in Switzerland, setting off an enormous furor. Foley's comment was almost universally ignored by the news media. Thomas Lipscomb of the Chicago Sun-Times wrote a column about it. More than two weeks later, Jack Kelly, national security writer for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and the Blade of Toledo, Ohio, said the Sun-Times (Lipscomb's column) was the only newspaper in the country to report what Foley said.

A column in the St. Paul Pioneer Press mentioned it, and so did an editorial in the Washington Times. Bloggers and The O'Reilly Factor brought important national attention. But a Nexis database search last week failed to turn up a straight news report on Foley's remark anywhere in America since Foley spoke on the panel. Remember, she is president of the union representing 35,000 reporters, editors, and other journalism workers. "Where is the professionalism and the authority that is our main claim to writing the indispensable 'first draft of history'?" Lipscomb asked in a follow-up piece in Editor & Publisher. He wrote, "The mainstream media couldn't be bothered to cover 'Easongate: the sequel.' " Foley sent a letter to the White House calling on it to pursue the "worldwide speculation that the U.S. military targets journalists and the media." In other words, she doesn't have to back up her charge, but the White House should start trying to prove that what she said is false.

John Leo, "Stories Not Told", US News, 2005-06-13

Posted by Nicholas at 08:04 AM | Comments (0)

June 06, 2005

The Babbler bares his soul

Damian Brooks marks the anniversary of the D-Day landings with some personal insights:

I went to school and came away different, but they went to war. I lost classmates to training accidents, to car accidents, to suicide. They lost comrades to bullets, bombs, and shrapnel, in terrible numbers, day in and day out, for months on end. The stresses my classmates and I endured engendered a lasting camaraderie. How much greater the stresses placed on our veterans, and how much deeper the currents of uncommon experience that draw them together, even now.

After 13 weeks of recruit training, I cried when I saw my family again. Our Normandy veterans left family, country, and safety behind for years; they crossed an ocean; they killed and faced death. They liberated a continent, and in so doing, they changed the course of history. One wonders how they adjusted to some of the inescapably mundane elements of civilian life so shortly after engaging in such a momentous military undertaking.

When you've been forced to decide what is worth dying for at age 21, how does that affect what you believe is worth living for at age 22, or 42, or 82? We are rapidly losing the ability to ask that question of our Normandy veterans, as the natural ends of their lives loom closer with each passing day. Very shortly now, all we will have left is their legacy, an unmatched record of public service in both war and peace.

My brief military service was all spent in Canada, in the Militia. The unit I belonged to had few battle honours from the Second World War, as they had been chosen to provide headquarter guard detachments of platoon and company size to Canadian divisions. We envied the recruits of other units in our brigade which had more glorious recent histories, but the costs of gaining that glory was rarely in our minds. Canada provided a disproportional share of the military effort on D-Day — one of the two best-known battles Canadians took a leading role in — and they paid the costs in blood.

Posted by Nicholas at 01:27 PM | Comments (0)

Tag! It's my turn

Debbye passes the torch. Or slaps me and passes on, laughing, into the cover of dark. I get my opportunity to say my piece and pass it along to other bloggers.

Number of books I own: Easy one to answer. At last anal-retentive count, 2702, not counting Elizabeth's or Victor's volumes. Add theirs in and we probably have nearly 4500 books under our roof at the moment.

Last book I read: Another easy, although not exact question. The last book I completed was George MacDonald Fraser's Flashman on the March, but I always have at least a dozen books currently being read. Most recently completed were The Hallowed Hunt by Lois McMaster Bujold, The Midway Campaign by Jack Greene, Bacchus and Me by Jay McInerney, Interior Desecrations by James Lileks, Carnage and Culture by Victor Davis Hanson and Castles of Steel by Robert Massie.

Books that mean a lot to me: A much tougher question to answer. I cannot possibly limit this to only five.

  • Starship Troopers by Robert Heinlein. My first "serious" SF novel, read in about 1972. While I'd be damned uncomfortable living in Juan Rico's world, I'd understand and be able to cope with the why men fight if I'd been raised there. One of the best SF novels ever.
  • Flashman by George MacDonald Fraser. If ever there was a more brilliant follow-on to an already successful novel I've never heard of it. Harry Flashman is the best Victorian who never actually existed. I'd hate to have had to depend on him, but damme, he's the exemplar of so much that made Victoria's Empire the greatest the world ever knew . . . if only by counter-example.
  • The Face of Battle by John Keegan. This stands as one of the best works of military history of the 20th century. Military history at a human scale.
  • Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien. Odd pacing, clumsy language, and yet engaging, lively, real. I re-read the trilogy every couple of years, and still find myself carried away with the Fellowship, involved in their struggles, tearful and yet triumphant at the end (spare me the criticisms of unresolved minor plotlines . . . I'm too much the romantic to bog down with pedantic mithering).
  • The Happy Return, A Ship of the Line, and Flying Colours by C.S. Forester. Hornblower was the man I wanted to grow up to be, sea-sickness, self-doubt, and all. These three books were the heart of Hornblower's career, rising from obscurity to fame and fleeting happiness. I wore out several copies of these books by re-reading.
  • Capitalism and Freedom by Milton Friedman. My first written introduction to libertarian thought (outside science fiction novels). I wouldn't say it converted me, but it certainly opened my eyes to much that had been obscured beforehand. This was one of the first books I bought from the Libertarian Party bookstore.

I'm supposed to tag other bloggers at this point, but most of the folks I regularly read (and who visit my site) have already been tagged. I was going to tag Chris Taylor, but he posted earlier this morning, tagging me, drat the man! Tiger, Damian, and Der Brigadier have all been tagged by now.

Posted by Nicholas at 11:18 AM | Comments (0)

Re-organize the Armed Forces

Angry has some interesting things to say about the impending re-organization of the Canadian Armed Forces.

The problem is, of course, that in just about any military, it is the army that, in the end, matters most. Boots on the ground and all that. The navy and especially the air force exist to enhance the army. Of course, navy and air force guys will vehemently deny this. In the US, of course, the navy can do with its marines a lot that the army does, but then that just goes to show that landed forces, regardless of what you call them and who commands them, are what matters most.

So it's no surprise that our Chief of Defence staff, General Rick Hillier, is army. Prior to his appointment as CDS, he as chief of the land staff, which is Canada's uninspiring name for head of the army. His immediate predecessor, Ray Henault, was a fighter pilot.

Okay, you flyboys and seagoing lubbers, Angry's tossed down the gauntlet. Refute him if you can!

Posted by Nicholas at 10:35 AM | Comments (0)

Red Ensign is raised at West Coast Chaos

The latest edition of the Raising of the Red Ensign has been posted by Temujin at West Coast Chaos. See what the other active bloggers in the Brigade have been up to lately.

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

QotD: Pop Music

One of the pleasures of middle age is the utter freedom you feel when you realize it's no longer necessary to care about pop music. This emotion takes several forms; at its worst you become a peevish coot suffused with suspicion: These youngsters are wearing their hats in a style that fills me with unease. But at its best, you realize that there's more to life than pop music. You need not worry whether the sludgy thrash-rock ground out by yowling scowlers is post-punkabilly infused with a neo-hippie sensibility, or the other way around. If something new comes along that you like, fine. But don't think it makes you hip. You're not hip. Hip, like Trix, is for kids.

James Lileks, "Turning into an old crunker", Star-Tribune, 2005-05-29

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

June 05, 2005

The downside of the recent wine rule change

The recent Supreme Court victory for free trade in wine may have a significant downside, according to Tom Wark:

The Supreme Court ruling, at its simplest says states may concoct nearly any rule for wine shipments within its state as long as they don't discriminate against out of state shippers. Reciprocity discriminates against out of state shippers. It would not be a surprise to see a suit brought against one of the reciprocity states by a party in a limited shipping state or a wholesaler challenging the constitutionality of these laws.

States Could Shut Down All Sales to the Public By Wineries.
I was informed by a person very close to the deliberations on the meaning for the Supreme Court Ruling in Michigan that one interpretation of the decision could be that if no shipping is allowed into the state or within the state by wineries, it would follow that wineries can not sell AT ALL direct to the public. This would be an extreme interpretation, but not out of the realm of possibility. Of course it would be the near total demise of small wineries in states like Michigan.

Given the amount of money floating around, it's not at all unlikely that the worst possible result could be engineered for consumers by the wholesalers and bureaucrats of the various states. Just remember: it's not paranoia if they really are out to get you.

Posted by Nicholas at 04:44 PM | Comments (0)

Canadian Crisis: religious fanatics also infiltrating the Liberal Party!

In a shocking, hard-to-believe, cold-sweat-inducing revelation, it appears that Christians — actual believing-in-capital-G-God Christians — are also attempting to take over the Liberal Party:

Socially conservative Christian groups purportedly infiltrating the Conservative party have been equally involved in the ruling Liberal party for years.

"People of faith are engaging in the democratic process in the Liberal party as well as the Conservative party," Charles McVety, head of Canada Christian College and a founder of the Defend Marriage Coalition, said in an interview.

Reactions from traditional strongholds of Liberaldom have been somewhat confused:

McVety said his group, which opposes same-sex marriage, helped a number of like-minded Liberals secure nominations prior to last year's election.

Among them were Toronto-area MPs Paul Szabo, Tom Wappel, Jim Karygiannis, Dan McTeague and Albina Guarnieri, now veterans affairs minister, and Oshawa MP Judi Longfield.

"And those are just some of the Liberals we've helped."

The terrible news will undoubtedly leave knees quivering and jaws sagging all through the Liberal hierarchy.

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

QotD: Bike Gangs

The "Liberal Party of Canada" isn't the catchiest name for a Quebec biker gang. On the other hand, it's no more clunkily uncool than, say, the Rock Machine or any of the province's other biker gangs. The Liberal party is certainly a machine and it's proving harder to crack than most rocks, and it's essentially engaged in the same activities as the other biker gangs: the Grits launder money; they enforce a ruthless code of omerta when fainthearted minions threaten to squeal; they threaten to whack their enemies; they keep enough cash on hand in small bills of non-sequential serial numbers to be able to deliver suitcases with a couple hundred grand hither and yon; and they sluice just enough of the folding stuff around law enforcement agencies to be assured of co-operation. The Mounties' Musical Ride received $3 million from the Adscam funds, but, alas, the RCMP paperwork relating to this generous subsidy has been, in keeping with time-honoured Liberal book-keeping practices, "inadvertently lost."

Mark Steyn, "Exit strategy", Western Standard, 2005-06-15

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

June 04, 2005

A rare win . . . for me!

Today was a trip up to near Peterborough, Ontario, to compete in a rapier tournament (part of the SCA event "Pikeman's Pleasure" run by the Petrea Thule SCA group). To my utter amazement, I won the tournament. Not only that, but I won the tournament absolutely untouched: no losses in any bouts, and no touches against me in any of those bouts. Given my nearly year-long layoff from active SCA fencing, I have to attribute my sudden success to the new sword I was using today: a Darkwoods Armory 42" rapier. Up until today, I've been fencing with 36" practice schlager blades — the extra length was a very pleasant surprise for me, and an unpleasant one for my opponents.

Now the less impressive back-story: it was a very small turnout to the tournament, so the absolute worst I could have done was finishing fourth!

That being said, each of my opponents has beaten me in the past, so it was far from being a predictable result.

Can you tell that I'm still delighted with the results?

Posted by Nicholas at 08:59 PM | Comments (4)

QotD: Music as a career

Last day of Gnat's school. They had a picnic outside with a band: a guy with a guitar and a guy with a bass. Nice patter and good musicianship, but they should tour high school and teach the kids a very important lesson. Look at us! We're in our late forties, excellent musicians, skilled in the Path of Rock, and in the end it's parties for four year olds. No doubt they enjoy their work; that's irrelevant. Point to young rockers: they are not living in a mansion with a limo in the bedroom with gold-plated champagne spigots in the backseat Jacuzzi; nor do they have a stable of foxy groupies waiting in the van. Maybe it's enough to keep playing and enjoy what you're doing — in fact, given that most who take up the Path of Rock fall by the wayside and foreswear the Axe, they're ahead of the game. A gig is a gig. And the audience not only loved them, but was entirely sober, for a nice change. Still: if you young rockers out there think that the Path will lead to awesome debauchery for, like, forever: heed the Bear. It's not all TV sets tossed off motel balconies. Sometimes it's leading kids around a meadow making choo-choo sounds on your wirelessly miked bass.

James Lileks, The Bleat, 2005-06-03

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

June 03, 2005

Political shopping

I was just at Political Staples. Greg has Google Ads appearing between posts. This is a screen capture of the current ads on the page:

Stronach4Sale.png

I thought it was funny, anyway.

Posted by Nicholas at 05:46 PM | Comments (1)

Adventures in the book trade

Gerard Vanderleun used to be a medium-to-large-sized wheel in the publishing business. He reminisces about the first book he edited:

As more and more members of Houghton Mifflin read the manuscript on its way to publication, the clearer it became that Shatzkin was ruthlessly eviscerating the Trade Book industry of which Houghton Mifflin was a founding member. Shatzkin had had decades of experience with the ways in which books were sold and was not pleased by the enduring insanity and stupidity that marked the process from acquisition to pulping. It was an industry centered then as now more on personal preening than profits.

As the editing went on, I was approached on more than one occasion by the publisher and the editor in chief of the house to ask Shatzkin if he could, maybe, perhaps, just tone down his criticisms a wee tad here and there. Not to compromise his integrity, to be sure, but just to make it 'more polite.' "A spoonful of sugar" and all that. I'd nod, tug the forelock, and agree to pass these "suggestions" on to Shatzkin when we next met. I would. He'd laugh and then we'd go to lunch at Loch Ober in Boston and have two martinis instead of one, charge it all to the expense account, and thus fortified, come back and make sure we emphasized the passages that most upset our masters.

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

Gender bias at the Library of Congress

A fascinating case of either gender bias or homophobia involves a former special forces colonel and the US Library of Congress:

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) filed a discrimination suit against the Library of Congress on behalf of a transgender woman whose job offer was withdrawn after she informed the library she was transitioning from male to female.

Diane Schroer, 49, a decorated veteran with 25 years of military service, recently accepted a job at the Library of Congress as a senior terrorism research analyst. After taking her future boss to lunch and explaining that she would present at work as a woman, she said the boss called the next day to say she was not a "good fit" for the library.

"After risking my life for more than 25 years for my country, I've been told I'm not worthy of the freedoms I worked so hard to protect," Schroer said. "All I'm asking is to be judged by my abilities rather than my gender.

Surely, even the government can recognize that a person's ability to do the job will not be changed by whether they wear male or female clothing?

Posted by Nicholas at 02:41 PM | Comments (0)

New Taiwanese Restaurant

A report from AP, via Yahoo on one of the oddest restaurant concepts I've ever heard of:

Taiwanese restaurateur Eric Wang has given new meaning to the traditional revellers' cry of bottoms up.

His Marton eatery in the southern city of Kaohsiung delivers its food not on conventional plates and dishes, but in miniaturized Western and Asian style toilets, both the flush and non-flush variety.

For anyone missing the point, diners are encouraged to stir up mushy, earth-coloured offerings like curry chicken rice and chocolate ice cream to conjure up — well, the real thing.

Located in a downtown area with a variety of competing eateries, Marton — the name means toilet in Chinese — attracts its customers through its some dazzling bathroom decor.

Somehow, I'd have expected this to turn up in Germany, England, or Holland first, but never let it be said that Taiwan doesn't lead new trends. I just hope this one fizzles, if you'll pardon the phrase.

Posted by Nicholas at 02:37 PM | Comments (0)

Ajax to honour surviving crewmen of "their" ship

The Lake Ontario town of Ajax, named after the British light cruiser HMS Ajax (one of the three cruisers which harried the Graf Spee into internment and eventual scuttling), will be honouring 20 of the surviving crewmen later this month:

The town started life in 1940 as a Second World War munitions plant, Defence Industries Ltd. (DIL), and was named after the battleship HMS Ajax by a contest-winning plant employee. On Jan. 1, 1955, what had been called an "Improvement District," made up of 5,689 souls, became a self-governing entity.

This green scene — surely the envy of many people several dozen concrete kilometres to the west — is the result of a 1958 decision to keep the 6.5 kilometres of Ajax waterfront open, protected parkland for a width of 400 feet. With each tree planted, the memory of the town's most important players becomes rooted ever stronger, not only in soil but in the minds of current residents.

Ajax is nothing if not committed to its history. As early as 1958, the town hosted HMS Ajax Day, which included a presentation of artifacts from the ship along with a scale model. In 1963, the town council began the process of naming streets in new developments after crew members of the victorious battleship, which, along with HMS Exeter and Achilles, defeated the German "pocket battleship" Graf Spee during the 1939 Battle of the River Plate off the South American coast.

Except for their lamentable habit of calling every armed vessel larger than a tugboat a "battleship", this was an interesting article. (Sorry, a minor pet peeve of mine.)

Hat tip to Spotlight on Military News.

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

French Fighters grounded in New Jersey

WNBC reports:

Nine French fighter jets and a radar plane stayed overnight at Atlantic City International Airport after one suffered a mechanical problem and bad weather prevented them from returning to their aircraft carrier off the Virginia coast, authorities said Friday.

The U.S. State Department was contacted by French officials after one of the pilots tried to buy fuel Thursday and couldn't because he didn't have the available funds on his credit card, a Philadelphia television station reported.

I mentioned the story to Jon and he responded "Must have maxxed out his card at the casino. Or at the escort service."

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

Brooklin Spring Fair, 2005

Last night was the opening of the Brooklin Spring Fair. We've now lived in Brooklin for two years (we took possession of the house on opening night two years ago), but this is the first time we've been able to actually get to the fair.

I'm not much of a fan of either crowds or midways, but I actually enjoyed our visit last night. It's about a fifteen minute walk from our house at the north end of the village, and the weather was perfect for evening strolls. Victor met a friend almost as soon as we were in the main gate, and the two of them disappeared for a couple of hours. Elizabeth and I ended up listening to Tanglefoot in the almost-empty arena while Victor and John haunted all the rides along the midway.

Tanglefoot_02Jun05.jpg

We'd never heard any of the band's music before, so it was educational: they have plenty of amusing anecdotes to introduce several of their songs, and the music was eminently listenable. It often takes me a while to decide whether I like new music (call me a conservative if you like), so it'll be a while before I know whether I'm a fan or not, but the stories were worth the price of admission all by themselves.

My favourite anecdote was the NASA tie-in to the song "Secord's Warning". A Canadian had been a mission specialist on one of the shuttle flights, and the mission specialists are tasked with selecting music for mealtimes. Our hero chose not only to take Music in the Wood, but to put this song on repeat until a mutiny was threatened:

Secord's Warning
Lyrics and Music: Joe Grant and Steve Ritchie

Come all you brave young soldier lads
With your strong and manly bearing
I'll tell you a tale of a woman bold and her deed of honest daring
Laura Secord was American-born in the state of Massachusets
But she made her home in Canada and proved so faithful to us

Chorus

There's American guns and 500 men
So the warning must be given
And Laura Ingersoll Secord was the stalwart heart
Who braved the heat and the flies and the swamp
To warn Colonel Fitzgibbon

There's soldiers pounding at the door
And they come from across the border
American officers march inside
It's food and drink they've ordered
In comfort they have dined and drunk
Their own success they've toasted
But they pay no heed to the woman who hears their plan so idly boasted

Chorus

Oh, James I've overheard it all
A surprise attack they're making
Fitzgibbon they intend to smash
His men for prisoners taking
And James a warning never you'll take with your wounded knee and shoulder
I myself must carry it past the sentries and the soldiers

Chorus

It's an all-day tramp to the British camp
By way of Shipman's Corners
There're snakes and flies and sweat in her eyes
There is no respite for her
She's lost her shoes in the muck of the bog
Her feet are torn and blistered
But there's many a soldier lad to be spared if the message be delivered

Chorus

So all you Yankee soldier lads who dare to cross our border
Thinking to save us from ourselves
Usurping British order
There's women and men Canadians all
Of every rank and station
To stand on guard and keep us free
From Yankee domination

Chorus

I can't imagine why they'd object to such a stirring folk song, can you?

Apologies for the quality of photos, as usual:

BrooklinFair1_02Jun05.jpgBrooklinFair2_02Jun05.jpg

The blaze of midway lights as we walked out of the arena at the end of the Tanglefoot concert.

Closer to the main fairgrounds, it's still just a big smear of light, isn't it?

BrooklinFair3_02Jun05.jpgBrooklinFair4_02Jun05.jpg

Waiting for Victor and John, near the start of the midway

Waiting for Victor to get his henna tattoo repaired, after having it smeared by a safety bar on one of the rides. That's Victor, just in front of the white tent in his traditional all-black clothes.

The people who've bought new homes adjoining the fairgrounds are rumoured to be complaining about the noise and light and insisting on the fair being moved to a new venue. I'm about as sympathetic to them as I am to people who buy houses beside railroad tracks and then complain that the trains are too loud: for one weekend a year, you can cope. If not, you shouldn't have bought a property so close to a fairground.

Posted by Nicholas at 10:55 AM | Comments (0)

The over-careful society

According to informed sources, General Motors will no longer be authorizing scale models of their cars or trucks in sizes any smaller than 1:64 (S scale for you model railroad types) because of the fear of lawsuits risk to children:

Citing concerns about infant and toddler choking hazards, General Motors will no longer license any scale models of its vehicles smaller than 1:64 or S scale. This is not a rumor. This has been confirmed by the senior executive handling the GM account at EMI and by GM's manager of licensing.

Remember, any stupid decision can be made less stupid by claiming that it's for the children. This should be filed beside the British reports on banning long, pointy knives.

Posted by Nicholas at 10:13 AM | Comments (0)

QotD: Wine

[. . .] I have had to deal with the incessant drone of wine bores commenting on how the wine they just bought scored 90 points or higher without actually connecting with wine on their own terms. My favourite was the one who failed to realize his Rober Parker 94-point Bordeaux was 100 per cent corked. When I mentioned that the wine seemd "a little musty" to me, he scurried off in search of Parker's review. Returning triumphantly, he held the newsletter aloft and proclaimed "Parker doesn't say anything about this wine smelling musty."

Pam Droog, letter to Vines magazine, May/June 2005

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

June 02, 2005

David Carr eulogizes the late EU Constitution

He comes not to praise her, but to bury her.

The European Constitution died earlier this evening following a short but torrid illness.

The sad passing of the Constitution is unlikely to be a surprise to many people who doubted whether she would be able to recover from the savage beating she took in France last weekend. Indeed, it may prove to have been a merciful providence that she found herself in a terminal condition in the euthanasia-friendly Netherlands where she was emphatically put out of her misery.

For those who witnessed the last few undignified days of her life being dragged ignominiously around the squalid back-streets of Amsterdam, it will be easy to forget that the Constitution began her life as a daughter of the Europe’s elites; a cherished brainchild of the new aristocracy and the bearer of all their hopes and wishes for a secure and golden future.

Posted by Nicholas at 05:52 PM | Comments (0)

The BBC apportions blame for the French "non"

A report on the BBC website gives more than just a nod to the far-left bloggers who led the online efforts to persuade voters against the constitution.

The French newspaper dubbed Marseille law teacher Etienne Chouard "Don Quichotte du non".

Mr Chouard did not much care for the EU Constitution, but instead of simply voicing his upset to his neighbours, he wrote an essay and set up a blog to explain why he was voting 'Non'.

Just ahead of the vote, his blog was getting 25,000 hits a day and his anti-constitution broadside had been photocopied, faxed and blogged about across France.

Despite overwhelming support for the constitution by the governments of both France and the Netherlands and a huge media campaign by political leaders in both countries, voters have rejected the constitution.

And just as the media and political establishment in the US found during last year's presidential election, European elites have now felt the sting of these online upstarts, the bloggers.

I guess this means that blogging is "over", now that the MSM is willing to grant that bloggers have had some effect in the real world. . .

Hat tip to Elizabeth for passing along the URL to the BBC article.

Posted by Nicholas at 05:15 PM | Comments (1)

GM Canada gets mixed news

A Canadian Press report has good news and awful news for GM's Oshawa plants:

A General Motors car factory in Oshawa, Ont., was the most productive assembly plant in North America last year, but the automaker is losing money on every vehicle it sells on the continent while Toyota continues to improve, according to an industry study released Thursday.

GM's No.1 plant in Oshawa, which makes Monte Carlo and Impala sedans, topped the annual Harbour Report rankings for plant productivity. According to Harbour, it took 15.85 hours to produce a vehicle at that plant in 2004 - well below the industry average of 23.42, based on available data.

GM had three of the top five assembly plants in the report, including a fourth-place ranking for a second Oshawa plant, which makes the Buick LaCrosse — sold in Canada as the Allure — as well as the Pontiac Grand Prix. It also made the Buick Century last year.

The accolades comes just two weeks after J.D. Power and Associates named the No.2 and No.1 car plants in Oshawa, in that order, as the best plants in terms of vehicle quality.

I guess I may have to retract some of the verbal barbs I've thrown at the Oshawa GM folks over the years. Unfortunately, the economic news is much less pleasant for GM:

According to Harbour, Nissan had the biggest profit per vehicle sold - $1,603 US. Toyota ranked second and $1,488, and Honda third at $1,250.

Ford only made $620 US for vehicles it makes on the continent, and DaimlerChrysler just $186. GM, which lost $1.1 billion US in the first quarter, lost an average of $2,311 for every vehicle it sold, according to Harbour.

I've often joked that the only way I'd buy a North American car is if they paid me, but it looks like that's exactly what GM has been forced to do to keep sales going. There is no way that this trend can be maintained for much longer: even a company the size of GM has limits to their bank accounts.

I had no idea it was as bad as that. It makes a mockery of the old joke about "losing a dollar on every sale, but making it up in volume" doesn't it?

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

Economic distortions, before the media get involved

I'm not an economist, although I've probably read more books about economics than the average blogger. I find parts of economics to be fascinating, and other parts so soporific that I just need to glance at a supply-demand curve to get sleepy. Tyler Cowen talks about how economists prefer to concentrate on single facets, and how this actually encourages media misunderstandings when economists announce the results of their studies.

Posted by Nicholas at 12:30 PM | Comments (1)

I've had worse nicknames

Chris Taylor is forming a Red Ensign Squadron.

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

Dutch also slap EU Constitution down

The Dutch are the next nation to be subjected to the "we know better than you, peasants!" treatment from the illumibureaucrati of the EU after their rejection of the EU constitution. The rejection was not unexpected:

Key quote:
"I think this is what many nations given the chance to vote would say: that there is a political elite out there moving around figures and people on a chart without really knowing what they think or feel." — Piet Muelder, from Amsterdam

Story in full
THE Netherlands last night buried the European Union constitution with a resounding No vote in its referendum.

Exit polls showed that 63 per cent voted "Nee", an emphatic result taken as an endorsement of concerns that the EU has grown too much, too fast — and is no longer willing to listen to smaller nations.

The key quote gets it correct: there is a distinct political class in Europe, separate from and self-consciously superior to individual nations. They know that they are better suited to make decisions than mere humans, and the official reactions to the French and Dutch referenda speak volumes about how deeply entrenched this attitude is in the EUcracy.

Many non-Europeans have pointed out that the reasons for rejecting the constitution differ substantially, but they stop short of agreeing with the Brussels attitude: they all feel that the process has run off the rails and should be fixed before any attempt to proceed.

Posted by Nicholas at 10:44 AM | Comments (0)

QotD: Intelligence

I've often said that mathematically inclined people generally get that way because God takes everything in their skulls and pushes it over to the left. Tensor calculus? No problem. Understanding that it's disturbing for a grown man to speak Klingon? Sorry, the part of the brain that ordinarily handles that is busy thinking about the Pauli Exclusion Principle.

Steve H., "Star Wars Still Sucks: 'Quick, Someone Put More Minwax on Natalie'", Hog on Ice, 2005-05-26

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

June 01, 2005

Separation of Church and State, part MMV

A link from Hit and Run brings us this sad little story:

An Indianapolis father is appealing a Marion County judge's unusual order that prohibits him and his ex-wife from exposing their child to "non-mainstream religious beliefs and rituals."

The parents practice Wicca, a contemporary pagan religion that emphasizes a balance in nature and reverence for the earth.

Cale J. Bradford, chief judge of the Marion Superior Court, kept the unusual provision in the couple's divorce decree last year over their fierce objections, court records show. The order does not define a mainstream religion.

After all, we can't let parents decide anything serious like what religion to raise their kids in, now can we? They might be making the wrong decision, so let's just take that potentially dangerous tool out of their hands. We'll start with the divorcing couples and work our way to the rest of the population "for the children", of course.

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

QotD: The French EU Referendum

It's very interesting! . . . In France, normally, we have a representative democracy. Is the correct word? With some little part of direct democracy. So it happens, and not very frequently, because it's dangerous, but when it happens it can result like with something more indicative than representative democracy. . . When people speak directly, representatives have to shut up. And it happened today.

Probably 95 percent of the professionals of representative democracy had one opinion, and 57 percent of the people had the other opinion. It's a great moment, really . . . It's a growing phenomenon — representatives don't represent any more the people. [. . .]

I am very surprised because normally French are cowards. When it's important for the state, the government tells you that you have to vote yes, there's no reason to vote no, it's irresponsible to vote no. And they repeated it at high levels with more and more stress until the last day. And the people voted no! . . . It's incredible.

Michel Houellebecq, quoted by Matt Welch in "'I am very surprised because normally French are cowards'", Hit and Run, 2005-05-31

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


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