July 31, 2005

QotD: The "Greatest Generation"

Our parents had learned some wrong lessons from the '20s, '30s, and '40s. They learned to love government too well. They learned that government was what rescued you from depression and war. Our parents were very trusting of large governmental institutions. The liberalism that was a seed of the radicalism to come was in our parents, even when our parents were Republicans. They had taken large government for granted.

P.J. O'Rourke, interviewed by Scott Walter, "The 60's Return", American Enterprise, May/June 1997

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

July 30, 2005

QotD: Universities

The G.I. Bill changed the nature of universities forever. I went through college on the first G.I. Bill. Then I went through law school under the second version of the G.I. Bill. So to me, it was a very munificent policy. But by expanding, enormously, the sizes of universities and faculties, they changed the nature of universities, and created a separate culture, a politicized culture, a left-wing culture. I see no hope of the universities coming back. And I suppose the G.I. Bill had a great deal to do with that.

Robert Bork, interviewed by Scott Walter, "The 60's Return", American Enterprise, May/June 1997

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

July 29, 2005

British Army to reduce Northern Ireland presence

The British army has responded quickly to yesterday's announcement by the IRA:

Soldiers started to dismantle or withdraw from three positions in South Armagh, a rebellious borderland nicknamed "bandit country," where soldiers still travel by helicopter because of the risk of IRA dissidents' roadside bombs.

The move came a day after IRA commanders promised to disarm fully, and directed their units to dump their weapons and use "exclusively peaceful means" from now on.

The breakthrough was the product of a two-year diplomatic showdown between the IRA and its allied Sinn Fein party on one side, and the British, Irish and U.S. governments, which demanded the IRA's full disarmament and disbanding.

I've talked to soldiers who were posted to some of those positions, and I must say that I'm pleasantly surprised that the army has such high confidence that they feel safe in withdrawing from them. Those were extremely high-risk locations, but they had to be manned pretty much continuously to keep tabs on IRA activity in those areas. The army must have a high level of trust in the IRA declaration.

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

Bureaucracy trumps engineering . . . and humanity

Colby Cosh has strong opinions on the rather disturbing information coming out of NASA:

It's a shocking disaster. And what made it more shocking were the continual protestations from Michael Griffin and Bill Parsons that Discovery's current mission was a "test flight" in which major anomalies were anticipated. Was this phrase used freely when the crew of STS-114 — who, for the moment, seem to have dodged a large cream-coloured bullet made out of synthetic insulation — was being recruited? The original test flights of the space shuttle were conducted with crews as small as two members. Question for NASA: why are there five men and two women aboard a spacecraft whose engineering properties were apparently being "tested" for fundamental survivability?

I'm more than upset by the news that the original problem which caused the loss of Columbia has still not been resolved. I'm utterly appalled that the bureaucracy at NASA seems to have decided to deliberately risk the lives of the crew of Discovery in spite of the lack of resolution of that critical problem.

I sure hope that Burt Rutan and company can ready a rescue flight to the space station ASAP: I think we need 'em urgently.

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

QotD: Climate Change

It is no exaggeration to say that in the eight years since the Kyoto Protocol was introduced there has been a revolution in climate science. If, back in the mid-nineties, we knew what we know today about climate, Kyoto would not exist because we would have concluded it was not necessary.

Tim Patterson, quoted on One Billion Red Chinese and a Dog Named Liberty, 2005-07-25

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

July 28, 2005

Vikings training camp opens tomorrow

I haven't written much about the Minnesota Vikings lately, but there's been plenty of reason: it's been the quietest part of the off-season since the end of the minicamps. Training camp will open tomorrow, and KFAN will have the same sort of blanket coverage they put on for the minicamps.

The latest word, as of today, was that only three of their draft picks remained to be signed: receiver Troy Williamson, defensive end Erasmus James, and safety Dustin Fox. James and Fox are expected to sign their contract offers by the end of the week, but Williamson may not be as eager to come to camp.

Posted by Nicholas at 05:46 PM | Comments (0)

Bulwer-Lytton remembered

It's not technical writing, although much so-called technical writing might qualify:

A man who compared a woman's anatomy to a carburetor won an annual contest that celebrates the worst writing in the English language.

Dan McKay, a computer analyst at Microsoft Great Plains, N.D., bested thousands of entrants from the North Pole to Manchester, England to triumph Wednesday in San Jose State University's annual Fiction Contest.

"As he stared at her ample bosom, he daydreamed of the dual Stromberg carburetors in his vintage Triumph Spitfire," he wrote, comparing a woman's breasts to "small knurled caps of the oil dampeners."

The competition highlights literary achievements of the most dubious sort - terrifyingly bad sentences that take their inspiration from minor writer Edward George Earl Bulwer-Lytton, whose 1830 novel Paul Clifford began, "It was a dark and stormy night."

Posted by Nicholas at 11:58 AM | Comments (0)

Four by Dalrymple

As you've probably noticed by now, I'm a fan of Theodore Dalrymple's writing. It's always worth reading his articles, even if you disgree with his premises, because he's reporting on a side of life most of us don't see close-up. The latest issue of City Journal has plenty of Dalrymple content, including a brief article titled The Triumph of Reason?:

In Australia recently, I shared a public platform with an educationist, who had won awards for social innovation in the field of education for disadvantaged minorities. I was looking forward to what she had to say.

I was soon in a towering rage, however. She uttered some of the most foolish cliches of radical education theory, now about 40 years old — theories that I had fondly thought were now behind us, such as the harmful effects upon the children of disadvantaged ethnic groups or families of an emphasis on education as learning, with particular reference to the damage done to their self-esteem by the dominant culture's fetish about reading and writing.

A second article, titled P*ss Off, Copper:

Public drunkenness en masse being now the Briton’s most fundamental human right, and it having been noticed that urine is eroding the fabric of Soho’s old buildings, the local council has wisely ordained that white plastic urinals be placed in the streets on Friday and Saturday nights for the use of revelers. That way, the ancient brickwork will be preserved and the sweetness of the air restored by Sunday morning, after the urinals have been collected.

However, as the German sage once remarked, of the crooked timber of humanity no straight thing was ever made. Competent observers have noticed that many of those for whose use the plastic urinals are placed in Soho each weekend approach them and then — miss.

Third is a look at Malaysia:

When you arrive into Kuala Lumpur airport, you are warned in writing and by the air stewards that the mandatory death penalty is in force for drug smugglers in Malaysia. For some strange reason, this warning makes you feel guilty: could someone have secretly loaded your luggage with drugs between check-in and boarding?

Surely the policy keeps Malaysia drug-free? But I learnt, in the first newspaper that I read after arriving, that Malaysia intends to start a needle-exchange scheme and institute a methadone-substitution program for its drug addicts, all in the name of harm reduction. The death penalty for drug smugglers notwithstanding, Malaysia seems to have quite an HIV problem: officially 60,000 people are seropositive, though unofficial estimates put the real number at 300,000 — 5 times the rate of the United States.

A much longer article on Ibsen rounds out the Dalrymple-fest.

Posted by Nicholas at 11:09 AM | Comments (0)

Yet another VRWC Blogger bash in T.O.

Damian "Babbling" Brooks is looking for suggestions for the next VRWC pub crawl:

Anyhow, once we'd gotten past catching up, talking work, shaking our heads in unison over the latest transgressions of The Grope and Flail and Pravda Canada, and dispassionately discussing the artistic merits of Jessica Simpson's These Boots video, the topic of a beer-up was raised. And Nicholas, it doesn't matter if you're swilling wine, it's still called a beer-up — but I digress.

Yes, he does digress . . . but we must forgive him.

As usual, I'll do my best to infiltrate any VRWC gathering and bring back photographic evidence. Name a place and time!

Posted by Nicholas at 10:51 AM | Comments (0)

Show your opinions about "random" searches

Julian Sanchez rounds up the latest ways to show your opinion about the *cough* illegal *cough* random searches on the New York subway system:

Via BoingBoing comes a line of Fourth Amendment gear perfect for New Yorkers heading into the subway under new search rules. For the civil libertarians, there's a hep yellow messenger bag with the text of the Fourth Amendment and "I do not consent to this search!" appended in red. For those of you who get goosebumps from the snap of a latex glove, on the other hand, there's a charming thong informing your favorite authority figure that you do consent to a search.

Capitalism in action. Gotta love it.

Posted by Nicholas at 10:11 AM | Comments (1)

QotD: Clothing

I dress casually in the summer, because it's hot. But for the last few years I've returned to good slacks and decent shoes and a crisp shirt and a tie. Grown-up clothes. Dad clothes. A man ought to be able to put on a shirt and tie without thinking he's putting on a costume to deal with The Man; he should regard it as the Rainments of Masculinity, the costume we wear to project the impression of seriousness. If we're not serious, it'll be apparent quite soon. Likewise if we're a peacock, a grifter, a poseur, a drone, a cog — the uniform only says that you're part of the hard plain world, not whether or not you really belong there. I just know that I feel different in a shirt and tie. I stand up straighter. I don't feel as though I'm owed more respect; on the contrary, I feel obliged to be more respectful. It's hard to describe, but to paraphrase a drunken Marge Simpson after six Long Island Iced Teas — you guys in the audience, you know what I'm talking about.

James Lileks, Screedblog, 2005-07-25

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

July 27, 2005

Vanderleun finally confesses to his Insta-envy

In a shocking, yet strangely moving declaration, Gerard Van Der Leun finally admits his hidden envy of Glenn Reynolds, the Instapundit:

I like and admire Glenn Reynolds of Instapundit. (Let me say that again: I like and admire Glenn Reynolds of Instapundit.) (Just to be sure, let me reiterate: I like and admire Glenn Reynolds of Instapundit.) Swell guy. Incisive legal mind. Rapier wit. Staunch Libertarian and Great Humanitarian. Inspiring teacher. Amazing photographer (digital). Devoted husband. Hardest working man in the Blogsphere — next to, of course, Mickey 25-Words-A-Day Kaus. Why if Montaigne had not lived, Reynolds would have invented the essay at the same time he invented the "UPDATE:"

(There, now that that's out of the way could somebody excerpt that paragraph and send it along to Glenn for a link, he doesn't answer my emails anymore, especially that one offering cash in large quantities to get on his blogroll. Thanks.)

Glenn? I'll expect my 10% of the proceeds, as usual.

Posted by Nicholas at 04:26 PM | Comments (2)

HMCS Preserver out of action until November

HMCS Preserver, one of Canada's two fleet replenishment ships, has been taken out of active service until November to rectify electrical problems:

Navy spokeswoman, Lt. Marie-Claude Gagne, says technicians still haven't pinpointed the cause of the problem that forced HMCS Preserver back to Halifax two weeks ago.

But she confirmed the problems are not related to a recent $40 million upgrade to the 35-year-old vessel's structure and propulsion system.

The ship had been at sea to begin tests of those upgrades when its commander decided to return to port.

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

Spontaneous sex changes?

Tim Blair links to the site of A.E. Brain, who claims to be undergoing a spontaneous gender change (from male to female):

Alan — 47 years old, married, and a parent — had long imagined he would have preferred life as a woman; he'd even selected a female name (Zoe) at 10, in case of some miraculous transformation.

Earlier this year, the transformation began. Without surgery. And involuntarily. Al was experiencing something known as idiopathic sex reversal

If this is genuine, I guess it says that the Placebo effect has even wider applicability!

Update: Gerard Van Der Leun spotted the typo in the quoted block of text, so I've corrected it. Thanks for the unpaid proofreading!

Posted by Nicholas at 11:33 AM | Comments (2)

Paul Wells on visa reform

Paul "Inkless" Wells calls for a sensible reform to Canadian visa policies towards several Eastern European nations:

For no clear reason, Canada requires visas for short-term visits, not only for visitors from Estonia, but from six other European Union member states: Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Hungary, Slovakia and the Czech Republic. For most, the delay is a lot shorter than six weeks. But it's a pointless hangover from the Cold War. A hassle Canada imposes on no other Europeans — and which none of the seven countries imposes on Canadian visitors.

Ivar Tallo, incidentally, studied here. In the early 1990s he was a Ph.D. candidate at McGill University. He could return to lecture our senior officials on democratic reform. "Or I might just want to go to my favourite depanneur in Montreal and say hello to the nice Greek guy there. Or have a bagel. I respect and understand your right to have an independent country. But if you want to have friends . . ."

Canada is losing friends in one of the world's most dynamic regions, not through any great misdeed but because of this silly visa restriction. In Bratislava, a half-dozen Canadian businessmen told me Slovaks bend their ears about visas all the time. In Ottawa, a Polish diplomat told me the visa restriction has become the first issue at every meeting. Too often it's also the last issue because our feds can't explain why (a) somebody from France can visit Canada with only a passport; (b) somebody from Poland can visit France with only a passport; (c) that same passport isn't enough for the Pole to visit Canada.

He suggests that the only reason for the restriction still being in place is bureaucratic inertia. I think that's almost always at least part of the reason for silly laws, regulations, and restrictions. Let's hope that he succeeds in bending enough ears in Ottawa to get this policy changed.

Posted by Nicholas at 10:42 AM | Comments (0)

QotD: Shuttle Launch

For the first time in nearly two and a half years, there is a Space Shuttle in orbit.

The launch appears to have gone textbook-perfect, including a Bujold Moment just after main engine cutoff and external tank jettison:

"Well, that was boring."

"I like 'em that way."

Scott Padgett, posting to the Lois McMaster Bujold mailing list

Posted by Nicholas at 08:35 AM | Comments (0)

July 26, 2005

Goats do Roam

There's a survey of wines from the South African winery "Goats Do Roam" at the Gang of Pour group blog. I've been very happy with all the GDR wines I've tried (so far, the original GDR, GDR-in-Villages, GDR Rosé, with a bottle of Goat-Rôti currently in the cellar).

The joke (in case you haven't encountered it yet) is the pun on the French appellation "Côtes du Rhône", "Côtes du Rhône-Villages", and "Côte-Rôti"). They're remarkably good versions of the French originals, and at quite competitive prices (in the LCBO, anyway).

Posted by Nicholas at 03:34 PM | Comments (1)

Designing a wine cellar

I'm toying with the idea of making my current "wine cellar" — really just a quiet area of my basement — into something more traditionally cellar-like. Something with proper insulated walls, more formal storage for the wines, and (if I really go overboard) some proper temperature and humidity controls for the cellar. While I was googling for ideas on designing and constructing a wine cellar, I found a pretty good slideshow presentation on the topic on the Rosehill Wine Cellars website. The slideshow link is about halfway down the linked page. Ignore the fact that it's pushing their particular brand of cooling unit.

Posted by Nicholas at 02:30 PM | Comments (0)

Another myth bites the dust

Apparently the old story about painting the Forth Bridge isn't true:

The task of painting the bridge has also gone down in legend as a saying which sums up a never-ending job.

According to the story, when the paint job is finally completed it is time to start work again at the beginning.

Last year a report in New Civil Engineer, the official magazine of the Institution of Civil Engineers, suggested that this was never actually the case.

Even if the myths are true, the days of continuous painting are well and truly in the past.

The bridge closed on Sunday for eight days to allow 170 workers to carry out repair and painting work as part of a £13m facelift.

The old paint will be blasted off before the application of a new coating designed to last 30 years.

Posted by Nicholas at 01:20 PM | Comments (0)

The EU cracks down on port safety

I'm certain you'll all be glad to hear that the European Union is getting tough with some member nations who have some glaring maritime safety issues. Samizdata helpfully points out that both Hungary and Slovakia are failing to conform to EU policy on passenger ship safety and pollution caused by shipping.

Apparently, neither nation has any laws on the relevant topics. These slackers are basing their lack of concern for public safety on the spurious grounds that they're landlocked and have no ports. Imagine letting details like that get in the way of conforming to orders from Brussels!

Update: Yeah, I know, they both have river ports . . . it's not clear from the original report whether those are governed under different EU regulations (which I'd suspect to be the case), and that the rules in question are for deep water ports.

Posted by Nicholas at 10:58 AM | Comments (0)

More on the Diane Schroer case

I've written briefly on this issue before. To recap, a former US Army colonel applied for a position with the Library of Congress as a terrorism analyst. He was given the job, but the offer was rescinded when the LOC was made aware that the colonel would be reporting to work as "Diane", not as "Dave". Reason's Julian Sanchez has more:

"Initially my reaction was to walk away from it," says Schroer. "If they didn't want me working there, it was probably not a good place to be working. But the more I thought about it, the more it just seemed not right. I had invested 26 years of my life in government service, fairly arduous at some points, and at the same time in those 26 years the government had invested an awful lot in me." In June, with the help of the American Civil Liberties Union, Schroer filed a sex discrimination suit against the Library.

ACLU attorney Sharon McGowan explains that they plan to make a two-pronged argument: One hinges on the Title VII federal ban on sex discrimination. In 1989, in Price Waterhouse v. Hopkins, the Supreme Court ruled that discrimination according to gender stereotype — in that case, the refusal to promote a woman who didn't act "feminine enough" — fell within the scope of sex discrimination. The Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals last year built on that ruling in Smith v. City of Salem to cover a transgendered firefighter who had been suspended after announcing his intention to become a woman.

It would seem, especially in a government position, that the apparent gender of the employee should matter not at all. I'm not surprised that the ACLU has had to get involved . . . sometimes governments are the last employers to "get it" with social change.

If Schroer's account of events is accurate, her case should be a slam dunk: If Dave was good enough for the government, so should Diane be. If her supervisor wouldn't have caviled at an employee born a woman presenting herself as one on the job, that ought not to change just because Diane had the misfortune to be born with the wrong set of biological equipment. But, as Post observes, courts are ingenious at finding ways to circumvent the radical implications of gender equality when it means overturning traditional notions of femininity and masculinity.

Schroer, for her part, says she'd still like the job. A wise court would give it to her. As renewed attacks raise the stakes in the war on terror, the government could badly use a few good ex-men.

Couldn't have said it better myself.

Posted by Nicholas at 10:39 AM | Comments (0)

QotD: Californian Wine

Of course, there is another reason why Californians so eagerly turned to science and machinery when they finally decided to make serious wine: American wineries were in horrific condition. Andrew Barr, in his social history Drink, tells us that even in the late 1930s there were rats swimming happily in the vats of Sauvignon Blanc at Beaulieu and vinegar flies in the other wines. "The wine is so excellent," the resident wine maker cooed, "that all the flies go to it. It doesn't do any damage." Open fermentation tanks let off clouds of carbon dioxide which got birds flying overhead drunk; stunned, they would fall into the vats and stay there.

Lawrence Osborne, The Accidental Connoisseur

Posted by Nicholas at 01:04 AM | Comments (0)

July 25, 2005

The Flea bites VDH

[Ghost of a Flea] has a go at Victor Davis Hanson (who seems to be getting the hagiographic treatment from a lot of bloggers):

I am increasingly irritated by the cult of Victor Davis Hanson. Take this assertion from his latest article, for example. [. . .]

This is not only wrong it is so obviously wrong that I find it difficult to believe the blogosphere does not fact check the good professor's ass instead of throwing laurels at his feet. I have read several of VDH's books and am an admirer of his writing style in addition to broadly sharing his views about the need for toughness in the face of barbarism. But his rhetoric, in hot pursuit of an over-arching narrative, often runs ahead of the facts.

For me the last straw was VDH's recent criticism of Jared Diamond. I am much less likely to share Diamond's prescriptions on the environment than Hanson's on foreign policy. I also think Diamond's theories are usefully made subject to the sort of nitpickery that should give us pause about any grand narrative, historical, biological, political or otherwise. But it is a bit rich coming from the historian best known for "the Western way of war", perhaps the greatest wet fart of all encompassing, ill supported bloviation in today's popular history.

I've read, and enjoyed, a couple of Hanson's books, but I have to admit that I'm also finding VDH's one-note symphony tiring . . . he seems to be recycling exactly the same ideas over and over in his recent essays and columns. Even if I agree with him, I find myself tuning out only a few paragraphs into an article — because I already know what he's going to say. It's going to be the same thing he said in the last half-dozen articles I read. Ho-hum.

Posted by Nicholas at 03:55 PM | Comments (0)

The LCBO: a kinder, gentler KGB

I've written about the "bad old days" of the Ontario liquor board's stores in the late 1960s and 1970s, but apparently it used to be far, far worse (reg. req'd):

From the late 1920s forward, the LCBO developed an elaborate head office bureaucracy with up-to-the-minute, proto-computer systems employing sophisticated administrative surveillance of point-of-purchase consumption of alcohol that makes today's computerized gathering of personal information from consumers look amateurish.

From 1927 to 1962 the LCBO limited those who were legally allowed to drink by requiring a permit to purchase liquor. These permits required an application to the liquor board who would then grant or deny a request based on "fitness" to drink and "character."

The permit book resembled a passport in size and shape and was individually identifiable through a unique six-digit number. The pages inside consisted of a small section related to the individual, including name, address and employment, and another for records of purchases, including the date, liquor type, volume and cost. This tracking of every Ontarian's liquor purchases allowed the LCBO to live up to Ferguson's original mandate of "knowing exactly who is buying and how much."

Between 1929 and 1933 these permits, along with investigations by the LCBO and OPP, allowed the board to generate more than 154,000 detailed files on Ontario residents that included financial, employment and family data that was used to gauge the "fitness" of drinkers. It was also shared with other state and police institutions.

The LCBO even had the controversial right to grant police search warrants and the ability to convert private property such as homes or places of business into public spaces under the Liquor Control Act.

I honestly didn't know that the situation was as bad as that: I thought it was pretty bad in the 1970's!

I guess, in retrospect, we can all be grateful for bureaucratic inertia and the role of common decency that the domestic KGB, er, I mean LCBO didn't use their power to become even more dictatorial than they were.

Hat tip to Jon for the link.

Posted by Nicholas at 02:44 PM | Comments (2)

World War II as an online game

This got posted to a mailing list I belong to, but it had originated (without attribution) somewhere else. If I manage to find out who to credit, I'll do so. . .

If WWII were an online RTS game
-------------------------------

*Hitler[AoE] has joined the game.*
*Eisenhower has joined the game.*
*paTTon has joined the game.*
*Churchill has joined the game.*
*benny-tow has joined the game.*
*T0J0 has joined the game.*
*Roosevelt has joined the game.*
*Stalin has joined the game.*
*deGaulle has joined the game.*
Roosevelt: hey sup
T0J0: y0
Stalin: hi
Churchill: hi
Hitler[AoE]: cool, i start with panzer tanks!
paTTon: lol more like panzy tanks
T0JO: lol
Roosevelt: o this fockin sucks i got a depression!
benny-tow: haha america sux
Stalin: hey hitler you dont fight me i dont fight u, cool?
Hitler[AoE]; sure whatever
Stalin: cool
deGaulle: **** Hitler rushed some1 help
Hitler[AoE]: lol byebye frenchy
Roosevelt: i dont got **** to help, sry
Churchill: wtf the luftwaffle is attacking me
Roosevelt: get antiair guns
Churchill: i cant afford them
benny-tow: u n00bs know what team talk is?
paTTon: stfu
Roosevelt: o yah hit the navajo button guys
deGaulle: eisenhower ur worthless come help me quick
Eisenhower: i cant do **** til rosevelt gives me an army
paTTon: yah hurry the fock up
Churchill: d00d im gettin pounded
deGaulle: this is fockin weak u guys suck
*deGaulle has left the game.*
Roosevelt: im gonna attack the axis k?
benny-tow: with what? ur wheelchair?
benny-tow: lol did u mess up ur legs AND ur head?
Hitler[AoE]: ROFLMAO
T0J0: lol o no america im comin 4 u
Roosevelt: wtf! thats bullsh1t u fags im gunna kick ur asses
T0JO: not without ur harbors u wont! lol
Roosevelt: u little biotch ill get u
Hitler[AoE]: wtf
Hitler[AoE]: america hax, u had depression and now u got a huge fockin army
Hitler[AoE]: thats bullsh1t u hacker
Churchill: lol no more france for u hitler
Hitler[AoE]: tojo help me!
T0J0: wtf u want me to do, im on the other side of the world retard
Hitler[AoE]: fine ill clear you a path
Stalin: WTF u arsshoel! WE HAD A FoCKIN TRUCE
Hitler[AoE]: i changed my mind lol
benny-tow: haha
benny-tow: hey ur losing ur guys in africa im gonna need help in italy soon sum1
T0J0: o **** i cant help u i got my hands full
Hitler[AoE]: im 2 busy 2 help
Roosevelt: yah thats right ***** im comin for ya
Stalin: church help me
Churchill: like u helped me before? sure ill just sit here
Stalin: dont be an arss
Churchill: dont be a commie. oops too late
Eisenhower: LOL
benny-tow: hahahh oh sh1t help
Hitler: o man ur focked
paTTon: oh what now biotch
Roosevelt: whos the cripple now lol
*benny-tow has been eliminated.*
benny-tow: lame
Roosevelt: gj patton
paTTon: thnx
Hitler[AoE]: WTF eisenhower hax hes killing all my sh1t
Hitler[AoE]: quit u hacker so u dont ruin my record
Eisenhower: Nuts!
benny~tow: wtf that mean?
Eisenhower: meant to say nutsack lol finger slipped
paTTon: coming to get u hitler u paper hanging hun cocksocker
Stalin: rofl
T0J0: HAHAHHAA
Hitler[AoE]: u guys are fockin gay
Hitler[AoE]: ur never getting in my city
*Hitler[AoE] has been eliminated.*
benny~tow: OMG u noob you killed yourself
Eisenhower: ROFLOLOLOL
Stalin: OMG LMAO!
Hitler[AoE]: WTF i didnt click there omg this game blows
*Hitler[AoE] has left the game*
paTTon: hahahhah
T0J0: WTF my teammates are n00bs
benny~tow: shut up noob
Roosevelt: haha wut a moron
paTTon: wtf am i gunna do now?
Eisenhower: yah me too
T0J0: why dont u attack me o thats right u dont got no ships lololol
Eisenhower: fock u
paTTon: lemme go thru ur base commie
Stalin: go to hell lol
paTTon: fock this sh1t im goin afk
Eisenhower: yah this is gay
*Roosevelt has left the game.*
Eisenhower: sh1t now we need some1 to join
*tru_m4n has joined the game.*
tru_m4n: hi all
T0J0: hey
Stalin: sup
Churchill: hi
tru_m4n: OMG OMG OMG i got all his stuff!
tru_m4n: NUKES! HOLY **** I GOT NUKES
Stalin: d00d gimmie some plz
tru_m4n: no way i only got like a couple
Stalin: omg dont be gay gimmie nuculer secrets
T0J0: wtf is nukes?
T0J0: holy ****holy****hoyl****!
*T0J0 has been eliminated.*
*The Allied team has won the game!*
Eisenhower: awesome!
Churchill: gg noobs no re
T0J0: thats bull**** u fockin suck
*T0J0 has left the game.*
*Eisenhower has left the game.*
Stalin: next game im not going to be on ur team, u guys didnt help me for ****
Churchill: wutever, we didnt need ur help neway dumbarss
tru_m4n: l8r all
benny~tow: bye
Churchill: l8r
Stalin: fock u all
tru_m4n: shut up commie lol
*tru_m4n has left the game.*
benny~tow: lololol u commie
Churchill: ROFL
Churchill: bye commie
*Churchill has left the game.*
*benny~tow has left the game.*
Stalin: i hate u all fags
*Stalin has left the game.*
paTTon: lol no1 is left
paTTon: weeeee i got a jeep
*paTTon has been eliminated.*
paTTon: o sh1t!
*paTTon has left the game.*

Hat tip to Martin Cracauer.

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

More local winery visits

I'm almost ashamed to admit this, but I discovered a new (to me) winery yesterday quite close to home. I've been slowly reading the Wines of Canada book I picked up earlier this month, and they had a short review of the Willow Springs Winery in Stouffville.

We were at a bit of a loose end yesterday, so Elizabeth and I abandoned Victor to his latest online game and drove off in search of wineries.

Stouffville is about a 25 minute drive, so it wasn't a long trip. The only exciting parts were nearly running out of gas just short of the Main St. strip of gas stations in Stouffville, and a scary looking single-car accident on the road about 200 metres before the winery parking lot. There was lots of police presence on the roads in that area — I guess something was going on at the Markham fairgrounds — so the police were already on the scene by the time we passed the site.

The winery is relatively small, although they do have enough space in the back for small winemaker's dinners and parties. The wines are made from both local grapes and grapes sourced from Vineland (in the Niagara peninsula). I didn't taste everything in the line-up, but here are some brief tasting notes:

Wine

Vintage

Price

Comments

Tasting Notes

Rating

Baco Noir VQA

2003

$9.95

I'm not a Baco fan, so I had to be persuaded to sample this one . . . and I'm glad I did.

Big, burly tannic wine with smoke and black cherry flavours predominating. Medium-long finish

8

Cabernet VQA

2001

$9.95

Blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc

Not tasted.

0

Cabernet VQA

2002

$12.95

50/50 blend of CS and CF.

Plenty of red fruit on the nose. Body shows some tannic grip, but has a shorter finish than expected.

7

Chardonnay VQA

2003

$12.95

 

Lightly oaked, for some vanilla on the nose. Body was a bit lemony with butteriness on the finish.

7

Coyote Run Sauvignon Blanc VQA

2002

$11.65

Name has since been sold to the Niagara on the Lake winery Coyote's Run (apparently they didn't research the name before opening).

Not tasted.

0

Riesling VQA

2003

$9.95

Fruit sourced from Vineland.

Good petrol notes on the nose. Body showed rose petals, but was otherwise lighter and thinner than expected.

6

Testa Limited Reserve Meritage

2002

$14.95

This was recommended in the "Wines of Canada" book as a great deal on a Meritage. Blended 67% Merlot, 17% CS, 16% CF.

Blackcurrant on the nose. Smoke and cedar flavours on the palate.

8

Vidal VQA

2003

$7.95

Dry table wine style Vidal.

Floral notes on the nose, but body very thin. Short finish.

6

After purchasing a selection of the wines we'd tasted (plus the two listed above that we haven't tasted yet), we drove west to the Southbrook winery in Richmond Hill. We'd tried their Framboise several years ago, but this was the first time we'd sampled any of their table wines:

Wine

Vintage

Price

Comments

Tasting Notes

Rating

Canadian Blackberry

0

$14.95

Made from the finest blackberries and brandy. Perfect with nutmeg based recipies or cinnamon flavoured desserts.

Very pleasant dessert wine.

7

Canadian Cassis

0

$14.95

Produced from the finest Canadian Blackcurrants. Its pure fresh blackcurrant bouquet and concentrated, rich taste make it a perfect wine to serve with fresh fruit desserts.

Not tasted.

0

Cabernet Merlot VQA

2001

$14.95

60% CF, 25% Merlot & 15% CS. Ripe raspberry and bacon fat on the nose. Plum and cherry come through loud and clear on the palate. Drink through 2009.

Raspberry on the nose. Smoke and caramel on the palate. Medium-long finish.

7

Lailey Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon VQA

2000

$34.95

Sourced from Lailey in NOTL. Dusty plum aromas are complemented by sublime mature characteristics including saddle leather and iodine. Ripe plum and cranberry fruit flavours. Drink now to 2008.

Huge coffee notes on the nose. Palate showed coffee and dates, with some iodine. Tannins were smooth and the finish was medium-long.

8

Southbrook Blush VQA

2000

$9.95

Blend of Zweigelt and Vidal.

Good fruity nose (reminiscent of a Cab Franc Rosé) and semi-sweet body. Long finish.

7

Southbrook Pinot Gris VQA

2004

$14.95

Expresses aromas of golden delicious apples, candied peach, and ripe pear. A pleasant bitter taste on the finish. Try with asparagus quiche or your favorite paté.

Typical Pinot Gris aromas (peach predominating). Good balance of fruit and acid on the palate, but bitterness (as noted) on the finish.

7

Southbrook White

0

$9.95

Blended mainly with Vidal grapes. Nose is dominated by stone fruit and floral aromas. Flavours include peach, apricot and citrus fruit.

Good floral notes on the nose, but body lacking and finish quite short.

6

Triomphe Cabernet Merlot VQA

2000

$24.95

55% CF/25% Merlot/20% CS. Aromas include crushed red berries, dried plums and maraschino cherries. The flavour is outstanding with red fruit. Enjoy with grilled beef tenderloin or blue cheese. Drink to 2014.

Very typical Meritage nose, with stable straw and violets predominating. Full fruity body with long finish.

8

All in all, a well-spent afternoon.

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

Yet another new online bookseller

For those of you within the USA, there's a new online bookstore for libertarian and anti-authoritarian works: Bill of Rights Press. Sadly, they don't ship to other countries:

Do you Sell and Ship Internationally?

At this time, Bill of Rights Press does not sell it’s products internationally

Unfortunately, recognition of Freedom of the Press does not extend very far beyond the borders of the United States of America. Our Freedom of Speech and Freedom of the Press are only ENUMERATED by the Bill of Rights, the first ten Amendments to our Constitution.

It is the official and personal positions of all employees of Bill of Rights Press that Freedom of Speech and Freedom of the Press is an inalienable right for every person on the face of this, and any other, planet. Only oppressive regimes would try and restrict what a person can say or write.

Many of the existing despicable, tyrannical governments have placed restrictions on words, ideas and concepts. Many of our books, videotapes, CD’s, DVD’s and other forms of media are BANNED in numerous countries.

This means that if you are in a country outside the United States of America, there is a very good chance that your order, despite your desire to research freedom and hear the words of other freedom-loving persons, may not make it to your door. Many foreign customs persons will CONFISCATE and DESTROY your property and ARREST you for attempting to purchase or import banned materials.

As we said: Despicable.

Do you ship products to Canada ?

Canada is a foreign country. See previous question.

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

QotD: Wine Tasting

[T]he pleasure in any wine is subjective: we each bring something to what is there in the glass and interpret the result differently.

Gerald Asher, quoted in Lawrence Osborne's The Accidental Connoisseur

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

July 24, 2005

Social Credit made simple

There's an interesting essay posted at Gods of the Copybook Headings about the time that Alberta "went crazy":

Social Credit? What's that you ask? Some kind of Commie 1930s scheme that briefly held sway and then faded. No, in fact it was an attempt to save capitalism from itself. Capitalism, however, needs saving only from its enemies and occasional false friends. It works just dandy, if you leave it alone. Meddle, even a little bit in the wrong places, like, oh say the money supply, and Kaboom! The economy can implode, as it did when the American Federal Reserve decided it knew better than global capital markets and botched interest rate adjustments in the late 1920s.

The Smoot-Harley Tariffs, Herbert Hoover's jaw-boning large corporations not to cut wages, and an unnecessary interest rate hike produced a perfect economic storm. The result was the Great Depression. Economies are funny things, at least on the surface. Huge chunks of a modern economy can be re-directed toward state expenditure, vast bureaucracies can regulate business to a maddening extent and yet an economy still continues to function. Heck, it even grows a bit. Problem is not government intervention per se, but how it intervenes. The Holy Trinity of a market economy, its nerve system without which it cannot function are: relatively unhampered prices and wages, stable money supply and comparatively free capital markets. In 1929 and 1930 the Hoover Administration and the U.S. Congress intervened in all three to a major extent. Yet, as is so often the case, the blame fell not upon the interventions but on capitalism itself.

I must admit that I'd never quite grasped just what "Social Credit" was all about . . . the raw stuff — the 140 proof version — was already gone long before I was born. The name lingered on, but almost nothing of the philosophy remained.

And, from what Publius has written, a damned good thing, too!

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

QotD: Ideas

There are some ideas so wrong that only a very intelligent person could believe in them.

George Orwell

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

July 23, 2005

QotD: The Draft

What frightened me was not going to Vietnam. What frightened me was going in the Army. The haircut, the uniform, the discipline: If I'd been allowed to go to Vietnam in my old clothes. . . The minute the draft disappeared, the whole hippie-dippy thing just went up in smoke.

P.J. O'Rourke, interviewed by Scott Walter, "The 60's Return", American Enterprise, May/June 1997

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

July 22, 2005

Common sense prevails, for once

In a sweeping victory for that rare commodity, common sense, the Chief of the Defence Staff, General Rick Hillier, has announced that the Sea King helicopter will not be deployed to Afghanistan:

Canada's geriatric helicopter fleet won't be making the trek to Afghanistan, Canada's top soldier said Friday.

"We have no intention at this point in time to deploy the Sea Kings," said Gen. Rick Hillier.

"If it could do the job there, in that hot climate at very high altitude, and be able to lift enough of a load, would I deploy it there? Absolutely. But I do not believe it can do the job there."

Reports had suggested that the decades-old fleet would be refitted for use by the 250 soldiers who will be in Afghanistan as of next week. Forty-four personnel are already in Afghanistan as part of Canada's reconstruction mission that will swell to 1,500 by February.

While I dread to think what the government will require the military to do next, at least they won't be trying to put the flying equivalent of the Model-T into more dangerous spaces.

Posted by Nicholas at 07:49 PM | Comments (0)

Who says modern art can't also be useful?

At risk of seeming to be stalking the good folks at Hit and Run today, I thought this one needed to be shared:

Colorado Gov. Bill Owens has some harsh words for a piece of artwork that originally went by the apt title Twelve Dildos on Hooks. Tsehai Johnson, who created the ceramic and metal installation three years before she received a $5,000 state grant, explains that she renamed it Large Implements on Hooks because "I wanted the title to be a little more open-ended so that it didn't become so easily dismissed." After all, "They're meant to be sex toys, but sex toys that are talking about a lot of issues."

Rather like a few of the folks who commented on the thread, I thought the display looked rather more like a selection of odd handles at an avante-garde hardware store than a collection of sex toys. Perhaps that just shows how out-of-date I really am. . .

Posted by Nicholas at 01:54 PM | Comments (2)

Radley Balko finds the DEA after-hours clubhouse

Radley Balko visits a website run by and for DEA agents, and comes away more than a little perturbed. And no wonder, with comments like this one:

"Word on the street is a group of Colombian scientists are developing a moth they call "Noyesi's" to wipe out cocaine production by eating the plant. Should this scheme succeed cocaine as we know it could be history... and a good portion of our work could be wiped out in a matter of months.

Should cocaine and all of its related narcotics disappear our nation, and others, could suffer a serious economic recession.

Needless to say, should this insect plan prove effective in Colombia, some wise-a** bright boy will develop a bug that will devour opium poppies. Such a disaster will truly send our agency up S**t Creek... without heroin and coke to do battle with we will be left with only marijuana, meth and the piddly-a** drugs."

Every bureaucracy eventually (or not so eventually) becomes primarily concerned with perpetuating itself, regardless of the original reason for its creation. This is yet another example of this reality.

Hat tip, again, to Hit and Run. And as at least one commenter at H&R says, I sure hope this is a hoax.

Posted by Nicholas at 01:34 PM | Comments (0)

Next right abrogated: freedom from unreasonable search and seizure

The New York Times (reg. req'd) is reporting that New York police will be conducting random searches of passengers' bags on the subway system:

At some of the busiest of the city's 468 stations, riders will be asked to open their bags for a visual check before they go through the turnstiles. Those who refuse will not be permitted to bring the package into the subway but will be able to leave the station without further questioning, officials said.

Police Commissioner Raymond W. Kelly promised "a systematized approach" in the searches and said the basis for selecting riders for the checks would not be race, ethnicity or religion. The New York Civil Liberties Union questioned the legality of the searches, however, and Mr. Kelly said department lawyers were researching the constitutional implications.

"Every certain number of people will be checked," Mr. Kelly said. "We'll give some very specific and detailed instructions to our officers as to how to do this in accordance with the law and the Constitution."

And if you're naive enough to believe that refusing permission to have your bag searched will not result in anything other than not being able to board your train, you're deluded. If the ACLU doesn't come down on this like a ton of bricks, they're as useless as the right wing always claims them to be. This is, in no way, a reasonable attempt to intercept terrorists or to increase the safety of passengers: there will never be enough police officers to make that even a statistical possibility. This is nothing more than a public gesture to show that the city government is "doing something".

That it directly contravenes the constitution is only of minor, academic interest. The rest of that document has already been subverted by the Supreme Court anyway, right?

Update: Ooops! Forgot to hat tip Hit and Run for the NY Times link.

Update the second: Steve H. takes the opposing side:

I don't really understand how the city can get away with searching people. You would think there would be Fourth Amendment concerns. I don't know if this falls under "reasonable exercise of the police power," or whether they claim that the use of mass transit is a privilege and not a right, or what.

For that matter, I'm not sure how they get away with it at airports. It never occurred to me to ask, because I WOULD RATHER TAKE MY SHOES OFF IN PUBLIC AND HAVE MY BAG SEARCHED THAN HAVE MY ASS SPLATTERED ACROSS HALF A STATE.

You have to wonder what sort of rationale the spoiled liberal children of Manhattan are using to justify refusing to be searched. Okay, they didn't support the war. Fine, we know liberals are cowardly goofs who live in a fantasy world where all wars are immoral and started by greedy corporations. But this isn't about Iraq, and the terrorists ARE after us. Agreeing to be searched doesn't mean you support the war, or that you're helping George Bush. It just means you don't want to get blown up.

I happen to think he's dead wrong (if you'll pardon the expression), but clearly some of us are willing to bend over and grab our ankles at the merest suggestion from uniformed "authorities".

Posted by Nicholas at 11:14 AM | Comments (4)

Someone's been watching too many WWII POW movies

Jon sent me a link from the Toronto People's Daily Worker Star (reg. req'd) on a tunnel dug from a Vancouver suburban backyard to a house on the American side of the border:

The men, all from Surrey, B.C., have been charged in Washington state with conspiracy to distribute and import marijuana after law enforcement officials discovered the 110-metre tunnel that starts underneath a Quonset hut in this Vancouver suburb and ends beneath the living room of a house in Lynden, Wash.

The tunnel, which is just a few hundred metres from a Canada-U.S. border crossing, ranges in depth from one to three metres and is reinforced with ribbed steel bars and wood supports.

"It probably is one of the most significant, if not the most significant, tunnels that we've seen enter the United States," said Rod Benson of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration.

The photo accompanying the article really does look like one of the tunnel scenes from The Great Escape.

Posted by Nicholas at 10:49 AM | Comments (0)

LCBO and Union at daggers drawn

The LCBO and its union are down to the wire in contract negotiations. If no new agreement is reached, the union will strike just after midnight on the 27th. The union rep, John Coones, has some strong opinions to offer to the public:

But Coones said the possibility of a strike is very real and whatever plans LCBO management has in the works to ensure continued customer service will fail.

"I would suggest that the biggest majority of (stores) will be shut down, and the other ones, if they aren't shut down immediately, certainly they will be within two to three days," he said.

In the event of a strike, he said, workers will not only stop working at the stores and in warehouses, they will also make sure no one from the outside takes over by physically blocking any vehicles trying to move stock.

"We'll have secondary pickets, and any truck that wants to try crossing that line, well, that's up to them, but I don't think it's in their best interest to do that."

Now, given that secondary pickets have been illegal in Ontario for several years (that is, picketing parties other than the employer), this could turn out to be interesting. Are they thinking of picketing grocery stores (who have Wine Rack outlets in them)? Beer stores? Restaurants and taverns?

If the union is trying to lose the public's sympathy quickly, I can't think of a quicker way to do it, frankly.

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

Securing an abandoned train

Police are investigating a suspicious abandoned locomotive and 44-car train in San Diego:

The 44-car train was left idling along Interstate 5 on the 1400 block of West Morena Boulevard in Bay Park at about 10 p.m. Because of the recent terrorist bombings in London, officers notified the Homeland Security Department and the FBI about the incident.

I'm sure you'll all feel much more secure now, as Homeland Security is on the job. Of course, they'll be mighty busy fixing this one: it's a federal law for train crew to leave the train — immediately — as soon as they've worked the legal maximum number of hours.

As someone (on the mailing list where this link was posted) predicted: watch the poor railway employees get hammered for obeying the law.

Update, 25 July: According to a knowledgeable source, the railway employees would be subject to a $10,000 personal fine if they'd stayed on board the train after they'd "expired" or done anything to move the train after that point . . . no wonder they just tied up and left!

Posted by Nicholas at 10:06 AM | Comments (0)

QotD: Canadian Peacekeeping

In fact, why don't we practise anything we preach? As of May 2005, the top contributors to UN operations were Pakistan, Bangladesh, India, Nepal at Number 4, good grief, and they're practically on the brink of civil war. Well, okay, we're not in the Top 10 with all that expendable Asian manpower but c'mon, we must be in there somewhere . . . Number 20) France; 24) Ireland; 29) United Kingdom; 30) United States . . . hey, how'd those two warmongers make the Top 30 peacekeepers? Wait a minute, here we are: Canada, rocketing into the Hit Parade at 33 with a lack of bullet, right between Togo and Turkey. But, to the best of my knowledge, Togo and Benin (28) and Senegal (12) don't regard peacekeeping as so indispensable to their self-image that they stick it on their currency and brag about it in beer commercials.

So we're no longer a great military nation. But nor are we a great peacekeeping nation: we do less than notorious sabre-rattlers like Britain and America. Compared to the Scandinavians and the other niceniks we're a poor aid donor, and our immobile rapid-reaction force is of no practical use in humanitarian crises. M. Chrétien's legacy-building Africa initiative of 2002 is known only to Canadians. Everywhere else, it's credited as Tony Blair's Africa initiative. We have less influence internationally than we did in the 1940s — before we had a flag, an anthem, or our own citizenship. Even if the Trudeaupian vision of Canada were sufficient for a national identity, it suffers from the basic defect of being a bald-faced lie.

Mark Steyn, "Nothing to see here", Western Standard, 2005-08-08

July 21, 2005

Walk a mile in her shoes?

There's that old expression about walking a mile in someone's shoes, but apparently for British women, you could walk a mile by stepping from shoe to shoe along the way:

The average woman in Britain spends more than 31,000 pounds (54,000 dollars, 45,000 euros) on shoes during her lifetime and almost 16,000 pounds on belts and other accessories, an insurance group said.

One third of women say they have 25 pairs of shoes in their wardrobe, and around 1.3 million women claim to have well over 30 pairs, according to research carried out by the group.

About 44 percent of females admit that shoes are their biggest weakness when out shopping, with 86 percent of people claiming to buy at least one new pair a month, said Churchill Home Insurance group.

It said the average woman starts shopping for her own clothes at the age of 14.

If she spends an average of 40 pounds a month on shoes each month she will have bought 31,680 pounds worth of footwear by the time she is 80, it said.

I realize that we'd probably all be shocked at how much money we spend over our lives on just about any single item (I don't want to know how much I've spent on books or wine, f'r example), but this really did surprise me.

Hat tip to Gods of the Copybook Headings.

Posted by Nicholas at 07:10 PM | Comments (0)

New Firefly Movie Trailer

There's a new Serenity trailer out, a big download (requires Quicktime to play). As if I wasn't already marking days off the calendar until the movie opens.

Update: If you're into podcasting, there's apparently a Firefly podcast blog you should check out.

Posted by Nicholas at 06:31 PM | Comments (0)

Paul Wells, movie reviewer

Paul Wells tries his hand as a movie reviewer:

A whole bunch of us saw The Wedding Crashers the other night, and as God is my witness, I think Vince Vaughn should win the Best Actor Oscar. I haven't laughed this hard since Paul Martin said he wanted Belinda because he admired her ideas about government.

Posted by Nicholas at 04:20 PM | Comments (0)

QotD: Trains

Nothing compares to arriving by train; you're not dropped off in a climate-controlled center on the edge of town, but dropped in the humid middle, surrounded by machinery and steam and shouts and clangs. You don't slide up the jetway — you schlep yourself along the platform to the stairs, you jostle and maneuver and find your place in the throng; you thread through the station, head outside — and oh, my, GOD, there it is, loud and wide and high and alive, the city.

When you leave you leave with the nudge. Planes waddle to the runway then throw themselves in the air with theatrical fury. Trains nudge you out. You're sitting in your seat; you're still. The strange orange subterranean light fills the car; again the shouts, the clangs, the whistles, the whirr of electric carts. The doors huff shut. Conductors walk around listening to crackly voices on the walkie-talkie. You wait. Then the nudge. The train lurches forward, the wheels clank, the rhythm begins, and you're on your way. In a few minutes you'll clear the tunnels and see the city from below, indifferent to your departure. Clank clank clank clank clank clank clank clank. On the plane you seem to approach New York like a nest of hornets — you're wary, circling, then you bore in. When you leave by train you simply move along, move down, move out. Old tunnels, old concrete, rusted remains, barrels, trash, then light. Then the tunnel that takes you away. Standing in Times Square it seems a hard place to leave; it seems like you'd have to fight your way past the lights and noise and commotion and crowds. You're almost surprised when you leave with such ease, such lack of contention. There should have been a brass band, or a mob.

Manhattan seems like a dream by the time you're 30 minute down the rails. Maybe that's why I keep going back. You're kidding me. This is real? Gowan.

James Lileks, The Bleat, 2005-07-20

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

July 20, 2005

Temperatures rise, fall in Toronto offices

A report in the Globe and Mail describes the plight of scantily dressed female lawyers in offices air-conditioned for the comfort of suit-wearing men:

Don't run your dishwasher during the day, authorities advise. Lower the thermostat. Keep your curtains drawn. In all that energy-saving advice, they forgot one thing: Don't switch on that space heater.

Ms. Godkewitsch, 32, isn't the only one in her office to use space heaters in summer. "Quite a few of us use them. All women," she said. "In fact, the mail-room guys ordered them for us."

Office air conditioning appears to be calibrated for men, fully dressed men, in shirts, ties, suit jackets, pants, sock and shoes.

Male lawyers, of course, can't exactly show up in muscle shirts. But with temperatures stuck in the 30s for days on end, their female counterparts are donning sleeveless tops, backless dresses, short skirts and flip-flops.

In spite of my chosen quote above, I'm actually pretty sympathetic to this complaint: I work in an older office, and my cube is directly under the only cold air vent in my area of the floor. The temperature in my office this morning was a shade under 17 degrees. The rest of the floor was up near 19, and other offices in the building were in the low 20's. But here's food for thought:

You'd think worker bees would get more sluggish when temperatures rise. But according to a 2004 study by Cornell University, warmer temperatures actually increase productivity. When the office temperature was cranked from 20 C to 25, typing errors dropped 44 per cent and overall typing output rose 150 per cent, according to the study by Cornell professor Alan Hedge.

A bit counter-intuitive, yes?

Posted by Nicholas at 05:23 PM | Comments (0)

Colby Cosh on Pottermania

Colby Cosh has some bones to pick with multi-millionaire author J.K. Rowling in his latest National Post column:

All best-selling fiction books, the truly elite ones, are baked with generous helpings of naivete. What seems to distinguish the Potter series is its exponentially expanding complexity. For every character Rowling kills off, she begets 20 more: her story is now thronged with choruses of people, all with names like Febrimius Churlcape or Columba Slobmouth. And they're all embedded in their own mini-dramas. Sorting it all out is the sort of hypnotic, compulsive activity children love. Perhaps Rowling's hero should have been called Harry Pokemon.

Ouch!

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

Truck accessories

I had no idea that these were popular add-ons for trucks. Of course, the way some people drive, I should have guessed. Ah, the wonders of the modern internet . . .

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

QotD: Pharmaceuticals

Don't tell my parents that I work in the pharmaceutical industy. They think I am working in a brothel.

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

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

July 19, 2005

Uptight Toronto bureaucrats

Toronto apparently has a bylaw restricting the use of Nathan Philips Square. Who knew? It's being applied to ban the current Miss Universe from opening a Thai festival:

"Activities which degrade men or women through sexual stereotyping, or exploit the bodies of men, women, boys or girls solely for the purpose of attracting attention, are not permitted on Nathan Phillips Square."

There, says Ms. Reid. Miss Universa non grata.

She can come. But no sash, no tiara.

Do not introduce her as Miss Universe or even as a beauty queen.

The bylaw says you must call her "an individual of note contributing to our community."

Lovely. Here she is... Miss Individual Of Note Contributing To Our Community.

Not surprisingly, Natalie and the Thais took a pass.

Hat tip to Jon for the link.

Update: Over at Small Dead Animals, Kate has a fascinating discussion going on in the comment thread on this topic.

Update the second, July 22: [Ghost of a Flea] rounds up the details on this little contretemps and spikes down the lid on some of the most scary commenters at SDA.

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

Ontario rejects call for LCBO privatization

The government of Ontario has rejected a call by the Beverage Alcohol System Review panel for selling the Liquor Control Board of Ontario to private owners.

"We are not selling the LCBO," said Sorbara, who called for the report in January.

Nor will the government permit beer and wine to be sold in corner stores nor let the LCBO be turned into an income trust - a type of investment vehicle that gives investors regular dividends for their interests based on sales.

"It is our very strong view that the public interest of Ontarians is best served by the continued public ownership of the LCBO," Sorbara said.

A four-member panel examined how the province can make more money from alcohol sales while remaining socially responsible.

While I'm not at all surprised, I am disappointed that the government has chosen not to follow any of the major recommendations of the panel. I've written about the LCBO monopoly earlier.

Update: The Toronto Sun reacts to the boondoggle:

Cost to the taxpayers for the review panel's work? $600,000.

Here, then, is our calm and considered reaction to these events:

FOR !@@$## SAKE, DOESN'T ANYBODY IN THIS !@@$## LIBERAL GOVERNMENT KNOW WHAT THE !@%$$@ THEY'RE DOING WHEN IT COMES TO !@@#$@ AWAY OUR MONEY!!!!???

Either panel members were out to lunch for recommending something they knew the government wouldn't do, or the Liberals were out to lunch for allowing the review to continue, knowing they weren't going to do what it recommended. You decide.

Hat tip to Jon for the link.

Posted by Nicholas at 08:39 AM | Comments (0)

QotD: Wine

I was amused this week to see to see a sign outside my local Wine Rack store which read "Sawmill Creek Bin End Sale." Bin end usually means the last few bottles or cases of the lot. For a wine that arrives in Canada by the boatload, "bin end" sounds a bit far fetched. Then again, "Tanker End Sale" doesn't sound quite as dignified.

Richard Best, The Frugal Oenophile Newsletter, 2005-07-13

Posted by Nicholas at 08:00 AM | Comments (0)

July 18, 2005

The Raising of the Red Ensign, mark XXVI

Robot Guy hosts the latest raising of the Red Ensign. Go see what other member of the Red Ensign Brigade have been writing about for the past two weeks.

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

Downtown office buildings

In lieu of a real post or six (which will hopefully get written up later today), I offer a view of downtown Toronto, looking west from the front window of Jamie Kennedy's Wine Bar:

TorontoBuildings_16Jul05.jpg

Posted by Nicholas at 08:28 AM | Comments (0)

QotD: Marital Fidelity

Both sexes have a genetic-diversity incentive to screw around, but it manifests in different ways. Again, the reason is parentage uncertainty. For a man, diversity tactics are simple — boff as many hot babes as possible, accepting that you don’t know which of their kids are yours and counting on stronger maternal bonding to ensure they will have at least one devoted parent around. Because a woman can be more sure of who her offspring are, her most effective diversity tactic is different — get married to a good provider and then cheat on him.

Under those circumstances, she doesn't have to value good character in a mating partner as much; hubby, who can't tell the kids aren't his, will supply that. Thus the relative value of handsomeness goes up when a woman is taking a lover on the sly. Marrying the lord and screwing the gardener is an old game, and from a genetic-selfishness point of view a very effective one.

Eric S. Raymond, "A Unified Theory of Male Slobbishness and Female Preening", Armed and Dangerous, 2005-01-06

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

July 17, 2005

QotD: National Music

What does the soul of a people sound like? With the Germans, you have adequate proof; Wagner spoke for them, for better or worse — grandeur and myth that elevated the soul as easily as it rotted to the soundtrack for a meglomaniacal death cult. Italian music — well, no one ever marched off to war to Respighi's ode to a peacock. Music for life, lived without lasting consequence. (They did their part in the Roman times; they've earned a nap.) French music is best expressed by the gauzy wash of Debussy and his comrades, music that doesn't confront the ear but gently appeases it. America: cheerful tootling Souza marches or great broad optimistic Copeland yawps. Or jazz. Or rock and roll. Or country twangs. (It's not that we have no sound — we have many, and each is as much a part of us as the other. Few cultures can pull that off.) Russian music has that delicious third-drink moodiness. Canadian music — no such thing, really, which is telling. Unless you define it as American style music recorded in a Canadian studio to satisfy a government requirement.

James Lileks, Screedblog, 2005-07-08

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

July 16, 2005

QotD: Libertarianism

It's true libertarians spend a lot of time talking about the state versus the individual. But I don't think it's true that libertarians slight the intermediate institutions [like church, neighborhood, employer]. The bulk of our life should be conducted in voluntary organizations. And a voluntary organization can have very strong powers of shame, praise, economic penalty, economic reward.

The reason that the state/individual relationship is concentrated upon is that the state has a monopoly on coercive force. Only the state is allowed to kill you. In the twentieth century, of the half billion or so people who have been killed outside of war, almost all have been killed by the state. Maybe 30 people have been killed by intermediate organizations. Labor unions got a couple. John Gotti got a couple. But basically it's the state that endangers people.

P.J. O'Rourke, interviewed by Scott Walter, "The 60's Return", American Enterprise, May/June 1997

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

July 15, 2005

Babbler tackles the paranoiacs

Damian "Babbling" Brooks discusses the reaction to Anne McLellan's recent comments on how unprepared Canadians are to cope with terrorist attacks:

Nobody is advocating exposing yourself to horrific images until you're numb enough to wade through body parts with a serene demeanour. Nobody is advocating learning how to use throwing stars and hand grenades in expectation of the day when the world goes Mad Max on us. Nobody is advocating spying on your neighbours and turning yourself into a paranoid conspiracy freak.

Get this through your thick skull: nobody wants you to be scared, other than the bastards who blow up buses in rush hour.

But ask people who come up against frightening and horrific situations as part of their job how they combat their own fear. Ask soldiers, firemen, policemen, trauma doctors and nurses: it's the training. When you're scared, the training — the preparedness — is what rises to the top of your mind and gets you through the situation.

[. . .]

How to get through to these people that stoicism isn't the same as burying your head in the sand? That evacuation drills from office buildings aren't the first step in the destruction of all civil liberties? That prudent preparation by ordinary citizens for extraordinary events isn't akin to living in a culture of fear?

Do I need to tell you to go read it all?

Posted by Nicholas at 11:34 AM | Comments (0)

QotD: Feminism

I am a staunch feminist, in spite of all those women's magazines.

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

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

July 14, 2005

Virginia Postrel on child labour

Virginia Postrel has an article in the New York Times (reg. req'd.) about the realities of child labour in the third world:

When Americans think about child labor in poor countries, they rarely picture girls fetching water or boys tending livestock. Yet most of the 211 million children, ages 5 to 14, who work worldwide are not in factories. They are working in agriculture — from 92 percent in Vietnam to 63 percent in Guatemala — and most are not paid directly.

"Contrary to popular perception in high-income countries, most working children are employed by their parents rather than in manufacturing establishments or other forms of wage employment," two Dartmouth economists, Eric V. Edmonds and Nina Pavcnik, wrote in "Child Labor in the Global Economy," published in the Winter 2005 Journal of Economic Perspectives.

Their article surveys what is known about child labor. Research over the past several years, by these economists and others, has begun to erode some popular beliefs about why children work, what they do and when they are likely to leave work for school.

When he started working on child labor issues six years ago, Professor Edmonds said in an interview, "the conventional view was that child labor really wasn't about poverty." Children's work, many policy makers believed, "reflected perhaps parental callousness or a lack of education for parents about the benefits of educating your child." So policies to curb child labor focused on educating parents about why their children should not work and banning children's employment to remove the temptation.

Recent research, however, casts doubt on the cultural explanation. "In every context that I've looked at things, child labor seems to be almost entirely about poverty. I wouldn't say it's only about poverty, but it's got a lot to do with poverty," Professor Edmonds said.

This certainly flies in the face of most western readers' assumptions about why child labour is so widespread in the third world: almost everyone seems to assume that it's a cultural norm, not an economic need, that keeps children out of the education system.

Posted by Nicholas at 03:32 PM | Comments (2)

When "there outta be a law" runs wild

Wendy McElroy has had to cease publication of her email newsletter. Not because it wasn't in demand, nor because she's too busy to put it together. She's having to stop emailing it because it'll be in potential violation of Utah and Michigan state laws:

On July 1st, new laws regarding e-mailed newsletters went into effect in Utah and Michigan; other states are close behind. Anne P. Mitchell, President/CEO of the Institute for Spam and Internet Public Policy and a law professor, calls those laws "a legal quandry in which every sender of commercial email is about to find themselves." (See Groklaw for more information. And please note: non-commercial emailers seem to be included if their newsletters contain URLs that link to commercial sites or products.)

Both Utah and Michigan have created a "child protection registry" for email addresses that belong to children or to which children have access. It functions like a "no call list." Spamfo.co explains, "Once an email address is on the registry, commercial emailers are prohibited from sending it anything containing advertising, or even just linking to advertising, for a product or service that a minor is otherwise legally prohibited from accessing, such as alcohol, tobacco, gambling, prescription drugs, or adult-rated material." In short, e-newsletters (such as ifeminists.net) are not permitted to send to registered email addresses if those newsletters include URLs to news sites that, in turn, link to child-inappropriate commerical information or products such as casino or viagra ads, tobacco or alcohol for sale.

Many credible news sources — especially British ones, it seems — offer links to adult-themed sites or products. These links can change constantly, which means that it is impossible to check a URL and "clear" it of so-called objectionable links or ads.

The impact of these laws will be huge for small and medium-sized organizations and businesses. These are clearly a badly constructed pair of laws, with no sign of improvement as other states follow suit.

Posted by Nicholas at 03:13 PM | Comments (0)

Punctuation is very important

John Turner sent me this link a long, long time ago. For some reason (me being deathly ill with the flu, if I remember correctly), I never checked out the link. Until now. Now I must insist that you also find out the secrets of email punctuation. You'll need to listen very carefully to the presentation.

Posted by Nicholas at 02:00 PM | Comments (2)

ESR on hard and soft sexuality

Eric Raymond has some interesting thoughts on male and female bi-sexuality:

Fascinating. This NYT article [reg. req'd.] bears out a suspicion I’ve held for a long time about the plasticity of sexual orientation. The crude one-sentence summary is that, if you go by physiological arousal reactions, male bisexuality doesn’t exist, while female bisexuality is ubiquitous.

I’ve spent most of my social time for the last thirty years around science fiction fans, neopagans, and polyamorists — three overlapping groups of people not exactly noted for either sexual inhibitions or reluctance to explore sexual roles that don’t fit the neat typologies of the mainstream culture. And there are a couple of things it’s hard not to notice about them:

First, a huge majority of the women in these cultures are bisexual. To the point where I just assume any female I meet in these contexts is bi. This reality is only slightly obscured by the fact that many of these women describe themselves and are socially viewed by others as ’straight’, even as they engage in sexual play with each other during group scenes with every evidence of enjoyment. In fact, in these cultures the operational definition of ’straight female’ seems to be one who has recreational but not relational/romantic sex with other women.

Second, this pattern is absolutely not mirrored in their male peers. Even in these uninhibited subcultures, homoerotic behavior involving self-described ’straight’ men is rare and surprising. Such homeoeroticism as does go on is almost all self-describedly gay men fucking other self-describedly gay men; bisexuality in men, while an accepted and un-tabooed orientation, is actually less common than gayness and not considered quite normal by anybody. The contrast with everybody’s matter-of-fact acceptance of female bisexual behavior is extreme.

As is often said in cases like this, go read the whole thing. Even the comment thread is interesting.

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

QotD: The '60s

I am ashamed of how my generation acted in the 1960s, and the only reason that I am not more angry at myself and my friends is because we were so very young. I'm still puzzling over why we lost our moorings. I'd say it was money. We acted that way because we could afford to. It was the first time in the history of the world that anything like this size of a generation had been anything like that rich, and it was a shock to everybody's system. There's nothing we did that Lord Byron wouldn't have done if he'd had a good stereo.

You have this convergence: an extremely unpopular and possibly unwise war, and birth control. The sudden idea that nothing had any consequences. There's that Philip Larkin poem — sexual intercourse was invented in 1963. And the drugs went everywhere in a year.

P.J. O'Rourke, interviewed by Scott Walter, "The 60's Return", American Enterprise, May/June 1997

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

July 13, 2005

Own your own vineyard

Richard Best's Frugal Oenophile newsletter had a link to a Vineyard Game. I only managed an "average" rating.

Posted by Nicholas at 07:28 PM | Comments (0)

Aerodynamic surprise

I was quite surprised to find out from this Road and Track article that lowering or removing the tailgate on a pickup truck is not a good idea:

Investigators at the National Research Council of Canada have determined that pickup truck aerodynamics is generally degraded — not improved — by the often-seen practice of lowering or removing the tailgate. Drag is generally greater and, to the detriment of yaw stability, rear lift can be increased by as much as 60 percent. Popular mesh tailgates worsen aerodynamics of these vehicles as well.

The researchers measured drag, lift and yaw behavior of pickup trucks in the same wind tunnel where, years ago, we evaluated Champ-car aerodynamics ("Putting the CART Before the Wind," June 1984). They also performed Computational Flow Dynamics analyses of two simplified pickup shapes. These CFD results agreed with their tunnel findings.

The differences in CD were measurable, though not profound. For instance, with a 2002 Ford F-150 Crewcab, its tailgate-up CD was measured at 0.5304. Tailgate down, it was 0.5425; tailgate off, 0.5596.

I've never owned a pickup truck, so this has not yet been of much interest or concern to me. My next vehicle, however, is likely to be a pickup of some sort (Honda, Nissan, and Toyota are the current vehicles in consideration), so I'm paying slightly more attention than I used to.

Posted by Nicholas at 06:30 PM | Comments (2)

The Hollywoodization of the Khadr story

Jon sent me a link to this story about a planned movie about Abdurahman Khadr, the posterboy for Canadian involvement in the War on the Great Satan Terror:

For his participation in the project, Khadr will be generously rewarded: The National Post, quoted by Daniel Pipes, reports that Abdurahman — the "good son" of the Khadr family — could earn as much as $500,000 when the movie debuts sometime around 2006. Daily Variety, also quoted by Pipes, suggests that the deal may be worth in the "mid- to high-six figures." The producers hope Johnny Depp will star in the lead. Vincent Newman, president of Vincent Newman Entertainment, who bought the rights, is quoted hailing Khadr’s "a classic black sheep story — a story about the rebel of the family." Khadr meanwhile has reserved the rights to develop the screenplay. Variety notes that "it appears it will follow the storyline that makes him look best...."

Khadr certainly has his work cut out for him. The tale of a young rebel who never reconciled himself to his family's extremist ways may set the hearts of Hollywood producers aflutter. But it would be difficult to tell a story more incompatible with the facts of Khadr’s life.

It rather figures that the first popular presentation of Canadian involvement in the War on Terror should feature the participants on the side of the terrorists, doesn't it?

Posted by Nicholas at 04:11 PM | Comments (0)

Rap as a crime-fighting tool

Grant McCracken investigates the not-fully-explained drop in violent crime during the 1990's:

Rap bestowed new esteem upon impoverished urban teen. As long as it remained the possession of impoverished teens, black and white, it did not change the esteem equation. But sometime in the late 1980s, it crossed over into the mainstream, black and white. Beastie Boys and Run-DMC were calculated to have cross over appeal, and the former’s Fight For Your Right entered the top ten in 1986. In 1988, Public Enemy released It Takes A Nation and NWA released Straight Outta Compton. Gangsta rap was now headed for the suburbs. And once this diffusion of musical form had taken place, the position of the impoverished teen went from scorned loser to a creature of standing, status, and credibility. So utterly did rap win the day that, with a brief but interesting interruption in the form of "alternative music," the children of the suburbs now wanted very much to walk, talk and otherwise conduct themselves as if they came from very different socio-economic origins.

The rise of rap represented a massive transfer of esteem from the teens of the middle class suburb to those of the impoverished city. There was in short an abrupt and thoroughgoing reversing of the asymmetries. Those who once suffered esteem shortages now enjoyed whacking, great surpluses. Violent crime? To protest what exactly? To exact a revenge? To appropriate esteem? Violent crime was now an antique of another age, the dangerous preoccupation of another generation, an activity that was now just odd. I believe this is why violent crime began to drop in the early 1990s. As the suburbs began to absorb rap, the esteem economy began to tip in a new direction. Violent crime has become an increasingly pointless enterprise.

I must admit that this is one of the first positive things I've heard anyone say about rap music. Most of the commentary I've encountered emphasized the homophobic, misogynistic, hate-filled lyrics and/or the hugely violent sub-culture in which rap music had first arisen.

What a mind job, Grant!

Posted by Nicholas at 03:40 PM | Comments (6)

QotD: Blogging

["Participatory journalism"] is a good thing, especially when too many media are run in the corporate, and not the public, interest. But make no mistake. Despite all the praise last week for bloggers, vloggers and other so-called "citizen journalists," they are very threatening to many MSM types.

Bloggers fact-check corporate media. They un-spin, de-spin and re-spin. They needle. They whip up their readers who write emails of complaint. In short, they can be giant pains in our ergonomically cosseted asses.

Last month, a study co-sponsored by Columbia University showed that while more than half of all journalists rely on bloggers for ideas, only 1 per cent found blogs to be credible.

Antonia Zerbisias, "Technology has made 'journalists' of us all", Toronto Star, 2005-07-12

Update, 13 July: I am reminded through the comments that I failed to provide a hat tip to Elizabeth for digging this one up for me. Apologies for the oversight!

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

July 12, 2005

Obesity as a publicity generating ploy

Radley Balko discusses the current hysteria over obesity and the stampede by various levels of government to be seen to be doing something about it:

We're in the midst of a moral panic over obesity. We're told that we've been getting fatter for thirty years, and that this thickening of our waistlines portends a coming healthcare catastrophe. Yet over that same period of time, our life expectancy has risen to all-time highs, while cancer, heart disease, and stroke have dropped off dramatically.

Of course, when we're talking about children, the rhetoric only heightens. "We need to do something — for the children," is a refrain so common in American politics, it's become cliché. Invariably, "for the children" means taking control away from parents, and handing it over to panicked bureaucrats and health activists. "For the children" means act now. It means do what at first blush seems obvious; to do what feels right, consequences and real world implications be damned.

It's a common belief, both in the newsroom and in the ministry office, that parents are the worst possible people to be raising their own children. And, as with other ideas based on faith rather than fact, it's rarely challenged by those who operate under that belief system.

In lieu of the state stepping between every child and her parents, the ability to undermine the confidence of parents in how they raise their children is a valuable panic-inducing tool. By making parents less sure that they are doing the job properly, officially approved experts can be given more moral power to bludgeon parents into line. Even when the official message this month is in direct contradiction to the one from last month, the subtext remains "parents bad, experts good."

All I can hope is that the old folk tale about the boy who cried wolf is still operating. . .

Hat tip to Jon for the link.

Posted by Nicholas at 05:35 PM | Comments (0)

Transformation or grand PR exercise?

Another good post at Castle Argghhh! discusses the new transformation initiatives for the Canadian Army:

Given how the Canadians have been using their forces, and see their forces being used in the future, what they are doing right now makes perfect sense. It is more deployable, cheaper to acquire and maintain — and makes more of their force available for use. The Canadians maintained a heavy armored force to support the Canadian Mechanized Brigade Group, Canada's NATO contribution — which is no longer needed as a heavy punch in Europe. And let's face it — the US isn't going to allow (if it's even *truly* possible at this point in history) someone *else* to invade Canada (heck, we've never been successful, we aren't about to let someone else do it and embarass us, right?). So, given the way the Canadians see their forces, this transformation makes sense, and actually *expands* the spectrum of effort they can involve themselves in. Which, when they come to think about it — may cause some Canadians some angst.

While I'm still hopeful that this process will improve the situation for the army, I'm not alone in being concerned with the possible outcomes:

The Armorer at Castle Argghhh!!! has posted a tidbit on the Canadian Forces' attempt at restructuring, and as usual, he is being quite a gentleman about it. By that, I mean he expresses some polite enthusiasm for the effort, whether or not he actually agrees with the specific actions being taken. As a Red Ensigner, John has come to understand that the Canadians who actually read his site are already a little touchy about the problems plaguing the CF, and don't need any salt ground into their wounds.

Posted by Nicholas at 05:23 PM | Comments (0)

Tank and AFV combat performance analysis

There's a fascinating post up at Castle Argghhh! with excerpts from a Russian combat analysis of US Abrams tanks and Bradley IFVs in the Iraq campaign:

The examples above show that the Abrams M1 tank, on the whole, failed to live up to its full potential in combat, while the Iraqi resistance was able on several occasions to exploit faults in the vehicle's design. Nevertheless, the Abrams tank proved itself to be a formidable fighting machine with no serious competitor on the battlefield, while losses resulting from combat or technical causes remained within reasonable limits. Accounting for variations in national design, it is likely that other modern MBTs would have performed more or less the same under similar circumstances. [. . .]

The Bradley Fighting Machine on the whole performed rather well, though the destruction of several vehicles by anti-tank RPG suggests that in spite of the significant resources devoted to the development of additional anti-hollow charge defences, U.S. engineers have not yet solved the problem of 360-degree protection even from older generations of light anti-tank weapons. The installation of slat armor on the Stryker APC marks a real breakthrough in this regard. This extremely simple design reduced the effectiveness of the older types of light anti-tank weapons by some 200% or more. Several firms, including the Russian Scientific Research Institute of Steel, have developed similar grilles. We can only voice regret over the tardy introduction of such grilles for use in active combat in Chechnya. The Stryker fighting vehicle performed somewhat better than predicted, and undoubtedly confirmed the relevance of wheeled armor. Nevertheless, the incredibly high cost of such vehicles (over 2 million dollars for the basic model) is not matched by military utility. That said, the development of this type of vehicle for Russian procurement and export seems justified.

Posted by Nicholas at 04:54 PM | Comments (0)

905 Tory joins the Red Ensign Brigade

Two days into the new week, two new members of the Brigade: today's new member is 905 Tory.

Welcome to the unit, soldier!

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

Arrests in the London Bombing investigation

Reports have been posted on various newswires in the last hour or so about intense police activity in Leeds, including six arrests so far.

Posted by Nicholas at 11:27 AM | Comments (0)

Some good news out of Africa

I remember reading about "microloan" operations in third world nations back in the early 1980's and thinking that it had immense possibilities for improving the lives of impoverished people. It's exactly the sort of thing that governments don't want to touch: the amounts of money are microscopic, there's no big media reward for getting involved, and there are no photo-ops for presidents, prime ministers, and CEOs. All it does is provide the kind of help that seems to work the best:

K-Rep gives tiny microloans to people who are too poor to be of interest to conventional banks, who always demand collateral in the shape of a vehicle or real estate in case the loan is never repaid.

Because the poor have no collateral to pledge, they tend to stay poor. All over the world, poor people are denied the loans that may help them get onto them up the business ladder, like Mr Siasamallisi did.

K-Rep is not itself a charity. It charges a market rate of interest and demands repayment of the loan pretty quickly.

But instead of demanding substantial property as collateral, K-Rep follows the Gramin principle made famous by the microcredit bank of the same name in Bangladesh.

It uses the assets of the poor in place of property, in particular poor people's reputation.

K-Rep's lending officers go out into the shanty towns to speak to friends and neighbours of the would be borrower.

Often the loan is extended to a group of people, acting as cross-guarantors.

This is precisely the people who need access to funds, to create their own businesses, or to expand existing ones. Pouring billions of dollars into the central government of a third-world country gives the sort of big-ticket, big-media, photo-op-rich splash that lending governments love: they reap huge PR benefits, regardless of the actual success or failure of the dam, power plant, manufacturing facility, or what-have-you. And that's a positive outcome compared to the platinum-plated Mercedes fleet, the squadrons of high-tech fighter-bombers, or the other kinds of ill-advised purchases indulged in by president-for-life types.

Hat tip to James Bryant for the link.

Posted by Nicholas at 10:52 AM | Comments (2)

Immigration system follies

James Lileks has a post about some Czech refugees who have fallen afoul of the technicalities of the US immigration system: even though they've been in the US since 1988, they're being deported now because their son's illness is now in remission. Picture-perfect bureaucracy in action.

Posted by Nicholas at 10:40 AM | Comments (0)

QotD: Contempt of Court

It's a funny thing — or not — but due to the sad state of prison security in this country, a judge can essentially threaten a person with rape and severe beatings. How about that? One more reason to live clean and avoid making waves.

Steve H., "Was I Wrong About Cooper? Don't Think So", Hog On Ice, 2005-07-06

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

July 11, 2005

Left Handed Right joins the Red Ensign Brigade

I'd like to extend a warm welcome to the latest member of the Red Ensign Brigade, Left Handed Right. Shane has already posted his "why I joined the Brigade" explanation that many brigade members save until it's their turn to host the bi-weekly Red Ensign Standard.

Posted by Nicholas at 03:31 PM | Comments (0)

Tie your laces?

David Neeley sent this link to a mailing list I read: Shoe Lacing Methods. I had absolutely no idea that there were this many variations on what appears to be a pretty simple task.

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

A couple of other Kingston photos

We had dinner in Kingston on Saturday at the Kingston Brewpub, oldest active brewpub in Ontario and home of Dragon's Breath Pale Ale. They do offer tours of the brewery, although we were there too late in the day to be able to do this. This is disappointing, as I'd hoped to get a few photos — in spite of having two digital cameras, I got a remarkably small number of photos on this trip.

KingstonBPMumVictor_09Jul05.jpgKingstonBPSamantha_09Jul05.jpg

Victor and my mum. Victor is in the middle of fiddling with my "good" camera (this is a Treo photo). He was busy trying to take some photos of Samantha, who was sitting beside me.

Samantha, wearing a t-shirt which seemed to draw a lot of attention. Both at lunch and at dinner, she was asked where she'd found the really cool shirt. It caused some disturbance at the table beside us, where the men in the party took offense at their ladies finding the message very appropriate.

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

QotD: Journalism

[J]ournalism is now, and perhaps always has been, really nothing more than a marketing tool. And as long as there is a need for marketing, there will be journalism. Look at papers like the [Toronto] Star — any paper that has a "Lifestyles" section cannot really be considered to be real journalism.

Jon Piasecki, Private email, 1999-08-21

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

July 10, 2005

Kingston, the slow way

Yesterday's adventure was a drive up to Kingston with my mum and my niece. I've been told I'm not allowed to post any pictures of Samantha, so I'll just have to put up a couple of architectural photos:

KingstonPGHotel_1635.jpgKingstonCityHall_1636.jpg

The Prince George hotel. This was the first place I slept in after my family arrived in Canada in 1967. It nearly burned down the next day. I'm sure there's no connection between these two facts.

Kingston City Hall. I was told, but can't confirm from personal experience, that the local police station was in the basement in 1967. Escaped cons and wanted men were supposedly easy to find: they'd be in the bar at the Prince George right next door.

KingstonMarket_1664.jpgKingstonPGHotelEastSide_1665.jpg

The traditional market square behind city hall is being ripped up — to put in something as historically relevant as a skating rink??

The east side of the Prince George hotel. As you can see, the hotel is apparently being renovated (yet again). The two boarded-up windows on the third floor were the room we stayed in. The fire was in the room immediately to the right of it.

The rain started just as I was taking these last two photos, so we had to make a dash for the car.

Posted by Nicholas at 09:55 AM | Comments (3)

QotD: Nursing

Nursing would be a dream job if there were no doctors.

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

Posted by Nicholas at 12:27 AM | Comments (0)

July 09, 2005

Sales taxes and basic arithmetic

It's occurred to me a few times that perhaps one of the reasons kids today have problems with basic mathematical tasks is that they don't get the same kind of day-to-day mental math exercises that my generation did. <Geezer Voice>Back in my day, we didn't have sales taxes levied at the cash register, so even a five-year-old could figure out that a 10 cent candy bar and a 15 cent comic book could be paid for by that one quarter.</Geezer> Nowadays, it's a crapshoot for anyone under 12 to figure out if they have enough money to buy what they want (especially with weird things like the "no Provincial sales tax on prepared food under $4 except certain pre-prepared items, but there's still Gouge-and-Screw Tax".

I'm sure it's not the main reason for kids' mathematical weaknesses, but every time I have to wait for a young cashier to try to figure out correct change for me, I wonder.

Posted by Nicholas at 08:21 AM | Comments (0)

QotD: Freedom

Go about. [The Queen] uses that phrase in Christmas messages — being pleased to see people going about their business and, if I took note of it at all, I would have thought it aloof.

But I just came in from the bank and the bakery at noon in crowds going about. I like going about. Much of what I write here is about my going about, either travels of my mind or on my feet. When, however, the Nazis flattened great-grannie's home by shovelling parachute bombs from Henkels for 72 hours straight over her Scottish city, they were really saying "don't go about". When those teens I taught in Poland after the fall of the Wall were under martial law in the 80s when they were in elementary school, they were being taught "don't think you can just go about." These few jerks today in London said the same thing.

I am far madder now than I thought I would be. I still plan to have a holiday in the States, be in public every day, not hide or even pray to be saved from such events. I am going to go about. So today, you go about, too.

Alan McLeod, "Go About", Gen X at 40, 2005-07-07

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

July 08, 2005

Talking wine labels? Ugh!

Kate uncovers a techno-conspiracy against wine consumers: the talking wine bottle:

The new "label" would consist of a chip implanted in the bottle that could be listened to with a small device about the size of a cigarette package in the wine shop or the restaurant.

"It could tell you how to enjoy the wine, where it came from, everything you'd hear from a sommelier," Barontini said. "You could even have music."

No, it wouldn't tell you "everything you'dhear from a sommelier". It'd tell you everything the winery's marketing manager wants you to know. Or, perhaps even worse, what the importer's marketing manager wants you to hear.

Crikey! Isn't an epidemic of misleading printed descriptions already bad enough?

Posted by Nicholas at 04:23 PM | Comments (0)

I'm not the only one who noticed this

[Ghost of a Flea] points out that the only two countries specifically listed as al Qaeda targets — and have not yet been directly attacked — are Italy and Canada:

Canada and Italy are named as targets by Al Qaida. The other targets have already been hit. People can continue to blame every problem in the world on the Americans but this belief, no matter how fervantly held, does nothing to change the stated aims of those would do us harm.

[. . .]

Carleton University security expert, Martin Rudner's assertion that Canada is relatively safe because "An attack on Toronto will get a minor mention in U.S. papers. The Arab world wouldn't even report it." merits special mention as the single most asinine thing I have read since yesterday's attack.

In some ways, the terrorists have already hit the hardest targets on their formal list: the United States, Australia, and Britain. Italy, Spain, and Canada are much softer (read thas as easier) targets for them to strike. I take no joy in pointing this out, but you don't have to be a strategic genius to figure it out.

Posted by Nicholas at 02:31 PM | Comments (0)

Killin's too good for 'em

The Register reports that some scumbags have released a virus disguised as a CNN newsletter with the payload as an attachment. The text in the message encourages recipients to play the attached "amateur video shots".

Posted by Nicholas at 02:11 PM | Comments (0)

"They will be (expletive) six feet under. . ."

A fascinating case in the west, where a Canadian politician is under arrest for drug trafficking:

Court documents allege that Ravinderjit Puar also said anyone who double-crossed her would be in trouble: "They will be (expletive) six feet under. . . . That's what the game is like in Vancouver. You (expletive) with us, you die."

"This is a violent group," Assistant U.S. Attorney Karyn Johnson said. "The comments (Puar) made are evocative of the kind of violence this group is capable of."

Puar's lawyer, Bill Hines, called allegations that his client was involved in organized crime "outrageous." He said that while there was probable cause to believe she committed a drug crime, there was no evidence of actual violence, just a lot of "huffing and puffing."

So her own lawyer admits that there is "probable cause", eh? Just fascinating.

Posted by Nicholas at 01:58 PM | Comments (0)

London Bombings, the day after

The death toll has been officially raised to 50, according to Associated Press.

Sir Ian Blair, commissioner of the Metropolitan Police, said no evidence suggested that the attacks involved suicide bombers but that officials hadn't ruled out the possibility. He said a precise death toll wasn't yet known.

"We know that there are more than 50 fatalities. There is a great difficulty in determining how many fatalities there are because two of the scenes are very difficult in terms of recovery," Blair said.

He said officials still hadn't gotten near the subway cars of the Russell Square station, fearing the tunnel unsafe, and he said the nature of the blast that ripped apart a double-decker bus was making it difficult to establish a death toll there.

London's mass transit system reopened Friday, though some commuters, admitting they were afraid, opted for a taxi. Normally packed double-decker buses carried just a handful of passengers, and many Underground stations were less congested than normal. But others said they had little choice but to board the subway.

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

A message from an alternate reality

On one of my professional mailing lists, there were dozens of messages of sympathy for our UK-based colleagues after yesterday's attacks. The moderator called everyone's attention to the nature of the list and asked everyone to return to the topic at hand — there are several thousand members of the mailing list, and if it is allowed to go seriously off-topic, it can get very ugly. A few hours after the moderator's call, a highly incendiary message was posted.

I'm just going to include a couple of paragraphs from this person (whose identity I'll not reveal, out of pity):

Clearly, the horrors inflicted on London today are criminal. But I hope that at least some folks understand that this kind of incendiary behavior is revenge for the many transgressions inflicted on innocent non-Western peoples by Western business and political practices.

First, we have to accept the writer's notion that the "West" is rich only because the rest of the world is not. Farcical though it may be to assert, the writer clearly believes this. Most of the poorest places in the world are not poor because Britain, France, or America came in and hoovered up all the wealth; they're poor because they lack basic human and property rights, access to justice, and the means to protect themselves and their homes, businesses, and property. Where might means right, the only people with security are the ones with the guns . . . and only so long as they're stronger than other tribes, factions, or gangs.

Western business practices can have little effect on cultures with no rule of law: the only way to conduct business in areas like that is to cut deals with the local powers-that-be or to become a local power. This is not good for the company conducting the business: they're not good at weilding power, nor should they be. Their core competency is conducting business, not becoming local bully boys. It's no wonder that when companies do attempt it, the results are not good.

The bombings are not right, but the causes can easily be seen if one wants to look at the underpinnings soberly. Taking other folks' lands and resources, despoiling legitimate leadership, and perpetually impoverishing them can't be a good thing in the long or even the short run.

Of course not, that's why only governments in the west actually have the power to "take other folks' lands and resources". Everyone else in the west is restricted to purchasing what they want (eminent domain is a separate question). As for "despoiling legitimate leadership", I'm not sure just what the writer thinks. Is a non-elected President-for-Life, absolute monarch, or Military Junta the kind of "legitimate leadership" anyone wants to see? In far too many places, that's what the government looks like.

The purpose of government is to provide protection from external threats (the military), protection from internal crime (the police), and basic justice (the courts). Without those three basic tasks, it's not a government: it's an occupying power, an armed gang, or anarchy. Too many governments in the poorest countries much more resemble a biker gang than a parliament.

Businesses are not serving their shareholders or customers by "permanently impoverishing" anyone. Governments, on the other hand, can do nicely out of creating impoverished groups or further oppressing already impoverished groups: the scapegoat principle works very well, I'm afraid. It provides a handy relief valve for dissent and anger: blame this minority racial, ethnic, or cultural group for the problem and let the majority rampage for a bit. It's a long-established pattern because it works for so many tyrants for so many years.

Take Africa... In the last 30 years, Africa has paid more tht double what it borrowed from the World Bank, the IMF and other Western financiers. The chickens are coming home to roost...

He's right, you know: and it could happen to you. Borrow money at a fixed interest rate, but only pay the interest on the debt. For the economically unsophisticated, an unexpected thing happens: the principal never gets reduced, so there's always money owing. For a person, the choice is to start paying down the principal amount or declare bankruptcy. For a nation, the same choices apply. If enough nations in your region go the bankruptcy route, it makes it harder for any nations to borrow money except at a higher rate of interest (in other words, the lender recognizes that it's a riskier loan, so the profits have to be higher to cover the potential losses).

All of this is not to say that there are not things in the third world that could be much better if Western countries and Western businesses had done things differently in the past. But there is much more that could be done by the governments of those poorer nations to improve the lot of their people.

Maybe justice in the Middle East can change the course of the mess we are all in...

The Middle East is a special case. They are, generally speaking, sitting on huge reserves of oil which is in high demand. They don't need to borrow money — they are lenders instead. Many of those countries are potentially quite wealthy, if the profits from the oil weren't directed into personal wealth for rulers, sheiks, imams, generals, and kings. Justice in most of the Middle East is not available to the common citizens . . . except in Israel and (to a lesser degree) in Turkey. The rest of the region has the kind of autocratic, klepocratic, and non-democratic governments already discussed. There are some signs of improvement (local elections, elected bodies being given more scope, reform of justice systems, etc.), but they generally still have quite some way to go.

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

QotD: Terror in the West

I know that you personally do not fear to take your own life . . . but I know you do fear that you will fail in your long-term goals . . . Look at our airports, looks at our railway stations . . . People from around the world will arrive in London to become Londoners . . . They come to be free . . . They flee you because you tell them how they should live . . . and nothing you ever do will stop that flight to our cities, where freedom is strong. No matter how many you kill, you will fail.

Ken Livingstone, Mayor of London, 2005-07-07

Posted by Nicholas at 08:27 AM | Comments (0)

July 07, 2005

Some details on the bombings in London

The BBC has some details on the locations of the four bombings from earlier today.

Update, 10:15 a.m.: There are still no firm numbers on casualties, although at least ten and perhaps as many as 40 have been killed, with hundreds wounded. The Scotsman has a round-up of reports, including a map of the underground stations where some of the bombings occurred.

The first group to claim responsibility for the attacks is the Secret Organisation Group of al-Qaeda of Jihad Organisation in Europe.

Update, 10:38 a.m.: Samizdata has an open thread on the attacks, with local contributors. HT to Jon for the link.

Update, 10:46 a.m.: Andrew Ian Dodge is liveblogging.

Update, 11:07 a.m.: I'm changing the timestamp on this post to keep it at the top of the page for today.

Update, 11:36 a.m.: CNN provides a timeline of the bombings and the reactions of emergency services.

Update, 1:37 p.m.: The Guardian Newsblog indicates that there are 39 confirmed dead and nearly 700 confirmed injured with almost a certainty of higher numbers.

Update, 3:19 p.m.: Europhobia has been busy liveblogging events, too. Mention was made very early in the stream about the first news from the London underground being a "power surge". Apparently the central control indications (without live video feeds or other ways to verify information) were so anomalous that the only reasonable explanation they had was a power surge. They quickly corrected that after reports from the scene started to come in. So, stand down the conspiracy theorists on this item, okay?

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

A modern cavalry charge

Kate linked to a fascinating first-person account of being on the fringe of a police-versus-protesting-anarchists battle:

As the reinforcements arrived, the foot-based riot line opened to let them in, let the cavalry withdraw behind, and then re-formed into an even tighter set of double ranks. Isn't this interesting. Something's coming. Rotten fruit and garbage, looted from adjacent dumpters, began to fly from the crowd toward the ranks. I dashed in front of the anarchist lines to get a shot of the police formation. A full sack of garbage landed between us as I got my shot; and then the policeman in the center raised his right arm. The anarchists surged forward. I fought my way back and into an adjoining alley. The police charged.

It was a fearsome sight, seeing the lines clash. The outcome was never in doubt: some of the kids were trampled, some thrown bodily back a surprising distance, some fled in pure fear. All deserved it. As swiftly as it began, the police line halted just shy of my alley, having cleared perhaps a hundred feet of Rose Street. The foot soldiers resumed the stalwart stance, and the cavalry trotted up in a line behind. The anarchists were in disarray, with most of the girls screaming, and most of the men assiduously not helping them.

And then, after one of the protestors was dragged into the alley where the writer was observing the drama,

Two anarchist women, clad in black but with orange crosses pinned to their shirts, moved forward to render first aid. As they did, the second charge descended.

The rush came in two waves. First, the foot police line split neatly in two and swung in a manner to make Schlieffen proud. They neatly sealed off my alley and the alley across the way; and the cavalry moved up from behind to maintain the ground gained on the main thoroughfare. The crowd began shrieking again — and then the cavalry charged. I have never seen a mounted charge before, but I certainly hope to again: the sight was profoundly more amazing than the foot charge witnessed mere minutes before. At once I understood the age-old truth of the power of the horseman over the man on foot: a lesson that those of us whose military service was in the modern era have precious little opportunity to grasp. Again the anarchists lost ground as fast as their fleeing feet could take them, and I was sure that the entirety of Rose Street would shortly be seized in the name of the Lothian and Borders Police. But no: passing the alleyways and arriving at a point at which their flanks were secured by solid walls, the cavalry stopped dead.

The foot police sealing me and a platoon of anarchists into our alley opened ranks, and two cops, in full armor but without shields or batons, strode confidently among us. Ignoring threats and curses, they walked to the old woman in seizure, knelt down, and began to render aid. In a flash it became clear why the cavalry had charged as it did: with their flanks and rear secure, the police could render aid. Having been among them long enough to get a sense of their nature, I have no doubt that lone policemen amongst the crowd would have been assaulted mercilessly even in their mission of mercy; now, though, they could do good work unhindered.

Posted by Nicholas at 06:31 PM | Comments (0)

Guestbook entries you don't want to read

From a Car and Driver article:

Entries in the guest book at Barker Ranch, an old vacant stone house high atop Death Valley National Park; the ranch was the last hiding place of Charles Manson and his zombies:

December 30, 2001
What a creepy place. Sometimes I think I see shadows. Here I am, middle-class, middle-aged, eating lunch at a cult leader's house. Only in America.

March 20, 2002
I'm coming back to kill all the people in this cabin. I got all your names from this book. Prepare to die!

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

Victorinox struggles on, post-9/11

I'd never considered the impact of increased paranoia of airline security arrangments on the manufacturers of Swiss Army Knives:

"It was an absolute catastrophe for us," Elsener says. "Until then our knives had sold very well both in duty free shops and on board planes. Most airlines sold them, including British Airways. Then suddenly this distribution was closed. It was zero. The merchandise came back to us. This was really very hard." Under new airline regulations, passengers could no longer carry the Swiss army knife in their hand luggage. Those who didn't comply had their knives confiscated — and they weren't returned at the other end.

The effects were sudden, and devastating. Sales of Swiss army knives dropped by 40% almost immediately. Finally, in April, Wenger SA — the only other Swiss firm allowed to produce Swiss army knives — went bust. Elsener's company, Victorinox, named after the mother of the founding Elsener, decided to rescue its rival, buying it for an undisclosed sum.

Despite 9/11 it would be an exaggeration to talk about the knife's demise, however. The Elseners are still manufacturing 34,000 Swiss army knives a day in the tiny village of Ibach.

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

Further debunking of the BMI

Radley Balko's Morgan Spurlock Watch has some useful things to say about that public agenda tool, the Body Mass Index (BMI):

A huge part of the "ballooning" Spurlock speaks of has nothing to do with overeating. It's due to the fact that in 1998, the U.S. government redefined what it meant to be obese. The Centers for Disease Countrol lowered the bar. One magic night in 1998, then, 29 million Americans went to bed of "normal" weight, and woke up "overweight" — without ever gaining a pound. Millions more went to bed "overweight," and woke up "obese." That's not the fault of McDonalds or Frito lay, or Baskin-Robins. It's the result of an alarmist government moving the goalposts to manufacture hysteria.

[. . .]

Of course, none of these people's risk for these conditions increased overnight. The government merely drew a largely arbitrary line, and announced that one side of that line would now be healthy, and the other side wouldn't.

Of course, all of these statistics flow from the Body Mass Index, or BMI. BMI is by and large a completely arbitrary measure of health. It doesn't account for age, sex, gender, body type, or ethnicity. It also doesn't distinguish between fat tissue and muscle tissue (the latter is more dense). By now, you've probably heard about how big, muscle-bound athletes are classified as "obese" by the government. By BMI standards, more than half the NBA is obese or overweight. But in fact, any person who works out regularly is likely to fall into the "overweight" or "obese" categories. According to the government, for example, Johnny Depp is overweight. And Tom Cruise is obese. If your build is similar to theirs, you're probably obese or overweight, too [. . .]. Should give you an idea of how specious a tool the BMI really is.

Look at it this way: Muscle mass is denser than fat mass. If you've ever started a regular workout regimen after a few months of inactivity, you'll know that your weight tends to go up, not down, after the first few weeks. You're building muscle. Which means if ten people of normal build who don't exercise joined a gym, their collective BMI would go up, not down. But they'd be adding to the overweight-obesity statistics.

I've mumbled bits about the evils of BMI here, here, and here.

Posted by Nicholas at 01:45 PM | Comments (0)

The pro-DD(X), anti-BB arguments

The son of Admiral Zumwalt takes issue with the faction who want to scrap the planned DD(X) class of ships and in their place re-activate the Iowa-class battleships:

A comprehensive systems analysis approach to this issue involves weighing numerous cost factors — hidden as well as directly related to hard costs of a battleship's modernization.

The defense budget's costliest element is manpower. An Iowa Class battleship requires a 1,500-member crew. That many sailors could man 10 DD(X) destroyers. No one on active duty in the Navy is trained to operate a battleship's steam plant, weapons and fire-control systems. Training personnel to do so would involve a costly expansion of the Navy's school system.

There are limited shipyard facilities capable of handling larger warships like battleships and carriers. Reactivating the former would greatly impair maintenance support of the latter absent additional funds for expanding the facilities.

The battleship is a single-mission ship, with no viable anti-air or antisubmarine capability. Unlike the DD(X), which has a multiple mission capability and can operate independently, battleships require escort ships to defend them against those threats.

Hat tip to SOMNIA.

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

QotD: France

Maybe the French can start their own Olympics. "Competitive smoking, mixed doubles rudeness, freeform rioting, and the individual ennui endurance challenge."

Ken Summers, "Instapundit gets silly", It Comes In Pints?, 2005-07-05

Update, 9:53 a.m.: Ken informs me that the original was actually written by Brent Colbert. Sorry for the confusion!

Posted by Nicholas at 12:10 AM | Comments (4)

July 06, 2005

Knopfler in Toronto

Last night's concert at the Molson Amphitheatre was great. I really felt we got more entertainment than our tickets had cost. And that's a rare thing nowadays.

We'd spent the day in various activities, spending more money than I'd really planned on (of course), and generally enjoying having a day out. Victor made out like a bandit on stuff: books, clothes, a CD, and probably more that I'm not remembering now. I guess I was doing the stereotypical "divorced dad on visitation day" thing: showering the kid with merchandise to attempt to compensate for the lack of physical presence (although in my case it's been working long hours, rather than being divorced, thank goodness).

About the only "exciting" thing that happened during the day was getting rear-ended at the corner of the Queensway and Colborne Lodge on our way to Ontario Place. No real damage, thank goodness: the woman in the car behind us had handed her son a cookie, her foot slipped off the brake pedal, and she nudged the back of my CR/V. We were that far west due to the ongoing construction along Queen Street (replacing long stretches of streetcar trackage, by the look of things).

The venue was pretty good, although it was very distracting having people getting up and down all through the concert (we must have had to stand up 50 times to let people in and out of our row of seats). I took a photo of the stage before many folks had arrived, because it was unlikely that I'd get anything useful after the show started. Unfortunately, the guy who sat directly in front of me was tall, and wore a basball cap . . . and kept sweeping his head from left to right so that I couldn't see the stage. The couple directly behind us won complimentary seat upgrades from Bell Cellular, so they departed for the Bell VIP box and Victor and I climbed back a row, which gave us just enough clearance to see the stage over top of baseballcapguy's head.

The opening act was Jackie Green (photo linked from Guy Fletcher's tour diary), a young singer/songwriter who did a pretty good job playing his own repertoire on guitar or keyboard accompanied by harmonica. It wasn't quite my cup of tea, but it was pleasant listening. Jackie did a half-hour's worth of playing before the crew came back on to set up for Mark and the band.

The main performance was great, with a killer rendition of "Sultans of Swing" getting the crowd howling for more. I loved the live versions of "Sailing to Philadelphia", "Speedway at Nazareth", "Song for Sonny Liston", and "Boom Like That". Older material included "Telegraph Road", "Romeo and Juliet", "Money for Nothing", and "Brothers in Arms".

As I expected, my during-the-show photos are just smears of light.

KnopflerConcert1_05Jul05.jpgKnopflerConcert2_05Jul05.jpg

Update: Guy Fletcher updated his diary entry for last night's concert.

Posted by Nicholas at 02:45 PM | Comments (0)

Hate 'em, hate 'em, hate 'em

The spammers have been busy trying to use my blog as a redirector for their various online pharmaceutical, p0ker, and vi/\gra spams. It's taking much longer every day this week to clean the bastards out and ban their IP addresses . . . and I know that most or all of the IP addresses are just zombies, not the actual spammers themselves.

I'm having to turn off comments and trackback pings for anything over a week old (basically once they've scrolled off the opening page) to cut down their opportunities to get free ad space.

Posted by Nicholas at 02:05 PM | Comments (0)

Viking ship replica finds a home

Shetland News reports that an abandoned 1:3 scale replica Viking ship will become one of the attractions at a planned Viking archaeological site:

The 26 metre wooden Skidbladner is to be displayed at the head of Harolds Wick, in Unst, Shetland's most northerly island, at a spot where the Vikings might have set foot on Shetland for the first time, around 1,200 years ago.

The Skidbladner was abandoned in Shetland five years ago when a group of hardy sailors from Sweden and Norway failed in their attempt to emulate their ancestor Leif Erikson and sail from Scandinavia to America, without a back-up engine or any facilities to accommodate the eight crew.

Their journey failed miserably when persistent northerly winds prevented the sailors from rounding Sumburgh Head, Shetland's most southerly tip. Stuck in in the isles for weeks, the crew eventually abandoned ship and went home.

Posted by Nicholas at 01:47 PM | Comments (0)

SGML tagging is bad for your mental health

A co-worker of mine finally snapped over an exchange with an SGML/XML advocate, and sent this email to our boss:

In other news...

<total_disbelief>I just re-read [SGMLguy's] e-mail where he talks about <he's_got_to_be_kidding>SGML</he's_got_to_be_kidding> and <no_way>tagging everything manually by hand</no_way>.</total_disbelief>

<query>He is kidding, right?</query>

<I_mean,_come_on,_work_with_me_here>It would take absolutely <emphasis>forever</emphasis> to write something the length of, <for_example>[one of our book titles]</for_example>, if you had to <bloody>tag</bloody> everything by hand. And what happens when a writer forgets to <it_blows_up_real_good>close a tag?</it_blows_up_real_good></I_mean,_come_on,_work_with_me_here>

Oh well. I should not let it bother me.

Too much

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

New Wine book

While Victor and I were wandering around downtown Toronto yesterday, I found a new Mitchell Beazley Classic Wine Library publication: The Wines of Canada by John Schreiner:

WinesOfCanada_06Jul05.jpg

I've had no chance to actually read it yet (and may not for a couple of weeks at present rate), but I'm surprised (and pleased) to find that someone other than a Canadian publisher now finds Canadian wine sufficiently interesting to publish a formal study on the topic.

Posted by Nicholas at 10:31 AM | Comments (0)

QotD: Government Efficiency

Our greatest threat today comes from government's involvement in things that are not government's proper province. And in those things government has a magnificent record of failure.

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

Posted by Nicholas at 01:04 AM | Comments (0)

July 05, 2005

Off to hear Mark Knopfler

I'll be offline the rest of today, as I've booked a rare vacation day to take Victor to the Mark Knopfler concert at the Molson Amphitheatre tonight. Elizabeth and I used to go to the old Ontario Place Forum fairly regularly, but I've never been to this replacement venue. The reviews of the place are pretty much all over the shop: some think it's terrible, others think it's great. I just hope that the acoustics are good in the area in which we'll be sitting.

Posted by Nicholas at 10:49 AM | Comments (0)

25th Raising of the Red Ensign

The twenty-fifth Raising of the Red Ensign is being hosted by our current fearless leader, Raging Kraut. Go see what other Red Ensign Brigade bloggers have been up to for the last two weeks.

Posted by Nicholas at 10:45 AM | Comments (0)

QotD: Taste

The villa itself is beautiful, a tasteful combination of traditional Javanese and Balinese influences with a secluded pool and tropical garden. The architect should be commended. The decorators, however, should be fed to wild pigs. To call the interior "kitsch" is to be too kind. Gilt framed mirrors compete with gilt framed pictures and massive gilt encrusted chandeliers. Understatement and elegance are in short supply. Indeed, they've fled the premises in horror. Vulgar tchotkies, however, abound. A life size porcelin tiger crouches in the entry way. Cherubs peer down from walls and [the owner is] a Muslim for christsake.

It's as if a Las Vegas wedding chapel designer had been abducted, brought to Indonesia, and forced, at gun-point, to lower his standards. One half-waits for the Elvis impersonator to come down the staircase.

Conrad, "The Long Weekend", The Gweilo Diaries, 2004-09-28

Posted by Nicholas at 01:05 AM | Comments (0)

July 04, 2005

Kim's July 4th disillusionment

Jon sent me the link to a sad posting on Kim du Toit's site. He's closing down the blog, at least for the time being. I'm not a regular reader, although I've enjoyed several posts on his site over the last year or so. He's feeling particularly disillusioned over both public and personal issues. The public ones include:

I find myself facing this year’s July 4th with a feeling of utter desolation. Consider just these (there are more), and ask yourself whether the Founding Fathers would have approved:

  • Real ID, passed by the House of Representatives, which effectively tags us and brands us, for the benefit of the State
  • Kelo vs. New London, where the Supreme Court decided that it was just okay-dokey for local government to seize private property and hand it over to another private party
  • The Transportation Security Agency and its heavy-handed, PC behavior at airports — where you can be arrested for protesting against rules and regulations which you are not allowed to see for yourself
  • The War on Drugs, with seizure of private property and "no-knock" search warrants
  • The so-called "Patriot" Act, which allows law enforcement to snoop around our personal papers, affairs and letters without a warrant
  • A tax system which taxes wages and profits, and our property, the services we provide, and the goods we buy
  • A President indicates that he would sign a continuation of a firearms ban, which bans firearms for cosmetic reasons, and which ban has been proven to be ineffectual in terms of lowering crime rates
  • A government which does not defend our borders from wholesale incursion for foreign nationals
  • A proposed Constitutional amendment which would outlaw the burning of a symbol
  • Congressmen get an automatic pay increase each year, unless they specifically vote against it
  • The FEC announces that political speech, like mine, may fall afoul of the un-Constitutional McCain-Feingold Campaign Finance Reform Act.

It's not just one thing, it's never just one thing: each one of the above is bad, in and of itself. All of them combined have become intolerable.

That last paragraph says it all.

Update: Radley Balko has another dim view of the most recent US Supreme Court decisions' effect on individual freedom.

Posted by Nicholas at 04:25 PM | Comments (0)

Post-Canada Day Winery Tour

Elizabeth and I abandoned our parental duties yesterday and headed off to Grimsby to join a private wine tour. There were only five of us (Elizabeth, Pat, Marilyn, Paul, and me), just enough to squeeze into one car. Paul generously offered to be our designated driver — so I got to be a passenger for once. We weren't in a huge rush, so after visiting Peninsula Ridge (just a long walk from Pat's house), we drove in to Jordan to have lunch at Zooma Zooma:

Paul_and_Marilyn_03Jul05.jpg

Pat_and_Elizabeth_03Jul05.jpg

Paul, our noble driver, and Marilyn, who are celebrating their 46th wedding anniversary today.

Pat and Elizabeth

The restaurant was clean, service was fast and friendly, and the food was tasty and quite reasonably priced. Perhaps I shouldn't say all of this, as it's nice to have found somewhere in wine country that's not already overrun with tourists!

After lunch, we crossed the street to the Cave Spring tasting room and the gift shop next door. I managed to escape from both Peninsula Ridge and Cave Spring with only one bottle each time (my budget has barely recovered from the last wine tour I was on). My luck (or, more accurately, my temporary fiscal restraint) didn't hold much longer.

LadiesChatting_03Jul05.jpg

VinelandEstatesView_03Jul05.jpg

Elizabeth, Marilyn and Pat, on the lawn at Vineland Estates.

A poor picture of a lovely view from the restaurant terrace at Vineland Estates.

I discovered that my Treo 600 doesn't like extremely high light levels. Twice now, I've had to do a hard reset after attempting to take a photo in very bright sunlight. This is part of the reason for the paucity of photos on this trip.

The wines I tasted, with some brief notes:

Winery

Vintage

Wine

Type

Price ($CDN)

Rating (1 to 10)

Tasting Notes

Angels Gate

2002

Cabernet Sauvignon VQA

Cabernet Sauvignon

24.95

8

Coffee and red fruit on the nose. Good tannins and well balanced flavours. Long finish.

 

2004

Riesling VQA

Riesling

13.95

6

Not quite my cup of tea: slightly sweet with some candy notes on the palate. Medium finish.

 

2004

Sauvignon Blanc Single Vineyard VQA

Sauvignon Blanc

17.95

6

Odd turkey and sage dressing nose. Body was all pink grapefruit. Medium finish.

Cave Spring

2002

Cabernet/Merlot Reserve

Meritage

29.95

8

Violets and forest floor on the nose. Very fruity body with cedar shavings. Medium-long finish.

 

2004

Dry Riesling VQA

Riesling

12.95

7

Petrol on the nose. Floral notes on the palate. Medium finish.

 

2004

Gewürztraminer VQA

Gewürztraminer

11.95

6

Elizabeth quite liked this one. I'm less a G-wine fan, but it had pleasant lychee and rose aromas.

Daniel Lenko

2004

Riesling Reserve VQA

Riesling

17.00

7

Honey on the nose. Rose petals and honey on the palate. Oily consistency in the mouth. The trademark petrol or kerosene scent will probably develop in the next year or so.

 

2002

Rosé VQA

Rosé

12.95

7

Sweet on the nose (but not candy-sweet). Medium finish. Excellent patio wine.

 

2002

Unoaked Chardonnay VQA

Chardonnay

14.95

7

Honey and sweet floral notes on the nose. Slight sweetness on the palate. Medium-long finish.

Lakeview Cellars

2002

Cabernet Franc Reserve VQA

Cabernet Franc

22.95

7

Somewhat closed nose right now (just released this month). Has very fruity body and a long finish.

 

2002

Meritage VQA

Meritage

19.95

8

Smoky red fruit on the nose. Good tannins and smoke (again) on the palate. Long finish

 

2001

Pinot Noir VQA

Pinot Noir

14.95

6

Very earthy nose with some acrid notes. Very short finish. Smokey palate overall.

Peninsula Ridge

2001

Cabernet Franc VQA

Cabernet Franc

14.95

8

Very mushroomy nose. Lighter body than expected. Good length on the finish.

 

2004

Viognier

Côtes du Rhône

13.95

7

Good melon and floral notes on the nose. Body very light with some residual sweetness. Short finish.

Vineland Estates

2001

Cabernet-Merlot

Meritage

15.00

8

Fruity body with some residual smokiness. Long finish.

 

2004

Chardonnay Musque

Chardonnay

18.95

7

Good melon scents on the nose. Body a bit thin and finish quite short.

 

2002

Reserve Chardonnay

Chardonnay

48.00

8

Mildly oaked with just the right balance of vanilla overtones. Good, buttery body and long finish.

 

2001

Reserve Pinot Noir

Pinot Noir

20.00

8

Raspberry on the nose. Very smooth, well-integrated tannins. Long finish.

For any dedicated reader who stuck with the post this far, there's a bin-end sale on at the moment at Lakeview Cellars, including their 2001 Cabernet Franc (not the one mentioned above, but still a very good example of this grape). It's on for 8.95 per bottle (from $14.95), which is an incredible deal for such a good wine. I took a case home with me, so I don't feel too bad in letting the rest of you in on the sale.

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

Trackback spammers . . . I hate those guys

Sorry for the relative dearth of posts over the weekend, but I was hors du combat on Saturday and out on a wine tour yesterday. This morning has been a bit of maintenance on the site: while my attention was briefly elsewhere, a bunch of trackback spammers got onto the site. I think I've squashed 'em all for now, but it's kinda tedious to find 'em (MovableType doesn't give you an easy method to do this — at least in the version I'm using).

If I get some time this afternoon, I'll hopefully get something useful posted.

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

QotD: Writers and Writing

A scrupulous writer, in every sentence that he writes, will ask himself at least four questions, thus: What am I trying to say? What words will express it? What image or idiom will make it clearer? Is this image fresh enough to have an effect? And he will probably ask himself two more: Could I put it more shortly? Have I said anything that is avoidably ugly? But you are not obliged to go to all this trouble. You can shirk it by simply throwing your mind open and letting the ready-made phrases come crowding in. They will construct your sentences for you — even think your thoughts for you, to a certain extent — and at need they will perform the important service of partially concealing your meaning even from yourself.

George Orwell, "Politics and the English Language", 1946

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

July 03, 2005

QotD: Belief

Faith felt good, faith always feels good, it probably feels better than heroin and that's why faith has done much more damage. [. . .] What's the difference between God and a sock monkey? There is a sock monkey.

Penn Jillette, quoted in Reason 2004-12

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

July 02, 2005

QotD: Pharmacology

The Pharmacological industry is the art of making billions from milligrams.

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

Posted by Nicholas at 10:06 AM | Comments (0)

July 01, 2005

Happy Soviet Canuckistan Day

Today is the national holiday here in the northern wastes. It was once Dominion Day, then Canada Day, and now Sponsorship Day. Okay, strike that last one: it's still officially "Canada Day". I'll be celebrating the day by not working insane hours, for the first time in a few weeks. I'm generally quite happy working in the software industry, but the deadline crunch is the part I dislike the most.

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

QotD: Legal Tactics

This is what I like to call a "reverse insanity defense". You raise the defense in the hope that the judge is certifiably out of his friggin' mind and grants it. Sadly, it rarely gets clients off the hook. It is, however, an excellent method of destroying your credibility with the court.

Conrad, "The Reverse Insanity Defense", The Gweilo Diaries, 2004-09-28

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


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