September 30, 2005

Vindicated!

I finally got around to ordering my next vehicle, but I won't actually take delivery until late November . . . because I insisted on manual transmission (if I'd been willing to take an automatic, I could have had it within a few weeks). Call me an anarcho-anachronist, if you like. Here is another good reason for sticking with manual transmission vehicles:

Carjackers are lame. Carjackers who can't figure out how to drive a manual are even more lame. An employee of a Kansas software company was approached by someone with a shotgun who was looking to borrow the victim's Chevy Camaro. Our would-be carjacker fled the scene after finding that his new ride had a third pedal.

Posted by Nicholas at 04:29 PM | Comments (0)

Opening Day

The barrage of pre-opening media placements is finally drawing to a close. Among the many reviews are Wired, New York Times, Globe and Mail and Toronto Sun.

Update: The comic world chimes in.

Posted by Nicholas at 02:33 PM | Comments (0)

Think the "regular" SCA is weird?

Not mentioning anyone by name (*cough* Jon *cough*), of course. But this will portray medieval life in a totally unexpected manner (Quicktime required).

Posted by Nicholas at 10:19 AM | Comments (1)

QotD: Political Correctness

Political correctness is communist propaganda writ small. In my study of communist societies, I came to the conclusion that the purpose of communist propaganda was not to persuade or convince, nor to inform, but to humiliate; and therefore, the less it corresponded to reality the better. When people are forced to remain silent when they are being told the most obvious lies, or even worse when they are forced to repeat the lies themselves, they lose once and for all their sense of probity. To assent to obvious lies is to co-operate with evil, and in some small way to become evil oneself. One's standing to resist anything is thus eroded, and even destroyed. A society of emasculated liars is easy to control. I think if you examine political correctness, it has the same effect and is intended to.

Theodore Dalrymple, interviewed by James Glazov in "Our Culture, What's Left Of It", FrontPage, 2005-08-31

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

September 29, 2005

Big money moving into Niagara wine business

The Toronto Star (reg. req'd) has an article about some of the newer owners of wineries in the Niagara DVA:

Tawse, 48, who opened his winery this spring, estimates he spends about 35 per cent of his time amid the vines and away from his downtown office.

Others with similarly un-yeomanlike resumés include Gerry Schwartz, head of Onex Corp. and Vincor's biggest shareholder with 1.25 million shares. On Vincor's board sits former Second Cup chief executive Michael Bregman.

There's also Norm Beal, owner of Peninsula Ridge Estates Winery in Beamsville, who finally gave up oil trading this year to pursue wine-making full-time. And David Feldberg, CEO of office furniture manufacturer Teknion Corp., opened Stratus Vineyards in Niagara-on-the-Lake in June.

They're all involved in an industry that province-wide generated $450 million in sales last year on volume of 44 million litres and employed more than 5,000, according to the Wine Council of Ontario.

I'm agnostic on the question of whether this is a good thing or not: that successful businessmen are moving into the industry shows that there is definite chances for profits. But some of the very best wine is produced by tiny micro-wineries, where the profit margins are very, very thin. The big wineries are still trying to be all things to all drinkers: provide tony, high-quality wines for the premium market, and still produce mega-lots of cheap plonk. Calfornia seems to be moving away from that model, so it will be interesting to see if Niagara will emulate them.

Hat tip to Jon for the link.

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

QotD: Serenity

I'm not trying to make a polemic and it's definitely not a partisan film in the sense that Mal is, if not a Republican, certainly a libertarian, he's certainly a less-government kinda guy. He's the opposite of me in many ways.

Joss Whedon, quoted by Malene Arpe in "Just don't call Joss Whedon a genius", Toronto Star, 2005-09-24

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

September 28, 2005

Oh, those Czech artists!

Rogier van Bakel adds a bit of culture to an otherwise barbaric day:

Though I grew up not very far from Brussels' famed statue of a little peeing boy, I must confess that for some reason, I don't think about urinating males (or females) all that often. Oh sure, I was perfectly happy to write about the Whizzinator half a year ago, a fake penis dispensing guaranteed drug-free urine. But on the whole, guys taking a leak is not a topic that commands my frequent attention.

Today, however, I find myself consumed by it. And it's all the fault of a Czech sculptor who created a piece of public art featuring two animatronic males who move their hips and their penises (penii?) to write messages with their simulated pee, a.k.a. water.

Wait, it gets better: you can send a text message to a phone number inscribed at the sculpture's base, and the two bronze figures will faithfully copy your every word.

Ah, culture!

Posted by Nicholas at 06:15 PM | Comments (1)

What kind of general? The failed kind, of course

Foolishly, I took the Which Historic General Are You Test, prompted by Chris "Genghis" Taylor. This test is too accurate, as my results clearly show:

George McClellan
You scored 62 Wisdom, 91 Tactics, 45 Guts, and 39 Ruthlessness!
Like General McClellan, you're smart enough to know what tactical decisions to make. However, the problem with McClellan is that he could never sprout the balls to act on his information, and in the end, that's why Geoge McClellan is only a sidenote in the history books.

After graduating from West Point, he served with distinction in the Mexican War and later worked on various engineering projects, notably on the survey (1853-54) for a Northern Pacific RR route across the Cascade Range. Resigning from the army in 1857, he was a railroad official until the outbreak of the Civil War. In May, 1861, McClellan was made commander of the Dept. of the Ohio and a major general in the regular army. He cleared the western part of Virginia of Confederates (June-July, 1861) and consequently, after the Union defeat in the first battle of Bull Run, was given command of the troops in and around Washington. In November he became general in chief. The administration, reflecting public opinion, pressed for an early offensive, but McClellan insisted on adequate training and equipment for his army. In Mar., 1862, he was relieved of his supreme command, but he retained command of the Army of the Potomac, with which in Apr., 1862, he initiated the Peninsular campaign . The collapse of this campaign after the Seven Days battles was charged by many to his overcaution. In Aug., 1862, most of McClellan's troops were reassigned to the Army of Virginia under John Pope . After Pope's defeat at the second battle of Bull Run, McClellan again reorganized the Union forces, and in the Antietam campaign he checked Robert E. Lee's first invasion of the North. He was slow, however, to follow Lee across the Potomac and in Nov., 1862, was removed from his command.




My test tracked 4 variables How you compared to other people your age and gender:
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You scored higher than 49% on Wisdom
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You scored higher than 98% on Tactics
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You scored higher than 13% on Guts
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You scored higher than 24% on Ruthlessness
Link: The Which Historic General Are You Test written by dasnyds on Ok Cupid
Posted by Nicholas at 05:49 PM | Comments (0)

Field-Improvised Weapons

For a military which too often gets stuck with the cheapest possible equipment that might just be able to do the job, if lovingly maintained, Canadian soldiers have a well-deserved reputation for coming up with field expedients to get the job done. Castle Argghhh! shows that the German army of World War 2 had similar capabilities.

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

Synchronicity

I had to go to the bank at lunch today, so I grabbed a paperback off the vast collection of as-yet-unread books and drove into town. No problems enroute, got my cheque deposited, and decided to be lazy and get lunch out rather than going home and making something for myself.

We now have a selection of fast-food joints in the village (Mary Brown's Chicken, Tim Hortons, Pizza Nova, and Subway), which is a big change from just a while ago, where there was only one greasy spoon and one full-service restaurant.

I decided to get a sub, in spite of the big "Help Wanted" sign in the front window. There was a line-up of about a dozen people ahead of me, so I opened my book and started reading. By the time I'd gotten to the front of the line, I'd read three chapters. (No, I'm not a speed-reader.)

There were only two people on duty, and while they were very pleasant to deal with (unlike at some other Subway locations), they were slow. I placed my order and eventually it was assembled for me and I paid for it. Their Coke machine was suffering a distinct lack of syrup, so that the small drink I'd poured looked more like soda water than Coke. I mentioned it to one of the staff members and she told me to take a bottle from the cooler instead.

Planned break for lunch, 15 minutes. Actual time elapsed from arriving to sitting down with sandwich, 30 minutes.

To make the connection complete . . . the book I was reading? Incompetence by Rob Grant.

Posted by Nicholas at 01:57 PM | Comments (0)

NP profiles Joss Whedon and Serenity

Two more days.

Two more days.

Oh, right. The link. From theNational Post:

Necessity is the mother of Joss Whedon's reinventions. The 41-year-old writer-director boldly went where he had gone before — not once but twice — because he needed to.

The irresistible impulse first consumed him when his Buffy the Vampire Slayer script turned into a flimsy 1992 movie that bombed both artistically and at the box office. Rather than sulk, Whedon sold his Buffy premise to TV in 1997 and shaped the postmodern piece of Gothic entertainment the way he wanted it done. Seven years later, Whedon had a Buffy hit that went out with a bang last season.

And when Whedon's 2002 sci-fi western TV series, Firefly, was axed after only 11 episodes, he decided to reapply his renovating skills, this time turning the cult-favourite TV show into a feature-length motion picture.

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

The 4th annual blogger Boobie-Thon

Rue, at Abraca-Pocus would like to call your attention to the Fourth Annual Blogger Boobie-Thon (main page is SFW, others not so much), which starts on Saturday.

This year's fund raising efforts will be split between breast cancer research and Hurricane Katrina victim relief.

Posted by Nicholas at 09:29 AM | Comments (0)

QotD: Hindsight

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I took the road less traveled by and they CANCELLED MY FRIKKIN' SHOW. I totally shoulda took the road that had all those people on it. Damn.

Joss Whedon, announcing the cancellation of Angel at http://www.cise.ufl.edu/~hsiao/media/tv/buffy/bronze/20040214.html

Posted by Nicholas at 09:15 AM | Comments (0)

September 27, 2005

Vincor subject of a hostile bid

Vincor, Canada's largest wine company, has been targeted in a hostile takeover bid today:

U.S.-based Constellation Brands, Inc. has made a hostile bid to buy Canadian wine producer Vincor International Inc. for $1.4 billion.

The U.S. company announced late Tuesday it had offered to pay $31 a share in cash for Vincor, Canada's biggest wine producer based in Mississauga, Ont.

Constellation said its proposal represents a premium of about 39 per cent over Vincor's closing share price of Sept. 8, the day before Constellation first submitted its proposal to acquire Vincor. [. . .]

"This transaction is a unique opportunity for Vincor and its shareholders to receive a significant cash premium for their shares despite the very difficult operating conditions Vincor faces in markets such as the U.S., the U.K. and Australia where it lacks scale."

Fascinating times in the Canadian wine business.

Posted by Nicholas at 07:32 PM | Comments (0)

Decontextualizing for effect

Jon passed along a link to an examination of a news image. It occurred to me, having looked at the images, that this sort of thing has been honed to a fine art over the last decade or so of editorialized news reporting. Not that it didn't happen before, but that it's no longer in any way remarkable for images to be used to advance an agenda in a stealthy manner. That this is accepted practice in reporting is a bad thing for the media, in that it inevitably undermines the "objective reporting" concept to the point of farce.

Posted by Nicholas at 07:20 PM | Comments (0)

Another Serenity article

Sorry for bombarding you with Serenity posts lately (okay, perhaps "sorry" is not as sincere as it should be). But here is another one:

There has instead been a vibe of massive anticipation for "Serenity" in the sci-fi community, which means, of course, that certain individuals with too much time on their hands — depicted so memorably in the film "Galaxy Quest," which Whedon jokingly labels "a documentary" — will be devoting an abundance of energy to "Serenity" worship.

Aside from being reduced to a drooling fanboy for Serenity, I'm also of the opinion that Galaxy Quest is the best parody of Star Trek ever made (and significantly better than most of the "real" Star Trek).

Posted by Nicholas at 02:06 PM | Comments (0)

Western self-hatred: a Soviet plot?

Eric Raymond posits some interesting thoughts on the current epidemic of cultural self-loathing in western cultures:

The most important weapons of al-Qaeda and the rest of the Islamist terror network are the suicide bomber and the suicide thinker. The suicide bomber is typically a Muslim fanatic whose mission it is to spread terror; the suicide thinker is typically a Western academic or journalist or politician whose mission it is to destroy the West's will to resist not just terrorism but any ideological challenge at all.

But al-Qaeda didn't create the ugly streak of nihilism and self-loathing that afflicts too many Western intellectuals. Nor, I believe, is it a natural development. It was brought to us by Department V of the KGB, which was charged during the Cold War with conducting memetic warfare that would destroy the will of the West's intelligentsia to resist a Communist takeover. This they did with such magnificent effect that the infection outlasted the Soviet Union itself and remains a pervasive disease of contemporary Western intellectual life.

Posted by Nicholas at 11:55 AM | Comments (0)

QotD: Dry wines

Almost anyone who aspires to sophistication claims to like dry wine; Sancerre and Pouilly-Fumé will put the claim to the test; up against these wines, the average American Chardonnay tastes like Sauternes.

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

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

September 26, 2005

Words as weapons

On one of the various "Browncoats" mailing lists, someone found the opportunity to drop the name of a course she's taking at university:

Goddess Mythology, Women's Spirituality, and Ecofeminism

As a mental exercise, just imagine dropping that one, as a straight line, in a room full of conservatives.

Good, clean fun all around.

Posted by Nicholas at 04:56 PM | Comments (0)

Guest editorial: Response to today's QotD

Today's quote of the day has prompted a lengthy response from M. DeMuren, which I publish here with permission:

Back in the day (presumably in the time when the article would have been called, 'Our culture, look how much there is'), my betters taught me that unhappiness is a state of emotion/feeling, and is experienced by all sentient beings at various times. Conversely, also that depression was all about thought processes, and not entirely tied to an emotional state, i.e., depressed people didn't feel unhappy all the time, but quite possibly more often than someone who wasn't depressed.

In those days, we thought that unhappiness was something that you either 'stiff-upper-lipped' through, or fixed by 'get-off-your-ass-and-do-something-about-it' . . . er . . . proactive management. Depression, on the other hand, was handled very differently, as it was thought to be caused by faulty mental processes. The party line was that the only way to successfully treat depression was through medication (as a crutch to support you while you got on with feeding your children, etc.) and therapy (to teach new long-term thought patterns). To only participate in one aspect of the treatment was setting yourself up for failure, as the drugs were needed to adjust the chemical processes in the brain, allowing a patient to successfully break out of the patterns causing inability to deal with life. With the help of a trained professional, the patient learned coping skills, recognition of internal inconsistencies (aka "Am I on crack?"), explored their social safety nets, and eventually, created their own monitoring system so that they could see when they were losing control over themselves.

Back in the day, there was a hope expressed to new patients that they would be able to stop taking the drugs and stop going to therapy, having learned the tools that they need to survive/flourish.

However.

I have been told by a multitude of health professionals that today's patient does not wish to change their lifestyles in any way. It is this disinclination towards change which leads firstly to the need to thin blood and adjust insulin and control cholesterol, etc., and later, to the practice of popping a pill or pushing a needle into a vein while continuing to not make any lifestyle modifications. So, as there are diabetics still 60 lbs. overweight, keeping themselves from coma by a needle with nary a scheduled workout, there are depressed people popping a Paxil daily instead of hauling themselves to a professional to discuss why they wish they could accidentally get hit by a bus. Both groups, though admittedly alive, are no better off in six months, having done no work on the underlying foundational problems.

And so, I see three groups of people: the ill, their doctors, and the drug companies. The ill, reportedly, want tomorrow to be easier/more comfortable/happier than today. Their doctors want the patient to be somewhere other than in their offices. The drug companies want their drugs prescribed now, and forever.

There are two pathways, one with hard work, one without:

1) The work-free path leaves the sick still sick, the doctor unaffected, and is a steady stream of income for the drug company.

2) The hard-work path improves the lot of the sick, is still neutral for the doctor, and causes a negative financial impact for the drug company.

Interestingly, you'll note that the doctor is not affected one way or another by the patient's choices, except perhaps in a warm fuzzy way if s/he still has 'the passion'. This leaves the influences on the decision down to the patient and the drug company.

The drug company can't force the patient to take the pills forever, but they can market the enticing idea of a 'perfect life', available in pill form. Due to the current lax government regulations, there is no requirement for 'truth in advertising', and this means that the marketing can target both the mentally ill through general media, and the doctor through incentives and studies commissioned by the manufacturer.

This leaves us with the patient. For improvement, the patient has to want to be different, and not just on the surface ("I went to work today and didn't spend 10 minutes crying on the floor before I left"). They have to want to be different so badly that they're willing to work at it, maybe for years. This willingness to undertake hard and uncomfortable work is the crux of the matter.

If the patient isn't committed to full treatment, then they place the doctor in the position of choosing to either ease some of the symptoms with drugs, or leave the person suffering with their depression. With the Hippocratic oath in their minds, they choose to 'band-aid' and thereby alleviate some of the suffering, even though they're not actually improving the condition.

So, I do not accept that it is the media's fault for removing 'unhappy' from our collective vocabulary, nor the doctor's for over-prescribing 'happy pills', none of which actually make people happy. If we're looking at blame, I place it squarely at the feet of the individual. There are many depressed people out there, but I've seen no proof that anyone who has taken pills for their depression become less depressed as a result. They don't kill themselves, and remain (somewhat) functional members of society, but they are still depressed. If you take their pills away, they still have the baseline condition, because nothing has changed. If the individual is interested in improvement of their condition, they themselves must work at changing it. It appears most are not interested in undertaking the work, and prefer to have their doctor medicate them until death.

Lest I lay no blame on society though, I will say that it has had a hand in creating a generation (or two) of people who think that they are OK, nay, better than OK just the way they are. It may have sprung from the 'free love' movements of the 60's, the 'we own you' ego of the 70's, the 'I'm OK/You're OK' self-esteem exercises of the 80's, or the celebration of the average starting in the 90's. The interest in bettering yourself seems to have disappeared entirely, with the notable exception of increasing one's physical beauty. In this environment, I don't expect that the general populace ever would opt for the steep, rocky and oft-times painful road of self-improvement to attempt to fix their problems, be they social, environmental, or in this case, mental.

After all, they've heard their whole lives that they're a great person, so it can't be their fault that they feel bad . . . and since it's not their fault, it must not be their responsibility to fix it. Better just to take a little pill, and make it all better.

Executive Summary:

Current culture says: If you're unhappy, go change your life; if you're depressed, go take a pill. People are too lazy to do anything about their lives, so they prefer to be lumped in with 'depressed'. Most are also too proud to admit that their brain is broken, and still too lazy to do anything about fixing it. Doctors must choose between letting people be depressed and giving them a pill that distracts them.

Taking a pill only requires the filling of a glass of water.

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

I know British food is an eternal punch line

. . . but this is ridiculous:

HUNDREDS of tons of British food aid shipped to America for starving Hurricane Katrina survivors is to be burned.

US red tape is stopping it from reaching hungry evacuees.

Instead tons of the badly needed Nato ration packs, the same as those eaten by British troops in Iraq, has been condemned as unfit for human consumption.

Smooth move, FDA. You'll certainly send the right message to all the countries and individuals who tried to help the Katrina victims, won't you?

Even better, apparently the "bad" food is acceptable to serve to American service personnel, but not for civilians:

The aid worker, who would not be named, said: [. . .] "The FDA has recalled aid from Britain because it has been condemned as unfit for human consumption, despite the fact that these are Nato approved rations of exactly the same type fed to British soldiers in Iraq.

"Under Nato, American soldiers are also entitled to eat such rations, yet the starving of the American South will see them go up in smoke because of FDA red tape madness."

Hat tip to Rogier van Bakel, guest-blogging for Radley Balko.

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

Lady Liberty tosses some bricks

Lady Liberty examines some of the aspects of the Hurricane Katrina blame-slinging:

Whether it's advisable or not, there was really never any doubt that the city of New Orleans would be rebuilt. When it is, the experience of Hurricane Katrina will doubtless also ensure that the levees surrounding those areas below sea level are improved to withstand stronger storms and higher water.

Along with the clean-up and the plans for restoring and rebuilding those parts of the city that were destroyed by wind or water, many in officialdom are also preoccupied with what the Bush administration calls "the blame game." Some are calling for investigations; others are skipping right to the punishment phase for those they believe responsible for the devastation (or at least for the failure to adequately mitigate it).

I've decided that the best way to handle both building and blame is to combine the two into one neat, efficient, and eminently suitable package. Here's my idea: We build a wall around New Orleans to keep out the water — and then we put certain people behind it and lock the gates to keep them out of the rest of the country.

Posted by Nicholas at 11:37 AM | Comments (0)

Today's commercial endorsement

As you may have noticed, I don't carry advertising on the site . . . at least, not paid advertising (*cough*Serenity*cough*). Every now and again, though, I find a product that I feel is very worthwhile and deserving of a little word-of-blog plugging.

Today's product is the humble Fruit Fly Trap.

It's tomato season, and Elizabeth's small selection of tomato plants has produced a bumper crop of them. We're awash in fresh tomatoes at the moment. We're also suffering a huge infestation of fruit flies, because I forgot to replace the last trap we set in July. It's so bad that I had to use a piece of paper to cover the top of my wineglass yesterday to keep the blasted things out of my wine (even so, I still had a few "swimmers"). So, it's off to Lee Valley at lunch today to belatedly replace the trap.

Posted by Nicholas at 11:13 AM | Comments (0)

The Last Amazon raises the Red Ensign Standard

Kate at The Last Amazon has raised the 28th edition of the Red Ensign Standard. Go see what the other members of the Brigade have been up to lately.

Posted by Nicholas at 08:37 AM | Comments (0)

QotD: The medicalization of unhappiness

I have noticed the disappearance of the word 'unhappy' from common usage, and its replacement by the word 'depressed.' While unhappiness is a state of mind that is clearly the result of the circumstances of one's life, whether self-inflicted or inflicted by circumstances beyond one's control, or a mixture of both, depression is an illness that is the doctor's responsibility to cure. This is so, however one happens to be leading one's life. And the doctor, enjoined to pass no judgement that could be interpreted as moral on his patients, has no option but to play along with this deception. The result is the gross over-prescription of medication, without any reduction in unhappiness.

Theodore Dalrymple, interviewed by James Glazov in "Our Culture, What's Left Of It", FrontPage, 2005-08-31

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

September 25, 2005

Vikings break losing streak

Minnesota finally managed to put together something like the offensive power they had last season, beating the New Orleans Saints 33-16:

Daunte Culpepper had a 155.4 passer rating and three touchdowns in the first half on his way to a 24-0 lead, ending the game with a 140.0 rating on 21 of 29 passing with no interceptions.

Culpepper’s early success — he threw a touchdown on his first pass of the game — allowed the Vikings to stick with their running attack for the first time this year as well. Mewelde Moore rushed 23 times for 101 yards, and Culpepper added to the running game with 36 yards on eight rushes.

The game couldn’t have started much better for the Vikings. After a short opening kickoff to the 15-yard line, Richard Owens forced a fumble on replacement kick returner Aaron Stecker, and Antoine Winfield recovered. Only 13 seconds into the game and on the first offensive play, Culpepper hit Travis Taylor on a slant-and-post that barely allowed him to get both feet in bounds for a game-opening 24-yard touchdown and a 7-0 Vikings lead.

Again, this game wasn't televised in my area, so all I got to see was the odd highlight at the half-time of the game I did watch. The good news was the vastly improved performance of Culpepper, who managed a 3 TD 0 INT game, despite being sacked seven times. The return of Mewelde Moore as the starting halfback provided the first 100 yard rushing performance of the season. The bad news is that the win was over perhaps the weakest opponent the Vikings will face this season . . . the 16-road-games Saints.

Still, as they often say, a win is a win, regardless of who the opponents were — they still count for the final standings at the end of the regular season.

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

QotD: The "Law of Abrogation"

Rather than say this myself, let me quote Dr. Patrick Sookhdeo, the "traditionalist" Anglican who directs the Institute for the Study of Islam and Christianity in London. He found himself recently trying to explain the crazy truth to a journalist who asked him about violent passages in the Koran, which Islamists quote constantly. "Is there no part of the Koran which modifies these violent texts in the way that we would say our New Testament modifies the Old Testament?"

Dr. Sookhdeo: "In fact the reverse is true. ... All the peaceful passages that are enjoined on Muslims occur in the chapters written at Mecca. They are tolerant toward Jews and Christians. But when Muhammad gets to Medina and sets up his city/religious state, the tone towards other groups changes rapidly. The statements about slaying the pagans and killing the Jews and others occur there. Now in Islamic interpretation, all passages that are revealed later take precedence over those revealed earlier. This is known as the 'law of abrogation'."

David Warren, "Jihad Politics", DavidWarrenOnline, 2005-08-03

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

September 24, 2005

QotD: Prohibition

Anxiety about the dangers of alcohol and the directions of social change galvanized the anti-drink campaign: by the last decades of the 1900s it was the largest sector of the broad-based movement for social reform that was active in every western country. Within the campaign were two broad streams. One was the teetotal or prohibitionist wing, which campaigned for a total ban on the production, sale and consumption of alcohol. For prohibitionists, all forms of alcohol were an unmitigated evil that was responsible for most of the ills that faced individuals and society. Among their more extravagant allegations were that alcohol made people more vulnerable to cholera and that particularly heavy drinkers were at risk of spontaneous combustion. Temperance literature recorded many eye-witness accounts of drinkers who had died from internal conflagration. Reports described blue flames and smoke bursting from the mouth and nostrils, and in some cases, it was said, no more than the charred remains of these drinkers were found.

Rod Phillips, A Short History of Wine

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

September 23, 2005

Joss Whedon interviewed, parts 1 and 2

An interview with Joss in two parts:

Next week I will be bringing you the other exclusive one on one interviews CHUD.com got — Nathan Fillion and Adam Baldwin. And next week I will also bring you the Joss Whedon mini-press conference. But first I am going to share with you part 1 of the epic one on one I got with Whedon that day, an interview that spans everything from Serenity to his work on Marvel's Astonishing X-Men comic and the final seasons of Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel. (And a note about Whedon: I really monopolized the guy's time, and he seemed pretty damn tired from promoting his new film, but he still gave me thirty great minutes.)

Here's the truth about me as an interviewer: I don't walk in with notes and questions, so my one on ones are a little more organic. That means that while the main focus of Part 1 of this interview is Serenity and Whedon's comic work, and the main focus of Part 2 is Buffy and Angel, there's a little overlap here and there. I thought about restructuring the interview so that all the separate subjects stay together, but in the end I have opted to keep the free flowing, conversational nature of the actual interview.

In the second part of the Joss interview, there's a link to an earlier panel discussion with Nathan Fillion, Gina Torres, and Morena Baccarin.

Update: The media pile-on continues: USA Today.

Update the second: [Ghost of a Flea] links to some other Serenity material, including a brief interview with River Tam (played by Summer Glau). As the Fleaman says, it is creepy.

Update the third: Just to complete the Joss-geek-out, here is a Fark.com thread on Buffy, Angel, and Firefly, with plenty of mutual incomprehension on display as the hyperfans duke it out with the non-fans.

Posted by Nicholas at 03:35 PM | Comments (0)

Now I have to go buy another book

Kathy at Relapsed Catholic has a link to a book review by Orson Scott Card:

Well, there's a book — and a mini-movement — that is trying to cut through all the fog and insist that we face facts in all sorts of areas of American life. It's called "Freakonomics," and it gets its name from the book Freakonomics by Steven D. Levitt (economist) and Stephen J. Dubner (science writer).

This book should be required reading before anybody is allowed to vote.

Not really. I think democracy absolutely depends on the continuing right of the ignorant and misinformed to make all the core decisions in our society, and I would never place a mandatory restriction like that on people's right to vote.

But I do believe such ignorance should be voluntary. And as long as we can't get the facts on issues like this, how can we possibly become anything but ignorant and misinformed on almost everything?

Certainly the couple of examples Card uses from the book make it sound like very interesting reading indeed.

Update (after lunch): I got a copy at a nearby Chapters. The intro and first chapter are quite entertaining. I'm looking forward to reading the rest of the book.

Update the second: The authors have a blog.

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

Volvo: gender discrimination criminals

Volvo, the automotive incarnation of Sweden's social democratic model, has been convicted of gender discrimination:

Volvo's Sweden division has been convicted by the Sweden Labor Court of gender discrimination and ordered to pay the equivalent of $5,200 to a woman who was denied a job at a plant because she was too short to work on an assembly line. How their legal department missed that one, we have no clue. Evidently the gap between denying someone a job for being too short to denying someone a job because she's a woman was bridged by calling it "indirect gender discrimination."

According to the plant's hiring policy, employees must be between 5'5" and 6'5" to work on the assembly line, and the court ruled that since this excluded more women than men, it was gender discrimination.

You'd have to say, based on the legal reasoning, that this is a fair cop. Being ridiculous is just a side benefit.

Posted by Nicholas at 10:03 AM | Comments (0)

QotD: The UN

Were serious reform of the UN accomplished, it would be turned from an ineffective anti-American and anti-Western organization, into an effective anti-American and anti-Western organization. That is absolutely inevitable from the membership structure, with its voting blocs. So, better a UN that continues in a state of abject dysfunction, than one that can be more efficiently evil.

David Warren, "The nuts, & Bolton", Ottawa Citizen, 2005-09-17

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

September 22, 2005

More Serenity goodness

The evil geniuses kind folks at Universal are reaching out to the blogging community for help in getting non-traditional press coverage for Serenity:

The PR folks for the forthcoming Joss Whedon (Buffy, Angel, etc.) science fiction movie Serenity are inviting bloggers to advance screenings. (List of cities here via an Excel document that didn't quite format right, but it's legible). It's free, and all they ask is that you blog something, good or bad, about it.

Instapundit also links to an earlier article by Daniel Drezner:

[So why now, why not save this until the fall?--ed.] Because Whedon has also accomplished something extrardinary — he managed to convince a major movie studio to commit a fair amount of money and let him make a movie, called Serenity, based on the show. Whedon even contributed a final entry on the making-of-the-movie blog.

[. . .] I suspect it will be an entertaining film regardless of whether you have seen Firefly — Whedon also wrote the screenplays for Speed and Toy Story — but I bet it will be an even better viewing experience if you have seen all 14 episodes of the show (the Sci Fi channel is also airing them).

All very good and cool, but once again, only US cities are listed for this. I hope that there will be a similar offer for Canadian bloggers.

Hat tip to Jon for the heads-up.

Posted by Nicholas at 03:40 PM | Comments (0)

Tom Wark on amateur wine reviews

Tom Wark is a fan of critics, but not of the amateur kind:

And one thing we don't need, in my opinion, is one more person with only a modicum of experience, telling others what is good or bad, what is worthy or unworthy to drink, what is well made or poorly made.

If you've been drinking wine for only five years, I really don't want to read your review of ANY wine.

If you don't have a history tasting and studying the wines from every wine region of the world, I just don't care what your critical opinion is of that Zinfandel you had the other night.

Hmmmm. I can see his point, that informed criticism is more useful as guidance to the reader, but taken to an extreme, this leads to only the Olympian Gods doing criticism. When I review a wine (and I don't presume to do full reviews, as you have probably noticed), I'm just recording my own experience . . . I'd be flabbergasted to find that anyone was taking my brief notes and 1-10 rating seriously.

I've always thought that there was a useful distinction between reviewers and critics: that a critic is trying to tell you what you should like, while a reviewer just tells you what he or she likes. I think Spider Robinson summed it up very nicely: "a critic tells you whether or not it's Art; a reviewer tells you whether or not it's any damn good to read."

Posted by Nicholas at 07:58 AM | Comments (0)

QotD: Wine and Vegetarianism

I think one of the reasons I have never been seriously tempted by the vegetarian option is that, in my experience, most wines seem to become surly and depressed when they are forced to associate exclusively with legumes, grains, and chlorophyll-based life-forms. Like girls and boys locked away in same-sex prep schools, most wines yearn for a bit of flesh.

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

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

September 21, 2005

A contrarian view of the Vikings' troubles

Jim Souhan does a bit of analysis that might surprise the "Vikings are nothing without Moss" fans:

The Vikings are missing the contributions of a certain big-play receiver — they've been losing since he left. And there's no chance of his return.

This is an admission. The Vikings do, indeed, miss their big-play wide receiver.

They miss the guy who produced all those touchdowns, who filled all those highlight reels, who shined during the greatest successes of the post-Purple People Eater era.

They miss the guy who overcame trouble early in his career to rise to greatness, who committed acts of silliness in the end zone, who made Daunte Culpepper a better quarterback, who was left heartbroken by the Vikings' 41-0 loss to the Giants in the 2000 NFC Championship Game.

To evoke his greatness, you need only intone his three-syllable name. The Vikings haven't been the same since he left, in 2002.

That's right, the receiver the Vikings have missed the most in the new millennium is not the most talented receiver in NFL history — Randy Moss.

It's the best receiver in Vikings history — Cris Carter.

Amazingly enough, the stats back him up on this:

So you can divide recent Vikings history into two categories:

They went 56-40 (a .583 winning percentage) when Carter was their top receiver, from 1992 to 1997.

They went 41-23 (.641) from 1998 to 2001, when Carter and Moss played together.

They went 23-25 (.479) from 2002 to '04, after Carter left and Moss became the unquestioned star.

Now Moss is making spectacular catches and taking smoke breaks for a new team, and that team is 0-2, making his personal record 23-27 without Carter.

I only own one Vikings jersey . . . and it isn't the 84 that Moss wore in his time in Minnesota. It's #80, Cris Carter. Funny how that works out, isn't it?

Posted by Nicholas at 12:14 PM | Comments (2)

QotD: Medical Advertisements

I don't understand commercials for medicine anymore. I mean, I understand what they're trying to say when they advertise a medication and list its possible side effects. I just don't understand why they bother anymore. Nobody takes these advertisements seriously. The other day, I saw a spot for something called Restless Legs Syndrome. I was stunned when it ended without turning into a "Good news; I just saved 15 percent on my car insurance by switching to Geico" commercial. That's how bad it's gotten. It doesn't even matter how legitimate the affliction is. It could be cancer at this point. It could be a pill to stop spontaneous human combustion. Wouldn't matter. I see these commercials and instinctively shrug them off. I suffer from Grain of Salt Disorder.

Jonathan David Morris, "Thoughts On Health", Libertarian Enterprise, 2005-09-18

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

September 20, 2005

"Don't get stuck on stupid"

Jon passed along a meme in the making: Gen. Honore beating down a reporter:

Honore: But let's not confuse the questions with the answers. Buses at the convention center will move our citizens, for whom we have sworn that we will support and defend...and we'll move them on. Let's not get stuck on the last storm. You're asking last storm questions for people who are concerned about the future storm. Don't get stuck on stupid, reporters. We are moving forward. And don't confuse the people please. You are part of the public message. So help us get the message straight. And if you don't understand, maybe you'll confuse it to the people. That's why we like follow-up questions. But right now, it's the convention center, and move on.

Male reporter: General, a little bit more about why that's happening this time, though, and did not have that last time...

Honore: You are stuck on stupid. I'm not going to answer that question. We are going to deal with Rita.

Posted by Nicholas at 07:53 PM | Comments (0)

Un petit faux pas?

No Pasaran! provides a brief, and possibly fictitious, gaffe by French Foreign Minister Philippe Douste-Blazy:

The French satirical magazine Le Canard Enchaine reported in its September 14th issue that during the visit of French Foreign Minister Philippe Douste-Blazy to the new Holocaust museum in Jerusalem's Yad Vashem on September 8, he asked — while perusing maps of European sites where Jewish communities had been destroyed — whether British Jews were not also murdered. Needless to say, Douste-Blazy's question was met by his hosts with amazement. "But Monsieur le minister," Le Canard quoted the ensuing conversation, "England was never conquered by the Nazis during World War II."

The minister apparently was not content with this answer, which, according to the magazine, was given by the museum curator, and persisted, asking: "Yes, but were there no Jews who were deported from England?"

I've never heard of Le Canard, so I don't know if they're purely fiction, blended fact and fiction, or merely amusing slants on real news issues. Keep this in mind, your mileage may vary, apply salt as required, etc., etc., etc.

Posted by Nicholas at 06:03 PM | Comments (0)

This sounds cool

I've never been to Seattle, so Radley Balko's quick historical architecture story is quite unexpected:

Apparently, the original city was built on a hillside, which made sewage a problem at high tide — geysers of raw sewage three to ten feet high would routinely erupt from Seattleite toilets. After a thirty-plus block of the city burned in a fire in 1889, the city thought it would be a good time to solve the problem — by bringing dirt down from the mountains, and elevating the entire city. Given that the project would take about ten years, during which very little else would get done in the city, business leaders balked. But with a big tax base and East Coast investment, the city went ahead with the plan anyway, but confined it to property owned by the city. It amounted to a battle of wills.

So you had this bizarre scenario where the city imposed 10 to 30 foot retaining walls along the sides of city streets, then filled in the walls with dirt, gravel, and cement, lifting the city streets into the sky. The streets towered over the sidewalks. Each corner apparently had a ladder you had to climb to get from sidewalk level to street level. This of course created huge problems (it's not ADA-compliant!). People regularly fell off the street to their deaths. Sometimes horses fell down to the sidewalks, as — regularly — did horse waste. In fact, any number of items might topple off the street onto the sidewalks and pedestrians below.

So after the project was completed, business owners got together and installed i-beams to connect the street to their buildings (generally at the top of the first story). They then built brick arches across the opening, effectively creating enclosed sidewalks, though a full story below. That also had the effect of raising the entire city one story. Street-level stories were now basements. Second stories became first stories, and so on.

Did every major west-coast city burn down at one point or another? The "geysers of raw sewage" would certainly increase the prevalence of constipation in the town!

And, in yet another in an endless series of proofs that prostitution is impossible to eradicate:

For a while, people still treated the now-underground story as a kind of street level for pedestrians. They put thick, glass skylights in the brick arches to allow in light for shopping the "storefronts." Our guide told us that one amusing side-effect of this development is that the skylights served as a kind of built-in advertising mechanism for prostitutes. They'd linger over the skylights in flowing gowns, allowing the men below to, um, "inspect the goods." They'd also typically print their rates on the bottoms of their shoes.

I find that last little bit of info a bit on the iffy side: it reminds me too much of the utter garbage told by tour guides in Colonial Williamsburg on at least one of the "ghost tours".

Posted by Nicholas at 03:56 PM | Comments (0)

Scots claim title . . . as most violent

According to a UN report, Scotland is the most violent country in the first world:

A United Nations report claims more than 2,000 Scots are assaulted every week — almost 10 times official police figures.

The study — which does not include figures for murder, muggings or sexual assaults — claims that together, England and Wales are the second most dangerous countries.

I know that Scotland always likes to appear ahead of England in any league table, but surely this isn't what they were thinking of?

Hat tip to GCH.

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

Dalrymple on anti-smoking campaigns

Theodore Dalrymple discusses the less-than-clean tactics of some anti-smoking campaigners:

The British government is proposing to ban smoking in all pubs that serve food but not in those that don't. You might think this a sensible compromise, allowing for separate public places for smokers and non-smokers. But a recent paper in the British Medical Journal attacks the proposals, on the grounds that they might well increase the differential in the life expectancy between the rich and poor, which has stubbornly refused to yield to 60 years (so far) of profound social engineering.

The reason the proposals, if implemented, might increase the differential is that there are more pubs that don't serve food in poor areas than in rich, so the poor would be subjected to more passive smoking in pubs than the rich. The authors therefore propose a total rather than a partial ban of smoking in pubs. For them, a widening of the differential would be undesirable, even when everyone's life expectancy was rising.

This pattern has been repeated over and over again, as anti-smoking campaigns in many countries have rejected any compromise that would allow non-smokers to enjoy facilities if it also permitted smokers to continue smoking. It's no longer a case of non-smokers demanding their rights — it long ago transmuted into depriving smokers of theirs.

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

The next NASA funding boondoggle

The American government has announced a $104 billion plan for NASA to return to moon exploration by 2018:

Canada could play a prominent role in NASA's plan to return astronauts to the moon by 2018, scientists with the U.S. space agency said Monday as it unveiled a lunar exploration plan expected to cost upwards of $104 billion US.

The country's internationally recognized expertise in underground drilling in extreme environments such as the far north is a specialized skill that the agency will need for its venture, said NASA chief scientist Jim Garvin.

The remote manipulator known as the Canadarm, a fixture on past space shuttle missions that made its deep-space debut in 1981 and is often lauded as Canada's greatest engineering success, is a shining example of Canada's contributions to the U.S. space program.

Garvin, speaking at the 7th annual International Lunar Conference in Toronto, said NASA will once again need Canada's help in setting up a permanent, "Antarctic-like presence" on the moon — a "beachhead in deep space" that could eventually serve as a staging ground for missions to Mars.

"Canada certainly has a lot to bring to the table," said Garvin, noting that NASA hopes one day to make the moon a livable environment and extract any natural resources it might possess.

While I'm eager to see space exploration get underway again, I don't think entrusting the megabureaucracy of NASA is the right way to go. Private entrepreneurs have been making good progress toward non-governmental space travel (admittedly, they've still got a long way to go), and thus far NASA's major contribution has been to hinder and obstruct as much as they could manage.

NASA is now too mired in bureaucracy to be effective at engineering . . . which has shown up tragically in the shuttle program. Getting back to space is going to cost a lot of money, but better that money be raised by private enterprise, who then bear the costs but also reap the rewards of success.

Posted by Nicholas at 11:03 AM | Comments (0)

Increased severity of hurricanes

There's a brief article in the current Economist, talking about the increased severity of hurricanes in recent years:

Looking at the hurricanes themselves, though, they found no long-term trends in the number of storms per ocean basin or the length a storm lasts, except in the North Atlantic, where both increased. That is unfortunate news for Caribbean countries and the United States, which bear the brunt of those storms. But it suggests that whatever is increasing hurricane incidence it is not — or, at least not solely — to do with ocean warming. If it were, such increases would have shown up in other places where the sea is getting warmer.

Nor was there any increase in the maximum windspeed that storms attained anywhere. What there was, however, was a doubling around the world of the proportion of storms in the most destructive categories (4 and 5 on the Saffir-Simpson scale usually employed by meteorologists). And, although the exact rise in that proportion varied from basin to basin, all of them saw a significant increase.

This is the sort of troubling result of too little data: the studies could only cover the last 35 years, as the satellite coverage was too spotty before 1970 to provide valid data. It may indicate a significant result of higher ocean surface temperatures interacting with weather patterns, or it may be part of a longer-term shift in weather patterns. We can speculate, but the data does not prove one thing or another.

That aside, expect more banging of the drum for the Kyoto-worshippers, as this report gives them some more numbers to use for their own purposes.

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

British troops storm Iraqi police station

This is a confusing situation:

Two British soldiers whose imprisonment prompted UK troops to storm a Basra police station were later rescued from militia, the Ministry of Defence says.

Brigadier John Lorimer said it was of "deep concern" the men detained by police ended up held by Shia militia.

Basra governor Mohammed al-Waili said the men — possibly working undercover — were arrested for allegedly shooting dead a policeman and wounding another.

The arrests sparked unrest in which Army vehicles were attacked.

Both the BBC and Reuters reports showed a Warrior AFV aflame, and one of the crew of the vehicle escaping with his uniform on fire. I don't know what else to call this but a clusterf*ck. It certainly sounds as though the situation in Basra is more tenuous than we've been led to believe.

There has been some (uninformed) speculation that the two soldiers who were imprisoned were SAS, which would certainly explain why the British commander would use extraordinary means to release the men. If the two were SAS troopers, then they may have been operating undercover . . . and if they were targeting Iraqi police officers, then things may get very ugly in Basra.

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

QotD: The War on Drugs

Right now, 2,500 British troops are about to be despatched to trash one of the only cash-crops in the poorest country in the world — and they are going to kill anybody who fights back. The 16th Air Assault Brigade is flying into the Afghan province of Helmand, where they have orders to "secure" the fields of dirt-poor farmers growing opium and destroy them. British Army commanders briefed a newspaper that they expect the farmers to stage an uprising when their livelihoods are wrecked and they face starvation. So — strike up "Land of Hope and Glory" — we will then have British forces firing on some of the poorest people on earth after destroying their only source of income. It's as if the Government was dealing with binge-drinking by sending Swat teams into Oddbins and despatching the SAS to commit massacres in rum distilleries in Jamaica.

Johann Hari, "Will it take a Tory to legalise drugs?", The Independent, 2005-09-19

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

September 19, 2005

Cheap shot of the day, Sports edition

Tom Powers:

"This is not just making an adjustment," safety Darren Sharper said. "We're flat-out getting our tails kicked."

It's everybody, too. Daunte Culpepper was worse than last week, which didn't seem possible. [Running Back] Michael Bennett had two killer fumbles. In fairness, he might have been dehydrated. Bennett couldn't get a sip of water on the sideline because he kept dropping the cup.

Ouch.

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

Canadian military medical research?

Not that I'm objecting to the goal, but I was surprised to hear that bird flu research is being done for the Canadian military, as reported by Canadian Press:

Military scientists working for the Canadian government have developed a number of innovative drugs they believe could target avian influenza, potentially helping to shore up the world's meagre defences against the threat of pandemic flu.

The federal government is now seeking scientists who could test the drugs outside North America, issuing a call for tenders for the work.

[. . .]

DRDC is the research arm of the Canadian military. The work was done at the agency's high-level biosecurity laboratory housed at CFB Suffield in Alberta.

The need for new flu drugs is acute. Currently there are only four produced commercially, two of which are not effective against the H5N1 avian flu subtype that experts fear is poised to trigger the first pandemic since the Hong Kong flu of 1968.

A leading Canadian antiviral expert Dr. Fred Aoki called the work "very Star Wars-like ideas (that) nonetheless deserve to be looked at."

Given that a flu pandemic is this year's science panic story on slow news days, it's good to hear that some weapons against the most likely variants are being developed.

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

Getting it wrong, institutionally

Aaron at Free Will has some good things to say about the institutional reaction to the slow reaction of the federal government to Hurricane Katrina:

It is now clear that a challenge on this scale requires greater federal authority and a broader role for the armed forces — the institution of our government most capable of massive logistical operations on a moment's notice.

President Bush has read this one completely, profoundly, and ludicrously wrong. The aftermath of Hurricane Katrina did not make it clear that we need more federal involvement. It made it clear that increased quasi-constitutional federal involvement, just as happened with the creation of the federal Department of Education, has created a breeding ground for bureaucrats and non-competents who don't need to be on the payroll at all. FEMA's redundant mission gave state and local officials an excuse to shirk their duties, a situation which has arisen in the past and will arise in the future. Further, despite being created at the behest of the Governor's Association, FEMA's past record only proved to those same Governors that the federal government can't actually do that much to help, leading directly to the creation of EMAC, an organization to help Governors coordinate their resources when they have to assist each other with emergency management. The federal government does not have firefighters or schoolbuses. If they did, those firefighters or schoolbuses would not somehow have supernatural powers which local and state equipment does not. We have local governments for a reason, and if anything, this has proved exactly the opposite: What's clear is that we need to focus on restoring state sovereignty, which has been profoundly eroded over the last several decades.

He also points out that one of the worst things that could be done is repealing the Posse Comitatus Act, which theoretically prevents the federal government from using national troops for law enforcement within the borders of the United States. The act has been under attack for decades, as the war on drugs sucks up greater and greater government resources.

Hat tip to Jon for the link.

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

More on yesterday's Viking debacle

The Minneapolis Star Tribune has more on the ugly game at Cinncinnati yesterday:

Indeed, the Vikings offensive line made progress Sunday after a disastrous outing against Tampa Bay. But Bennett fumbled on two of the Vikings' first four possessions, later voicing his displeasure after Tice benched him for the second half. Culpepper continued to look out of sorts, forcing bad passes on four interceptions and having a high pass bounce off the hands of receiver Nate Burleson on the other.

And after a respectable outing against the Buccaneers, the Vikings defense gave up 504 yards and 26 first downs to the Bengals. Free safety Darren Sharper suffered what might be a serious left knee injury, and frighteningly, the score could have been worse. The Bengals committed a team-record 17 penalties, wiping out one touchdown and two Culpepper fumbles deep in Vikings territory.

This season was supposed to be different; the Vikings were finally being seen as legitimate challengers to go to the Superbowl this season, and most of the pre-season prognostications had them winning the NFC North by a decisive margin.

"This was maybe one of the worst losses that I've ever experienced," said Sharper, who likely will undergo an MRI test today. "They just went up and down on us. We couldn't do anything. They beat us soundly. They just gave us a good old-fashioned butt whipping."

Both Sharper and cornerback Fred Smoot voiced the frustration of a team stunned by its position-by-position inability to function when the season began.

"If you want," Sharper said, "I'll stop sugarcoating things. We need to get better. The team, everybody in this organization. I can't really put my finger on what's going on. It's nothing I can put my finger on and then say, boom, if we correct this, we'll get on a winning streak. It's not like that. It's way deeper than that."

There's so much that needs fixing right now: the offensive line apparently played better, but the running game stank. Culpepper set a career worst mark for interceptions (he's almost matched his total for all of last season after only two games). The defense has reverted to its normal, pathetic self, allowing over 500 yards to the Bengals. It's not pretty at all.

Posted by Nicholas at 11:33 AM | Comments (0)

Your linear art offends my religious sensibilities!

Jon passed along a few links on easily offended religious sensibilities. First, a report at LGF talking about Burger King's "insensitive" ice cream cone label.

Then, a short article about the Danish supermarket Føtex being sued for selling bathing shoes which have lettering on them which appear similar to the Arabic spelling of "Allah".

It's fairly well-known that Muslims are forbidden to make images of Allah or Mohammed (unlike Christians, who often have paintings or stained glass portrayals of Biblical scenes including Jesus or Jehovah). It's now become obvious that even unintentional similarities to the Arabic lettering form of the word Allah are going to cause offense.

How long is it going to be before ad agencies and graphics companies have to have full-time Arabic scholars to vet every design to ensure that there are no incidental similarities to things that are going to upset or anger Muslims?

Posted by Nicholas at 11:01 AM | Comments (0)

The plan was to lose the city

Jonathan Rauch looks at the New Orleans disaster plan:

The evacuation plans were inadequate and then bungled. The rescue was slow, confused, often nonexistent. Yet the most striking fact of the New Orleans catastrophe has received less notice than it deserves: The plan for New Orleans in case of a hit from a very powerful hurricane was to lose the city.

In other words, if a severe hurricane struck, the city's flooding and abandonment was not what would happen if the plan failed. It was the plan.

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

QotD: Ren Faires

They had spent the day at the Renaissance Festival, and my wife was still shuddering over the event. I did a story on the event almost ten years ago, and while it had its annoying aspects, it was a rather benign and gentle thing. Apparently it's changed, and now it's full of louts and Goths and lewdenesse; half-naked Creative Anachronism types happy to unfurl their great white guts for all to see, fleshy snaggle-toothed watermelon-jugged exhibitionists in costumes more appropriate for a bar called The Teatery, theatrical bits full of cheap single-entendres, grim meat-shops that swapped a fiver for a jot of pale stringy meat and an indifferent shrug. All this and ankle-deep mud in the parking lot. At least it's authentic.

James Lileks, The Bleat, 2005-09-05

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

September 18, 2005

Ugly, just ugly

Minnesota dropped their second game in a row by the unbelievable score of 37-8 in Cinncinnati this afternoon. Thanks to the vagaries of TV schedules, I didn't have to watch. Here is the St. Paul Pioneer Press on the debacle:

The Bengals had it all over the Vikings, rolling up 337 yards and a 27-0 lead in the first half. Johnson topped 100 yards receiving before halftime, setting the tone for Cincinnati's most lopsided win in three years.

By contrast, Daunte Culpepper had a miserable time, throwing a career-high five interceptions — three of them to Deltha O'Neal. The Vikings turned the ball over seven times in all and didn't get closer than the Bengals' 49-yard line in the first half.

So that makes 8 INTs and 4 fumbles in two games. The "fans" will be demanding that Culpepper be benched after this. That's worse than just embarrassing. If this keeps up, Coach Mike Tice had better be polishing up his resume.

Posted by Nicholas at 04:50 PM | Comments (2)

QotD: Bullies

I suppose that people who feel little control over their own lives or destinies can obtain a slight sense of agency by interfering in the lives of others, in tiny ways. I have noticed that many of the men who are violently dictatorial at home often count for little once they pass their own threshold. They are the Stalins of their own home.

Theodore Dalrymple, interviewed by James Glazov in "Our Culture, What’s Left Of It", FrontPage, 2005-08-31

Posted by Nicholas at 09:52 AM | Comments (0)

September 17, 2005

More Serenity . . . now

The Space Channel (Canadian cable equivalent to the Sci-Fi channel in the US) has a set of Serenity clips available here. There's the trailer you've probably already seen, plus three "behind the scenes" type of clips.

I'm warned by someone who got to see one of the previews that there are some minor spoilers in the clips, but I didn't notice anything that screamed "spoiler" to me . . . your mileage may vary, as they say.

Roll on, September 30!

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

QotD: Freedom

Democracy is nice, but the most important good — not only in itself but for the prospect of peace — is human freedom. It is a paradox that people who are not free, behave less responsibly than those who are. Not really a paradox, when you think it through: for the free man has more to lose.

David Warren, "Freedom, ever?", DavidWarrenOnline, 2005-08-27

Posted by Nicholas at 09:39 AM | Comments (0)

September 16, 2005

The name game, wine version

According to a report in The Grauniad, the European Union and the US government have agreed on new rules for wine names:

America's wine producers have finally been rumbled, thanks to a lack of castles in the US. From 2008 US vineyards will no longer be able to boast that a wine hails from a château unless they can prove its grapes are grown within sight of a castle. Other European "traditional expressions", such as vintage, noble and classic, will also be banned unless they are true. The new rules are part of an EU/US deal to police the transatlantic wine trade. Existing US wines can still be given European names, such as burgundy, champagne and claret, but new wines will have to be given a US name.

A few thoughts: "claret", being an English word, should not be restricted in the same way as purely geographical names like the other two examples mentioned. I've gotten quite comfortable referring to "Pinot Noir" instead of "Burgundy" or "Meritage" (rhymes with "heritage") rather than "Bordeaux". Also, many Bordeaux wineries use the term "Chateau", even though castles are relatively rare there, too. I suspect that the Europeans would have preferred banning American wineries from using any French, German, Spanish, or Italian words or phrases if they could have gotten away with it . . .

Update: A thread on Fark.com offered a rather more comprehensive report in the Times Online:

European winemakers have long been resentful that prestigious names that took their forebears centuries to build up, such as California champagne, are used generically in the US. American winemakers have been equally frustrated by the quality and labelling restrictions that limit their access to the lucrative European market, which they have claimed is little more than protectionism.

Two decades of faltering negotiations often teetered on the brink of a transatlantic wine war, with Washington repeatedly threatening legal action against Brussels at the World Trade Organisation.

But now the American Government has promised to impose restrictions on its winemakers' use of 17 European wine names as a prelude to an eventual ban. In return, Europe will recognise every winemaking technique allowed in the US and reduce the bureaucracy that American vintners face when trying to export their products.

Posted by Nicholas at 05:54 PM | Comments (0)

TTLB on cruise control

TTLBonCruiseControl.png

Hmmm. If I didn't know better, I'd think that the TTLB Ecosystem is running in cruise control right now.

What are the chances that the number of links and the daily traffic would remain so stable for such a long period of time? Slim and none, I'd guess.

Still, NZ Bear does the Ecosystem for free, so it's not particularly sporting of me to poke fun at it, given that I'm the definition of a "free rider", economically speaking.

Posted by Nicholas at 04:53 PM | Comments (2)

QotD: Rights

So there you go, go ahead and grab your pocket-sized copy of the constitution and tear out Amendment II. It should be the first one on the page, because if you've been keeping track, Amendment I should have been torn out years ago. I don't mean to make this a debate about guns, but what I want is for the law to be the law, and that means if the we don't like Amendment II anymore, we need to just go ahead and repeal it, not ignore it. If we just start ignoring the Amendments, we never know what rights we're entitled to and when. That complicates things. Just go ahead and repeal them if we're not gonna use them.

Michael Barnett, 2005-09-09

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

September 15, 2005

Belated wine tasting notes

Elizabeth and I got out to a couple of our local-ish wineries again last weekend, but I only just finished transcribing my notes from the visits. We went back to Willow Springs, but our timing was off: they're releasing some new wines this coming weekend, but we tried a couple of wines that have been available for a while:

Wine

Vintage

Price

Tasting Notes

Rating

Cabernet Sauvignon VQA

2002

$12.95

Has plenty of blackberry on the nose. Body has enough tannins, but is not too astringent. Medium-short finish.

7

Geisenheim

2003

$7.95

Very tart, for an off-dry wine. Elizabeth enjoyed this one.

6

We also got what might have been the last bottle of their Cabernet Franc, which has not been available for tasting at any of our visits. Their Meritage blend has sold out, which is too bad: it was a great deal on a very flavourful wine.

Our second stop was well-worth the time: Applewood Farm Winery.

Wine

Vintage

Price

Comments

Tasting Notes

Rating

Black Forrest Cherry

2004

$12.95

About to be released: sampled at the winery.

A brilliant dessert wine or a dessert in itself. Chocolate, fruit, and just enough sweetness to carry the flavours through a long, long finish. Excellent.

8

Cherry Dinner Wine

2003

$9.95

Off dry (2) with good balancing acidity. A must for all cherry lovers. A fantastic social wine, or a beautiful match to a spicy curry.

Lush, juicy fruit aromas and matching flavours. Better than most cherry wines I've tried, with a medium-long finish.

7

Evan's Wild Blueberry Port

2004

$14.95

A gold medal winner at the Canadian Wine Championship.

Although called a "Port", it's not peppery as most port-style wines are. Rich flavours and a long finish are excuse enough for the name, however.

7

Meade

No Vintage

$12.95

Just in case Robin Hood and Little John come to dinner. Sweet, thick wine made entirely of honey. 20% alc./vol.

Not as spicy as some commercial meads we've tasted, but an excellent bargain (if you like mead). Very long finish.

7

Wild Blueberry Dessert Wine

No Vintage

$13.95

 

Another good sweet wine from Applewood. Very long finish.

7

We'd tried to visit Applewood Farms a few times in the past couple of months, but we'd always chosen the wrong days to drop in. The third time was the charm . . . and we'll certainly be back for more visits in the future.

Posted by Nicholas at 06:43 PM | Comments (0)

QotD: George W. Bush

I generally don't watch Presidential speeches, because they're dull, and it's extremely unusual for a Republican President to say anything I disagree with. But this time I think I'll tune in. It's not often that you get to witness a career suicide on prime time TV with two days' notice.

Steve H., "What is George Thinking?", Hog on Ice, 2005-09-13

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

September 14, 2005

Down with sheepdogs?

Jay Jardine is clearly not fond of Bill Whittle's essays — it's tough to use the term "excruciating" in a positive way — and he links to a refutation of "Tribes":

Everyone who reads Whittle's rambling drivel probably likes it because, deep down inside, they imagine themselves to be a "sheepdog". But that's not the correlation of forces. The vast majority of those reading Whittle's disgusting ass-licking festival are really the sheep, no matter what "warrior" fantasies they indulge in. And the reason the sheepdogs are protecting them is not in order to build "something wonderful", but instead to deliver them, conveniently herded, to be cut up for mutton at the pleasure of the State.

I stopped paying a lot of attention to Whittle's essays right about the time he started taking himself too seriously (insert obvious jokes about when that might have been). He was more interesting as a writer before he took that hard right turn into self-importance.

Posted by Nicholas at 04:57 PM | Comments (0)

George Bush is a Christian? Who Knew?

Grant McCracken has some interesting thoughts on George W. Bush and his most outspoken critics:

It's hard not to notice that no one takes Bush's Christianity seriously, unless, in my opinion, they take it too seriously. No one seems ever to read Bush's behavior as if he were being animated by Christian beliefs or practices. Instead, people treat his Christianity as if it were somehow "part of the act," an opportunistic play for sun belt, heart land, anti-coastal voters. No one seems to believe that George W. Bush is ever actually listening when in church. He's there as part of the theatre of his presidency, to show that he stands with certain conservative verities and against the godless Dems.

I, for one, can't believe how sloppy, self serving and just plain reckless this is as a piece of analysis. Hey, it might be right . . . but I don't believe I have heard anyone make the argument, let alone demonstrate the case. It's as if people want this to be true so badly they mean to repeat it until alternative ideas are rendered unthinkable. (This is one way of making sure the "truth will out," by killing, that is to say, all competitors. Call this the Tudor model of the social construction of reality.)

I'm not particularly a fan of Bush, although I was relieved to see Al Gore and John Kerry kept out of the White House (the lesser of three evils, I guess). This is an interesting point, that for too many Bush detractors, they are not accurately addressing the real man. Of course, calling him "Chimpy McBusHitler" is perhaps more of a give away in that sense.

Posted by Nicholas at 02:19 PM | Comments (0)

A more nuanced view of the Vikings' loss to the Bucs

After all the "Culpepper sucks" noise dies down, there is at least a chance for some nuanced analysis to appear:

1. Poor Offensive Line Play — The loss of Matt Birk at center has to be one of the largest contributors to poor offensive play on Sunday. Cory Withrow had a terrible game replacing Birk at center. Rookie Marcus Johnson played right guard as bad as any rookie could in the NFL. Culpepper seemed hurried often which resulted in 4 out of 5 turnovers (including 2 forced fumbles and 2 out of 3 interceptions).

2. No Running Game — Okay, as much as the O-Line is to blame, the Vikings tried to establish the passing game early to set up their running game. They started out running Moe Williams. He gains 9 yards on the 1st Vikings possession and they follow with 8 pass plays in the 1st quarter. The 8th pass play was the 1st interception to Bucs CB Brian Kelly. The Vikings never really stuck with their running game at all.

I didn't see the game, and the highlights I did manage to see concentrated on the scoring, as you'd expect. It certainly sounds as if the O-line is a work in progress . . . with quite a ways to go yet.

Posted by Nicholas at 10:52 AM | Comments (0)

Tim Blair on Cricket

As I've confessed in the past, cricket isn't my sport. But I still found this funny:

Q What do you call an England player with 100 runs against his name?

A Andrew Strauss, Michael Vaughan, Andrew Flintoff. Take your pick. Bastards.

Posted by Nicholas at 09:57 AM | Comments (0)

Garreau: "New Orleans is not going to be rebuilt"

Joel Garreau identifies the reasons why New Orleans will not be rebuilt:

The tourist neighborhoods? The ancient parts from the French Quarter to the Garden District on that slim crescent of relatively high ground near the river? Yes, they will be restored. The airport and the convention center? Yes, those, too.

But the far larger swath — the real New Orleans where the tourists don't go, the part that Katrina turned into a toxic soup bowl, its population of 400,000 scattered to the waves? Not so much.

When Republican House Speaker Dennis Hastert said that it makes no sense to spend billions of federal dollars to rebuild a city that's below sea level, he added, "It looks like a lot of that place could be bulldozed." In the face of criticism, he hurried to "clarify" his remarks. But according to Washington lore, such a flap occurs when someone inadvertently tells the truth.

He's almost certainly right: the costs are too great, the benefits are too small. New Orleans as outsiders knew it will rise again, but the real city, where the locals actually lived, will not.

Hat tip to Hit and Run.

Posted by Nicholas at 09:14 AM | Comments (0)

QotD: Pornography

It's interesting to contrast today's mainstream porn actresses, with their breast augmentations and Brazilian waxes, with the variety of natural bodies from earlier years. These women have breasts, bellies and hips. They have body hair. Some are skinny, some are fat, most are somewhere in between.

And they're beautiful.

They pose nude or in skivvies, alone and in groups, as pinups and in hard-core activities that prove the internet generation didn't invent kink — our great-grandparents did.

Regina Lynn, "This Old Porn Is New Again", Wired News, 2005-09-09

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

September 13, 2005

Did I miss something here?

Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) is talking about a constitutional right I don't recall from the last time I looked at the American Constitution:

One of the most important issues that needs to be addressed by you is the constitutional right to privacy. I'm concerned by a trend on the court to limit this right and thereby to curtail the autonomy that we have fought for and achieved . . . It would be very difficult . . . for me to vote to confirm someone whom I knew would overturn Roe v. Wade, because I remember . . . what it was like when abortion was illegal in America.

Did I miss an entire Constitutional Amendment recently? Did they actually add the "right to privacy" to the Constitution? I'm confused.

Posted by Nicholas at 10:37 AM | Comments (1)

QotD: Music

The music here is "free-form jazz," which appears to be several heroin addicts chasing a melody glimpsed in a hallucination.

James Lileks, The Bleat, 2005-09-05

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

September 12, 2005

Great Canadian Blog Survey

Aaron is asking for assistance in compiling information on Canadian Blogs. If you tend to self-select for answering surveys, away you go and join the parade!

Posted by Nicholas at 04:47 PM | Comments (1)

Some have suspected this for years . . .

. . . that is, that former Minister of National Defence Paul Hellyer is a space alien. Or, more accurately, believes in them.

Hellyer, 82, says he believes not only that UFOs are extraterrestrial visitors, but that some governments — the United States at least — know all about it and are covering up.

He says he believes American scientists have re-engineered alien wreckage from a UFO crash at Roswell, N.M. in 1947 to produce technical marvels.

"I believe that UFOs are real," he said in a recent interview. "I'll talk about that a little bit and a bit about the fantastic cover-up of the United States government and also a little bit of the fallout from the wreckage, by that I mean the material discoveries we have made and how they've been applied to our technology."

Hat tip to Damian Penny.

Posted by Nicholas at 03:30 PM | Comments (1)

Cheap shot of the week, Minnesota edition

Jim Souhan, of the Minneapolis Star-Tribune, in today's column:

It is his team and his time now, and on the first day of his undisputed reign as the Minnesota Vikings' alpha and omega, in an ear-piercingly loud Metrodome and against a team begging to be beaten, Daunte Culpepper couldn't seize his shining moment any more than he could hold on to the ball.

Culpepper didn't just produce fewer touchdowns in Week 1 than He-Who-Shall-Not-Be-Named — he produced fewer than Darren Sharper.

Culpepper didn't only commit five turnovers — he looked antsy and besieged while doing it.

Culpepper didn't just make you wonder if he missed a certain past-tense, blue-moon partaker of medicinal marijuana — he made you ponder whether he pines for Scott Linehan, Matt Birk, Mewelde Moore, Charlie Baggett, Cris Carter, Chris Hovan and Najee Mustafaa.

Those of us who think Culpepper is a wonderful quarterback and dynamic leader expected an explosion of emotional and statistical fireworks Sunday. Instead, we got a one-man Broadway show dedicated to the memory of Spergon Wynn.

For my part, I still think Daunte Culpepper is one of the elite quarterbacks in the NFL, but yesterday's game proves that he can still be rattled by a really determined pass rush. Every team that has the Vikings on their schedule for this season will now be adding more pass rush work to their practice sessions before they face the Vikes.

Spergon Wynn, for the non-Vikings fans, was briefly with Minnesota and is now 3rd or 4th string QB for the Winnipeg Blue Bombers in the CFL. He had a very inglorious career with the Vikings:

To your average sports fan, the most memorable chokes involve great or near-great athletes failing when everything is on the line. But what of the failures of obscure jocks? Don't they deserve recognition for absolute mental and physical collapses? In that spirit, we ask you to consider Spergon Wynn, the Minnesota Vikings' third-string quarterback. Acquired in a trade with the Cleveland Browns in September, the second-year pro — presumably seasoned by a stint in NFL Europe — got his big chance in December after starter Daunte Culpepper and backup Todd Bouman went down with injuries. By then, the Vikings' playoff hopes had already slipped away, and all young Wynn had to do was look vaguely competent at the helm of the team's much-vaunted "quarterback-friendly" offense. He didn't. His quarterback rating (38.6) was the lowest, by far, of the 50 statistically eligible QBs to play in the NFL in the 2001 season. In three appearances (including two starts), Wynn threw one touchdown and six interceptions and, in a flourish of ineptitude, had a fumble returned for a touchdown on his final play.

Posted by Nicholas at 01:40 PM | Comments (0)

Disarming Louisiana

One of the more alarming developments in New Orleans, now that the water level is finally dropping and more of the city is drying out, is the sudden interest in disarming the citizenry on the part of the law enforcement community.

Dave Kopel writes, in Reason:

In the nearly two weeks since Hurricane Katrina, the government of New Orleans has devolved from its traditional status as an elective kleptocracy into something far more dangerous: an anarcho-tyranny that refuses to protect the public from criminals while preventing people from protecting themselves. At the orders of New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin, the New Orleans Police, the National Guard, the Oklahoma National Guard, and U.S. Marshals have begun breaking into homes at gunpoint, confiscating their lawfully-owned firearms, and evicting the residents. "No one is allowed to be armed. We're going to take all the guns," says P. Edwin Compass III, the superintendent of police.

Last week, thousands of New Orleanians huddled in the Superdome and the Convention Center got a taste of anarcho-tyranny. Everyone entering those buildings was searched for firearms. So for a few days, they lived in a small world without guns. As in other such worlds, the weaker soon became the prey of the stronger. Tuesday's New Orleans Times-Picayune reported some of the grim results, as an Arkansas National Guardsman showed the reporter dozens of bodies rotting in a non-functional freezer.

On the other hand, among the New Orleans residents who did not go to the officially designated shelters,

The aftermath of the hurricane has featured prominent stories of citizens legitimately defending lives and property. New Orleans lies on the north side of the Mississippi River, and the city of Algiers is on the south. The Times-Picayune detailed how dozens of neighbors in one part of Algiers had formed a militia. After a car-jacking and an attack on a home by looters, the neighborhood recognized the need for a common defense; they shared firearms, took turns on patrol, and guarded the elderly. Although the initial looting had resulted in a gun battle, once the patrols began, the militia never had to fire a shot. Likewise, the Garden District of New Orleans, one of the city's top tourist attractions, was protected by armed residents.

The good gun-owning citizens of New Orleans and the surrounding areas ought to be thanked for helping to save some of their city after Mayor Nagin, incoherent and weeping, had fled to Baton Rouge. Yet instead these citizens are being victimized by a new round of home invasions and looting, these ones government-organized, for the purpose of firearms confiscation.

L. Neil Smith writes in the Libertarian Enterprise:

From the beginning — four days late, as many another observer has pointed out — there was something foul-smelling about the "rescue" of the Crescent City under the direction of the Federal Emergency Management Administration, starting with heavily-armed and armored troops prowling the flooded streets, machineguns and grenade launchers ready, admitting refugees from the disaster into shelters only after they'd been relieved of any means of self-defense they happened to possess.

Even if it meant keeping the sick and elderly lined up outside in the wind and rain, shaking them down for guns and booze, as if the Bill of Rights had no Second Amendment and Prohibition had never been repealed.

Now the Imperial Storm Troopers, many of them fresh from breaking things and killing people in Afghanistan and Iraq, are going door to door, dragging folks out, searching their homes for — you guessed it — guns.

It is the natural urge of persons in power to extend their control, and this is especially true in the aftermath of a disaster. Petty tyrants arise from all points of the compass and demand greater power . . . and disarming peaceful citizens is a good way to ease your way to a more powerful role in everyone's lives.

Oddly, the military and law enforcement folks are being very heavy-handed with the media, according to Howard Kurtz:

There have been other moments of tension. At a fire near the French Quarter, Williams noted in a posting on NBC's Web site, a police officer from out of town "raised the muzzle of her weapon and aimed it at members of the media . . . obvious members of the media . . . armed only with notepads." He also noted that the National Guard is barring journalists from the city's convention center and Superdome, the very facilities that evacuees were barred from leaving last week.

"I saw many fingers on triggers," Williams said yesterday, producing such a sense of being in a foreign land that he repeatedly caught himself saying, "When I get back to the States."

The media tend to favour more power for governments, so this is an interesting development on its own: forcing media representatives to confront, in a very personal way, some of the less friendly uses of government force.

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

The Green Fairy

Jacob Sullum examines the reputation of La Fée Verte, Absinthe:

Like many liqueurs, absinthe, first produced commercially in 1798, was originally a tonic, building on millennia of wormwood's use as a medicine. Like marijuana in the 1960s, absinthe became an emblem of avant-garde creativity. Like marijuana in the 1930s, it was said to drive people mad. Adams reports that "it became popular to order absinthe under the nickname 'un train direct' or 'une correspondance,' from the phrase 'train direct á Charenton' or 'correspondance á Charenton': a fast route to the madhouse."

Now as then, absinthe's appeal is based largely on its notoriety. And just as pot would lose its countercultural cachet if it were sold by Philip Morris, absinthe is not the same when it is no longer prohibited. This year, a century after a Swiss vineyard worker triggered absinthe bans across Europe by murdering his wife and children while under the influence of the Green Fairy (along with copious amounts of wine and brandy), absinthe containing up to 35 milligrams of thujone per liter became legal again in Switzerland, where the drink was invented. Some connoisseurs are dismayed to see absinthe go legit. "I want to preserve the myth that comes with keeping absinthe forbidden," one told The New York Times last fall. "The myth is the thrill of breaking the law and not getting caught."

I've tried one of the modern incarnations of Absinthe, and while it's a very pleasant anise-flavoured drink, it's not quite liquid LSD.

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

St. Ratfood?

James Lileks' weekly Matchbook feature this week fulfils his non-mandatory Canadian Content quota for the year: Ali Baba Steak Houses in Stratford and Waterloo:

I'm guessing that one out of 20 waiters eventually snapped after hearing a customer say "open sesame!" for the 298,026th time, and stabbed the diner with a corkscrew. Maybe that's why the Stratford one seem to have closed down.

If you look at the purple part long enough, the second word starts to look like "St. Ratfood." If you look long enough, that is, and are thinking "St. Ratfood." Try it.

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

QotD: Winnipeg

Winnipeg is in the geographic centre of Canada and perhaps our cultural centre in terms of defining what is really Canadian — not just because it's called Winterpeg. Vancouver culturally associates with San Francisco or Seattle, Calgary with Dallas, Toronto with New York, and Montreal with Paris.

But Winnipeg is a place unto itself, a place that reflects the vast space and isolation one feels in countless Canadian communities from the Maritimes to northern Ontario to the interior of B.C.

In such communities, the glue is neighbourliness, a thirst to find a middle ground, a place where everyone has something in common.

David Lawrason, "Canada's Middle Ground", Wine Access, September, 2005

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

September 11, 2005

Vikings clobbered by Buccaneers

It was a good thing I didn't get to see this game, because the initial report is ugly:

Coming off a career-best season, Culpepper looked more like a rookie than a three-time Pro Bowler. He threw his third interception to Derrick Brooks, on the final, desperation drive and finished 22-for-33 for 233 yards.

Minnesota's only TD came from new free safety Darren Sharper on an 88-yard interception return in the first quarter.

Tight end Jermaine Wiggins had two touchdown receptions called back by penalties in the second half. In the first half, the Vikings had three turnovers and two three-and-outs.

At least Minnesota's special teams were working: Rookie Chris Kluwe boomed four punts for an average of 54 yards, and new kicker Paul Edinger nailed field goals of 53 and 22 yards.

I still think the Vikings will have a good season without Randy Moss, but clearly lots of things need to be fixed in the next week or two. There's just no hope for even a pass-happy offense when they can only gain 26 yards on the ground — and the QB accounts for 12 of them!

It sounds like Culpepper is having a very bad start: three interceptions and two fumbles. I expect the anti-Daunte faction is already hollering for Brad Johnson to replace him for next week's game.

The game was also a yellow-hankie-fest, with Tampa Bay drawing 13 penalties and Minnesota penalized 9 times. About as bad as a pre-season game, actually.

Posted by Nicholas at 06:02 PM | Comments (0)

The Firefly/Serenity timeline, by Wired

Wired reviews the history of Joss Whedon's Firefly universe:

Who are more dedicated than Trekkies? Browncoats. That's the nickname for fans of Firefly, the Wild West-inflected sci-fi melodrama that aired on Fox in 2002. When the show was canceled after 11 episodes, the Browncoats began building Web sites, emailing petitions, even holding charity events. Firefly creator Joss Whedon — better known for Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel — knows how devoted viewers can be and has special appreciation for the Browncoats. "They understand defeat, and it has made them fight harder," Whedon says. They didn't win over Fox, but they got a consolation prize: Universal Pictures turned Firefly into a movie, Serenity, which opens September 30.

Roll on September 30!

Posted by Nicholas at 03:15 PM | Comments (0)

Canadian Military History group blog

There's a new group blog, concentrating on Canadian military history, called Never Forget. Among the contributors are Publius (from Gods of the Copybook Headings), Damian "Babbling" Brooks, and Andrew Anderson (from Bound By Gravity). They're starting off by reposting a few of their individual blog posts on the topic. Go have a look.

Welcome to "Never Forget", a group blog dedicated to the proud history of the Canadian Armed Forces and, more importantly, the men and women who have so bravely stood up for our country in times of need.

Every day Canadians lose something precious, something that cannot be replaced. With each new day more and more of our veterans pass away, and with them the go the memories of where they have been, what they have done, and why they have done it.

Canadian schools do not teach our children about our military history.... at least not in any meaningful way. Personally, I managed to graduate highschool with absolutely no knowledge of the amazing accomplishments of the Canadian military over the years — it simply was not taught. It has only been through private research have I been able to start to learn about all of the impressive feats that Canadian soldiers have accomplished. Vimy Ridge and Juno Beach leap immediately to mind — but we have been so many other places, and done so much more.

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

QotD: Victimhood

It is the idea of "victimhood"; the idea that a man is not responsible for his acts; that he is instead a victim of the oppression of some abstraction called "society" — because he is black, or on welfare, or whatever. And everyone who isn't can be held guilty, regardless of how they have actually behaved.

Oppressed by whom?

Oppressed, actually, by the implied permission that is granted in advance, to looters, and rapists, and thugs, and amateur neighbourhood terrorists, by that very satanic idea of victimhood, and its practical corollary, that if you can play the victim, you can manoeuvre yourself into a position to victimize everyone around you.

David Warren, "Bad Gumbo", DavidWarrenOnline, 2005-09-03

Posted by Nicholas at 08:34 AM | Comments (0)

September 10, 2005

QotD: Modern Marriage

As a Christian I deeply respect the instution of marriage, but I absolutely despise all of the useless superstitions and cultural baggage it has become freighted with. It is the lifelong union of two persons, before God and a few witnesses. Yet many have turned a simple, joyous one-day ceremony into a gruelling year-long campaign with hundreds of man-hours of planning, a long schedule of ludicrous precursors (showers, stags, rehearsals, and so on), meticulous attention to protocol, and tens of thousands of dollars. Most ridiculous of all, even the non-religious — who may never darken a church door except for nuptials and their own funeral — usually feel it necessary to get married in a house of worship. Why? Who cares what your folks or old Aunt Bertha expects, they aren't the ones getting married. It's your call. Be honest with yourself, if you can't be bothered to show up at church most Sundays, what is the point of getting married there? Just go see a justice of the peace. It's no worse and nobody with any brains will say you're not really married. God would probably appreciate the honesty rather than the halfhearted observance of convention.

Chris Taylor, "Long Day's Journey into Matrimony" Taylor & Company, 2005-09-01

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

September 09, 2005

Cheap shot of the week, sports edition

From the St. Paul Pioneer Press, The Loop's week 1 game previews:

BUCCANEERS AT VIKINGS (-6)
Chris Hovan makes his first visit to the Metrodome since leaving Minnesota. In a touching pregame ceremony, the Vikings will formally retire the spot on the bench where Hovan spent most of 2004. Pick: Vikings by 10.

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

More on the poverty debate

Jane Galt has a go at the current debate on poverty:

Bad peer groups, like good ones, create their own equilibrium. Doing things that prevent you from attaining material success outside the group can become an important sign off loyalty to the group, which of course just makes it harder to break out of a group, even if it is destined for prison and/or poverty. I think it is fine, even necessary, to recognize that these groups have value systems which make it very difficult for individual members to get a foothold on the economic ladder. But I think conservatives need to be a lot more humble about how easily they would break out of such groups if that is where they had happened to be born.

Peer pressure is one of those things that is difficult for someone outside that peer group to fully understand: especially peer pressure backed up by physical force or the threat thereof.

Posted by Nicholas at 04:32 PM | Comments (2)

Economics at the micro level

Colby Cosh discusses the real-world situation in Fort McMurray:

Some of you may have noticed that "shortage" is in quotes there, for the sake of good economic form. In an imaginary, perfect labour market with low-to-nil transaction costs, the phrase "labour shortage" is shorthand for "cheap-ass employers." The theoretical answer to a labour shortage (and very often the real answer) is simple: offer better wages. In Fort McMurray the real world's nonzero transaction costs and the sticky-fying effects of labour regulation and trade barriers create what can be called a genuine labour shortage.

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

Suicide is painless?

Hit and Run reports Hunter S. Thompson's last (written) words:

No More Games. No More Bombs. No More Walking. No More Fun. No More Swimming. 67. That is 17 years past 50. 17 more than I needed or wanted. Boring. I am always bitchy. No Fun -- for anybody. 67. You are getting Greedy. Act your old age. Relax -- This won't hurt.

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

Soccer as a replacement for barbarism

Instapunk has a few notions about "the beautiful game" to share:

In the bad old days, a meeting between Norway and Scotland would have resulted in beheadings, disembowellings, rapes, and enough arson to make California wildfires seem like marshmallow roasts. Now we have a somnolent interval marked only by fights in the stands and deranged announcers who live for the remote chance of being able to yell "G-O-O-O-O-O-O-A-A-A-A-A-A-A-L!" once or twice a year. What could be better? If you want to calm down to a state resembling coma, then all you have to do is click here.

Of course, I'm biased: I spent too much time last night watching Randy Moss in his debut as a Raider, followed by about half an hour of soccer as Canada played a "friendly" against Spain.

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

QotD: Google

At some point, you realize that the Internet's promise of instant access to any fact can be rather annoying, since you feel obligated to find out the answers to the most banal or useless question. How often do manatees ovulate? Which unsung industrial designer invented the Pez dispenser? Or, that one nagging question, what was I thinking? I hate to plug that one into Google for fear it'll tell me.

James Lileks, The Bleat, 2005-09-05

Posted by Nicholas at 08:18 AM | Comments (0)

September 08, 2005

No power in the 'verse can stop them . . .

. . . from making a parody of Firefly:

I've posted the entire 11 minutes of the Mosquito: Behind the Scenes Preview comedic fanfilm up for download. Sorry, there's only a 92MB Windows Media file on there right now. I'll get to a QT version later.

Posted by Nicholas at 07:55 PM | Comments (0)

Overheard at work

"I'm not an employee! I'm just a frickin' House-Elf!"

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

Canada's naval flotilla

To my amazement, I just read that among the Canadian vessels being sent to support the Katrina recovery is the icebreaker Sir William Alexander:

Since its diesel engines are designed to use the frigid waters of the Far North to keep cool, the ship will have to reduce speed the further south it travels to avoid overheating.

That's why the ship will take seven to 10 days to arrive in the Gulf of Mexico — about four days behind the navy's humanitarian convoy, led by the destroyer HMCS Athabaskan.

"It is extremely unusual and it's absolutely unheard of," Capt. Robert Gray said in a ship-to-shore interview with The Canadian Press. "I think vessels like this have transited the area, going east to west through Panama, but for sustained operations in the Gulf of Mexico, I believe we're the first."

The 83-metre ship is making the trip partly because of its specialized abilities, but also because the navy's nearly 40-year-old East Coast supply ship is tied to a Halifax pier with mechanical problems.

HMCS Preserver, sent to Florida in 1992 to provide relief from hurricane Andrew, was unable to make the trip south because it is having kinks worked out after an almost year-long, $36-million refit.

Posted by Nicholas at 03:52 PM | Comments (0)

Poverty

A regular reader passed along this this link to Whatever on what being poor really means.

Being poor is people who have never been poor wondering why you choose to be so.

Being poor is knowing how hard it is to stop being poor.

Being poor is seeing how few options you have.

Being poor is running in place.

Being poor is people wondering why you didn't leave.

Update: Jon pointed out a few counterposts (linked from SDA) at The Urban Refugee and Least Loved Bedtime Stories v 2.0.

Update the second: Kathy Shaidle suggested this chapter from a work by G.C. Phelps: What the Poor are Like, in the comments to the original post at SDA.

Posted by Nicholas at 03:35 PM | Comments (3)

Aerial view of New Orleans

Jon passed along a link to a post at Protein Wisdom showing some interesting things in downtown New Orleans. If verified, this rather supports some of the more unpleasant accusations being tossed at the Mayor.

Posted by Nicholas at 02:22 PM | Comments (0)

QotD: Marijuana Legalization

Contrary to the warnings of drug warriors who said legalizing marijuana for medical purposes would "send the wrong message" to teenagers, a new report from the Marijuana Policy Project finds that adolescent pot smoking has declined in every state that permits patients to use cannabis. In fact, marijuana use by minors went down more in those states than in the nation as a whole. Hard as it is to believe, it would appear that promoting marijuana as a medicine for cancer and AIDS patients did not make it seem cooler to teenagers.

Jacob Sullum, "If Grandma Gets Relief, Junior Will Get High", Hit and Run, 2005-09-07

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

September 07, 2005

Comic Relief

Steve H. asks why Cox and Forkum have not yet received a Pulitzer Prize. With yesterday's cartoon, it's hard to come up with good reasons why not.

Posted by Nicholas at 02:48 PM | Comments (0)

Pointing the finger of blame

Jon passed along an interesting link which includes a timeline of the New Orleans evacuation. I don't know how solid the information is, but it certainly looks as if the state and local officials spent a lot of time avoiding the decision to order New Orleans evacuated.

Posted by Nicholas at 09:37 AM | Comments (0)

Gasoline prices in Canada

To nobody's surprise, the price of gasoline in Canada rocketed up to an average of $1.26 per litre over the last few days. I saw prices as high as $1.36 over the weekend, and paid $1.23 yesterday at the Esso station near my office. Not all of the price increase is directly attributable to the Katrina aftermath, however:

Gasoline demand in Canada is also expected to diminish, now that the traditionally heavy driving months of July and August are over. But Stoner said that usually takes a few weeks into September before much impact is seen.

Jane Savage, president of the Canadian Independent Marketers Association, said she didn't expect gasoline prices to drop anywhere as quickly as they rose last week.

Savage said wholesale prices of gasoline, set by main refiners like Petro-Canada, Shell and Imperial Oil, went up higher and faster than could be justified by Katrina's damage.

"On the way down, wholesale prices aren't moving as fast, so there's more opportunistic profit-taking happening by the Canadian refiners because they're not moving the wholesale prices down as fast as they're moving down in the U.S.," said Savage from her Toronto office.

Of course, Canada's retail gasoline market is pretty tightly controlled by a small number of players: it's not as competitive as the US market, so the pressure to lower prices can be withstood for longer . . . until one of the oligopolists breaks ranks and lowers their retail prices. We've all seen how price increases are almost instantaneously registered at the retail level, but price reductions seem to take much longer to appear on the pump. This is largely due to the smaller market and therefore the greater ability of the major players to co-ordinate their actions.

Richard Taylor, deputy commissioner of Canada's Competition Bureau in Ottawa, said his office is keeping a close watch on Canadian versus U.S. prices to make sure that cost increases are due to market forces and not anti-competitive behaviour.

"It's a little early to tell what has happened within five or six days, but we're looking at it closely," said Taylor.

"If prices got out of whack and stay out of equilibrium for a long time, then we'd want to know why and we'd go and find out why."

Taylor said there were "very serious consequences" for price fixing, but proof would be needed.

"If it's just what the market will bear, some people call it gouging, there's nothing we can do about that," he said.

"There's no law against charging high prices in times of shortages."

That last statement may not be true much longer, as Canadians react to high gasoline prices by favouring greater state involvement in the industry (ugly shadows of the Trudeaupian National Energy Policy arise).

Posted by Nicholas at 09:18 AM | Comments (0)

QotD: FEMA

Before we get to anything or anybody else, it's vitally important to discuss FEMA [the Federal Emergency Management Administration]. Shortly after the San Francisco earthquake that famously dropped a two-level highway on hundreds of cars and cracked the baseball stadium while a World Series game was being played, I spoke with a friend in the Bay Area who was a police officer on the scene. Deeply frustrated, he told me several hair-curling stories about the way these federal bureaucrats got in the way of real disaster relief workers, strutting around for the television cameras, trying to look important, following an agenda of their own that had little to do with what needed to be done.

FEMA, in fact, is an illegal organization. It's mentioned nowhere in the Constitution (which lists the lawful powers of the government in Article I, Section 8), nor did anybody ever vote about it, neither you nor I, nor even the Congress. It was created out of thin air by Presidential fiat, and given unprecedented power to override, at gunpoint, the Constitution, the Bill of Rights, and the rule of law in general.

Since the San Francisco earthquake, I have been paying attention. In all that time, I have never heard anybody, civilian or local official, who had anything to say about FEMA that didn't make it seem like a combination of the Nazi Gestapo and the Black Death. Apparently there is no situation so tragic and overwhelming that they can't make it even worse. FEMA has an unanswerable power of life and death over entire communities and there is nothing to protect those communities — or anything else that is uniquely American — from its foul dictatorial grasp.

L. Neil Smith, "Good Mornin' America, How Are Ya?", The Libertarian Enterprise, 2005-09-04

Posted by Nicholas at 08:25 AM | Comments (0)

September 06, 2005

The latest Serenity poster

I have to admit, this one is somewhat more misleading than I'd like: it looks more like "Kill Bill in Space"!

Posted by Nicholas at 03:54 PM | Comments (0)

Fans of Bush in unexpected places

It might come as a bit of a surprise to find that [Ghost of a Flea], aka "Ghost of a Flea" or just "Flea" to his friends, is a fan of Bush.

Er, I mean Kate, not George. Just to clear up any incipient misunderstanding.

Posted by Nicholas at 02:37 PM | Comments (1)

Mark Steyn Recants

Mark Steyn fans may not want to follow this link:

Readers may recall my words from a week ago on the approaching Katrina: "We relish the opportunity to rise to the occasion. And on the whole we do. Oh, to be sure, there are always folks who panic or loot. But most people don't, and many are capable of extraordinary acts of hastily improvised heroism."

What the hell was I thinking? I should be fired for that. Well, someone should be fired. I say that in the spirit of the Mayor of New Orleans, Ray Nagin, the Anti-Giuliani, a Mayor Culpa who always knows where to point the finger.

Posted by Nicholas at 12:10 PM | Comments (1)

QotD: Equalization Payments

Perhaps the most fascinating component of [Prof. Thomas] Courchene's paper is his subtle discussion of what, precisely, equalization is for. Is it meant to render every province in Canada equally well off in general? Or is it meant only to correct inequities introduced by the provinces' different geographic and natural circumstances? Or is it meant even more narrowly, as a scheme to ensure that the federal government doesn't accidentally worsen those inequities? Or it is meant merely to discourage culturally harmful labour migration?

There is no official answer to this question, and all the possible answers lead to moral and mathematical absurdities. It's not just that we don't know whether equalization works, as Terence Corcoran observed in the Financial Post yesterday. We literally don't even know what it's meant to accomplish.

Colby Cosh, "Economist plays ethicist", National Post, 2005-09-01

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

September 05, 2005

QotD: Champagne

A single glass of champagne imparts a feeling of exhilaration. The nerves are braced, the imagination is agreeably stirred; the wits become more nimble. A bottle produces the contrary effect. Excess causes a comatose insensibility.

Winston Churchill

JKWinebarQuotation_16Jul05.jpg

The day's quotation at Jamie Kennedy's Wine Bar, Toronto, 16 July

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

September 04, 2005

QotD: The Hijab

[The Hijab] is designed to promote gender apartheid. It covers the woman's ears so that she does not hear things properly. Styled like a hood, it prevents the woman from having full vision of her surroundings. It also underlines the concept of woman as object, all wrapped up and marked out.

[. . .]

This fake Islamic hijab is nothing but a political prop, a weapon of visual terrorism. It is the symbol of a totalitarian ideology inspired more by Nazism and Communism than by Islam. It is as symbolic of Islam as the Mao uniform was of Chinese civilization.

It is used as a means of exerting pressure on Muslim women who do not wear it because they do not share the sick ideology behind it. It is a sign of support for extremists who wish to impose their creed, first on Muslims, and then on the world through psychological pressure, violence, terror, and, ultimately, war.

Amir Taheri, "This is not Islam", New York Times, 2005-08-15

Posted by Nicholas at 01:25 AM | Comments (0)

September 03, 2005

Samizdata pinpoints an underlying defect in the system

Jackie D. reviews a recent book and applies the ideas from the book to the plight of New Orleans:

The second chapter of Howard's book is entitled The Buck Never Stops. This phrase is what came to mind as soon as I heard all of the responsibility-dodging going on in Louisiana in the wake of Hurricane Katrina's destruction. And it would make the perfect title for this interview with the mayor of New Orleans, Ray Nagin, in which he expresses his frustration at the lack of action taken by authorities at all levels, and their failure to give him any power to act now.

[. . .]

I may be preaching to the choir here, but surely most of us have a strong sense of the government's ineffectiveness, do we not? Which is why I find it so strange and irritating that so many people in Louisiana believed that the state would save them. It would be a nice thing to believe, a comforting thing to believe, but when push comes to shove, do you really believe that this group of responsibility-dodging, procedure-obsessed egotists would save you? Would you entrust them with your life, the lives of your family, your home? Only cognitive dissonance would allow for such a positive conclusion.

Posted by Nicholas at 11:44 AM | Comments (0)

"North America's Sleaziest Bastards"

This just disgusts me:

On 9/11, and in the days afterward, the New York police indelibly stamped their nickname — the "Finest" — on the pages of history. It appears that the New Orleans Police Department, in its most difficult hour, has also confirmed the truth of its traditional nickname: "North America's Sleaziest Bastards." Reports of New Orleans cops turning in their badges, and of others participating in pre-emptive looting (not just mere "commandeering" of necessities), have been widespread over the last few days. Blogger Michael Barnett, who has remained in the city, reports that police successfully cleared out looters near the 858-apartment Iberville Housing Development, but came under gunfire from the neighbourhood when they began to "shop" in leisurely fashion for themselves. (After they fled, the tragedy of the commons took over in double-quick time.)

According to Barnett, "Over 30 officers have quit over the last three days" in just one police district: "Out of 160 officers... maybe 55 or 60 are working." Again the comparison with the NYPD comes to the mind unbidden: those who read the recently-released transcripts of 9/11 telephone and radio traffic know how dispatchers phoned off-duty New York officers at home, only to be told again and again by terrified wives and family members that "Lt. So-and-So is already on his way in." The slow reaction of the federal authorities to the disaster can probably be attributed, in part, to a perfectly natural but mistaken assumption that New Orleans itself thought New Orleans was worth saving, and would take initial steps to do so.

I'm no rah-rah, knee-jerk supporter of the police, but this just turns my stomach. Police looters. That should be an oxymoron, but instead it describes a significant proportion of the New Orleans police department.

Posted by Nicholas at 11:33 AM | Comments (0)

Mapping the tragedy

An article on Wired News introduces an innovative use of Google maps: http://www.scipionus.com/:

Katrina Information Map - This map is intended for the use of people affected by Hurricane Katrina who have or are trying to find information about the status of specific locations affected by the storm and its aftermath. [. . .]

Disclaimer: There are no promises that the information on this site is accurate. Anyone with internet access can add whatever they want to this map, and the only control over the content of the markers is the good will of people trying to help in this time of trouble.

This is an excellent idea . . . but it could be easily sabotaged by idiots, because it is totally dependent on the self-restraint of the users. I hope the idiots stay away, because this could be a very useful tool for people in and around the disaster area.

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

The Babbler beats me to the draw

I was going to post about the Canadian naval contribution to the Hurricane Katrina recovery efforts, but Damian "Babbling" Brooks beat me to it:

In a place where dry land is at a premium, it's good to bring your own floating base. In a place where violent anarchy reigns, it's good to bring folks who know how to protect themselves and others. In a place where airborne rescues are ongoing because roads remain submerged, where pallets of relief supplies need to be put down very precisely on the scraps of land available, it's good to bring helos (yes, even Sea Slugs - I've been hoisted out of the Atlantic by one, and they'll get the job done). In a place where expertise is badly needed, it's good to bring engineers, medics, and divers. In a place where the essentials of life are in short supply, it's good to bring water, food, blankets, and shelter.

In a place where hard work is required, it's damned good to bring 1,000 of the most dedicated individuals you'll ever meet.

In short, it's good to bring the Canadian Armed Forces.

In other military matters, Damian also covers the attempt to replace some of our oldest transport and SAR aircraft and eviscerates a critic of the plan.

Posted by Nicholas at 09:48 AM | Comments (0)

QotD: The 70's

It should be noted, though, that it really was kind of gross to be alive during the '70s. You can't unsee all those hairdos, medallions, and Day-Glo typefaces. You just kind of have to put your head down like a shell-shocked veteran and stride your way grimly through a happier age.

Colby Cosh, "Cinema: recently seen", ColbyCosh.com, 2005-08-19

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

September 02, 2005

Casting Aspersions

I was (once again) obsessively watching the CNN coverage of the ongoing disaster recovery efforts in Louisiana and Mississippi when they announced that the President had recruited former Presidents Clinton and Bush to help. It was interesting to me that the CNN anchor referred to "President Clinton and former President Bush", but that might have been an innocent slip of the tongue. What was more interesting, however, was that CNN only ran footage of former President Bush's remarks and nothing from former President Clinton. I wondered about that, but Captain Ed provides the relevant portion of the transcript. Clinton's remarks were omitted because they didn't present the current administration in a bad light, and CNN is pretty consistent in trying to blame Bush for everything they can.

Captain Ed sums things up very nicely here:

Let me answer this. Clinton took over this interview because he knew that Bush 41's response would just be considered the normal response of a father defending his son, and that Bush had too much class to go after Malveaux. In fact, Clinton's response aimed not just at Malveaux but the entire crew at CNN, especially Jack Cafferty, who crowed about the fact that 500 CNN viewers had nothing better to do than write e-mails criticizing the current President Bush. (Later in the segment, Cafferty upped the number to 6,000, proving that he didn't bother to listen to Clinton on his own network.)

Thank you, Mr. President, for reminding people that our focus should remain on the difficult work ahead in rescuing the victims and starting the recovery process. Anklebiters, nitpickers, and partisan hacks should step aside and let the grown-ups take over.

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

QotD: Vikings Running Backs

Michael Bennett has a neck injury. Mewelde Moore has a bad ankle. Onterrio "Cheech" Smith is in his basement trying to build a better Whizzinator so he can play next year. Moe Williams is more of a short-yardage back.

So Friday, the Vikings will throw young [rookie running back Ciatrick] Fason overboard to see if he can swim.

That's not a bad practice. Years ago, that's how a lot of youngsters really did learn to swim. Before the era of 24/7 nurturing, a father or older brother would take a boy out to the middle of a lake or river and push him into the water.

It's quick, and it saves hundreds of dollars on swimming lessons. That's how I learned. The only problem, as I recall, was getting out of the plastic bag. But after that, it was a cinch.

Tom Powers, "Opportunity knocks for quick-healing Fason", St. Paul Pioneer Press, 2005-08-31

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

September 01, 2005

Canada offers aid to disaster recovery efforts

Prime Minister Paul Martin did the sensible thing and changed the topic of today's call to President Bush from a pathetic whine about softwood lumber to an offer of whatever assistance Canada could provide:

Canada will send the United States any help needed in the aftermath of hurricane Katrina, Prime Minister Paul Martin told President George W. Bush on Thursday.

"If you need help, just ask and we'll be there," he told Bush in a 15-minute phone call that was to have been a sharp discussion of the softwood lumber dispute but instead became a call of sympathy and condolence. Martin said Bush didn't ask for help, but predicted he will.

"They're in the process of trying to put all the co-ordination together and they're going to take us up on it," the prime minister said in Edmonton.

"They're trying to determine their needs right now."

White House spokesman Scott McLellan said a number of countries have offered aid.

Reuters reported that among the countries offering aid were Canada, Russia, Japan, France, Germany, Britain, China, Australia, Jamaica, Honduras, Greece, Venezuela, the Netherlands, Switzerland, Greece, the Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Mexico, South Korea, Israel and the United Arab Emirates.

Posted by Nicholas at 06:00 PM | Comments (0)

Border crossing trauma, deconstructed at LIB

Bob at Let it bleed does a bit of friendly knife-work on a whiny Toronto Star contributor:

Journey with the writer of the column, a self-described "white Canadian boy" as he encounters the horrors of the US Border Patrol. Did Jonathan Mendelsohn scamper across the Rio Grande, skirmishing with armed constabulary who chased him down with helicopters? Er... no. He took a flight through Toronto's Pearson International. Was he abused, thrown in gaol, denied entry? Um... nope. The customs agent had the temerity to ask him for an address in the US where he would be staying. He was taken aside and questioned. And the agent confiscated a pear he was carrying. Plus, she was an asshole. Now, for anyone who has been lucky enough to travel, bumping up against a surly border control guard hardly merits notice. But for this delicate flower, the incident was so traumatizing he felt compelled to write more than a thousand words on the matter. And a Toronto Star editor was so shocked (shocked!) by the terror inflicted that he or she felt the need to get this story out there rightnow!

I must assume that the original author has never crossed an international border before this, because it's one of the necessary unpleasantnessess of the modern world. Bob mentions that he's actually had less trouble travelling internationally since 9/11 than he did before, and he's not the only one who's said that. I got held up at the border the last time I flew to the States, but there was sufficient reason for it: I didn't have my passport with me, and the other forms of ID I was carrying were not enough to convince the agent that I was who I said I was. I eventually got through, but I had to take a later flight . . . and then apologize profusely to my wife, who had to put up with an unexpected call from US Immigration to vouch for my identity!

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

Jane Galt Praises Price Gougers

In spite of the bone-headed moves by California, Hawaii, and possibly other states to imitate King Canute and try to repeal the law of supply and demand, the oil and gas industry still operates in a free-ish market. With the peak summer-time demands for gasoline, prices were already moving upwards before Hurricane Katrina came in to shut down the Louisiana refineries. Expect more upwards pressure on prices in North America until demand drops to meet the existing supply.

There's a finite amount of gasoline to be bought, and as long as demand is higher than the available supply, prices will continue to rise. This isn't "extortion" or "price gouging" or "profiteering". It's economic fact: too many dollars chasing too few goods will mean the goods will sell for higher and higher prices. It doesn't matter whether we're talking about buggywhips or parasols . . . if there's less available than is demanded, prices will rise.

Jane Galt says it much better than I can:

If you cap the price (as some people are making noises about), rationing will take the form of queuing: people will have to wait in long lines for gasoline. This sounds just fine to some activists and academics, apparently ones with a lot of time on their hands. The rest of us, who do not think it would be fun to live in the Soviet Union, recognize that, painful as it may be, prices are in general a better way to allocate scarce resources than lines.

But it hurts! I hear you moan. "What about my Labor Day driving?" Let me translate. What you're really saying when you say "I don't want to pay more for gas" is "I don't want to either use less gas, or use less of anything else". But as a society, we have to use less gas. You, or someone else, is going to have to consume less of the stuff, because we have less than we used to. If you don't want to be one of the people using less gas, then you have to be one of the people using less of everything else. Thus will the market pretty efficiently strip out driving by those who value it least.

Or to put it another way, "Yes, of course it hurts. If it didn't hurt, no one would stop driving."

Go read the whole thing. I don't like paying higher prices for fuel (and, in the long run, everything else), but better higher prices than political controls to cause permanent shortages.

Posted by Nicholas at 05:27 PM | Comments (2)

A few hits at H&R

Today is a day of visiting bureaucrats in their lairs for me, so I won't be blogging much until perhaps later in the day. To keep you entertained, here are a small selection of links to Reason's Hit and Run blog:

A basic economics of scarcity primer for George Bush

The loons come out with "explanations" for the disaster

A special damnation from the Homophobes of America

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

QotD: The early World Wide Web

Welcome to Cyberspace! It sounds so mysterious and thrilling — but anyone around in 1995 remembers it now as a sea of grey pages and blue links: 39,932 sites, half of which had already won an award.

James Lileks, "On the 10th Anniversary of Netscape", The Institute of Cheer


Visitors since 17 August, 2004