October 31, 2005

Culpepper out for the season

Well, it's definite: Daunte Culpepper is out for the rest of this season, with serious knee damage:

Daunte Culpepper's season is officially over, and when he will return remains uncertain.

Vikings coach Mike Tice said Monday at his afternoon news conference that the veteran quarterback has damage to a number of different areas in his right knee, including the anterior cruciate ligament, medial collateral ligament and posterior cruciate ligament. Culpepper underwent a magnetic resonance imaging test Monday morning.

Tice said, "Not only has the road not been friendly to us this year or the last number of years, but we lost our quarterback for the season yesterday. He had significant injury to his knee, to a number of different areas.

"We'll have to wait a couple of weeks for the swelling to go down and get prepared for surgery in the next few weeks," Tice said. "It's discouraging to us based on everything that has transpired to this point in the season. This is just another hurdle we have to overcome as a football team."

Tice added, "He has a long rehab ahead of him, but we don't expect this to be career-ending. We expect this to be a set back for him."

Posted by Nicholas at 04:52 PM | Comments (0)

Damian Penny exults

Damian Penny takes some time to relish the Vikings' plight:

Forget the Cubs. I'm convinced that the Minnesota Vikings are the unluckiest franchise in American professional sports.

They lost four Super Bowls in the 1970s. A few years ago, they went 15-1 but lost the NFC championship game. They lost another NFC championship game 41-0. But this year has been in a class of its own: the most explosive wide reciever in football jumped to Oakland ("the Vikings will have an excellent year without a cancer like Moss in the dressing room," I heard people saying before the season started); the team was mired in an embarassing scandal when word about their charter-boat trip got out; the coach is expected to be fired any second now; and to top it all off, Daunte Culpepper hurt his knee in today's humiliating loss to Carolina, and could be out for the rest of the season.

Ouch. Ouch. At least I can revel in the Boro humiliation of Manchester United, even if I have to suffer through another lost season with the Vikes.

Posted by Nicholas at 03:37 PM | Comments (0)


Major Holdridge has been doing some great one-person-programming for years now. His TacOps tactical simulation game is one of the very best I've ever found: it doesn't rely on gosh-wow-cool graphics or unrealistic-but-spectacular effects. It's a remarkably good simulation of a battalion-to-brigade level military operation:

I.L. Holdridge didn't intend to design a tactical simulation used by the armies of four nations. He just got tired of playing with tiny tanks. "I wanted to play armor miniatures without a footlocker full of manuals, dice, tapes, terrain boards and painted vehicles," he said.

Frustrated by lack of time, space and opponents, many war-gaming hobbyists have switched from board games and miniatures to computer games. Holdridge did one better and designed his own computer game. A decade later, "TacOps" is played by thousands of hobbyists. It's also an official training simulation used by the U.S. Army and Marine Corps, as well as the Canadian, Australian and New Zealand armies.

This was more than serendipity. Holdridge is a retired Marine Corps major who started as a private, worked his way up to become an infantry officer, and finally spent a dozen years as an intelligence officer. In an era when militaries are increasingly using entertainment games, "TacOps" is one of a handful of hobby games/defense simulations designed by active or former officers.

"TacOps" is a platoon-level simulation that looks like a CPX map exercise. It pits American (or Canadian or Anzac) forces against opposing force units that tend to resemble the armies of the former Soviet Union, China and North Korea. Map scale is 10 meters per screen pixel. Icons represent one to 15 vehicles, squads, teams or individuals.

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

Label says one thing, object says another

A little bit of found humour. On the way back from lunch, Jon asked me to snap a photo of the vehicle beside us:


In case you can't quite read it, the government vehicle, the big ol' gas-guzzling Chevy Suburban with a monster V8 says Environmental Enforcement.

I thought it was funny, anyway.

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

John Keegan on the Dresden Raid

John Keegan discusses the most notorious non-nuclear bombing raid of World War Two:

Until the raid, Dresden remained almost the last of Germany's large cities not to have been laid waste. By the time the raids finished, much of historic and modern Dresden had been flattened and 35,000 people, mostly civilians, had been killed.

As a result, Dresden became a catchword for all that the opponents of the strategic bombing campaign most detested. In the controversy that ensued, the casualty figure was inflated; a number as large as 200,000 was widely cited while the name of Dresden was used to brand Air Marshall Harris, head of RAF Bomber Command, a war criminal.

As the event receded into history, attempts were made to establish an objective account and above all to explain why so late in the war an undamaged German city, often described as a civilian target, was subjected to an all-out attack. The official explanation was that Dresden was a major communications centre, close behind Germany's eastern frontier which the Red Army was about to cross in its final offensive from Poland towards Berlin.

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

Historic British bomber in Trenton

According to a report in the Trentonian, CFB Trenton will host the unveiling of the only Handley Page Halifax bomber in the world:

After 10 years of meticulous work by hundreds of volunteers, the only restored Handley Page Halifax bomber in existence will be unveiled to the world this Saturday.

In a ceremony at the RCAF Memorial Museum at CFB Trenton, 1,500 invited guests will witness a spectacular show when army green curtains will be pulled back to reveal the finished aircraft.

The Halifax was shot down by German anti-aircraft fire in the closing days of World War 2. Five members of the British crew died and were buried at the Nordre Cemetery in Lillehamer. [. . .]

Of close to 40,000 sorties by the Halifax bomber over Europe, 27,000 or about 70 per cent were flown by Canadians. Ten thousand of the 50,000 RCAF crew members assigned to British Bomber Command lost their lives.

"This is a wonderful pieces of heritage that is being left to all Canadians. It's been a very humbling experience to display our work to honour all those who flew in the Halifax and died," said Jeffrey.

Hat tip to SOMNIA.

Posted by Nicholas at 02:13 PM | Comments (0)

Re-corking your wine?

Alan Kerr recounts a recent Penfolds event in Toronto:

G'day mates (good day friends and acquaintances). A few Aussie blokes (Australian gentlemen) rocked up (arrived) in Toronto, direct from the lucky land (Australia) recently to do a little bizo (business) and skite (brag) about their solid (very good) wines. This Pommy Bastard (Englishman) was lucky enough to attend this splendid affair.

During the arvo (afternoon), those tall poppies (lucky people) who's cellars contain Penfolds wines fifteen years and older, were invited to bring them along, have them examined and re-corked, if deemed necessary, free of charge. Well, the whole beano (festival or celebration) was bonza (exciting) and well teed up (organized).

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

New crime: theft of "Hybrid" badges

The city of Baltimore is planning to offer parking discounts to hybrid cars. I predict a quick increase in reports of vandalism as "Hybrid" markings are pried off cars and sold to owners of hybrid-look-alikes.

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

Culpepper's injury appears to be serious

According to a report in the Pioneer Press, the best case is that he's out for six weeks:

Barta declined further comment on Culpepper's injury, citing a need to receive the MRI results.

But Dr. Bill Roberts said Culpepper's season is most likely over. He did not attend the game, nor did he see initial test reports. But Roberts based his assessment on Culpepper struggling to put pressure on his right leg and indications from team officials that Culpepper had serious swelling.

"Anything that bleeds a lot in the knee is usually a very serious injury," said Roberts, the past president of the American College of Sports Medicine and the medical director of the Twin Cities Marathon. "Everybody is different. But some people can't get up and walk after they tear their ACL, and other people can keep trying to play some more before realizing they can't.

"It would surprise me if it wasn't a season-ending injury."

If there is fast swelling, Roberts said a person usually has one of a handful of injuries: a torn ACL, multiple ligament damage, a torn meniscus, a patellar dislocation or a fracture of a tibia plateau.

"All of these are tough injuries to work through," Roberts said. "The absolute best-case scenario is there is a lot of swelling, and he could be out at least six weeks."

If today's MRI tests confirm the worst, Mike Tice will absolutely be looking for a new job as of January. No matter what, the team depended on Daunte Culpepper for much more than just heaving the ball downfield. He is the franchise. Even if he's "only" out for six weeks, Minnesota will be looking at a top-5 draft pick next season.

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

QotD: Blogging

The beauty of blogging, as compared to writing a book, is that no editor will be interfering with my random spelling and grammar, my complete disregard for the facts, and my wandering sentences that seem to go on and on and never end so that you feel like you need to take a breath and clear your head before you can even consider making it to the end of the sentence that probably didn't need to be written anyhoo.

If that doesn't inspire you to read my blog, I don't know what will. You can find the Dilbert Blog at


Scott Adams, Dilbert Newsletter 61.0, 2005-10-25

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

October 30, 2005

Culpepper may be out for season

Minnesota Vikings quarterback Daunte Culpepper may have suffered a season-ending injury at the end of the first quarter of today's loss to Carolina. From a press report (without a direct link, unfortunately):

"The quarterback doesn't appear to be in good shape,'' [Vikings head coach Mike] Tice said. "I'm not a doctor, but the initial tests are not good. It doesn't appear that it's going to be anything that we as Vikings will want to hear.

"Things happen that are devastating. This certainly, if it's as serious as it appears, is devastating to our football team.''

Culpepper ran for an 18-yard gain on the final play of the first quarter when he was hit by multiple defenders. Carolina cornerback Chris Gamble came in from the side and tackled Culpepper's leg and he immediately grabbed his knee.

Culpepper was helped off the field and taken to a cart for the ride into the locker room. The team initially said he sprained his knee.

He was on crutches with a heavy brace around his knee after the game and said he wouldn't know anything until after undergoing an MRI on Monday.

"I'm not talking about anything,'' Culpepper said. "We don't know the extent of the damage right now. I really can't talk about it until we do the MRIs and find out.'' [. . .]

"When Daunte went out, they lost their leader,'' Carolina defensive end Mike Rucker said. "He's the head of that dragon and when he's not there, it takes the air right out of them.''

Brad Johnson, the backup QB, is a fine player (he won a Superbowl with Tampa Bay), but he plays a different sort of game than Culpepper, so the immediate effect of Culpepper's injury will be to take some plays away (specifically the longer passes and the designed QB draws).

At this point, it's only too easy to imagine the team giving up on the season and playing only for the 1st draft pick in the 2006 spring draft. I certainly hope this isn't what happens.

Posted by Nicholas at 08:22 PM | Comments (0)

QotD: Siblings

It's only natural to feel competitive with your siblings. I recall all of those Christmas mornings, as my brother and sister and I compared gifts to figure out which one of us was the least beloved. This was important information because we adjusted our levels of misbehavior to match the rewards. There's no point in being extra good if the presents are just okay.

Mealtime was competitive too. The winner was the one who moved the greatest percentage of my father's income through his or her digestive system. I was in my thirties before someone told me that eating is not a speed sport.

Scott Adams, Dilbert Newsletter 61.0, 2005-10-25

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

October 29, 2005

"Dreadful Man Utd hammered by Boro"

Now THAT is a headline I'd love to see more frequently!

Edwin van der Sar gifted Middlesbrough the lead when he let Gaizka Mendieta's shot slip through his fingers.

A mistake by Rio Ferdinand let in Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink for the second, and Yakubu Ayegbeni made it 3-0 from the spot after Stuart Parnaby was fouled.

Yakubu set up Mendieta to make it 4-0, and even Cristiano Ronaldo's header did not take the shine off Boro's victory.

Sir Alex Ferguson's side play Chelsea at Old Trafford on 6 November but will go into that game already 13 points adrift of the leaders — albeit with a game in hand — and with their title hopes hanging by a thread.

The writing was on the wall for them here after just two minutes when Van der Sar's mistake allowed Boro their opener.

Even though the game was televised in our area (on tape delay), I didn't get to watch the match, having had to leave the house earlier in the morning. I heard the score in a bookstore in Port Perry, as the bookseller and a customer were grumbling over Manchester United's terrible game.

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

QotD: The Metric System

Please don't assume that we're all brainwashed with that-there limp-wristed French measurement system. (I bet that few of you know that the basic unit of linear measurement in metric — the meter — was originally defined as being 1/10th the diameter of Monsieur Jules Metrique's distended anus after a thorough session of . . . research . . . at the Paris Brothel of Brotherly Science and Technology. Betcha didn't know that.)

Jon Piasecki, 2002-01-18

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

October 28, 2005

Dalrymple reviewed in the TLS

Theodore Dalrymple's latest book, Our Culture, What's Left of It, is reviewed in the Times Literary Supplement:

Few people have been better placed to record the catastrophic effects of the collapse of English manners and habits than "Theodore Dalrymple", the pseudonym of a physician who until recently worked in a decayed district of the Birmingham conurbation and as a prison doctor. His essays — written mainly for American magazines — collected in Our Culture, What's Left Of It set out to map "the moral swamp that is contemporary Britain" and to study the "low-level but endemic evil" that he says is an "unforced and spontaneous" effulgence in the British underclass. He admires that most aristocratic of virtues, fortitude; and he detests the way that "the hug-and-confess culture" is extirpating emotional hardiness and self-reliance from British national character "in favour of a banal, self-pitying, witless and shallow emotional incontinence". Overall, he argues strenuously — irresistibly — for the reassertion of traditional English virtues: "prudence, thrift, industry, honesty, moderation, politeness, self-restraint".

Dalrymple has, it must be stressed, written an urgent, important, almost an essential book. Our Culture, What's Left of It needs to be read and acted on by policy-makers, by opinion-formers, and anyone who wants to grasp why Britain has become so much less pleasant a country in which to live. The book is elegantly written, conscientiously argued, provocative and fiercely committed: "one gets more real truth out of one avowed partisan than out of a dozen of your sham impartialists", Robert Louis Stevenson said. Dalrymple's information is often unpalatable, but always arresting. He reports, for example, that many young Muslim women come to his practice in suicidal despair at their enforced marriages to close relations, "usually first cousins", and deplores how journalists, "for fear of giving offence", seldom allude to "the extremely high rate of genetic illnesses among the offspring of consanguineous marriages". His measured polemics arouse disgust, shame and despair: they will shake many readers' views of their physical surroundings and cultural assumptions, and have an enriching power to improve the way that people think and act.

I'm only a couple of chapters into the book (as a collection of essays, it improves by reading only one or two selections at a time), but I highly recommend it to anyone interested in what has happened to British civil society, and what clearly is starting to happen here in North America.

Hat tip to Publius at Gods.

Posted by Nicholas at 03:08 PM | Comments (0)

Honda's Ridgeline

According to a brief post on Autoblog, Honda chose exactly the wrong time to introduce their first pickup truck, the Ridgeline:

An article from Bloomberg today reveals that Honda's inventory of the Ridgeline pickup has risen to more than 100 days. The automaker has decided to cut production of the pickup by 3,000 units next quarter in response. While it would have been difficult to predict the current high price of gas that's forcing consumers to reconsider large vehicle purchases, it may be that Honda picked a bad time to take on the Big 3 in the full-size truck segment.

I test-drove a Ridgeline earlier this year, and it was a very pleasant experience. Aside from looks only an auto designer could love, it handled well, had plenty of power, and the interior was very passenger-friendly. I didn't seriously consider buying it because it was only available with automatic transmission. The significant increase in the price of gas since then would almost certainly have left me with a bad case of buyer's remorse, had I decided to purchase one.

Posted by Nicholas at 01:35 PM | Comments (0)

QotD: Hypochondria

It is a most extraordinary thing, but I never read a patent medicine advertisement without being impelled to the conclusion that I am suffering from the particular disease therein dealt with in its most virulent form. The diagnosis seems in every case to correspond exactly with all the sensations that I have ever felt.

I remember going to the British Museum one day to read up the treatment for some slight ailment of which I had a touch — hay fever, I fancy it was. I got down the book, and read all I came to read; and then, in an unthinking moment, I idly turned the leaves, and began to indolently study diseases, generally. I forget which was the first distemper I plunged into — some fearful, devastating scourge, I know — and, before I had glanced half down the list of "premonitory symptoms," it was borne in upon me that I had fairly got it.

I sat for awhile, frozen with horror; and then, in the listlessness of despair, I again turned over the pages. I came to typhoid fever - read the symptoms — discovered that I had typhoid fever, must have had it for months without knowing it — wondered what else I had got; turned up St. Vitus's Dance — found, as I expected, that I had that too, — began to get interested in my case, and determined to sift it to the bottom, and so started alphabetically — read up ague, and learnt that I was sickening for it, and that the acute stage would commence in about another fortnight. Bright's disease, I was relieved to find, I had only in a modified form, and, so far as that was concerned, I might live for years. Cholera I had, with severe complications; and diphtheria I seemed to have been born with. I plodded conscientiously through the twenty-six letters, and the only malady I could conclude I had not got was housemaid's knee.

Jerome K. Jerome, Three Men in a Boat

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

October 27, 2005

The Meatriarchy's rules for life

I may have been the last one to see this post at The Meatriarchy, but just in case you didn't see it already, I'm posting a link. It all started when,

Someone who I respect a great deal and who really should know better sent me an email chain letter today. Perhaps you have received one like this at some point or another.

This one was about "karma"and how to live my life. It also had a picture of the Dalai Lama and stuff so you know it was special and spiritual and full of meaning. The email insisted that I had to send this to 5 other people within 96 hours and something good would happen to me.

Then he gets down to the details:

2. When you lose, don't lose the lesson.

My Karate Sensei used to say that the person who won the sparring/kata championship at a tournament was the only loser because all the others would go away with things to work on. So again your precious email hasn't taught me anything that I don't already know — and I'm supposed to pass this on to 5 people?

3. Follow the three Rs:
Respect for self
Respect for others and
Responsibility for your own actions

Gee I wish all the leftwing new age types who worship this guy would take that last one seriously. If everyone lived by that mantra alone we wouldn't need a parasitic welfare state to prop up those who blame their shortcomings on everyone else but themselves.[. . .]

15. Be gentle with the Earth.

No problem I hate gardening.

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

RN ship names

Natalie Solent has some thoughts on the historical naming practices of the Royal Navy:

My husband points out that after the development of iron hulls, rifled guns and explosive shells ships usually were sunk rather than boarded. However, he says, if the chivalrous customs of Napoleon's time had continued, an HMS Bismark, HMS Graf Spee or HMS Emden would still have been possible even though these ships were sunk. Both sides in the Napoleonic wars sometimes named new ships after a worthy adversary that had been sent to the bottom of the sea, as well as merely keeping the names of prizes.

In case anyone is worried, even in that alternative world there would have been no danger of the Royal Navy ever getting itself landed with a ship called the HMS Adolf Hitler. Hitler was happy have SS Divisions named after him but he was aware enough of the all-or-nothing nature of modern naval warfare to refrain from extending any such practice to ships. After the loss of the Graf Spee, Hitler ordered the Deutschland to be renamed the Lützow. If the ship went down he did not want to see headlines saying "Germany sunk."

It always struck me as a charming notion that sailing navy ships would acquire non-native names . . . usually as a result of capture at the end of a sea battle. I would imagine, in a less sensitive age, it would have been quite the political message for the Royal Navy to send a squadron of ships, all bearing the former names of enemy vessels.

I was a big fan of "age of fighting sail" books as a boy, with Hornblower and co. and the imitations (Bolitho, Ramage, etc.), so I was quite aware that historically RN ships might carry foreign names. So ingrained was this knowledge of how some British ships were named, that when I first saw the "Airfix" ship model of the Rommel, back in the early 1970's, I assumed that it was a very odd-looking RN ship!

Posted by Nicholas at 04:43 PM | Comments (0)

Viral meme propagation

I posted about the creepy Canadian Tire "husband" in their long-running TV ad campaign earlier this week. Apparently, the meme has metastasized:

The creepy Canadian Tire Guy

That's the top story at the Rogers news portal today. Here is the "diary", and the "full story".

The prince of Simoniz pressure washers — the pitchman on one of Canada's most hated ad campaigns — has proven especially repulsive to bloggers. Every mention of him on the Web results in a string of nasty posts written with a rage so visceral it's hard not to fear for the safety of Canadian Tire Guy's fictional family. If he lived in any real Canadian neighbourhood, somebody would probably have glue-gunned his lips shut. But there he is on TV, showing his neighbours how to attach a set of MotoMaster Precise Fit Teflon windshield wipers, or tightening a bolt with his trusty Mastercraft speed ratchet. He's even spawned wannabes — a selection of would-be Canadian Tire guys and gals who've appeared in commercials this fall.

At lunch earlier this week, we actually discussed this TV spot. Pretty clearly, the Candian Tire couple are supposed to resemble the Hometime couple (Dean Johnson and originally Peggy Knapp, then JoAnne Liebeler, followed by Susanne Egli, Robin Hartl, and Miriam Johnson):

What's up with Dean and all his "wives"?

Okay, here's the story. Dean is not now — and never has been — married to any of his co-hosts. He is happily married, however.

So why did we make it look like Dean and his co-hosts were married? It's a philosophy we called "living the project." When we made it look like Dean and his co-host lived in the houses they worked on, we could delve into the issues of living in a house under construction: cooking in the living room, taking cat baths at the laundry tub, making yet another trip to the home center store, and eating way too much take-out. We even showed them goofing off to remind homeowners to take a break and have a little fun every now and then. Today, we are moving away from the married couple concept, yet taking the "living the project" format even further to include real homeowners pitching in and a unique home improvement crew.

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

When minorities attack other minorities

Jon passed along a link to a Melanie Phillips article:

What happened was that a rumour spread by pirate radio stations went round the Afro-Caribbean community in the run-down Lozells road area of the city that a 14 year-old black girl had been gang-raped by between three and 25 Pakistani men. Reports of what happened next are confusing and inadequate, but in the disturbances that followed a black Christian was set upon by up to 11 armed youths and stabbed to death as he walked home from the cinema, a mixed-race man was shot dead and an Asian taxi-driver was attacked.

By any standards such occurrences are deeply disturbing. If this had been white on black violence, there would have been a media feeding frenzy and the newspapers would have been full of reconstructions, analysis and instant opinions and recriminations. Instead, there has been near silence. The reason is obvious. The cult of multiculturalism holds that all minorities are victims of the majority, and therefore minorities must always be blameless. When two minorities start beating each other up, therefore, politically correct Britain is paralysed. By definition, it cannot divide up the actors in the drama into good guys and bad guys. There can be no minority bad guys. It dare not investigate what actually happened, who started it and who was to blame because no minority can ever be blamed without incurring the dreaded labels of 'racism' and 'prejudice'.

This is indeed one of the weakest points of the whole mandated multicultural experience: the majority culture is always assumed to be the aggressor, the oppressor, and the guilty party. When that assumption is not supportable, there's an intellectual void: it can't have been members of a minority at fault . . . even if the only individuals involved were all officially "minorities". Usually, the police would get the blame in this sort of situation, but even the most creative mind would have difficulty making that charge stick.

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

Joss Whedon sweeps poll

New Scientist ran a poll on their readers' favorite SF works (books, TV shows, and films), and Joss Whedon took the top two spots in the poll:

Your votes are in — all 4260 of them — and the winner is clear: Joss Whedon. Best known as the brains behind Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Whedon claimed the first and second slots on our poll for his short lived 2002 TV series, Firefly, and its silver-screen extension, Serenity.

The Fox network only aired 11 episodes of Firefly, and not in the right order at that. But strong DVD sales of the series (No.5 in amazon.com DVD rankings) helped convince Universal Studios to back the film version. To date, Serenity has pulled in $20 million in US sales and reached the No.2 ranking at the box office. In the UK, it opened as the No.1 film on 7 October.

Posted by Nicholas at 10:09 AM | Comments (0)

QotD: Laws

This is what legislating is like. Say you're a legislator. You can't stand over people and tell them what to do. You make a law instead. And people frustrate the intent, and then you change it. Soon it's a hundred pages long, and people are really pissed off because they can't understand it. [. . .]

The other situation I talked about — the one where people push attorneys to mess up the law — is pretty much the same, except lawyers are involved. Legislators pass laws with good intentions, people want to get around them but they're too stupid, so they hire lawyers to help them get around them. So the legislators amend them over and over and over.

Lawyers do a lot of the dirty work, but non-lawyers pay us to do it. And it's often unethical for us to refuse.

Don't bitch because the law is complicated. Bitch because people are such weasels they can't be governed by simple laws.

Steve H., "Why You Can't Read Your Insurance Policy: It's Your Fault", Hog on Ice, 2005-10-14

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

October 26, 2005

Extra-creepy technology

Dale Amon at Samizdata links to a report about an especially disturbing new techno-toy:

A special headset was placed on my cranium by my hosts during a recent demonstration at an NTT research center.

It sent a very low voltage electric current from the back of my ears through my head — either from left to right or right to left, depending on which way the joystick on a remote-control was moved.

I found the experience unnerving and exhausting: I sought to step straight ahead but kept careening from side to side. Those alternating currents literally threw me off. [. . .]

It's a mesmerizing sensation similar to being drunk or melting into sleep under the influence of anesthesia. But it's more definitive, as though an invisible hand were reaching inside your brain.

Posted by Nicholas at 11:48 AM | Comments (1)

Archaeological Iron Making

Dr. Shelley Rabinovitch posted a link to a Science Daily article looking at pre-industrial iron making:

Jeffery is studying bloomery furnaces that were used to make iron and steel in Europe and the United States up until about 200 years ago. These furnaces also have a long history in many cultures, stretching back more than 2,000 years.

"Like a lot of ancient technologies, it gets treated as a simplistic technology," Jeffery said. "But attempts to recreate it have proven that it's not nearly as simple as people would like to believe. So far, we have conducted two separate smelts with bloomery furnaces and neither was terribly successful."

Iron from bloomery furnaces were used in Japan, Renaissance Europe, ancient Rome, Africa, and many other places to make iron and steel for armor, swords, locks, tools and hundreds of other household items.

"Iron has been a critical, fundamental part of human existence for centuries," Jeffery said. "Understanding how iron was produced and having a clear concept of what it took to do that and replicating that process today is significant from a scientific and human perspective."

I was going to try to make a pun on "Industrial Archaeology" and the archaeology of industry, but my lack of creativity defeated me.

Update: Neil Peterson posted a follow up to Dr. Rabinovitch's message, with a link to a Canadian group doing similar things.

Posted by Nicholas at 11:09 AM | Comments (2)

Rowling, by way of Pratchett

Another hat tip to a member of the Bujold mailing list, Rachel Ganz, for providing this amusing link: Dumbledore's death in the style of Terry Pratchett.

Posted by Nicholas at 09:27 AM | Comments (0)

It's bloody funny

Big Ad.

Hat tip to Laura Gallagher of the Bujold list for the URL.

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

QotD: Air Pollution

These days a haze still lingers over the heart of Los Angeles, but you need some distance and elevation to make it out. There are days when the wind and weather collaborate that shine crisp and clear. Even though the automobile population of Los Angeles has more than quintupled since my childhood, a great deal of progress has been made in smog control and reduction. Compared to my childhood, the air of Los Angeles is pure and pristine.

Alas, to the Progressives of today, all this progress is no progress at all. A Progressive is a person for whom any improvement shy of perfection is no improvement whatsoever. Automobiles remain. Pollution remains. Los Angeles remains. Curses, foiled again!

Gerard van der Leun, "The Hybridization of America", American Digest, 2005-10-12

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

October 25, 2005

Softwood lumber

Jon passed along another interesting link, this time on the Canadian-US dispute over softwood lumber:

America has been accusing the Canadian government of heavily subsidizing softwood allowing Canadian producers to sell softwood for low prices to Americans. Think of it as a kind of double-coupon day on Canadian wood products.

This of course is a terrible thing in that American consumers do not take congressmen on important fact finding/golfing missions as US softwood producers do. America remedies this untenable situation by levying duties on the wood products coming in from Canada thereby ensuring that rather than going to American consumers, the savings go directly to the federal government where they belong.

Posted by Nicholas at 05:56 PM | Comments (0)

H&R dismisses the Neo-Nazi Olsen-twin-clone-threat

Nick Gillespie finds little merit in the recent worries over the neo-Nazi teen singing duo "Prussian Blue":

But as in many of these sorts of stories, ABC News fails to deliver the goods on these Ilsas She Wolves of the SS in training bras. According to the story, they've got "one album out, another on the way, a music video, and lots of fans." But the story never drops even the vaguest hint of what "lots of fans" means or how much merchandise they've moved. The same utter vagueness goes for other bands signed to Resistance Records, which is apparently the label of choice for musicians channeling Henry Gibson's character in The Blues Brothers. [. . .]

Until Prussian Blue gets an audience that extends beyond their mother, their record label's owner, and ABC News — or form a band with Prince Harry (hmm, Tony Orlando and the New Dawn?) — I don't think the Olsen twins or Americans have too much to worry about.

Posted by Nicholas at 04:16 PM | Comments (3)

Swedish politics

I know nothing about Swedish politics. I don't think I could even name a Swedish leader or political party. I would have guessed that Swedish politics were even less interesting than Canadian politics. I was wrong:

When it was founded six months ago, polls showed that a quarter of voters would consider supporting Feminist Initiative in elections next year because of rising domestic violence against women and higher salaries for men.

That goodwill seems to have faded after the party's recent founding congress, however, when radicals such as Tiina Rosenberg, a professor of gender studies, appeared to have secured control of the agenda. The resulting platform included proposals for abolishing marriage and changing the law to let people who undergo sex change operations legally alter their names.

The party called also for the creation of more "gender-neutral" names such as "Robin" or "Norva" that could apply to a boy or a girl. At present parents must choose names from an official list for boys or girls.

Abolishing marriage? Well, that'd certainly solve some of the debated issues over same-sex and plural marriage, wouldn't it? Allowing transsexuals to legally change their names? You mean that isn't currently legal? And the whole notion of legally restricting children's names to a list assembled by bureaucrats? Yikes!

It gets better, however:

Gudrun Schyman, another founding member of the party, [. . .] advocates what she calls a "man tax to cover the cost of violence against women in the home" but has stopped short of endorsing the opinions of Ireen von Wachenfeldt, who until recently ran one of Sweden's largest state shelters for battered women. In a recent television documentary called The Gender War, she proclaimed: "Men are animals."

The documentary noted that the shelter had printed excerpts of an extremist American feminist manifesto called Scum, which stands for the Society for Cutting Up Men. In it, women are urged to "destroy the male sex" and seize the chance made possible by science of giving birth only to females.

Hat tip to Baylen Linnekin at The Agitator.

Posted by Nicholas at 03:28 PM | Comments (0)

Offensive Driving lessons

By way of Autoblog, here's a link to a brief look at the kind of new driving techniques you'd need to drive in Baghdad:

Are the anti-terrorist driving tactics employed after Baghdad fell one reason America is having a hard time winning the peace? Did we lose friends and make enemies with our driving? Still, the U.S. men and women over there were just trying to stay alive and protect those they were transporting. I would have done the same thing.

At an anti-terrorist driving school, I learned how to ram out of the way a vehicle being used as a roadblock. Clearing a blocking car isn't difficult (more later). Instead, the challenge is to distinguish between poor driving and a terrorist attack.

"Iraqis are terrible drivers," the instructor said (sensitivity was not his specialty). "It's extremely difficult to tell a bad driver from a terrorist." The instructor also said that after Baghdad fell, a lot of bad Iraqi drivers were wrecked. These were simple, innocent Iraqis — just bad drivers whose actions were misconstrued as threatening.

I'm now wondering if returning troops from deployments in Iraq and Afghanistan have even more trouble adapting to normal life, even on the road. Has the need to drive hyper-defensively in Iraq translated to even more dangerous driving in the United States?

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

Canadian content, 1970s style

Kathy Shaidle talks about a children's TV show that was shot in her hometown:

A completely meaningless post, if you're one of my American readers
The Hilarious House of Frightenstein is now on DVD!

Posted by Nicholas at 12:20 PM | Comments (0)

Another battle anniversary

Today is St. Crispin's Day, which is also the 590th anniversary of the Battle of Agincourt in 1415.

WESTMORELAND: O that we now had here
But one ten thousand of those men in England
That do no work to-day!

KING: What's he that wishes so?
My cousin Westmoreland? No, my fair cousin;
If we are mark'd to die, we are enow
To do our country loss; and if to live,
The fewer men, the greater share of honour.
God's will! I pray thee, wish not one man more.
By Jove, I am not covetous for gold,
Nor care I who doth feed upon my cost;
It yearns me not if men my garments wear;
Such outward things dwell not in my desires.
But if it be a sin to covet honour,
I am the most offending soul alive.
No, faith, my coz, wish not a man from England.
God's peace! I would not lose so great an honour
As one man more methinks would share from me
For the best hope I have. O, do not wish one more!
Rather proclaim it, Westmoreland, through my host,
That he which hath no stomach to this fight,
Let him depart; his passport shall be made,
And crowns for convoy put into his purse;
We would not die in that man's company
That fears his fellowship to die with us.
This day is call'd the feast of Crispian.
He that outlives this day, and comes safe home,
Will stand a tip-toe when this day is nam'd,
And rouse him at the name of Crispian.
He that shall live this day, and see old age,
Will yearly on the vigil feast his neighbours,
And say 'To-morrow is Saint Crispian.'
Then will he strip his sleeve and show his scars,
And say 'These wounds I had on Crispian's day.'
Old men forget; yet all shall be forgot,
But he'll remember, with advantages,
What feats he did that day. Then shall our names,
Familiar in his mouth as household words-
Harry the King, Bedford and Exeter,
Warwick and Talbot, Salisbury and Gloucester-
Be in their flowing cups freshly rememb'red.
This story shall the good man teach his son;
And Crispin Crispian shall ne'er go by,
From this day to the ending of the world,
But we in it shall be remembered -
We few, we happy few, we band of brothers;
For he to-day that sheds his blood with me
Shall be my brother; be he ne'er so vile,
This day shall gentle his condition;
And gentlemen in England now-a-bed
Shall think themselves accurs'd they were not here,
And hold their manhoods cheap whiles any speaks
That fought with us upon Saint Crispin's day.

Hat tip to M. Cohen, for the reminder . . . and the relevant text.

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

What a great idea for a website

Jon passed along a link to a new online comic strip, with the comment that I'd identify with the character in the strip.

I think he's right: how about a new website called Discover the Great Wines of the Regional Municipality of Durham, Ontario? Wouldn't that just set the site meter spinning?

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

Intelligent Design

Planet Moron reports from the front lines of education:

Professor Michael J. Behe argued yesterday in a Pennsylvania courtroom that the phenomenon of thunder is far too complex to be explained away by unsubstantiated theories involving low pressure areas and ionic discharges and as such strongly suggests that other explanations, perhaps involving a "thunder god" of some kind, should be made part of the curricula in our public schools.

Biologist Kenneth R. Miller of Brown University had argued in earlier court testimony that such systems are easily explainable using the scientific method and that the circumstances giving rise to thunder are really quite ordinary. He had planned to continue his testimony later this week but was stoned to death for being "witchbreed" while catching a quick lunch at Applebee's.

The issue arose when the school board in Dover, Pennsylvania issued a requirement that science teachers begin presenting material regarding intelligent design that casts doubt on the theory of thunder as it has been taught in classrooms for generations.

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

QotD: 1970's Britain

I hear quite a bit of that these days — almost like a local version of East German "ostalgie". Old British friends say to me, well, say what you like about the Seventies — nothing worked; if you wanted to buy a new car, it was as if post-war rationing was still in effect — but all the same life in the village seemed a lot more pleasant back then. There's something to this: the benign side of oppressive statism is often a kind of public restraint. And more than a few folks seem to feel, with the benefit of hindsight, that it's better to have unionized thugs nutting scabs on the picket line than freelance yobs in hideous leisurewear infesting ersatz-American High Streets catering to their every frightful whim from one end to the other. For the modern liberal, this is a new dilemma: an underclass that's too rich.

Mark Steyn, "Complete the revolution!", Daily Telegraph, 2004-05-04

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

October 24, 2005

And I thought "ordinary" Karaoke was bad

Apparently, things can get much worse:

Porno karaoke is similar to traditional karaoke — but, instead of standing in for Whitney Houston or Frank Sinatra, contestants belt out the soundtracks of adult movie stars.

Players pair off in male-female teams as an XXX film is loaded into the projector. With the sound turned off, each duo is handed two microphones, and has one minute to provide the aural fireworks for the action on the screen.

The crowd, which tends to find the show more comic than erotic, then chooses the couple that has given the most convincing, creative, and ecstatic performance of faking an orgasm before hundreds of strangers.

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

L. Neil Smith on banning abortion

In the current Libertarian Enterprise (now at a new URL), L. Neil Smith discusses some of the possible ramifications of banning abortions:

[. . .] the kind of state apparatus that would have to be constructed these days, probably little by little, around strongly-written laws against abortion.

A women would be required, for example, to promptly report her pregnancy to the government, and there would criminal penalties for failing to do so. Weekly doctor's checkups would be mandatory, and again, punishment would ensue for any woman who refused to show up for them.

Of course drinking or smoking in any amount would be considered child abuse, as would the appearance of willful failure to exercise or to eat properly. That, or anything resembling an attempt to terminate an unwanted pregnancy, would result in hospital incarceration, a whole new definition of forced labor, and something resembling a suicide watch.

Of course individuals would resist. A huge underground structure would be created to support them. That would trigger more laws, more thugs to enforce them, whole armies of spies, and ever more stringent penalties.

And then the kicker:

A bill had been introduced in the Virginia legislature making it a crime not to report a spontaneous abortion within twelve hours of its occurrence. The bill failed, but its mere introduction was enough. It meant that once again I'd been right, regrettably, in my understanding of history and human nature.

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

Red Ensign Standard, Mark XXX


This is the thirtieth Raising of the Red Ensign. I am honoured and humbled to be part of this fine group of bloggers. I was not an original member of the Brigade, but I certainly thought it was high time that it was created. Our founder, Nick Packwood, is no longer active in the unit, but I like to think that we're still true to his original idea.

Unlike most of the members, I'm not a conservative, although we certainly have plenty of common ground. I'm one of the libertarians within the Brigade, so some of the things that get most of our membership agitated are of marginal interest to me and some of the things that get me angry are similarly of only marginal concern to the rest of the Brigade. We get along okay, in spite of that.

The Red Ensign was Canada's unofficial flag until the adoption of the Maple Leaf as the official Canadian National flag. The flag debate was bitter, as the unofficial flag was especially disliked in Quebec (then, as for much of Canadian history, a power base of the Liberal party) and strongly supported in Ontario's rural heartland (at that time, strongly Conservative). Rather than trusting the decision to a referendum (as proposed by Conservative leader John Diefenbaker), Prime Minister Lester Pearson formed a parliamentary committee to decide the issue. The committee unanimously endorsed the Maple Leaf flag, which was derived in part from the traditional flag of the Royal Military College of Canada in Kingston, Ontario. It became the offical flag of Canada by parliamentary act and Royal Assent, and was officially flown for the first time on 15 February, 1965.

The land the Maple Leaf first flew over was, in many ways, a much freer and more democratic society than the Canada of today. Canadians in those days did not automatically turn to the government to solve problems in every sphere of life. Government had its place, and that place was generally agreed to be the defence of the realm, maintaining the peace, running the judicial system, and international affairs. The vast increase in the size and power of the federal government started in the same period as the new flag was adopted, so that modern Canadians seem to feel that the government should be — and always has been — fully involved in every activity of life in Canada. The Federal government, for all its faults, was (especially compared to today) squeaky clean: ministers would resign at the mere hint of mismanagement within their departments . . . unlike today, where the RCMP has to be in the aisle waving handcuffs before a tainted minister even considers stepping down from office.

The Canada of the Red Ensign was far from perfect: plenty of social and economic injustices existed, but generally the situation was good for most Canadians. The economy was relatively unencumbered with government controls, the judicial system was widely believed to be working well, and the country was a magnet for immigration. I take the liberty of quoting our founder:

I am proud to say this is one of a handful of countries in the whole world where you can arrive, work hard and send your kids to school in the hope of a better life. No matter your accent or appearance you will be Canadian.

Somewhere along the way, Canada has lost some of the attributes that helped to make it a great country. Red Ensign bloggers hope we can get back that essence. Sometimes the past is worth fighting for, too.

With no further blathering from me, here is the round-up of the last two weeks of Brigade posts.


The Red Ensign Brigade


905 Tory recently announced his retirement from blogging.

Rue, at Abraca-Pocus!, finally got out to see a movie and re-discovered the power of scent. She's also decided to take the plunge and apply for Canadian citizenship.

Ith, at Absinthe & Cookies has been having a slow blogging week, although she provides some useful tips for people who call her co-workers and has a Serenity quiz to help pass the time.

Angry in the Great White North (which won 3 top-of-category awards at the SDA Blog Awards) may be one of the most prolific bloggers around: he always has something new on the blog. He takes side in the Newfoundland flag debate, tries to decipher the gruesome reality of Canadian healthcare, and tries to game the search engines with his entry on Orgies at teen proms!

Dirtcrashr at Anthroblogy talks about the negative results of Socialist Redistribution and does his best to rename Hollywood as Tinselgrad (gotta love it).

Our foreign correspondant in China, asiapundit, offers some insight into the Benjamin Joffe-Walt case and a round-up of other links on the situation. He also provides an interesting discussion of possible changes in China's economic policies.

Sadly, Damian, of Babbling Brooks, has also decided to close up shop and pay more attention to life outside his blog . . . but he did briefly post to clear up any misunderstanding over l'affaire Kinsella.

In a refreshing change from the usual story, bluetory.ca has just come back to active blogging. He reports on labour negotiations, machinations within the NDP caucus, and a bit of Alberta-boosting from south of the border.

Andrew, at bound by gravity, is another blogger who posts plenty of content (he recently won the coveted "Best Blogging Tory" category of the Small Dead Blog Awards. He's looked at Canada's DART unit, was the first to note the return to blogging of Occam's Carbuncle, and Canada's slide down the corruption tables. Bill, a guest blogger, took some time to argue against allowing Intelligent Design to be taught in the schools.

Huck, at BumfOnline, when he's not obsessing about hockey, had some reflections on Einstein, and a few thoughts on funding post-secondary education.

Dana and Bob post at canadiancomment, including some thoughts on the merits of the Nobel Prize.

Canadianna's Place has been quiet lately, although she did post some thoughts on school "lockdowns".

I can always get my fix of military affairs and gun pron at Castle Argghhh!. But the folks at the Castle don't feel limited by those narrow categories. Recent posts have included a caption contest, poetry, amusing quotations (a topic near and dear to my heart), and the burden of teaching.

ChrisCam says goodbye to Gerhard Schroeder and the historic vote in Iraq.

Conservative Hipster is now a proud father. Blogging output will likely be very slim for the next few weeks or months.

Doxology sends a Newsflash to the Culture of Death, takes note of a personal milestone, and confirms once again that celebrities are not good role models.

Selecting a few representative posts from Dust My Broom is quite a challenge: it's a high-frequency blog. Among the many posts were: fact checking, addressing economic illiteracy, an adventure with a canoe, and government provision of unsafe drinking water.

ESR's Musings include a bit of NFL post-game thoughts, poking a bit of fun at Mugabe and Chavez, and a bit of prom suppression.

Jay, at Freeway to Serfdom, appreciated Thanksgiving, but had a tougher work week as a result. He also scooped the prestigious Silly Libertarian Award.

Alan, at Gen X at 40, has concerns about Big Brother warrant in Britain, condemns "guesstification", and wants Web 2.0 to be properly named Bubble 2.0.

Grandinite links to the Great Canadian Blog Survey (and is called on to defend the methodology thereof), finds an interesting-looking economics book, helps out with another book.

James, at Hammer Into Anvil, despairs of his fellow Canadians' toleration of corrupt officials (especially David Dingwall), but finds some consolation in the fact that science has finally delivered on the promise of stink-proof underwear.

Shane, at High Place, has some fun with 1950's stereotypes, comments on blog survey results, and tries to get bloggers more politically involved (I wouldn't have thought that last idea was necessary, given how political bloggers can get).

One of the most recent members of the Brigade is Blair, at Italics Mine. He'll be happy to know that even though he "pinched a nerve practicing the secret handshake" and was therefore "unable to attend the fundraiser", we've changed the date so he can attend. Aren't we nice? Blair also found that 124% of Columbians agree that Hillary should be the next President.

John the Mad takes issue with a Joey Slinger column, attempts to console the poor voters of Vancouver Centre, and finds the new Governor-General's loyalty to be suspect.

Glenda, at Just Between Us Girls, tracks early reactions to the Gomery Report leak and considers writing as a sideline.

Ryan, at King's Perspective, is hopeful about the recent German election results, discusses a recent call to action from Quebec, and passed along his best wishes to former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher.

Kate, at The Last Amazon, provides some insight into Toronto's schizophrenic addiction policies, takes aim at a monstrous breakdown of government responsibility, looks at the effects of the Bambi cult, and feels somehow cramped by an overly protective family.

The group blog called The London Fog specializes in pointing out the stupidities of the municipal, provincial, and (like shooting fish in a barrel) federal governments. Talk about picking a blogging area that will never lack for material! Of course, there's always room for specific London, Ontario posts too.

The Meatriarchy attended a special sooper-sekrit VRWC blogger gathering (with photo evidence), does a bit of hockey analysis, and links to some photos from the Iraqi elections.

Keith, at Minority of One, is looking forward to watching the race for the insanity vote in 2008, and ponders a bit of political history.

mkbraaten.com is facing the challenge of keeping track of all the current scandals, passes judgement on Edmonton's latest tornado-damaged building, and reads the signs on the wall on the Gomery Report.

The Monarchist discusses the decline of loyalty, points out that the Queen should not be referred to as the Queen of England, and welcomes the first female blogger to join their group blog.

Jason, at Musing, was out of town at a conference at which he managed to pick up a souvenir flu bug, which kept him away from blogging pretty much all of last week. He did manage to find time since then to post about the Toledo riots and inequality before the law for the "elites" and the rest of us.

Myrick has a Dead Milkmen moment, but otherwise directs your attention to asiapundit, where he posts more serious matters.

Curt, at North Western Winds, has a long post on evolution, virtue, and game theory, revels in his self-confessed status as a Archaic Relic, and takes time to find some religious humour.

The Phantom Observer bids an unfond farewell to Carolyn Parrish, does a bit of NDP caucus calculus, and tosses a few stones at David "Bubble Gum is Deductible!" Dingwall.

The current Brigade commander, Ray at Raging Kraut, had some good news to announce and views with alarm the reactivation of the Smurf Collective.

The Raging Ranter first meets the Young Liberals, and then has some fun "interviewing" them.

Paul, at Ravishing Light, has found that blogging time has been overtaken by study time. Get your priorities straight there, lad!

Ed, at robot guy, talks about the unseen genocide, contemplates Albertan separatism, and posts some cool Cassini images. He's also tracking Hurricane Wilma.

The other most recent member of the Brigade is RootleWeb, and sets a fine example by volunteering to host the next Standard. Recently, she's discussed changing Dutch attitudes, the Dingwall affair, and Saddam Hussein's trial.

Stephen Taylor - CPC is hopeful that the Tories are starting to address real issues, does a bit of poll analysis, and runs a caption contest.

Chris, at Striving Against Opposition, has been occupied with external-to-blogging issues, but still managed to post some thoughts on the Supreme Court of Canada.

Chris, at Taylor and Company, chronicles the rise and decline of the Smurfovik Collective, discovers that, in the music world, time still marches on, and offers some key hints to a contingent of slobbering fanboys.

Tipper, at Tipperography, does some fine analysis on why one- or two-dimensional political quizes cannot capture the fine distinctions between individuals' real-world philosophies. This was one of my favourite posts in the Brigade over the last couple of weeks. Tipper does a very good job of illustrating why "either/or" questions work well for computers, but poorly for human beings. She also had some good news which will unfortunately have the side-effect of reducing her time to blog.

Sue, at Turning 30 and a half, has taken some steps towards being recompensed for dental problems, copes with a valium-addicted dog, and experiments with Photoshop.

Temujin, at West Coast Chaos, scored a patriotic prize and pokes a bit of fun at sunken cheese.

Update, 25 October: Now listed at the TTLB ÜberCarnival.


The Red Ensign Brigade Reserve
(blogs temporarily inactive)


Previous Red Ensign Standards


Previous standards have been hosted at the following blogs (thanks to Shane at The High Places for doing the legwork):

  1. Castle Argghhh
  2. Raging Kraut
  3. The Last Amazon
  4. Bumfonline
  5. Tiger in Winter (now blogging at Tiger in Exile)
  6. Taylor and Company (no longer online)
  7. Myrick
  8. Bound By Gravity
  9. Dust My Broom
  10. Ravishing Light
  11. Babbling Brooks
  12. Musing
  13. Freeway to Serfdom
  14. Nathan's Updates From Seoul
  15. Striving Against Opposition
  16. The Phantom Observer
  17. Abraca-Pocus!
  18. Tipperography
  19. Turning 30 and a half
  20. Canadian Comment
  21. London Fog
  22. The Monarchist
  23. West Coast Chaos
  24. A Chick Named Marzi
  25. Raging Kraut
  26. Robot Guy
  27. The High Places
  28. The Last Amazon
  29. Robot Guy
  30. Quotulatiousness
  31. Will be hosted at RootleWeb.

Posted by Nicholas at 12:03 AM | Comments (16)

October 23, 2005

QotD: Responsibility

It's easy to amass a list of movements similar in nature to gun industry litigants represented by LAP. There's the it's-Philip-Morris's-fault-I-have-lung-cancer crowd, the it's-McDonald's-fault-I'm-a-pig crowd, and the ever-popular it's-the-bucket-company's-fault-my-child-drowned-in-it-while-I-wasn't-paying-attention crowd, just to name a few. An obvious unifying characteristic amongst all these groups is that their members seem to suffer from a severely stultifying form of cognition. Like lower animals, they seem stuck in a state of perpetual perception, unable to conceive of a world beyond the immediately visible and unable to differentiate between entities with volition and inanimate objects with none. As a dog excitedly chases its wagging tail in apparent oblivion that it is his own actions that cause the wagging, so these poor souls stumble through life wondering how it is that they keep swallowing cheeseburgers and inhaling tobacco.

But human beings simply can't survive in such a seriously degenerative state, and they don't — at least not all the time. Instead, they seem to fade in and out of this pre-human perspective. These same persons would laugh at a basketball player who blamed the ball every time he missed a shot, but when someone misuses a firearm, it's the gun's fault. This contradiction raises a serious moral question: are the Brady crusaders and their ilk doing this intentionally, or by accident? Do they — could they — really believe what they're saying, or do they know it to be false but preach it just the same?

Carter Laren, "Personal Lie-ability", Capitalism, 2005-10-09

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

October 22, 2005

QotD: Disaster Reporting

I think the disaster coverage of the world's media has become a little too efficient. It is a mixed blessing, progressing by small increments into a curse. The good it does, is to get relief supplies moving faster and more copiously. The evil is that it gives a skewed impression that disasters are becoming more frequent, when really they are just being more prominently reported.

Why is this an evil? Because it feeds public demand for obnoxious and intrusive legislation, to "do something" to obviate risks that are, in the main, beyond human power to avoid. Our media have, both wittingly and unwittingly, bought into a "Kyoto syndrome", that feeds on junk science, and exploits paranoia.

David Warren, "Disasters", davidwarrenonline.com, 2005-10-12

Posted by Nicholas at 12:37 AM | Comments (0)

October 21, 2005

Somebody got a patent for XML?

According to a thread at Slashdot, a company called Scientigo has patent no. 5,842,213 and no. 6,393,426, which they claim cover the transfer of 'data in neutral forms.' As a result, they feel that they can sue companies that use XML in their products for royalties.

I'm absolutely flabbergasted that the patent office would issue a patent — in 1997 — when SGML (the effective parent of XML) had been available at least ten years before then. I was attending SGML/XML conferences in the early 1990's, fer crying out loud!

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

British 1st Para Bn becoming the JSFSG

Another Economist report (reg. req'd) discusses the changes to the First battalion of the Parachute Regiment:

Although a fourth SBS squadron is being raised from the toughest marine commandos, recruiting many more men would entail easing the entry requirements. Better to train and dedicate high-grade infantrymen to support SF operations, freeing the best soldiers for the most demanding tasks. Hence the Joint Special Forces Support Group (JSFSG), an outfit modelled on America's army rangers, and whose first members, from the parachute regiment, are enjoying a preliminary outing with the SAS in Baghdad.

One of several army reforms announced in December, the JSFSG will become partially operational next April and ready by 2008. At its heart will be the Parachute Regiment's 1st battalion, which will be cut to 476 soldiers — in effect, losing a company of 70 men. It will also have a company of marine commandos and a similar number of experts from the air force, including forward air-controllers. The support group is to be led by the paras' commanding officer and dedicated to its new role; the battalion has already been removed from the infantry order of battle.

The army is cockahoop. Before the recent shake-up, it faced losing four infantry battalions. Thanks to its canny boss, the JSFSG's architect, General Sir Mike Jackson, it has, in effect, lost only three. That the general himself commanded "1 para" suggests a spot of backroom manoeuvring; he describes the group's formation as "a very good result for the army".

I find it hard to believe that the army was seriously considering disbanding one of the battalions of the Paras: unlike Canada's Airborne Regiment, the Paras were more than carrying their weight, both militarily and on the public-relations front (the Airborne Regiment signally failed on the PR side, resulting in the decision to disband the unit).

Posted by Nicholas at 02:17 PM | Comments (0)

The new post-boat-cruise Vikings code of conduct

In the wake (sorry!) of the Lake Minnetonka boat cruise fiasco, the new owner of the Minnesota Vikings, Zygi Wilf, has promised a new code of conduct for all players and team employees. Tom Powers offers a quick-and-dirty summary:

The new code of conduct, complete with an amended dress code, will be presented to Vikings players any day now. Supposedly, it will be very specific.

Rule 216-B: "When on a boat and approached by a naked woman, retreat to the poop deck and attempt to contact the Coast Guard."

No doubt a lot of deep thought has gone into this. But it seems like overkill. Proper company policy could be printed on small index cards.

Official code of conduct: "Don't be an idiot."

Official dress code: "Keep clothes on in public."

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

This is kinda cool

I thought this was a neat use of a railway container: as a moving canvas for painting a naval battle scene.

Posted by Nicholas at 11:55 AM | Comments (1)

The new mercenary armies

The Economist (reg. req'd.) has a brief look at a recruiting challenge for some of the elite forces of the world:

If soldiering was for the money, the Special Air Service (SAS) and the Special Boat Service (SBS) would have disintegrated in recent years. Such has been the explosion in private military companies (PMCs) that they employ an estimated 30,000 in Iraq alone — and no government can match their fat salaries. A young SAS trooper earns about £2,000 ($3,500) a month; on the "circuit", as soldiers call the private world, he could get £15,000. Why would he not?

For reasons both warm-hearted and cool-headed. First, for love of regiment and comrades, bonds that tend to be tightest in the most select units. Second, for the operational support, notably field medicine, and the security, including life assurance and pension, that come with the queen's paltry shilling.

I had no idea that private mercenary companies could afford to pay so much for their troops: that's getting to be big bucks. Of course, the risks are much higher in that environment, but still . . .

Posted by Nicholas at 11:32 AM | Comments (0)

Loire Red Wines

I don't get many chances to try French wines (aside from the usual assortment of Vin du Pays and a few AOC wines in the LCBO's main catalogue), so this New York Times review (reg. req'd.) of wines from the Loire was only of academic interest to me. If you live in an area with wider choices of French wines (and deeper pockets), you may find this more helpful.

The early indication is that the reds are faring much better than the whites. The 2003 Beaujolais vintage was excellent, rife with wines of unusual intensity. And, as the Dining section's wine panel found out in a tasting of 25 red wines from the Chinon and Bourgueil regions of the Loire Valley, the 2003 vintage was superb there as well.

Perhaps this should not be surprising. Chinon and Bourgueil benefit from hot weather more than most regions. The reds are made from the cabernet franc grape, which in the Loire Valley produces wines that offer a fragile teeter-totter balance of fruit, mineral and herbal flavors. If the grapes do not ripen fully, either because of the weather or because they are picked too early, those herbal flavors can become vegetal, resulting in wines that are nastily reminiscent of green bell peppers and canned peas and corn.

The Cabernet Franc is one of the vinifera grapes that grows very well in the Niagara DVA, so I'm quite familiar with the flavours, and the weakest examples do indeed taste strongly of green pepper. I quite like real green peppers, but I consider it an unwelcome addition to the glass of wine I'm drinking.

Hat tip to Julie Duggan for the link.

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

Trafalgar, 200 years on

This is the 200th anniversary of the Battle of Trafalgar, one of the most important battles in British history. The Register shows their irreverent side in their report:

Britain is today marking the 200th anniversary of the Battle of Trafalgar with a series of events around the country and a wreath-laying ceremony off Cape Trafalgar itself. Her Maj will take luncheon aboard HMS Victory on Portsmouth and later light the first of a series of 1,000 beacons around the country to honour those who royally thrashed a combined French and Spanish fleet back in 1805.

Naturally, the BBC is giving the whole thing plenty of coverage, and offers a timetable of events which kicked off this morning when Second Sea Lord Sir James Burnell-Nugent laid two wreaths aboard Victory — one on the deck and one where Nelson is reckoned to have popped his clogs after rather ill-advisedly getting shot by a French sniper as Victory tangled with the Redoubtable.

While Trafalgar was a critical battle for Britain, it was much less important to the French and Spanish: a loss for Britain would probably have led to an invasion of the British Isles. The Napoleonic wars continued for another ten years after the battle, so the battle can be said to have been a turning point, it was not as significant to the struggle on land.

Posted by Nicholas at 08:43 AM | Comments (0)

QotD: Modern Government

[N]ow that both parties have become dedicated to monstrous government, we won't have to wait for an election to get started. It will also take a government dedicated to butting-in to the private lives of its citizens in an unprecedented manner. This too will prove to be no speed bump at all. Those that currently hold positions of power at the local, state, or federal level are exactly those citizens who take a great, almost sexual, pleasure in butting-in to their neighbors' lives at every opportunity. (Indeed, it is a source of continuing disappointment in every American's life that whenever one feels a strange hand groping around one's buttocks, it is never an attractive stranger, but merely some large or small politician searching for one's wallet.) [. . .] Having evolved a society that is incapable of letting individuals decide anything of importance for themselves, all the pieces are in place for the ultimate government meddle and muddle.

Gerard van der Leun, "The Hybridization of America", American Digest, 2005-10-12

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

October 20, 2005

TCTG as Canadian "Everyman"?

Kathy Shaidle takes issue with a recent post by Colby Cosh about the creepy character in the Canadian Tire television ads. Colby says:

He seems particularly preoccupied with various means of providing electric power to the home in the event of a catastrophic failure of the grid. His smooth but strained friendliness suggests that he's a hardcore evangelical — but obviously he doesn't belong to one of those mainstream churches that expects the good guys to be raptured out of danger before the star named Wormwood arrives to defecate poison into the seas.

Put the pieces together and what you get is a dedicated member of some bizarre Christian cult — perhaps one that, like the Jehovah's Witnesses, expects to inherit our planet and its resources from a conveniently slaughtered infidel citizenry.

Kathy responds thusly:

Cosh, an atheist, reads TCTG as an uber-Flanders of Doomsday. Interesting . . . does TCTG inspire so much Pat-like revulsion because he is a blank slate, upon which we all project our deepest hatred of our opposite number: boomer, know-it-all, stay-at-home dad, gay-acting straight guy?

Me, I'm more intrigued by TCTG's dowdy dominatrix wife. The couple seem so oddly matched. And you know they have a son, but . . . how? And how do they afford all this stuff on typical Canadian salaries?

Hmmm. Bland, unassuming pitchman or horseperson of the Apocalypse?

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

British anti-terrorist-pedestrian policies

Brian Micklethwait finds the silver lining in the British government's anti-terrorist policies, as applied to pedestrians on cycle paths:

But, cyclists are obviously not a problem. Cyclists are good. This is a well known fact. So, whereas public footpaths in the vicinity of harbours are an obvious problem and need to be shut down, there is clearly no need to involve cyclists in this prohibition. Cyclists are, I repeat, good. So, these footpaths can simply stay as they are, but be cycle tracks. But, that means that pedestrians must now be told to steer clear of these ex-footpaths, despite the fact that they still exist.

At which point, since this is the Anti-Terrorism Act that is being imposed here rather than merely some exercise in traffic control, any insubordinate pedestrian who causes trouble, by — I don't know — laughing when you tell him, or her, about the new arrangements, must clearly be treated as the terrorist that he, or she, may well be. I mean, better safe than sorry. This is the survival of our very way of life that we are talking about, the preservation of our ancient liberties against the forces of barbarism.

Posted by Nicholas at 03:01 PM | Comments (1)

Hog On Ice does a PSA

Steve H. published a valuable public service announcement, specifically for women who need to know what men are really saying in their "pick-up lines":

I was looking at that list of psychopathic behaviors, and I realized it's a pretty good description of the way men act at singles bars and clubs. All men looking for one-night stands are psychopaths.

Think about it. I'm not totally sure why women go to bars, but men go to get laid. You try to look as good as you can, you may even change your sheets and clean up your apartment before you go, and you plan your behavior in advance. You look around, pick out possible targets, and then you drink some liquid courage and walk up to them and hand them your patented line of CANNED BULLSHIT.

"After college, I want to go in the Peace Corps and help Amazon Indians build family-planning clinics so their women can have the SACRED RIGHT TO CHOOSE. Oh, God, I get so emotional when I think about the way our patriarchal society tries to tell women what to do with their own beautiful bodies. Thank God I'm not afraid to cry BOO HOO HOO HOO HOO I have a Porsche. I wrote a poem in praise of menstruation, which I think is beautiful and not terrifying or repulsive at all. Do you want to hear it now, or later while I'm hammering your sweet ass in the jacuzzi and using your hair as a bridle? Where are you going? Bitch! Okay, next in line!"

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

Screedy goodness

James Lileks cuts to the essential differences between brutal, all-conquering American culture and kinder, gentler, weak-willed-and-easily-led Canadian culture:

Another day, another international conference, another meaningless display of unity. But with lovely gift bags, we're sure. The latest example: a UNESCO compact, sanctified in October at a Tunisia conference, supporting the rights of nations to control the import of entertainment from other countries, all in the name of "cultural diversity." Otherwise Bugs Bunny cartoons would pose a mortal threat to the state-controlled monoculture of most nations. The United States opposes the compact, because we're mean and hate everyone, if you read the press. But was the US vote correct? Let us consider.

The original sponsors were France and its stepchild Canada; figures. No country is more prickly about preserving its own culture than France; they regularly have le panique attaq whenever small fragments of other tongues infect their pristine lingo. Their cinema is heavily subsidized, producing endless movies about older-yet-unquestionably-masculine men who pensively smoke while contemplating a girl's knee observed on a beach in 1972. Canada also mandates local content, because there's so much difference between someone who grew up in southern Manitoba and someone who grew up in upper North Dakota. The North Dakotan grows up without a sense of what it's like to be annoyed by bilingual candy-bar wrappers, for example. Might as well be from different planets.

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

QotD: Wine

In Europe we thought of wine as something as healthy and normal as food and also a great giver of happiness and well being and delight. Drinking wine was not a snobbism nor a sign of sophistication nor a cult; it was as natural as eating and to me as necessary.

Ernest Hemingway

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

October 19, 2005

Municipal taxes in Ontario

The Municipal Property Assessment Corporation (MPAC) has come in for a lot of criticism in Ontario recently. I'm one of the few people in my area who managed to get a rollback in my assessment for the 2003-2004 tax years, so I've had a bit more experience of dealing with MPAC than most people. MPAC is the organization set up to do market value assessments (MVA) of properties and to provide municipalities with that information in order to set tax rates.

MPAC is getting a lot of heat from taxpayers because their assessments are opaque — it's difficult to discover why certain properties are assessed at significantly different values than superficially similar properties in the same area. At our hearing, for example, we discovered that MPAC uses a fairly simple method for establishing the "square footage" of a given building . . . they measure from opposite corners of the ground floor. This didn't sound too bad, until we discovered that our house (which has an attached garage) was being considered to be identical to other houses in our area which have fully detached garages — and the detached garage was not included in the "square footage" of the "comparable" houses. This had the direct effect of artificially boosting the assessed value of our house. However handy this may be for the town, surely this isn't the intent of MVA?

Jon passed along a link to a particularly appropriate Toronto Star cartoon (reg. req'd) on the issue.

Incidentally, our assessment for 2005-2006 shows our house has (theoretically) increased in value by nearly 20% since 2003. So I have to expect at least that much of an increase in my municipal property taxes. Oh, joy. Of course, my pay hasn't risen by even a tenth of that since 2003, but that's my problem.

Update: The link to the Toronto Star has changed, but you can only view it if you're registered on their site.

Posted by Nicholas at 10:02 AM | Comments (0)

QotD: The Victim Culture

I never read Cinderella or the Little Match Girl to my daughter or my sons. I instinctively steered away from fairy tales where the main character through no fault of their own gets dealt a raw deal by life but not to fret because at the 11th hour someone will intervene and they all will live happily ever after. Life is just not like that. As it is written, the rain falls on the just and the unjust and that about sums it up. No one gets a free pass for a trouble free life.

More importantly, I didn't want my children to live out their lives as a victim; wallowing in defeat and distress while waiting patiently for a knight in shining armor to show up to save them from misfortune or folly. I wanted them to grow up to be the heroes of their own lives.

All of which means that I am seriously out of sync with the times I live in. Today, every one is a victim in constant need of being saved from misfortune, discrimination or the outright folly of our own devising. This is not the Age of Chivalry and there are no knights in shining armor riding to the rescue but the call goes out regularly for the government to fund some program or designate some group "victims" in order to spare them the logical consequences of their own choices.

Kateland, "Fairy Tales in Crack Houses", The Last Amazon, 2005-10-18

Posted by Nicholas at 08:24 AM | Comments (0)

October 18, 2005

Military rations, in pictures

asiapundit links to a visual primer on military rations. The current Canadian military rations look even less appetizing than they did back in my day . . .

Posted by Nicholas at 08:22 PM | Comments (2)

Is Amtrak headed for the junkyard?

I was interested to see this report in the Washington Post about Amtrak:

Amtrak's board of directors has voted to split the train's Northeast Corridor service into a separate subsidiary, a move that railroad officials said would isolate the cost of maintaining the railroad's busiest line.

The subsidiary would manage service between Washington, New York and Boston. It would be owned and controlled by Amtrak but have its own president and management who would report to Amtrak's board.

[. . .]

The Bush administration has favored ending Amtrak subsidies and turning passenger rail into regional services operated by the states with federal grants. Amtrak supporters worried that separating the Northeast Corridor marked the first step in breaking up the railroad.

"If they wanted to break the railroad up, they have to do this," said Ross B. Capon, executive director of the National Association of Railroad Passengers, a group that advocates greater Amtrak funding. "They've laid the groundwork for the administration to push for a breakup."

This is probably a good move, both politically and economically. Amtrak has been a financial drain on the US government since it was first created: it's never earned a profit in over thirty years of operation. There is little economic justification for public subsidy of the system, and breaking the passenger rail system into regional entities is one way of allowing economic routes to start earning their way.

I'm not anti-rail . . . I founded a railway historical society several years ago . . . but this is a case of government doing something that should be left to the private sector. I don't know if long-distance passenger rail can ever be economical in the age of airlines and Interstate highways, but forcing taxpayers to support a system most of them will never use is neither fair nor sensible.

Hat tip to Asymmetrical Information for the link.

Posted by Nicholas at 04:30 PM | Comments (0)

Steyn reviews Serenity

Mark Steyn's review of Serenity is up:

By now you're probably wondering, yeah, so you liked the rough'n'ready sets and TV dialogue and reaction shots, but is it about anything? Well, it claims to be. The tag line on the posters in the US was 'Because the future is worth fighting for.' And, if it doesn't quite live up to that billing, it's got more going on than the Star Wars Zen-by-numbers colouring book. Having won the war, the Alliance begins mind-washing its citizens to make them more content and placid. Unfortunately, as a side-effect, folks also lose the desire to go to work, to breed, and ultimately to live — except for a very small minority whom the mind-washing backfires on and turns into feral predators who destroy everything they come near. Hmm. Aside from anything else, Serenity is also an excellent allegory for the next ten years of the European Union.

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

Rifle Grenades

Rifle grenades were eventually replaced by small rocket launchers (like the American M-72 LAW) and/or small mortars after WW2, and I'd never seen any details about 'em, so this page on the Garand and Carbine grenade launcher attachments were of interest to me. There was also a device to convert a normal hand grenade to a rifle-launched grenade.

Kludgy, but certainly better than nothing, I imagine.

Hat tip to Thomas Russ, from the TacOps mailing list.

Posted by Nicholas at 02:17 PM | Comments (0)

Bookstore funnies

Jon and I were in a bookstore at lunch today, and Jon noticed a book on the sale table:


"Look, it's that new history of the Liberal Party!"

I guess you had to be there.

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

QotD: Digital SLR Cameras

I've been doing research into the "prosumer" digital SLRs. I have spent enough time with photographers to know that Canon and Nikon are really the only options for the neophyte seeking a camera religion. So the choice with the entry-level cameras seems to boil down to:

Canon: A flimsy, ergonomically offensive body that comes with a subpar starter lens.

Nikon: A sturdier, better-designed body with a versatile first-class starter lens PLUS catastrophic hardware problems and customer support imagineered by Lavrenti Beria.

Have I pretty much got this right? The overall message I get is that nobody really wants my money yet.

Colby Cosh, "Best to remain a cranky unbeliever for now", ColbyCosh.com, 2005-10-12

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

October 17, 2005

Different parental experiences

I think I'm just as lucky not to have been the father of a girl, if James Lileks' experiences are typical:

But fathers of boys usually don't have sham-wedding practice; fathers of girls do, and this helps settle your mind. The other day I officiated the marriage of Rapunzel (Child) and Her Prince, played by Jasper the Family Dog. He was not entirely certain what was expected of him for this tableau; he rolled over and whined in submission. Good start. Rapunzel stared straight ahead, radiant. Do you, faithful dog prince, take this Mattel-licensed character to be your lawfully wedded inter-species soulmate?


Fine. Do you, fairy-tale archetype co-opted by the Barbie marketing juggernaut, take this prince to be your husband?

Child paused, sniffed her flowers, and looked stricken. "I — I don't know," she said, and she fled the scene. The dog sat up, his quizzical clueless face channeling every jilted groom who ever saw his beloved bolt the altar.

Posted by Nicholas at 04:16 PM | Comments (0)

The enormous richness of the English language

Christian sent this link to a partly-sorta-semi-serious attempt to enumerate all the euphemisms for the female breast.

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


With all the talk about influenza pandemics in the media at the moment, you can imagine the undertone of conversation in the office today, with at least half a dozen of us suffering from mild flu-like symptoms. I'm certainly not sick enough to stay home from work, but I'm working at much reduced pace and my brain seems to be stuck in low gear.

Blogging may — or may not — be affected by this.

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

QotD: Doctors and Freedom

The medical attitude, and the reason why doctors are so vulnerable to this anti-liberty political agenda, is that doctors typically see people at their weakest, at times when they are positively begging to be told what to do by the god-almighty doctor. Doctors are thus pre-disposed to neglect the distinction between them advising people what to do, and simply telling them, for their own good.

Brian Micklethwait, "Curbing liberty — except when they should", Samizdata, 2005-10-10

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

October 16, 2005

The Vikings Season is looking very leaky

The Vikings came in from a bye week, hoping to win in Chicago, which would both improve team morale and keep their playoff hopes alive. Instead, they lost to the Bears, 28-3. The Pioneer Press says:

While the Minnesota Vikings' season continued to spiral out of control, the Chicago Bears might have saved theirs on Sunday.

Brian Urlacher had two sacks to lead the Bears to a 28-3 victory over a Vikings team reeling after allegations of drunkenness and sexual misbehavior on a charter cruise last week.

The team is suffering terribly in the scoring category . . . having only once scored more than 14 points in any game this season. For a team that used to be described as "high octane" offensively, this is worse than just a slight drop-off in efficiency. This is the statistical cliff they've already fallen off.

Once again, I am probably better off in that the game wasn't shown in my area . . . it was depressing enough just watching the score. A comment on the Vikings newsgroup calls the rest of the season the "last voyage of the Ticetanic". That's starting to sound like an accurate description.

Posted by Nicholas at 08:24 PM | Comments (0)

QotD: Power and Freedom

[. . .] the film explores the main theme of authority & freedom — when the Operative explains to Mal that Mal cannot win against the Alliance, Mal shrugs and says, (paraphrase) "I don't want to win. I just wanna go on my way." In one sentence the classical liberal objections to concentrated power are encapsulated. Mal doesn't care about power politics nor does he want to tell other people how to live their lives. He simply wants to go about his own and freely exchange value for value with others, shaping his own life and destiny as he goes, constrained only by the hard facts of scarcity in the universe and a respect for others' autonomy. Mal rejects the entire worldview of the Alliance, where there is ruler and ruled, and you are one and no other.

Brian W. Doss, "Serenity: Death and Rebirth", Catallarchy, 2005-10-10

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

October 15, 2005

QotD: Semillon

Australian winemakers use the Semillon grape to add punch to Chardonnay or body to Sauvignon. Young Semillon has a zesty, lemony tang and the live wire feeling of Sauvignon Blanc. It also adds an earthy quality that cuts some of the prettiness in Chardonnay, making Sauvignon feel more grounded and food-friendly. The wines become less obvious and more interesting. You could say that Semillon is the wine maker's Hamburger Helper.

Billy Munnelly, "Semillon, the Great Blender", Billy's Best Bottles, Volume 21 Number 6, Fall 2005

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

October 14, 2005

Today's cage match: Green Energy versus Biodiversity

In the first of what we should expect to be many such conflicts, a wind-power facility is being forced to curtail operations because of migratory bird routes directly through the wind farm:

Thousands of aging turbines stud the brown rolling hills of the Altamont Pass on I-580 east of San Francisco Bay, a testament to one of the nation's oldest and best-known experiments in green energy.

Next month, hundreds of those blades will spin to a stop, in what appears to be a wind-energy first: Facing legal threats from environmentalists, the operators of the Altamont wind farm have agreed to shut down half of their windmills for two months starting Nov. 1; in January, they will be restarted and the other half will be shut down for two months.

Though the Altamont Pass is known for its strong winds, it also lies on an important bird-migration route, and its grass-covered hills provide food for several types of raptors. "It's the worst possible place to put a wind farm," said Jeff Miller, a wildlife advocate at the nonprofit Center for Biological Diversity. "It's responsible for an astronomical level of bird kills."

This is one of the "known unknowns" of the alternative energy business: turbines — in addition to being ugly — are extremely dangerous to birds. Unfortunately, many of the best locations for wind turbines are in locations which will endanger huge numbers of migratory birds.

Posted by Nicholas at 02:15 PM | Comments (0)

More on the Vikings' boat cruise follies

Jon passed along a link to Free Will with yet more on the Vikings' latest PR idiocies:

OK, a couple things here for any Vikings who might be reading:

1) If you're going to do things like this on or in a rented vehicle or facility, you should check to see if it's going to be a problem. Before you sign anything.

2) Your wives are your own problems, but the decisions you make in the privacy of your hotel rooms take on a whole new significance when you make them on a boat in front of a whole crew, especially when you are national celebrities in an industry that expects you to, in theory, be some kind of role model and, worse yet, try to involve and/or threaten the crew. It's 2005, and people will hear about it.

Update: Don Banks gets in a few digs at SI Online:

t's only a guess, but after the news that 17 Minnesota Vikings were aboard two charter boats on which sex parties allegedly were held on Oct. 6, I'm assuming no more United Way spots for the Vikings for the time being.

Just when you thought it couldn't get any more embarrassing for the team that gave us Onterrio Smith and "The Original Whizzinator'' and the Mike Tice Super Bowl-ticket-scalping affair, the Vikings may have hit a new high for lows.

I've heard of team bonding excursions, but never one in which almost one-third of the roster potentially had to post bond. But then, these are the Vikings, and they are adept at making the wrong kind of news off the field. In August, Minnesota All-Pro defensive tackle Kevin Williams was charged with domestic assault against his wife. (He has pled not guilty to the fifth-degree misdemeanor charge and has a mid-Oct. court date). In September, Vikings offensive linemen Bryant McKinnie and rookie guard Marcus Johnson were arrested in connection with a late-night fight at a Twin Cities-area gas station. (Both have pleaded not guilty to disorderly conduct and obstructing the legal process; preliminary hearings are scheduled for Nov. 4)

Even if the current allegations of prostitution and lewd behavior on Lake Minnetonka don't result in indictments, the controversy-plagued Vikings might still see their bid for a new stadium derailed by the avalanche of bad publicity. How's that for bottom-line impact?

The whole stadium deal is a non-issue for me: I don't live in Minnesota, so my taxes won't be affected one way or the other, but I'm against pro sports teams getting taxpayers to build stadiums for them. That aside, I do have to agree that the Vikings are going out of their way to make it difficult for stadium backers to shake down the state legislature for hundreds of millions of dollars.

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

QotD: Language

There is a tide in the linguistic affairs of men, and it usually comes down to a quotation (often incorrect) by Shakespeare.

Steve Muhlberger

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

October 13, 2005

These shoes were made for driving

Nissan is catering to the athletic-shoe-wearing segment of the population by offering a car that looks like a shoe:

Based on Nissan's own Note model, this version features a "wearable" concept wherein certain parts of the exterior and interior can be changed at will just like the Adidas-branded sportwear its target customer is wearing. It's not a new idea, nor one that was all that successful last time around on the Saturn Ion. The interior also features storage nets on the dashboard, a glovebox that opens with a zipper and a removable bag in the center console.

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

Vagaries of pricing or vagaries of politics?

One of the things I was not consciously aware of is that gas isn't the same from state to state:

When voters elect the latest gladhander to their municipal and state governments, the chemical makeup of the gas down at their local pump is not usually high on their list of priorities. BUT if you're an agricultural activist who wants to sell corn to the government to produce Ethanol, or an environmentalist who believes you possess the magic formula for reducing baby-killing smog in western cities, well, that's a different story. These groups are extremely effective at lobbying government at the state and local level to create a "boutique" gasoline formula to further their cause. As a result, Missouri gas isn't good enough to burn in California, whose gas cannot legally be sold in New York City or parts of Arizona.

According to Michael Ports of the Society of Independent Gasoline Marketers of Americas, "Twenty years ago, there were two blends of gasoline offered in three octane levels, and essentially one blend of diesel fuel. Today, there are more than 18 unique blends of gasoline mandated across the nation — again offered in three octane grades — and at least three different blends of diesel fuel." Okay, let's do the math. I make it . . . 59 different blends of gasoline spread out over 50 states. Just to make things that much more complicated, no one refinery produces all 59 blends of gas; nor is any refinery typically dedicated to any one grade.

This certainly explains some of the reasons for gas shortages in some areas: if it's against state law to sell gasoline that doesn't have that particular state's preferred additives, it means that gasoline is much less of a commodity than it should be. Local suppliers can't just draw on supplies from neighboring areas, so they have to raise prices to ensure that they will still have something to sell.

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

Courtesy in blogdom

This is a public letter to my fellow bloggers. If you link to a graphic on my site, you will use my bandwidth every time someone views your page. If you link to several of my graphics, you will start to eat up a significant portion of my bandwidth. One of you is currently siphoning off 3.5% of the total bandwidth for bolditalic.com. And I'm not the only user on this site.

Later today, my virtual landlord has threatened to take action if this "borrowing" does not stop.

Consider yourself warned.

Update, 14 October: Had a look at your hijacked graphics today, pirate boy?

Update, 15 October: The blogger in question has apologized and removed the links to graphics on my site.

Posted by Nicholas at 10:43 AM | Comments (0)

Vikings misbehave on the water

Just as the fans are absorbing the reality that the team isn't anywhere near as good as the pre-season billing had them believing, we now learn that the players are just as bad off the field:

The names of 17 Minnesota Vikings who were identified as being aboard two charter boats last week where sex parties allegedly took place have been given to Vikings officials in a controversy that has put the team's bid for a new stadium and its standing among fans and community leaders in jeopardy.

At least six crew members who allege they were confronted with out-of-control Vikings players on the boats met Wednesday with Hennepin County Sheriff's detectives who are investigating allegations of prostitution and lewd behavior.

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

QotD: Corruption at the Corporate Level

On Oct. 4, Delphi Corp.'s beleaguered management found time to prepare an 8-K filing for the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. Never mind that the company was a day away from the biggest auto-industry bankruptcy in U.S. history. A serious wrong needed righting before the power to right it disappeared.

"After reviewing the various separation programs in place at Delphi it was determined that the service-based separation policy that Delphi had for all salaried employees was not competitive for executives," the company said in its filing.

Uh-oh. Whenever you see the words "executives" and "competitive" in the same sentence, you just know some manager is about to shove his face deep into the compensation pool and start snorting back gobs of cash on the spurious grounds that his peers at the company next door are doing the same.

Mark Gilbert, 'Delphi's Pre-Bankruptcy Trough-Filling Is Odious", Bloomberg.com, 2005-10-12

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

October 12, 2005

Serenity in 2K or less

Serenity in two thousand words or less . . . spoilers ahoy, for the couple of readers who still haven't seen the movie.

WEIRD ASIAN-LOOKING ADVERTISEMENT: I'm not a subliminal message!

SUBLIMINAL MESSAGE: River, set kickass mode ON!

RIVER: Miranda! *Kicks everybody's ass, including Jayne's*

SIMON: (In Russian) River, set kickass mode OFF!

RIVER: *Faints*

MAL: You got some 'splaining to do!

WASH: Tell me the story again, I love it when Jayne gets his ass kicked by little girls! Especially since he can't stop me from teasing him about it because he's scared of my wife!

Hat tip to Rachel, from the Canadian Browncoats list.

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

Work Psychosis . . . a micro case study

Part of an email exchange with a co-worker:

Frustrated Co-worker: How many times do I have to re-ghost this frickin' machine to install this shit?

Me, attempting to be helpful: "The answer, my friend, is blowin' in the wind, The answer is blowin' in the wind."
Is that the end of that verse? ;-)

FCW: I was thinking along the same lines.

"Up against the wall, m-f-er!"

Oops. Sorry. That's something else. Same era, though.

Damn this [Acronym] crap. Damn it to hell!

[Acronym]! It's . . . people!


Not quite sure what I'm channelling here.

Thomas J. Anderson. That was Neo's name, by the way. Just came to me now.

They must have changed something.

It's a trap!

I need an exit.

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

Space toys

Dale Amon got the opportunity to visit Las Cruces over the weekend:

If there is a heaven, then I died and went to Las Cruces this weekend. Or perhaps I stumbled into a jackrabbit hole after one of the long sessions in the hotel bar and found myself inside a space art painting I saw some years back. Whatever the case . . . I was there.

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

Anna has a bad musical experience

Anna has to put up with some unfortunate musicians:

Whoever said shit rolls downhill obviously has spent time outside my office window while the neighbor boy and his best friend practice guitar and sing from their 2nd floor bedroom.

Beautiful California October nights dictate an open window policy but one can only turn chroniX up so high in attempts to drown out these two at midnight.

Imagine Simon and Garfunkel with head colds, their testicles bound tight with baling wire, warbling into an electric fan with a mouthful of Skittles and you'll get a sense of what I'm listening to right now. If I had a boom mike with a long stick I would attempt an audioblog because you simply cannot appreciate how this moment translates into words.

Posted by Nicholas at 04:16 PM | Comments (0)

Customer Service Follies

Elizabeth just got off the phone with a Rogers representative. We'd received a mailing from Rogers, offering us a special "Digital VIP" package to replace the plain old "VIP" package we already had. Well, actually they were informing us that they were discontinuing the "VIP" program and replacing it with the "Digital VIP" instead.

The letter was long on words, but short on numbers . . . it didn't actually say anywhere how much it was going to cost us to take the new package or how much it was going to cost if we reverted back to the unbundled costs for our service.

Elizabeth called to try to get the straight story. Almost the first thing out of the sales rep's mouth was "It is very confusing, but most of the time, when the husband explains, it's clear." Does the phrase "waving a red cape in front of a bull" sound familiar to anyone?

Posted by Nicholas at 01:54 PM | Comments (1)

Sorbara forced to resign from Ontario cabinet

Greg Sorbara, the Finance Minister in the Ontario government, has been forced to resign after coming under an RCMP investigation:

Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty's government was dealt a devastating blow late Tuesday as Finance Minister Greg Sorbara resigned just hours after he was named in a warrant as part of an ongoing RCMP investigation.

Police raided Sorbara's family's real estate development company, the Sorbara Group, amid a criminal investigation into Royal Group Technologies, a company where Sorbara had been a director. "A devastating mistake has been made," an ashen-faced Sorbara said at a hastily called late-night news conference. "I want to tell you that I intend to get to the bottom of that."

Sorbara, McGuinty's right-hand man, is the first cabinet minister in McGuinty's cabinet to resign. He has been under a cloud since police began investigating Royal Group Technologies in February 2004.

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

QotD: Anthropology

Anthropologists are trained in a particular kind of pattern recognition. They are obliged to think of a culture all at once because, according to the post Kantian idea here, a culture, given its druthers, orders all the world all at once.

Or, this is what anthropologists used to think before they cavalierly took "culture," the field's most powerful notion and valuable asset), and bet it at the epistemology table. In a couple of rolls, they lost the whole thing, rendering themselves still less clueful, still more provincial, and now pretty much the poor cousins of the social sciences. (Oh, those French croupiers! Never trust them!) Fortunately, the culture concept was spirited away by other disciplines and certain anthropologists just in time.

Grant McCracken, "Story time 11: Ferreting and the new conditions of corporate knowledge", This Blog Sits at, 2005-10-07

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

October 11, 2005

Rare books for the electronic age

The British Library is making some of its historic works available for online viewing (Shockwave required), including Leonardo da Vinci's notebook, a handwritten history by Jane Austen, and the original illustrated Alice in Wonderland.

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

Understanding the offside rule

If you've ever wondered how the offside rule in soccer is decided, you should visit this site (Flash required).

Posted by Nicholas at 11:22 AM | Comments (0)

Cattallarchy does a Serenity/Firefly round-up

Julian Sanchez alerts us to a bunch of Firefly and Serenity posts at Catallarchy:

Like a flash of light in the darkness, Firefly glowed brilliantly for a brief moment in late 2002 showing the world what television could achieve at its finest. Little respected by its network, it never had a chance to survive for long. Yet, so loved was it by its small core group of followers that simple word of mouth helped surge the ranks of its fans after its inevitable cancellation. The result of this groundswell was the recent release of the movie Serenity.

Shedding the rigid environs of traditional science fiction television, Firefly explores the orders in the process of formation at the edge of civilization. Gone is the shiny sleek chrome of spaceships. These boats sailing the sea of black are covered with grit and rust. The doors don't woosh when they open and close. Mechanical dialogue between ranking officers is replaced with the folksy twang of smugglers and cowboys. Laser guns are expensive and rare, horses are the preferred mode of transportation when in the world, and a cargo of cattle can yield a hefty booty. Assuming, of course, the exchange goes without a hitch, which it never does.

For those of you who'd prefer not to watch the entire DVD set before seeing the movie — although I find that hard to imagine — there are some excellent episode summaries linked from the main page.

Posted by Nicholas at 10:51 AM | Comments (2)

Robot Guy raises the Red Ensign

The 29th edition of the Raising of the Red Ensign is now up at Robot Guy. Go see what interesting posts you've been missing on the other Red Ensign Brigade blogs over the last few weeks.

The 30th edition will be here, if'n the crick don't rise, on the 24th of October.

Posted by Nicholas at 08:31 AM | Comments (2)

QotD: Conservatives

At the moment, Europe is governed largely by politicians of "the right". Jacques Chirac, for example, is in French terms a "conservative". Granted, "conservative" is an elastic designation and, in the hands of the media, it's usually shorthand for the side you're not meant to like: thus, George W Bush is "conservative", and so are unreconstructed Marxists on the Chinese Politburo and the more hardline Ayatollahs. France's Jean-Marie Le Pen is usually described as "extreme right", even though he's an economic protectionist in favour of the minimum wage and lavish subsidies for his country's incompetent industries and inefficient farmers and is a longtime anti-American fiercely opposed to globalization — all of which gives him far more in common with the average leftie than with, say, me. The late Pim Fortuyn of the Netherlands was also labeled as "extreme right", though he was mostly a gay hedonist, and we on the right are usually seen as sour and joyless and too uptight to be any good at sex, insofar as we ever get any.

Mark Steyn, "Right Wing Europe", National Review, 2005-09-15

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

October 10, 2005

QotD: Canadian Films

Shout Factory included two nice bonuses on the disc, including an actual Hinterland Who's Who ("The woodchuck . . ."), and an explanation of Goin' Down The Road meant for Americans (and Canadians under 30 blessed with no memory of the film). Beside the fact that Jayne Eastwood was in both the original and the parody, it included scenes from Shebib's movie that brought back awful memories of just how . . . dreadful, how . . . dismal and grey and drab and ugly Canadian movies were back then. It was like they'd never actually seen a film, but had them described to them, got handed a camera and told to "go out there and give'er, lad!"

Rick McGinnis, guest blogging at Daimnation, 2005-10-04

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

October 09, 2005

QotD: The Death of Childhood

Childhood in large parts of modern Britain, at any rate, has been replaced by premature adulthood, or rather adolescence. Children grow up very fast but not very far. That is why it is possible for 14 year olds now to establish friendships with 26 year olds — because they know by the age of 14 all they are ever going to know.

It is important in this environment to appear knowing, or street wise, otherwise you will be taken for a weakling and exploited accordingly. Thus, feelings for others does not develop. Moreover, the model of discipline in the homes has changed, with the complete breakdown of the family (in my hospital, were it not for the Indian immigrants, the illegitimacy rate of children born there would be 100 per cent). Children grow up now in circumstances in which discipline is merely a matter of imposing the will of one person on another, it is raw power devoid of principal. Lenin's question — Who Whom or who does what to whom — is the whole basis of human relations.

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

Posted by Nicholas at 10:38 AM | Comments (0)

October 08, 2005

Flippin' Spam Comments

Most of my postings here don't attract more than one or two comments. When a post more than a week old gets a comment, it's a bit suspicious. When an older post gets 41 comments, that's highly suspicious. So, "", either you're an incompetent spammer or your computer has been zombified. Oh, but of course . . . you can't read this because I've banned your sorry-ass IP from ever coming back here.

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

QotD: Cellphones

Rome was buzzing. Quite literally. Absolutely everyone had a mobile phone, and absolutely everybody was calling absolutely everybody else absolutely all the time. I wondered if there were some law making them compulsory. Frighteningly, it's possible, these days. I swear I saw a street beggar stop and take a call on his cellular. I even heard a trill from a baby carriage, but it turned out to be a toy mobile phone. They start dickhead training early in Italy.

Rob Grant, Incompetence, 2003

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

October 07, 2005

Making an end of it

Radley Balko talks about death:

"Death with dignity" isn't some touch-feely euphemism. The last days of life can be horrifying. Terminal cancer patients typically lose control of their bladder and bowels. More likely, narcotic pain relievers constipate them, requiring enemas or manual cleansing of the colon. They vomit and bleed. They periodically stop breathing, and gasp and convulse for air. Some become delusional. Some slip into a drug-induced haze, far off from friends and family. The overwhelming majority die in hospitals, not at home. Death can come subtly, or it can come violently. It can come with family all around, or it can come unexpectedly, when few are around.

Contrast that to barbituate cocktail used in assisted suicide, which puts patients to sleep, then guides them into a coma, and then, finally, to death. More than 80 percent of the cases so far in Oregon were done at home, surrounded by friends and family. Patients were lucid, and able to say goodbye.

There are plenty of reasons to approach the "right to death" idea with caution, but if we cannot choose how and when to end our own lives, we cannot be said to own ourselves. Self-ownership must allow the decision of how to end one's own life to be the decision of the person, not the state.

Undoubtedly there are sick or elderly individuals who would be hustled off to an unwelcome end . . . because that already happens now. Probably more than any of us are aware: how ironic is it that those whose deaths are attended by friends and family may end up suffering more than those who die unmourned and unwatched?

Posted by Nicholas at 04:16 PM | Comments (2)

A clap-out for clapped-out jalopies

Autoblog is reporting that

. . . a new oil additive with the unfortunate name of "Clap" could improve the fuel consumption of old car engines by as much as 10 percent.

Clap (stop snickering!) was originally developed in Russia, as a nanoscale powder intended as a lubricant additive. The nanoparticles fill in cracks and abrasions in cylinder walls and pistons, improving combustion and thus fuel efficiency. The problem was finding a powder material that would do the job without compromising the lubricating properties of the oil.

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

This is just so wrong

Firefly, the Next Generation.

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

QotD: Sauvignon Blanc

Because it is usually higher in acid than Chardonnay (or Sémillon, with which it is blended in Bordeaux), Sauvignon Blanc accompanies a far greater range of food. Almost any kind of fish does well with SB — which provides roughly the same flavor-enhancing service as lemon juice. [. . .] To me, a good Sauvignon Blanc should conjure up a picnic in a meadow, with scruffy wildflowers sprinkled amid the grasses and the faintest funky scent of a distant farm on the breeze. Kissing would definitely be part of these bucolic festivities, a little light petting perhaps, but nothing heavier than that. Hey — it's not that kind of wine, if you know what I mean.

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

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

October 06, 2005

Are we running out of oil?

A calming voice in the current "we're all gonna freeze in the dark" media panic over oil:

According to Daniel Yergin, author of "The Prize: The Epic Quest for Oil, Money & Power", society consistently underestimates the impact of technology during times of shortage: "This is not the first time that the world has 'run out of oil.' It's more like the fifth." When we started pumping oil out of pockets in the ground, we were only able to get a small percentage of what was there. Today, we recover about a third of the oil in any given find, which still leaves two-thirds in the ground.

At $66 per barrel, it makes a lot more sense to develop and deploy the technology needed to get oil from those hard to reach places. Yergin predicts a massive surge in the ability to produce oil between now and 2010: "Many of the projects that embody this new capacity were approved in the 2001-03 period."

History backs him up; over the last 100 years, after a period of oil shortage, market forces converge to create the exact opposite: a market awash in oil. If necessity is the mother of invention, the desire to cash in on $66 per barrel oil is a beloved aunt. New oil acquisition methods, like horizontal drilling and steam injection wells, will result in more oil produced from the same places.

Of course, if the Chicken Little faction gets their way, the government response to the current shortage will make the situation much worse. Clamping down on retail prices or imposing rationing will just extend the gasoline shortage for longer. I don't like paying higher prices for gasoline (and most other things, due to the knock-on effect of higher oil prices), but that's the fastest and most humanitarian way of dealing with the temporary shortage.

Higher prices for oil will spur new exploration, encourage otherwise marginal producers to bring supplies to market, and encourage consumer and industrial conservation. Governments intervening in the market will delay or even forestall these useful developments. As in so many other ways, aside from monitoring the market for fraud, governments serve everyone's interests best by getting the heck out of the way.

Posted by Nicholas at 04:49 PM | Comments (0)

TTLB hiccups again . . .

. . . except this time it's in my favour: I've jumped up 700 spots in the TTLB ecosystem to the lofty branches of Large Mammaldom (that sounds even weirder than I thought it would). I expect N.Z. Bear to have fixed that glitch tomorrow, to dump me back down to the Crusty Crustacean level or lower.

Still, the view from the higher branch is quite bracing.


Posted by Nicholas at 03:45 PM | Comments (0)

This has no relationship to real life

Really. Right, Elizabeth?

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

QotD: Bureaucratic Rules

Every [agency] has a built in batch of excuses ready to deflect any criticism. It's called "The Rule Book." and no bureaucracy can exist without one.

It's the single reason why bureaucracies are so hard to change. If a bureaucrat is criticized, he has only to go to the Book and find some rule that justifies whatever action he has taken. And the more mature the bureaucracy, the more complete and complex the Rule Book and the better able it is to cover the butts of its functionaries and protect them from harm, as long as they maintain fealty to the appropriate Rules.

In a bureaucracy, there is never an incentive to do the right thing, only to obey the rules. If you doubt the veracity of that statement, just go spend a day in any government office.

Charles Stone, Jr., "Lessons That Will Never Be Learned", Libertarian Enterprise, 2005-09-25

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

October 05, 2005

The Vikings' woes

I managed not to whine about this past weekend's blowout by the Atlanta Falcons, but just barely. This was a team that many experts were expecting to go deep into the playoffs, and a few were talking Superbowl appearance (which would be the first time the Vikings had gone that far since Superbowl XI in 1977). After a 1-3 start, and a wide range of problems, they're lucky to be playing in the weakest division in football: the NFC North.

Vikings War Cry has some thoughts:

For those looking to hang someone in effigy for Sunday’s debacle, don't blame Daunte Culpepper. You can't fault a guy that gets sacked 9 times in a game even if he did throw 2 interceptions and lost a fumble. The Falcons took advantage of a very weak and inexperienced offensive line causing a tremendous amount of pressure on the QB. Culpepper has now been sacked 16 times in the last 2 games. Now he knows how David Carr must feel down in Houston. To make matters worse, he’s complaining of bursitis on the knee and even back-up QB Brad Johnson is praying that Culpepper is healthy enough to play against the Chicago Bears on Oct. 16th.

Is Daunte a bad QB? Absolutely not. Were it not for Peyton Manning's record breaking performance last year, Culpepper would have been the League MVP. Think Culpepper misses Randy Moss? Probably, but I bet he misses Pro Bowl Center Matt Birk more. Corey Withrow looks like a human turnstile, missing blocking assignments and incapable of picking up blitzes. And if you think he's bad, rookie right guard Marcus Johnson is worse. He looks like a Matador at a bull fight . . . Ole!

It's a long season, but unless the O-line starts performing better, we'll be down to our third-string quarterback by November.

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

More "news" photo follies

Jon passed along another example of how photography is being used as a subtle propaganda tool:

What can we take from this? That Reuters and the Associated Press happily purchase photos from photographers who actively collude with the "insurgents". And that Reuters hides the identity of the photographer it uses.

Your media at work. Trust the Reuters and AP photos you see republished in the NZ Herald? Trust the footage filmed by Reuters and AP video-cameramen for CNN and other news services?

Of course, it's foolish to think that news agencies and networks don't try to report the news from certain perspectives (does anyone really believe in the "objectivity" of news reporting any more?). This is a few shades murkier than just cherry-picking the image that most closely aligns with the subtext you'd like to provide . . . this is unabashed propaganda.

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

A cunning hat

In Firefly, Jayne Cobb (played by Adam Baldwin) receives a particularly striking hat as a gift. Ma Cobb's Hat Shoppe is happy to sell you one of your own, should you be brave enough to wear it.


Jayne: "I got post?"

Book: "Might we all want to step back a few paces before he opens that?"

Jayne: "Ha ha. It's from my mother."

Jayne: (wearing ugly homemade hat) "How's it sit? Pretty cunning, don'tchya think?"

Kaylee: "I think it's the sweetest hat ever."

Book: "Makes a statement."

Jayne: "Yeah, yeah!"

Wash: "A man walks down the street in that hat, people know he's not afraid of anything."

Jayne: "Damn straight."

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

Brigade reinforcements arrive

I'd like to extend a welcome to the two newest members of the Red Ensign Brigade, Rootleweb and Italics Mine.

Posted by Nicholas at 08:22 AM | Comments (0)

QotD: Tolerance

Is it really a victory for "tolerance" to say that a council worker cannot have a Piglet coffee mug on her desk? And isn't an ability to turn a blind eye to animated piglets the very least the West is entitled to expect from its Muslim citizens? If Islam cannot "co-exist" even with Pooh or the abstract swirl on a Burger King ice-cream, how likely is it that it can co-exist with the more basic principles of a pluralist society? As A A Milne almost said: "They're changing guard at Buckingham Palace/ Her Majesty's Law is replaced by Allah's."

By the way, isn't it grossly offensive to British Wahhabis to have a head of state who is female and uncovered?

Mark Steyn, "Making a pig's ear of defending democracy", Telegraph Online, 2005-10-04

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

October 04, 2005

The "Ouch-my-brain" post of the day

Tim Cavanaugh finds an essay just chock-full of brain-crogglement:

The tipping point as to why we can lose the war in another way, is self-explanatory, to wit — when we let a bunch of marijuana-smelling, Beetle hair-styled, dirty-faced wild guitar-playing zombies, capsule-upper-downer-dependent brush artists from the dark side of art for art's sake, heroin-sniffing metallic rockers and their Woodstock, cheering drug-addict teenage fans and followers, politically drunk Hollywood activists, school drop-outs, alcohol-soaked bike-riding beatniks, moonstruck religious freaks, urban drifters and their kind, lord our streets and win the war for the Vietcong and the North Vietnamese army.

I'm not sure, but I think we just surrendered to Proxima Centauri.

Stevo Darkly summed it up well in the comments to the original post:

I think the seed of a potentially apt metaphor fell upon the all-too-fertile droppings of rancor, and sprouted into a clarity-smothering kudzu vine of unrestrained berserkery.

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


Jon emailed me on Monday morning, saying "I take it that Serenity must have sucked, otherwise there would be something on Quotulatiousness about it." In spite of Jon's provocation, I didn't post a review yesterday . . . or much of anything (as you may have noticed). Sometimes, life gets in the way of blogging. Yesterday was such a day.

The movie? I loved it, but I was already halfway there before the first scene, so my approval may not carry the same weight as if I'd been openly skeptical beforehand. Serenity is deeply involving, even for those who were not fans of the TV series, with just enough action to keep the teenage male demographic satisfied, but with enough intelligence and depth to engage the interests of the post-teen market.

Go see this movie!

I was worried, coming in to the movie, that Joss Whedon may have had to undermine all the great things that first attracted me to Firefly in order to appeal to an audience that hadn't already been exposed to the 'verse. I needn't have worried: he retold just enough back-story so that newcomers didn't feel totally adrift, and he made the retelling fascinating enough to overcome the nitpickers among the Browncoats (those who spend their lives looking for plot holes and authorial inconsistencies).

Go see this movie!

I was also worried that the look and feel of the 'verse would not translate well to the big screen: there are plenty of examples of big movies that do not work on TV, so this was a concern. I also needn't have worried: they didn't spend all their money on gosh-wow-golly special effects . . . most of what they did spend was well chosen, but (unlike other science fiction movies) the special effects are not the story. The effects are good enough . . . they neither dominate the story nor detract from it.

Go see this movie!

With a large ensemble cast, as Firefly had, it was possible for each character to be given centre stage during the course of the series, so that your understanding of the role of the character as well as their depth of involvement with one another could be clearly demonstrated. In a feature movie, this is impossible. Inara, Book, Jayne, Kaylee, Simon, Wash, and Zoe get enough time on screen to be real characters for non-aficionado moviegoers, but they are clearly supporting cast for Serenity. Important supporting cast, but not as central to the story as they were in various episodes of the series.

Go see this movie!

Mal, River, and the villain ("the Operative") are the central characters for Serenity, and the movie does not suffer for this decision: the movie must tell a complete story arc (completing one of the loose ends from Firefly, but leaving others unexplored). Nathan Fillion (Malcolm Reynolds) does a great job as the male lead: he portrays the Captain in a much darker, more intense, much grittier fashion than in the series. I was impressed that Fillion — whose acting strength always seemed to be towards the comedic rather than the dramatic — managed to take his character into such dark places without losing the essential humanity that made the original role so appealing.

Go see this movie!

Summer Glau (River Tam) shows her amazing flexibility, both as an actor and as a gymnast. Her character requires carefully gauged performance: too over-the-top and you lose audience sympathy, too guarded and controlled and the audience doesn't realize what torment she's going through. Glau did a wonderful job of the extremes needed to highlight the pain and terror, without losing sight of the fact that she's just a teenage girl. For my money, the "teenage-girl-kicking-ass" motif can be overdone, but I'm sure that played well with the under-20's in the audience.

Go see this movie!

The Operative (played by Chiwetel Ejiofor) is horrifyingly good at being bad. He's a monster, in the same sense as the cultured, educated Nazis who organized the "Final Solution" were. He is a true believer in his cause — to create a "better world" — at whatever cost is necessary. He is consciously aware that such a perfect world would not have a place for a man like him, but he believes so intensely that this is no handicap to him. He is totally without conscience or scruple in pursuit of his goal.

Go see this movie!

Am I being subtle enough with the inter-paragraph subliminal messages? If not, I'll say it again: Go see this movie!

Update: Colby Cosh liked the movie, although you have to read right to the bottom of the article before you discover that. He's much less taken with the Browncoats, however, and the cult of personality he perceives around Joss Whedon.

Posted by Nicholas at 02:40 PM | Comments (0)

Local amusements

Like many of you, we receive a weekly local paper. It's not normally a source of much other than strictly local news, but it undoubtedly more than earns its keep as a wrapper for the ads. I was astonished to find that it does occasionally print amusing stories, like this one by Neil Crone:

Halfway through this spectacle I caught myself smiling. It was not a lecherous or puerile smile. It was more the kind of smile you find yourself wearing when you get a chance to watch your favourite hockey star up close, or when you get your first real glimpse of a mountain or an ocean. I suppose it's awe.

Although, in this case I will admit there may have been a trace of envy in there too. Boil any man down to his essence and I'm afraid we're all just like that bad boy in the field. Deep inside every guy, regardless of education, manners or culture, there's a bovine straining at the halter. Yes, it's a short life, and all too soon, you wind up on a styrofoam plate in Zehrs, but while you're here man, you're living out loud.

It's just eat, drink, fight and please the ladies 24/7. Come to think of it, I guess it's like being Russell Crowe.

Never let it be said that the local newspaper is full of bull. Except in this case, of course. Neil Crone also maintains a new-ish blog.

Hat tip to Elizabeth for pointing out the article to me.

Posted by Nicholas at 02:28 PM | Comments (0)

Flagging respect

Apparently, England's flag is considered racist:

British prison officers who wore a St. George's Cross tie-pin have been ticked off by the jails watchdog over concerns about the symbol's racist connotations.

The pins showing the English flag — which has often raised hackles due to its connection with the Crusades of the 11th, 12th and 13th centuries — could be "misconstrued," Chief Inspector of Prisons Anne Owers said in a section on race in a report on a jail in the northern English city of Wakefield.

The banner of St. George, the red cross of a martyr on a white background, was adopted for the uniform of English soldiers during the military expeditions by European powers to recapture the Holy Land from Muslims, and later became the national flag of England.

CNN is also holding a helpful poll on that page, allowing people to indicate whether they think that England should change its flag.

Hat tip to Jon for the link.

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

The Babbler goes quiet

I'm very sorry to see that Damian "Babbling" Brooks has decided to shutter his blog, at least for the time being. Damian has been one of the staunchest members of the Red Ensign Brigade, and was certainly one of the most interesting characters in the unit. I can understand blog-fatigue (it gets most of us in the end), but as Chris Taylor recently proved . . . it can be beaten.

I'm definitely going to miss Damian's writing, his sense of humour, and his total inability to hold his drink. (There, see if that last jab won't bring him out of the woodwork again!)

Posted by Nicholas at 11:29 AM | Comments (2)

A real-life Lovejoy?

Jon passed along a link to a Toronto Star article (reg. req'd) on theft in the antique map world:

With his neat blazer and scholarly air, it was not hard for E. Forbes Smiley III to blend in at the Yale rare books library and make himself at home among its atlases and maps.

But this visit to the Beinecke Library at Yale on June 8 by Smiley, a 49-year-old dealer in antiquities who plied his trade on both sides of the Atlantic, took a turn that has jolted the closed and covetous world of map dealers and collectors, as well as the serene if starchy institutions that hold treasured maps.

According to the local police, a library worker's discovery of an X-Acto knife blade on the reading room floor near Smiley was the first hint of trouble. By early afternoon, they say, librarians had video images of Smiley removing from a book an antique map valued by Yale at $150,000 (U.S.). Later that day, the police say, they found in his jacket a fragile map that appeared to have been taken from a 17th-century book; others that also appeared to be stolen, worth more than $700,000, were in his briefcase.

Posted by Nicholas at 11:20 AM | Comments (0)

QotD: Harriet Miers

Orin Kerr at Volokh has rounded up some reactions to the Miers nomination from folks who normally, had the president accused each of them personally of having shot JFK from the grass knoll, would insist it must be true. Even the ones under 40. They're screaming bloody murder. I half expect to see Michelle Malkin referring to BusHitler.

Julian Sanchez, "Quagmiers", Hit and Run, 2005-10-03

Posted by Nicholas at 08:19 AM | Comments (0)

October 03, 2005

QotD: Sexual stereotypes

What an interesting news day.

First, Drudge links to a ridiculous story saying the English are going right past normal sex to in-vitro fertilization. Because sex is a bother.

This seems to confirm something I say all the time, which is that women have vestigial, wimpy, off-and-on sex drives compared to the always-on, intense, decision-impairing, porn-industry-supporting sex drives with which God has afflicted men. And the story seems to confirm my belief that a lot of them marry men in whom they have very little sexual or emotional interest (you find that out after the ring goes on). I would be surprised to learn that English men are the problem here. Yes, a lot of them seem sort of gay by American standards, but I'm that's just the accent and the mannerisms. Not every effeminate man wants another man.

Although it's kind of hard to think of one who doesn't.

Steve H., "Asexual Reproduction and Gay Priests: Soon Only Priests Will be Having Decent Sex", Hog on Ice, 2005-09-25

Posted by Nicholas at 08:17 AM | Comments (0)

October 02, 2005

QotD: British Europhilia

"Only Ken can go to Europe" is a weird post-modern inversion of the "Only Nixon can go to China" rationale: Mr Clarke wants to get credit as a straight-talking man of principle for refusing to equivocate about his willingness to sell Britain out to a European superstate, while simultaneously preserving his political viability on the grounds that, even though he's willing to sell out, nobody in Europe's interested in buying.

Mark Steyn, "Kenneth Clarke is all smoke and no fire", Telegraph Online, 2005-09-27

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

October 01, 2005

QotD: Bureaucracy

American government at all levels has become so huge and complex that it has evolved into a series of hierarchical fiefdoms solely devoted to their own growth and self-preservation.

The Federal bureaucracies are the worst because they are the least accountable and most removed from the people they are supposed to serve. Notice I said "supposed to serve." In the real world, if a bureaucracy actually provides a good service, it is by accident. The service just happened to fall into the narrow confines of the rule book and so could be provided without risk or excessive expense.

The only real function of a bureaucracy at any level is to survive, to gather assets (manpower, treasure, influence, etc.) and to gain political power for its leaders. The idea that a bureaucracy will spontaneously do good is ludicrous.

Charles Stone, Jr., "Lessons That Will Never Be Learned", Libertarian Enterprise, 2005-09-25

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

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