January 31, 2006

Exploring the innards of a Luger

I've always loved the look of the German Luger P08 pistol. I've never fired one, and only handled one real one, so this post at Castle Argghhh was very interesting indeed.

The Luger is one of the most distinctive and widely-recognized pistols the world over. You can thank WWI, WWII, and war movies for that. Well, that, and perhaps because the Luger Navy Model of 1904 introduced the world to the 9mm Euroweenie pellet, as Kim du Toit is want to call that round. Regardless of what I or Kim think, however, it is the most common pistol and sub-machine gun round, and the Luger Navy Model of 1904 introduced it to the world. Georg Luger was the designer of that bullet, building on his design of the 7.65 Luger round, which he developed after recognizing the need to make shorter, yet reasonably powerful rounds if automatic pistols were going to get down to a useful size.

The impetus for the development of the Luger pistol gathered steam in the period of 1890-1900. The gunmakers in Europe and the US were angling to land large military orders as the 1st rank armies of Europe were looking to modernize, and the US Army had discovered weaknesses in it’s arms in the Spanish American War. In Germany it was DWM, Mauser, and Bergmann; in England Webley & Scott, to name some of the major players. US interest came on the heels of the success of the European efforts.

What most people I’ve talked to don't know is that the Luger has an sorta-American connection. Georg Luger, the primary engineer, collaborated with the Hugo Borchardt to develop the first Luger pistol, improving on Borchardt's initial design by removing the balance and handling-destroying rear overhang and replacing it with a recoil link and spring in the butt of the pistol, vastly improving the handling of the pistol.

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

Modern-day dung beetle

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Sculpture by David Trant

Dave told me about the sculpture he was working on last week, and I liked the idea of it so much that I asked him to send me a photo of the piece when it was done. I still really like it.

Posted by Nicholas at 03:16 PM | Comments (1)

Gen. Hillier on board for massive recruiting effort

CP is reporting that Chief of the Defence Staff, General Rick Hillier thinks the Canadian Forces could absorb the rush of new recruits promised by the incoming Conservative government:

Canada's top soldier says the military can absorb the thousands of new troops promised in the Conservative campaign platform if the new government also comes up with the money to train and equip them.

Gen. Rick Hillier, the chief of the defence staff, says it wouldn't be easy enlisting and training the 13,000 regulars and 10,000 reservists promised by the Tories, but it can be done if the money is there.

He says it would mean short-term pain as people are pulled off other duties to train the newcomers, but the benefits in the long run would be worth the effort.

You can't blame the man for feeling that he has to jump on this almost unprecedented opportunity to bring in a vast number of new recruits . . . the moment may pass quicker than he imagines, leaving the Canadian Forces with the illusion of augmented strength, the reality of greater expectations, and little in the way of real improvement in funding, staffing, or equipment.

Posted by Nicholas at 02:50 PM | Comments (0)

BB&T gets it right

BB&T, the ninth-largest American bank, has announced it will no longer provide financial support for projects which depend on the use of eminent domain:

This gets us back to the other misunderstood thing about BB&T's decision. It is clearly saying to customers — and would-be customers — that the bank stands with them on re-development issues, not with the developers and government officials. As a result, the bank can be thought of as practicing its own version of stakeholder capitalism that broadens the corporate governance imperative beyond what is best for shareholders. Whole Foods contracts for wind-generated electricity for its stores to align itself with the greenie ethos of it customers. Similarly, BB&T avoids big, government-forced development projects that often roll over the bank's small business-based clientele. Decent enough policies which may, in fact, actually differentiate these companies enough in the marketplace to have a positive impact on the corporate bottom-line. That certainly seems to be the effect with Whole Foods. It is too soon to tell with BB&T.

Of course, there will not be any differentiation should other banks follow BB&T's lead. There is no reason why they could not. If credit card companies can refuse to do business with Internet tobacco-outlets, banks can skirt controversial development projects involving government condemnations and seizures of land for private development. Yet two of BB&T's bigger North Carolina-based rivals, indeed two the biggest banks in the U.S., Wachovia and Bank of America, have already declined to follow BB&T's lead.

In a more sensible world, that decision would be the odd and unusual one.

I'm suddenly finding myself a fan of a bank. I sure didn't see that one coming.

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

Sorry for the test message

Jon was having access issues with the site admin page, so I had to check to see if it was going to be a problem for blog administration. Apparently not, so I deleted the test message . . . which may have puzzled one or two visitors.

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

QotD: Wal-Mart

You know, to me Wal-Mart is a lot like George W. Bush. It's not that I'm that big a fan in the abstract, really, it's just that the viciousness and stupidity revealed in its enemies tends to make me view it more favorably than I otherwise would.

Glenn Reynolds, Instapundit, 2006-01-26

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

January 30, 2006

ESR on the Canadian Arctic

Eric S. Raymond finds some amusement in the notion of Canada actually defending the far north:

But let's just start by considering all the wisecracks about the Canadian military to have been made already, shall we? True, they're about as intimidating as three troops of Girl Scouts nowadays, but it's not really fair to harsh on them; they were a tough, professional service before po-mo leftism in the Canadian elite made it national policy that the military could never be more than a joke.

What's much funnier is that the U.S. mainstream media sees Harper's maneuver as an I'm-not-your-poodle message to George Bush. There's some justification for this; Harper is doubtless playing that card to stroke Canadian Liberal voters, who indeed do tend to hate Bush almost as intensely and irrationally as the U.S. press does.

But really! Over a bunch of ice floes on the sub-zero ass-end of nowhere? Harper, an ex-libertarian, isn't that stupid. Anybody who can't hear the wink-wink-nudge-nudge in Harper's parody of territorial posturing is tone-deaf.

Harper is doing something much deeper and funnier here. He's catching the Left in a trap. If they want to join him in his anti-Bush polemic, they're going to have to stand behind the principles of — national sovereignity? Patriotism? Rendered idiots by their hatred, many of them will probably take the bait — not anticipating that their own rhetoric is going to come back around to hammer them flat sometime when there's a serious issue on the table.

Posted by Nicholas at 07:02 PM | Comments (0)

An extremely alternative view of last Friday's blogfest

Canadian Headhunter also attended the blogger bash on Friday night, but he must have me confused with someone else:

And did I mention Nick Quotavicious? I love that guy. His goal in life is to memorize every nasty quip that's ever been said and find a way to use it in his everyday life. He mumbles something nasty every time he passes by me but I can't quite make it out so I don't care.

Update: Antonia Zerbisias also has a blog entry up on the gathering . . . including the photo I took of her and Greg Staples (using Greg's camera, not my light-challenged Treo).

Posted by Nicholas at 03:59 PM | Comments (0)

Was Stonehenge "Disneyfied"?

[Ghost of a Flea] has a link to a fascinating story of which I was previously unaware: the rebuilding of Stonehenge:

For decades the official Stonehenge guidebooks have been full of fascinating facts and figures and theories surrounding the world's greatest prehistoric monument. What the glossy brochures do not mention, however, is the systematic rebuilding of the 4,000 year old stone circle throughout the 20th Century.

This is one of the dark secrets of history archaeologists don't talk about: The day they had the builders in at Stonehenge to recreate the most famous ancient monument in Britain as they thought it ought to look.

From 1901 to 1964, the majority of the stone circle was restored in a series of makeovers which have left it, in the words of one archaeologist, as 'a product of the 20th century heritage industry'. But the information is markedly absent from the guidebooks and info-phones used by tourists at the site. Coming in the wake of the news that the nearby Avebury stone circle was almost totally rebuilt in the 1920s, the revelation about Stonehenge has caused embarrassment among archaelogists. English Heritage, the guardian of the monument, is to rewrite the official guide, which dismisses the Henge's recent history in a few words. Dave Batchelor, English Heritage's senior archaeologist said he would personally rewrite the official guide. 'The detail was dropped in the Sixties', he admitted. 'But times have changed and we now believe this is an important piece of the Stonehenge story and must be told'.

Note, however, the suspicious domain name of the host site: www.ufos-aliens.co.uk.

Posted by Nicholas at 03:50 PM | Comments (4)

That's gonna leave a mark

Mark Steyn, on the federal election results:

[I]t seems one can never underestimate the appeal of a party of floundering discredited kleptocrat incompetents led by a vindictive empty suit who fought one of the most inept campaigns in modern political history.

Posted by Nicholas at 03:29 PM | Comments (0)

QotD: Urban and ex-Urban

Canada is different from the States in fewer ways than any of our city-borne media realize. We have the same basic Left/Right division, with the same sorts of views on both sides (both in English and French). The difference between countries is geographic — and derives from the fact that so little of Canada is habitable. We lack the vast, occupied, American outdoors. Against the wind blowing from the Arctic, we are huddled together more densely in cities. A much higher proportion of our population is therefore to be found in typical "Blue State" environments — where people have lost all contact with nature, and by increments, with the realities of life.

The over-urbanized are the willing clients of the nanny state. They are loathe to take responsibility for anything; they assume when anything goes wrong, some specialist or expert will fix it. Even when they have children they expect "child-care facilities". They are salaried people; few have ever taken a risk on their own dime. Their taxes are lifted from them at source. They are easily frightened when a Paul Martin or a Jack Layton warns that a bogeyman from Alberta is going to take their entitlements away.

David Warren, "The Urban Angle", Ottawa Citizen, 2006-01-25

Posted by Nicholas at 08:31 AM | Comments (4)

January 29, 2006

How not to dovetail

Among my lesser goals in life is to be able to create a proper dovetail joint. I only say that because my first attempt (today) has not been particularly successful:

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This is what is known as the "pin board" of a dovetail joint. It's the easier, less technically challenging part of creating the joint. As you can see, it's pretty straightforward: mark out the pins, cut out everything that isn't a pin, and Bob's your uncle.

Please don't ask where that expression came from . . . I don't even have a male relative of the previous generation called "Robert", so why I'm using it is already too weird to explore.

Anyway, the idea is that you create the pins first, then use the pins to mark out the dovetails on the matching piece of wood. Here is the completed pin board:

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Looks okay at this resolution, right?

The astute among the readership will notice that I'm not providing a close-up view of this first part of the joint. The matching "tail" portion of the joint shows that I'm still not really clear on the concept of mating parts:

Dovetail_1893.jpg

Still, the strength of the (ancient) joint is apparent when I finally manage to chisel away the excess and put the two pieces together at a 90 degree angle:

Dovetail_1895.jpg

Even with the ugly gaps as highlighted in the photo above, it's still a really strong joint. I'm working with somewhat thicker stock than you'd normally use for a dovetail joint (3/4" rather than 3/8" to 1/2"), but it's already clear to me why this joint has become one of the standard joints for woodworking: even with my sloppy measurement, the joint is tight and effective:

Dovetail_1896.jpg

It's a pain in the butt to create, but the resulting joint is very strong indeed. I may not use hand tools to do this in future, but I'm definitely sold on the dovetail as a solution to the problem of joining wood panels at a 90 degree angle.

Posted by Nicholas at 10:29 PM | Comments (4)

QotD: Preparing for an Argument

Things I am not . . .

I am not a "theist"
I am not a "statist"
I am not a misogynist who just wants to control women
I am not a puritan who wants to punish women for having sex
I am not an "abortion monger"
I am not a "would-be baby killer"

Staking out the middle ground on abortion is so much fun, isn't it?

Jane Galt, "Things I am not", Asymmetrical Information, 2006-01-25

Posted by Nicholas at 12:46 AM | Comments (0)

January 28, 2006

VRWC gathering blogged

The VRWC bloggers, and assorted MSM, NQAVLWC bloggers, blog readers, and puzzled onlookers gathered last night at Fiddler's Green, a pub in downtown Toronto.

As is my usual habit, I was among the advance party, arriving just at 6:00. Among the other advance party were co-host Bob Tarantino and Heather, Damian "Babbling" Brooks, and Brian Mertens. We were joined not long afterwards by Liam NeesonGreg Staples, John the Mad, and a non-blogger friend of his who took full part in the political discussions around the table.

I started to lose track of the arrivals, and there were a lot of arrivals. I'd guess we ended up with 50-60 bloggers/MSM/blogreaders (and there may have been more folks arriving as I had to leave earlier than usual). It was a remarkably well-behaved party, under the political circumstances, and almost the only violence of the night was when Andrew Coyne hit me with a pool cue.

I took more bad photos, but most of the early evening photos are just too dark to use. We were driven out of the downstairs room we'd swamped when the staff started up the Karaoke. You have never seen a party die so fast. We moved up to the third floor, to the room we had originally booked (or so Bob claimed . . .).

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John the Mad, not quite as mad as advertised.

Greg Bester and John the Mad's non-blogging friend

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Jason Cherniak, the other co-host of the gathering.

The T-shirt of the night, worn by an anonymous non-blogger who arrived with WonderWoman (the shirt was actually grey, but my Treo's built-in camera doesn't handle low-light images as well as I'd like).

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The Last Amazon

Andrew Coyne, just before the pool cues came out

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Accordion Guy provided some musical accompaniment to the political blather

Antonia Z and Greg Staples (I took a much better photo using Greg's camera, actually)

The party was great, overall, but I certainly felt I'd over-used my vocal cords when I woke up this morning. I sounded like someone trying to do a bad Lauren Bacall imitation at the bottom of a well.

Posted by Nicholas at 01:42 PM | Comments (11)

QotD: Free Speech in Canada

[T]he degree to which speech in Canada has been corralled and controlled by the courts, ever-invasive government institutions and unaccountable "human rights" tribunals is deeply disturbing. The trend has been reinforced for decades by a Liberal party reward system for pro-Liberal journalism, overtly (through diplomatic postings and Senate seat appointments) and financially. In America, the largest advertiser is Procter & Gamble. In Canada, it is the federal government.

Kate McMillan, "Morning In Canada", CBC - Canada Votes 2005, 2006-01-24

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

January 27, 2006

"Do you remember when . . .?"

Twenty years ago, the Challenger was destroyed shortly after take-off. For many people, it was the 1980s equivalent of the Kennedy assassination . . . people remember exactly when they heard the news. I'm no different.

I was working as a co-op student at IBM Canada, when Don McCaig, one of the "lifers", came up to me in the hall and said, in a shocked voice, "the shuttle just blew up". I didn't immediately grasp what he was talking about — we had a company van we called "the shuttle" to move staff from the main lab building to the office building in which we worked. At first, I thought he meant that shuttle. I started to make some lame joke about auto maintenance, and then it hit me what he was really talking about.

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

The tribulations of being a public figure

Brian Mertens has a good post about the down side of being a public figure:

No wonder Paul Martin goes to a private clinic — for privacy.

For future reference, if I ever become a public figure: If I have been rushed to the hospital unable to breathe, and I'm wearing a backless gown . . . it's going to be a NO COMMENT. Thanks.

I can't wait for the Citizen's next interview with Harper, conducted from the stall next to his in a Tim Horton's bathroom:

"Had a lot of coffee this morning, huh? Mr. Prime Minister?"

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

QotD: The Pharmaceutical Industry

The health care market can cope with change just fine. That is, if the regulatory system lets it. The problem with vaccines isn't that you can't charge enough money for them; it's that vaccines are very useful things, which tempts governments to break the patent. It is thus perhaps wiser for pharmas to invest in a good baldness cure than something that people actually need. But this is not a market failure; it is a government failure.

Jane Galt, Asymmetrical Information, 2006-01-05

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

January 26, 2006

Transferrable ballotting in real time

Via Andrew Coyne, here is an interesting application of the idea of the transferrable ballot, to simulate electing a new Liberal leader. With the votes current when I visited the site, the final showdown was between Stephane Dion and John Manley.

It's rather interesting watching the ballots shift from round to round, as each time there is no outright winner, the candidate with the lowest number of votes drops off the ballot and the preferences are retested.

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

More on the "Chocolate City" remark

In my referrer logs, the link to New Orleans mayor Ray Nagin's comment about New Orleans remaining a "chocolate city" is still one of the most common search strings for visitors to the blog. In a closely related theme, James Lileks has an interesting screed about how that comment was bowdlerized by the Courier-Journal to "avoid giving offense".

Here's the punchline:

Though the editor's personal sensibilities are to be admired, this time they did not serve the readers, or the newspaper, or journalism.

This time. Apparently it's happened before, and you have no idea how many times something has been changed because the editor's personal sensibilities — the editor's admirable personable sensibilities — led him or her to paraphrase the truth for your protection.

When they say they have gatekeepers, they aren't kidding.

Posted by Nicholas at 10:47 AM | Comments (2)

QotD: Canadian Nationalism

If Maude Barlow, David Orchard and Mel Hurtig (remember him?) really thought the AmeriKKKans were going to take over our country and kill us all, they'd be demanding that Canada get its own nuclear deterrent.

Damian Penny, "Imitation of the Day", Daimnation!, 2006-01-19

Posted by Nicholas at 12:38 AM | Comments (0)

January 25, 2006

Youth is wasted on the young

Jane Galt harks back to the good old days:

I mean, a lot of you may think that I'm smart now. But when I was in school, I was a supergenius. Any old idiot can get to be a genius merely by dint of having a 150 IQ, but my intellect was of finer stuff altogether, faster than a speeding bullet and more powerful then the people who get to decide whether or not you make it onto American Idol. Even better, I knew everything*. My intellectual superiority to the rubes who did not attend my august institution — and many of those who did — was a tangible, glorious thing, which animated my days and warmed those dark nights when the boiler broke and I had to sleep in my entire wardrobe.

Best of all, I thought that I had invented snotty. Waxing sarcastic about the opinions of others was just so wickedly fun, especially when those other people were right there where I could watch the backs of their necks turn red. It honed my verbal skills to a sharp edge. It impressed the hell out of my fellow students, proving to everyone that I was exactly the supergenius I thought I was. The fact that other, older people, were not snotty confirmed my opinion that I must be some sort of genetic breakthrough, far outstripping the mental powers of my doddering elders. [. . .]

* In a job interview a while back, I was being quizzed by an economics professor about how I had liked graduate school, and the intervening period. "When I graduated from grad school," I said ruefully, "I thought I knew everything important there was to know. Four years later, I've been humbled."

"Everyone thinks they know everything when they get out of grad school," he said solemnly. "Count yourself lucky that you got over it--a lot of my colleagues never do."

Posted by Nicholas at 06:51 PM | Comments (0)

The Rubik's Cube that is Quebec

Jon sent a link to this Free Will article on the implications of the Tory surge in Quebec:

Quebec, up to this point, has never been a mature post-Enlightenment culture, and generally remained mired in feudalism much longer than the rest of North America. They are the French, but never went through the changes of the French Revolution, nor have they had modern and firm experience in self-governance, only participating in a government that was long seen as foreign and disinterested, if not as an actual enemy. Indeed, that government did not enjoy true sovereignty until just a few decades ago, and took those steps somewhat reluctantly rather than with confident self-assertion. (In fact, their one grand attempt at doing so, the Rebellions of 1837, ended in failure, with the British uniting Ontario and Quebec in the aftermath, almost as if to punish them both.)

Interesting, although it's a lot of supposition built on only indications that may be misleading or temporary. Still, it's worth reading.

Posted by Nicholas at 06:05 PM | Comments (2)

Austin Bay on the Canadian Forces

Austin Bay has some thoughts on revitalizing the Canadian military:

The term "Canadian military" should never be an oxymoron, but after a decade of reduction and decline, what was once one of the world's most able and elite combat organizations is now a hollow force.

The slide in defense funding that began in the mid-1990s is one cause. The current Canadian defense budget buys about 25 percent less bang and less peacekeeping than it did 10 years ago.

With the end of the Cold War, some reduction in force structure was understandable.

Actually, the Canadian government was cashing in the "peace dividend" long before anyone else in the west . . . even before it could be said to exist. The peak of Canadian involvement in NATO was probably the mid-1960s to mid-1970s. From the second Trudeau government onwards, every change in military policy seemed to be a step back from front-line commitment, a weakening of the numbers of fighting troops, a reduction in the quantity of equipment to be provided. They say there's a lot of ruin in a country, and after the last 30 years, you'd have to say the same about the military: it's amazing that there still are Canadian Armed Forces left.

Post-Cold War, North American geography played a role. Here's that presumption: The United States would always be there to defend Canada, so why bother maintaining military forces?

Canadian governments consciously decided to become parasitical on the American military. Is it any wonder that Americans view us as military freeloaders? We no longer have the "lift" to get our troops to where they're needed without help. We don't need to build a miniature of the entire US arsenal, but we do need to invest in replacing obsolete equipment and re-acquiring transport, supply, and support capabilities we used to have.

I have yet to meet or serve with a Canadian soldier who failed to impress me with his professionalism and discipline. In my experience — in terms of individual, quality personnel — only Australian troops match Canadians on a one-for-one basis.

Two years ago, I had the privilege of serving with Australian troops in Iraq. The Aussies are crack.[. . .]

Today, Canada has too few of these fine troops, and the superior troops Canada does field are not supplied with the modern, first-rate weapons and equipment they deserve — at least, not in sufficient numbers.

There is so much that needs to be done just to properly support our existing troops in current commitments in the way of equipment that it risks sounding totally unrealistic to talk about new equipment for future roles; but that is exactly what the new minister needs to tackle ASAP. The troops on deployment right now will (unfortunately) see very little direct improvement in their situation . . . military equipment is usually a long-term purchase, but there are undoubtedly small things we can do in the short-term to make their jobs easier and less risky.

One aspect of the rhetorical differences between Canada and the United States may have been (unintentionally) of significant assistance to US policy:

In many ways, the Canadian rhetorical and political game of "We Aren't America" is a reasonable, if semi-hypocritical posture. The game has actually benefited the great cause of freedom. In Cold War situations where American troops or observers might have escalated tensions, Canadians could provide security, stability and democratic presence. Canada could be the United States without Washington's alleged baggage. Those of us who understood the stakes were thankful.

Posted by Nicholas at 05:22 PM | Comments (0)

Traffic Patterns

Well, having a brief look at the old traffic stats, I'd have to say that elections are the viagra of the blogosphere. During the last month, my traffic almost tripled, boosting me back up to the "Large Mammal" group on the TTLB Ecosystem. I don't expect that temporary boost to last much longer, but it's been pleasant thinking that I'm providing an interesting blog for a larger group of readers.

This is the first time I've broken into the top 1000 on the TTLB, so pardon me while I revel in it for a second:

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Okay. I'm done. Back to the desert of the real . . .

Posted by Nicholas at 10:18 AM | Comments (1)

Missing the point of "intellectual property"

There's a Yahoo mailing list I lurk on devoted to medieval woodworking. It's a pretty good-natured list, with a good mix of experienced woodworkers and newbies, and the moderator rarely has had to step in to cool things down. Until recently.

A lot of the members of the mailing list are SCA and/or Ren Faire artisans, a good number of whom sell their products to supplement their income. The topic of intellectual property was introduced last week and a raging firestorm of controversy broke out . . . okay, a comparative firestorm for this list, anyway.

The purists are, as you would expect, demanding that intellectual property be respected and that no woodworker use the designs of another without at least acknowledgement (and, for professionals, compensation). Their opponents are insisting that there's no way for these things to be policed and anyway, nobody is earning a living wage making these reproductions.

And there's the elephant in the living room: most of the works in discussion are reproductions — to greater or lesser degrees of accuracy — of original works that are hundreds of years old. Can you say "public domain"?

Actually, I'm exaggerating a bit . . . but it amused me no end to see the terms "copyright", "patent", and "intellectual property" bandied around when the very idea of originality is not in question.

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

QotD: Heaven

It is a commonplace that the Christian Heaven, as usually portrayed, would attract nobody. Almost all Christian writers dealing with Heaven either say frankly that it is indescribable or conjure up a vague picture of gold, precious stones, and the endless singing of hymns. This has, it is true, inspired some of the best poems in the world: Thy walls are of chalcedony, Thy bulwarks diamonds square, Thy gates are of right orient pearl Exceeding rich and rare! But what it could not do was to describe a condition in which the ordinary human being actively wanted to be. Many a revivalist minister, many a Jesuit priest (see, for instance, the terrific sermon in James Joyce's Portrait of the Artist) has frightened his congregation almost out of their skins with his word-pictures of Hell. But as soon as it comes to Heaven, there is a prompt falling-back on words like 'ecstasy' and 'bliss', with little attempt to say what they consist in. Perhaps the most vital bit of writing on this subject is the famous passage in which Tertullian explains that one of the chief joys of Heaven is watching the tortures of the damned.

The pagan versions of Paradise are little better, if at all. One has the feeling it is always twilight in the Elysian fields. Olympus, where the gods lived, with their nectar and ambrosia, and their nymphs and Hebes, the 'immortal tarts' as D.H. Lawrence called them, might be a bit more homelike than the Christian Heaven, but you would not want to spend a long time there. As for the Muslim Paradise, with its 77 houris per man, all presumably clamouring for attention at the same moment, it is just a nightmare. Nor are the spiritualists, though constantly assuring us that 'all is bright and beautiful', able to describe any next-world activity which a thinking person would find endurable, let alone attractive.

George Orwell, "Why Socialists Don't Believe in Fun", 1943

Posted by Nicholas at 12:42 AM | Comments (0)

January 24, 2006

Fark re-envisions Middle Earth

Fark.com has a photoshop contest on what Tolkien's Middle Earth would look like after its industrial revolution. There's a stray Paul Martin image in there, too.

Posted by Nicholas at 07:36 PM | Comments (0)

Yes, that would explain it

French murder victim was hard to identify:

French police who spent two years trying to identify a woman who was murdered by a blow to the head were relieved to discover the reason their efforts were failing: the woman died half a millennium ago.

The skeleton of a woman in her 30s was found during an exceptionally low tide in December 2003 near the seaside Brittany town of Plouezoc'h. A long gash in the skull convinced investigators she was killed with a hatchet or other sharp implement.

[. . .] "We are satisfied because at least we know the date now. We reckon it was pirates," said Francois Gerthosser of the Plourin-les-Morlaix police on Tuesday.

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

Sick link of the day

Some of the most disturbed artwork I've ever seen.

Hat tip to The Agitator.

Posted by Nicholas at 04:32 PM | Comments (0)

QotD: Canada

John O'Sullivan, a former editor of National Review and Thatcher's long-time adviser, observed that post-war Canadian history is summed up by the old Monty Python song, "I'm a lumberjack and I'm OK", which begins as a robust paean to the manly virtues of a rugged life in the north woods but ends with the lumberjack having gradually morphed into some transvestite pick-up singing that he likes to "wear high heels, suspenders and a bra" and "dress in women's clothing and hang around in bars".

I'm not saying Canadian men are literally cross-dressers — certainly no more than 35, 40 per cent of us are — but nonetheless a nation that in 1945 had the fourth-largest armed forces in the world has undergone such a total makeover that it's now a country that prioritises the secondary impulses of society — government health care, government day care, rights and entitlements from cradle to grave — over all the primary ones.

Mark Steyn, "A Howardesque leader", The Australian, 2006-01-25

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

"Don't blame me, I voted Libertarian"

Along with (at last count) just over 3,000 other deliberate vote-wasters nation-wide, I voted for my local Libertarian candidate yesterday. He got 274 votes in the riding, which isn't a bad result when you have almost no visibility in the media and (likely) no budget for signs, flyers, or other forms of advertising.

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Buttons on the bookshelf above my desk.

Posted by Nicholas at 11:49 AM | Comments (0)

Who's saying what?

Here's a quick round-up of post-election posts on some of the blogs I regularly read:

  • Ghost of a Flea: Nick agrees with Damian Brooks that "there are few sillier than then notion Captain Ed had anything to do with the outcome".
  • Babbling Brooks: Damian has a go at our kindly, well-intentioned, but sadly misinformed American friends.
  • Daimnation: Damian Penny has a round-up of individual winners and losers in last night's election coverage.
  • Castle Argghhh!: John also finds the adulation of Captain Ed to be overdone, and has a lively comments thread on the topic.
  • Gen X at 40: Alan exults that "The Tories get the keys to the kingdom but with so few seats they are on the short leash. The wing nuts will be more difficult to keep in place so they will have to be dealt with. Are we witnessing the second coming of Joe Clark?"
  • The Last Amazon: Kate also finds it refreshing that "there will finally be a Prime Minister in this country that is not from a lawyer from Quebec".
  • Let It Bleed: Bob reminds everyone in the GTA about the VRWC gathering-and-victory-party on Friday.
  • Steve Janke: Angry in the Great White North: Steve posts his list of the real winners and losers in this election.
  • Political Staples: Greg did a similar round-up to the one you're reading now, but there's not much overlap, so you could do much worse than to go follow the links he provides on his list.
Posted by Nicholas at 11:37 AM | Comments (0)

Political earthquake?

So, it's official: Paul Martin has acknowledged defeat and announced that he will be resigning as Liberal leader. Conservative leader Stephen Harper has accepted the role of minority Prime Minister. NDP Leader Jack Layton and Bloc Quebecois leader Gilles Duceppe have offered their congratulations and re-affirmed that they'll continue to push their own issues and agendas. So, what has really changed?

The new Tory government will have remarkably little representation from the major cities of Toronto, Vancouver, and their immediate surrounding areas. Ontario didn't read the change in the political wind and elected more Liberals from the 416 and 905 area codes than anyone had predicted. Ontario . . . out of step with the rest of Canada . . . who'd ever have seen that one coming?

Harper has potential breathing space of up to six months before he needs to recall Parliament . . . and even in six months' time, few of us will relish the idea of yet another election campaign. The party leaders will have to present the image of co-operation, without being seen to sell out their respective power bases, but also avoiding the risk of being blamed for triggering a new election. It's going to be a challenge for all concerned.

Parenthetically, I do find it amusing that Stephen Harper will be the first Canadian Prime Minister born in Toronto.

Posted by Nicholas at 02:34 AM | Comments (4)

January 23, 2006

I can't believe that I forgot . . .

. . . to link to the latest Red Ensign Standard!

What kind of brigade commander am I, that I can miss posting a link to the main roundup of Red Ensign Brigade activities?

Posted by Nicholas at 05:38 PM | Comments (0)

History: "Best brigade . . . in the world"

Austin Bay has some kind words about the Canadian army of yesteryear:

The Canadians launched a sneaky infantry attack — on foot — that preceded our armor attack. The ground attack cracked the Blue Force, sent them reeling, and blew open a hole for Canadian and US tanks.

The judges had to stop the exercise. Take a mulligan, Blue Force.

In my opinion, the Canadian brigade was the best brigade in NATO, which probably meant it was the best brigade man for man in the world.

Unfortunately, he's talking about 1976. Not 2006.

We may still have some of the best individual soldiers wearing the Canadian uniform, but we no longer have the capabilities that our NATO troops had . . .

Posted by Nicholas at 03:44 PM | Comments (0)

The Economist surveys the election

The British-based weekly newspaper, The Economist (subscriber-only link) outlines today's election for non-Canadians:

Canada's Liberals are set to lose a general election after a dozen years in office. Opinion polls show the Conservative opposition, led by Stephen Harper, with a lead of some 10% over the moribund governing party of Paul Martin. Mr Martin's bumbling leadership is largely to blame [. . .]

It must be galling to Mr Martin that his government is being taken down, in part, by a scandal that occurred under his predecessor, Jean Chrétien. That involved the diversion of funds that were supposed to be used to persuade Quebec to stay in the union. Instead some ended up lining the pockets of Liberal cronies. Mr Martin's efforts to distance himself from it did little to help. When the auditor general released her report on the charges a few months into his term he feebly claimed he had been kept "out of the loop" on Quebec during Mr Chrétien's reign. He also promised to testify in any inquiry and fired the public works minister most closely associated with the scandal. But voters were unimpressed. Mr Martin's poll numbers tumbled.

He is much to blame for his woes. His leadership has been plagued by missteps. His decision to call an early election in May 2004, despite obvious public disgust over the scandal, was a mistake. He wanted a mandate for his policies; instead he was left with a minority government. When his fragile hold on power was challenged by a house motion last year calling on the government to resign he refused, citing fine points of parliamentary procedure to claim it was not a vote of no confidence. This reinforced a perception of the Liberals as corrupt and unresponsive.

Posted by Nicholas at 03:11 PM | Comments (1)

Why scrutineers are important

Back in 2004, I posted a brief discussion of my experiences as a scrutineer during a by-election in the 1980s. It seems appropriate to re-post that story today:

[. . .] In Canada, these people are called "scrutineers" and they have a vital job.

No, I'm not kidding about the vital part. Each candidate has the right to appoint a scrutineer for every poll in the riding (usually only the Liberal, NDP, and Conservative parties can manage to field that many people). I was a scrutineer during a federal byelection in the mid-1980's in a Toronto-area riding, but I had five polls to monitor (all were in the same school gymnasium). This was my first real experience of how dirty the political system can be.

The scrutineers have the right to challenge voters — although I don't remember any challenges being issued at any of my polls [. . .] They also have the right to be present during the vote count and to challenge the validity of individual ballots. Their job is to maximize the vote for their candidate and [legally] minimize the vote for their opponents.

Canadian ballots are pretty straightforward items: they are small, folded slips of paper with each candidate's name listed alphabetically and a circle to indicate a vote for that candidate. A valid vote will have only one mark inside one of the circles (an X is the preferred mark). An invalid vote might have:

  • No markings at all (a blank ballot)
  • More than one circle marked (a spoiled ballot)
  • Some mark other than an X (this is where the scrutineers become important).

After the polls close, the poll clerk and the Deputy Returning Officer secure the unused ballots and then open the ballot box in the presence of any accredited scrutineers. The clerk and DRO then count all the ballots, indicating valid votes for candidates and invalid ballots. The scrutineers can challenge any ballot and it must be set aside and reconsidered after the rest of the ballots are counted.

A challenged ballot must be defended by one of the scrutineers or it is considered to be invalid and the vote is not counted. The clerk and DRO have the power to make the decision, but in practice a noisy scrutineer can usually bully the DRO into accepting all their challenges. I didn't realize just how easy it was to screw with the system until I'd been a scrutineer myself.

This is one of the key reasons why minor party candidates poll so badly in Canadian elections: they don't have enough (or, in many cases, any) scrutineers to defend their votes. In my experience in that Toronto-area byelection, I personally saved nearly 4% of the total vote my candidate received (in the entire riding) by counter-challenging challenged ballots. We totalled just over 400 votes in the riding (in just about 100 polls) — 21 of them in my polls. I got 15 of those votes allowed, when they would otherwise have been disallowed by the DRO.

There was no legal reason to disallow those votes: they were clearly marked with an X and had no other marks on them; they were challenged because they were votes for a minor candidate. As it was, I had a heck of a time running from poll to poll in order to get my counter-challenges in (I probably missed a few votes by not being able to get back to a poll in time).

The Libertarians only had six or seven scrutineers, covering less than a third of the polls in this riding. If the challenge rate was typical in my poll, then instead of the 400-odd votes, we actually received nearly 2000 votes — but most of them were not counted.

Yes, even 2000 votes would not have swung the election, but 2000 people willing to vote for a "fringe" party would be a good argument against those "throwing away your vote" criticisms. Voters are weird creatures in some ways: they like to feel that their votes actually matter. Voting for someone who espouses views you like, then discovering that only a few others feel the same way will discourage most voters from voting that way again in future.

Minor revisions in the text to elide references to the 2004 Ohio article which I was originally commenting on.

Posted by Nicholas at 01:33 PM | Comments (0)

Conspiracy theory of the day

I was planning on voting this morning before coming in to the office, but as I picked up my voter information card, I noticed that the polls didn't open until 9:30, which was too late for me to vote and still get in to work on time. They also seem to be open much later than I recall from the last election. When I got in to the office, I mentioned it to Jon, and he offered this rather creative theory:

Maybe the cards were deliberately printed up with the wrong times on them, which would keep most working people from voting early, and since the cards show that the polls will be open quite late (9:30 pm), they won't rush home to vote. Civil service workers, of course, will get the correct time and vote during the day (because the civil service gives time to allow voting, while private companies may or may not do so).

I had to say that it was either complete hogwash, or a brilliant, subtle plan.

Posted by Nicholas at 11:13 AM | Comments (2)

QotD: Politicians

Politicians are like diapers — they should be changed often, and for the same reason.

John Wallner, 1992 Libertarian Party congressional candidate for California's 49th US House district

Posted by Nicholas at 12:38 AM | Comments (0)

January 22, 2006

Red Ensign Election Predictions

Darcey is asking the other member of the Red Ensign Brigade what their predictions are for the federal election. I'd already posted my guess, but I thought it'd be interesting to gather up the predictions and keep them near the top of the page until the final returns are in, purely to add to the embarrassment factor when we all turn out to have missed the obvious NDP sweep to a majority:

PrognosticatorCrooks
(Liberals)
Fascists
(Conservatives)
Commies
(NDP)
Traitors
(Bloc Quebecois)
Tree-Huggers
(Green)
(Other)
Nicholas
Tory Minority
76 138 48 46 0 0
Damian "Babbling" Brooks
Tory Minority
78 142 28 60 0 0
Temujin (West Coast Chaos)
Tory Minority
92 136 22 58 0 0
Alan McLeod (Gen X at 40)
Tory Minority
90 140 40 38 0 0
Shane Edwards (The High Places)
Tory Majority
74 157 25 52 0 0
Keith (Minority of One)
Tory Minority
111 115 28 54 0 0
John Murney (John Murney's Blog)
Tory Minority
88 137 25 58 0 0
Mark Steyn SteynOnCanada (not a Red Ensign blogger)
Tory Minority
71 138 40 58 0 1
Damian Penny Daimnation(not a Red Ensign blogger)
Tory minority
86 137 30 55 0 0
Andrew Coyne AndrewCoyne.com (not a Red Ensign blogger)
Tory minority
81 140 31 54 0 2
Brian Free Advice (not a Red Ensign blogger)
Tory minority
89 135 30 54 0 0

I'll add to the list as other Red Ensign bloggers post or email their own predictions.

Update 22 January: Keith, Shane, and Alan all provided predictions for tomorrow's election.

Update 23 January: I've added in Damian Penny's, Mark Steyn's and Andrew Coyne's predictions.

Posted by Nicholas at 09:50 AM | Comments (4)

QotD: Elections

Government is a broker in pillage, every election is a sort of advance auction sale of stolen goods.

H.L. Mencken

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

January 21, 2006

QotD: Napa Valley Cabernets

The Quarterly Review of Wines, in a recent piece discussing Beaulieu Vineyard's famous Georges de Latour Private Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon, writes of "green olive and bell pepper" as the signature of Napa Valley Cabernet. Others have spoken of green bean and even broccoli scents and flavours. Personally, I think that vegetables have their place, but I don't want them throwing a party in my red-wine glass. I prefer the red and purple flavours, like currant and blackberry, and the secondary brown ones — coffee, chocolate, tobacco — that I find in a bottle of Bryant. (Mint and eucalyptus are also welcome.)

Jay McInerney, Bacchus & Me: Adventures in the Wine Cellar, 2000

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

January 20, 2006

"That's a fact"

Via Political Staples, a link to a Rick Mercer rant on attack ads, and the Canadian Forces.

Posted by Nicholas at 05:45 PM | Comments (0)

The efficiency of income versus consumption taxes

Colby Cosh, in his Macleans gig, examines the pro and con arguments for Stephen Harper's plan to reduce the GST:

Stephen Harper's proposed GST cut has been one of the most fascinating alchemical elements of this election campaign. It is normally a habit of Conservative leaders to pay close attention to the informed advice of economists and to comply remorselessly with the laws of the market that the other parties deem "savage and uncaring." Yet here we have a Conservative leader quarterbacking a tax proposal against near-uniform objections from economists. Liberals and New Democrats are taking the side of those economists, even though one of the chief economic objections to a GST cut is that it is a welcome regressive element in a tax system that is too progressive for their margin-obsessed tastes. (This is something you are not going to hear Jack Layton say out loud.) And there have been further strange sideshows, like that of the National Post's Terence Corcoran getting into a scrape with the Fraser Institute. Not something you see every day.

The caveat that most economists like all tax cuts cannot be repeated often enough: they aren't opposed to trimming the GST in isolation — they would merely prefer that the same amount of revenue came out of the income-tax system. Most of them, I daresay, will be voting Conservative anyway. Personally, I regard the thumbnail political argument that Harper presents for his GST cut — it's a highly visible form of tax relief that will, practically, be much harder to reverse later — as a knockout blow.

I'm not an economist, although I do sometimes read economics articles for entertainment value. I had to give Colby credit . . . it's not often you find the concepts of uncounted deadweight loss and inefficiencies of allocation worked into a typical election blog post.

Posted by Nicholas at 02:14 PM | Comments (0)

Spinning the rhetoric

An article in New Scientist seems to provide scientific reinforcement to the common perception that Paul Martin "spins" his words more than Stephen Harper or even Jack Layton:

With the most fiercely fought Canadian election in more than a decade taking place on Monday, the crossfire of political rhetoric between the incumbent prime minister and his Conservative Party challenger is becoming heated — but which one is more trustworthy?

According to a new computer algorithm, Prime Minister Paul Martin, of the Liberal Party, spins the subject matter of his speeches dramatically more than Conservative Party leader, Stephen Harper, and the New Democratic Party leader, Jack Layton.

Spin, in this case, is defined as "text or speech where the apparent meaning is not the true belief of the person saying or writing it", says the algorithm's developer, David Skillicorn at Queen's University in Ontario, Canada.

He and his team analysed the usage patterns of 88 deception-linked words within the text of recent campaign speeches from the political leaders. They then determined the frequency of these patterns in each speech, and averaged that number over all of that candidate's speeches. Martin received a ranking of 124, while Harper and Layton scored 73 and 88, respectively.

"I think it's expected that any party in power is going to use spin more than the challenging party," Skillicorn says. "They have a track record to defend."

"They have a track record to defend." Or, in this case, obscure.

Hat tip to Paul Wells.

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

Making fun

Jon sent a link to a cartoon at Free Will which is very amusing.

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

Conventional warheads on SLBMs?

As reported in William Arkin's Washington Post blog, the US Navy is going to be developing a conventional (that is, non-nuclear) warhead for the Trident ballistic missile submarine fleet:

Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld has given the Navy go ahead to develop a conventionally armed Trident missile. Two dozen existing nuclear-armed submarine-launched missiles will be converted to carry conventional warheads. The missiles will then be assigned "global strike" missions to allow quicker preemptive attacks.

For the first time since intercontinental ballistic missiles were "captured" in arms control treaties 40 years ago as unique and potentially destabilizing weapons, the United States will muddy the waters by modifying an existing nuclear weapon for use in day-to-day warfare.

The conversion of Trident missiles abandons the strict segregation of nuclear from conventional weapons.

As a few folks have already pointed out, this would be a very quick way of inducing organizational colonic spasms in the high commands of the Chinese and Russian defence forces, with potentially cataclysmic results. Launching a ballistic missile is a particularly bad idea in an already trigger-happy area of the world.

On a cost-basis, it doesn't make a lot of sense either, as sending an F/A-18 on a strike mission would be cheaper and less likely to result in "accidental" launches from Russian or Chinese subs/silos.

Arkin thinks that the reason for the development is less military and more military-industrial complex:

So isn't it ironic that Donald Rumsfeld, the prophet of military transformation and the booster of an effects based approach is releasing a half a billion dollars to develop a provocative weapon that falls back on the old paradigm?

The reason is that Donald Rumsfeld is a weakling. For all his huffing and puffing, he can't say no to either the military or the defense contractors.

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

NDP tops 20% in latest Ekos poll

The every-other-day poll track:

Pollwatch20060120.png

Alan McLeod (the Red Ensign Brigade's token lefty) will be pleased to see the NDP's numbers jump over the 20% barrier for the first time during this campaign.

Sourced, as usual, from the Wikipedia page on the election.

Posted by Nicholas at 10:06 AM | Comments (4)

QotD: Work

It always does seem to me that I am doing more work than I should do. It is not that I object to the work, mind you; I like work: it fascinates me. I can sit and look at it for hours. I love to keep it by me: the idea of getting rid of it nearly breaks my heart.

You cannot give me too much work; to accumulate work has almost become a passion with me: my study is so full of it now, that there is hardly an inch of room for any more. I shall have to throw out a wing soon.

And I am careful of my work, too. Why, some of the work that I have by me now has been in my possession for years and years, and there isn't a finger-mark on it. I take a great pride in my work; I take it down now and then and dust it. No man keeps his work in a better state of preservation than I do.

But, though I crave for work, I still like to be fair. I do not ask for more than my proper share.

But I get it without asking for it — at least, so it appears to me — and this worries me.

Jerome K. Jerome, Three Men in a Boat

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

January 19, 2006

New Theodore Dalrymple articles

The latest City Journal articles are now online, including a look at A Clockwork Orange and the aftermath of the French riots.

Posted by Nicholas at 05:42 PM | Comments (0)

Tinfoil hat time

Tinfoil_Hat_sm.jpg

Tinfoil hat located on the monitor of a co-worker at the office.

He assures me that it's just a prop, and that he doesn't believe it's effective in reducing the power of the orbital mind-control rays.

Posted by Nicholas at 04:48 PM | Comments (0)

Beaten to the punch

I was planning on putting together a quick "voters guide" on the weekend, to provide information on the minor parties running in this election. Autonomous Source beat me to it . . . and did a better job than I would have done anyway.

Hat tip to Andrew Coyne.

Posted by Nicholas at 03:44 PM | Comments (0)

Sleazy election tactics or criminal libel?

Jon sent another link to a fascinating story (with the proviso that nothing's been confirmed aside from the blog entry yet) of local campaign dirty tricks:

During the show, a caller called in and accused Conservative Candidate Maurice Vellacott of sexual assault on a church secretary. Vellacott, immediately asked for the name and number of the caller for legal action and they had an idea of who this person was. The campaign volunteer who apparently made the call is George Laliberte. When they ran a reverse lookup of the number, they came up with the Liberal campaign headquarters of Chris Axworthy.

i.e. a Liberal supporter at the Liberal campaign HQ accused on public TV, the CPC candidate of sexual assault on live television. There was no 7 second delay to cut the statement off. So many heard it.

Fascinating times in this election.

Update: There's now a link in the original post to more information from the Velacott website.

Posted by Nicholas at 01:10 PM | Comments (0)

"Rogue unilateral Rambo cowboy warmonger!"

Jon sent this link to me in an email with the title above. I thought it was highly appropriate.

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

Hit & Run does Islamic analysis

There's an interesting post up at Hit and Run, with a great title: If it accords with the Quran it is unnecessary and can be burned. If it doesn't accord with the Quran it is heresy and must be burned.

It's interesting to see what has been attributed to the current Pope, in comments on Islam before he became Pope:

[Father Joseph D. Fessio said] This is the first time I recall where he made an immediate statement. And I'm still struck by it, how powerful it was . . . the Holy Father, in his beautiful calm but clear way, said well, there's a fundamental problem with that [analysis] because, he said, in the Islamic tradition, God has given His word to Muhammad, but it's an eternal word. It's not Muhammad's word. It's there for eternity the way it is. There's no possibility of adapting it or interpreting it.

It's an interesting angle, and one that most of us in the West would have quickly passed over: Islam, unlike most other monotheistic religions, does not recognize the secular state . . . there is no secular world in Islam. You can't render up to Caesar, because Caesar isn't allowed to hold things outside the realm of the religion.

Posted by Nicholas at 10:56 AM | Comments (0)

Creative Writing

I've often said to people who want to be creative writers that the worst possible job for them would be to go into technical writing. A good technical writer is always concerned with writing too much . . . a good creative writer is most often concerned with writing too little. These folks should probably consider careers that do not involve creative writing. Or any kind of writing.

Hat tip to Greg Slade.

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

QotD: First rule of political campaigns

[I]f you're in politics or you might go into politics one day or you know someone in politics or near politics or hoping to do politics, tell yourself and everyone who will listen this simple fact. And then you might as well assume they won't believe it. Or that they'll forget it. And that, in forgetting it or not believing it, they will meet their spectacularly public grief:

The other guy is never so geeky or so extreme or so obscure or so ugly or so fake, tall, old, inexperienced, worn out, bearded, ungainly, earnest, slick, funny or bland that he can't rise up like the Fist of God Himself and smack your complacent ass out of the running.

Paul Wells, "The lessons nobody ever, ever, ever learns", Inkless Wells, 2006-01-18

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

January 18, 2006

Predictions are for geeks

A post up at Let it bleed talks about the difficulty of predicting seat totals from the percentages reported in the polls. The predictions at this stage of the last election were pretty far off:

Continuing on in my new-found role of playing the grump, I was mentioning to a friend the other day that people seem to have forgotten what actually happened in the 2004 election. In hindsight (note the emphasis) the results have acquired a cast of inevitability — the media coverage was too negative! Harper stopped campaigning with a week to go! the Liberal attack ads were brilliant! the polls indicated the Tories would lose!

Only in the last couple of days have the Tories come close to majority territory. On the latest poll data, using my up-to-the-second, hi-tech, Excel spreadsheet (anyone who knows my Excel skilz will be laughing at this point), I confidently predict 76 Crooks, 138 Fascists, 48 Commies, and 46 Traitors. Resulting in a minority Fascist government, ready to negotiate with the Commies or the Traitors for support.

My numbers are at least as believable as any others, but I don't believe 'em myself, partly because they don't account for the "wasted" votes in ridings where the winner garners a huge plurality (Alberta and Quebec, mostly) and partly because I still don't really trust the polling numbers to be accurate.

Posted by Nicholas at 05:16 PM | Comments (6)

Liberals accuse Tories of violating the Canada Elections Act

In a news release on the Liberal Party website, the Blogging Tories blogroll is described as "an initiative of the Conservative party, rather than of individual Canadians." This might mean the blogroll would be in contravention of part of the Canada Election Act:

There are strict spending limits for political parties during election campaigns. And there are also limits on how much other groups (third parties) can spend during elections. Under the third-party financing legislation, it is illegal for a third-party to evade election spending limits by splitting itself into two or more groups.

Stephen Harper opposes third party spending limits. He has challenged this legislation at the Supreme Court, and has said that if elected, he will repeal the legislation that limits how much third parties — such as lobby groups — can spend during elections.

Perhaps Mr. Harper should practice what he preaches.

Has someone not pointed out to these guys that there are also Liberal and NDP blog-groups? If not, they'll be in for a nasty surprise of their own if this petition to the Chief Electoral Officer goes any further.

Hat tip to Damian Penny for the link.

Posted by Nicholas at 12:43 PM | Comments (14)

Free Will links

Jon sent me a pair of links to articles posted at Free Will blog, which I think are quite interesting. The first one dovetails nicely with yesterday's link to New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin's latest gaffe:

Yeah, that's pretty much how New Orleans was before the hurricane, too, so I guess we're getting back to normal, but back to the crazy talk: Uh, did Nagin say he's having fantasy chats with Martin Luther King Jr. and that God is punishing black people for gang violence?

Oh, since Howard Dean, the elections are just going to get better and better from here on out.

By better, I mean in the sense of their comedic value.

The second Free Will post has a go at people who've converted to Islam for particularly lame reasons:

These people are so profoundly stunted, in so many ways, that they had to find a religion to tell them what to do, rather than one that agreed with what they already believed. Quit smoking, help the poor, don't cheat people, talk to God, spend time with your family, don't shit where you eat or God will be angry with you. [. . .]

This is a veritable profile in the kind of folks who usually end up locked in a mansion waiting for a comet. If they have to be told that God wants them to spend time with their children, maybe they need that kind of master-slave relationship with God, and good for them if they're happy that way, but "most people" would prefer that they kindly step the hell off.

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

EKOS and Strategic Counsel polls differ strongly

The two most recent polls, one from EKOS and the other from Strategic Counsel, find very different results for the Liberals and Conservatives. EKOS, on the 16th, found the Liberals rising to 29.6% and the Conservatives dropping to 35.8% (a 6.2 point gap), while Strategic Counsel's numbers were 24% for the Liberals and 42% for the Tories (an 18 point gap). Liberal supporters will be hoping that EKOS is accurate, while Conservatives will be plumping for the Strategic Counsel poll:

Pollwatch20060118.png

Even more distressing, for Liberals, is that their support in Quebec appears to be weakening even further: the CTV/Global poll of Quebec voters shows the Conservatives at 31% and the Liberals at 12% (the Bloc still has a huge lead at 47%).

Sourced, as usual, from the Wikipedia page on the election.

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

Loompanics going out of business

Jesse Walker writes a brief obituary for one of the oddest businesses in the anarchist/libertarian world:

Loompanics Unlimited, the self-proclaimed "lunatic fringe of the libertarian movement," is going out of business. That's sad news for those of us who always enjoyed perusing the company's catalog, which reads like a D.I.Y. guide on crystal meth — the list of titles published under the Loompanics imprint ranges from How to Start Your Own Country to How to Rip Off a Drug Dealer. I'll certainly miss it: As a publisher and as a bookseller, Loompanics was the go-to joint for tomes on radicalism, survivalism, and what the catalog itself described as "weird ideas."

While I never ordered anything from them, I'm sorry to see 'em go under. They always struck me as a couple of pages from the Erisian "bible", the Principia Discordia, brought to commercial life. Of course, in my younger, more paranoid, days, I thought it was probably just a front for allowing anarchists and other malcontents to self-identify for some FBI/CIA database.

Update, 19 January: Brian Doherty has more on Loompanics.

Posted by Nicholas at 10:47 AM | Comments (0)

QotD: Utopia

All efforts to describe permanent happiness [. . .] have been failures. Utopias (incidentally the coined word Utopia doesn't mean 'a good place', it means merely a 'non-existent place') have been common in literature of the past three or four hundred years but the 'favourable' ones are invariably unappetising, and usually lacking in vitality as well.

George Orwell, "Why Socialists Don't Believe in Fun", 1943

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

January 17, 2006

Occasional reminder

Just a reminder that my Ontario wine postings are now appearing (sporadically) at the Ontario Wine Blog.

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

The Ballad of Belinda

Ruth pokes a bit of fun at everyone's favourite political turncoat, Belinda Stronach:

Just A Corporate Ho
(sing to tune of Just a Gigolo, by Louis Prima)

I'm just a corporate ho
And everywhere I go
People know the part I'm playin'

Yeah I wanted more
So I crossed the floor
Oh what their sayin'

But on this next Monday
When Liberals pass away
What will they say about me?

When the end comes I know
They'll say just a corporate ho
Life was all about me

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

Misleading headline? Or prophetic headline?

NealeNews linked to a Telegraph Online article with this rather misleading headline: "Conservative juggernaut will crush Canada's ruling Liberals, polls predict":

Canada's Conservatives appear to be steaming towards a historic general election victory, opinion polls have predicted.

With less than a week until polling day on Jan 23, yesterday every survey showed that the party that has been out of power for more than a decade is poised to crush the ruling Liberals headed by Paul Martin, the prime minister.

The latest polls give the Conservatives a 10-point lead over the Liberals, with some showing a widening gap between the two parties.

Although the polls are still showing a strong Conservative lead, the numbers don't translate directly into seats: most such projections are still pointing to a bare majority or a strong minority for Harper. That doesn't quite match with the mental image of a "Conservative Juggernaut".

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

Antonia Zerbisias credits VRW bloggers for Conservative victory

In her latest Toronto Star column, Antonia Zerbisias says:

Four days after next Monday's federal election, Toronto's (mostly) conservative bloggers will be drinking it up at a downtown pub. Judging from the polls, it will be a celebration of victory, one in which they had no small role.

For one thing, there'll be a few non-Conservatives in attendance. Still, it's a small recognition of how much the Canadian blogging community has risen in the estimation of the press since last election.

For the past few years, they've been bashing the Liberals, for everything from not saluting U.S. President George W. Bush to the income trust scandal.

Saluting Bush? Yikes. But the income trust farce, that deserved even more government-bashing than the Canadian blogosphere delivered. That was pure buffoonery.

Oh sure, every once in a while they would take aim at columnists and pundits whom they perceived to be liberal/Liberal, but most of their fire was aimed at the government.

Why critique the cheerleaders, when you can critique the players?

So what if the Conservatives win? Will mainstream media (MSM) journos who perform their watchdog role be lined up against the virtual wall?

If so, it'd be a small gathering . . . that's one of the things that the bloggers have been complaining about for all this time: that the MSM wasn't doing the job of being watchdogs.

She also quotes Bob "Let it bleed" Tarantino on what Conservative bloggers might do if Harper wins next week:

Toronto conservative blogger Bob Tarantino [. . .] tends to agree: "Assuming the CPC wins (still a big "if'' at this point) the first few months will see something akin to drunken euphoria amongst conservatives.

"What happens after that will be a function of two things: whether it's a majority or minority government and how badly the Liberals do (in terms of seat count). If it's a majority and the Liberals are trounced, then the `coalition' that comprises the CPC will splinter, and online pundits will start sniping at the party and each other . . . If it's a majority and the Liberals still place strongly, the coalition will likely still splinter, but not as quickly and not as deeply. In a minority situation, I think the dynamic will remain the same as prior to and during the election: guns trained on the media and the Liberals."

I think Bob is probably right. I wouldn't expect the coalition to survive longer than the debate over the first budget of a new Conservative government myself.

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

Please, someone tell me this is a fake . . .

Mayor Ray Nagin talks about New Orleans being "chocolate at the end of the day".

It's a joke, right? Right? Or taken completely out of context, yes?

Hat tip to James Lileks.

Update: Jon sent me a link to an older Andrew Sullivan article which touches on the use of "chocolate" as a code for "segregated".

Update the second: See the first link in this post for more.

Posted by Nicholas at 10:19 AM | Comments (8)

Searching for descendents of RCAF crew

Jon sent me a link to a Toronto Star article about a planned monument to the (mostly Canadian) crew of a bomber which crashed on Ilkley Moor in Yorkshire in 1944:

The Canadians on the plane were:

— Pilot Donald George (Mac) McLeod, pilot officer RCAF. Service number J/87657. Age 21. Son of John and Agnes McLeod of Waterford, Ont.

— Air Bomber Robert Henry (Bob) Rahn, sergeant RCAF. Service number R/155420. Age 22. Son of Jacob B. and Edith G. Rahn of Waterloo, Ont. Service record shows his address before recruitment as RR 4 Kitchener, Ont.

— Navigator Lewis (Lew) Riggs, WO11 RCAF. Service number R/148524. Age 20. Son of Walter and Maude M. Riggs of Toronto. Service record shows his address before recruitment as 308 Wellesley Street, Toronto.

— Wireless Operator/Air Gunner William George (Bill) King, WO1 RCAF. Service number R/93560. Age 27. Son of John and Margaret King of Teepee Creek, Alta.

— Air Gunner (Tail) George Ed Martin, sergeant RCAF. Service number R/163413. Age 21. Son of George G. and Nesta E. Martin of Spanish, Ont. Service record shows his address before recruitment as 116 Atlas Avenue, Toronto.

— Air Gunner (Mid-upper) Albert Lorne Mullen, sergeant RCAF. Service number R/192035. Age 19. Son of John Leslie and Ether Brown Mullen of Burnaby, B.C.

All are buried in Stonefall Cemetery in Harrogate, England, where there are 665 graves dedicated to Canadian airmen.

Reilly is in the final stages of completing the monument at the crash site in Yorkshire. An unveiling ceremony is planned for Jan. 31, the anniversary of the crash. The monument will include parts from the aircraft excavated from the site.

[. . .]

"I'd love to be able to contact any surviving relatives of the remainder of the crew," said Paul Reilly (email: preilly@blueyonder.co.uk).

"All my efforts so far have drawn a blank other than finding Lorne's brother. It would be fantastic if any of the relatives in Canada, if traced, could be there for the dedication."

The Halifax aircraft, serial number DK185, crashed on Ilkley Moor, West Yorkshire, England, around 5:30 p.m. on Jan. 31, 1944.

Posted by Nicholas at 10:00 AM | Comments (0)

Tiger's quiz results

Tiger in Exile took the Politics Watch Vote Selector Test. He was not surprised to find himself remarkly closely aligned to the views of Stephen Harper. I took the test, and found almost the same thing:

Your Results:

1. Stephen Harper Leader of the Conservative Party of Canada (100%)

2. Gilles Duceppe Leader of the Bloc Quebecois (83%)

3. Jack Layton Leader of the New Democratic Party of Canada (50%)

4. Paul Martin Leader of Liberal Party of Canada, Prime Minister of Canada (33%)

Posted by Nicholas at 08:48 AM | Comments (0)

QotD: Elections

We participate less in politics for the same reason we stopped going to drive-in movies the way we used to, getting married as teenagers, making dinner at home, and, for men at least, wearing blue suits with white shirts and red ties: not because we can't, but because we don't want to. Our flesh is not weak when it comes to voting; it's just not willing.

The center of gravity in American life has shifted away from partisan politics and into other areas of activity in which individuals (and groups of individuals) have far greater hopes for gaining satisfaction. The big story in American life over the past few decades is not the decline in voter participation but the ever-increasing proliferation of options, of choices, and of identities in everyday life.

Nick Gillespie

Posted by Nicholas at 12:26 AM | Comments (2)

January 16, 2006

A Pratchett film?

The BBC is reporting that a deal may be close to have Terry Pratchett's The Wee Free Men made into a movie directed by Sam Raimi:

Top selling author Terry Pratchett could be coming to the big screen, as rumour has it that his hit book The Wee Free Men is being made into a film.

The book tells the story of a girl who has to rescue her brother from fairies with the help of brawling pixies. [Bigjob editor's note: that should read "Pictsies", I think]

Film website Variety say it will be shot by Spider-Man director Sam Raimi, and could be a very big movie indeed.

Pratchett admitted to Newsround that "happy discussions" had been going on about bringing the book to cinemas.

Posted by Nicholas at 05:10 PM | Comments (0)

Celestial Junk surveys the Canadian Armed Forces

Celestial Junk ran a series of articles on the Canadian military earlier this month, which I only just discovered. If you have no idea what the Canadian Forces look like or what they're currently equipped with, these short articles are a good overview (and I'm so far past my active military days that this was useful to me, too):

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

The Root(kit) of Sony's Problems

Grant McCracken ponders just how out-of-touch the CEO of Sony must be to utter something like this at a public forum: "Clearly the perception out there is that we shouldn't be doing too much of that copy protection stuff." Or, just perhaps, the perception is that Sony should keep their gorram spyware off their customers' computers. Is that what he meant to say, perhaps?

If ever there were a measure of the gap between corporations and their consumers, the Rootgate debacle is it. It demonstrates that Sony "does not get" the new contract and connection that is being fashioned slowly but surely between the two. But then the CEO stands up and in the place of a full recantation treats us to phrases that are either a further demonstration of how little he understands his consumers, or a revelation of the disquieted assumptions he entertains about them. Most odd.

There is something impressive about this kind of candor, even if it is a little baffling. I mean normally CEOs are scripted by PR and wander off script at their peril. We are grateful for this opportunity to stare into the world view of the CEO (if that's indeed what we have done). Stringer is impressive: Oxford degrees, military service, Japanese speaker, distinguished career as a journalist, effortless administrator. There is apparently nothing this guy can't do. So why can't he get in touch with contemporary culture and the new marketplace?

It's astonishing just how much customer goodwill Sony has managed to destroy in this rootkit debacle . . . and even more astonishing that they still seem to be ignorant as to how much damage this has done their public image.

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

Samizdata calls for action

It's such a well-written parody piece that lots of people will completely miss the humour:

Governments should ban Linux

Linux has been growing in popularity, now enjoying a higher market share than Mac OS. However, I fear that in all the hype and hysteria, the dangers have not had enough attention. We face a real possibility that the future of the creativity will be a barren world: a "tragedy of the digital commons" in which no one will create any content.

The truth is that Linux is one of the biggest threats to human creativity worldwide Some of you will find that statement remarkable, but it is true. As Microsoft's CEO Steve Ballmer has said, "Linux is cancer." Ken Brown of the Alexis de Tocqueville Institution has said that: "Linux is a leprosy; and is having a deleterious effect on the U.S. IT industry because it is steadily depreciating the value of the software industry sector."

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

The BBC's official position is . . . "that never happened"

Paul Marks finds that the BBC is not above censoring opinions which it deems "unworthy":

[. . . the speaker] turned out to have some very standard statist opinions — for example he supported a total ban on smoking in bars and restaurants (almost needless to say, the audience was wildly in favour of a ban "by 98%" — most likely they would have supported any bit of statism that was put in front of them). However, I was surprised as the editor started a pro Bush story of how he had met the President some time ago and . . .

Then the BBC suddenly went off the air. The broadcast of the show started again when the story was over. At the end of the programme the BBC blamed "technical difficulties" for the break in transmission.

So I listened to the repeat of the show (today Saturday the 14th of January) in order to hear the editor's story of his meeting with President Bush. It was cut out of the programme — even the start of the story that had been broadcast on Friday night. It seems that the BBC will not tolerate any pro-Bush comment.

It does make one wonder how often they've been pulling tricks like that. I had to laugh at the closing part of this post, however:

President Bush may not be up to much, but as long as he serves as a symbol of all the BBC hates about the United States (i.e. all the good things in the United States) I find it hard to totally dislike him.

Posted by Nicholas at 02:38 PM | Comments (0)

Angry responds to Kinsella

Angry finds some interesting questions from Warren Kinsella and provides some thoughtful answers. I've been wondering the same thing myself: how will the conservative blogosphere handle the switch from (in blog years) permanent opposition to being at least theoretically in tune with the elected government.

Some, it's safe to say, will be happy to act as a Greek chorus to whatever the Conservatives do. Most, I hope, will still be willing to tackle the issues and point out errors or inconsistencies. I'm certainly planning on doing that . . . after all, I'm not a conservative, so while I'll be happier with the Liberals out of power, I may well find myself in strong disagreement with the new Conservative government.

In fact, I rather expect to be in that situation.

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

Polls still trending Tory

The latest polls still show the Tories out in front with a big lead:

Pollwatch20060116.png

Toronto may be the only bright spot for the Liberals at this point, where they're reported to still have a 3-point lead over the Tories.

Sourced, as usual, from the Wikipedia page on the election.

Update: For the first time, seat predictions have moved into the Conservative Majority, although just barely (or perhaps comfortably, depending on the particular poll used as a baseline). Hat tip to Paul Wells for the links.

Posted by Nicholas at 10:56 AM | Comments (0)

QotD: The King James Version

Some years ago, an editor asked me how he could give his children an appreciation for the English language. He wanted them to write well. Since he's an evangelical Christian, I told him he should teach them Psalms from the King James translation of the Bible. My mother did that with me as a child, and it gave me an early sense of metaphor and rhythm. It taught me to appreciate, and understand, complex, beautiful English.

My friend didn't like my suggestion. After all, nobody reads the KJV anymore. Forget poetry (not to mention sensitivity to the underlying Hebrew), today's suburban Christianity is all about accessibility. It's been dumbed down.

Now I'm not a Christian, let alone an evangelical. If megachurches want to play bad-to-mediocre rock instead of great hymns, that's their business. But the spread of Christian pap does have spillovers, not the least of which is that devout Christian faith no longer brings with it a deep familiarity with what's actually in the Bible, as opposed to a few verses from the preacher's PowerPoint. Unless the person is over a certain age, Biblical literacy, when you do find it, rarely means acquaintance with great English. Forget theological or philosophical sophistication. I'd settle for the ability to comprehend complex sentences.

Virginia Postrel, "The Pap-ist Threat", Dynamist Blog, 2006-01-10

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

January 15, 2006

Woodworking follies

I spent much of yesterday in the basement, attempting to build a corner bookcase. In the process, I think I managed to make enough mistakes to add up to a regular month of work. As I've mentioned before, I'm making a set of bookcases for my office, and the work hasn't been progressing very quickly (more through lack of free time than anything else . . . at least, that was the excuse I used to use).

The corner units will have fixed shelves, rather than adjustable shelves like the normal bookcases, and frame-and-panel doors because the space is too awkward to use for regular book storage anyway. I'm already expecting the doors to be quite a challenge, based on how the main carcass has gone so far.

The front of the unit needs an angled face, to allow sufficient access to the interior space. I hadn't given much thought to how to cut the shelves to create this angle, and it turned out to be "interesting". The panels were too big to cut the angle safely on the tablesaw, which would normally have been my first choice. The circular saw would have done the job, but even with a "finishing" blade, the circular saw leaves too rough a cut. I ended up pulling out my old jigsaw with a fine-tooth blade to do the job.

I marked my cut line, clamped a guide to the line and then started the cut. About six inches into the cut, the saw started jumping into my hand, which isn't normal on any cut. I stopped the saw and tried to pull the blade out of the cut . . . and it wouldn't come out. The blade had bent into the guide and locked itself into the "good" side of the cut line. I had to force the damned thing out, leaving a pretty obvious gash in the workpiece.

I foolishly tried a second blade, which didn't even get as far as the first one had before it bent and bound in the cut. I ended up having to rough-cut the rest of the line with a Japanese pullsaw. Ironically, the handsaw left a better edge than the "finish" blade in the jigsaw had done, but I was still left with that ugly gash where the jigsaw blades had given up the ghost.

I thought to myself that since I just had to "neaten-up" the edge, I could use my router with a template-guided bit to produce a clean, straight edge. And it was perhaps the first good thought I had on this particular stage of the project. I'd recently bought a big (for my router anyway) 3/4" template bit, so it was the obvious choice for the task. I put the bit into the router collet, tightened up the collet nuts, and then had a mental image of turning on the router and the router — and me — spinning around the bit. It wasn't that bad, but I now really have to get myself a router with a "soft-start" feature: there was a very strong twist as the router started with that big hunk of steel and carbide in the collet.

End of the long, pointless story right? Well, not quite. You see, I'd carefully chosen a good, straight piece of MDF to use as the guide so that the bearing on the router bit had a sturdy edge to bear against. And it worked well. The second time. Because the first time, I'd used simple hand-clamps to hold the guide to the workpiece . . . and that big router bit had just pushed the guide about an inch back into the workpiece before I realized I had a problem. Now I had a lovely deep 3/4" wide, 1" deep gouge in the shelf. And there was no way to hide it.

At this point, I was ready to have a nice bonfire, but another mistake came to my rescue. For once, two of my mistakes actually worked to cancel one another . . . you see, I had cut the shelf too big for the space in the cabinet it was going to occupy, so I had to trim it down anyway . . . and that gouge was just outside the area that I needed to trim. After a quick trip to the tablesaw, I was able to start again with the router, this time using stronger clamps to hold the guide to the workpiece. It worked like a charm.

On to the next folly.

Because Jon is always niggling me about my trust in wood glue (he feels that any wood joint needs a mechanical reinforcement because the glue might eventually fail), I felt I should use biscuits to assemble the portions of this carcass which would never be visible. Biscuits (or in some areas "plates") are small pieces of compressed wood shaped like a flat football. They're available in several different sizes, but as I was joining 3/4" thick plywood, I used the #10 biscuits.

Biscuit joinery has a lot to be said in its favour: it's fast, neat, and accurate. It's almost completely replaced dowel joints for this kind of assembly, because the biscuits are much more forgiving of minor misalignments in the slots than dowels ever could be. The biscuit joiner is basically a cutting disk on a plunger: you align the fence against the workpiece and push the joiner into the wood to scoop out an oval slot. It's practically fool-proof. Note that word "practically".

I was careful: I measured and marked all my workpieces before doing anything else. I clamped things into place to be sure that the slots would align exactly. I did it all "by the book". I even did a "dry" assembly (without glue) to ensure that everything fit properly and there would be no problem. It all fit together just the way it should.

I took it all apart and started applying glue and inserting biscuits. As soon as the glue touches the biscuit, it starts to expand, which locks it into the slot you cut into the workpiece. It works very quickly, so you need to be fast once you've started a glue-up (more so than with regular glue-joints because of that expansion in the biscuits themselves).

I got all the biscuits glued in, started putting the matching faces together and pulling the joints tight. It was looking good . . . except for the middle shelf. It refused to align and was preventing the rest of the carcase from seating. I tried applying clamps, but nothing was working. The glue was setting up and the biscuits were locking in place, but the faces and edges were not touching. I was panicking (Elizabeth said I was sounding like Darren McGavin as the Dad in A Christmas Story during his battle with the furnace).

Just as I was about to totally give up, I noticed the reason for the shelf not fitting: I'd somehow put it in upside down so that the slots on the opposite sides were not aligning. It took me nearly as long to get the shelf out, and caused some minor damage to the almost-glued-up unit, but once it was out of the way, the rest of the job was simple.

After the glue had set, I was able to cut the exposed biscuit-halves using a Japanese-style flush-cut saw, and today I'll have to re-mark and re-cut new biscuit slots to get that shelf in, but at least I was able to salvage the major pieces of the unit.

Today is round two.

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

QotD: Wine Tasting

[. . .] once during a magnificent five-day Bacchanal in the Burgundy and Beaujolais region which included visits to Lameloise, Troisgros and Bocuse, I stumbled (not literally) into the great market or whatever they call it in the center of Beaune. There in this great museum-like, minimalist grotto there were bottles for the tasting displayed in grand array.

"When in Rome . . . er, Beaune . . ." they sip and spit. So, for once in my disgusting life, I sipped and spat. I even rinsed with water and "cleansed" my palate with cheese niblets and crackers and tiny squares of baguette.

What did I learn? I learned that for me, I achieve sensory overload and taste-bud burn-out in about five wines. Sip, slosh, snort, gargle, and spit. Sure, there's some flavor there. And, yep, this one seems pretty good, but that last one was better, I think. Ooopss, my tongue is numb, my teeth are furry and the insides of my cheeks are on fire. Can I taste much? Nope. Screw it, let's go to lunch and sit down with a bottle of something . . .

Ed Rasimus, posting to alt.food.wine, 2005-02-25

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

January 14, 2006

Paul Martin explains the ad approval process

Proud to be Canadian has some fine video analysis of Paul Martin "explaining" how the attack ads came to be.

Hat tip to Greg Staples, who in turn found the link on Antonia Zerbisias' blog.

Posted by Nicholas at 10:57 AM | Comments (0)

Poll tracking

So far, it's difficult to discern any change in the polling numbers that could be attributed — positively or negatively — to the Liberal attack ads:

Pollwatch20060114.png

Sourced, as usual, from the polling summaries at Wikipedia.

Posted by Nicholas at 10:48 AM | Comments (0)

QotD: The Corporation

Corporation (n): A miniature totalitarian state governed by an unelected hierarchy of officials who take a dim view of individualism, free speech, equality and eggheads. The backbone of all Western democracies.

Rick Bayan

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

January 13, 2006

More signs of desperation

Small Dead Animals has the text of an affadavit from an NDP candidate who was offered a bribe to drop out of the race and throw his support to the Liberal candidate: page 1 and page 2.

Hat tip to Jon for the heads-up.

Update: Angry wonders if this is a hoax.

Update the second: The Liberals have dropped their candidate, according to a CTV news report. Hat tip to NealeNews.

Posted by Nicholas at 12:02 PM | Comments (1)

Property Rights as a "shrine"?

Jon sent me a link to a brief CBC article on Martin's criticism of property rights:

Liberal Leader Paul Martin said property rights is the "shrine at which the U.S. conservative movement bows."

He said enshrining those rights in the Constitution would allow the government to attack a range of laws.

"If property rights were enshrined in the Constitution then probably you would not be able to ban handguns," Martin said.

Harper said he has no desire to strike down those kinds of laws.

"We believe the Charter of Rights should reflect the right to own property, the right not to be deprived of property without due process of law and just and timely compensation."

First, it's interesting that the CBC is now referring to Paul Martin as the "Liberal Leader" rather than as "the Prime Minister". I don't read enough CBC posts to see if there's been a change in that since the campaign started to get interesting.

Second, I don't see the US conservative movement as being particularly worshipful of property rights . . . see the ongoing issue of eminent domain for a pretty clear example. It's one of those motherhood things, I suspect, in that it only gets cursory attention before the real debate gets rolling. Over the last few years, you would have difficulty painting the US Republican party as being a defender of the right to own property.

Third, Harper saying that gun bans are the kind of law he doesn't want to strike down is disturbing. Theft of private property is theft of private property, whether the perpetrator is a criminal thug or a government thug. The principle should be that legally obtained property cannot be arbitrarily taken without compensation (at the absolute least . . . it'd be more consistent if we could just cut that statement at the end of "taken"). Gun bans are exactly this sort of taking without compensation.

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

QotD: Apologia

Turning contemporary problems of violence away from their political and economic entanglements and into problems of representation is not a new trick. Many governments, both historical and contemporary, in a rush to change the subject from such entanglements have played up to a romantic, glorious and often entirely fanciful past. One might just as well say the rape of Nanking should not be held against imperial Japan because, after all, the Japanese developed lovely tea ceremonies and landscape gardening hundreds of years before such unpleasant events.

[Ghost of a Flea], "Starry wisdom", Ghost of a Flea, 2006-01-10

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

January 12, 2006

The NDP skewers Martin's anti-military ad

The New Democratic Party has a very good response to the recently released-then-withdrawn anti-military ad on their website:

"We're Not Making This Up"

While the Liberals are mired in controversy about their ad that claims the Conservatives will send "soldiers with guns" into Canadian cities, one fact has been overlooked.

Soldiers will soon be in the streets of Winnipeg. And that's a good thing.

"More than 500 army troops, backed by helicopters, armoured vehicles and artillery will turn Winnipeg into an Armed camp..."

"Exercise 'Charging Bison' will unfold for seven days and nights beginning April 30 ...."
- Winnipeg Free Press (December 27, 2005, page A1)

"Charging Bison" is a Canadian Forces training exercise to help our soldiers prepare for the tough, complex and dangerous jobs they will be facing in places like Afghanistan.

But if other parties were like the Liberals, there would be ominous ads threatening that a Liberal victory would mean "soldiers in the streets of Winnipeg. With guns."

But we're not Liberals, so we don't manipulate the truth to scare Canadians — or insult the brave men and women in our armed forces.

And one final point — the last time we saw large numbers of soldiers in the streets of Winnipeg, it was another election year — 1997. They were helping to save the city from flooding.

Wow. Is there anyone outside the PM's inner circle who thought that ad would be a vote-winner?

Update: Whoops. I forgot to hat-tip Damian "Babbling" Brooks (who found the link at Angry in the Great White North).

Posted by Nicholas at 05:47 PM | Comments (1)

Am I the only blogger . . .

. . . who hasn't (yet) posted something to parody the structure of the Liberal Party ads? You know, the ones that go kinda like this:

Declaration of a fact or factoid

Oddly chosen counter-fact or factoid

Weird connection drawn between the two

In Canada

We're not making this up.

Clearly, I've been letting down the side here. Has there ever been a set of TV ads so widely mocked in such a short period of time? Has there ever been a set of ads that so richly deserved it?

Posted by Nicholas at 04:32 PM | Comments (1)

Amusing goals in soccer

Andrew Castiglione sent this link to the soccer coaching list: Best 5 Funny Football Goals of all Time.

The last one is hilarious . . . even if you don't know anything at all about soccer.

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

Potential cabinet ministers in a Tory government

Rick Mercer has some dynamite suggestions for cabinet posts if Stephen Harper forms a new Tory government after the January 23rd election. Although he does make the following admission:

Many sports fans spend their days building fantasy football or baseball teams. Likewise there are a handful of nerds out there who create fantasy cabinets. I do this all the time. I often kill time at the airport compiling my dream cabinet in the back of a scribbler. This week for example my dream cabinet would contain John Crosbie, Geddy Lee and Justin Pogge. Luckily for the Nation I will never choose a cabinet so we will never know what kind of damage I could wreak on the country.

Posted by Nicholas at 01:21 PM | Comments (1)

QotD: Desperate Politicians

[Paul Martin] has nothing left to say to Canadians other than to tell them that unless they vote Liberal, the sun will not rise, spring will not come, and volcanoes will destroy the earth.

NDP leader Jack Layton, speaking in Hamilton, Ontario, 2006-01-11

Posted by Nicholas at 12:34 AM | Comments (5)

January 11, 2006

Construct your own Liberal ad

David Janes has some fun with a Liberal-Style Attack Ad Generator.

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

It'll be interesting to see

. . . how the new Liberal ad campaign (and associated media & blog attention) will move these numbers around:

Pollwatch20060110.png

Sourced, as usual, from the polling summaries at Wikipedia.

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

Brian Mertens offers some Free Advice

Brian Mertens has some brilliant posts up on the Liberal attack ads. Brilliant work.

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

Damian Penny goes Liberal . . . sorta

Damian Penny shows us the next set of Liberal party ads, before they're released to the media. Stephen Harper has a dog and President Kennedy is gunned down in Dallas, Texas.

They're much better than the first set of Liberal ads, released yesterday.

Hat tip to Jon.

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

QotD: Modern Christianity

Throughout American history, Christian (largely Protestant) devotion has stretched people's minds and given them reason to think, if only within a closed system of belief. Religious practice has taught people to read, write, and speak. The rhythms and rhetoric of the Bible have given America its greatest political rhetoric, from Abraham Lincoln's to Martin Luther King's. Today's Christianity produces . . . George W. Bush.

Megachurch Christianity may hone organizational and business skills, but it isn't teaching believers to think about abstractions or communicate in higher than "everyday" language. No wonder megachurches combine their up-to-date media with fundamentalist doctrine. It fits well on PowerPoint — no paragraphs required. Leaving aside the validity of what they preach, today's most successful evangelicals are spreading pap.

Virginia Postrel, "The Pap-ist Threat", Dynamist Blog, 2006-01-10

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

January 10, 2006

Anthropology

I got so far behind on my reading over the holidays that I only just finished reading the December 24th issue of The Economist yesterday. It was one of the best issues I've read in quite some time. One of the best articles in this issue is (fortunately) available online to non-subscribers:

Seven hundred and forty centuries ago, give or take a few, the skies darkened and the Earth caught a cold. Toba, a volcano in Sumatra, had exploded with the sort of eruptive force that convulses the planet only once every few million years. The skies stayed dark for six years, so much dust did the eruption throw into the atmosphere. It was a dismal time to be alive and, if Stanley Ambrose of the University of Illinois is right, the chances were you would be dead soon. In particular, the population of one species, known to modern science as Homo sapiens, plummeted to perhaps 2,000 individuals.

The proverbial Martian, looking at that darkened Earth, would probably have given long odds against these peculiar apes making much impact on the future. True, they had mastered the art of tool-making, but so had several of their contemporaries. True, too, their curious grunts allowed them to collaborate in surprisingly sophisticated ways. But those advantages came at a huge price, for their brains were voracious consumers of energy — a mere 2% of the body's tissue absorbing 20% of its food intake. An interesting evolutionary experiment, then, but surely a blind alley.

This survey will attempt to explain why that mythical Martian would have been wrong. It will ask how these apes not only survived but prospered, until the time came when one of them could weave together strands of evidence from fields as disparate as geology and genetics, and conclude that his ancestors had gone through a genetic bottleneck caused by a geological catastrophe.

As the saying has it, go read the rest. Keep clicking the "Next Article" link at the bottom of each page, to read the full survey.

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

Alan McLeod: Tory stooge

In a stunning revelation, it appears that Alan McLeod (well known lefty and all-around beery guy) "is being turned into a stooge for the Tories". David Janes has all the gory details.

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

Wendy McElroy on the Body Central case

In the most recent issue of Libertarian Enterprise, Wendy McElroy provides some background on a case which may further reduce the ability of businesses to cater to specific customer groups:

At issue is whether an owner has the right to control the customer policies of his or her private business. If so, then the state cannot properly dictate whom that owner must serve or allow onto the premises. A decision to discriminate among customers would be an expression of the owner's freedom of association and of the same property rights that protect his or her home from unwelcome 'guests.'

California law denies the existence of such private rights for businesses. It asserts, instead, that the public has a civil right to access an owner's property and services even over his or her objection.

The Unruh Civil Rights Act, Civil Code section 51(b), stipulates that business establishments must provide "full and equal accommodations, advantages, facilities, privileges, or services" and not discriminate on the basis of "sex, race, color, religion, ancestry, national origin, disability, or medical condition." The businesses in question include, but are not limited to, hotels, non-profit organizations, restaurants, theaters, retail establishments, and beauty shops.

Arguably, California claims control over the customer policies of every business in the state.

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

Malicious quoting

It would be tempting, but wrong, to use this Paul Martin quote to "prove" that he considers Aboriginals to be the problem:

We gave $5 billion to aboriginals because that's one of the root causes of poverty in our country.

Of course, it would be equally wrong to say that he's just a flaming communist for this gem, too:

Fundamentally, our tax system has got to make sure that, in fact, we take the money from the well off and that we redistribute it to those who don't have it [. . .]

Hat tip to Jon for digging up the link to the transcript.

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

Brown trouser day at the Toronto Star

The Toronto Star has suddenly decided that Harper and the Tories are headed towards a majority government on the 23rd:

The EKOS survey of 1,240 Canadians through the weekend and yesterday found 39.1 per cent support for the Conservatives. The Liberals had 26.8 per cent support; the NDP 16.2 per cent; the Bloc Québécois 12.6 per cent; and Green party 4.6 per cent.

"This is the breakthrough Harper has been waiting for," EKOS president Frank Graves said.

In Ontario, the Conservatives have widened the gap to a 10-percentage-point lead over the Liberals. Of the 518 Ontarians surveyed, 43.8 per cent supported the Tories, 33.5 per cent the Liberals, 16.2 per cent the NDP, and 5.4 per cent the Greens.

Even in Quebec, the Conservatives are ahead of the Liberals. A total of 330 people were surveyed in that province and 19.1 per cent threw their support behind the Tories, compared with 17.4 per cent for the Liberals.

If this doesn't energize the Liberal faithful and drag in the waverers, then nothing will.

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

QotD: Polls

Big poll out this morning. People in red have a certain look in their eyes. The only concern the Tories might have is that it is not two weeks from now.

Alan McLeod, "Day Forty-Two: Monday And The End", Gen X at 40, 2006-01-09

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

Jon live-blogs the debate

Jon posted this as a comment, but I think it deserves to be a full entry on its own:

Hey! Look at me! I'm live-blogging the debate!

8:15 pm: Oh God, what a bunch of wankers.

8:17 pm: Wankers, the lot of 'em.

8:20 pm: Wankers, wankers, waaaaaaaankers.

8:31 pm: Ok. Here's a switch: Socialist Wankers.

8:35 pm: Harper — "My family has lived as wankers under this flag for six generations. And we're still wankers."

8:37 pm: Layton — "I firmly support same-wanker marriage."

8:40 pm: Ducieppe — "Eeef ze time she comes, we zurender to zee wankers."

8:45 pm: Martin — "It was wankers who stole the money, not me."

9:00 pm: Me — "We're all going to die."

Wankers.

I think this nicely sums up every federal political debate we've had for the last three years.

Posted by Nicholas at 12:22 AM | Comments (0)

January 09, 2006

Are the Tories peaking too soon?

The same collection of tracking information from Wikipedia:

Pollwatch20060109.png

Posted by Nicholas at 04:46 PM | Comments (2)

The Last Amazon asks "How weird are you?"

Kate tagged me with this meme, after being tagged herself by Canadianna.

Five weird things about me? Hmmmm. Only five?

1. I once earned a living as a swordfighting instructor.

2. I had the shortest possible career as a tarot card reader.

3. I worked in a carny for a similarly short period of time (and got ripped off on my pay for the short time I worked, to boot).

4. Nope, that's too weird for public consumption.

5. I won every fencing tournament I entered last year, suffering no hits and killing or disabling all my opponents.

Explanations, as such, below the fold.

1. In 1981, I was hired to go to Nova Scotia and teach SCA swordfighting to a new group of SCA folk. It was a nice summer job (the pay was basically airfare, room, and board). I stayed in contact with several of the folks I met down there until quite recently.

2. I was working at an occult shop when the owner — who was also the card reader — was too sick to come in. I sat in for her and did the couple of readings that were scheduled (and who didn't have the common sense to reschedule). Not a job I'd ever want to take again.

3. I was hired as casual labour to disassemble the rides after the carny closed. I worked for five hours, was only paid for four, and discovered that I had absolutely no interest in working that kind of job ever again.

4. There is no entry four.

5. I only entered one tourney last year. And it was a very small group of fencers.

I guess I need to tag a few others with this meme. Chris Taylor, Shane Edwards, Robot Guy, Alan McLeod, and Greg Staples.

Posted by Nicholas at 04:02 PM | Comments (3)

Musical humour

Liz Clark sent this to a mailing list I lurk on: Faerie's Air and Death Waltz (from "A Tribute to Zdenko G. Fibich").

"Shock therapy may be necessary to finish"

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

Childress cleans house

New Vikings coach Brad Childress has started his tenure by clearing out almost all the surviving coaching staff from the Tice era:

Tampa Bay Buccaneers 33-year-old defensive backs coach Mike Tomlin emerged as the Vikings' top choice for defensive coordinator Sunday as new head coach Brad Childress fired defensive coordinator Ted Cottrell and at least eight other assistants from former coach Mike Tice's staff.

Childress indicated Friday at his introductory news conference that he would meet with the team's current assistants when he returned from Philadelphia on Wednesday. But on Sunday he fired much of the staff by phone.

"I guess they just wanted to go in a different direction," Cottrell said Sunday night.

Other coaches known to have been let go were Wes Chandler (receivers), Dean Dalton (running backs), Mark Ellis (assistant strength and conditioning), Rich Olson (quarterbacks), Jim Panagos (assistant defensive line and special teams), Kevin Ross (assistant secondary), John Tice (tight ends, assistant offensive line) and Rusty Tillman (special teams).

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

Back to work

After a glorious two-week break, it's back to the office for me. And I forgot my security badge. And there's several hundred new email messages waiting for me to wade through. And I forgot to set an autoresponding message on my email, so several people have been waiting for responses since early last week. And so on.

No wonder the first day back at work is so trying . . .

Posted by Nicholas at 10:19 AM | Comments (0)

QotD: Book Reviews

[Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell] seems to be rather a victim of its own hype, then, alas. Which does happen to perfectly fine books. When the reviews that pan a book make you not want to read it, that's one thing; when the reviews that *praise* a book make you not want to read it, it's . . . the other side of the same thing, actually.

Lois McMaster Bujold, email to the Bujold mailing list, 2006-01-06

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

January 08, 2006

Red Ensign raised again

The latest version of the Red Ensign Standard has been raised at The High Places. See what the rest of the Brigade has been blogging about since Standard 33 was raised.

Posted by Nicholas at 02:12 AM | Comments (1)

January 07, 2006

Vikings name new head coach

The Minnesota Vikings have hired Philadelphia's offensive co-ordinator, Brad Childress, as their new head coach. This is from the official notice:

The Minnesota Vikings have named Brad Childress the seventh head coach in franchise history. Childress comes to the Vikings following seven seasons with the Philadelphia Eagles, including the past four seasons as offensive coordinator.

"Coach Childress has the combination of integrity, experience and competitive spirit that were important in our search for a new Vikings coach," said Vikings owner Zygi Wilf. "Being a key part of the winning program in Philadelphia and his respect throughout the NFL made Brad the best choice to lead the franchise into the future."

Childress has eight seasons of NFL coaching experience (1985-Indianapolis, 1999-2005 Philadelphia) and 28 seasons of pro and college coaching under his belt. His first stint on the sidelines came in 1978 at the University of Illinois.

Posted by Nicholas at 11:38 PM | Comments (0)

Back again

Sorry for any confusion if you hit this site during the last 24 hours or so: the folks at the ISP had some sort of minor disaster which resulted in a very old backup being installed. Things appear to be back to normal now.

And my apologies to Jon, my virtual landlord, who had to get out of bed early this morning to try to track down the problem for me.

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

January 06, 2006

QotD: Comparing old media to blogging

I'm not going to jump up and down all over the media on this one, because clusterfargs like this are an editor's worst scenario, and no one wants to have a mistake like this happen on their watch. At some point you have to pull the trigger; presses have to roll. There is an assumption of trust when it comes to wire services, just as there's an assumption of trust with your favorite bloggers: they're acting in good faith to the best of their knowledge. This would be a watershed moment if you thought the mainstream media sources were infallible, but if who thinks that anymore? Who ever did? It's not the big errors like this that annoy me — it's the overall tone of the papers that grates, the omissions, the ideological elisions, the pigheaded indifference to historicity, the wimpy even-handedness so intent on non-judgmental objective reporting you half expect them to call a murder-suicide a "Double homicide." It's accurate, but doesn't quite convey the flavor of the event.

Reading the national / international news section of the paper is like putting your head in a thin bubble. Then you fire up the browser, hit the nets, and the bubble pops.

James Lileks, The Bleat, 2006-01-05

Posted by Nicholas at 12:07 AM | Comments (1)

January 05, 2006

Old woodworking truism

It really is true what all the woodworkers say . . . you never have enough clamps. I was planning on finishing off two bookcases today, but I didn't have enough clamps (of the correct size, anyway) to do more than one at a time, so I'm probably not going to get the second one finished tonight.

When I'm not actively gluing-up a carcass, I always think I've got more than enough clamps for any reasonable purpose . . . and every time I do a glue-up, I realize I need a few more for next time.

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

UK government to crack down on illicit home improvements

Yes, that heading is correct: the British government is going ahead with plans to monitor all housing stock in the UK to ensure that all taxes are being paid on home improvements, according to a report in The Independent:

John Prescott has told tax inspectors to use satellites to snoop on householders' attempts to improve their homes.

Images of new conservatories and garages taken from space will be used to hike up council taxes and other property levies, official guidance obtained by The Independent on Sunday reveals.

Mr Prescott's department is overseeing the creation of a database containing the details of every house in Britain to help tax inspectors to assess new charges.

Even minor improvements, invisible from the road, will be caught by "spy in the sky" technology that uses a mix of aerial and satellite images taken over time to spot changes.

[. . .]

Houses in the country will be particularly targeted. "Aerial photographs are very effective in rural areas where improvements are hard to see from the road," a handbook for property inspectors says.

The Tories warned of a Big Brother-style inspection regime which could see householders forced to reveal every detail of their homes, including the finish of a children's playroom or the type of central heating.

They accused the Government of using satellite technology to spy on families so they can levy stealth taxes.

Paging Google Maps . . . call for Google on the white courtesy phone . . .

Hat tip to "Andy" from rec.woodworking for the URL.

Posted by Nicholas at 01:09 AM | Comments (1)

Still on vacation, damn it!

Sorry for the lack of posts . . . but not a lot. I'm still enjoying the tail end of my vacation, so my attention to the affairs of the outside world are still pretty spotty. I have to be back in work mode on Monday morning, but that's still far enough in the future that I'm not worried about it yet.

For more active blogging until then, I direct your attention to the fine blogs listed on the left side of the window (scroll down to see 'em all). There's plenty there to keep you interested, amused, or embittered until Monday — at the very least!

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

January 04, 2006

QotD: Canadian Political Landscape

My working assumption has been that there is no substantial Conservative political talent in Canada, as distinguished from pundits or theorists. But the more interesting proposal is that Canadian politics is a natural monopoly. On this view, even if it was possible to profitably carve out a "Canadian conservativism" distinct from warmed-over Red-Toryism, the Liberal party would simply extend one of its tentacles to occupy it; conversely, should any party successfully replace the Liberals, they will converge on a form that looks a lot like the present Liberal octopus. This doesn't mean that secondary parties don't matter: the obvious model is the way that the existence of Apple affects the evolution of Windows merely because they theoretically could replace it, even if they never will in real life.

Some might call this a pessimistic vision of Canada's future. I say that the Canadian "soft monopoly" model provides a pretty optimistic scenario for the future of (say) China. Also, I've thought about this for at least four minutes now, and I don't see how responsive democracy necessarily requires competitive parties, despite all the pieties to the contrary. I'm always tempted to think that the optimal number of political parties is zero, and having one really big one might actually be a closer approximation of this.

Evan Kirchhoff, "Coronation Announced", 101-280, 2005-11-29

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

January 03, 2006

Mixed drinks

Alison Proteau posted this to the Canadian Browncoats list, and I thought it amusing enough to inflict on you non-Firefly fans:

I got my husband a book on cocktails and a shaker for Xmas this year (The Cocktail Handbook by Maria Constantino). And what to my wondering eyes should appear on page 90 but a drink called Firefly!

You build the drink in a highball glass of your choice.

Ice
2 measures vodka
4 measures grapefruit juice
1 tsp grenadine

Fill glass with ice, pour in vodka and juice, carefully drop the grenadine in the center of the drink.

A man walks around with a drink like this in his hand and folk know he's not afraid of anything! (it's a bit pink..:oD)

Posted by Nicholas at 12:52 AM | Comments (0)

QotD: The future of television

The networks will all be creating exciting, innovative new spin-offs of today's shows. Approximately 67 percent of all television will be CSI-based, including CSI: Des Moines, CSI: New York but a Different Part than Gary Sinise Is In and NCSI: SVU WKRP, which covers every possible gruesome crime with a groovin' '70s beat. (Jerry Bruckheimer will also have conquered Broadway with the CSI musical "FOLLICLE!" starring Nathan Lane as a frenetic but lovable blood spatter and Matthew Broderick as lint.)

Lost has that one-of-a-kind alchemy that really can't be copied. Therefore, look for the original series Misplaced, as well as Unfound, Not So Much with the Whereabouts and Just Pull Over and Ask!

In a stunningly cost-effective move, CBS will air How I Met Your Biological Mother, That Bitch, which is just old episodes of How I Met Your Mother with snarkier narration. HBO's Westminster will continue the trend pioneered by Deadwood and Rome by making 19th-century England really dirty and weird, like Jane Austen with Tourette's. (Actually, I can't wait for that one.) Also, the constant slew of cable mergers will result in the creation of CinePax, a channel that's just very confused about its morals.

Every year another film actress gets "too old" for film leads and finds a (sometimes much better) home on TV. This trend will continue a few years hence when the aging but feisty Dakota Fanning headlines CSI: Vancouver Made to Look Like Chicago.

Joss Whedon, "Guest Columnist Joss Whedon Eyes the Future of TV", TV Guide, 2005-12-24

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

January 02, 2006

Vikings fire head coach after last win

To no great surprise, Vikings owner Zygi Wilf informed head coach Mike Tice that his contract would not be renewed yesterday, immediately after the Vikings beat the Bears:

After insisting that he wanted to know his fate "sooner than later," Tice was told by owner Zygi Wilf after the Vikings' 34-10 victory Sunday over the Chicago Bears that his contract would not be renewed.

Tice and his staff were puzzled by ownership's sudden decision to announce his dismissal less than an hour after the Vikings won their 2005 season finale at the Metrodome to finish 9-7. Tice had expected to learn his fate at a meeting scheduled for 8 a.m. today with Wilf and team President Mark Wilf.

"I didn't get a chance to savor the victory for very long, I'll tell you that," Tice said. "But I've been the one saying sooner than later, so I guess he took that as, `As soon as possible,' ASAP."

The bizarre New Year's Day was in character for the Vikings of 2005, whose off-the-field exploits grabbed national attention.

I'm sorry to see Tice go, but in no way is this a surprise: the new owners probably already had a plan for a new head coach, regardless of how well or how poorly Tice did this season. They took over the ownership too close to the start of the regular season to completely revamp the coaching staff (although in hindsight, that's less obvious than it seemed at the time).

I doubt that anyone will give Tice a shot at a head coaching position in the near future, but he should still be employed in the league next season.

Posted by Nicholas at 09:41 AM | Comments (2)

QotD: Wine Tasting

I don't like the rug pulled out from under me, and wine is a master of this trick. I fight back by taking detailed tasting notes so I can accurately recall a wine whether I tasted it in moonlight with the winemaker holding it to my lips and whispering sweet sales pitches in my ear, or in the neon light of a physics lab with a nerd whispering sweet chemical formulas.

But even the best notes can be foiled by your own, personal chemistry. In sickness and in health, medicated or stone cold sober, sweating or shivering, sleepy or buzzed — all of these states and more can totally change your perception. Immune to my obsessive note-taking, a white might scour like Brillo one week, and go down like lemonade on a hot summer's day the next. Velvety, generous reds can go tarry and bitter, only to resume the seduction a few weeks, months, or flu seasons later.

When it happens in your own mouth, it's easy to grasp how profoundly different wine might taste to someone else. Debating "red" with your spouse might be as relevant as arguing "green" with the color-blind.

Jennifer "Chotzi" Rosen, "And You Can't Make Me!", Rocky Mountain News, 2005-12-27

Posted by Nicholas at 01:10 AM | Comments (0)

January 01, 2006

Woodbutchery, part two

The other small project I'd intended to get done today was to make some zero-clearance inserts for my table saw. Most table saws are sold with a general-purpose insert that works reasonably well for most purposes:

Tablesaw_Inserts_1883.jpg

The one on the left is the original that came with my saw. The one on the right is my first home-made insert. As you can see, the slot for the saw blade is much larger on the original than it is on mine. The advantage of the home-made model is that if you're cutting very small parts, there's little or no chance that a small cut-off will fall down through the slot and into the saw body. It also provides better support for the cut edge, which reduces splintering and tear-out of the wood fibres.

It was easier to make the new insert than I'd expected, but having the right tools made a difference. I started out with a sheet of 1/2" MDF, and cut out some blanks:

Tablesaw_Insert_Blanks_1879.jpg

The orange object on top is the original dado-blade insert (note the wider slot in the top). It had a flatter surface, which made it the obvious choice to use as a template for the blanks. I attached the first blank with some double-sided carpet tape and then used a bearing-guided straight bit on the router table to duplicate the shape of the original insert:

Router_Table_1882.jpg

The bearing on the top of the bit runs against the edge of the original, while the cutting edges are trimming off the excess material on the blank. The black hose is attached to my shop vacuum: MDF dust isn't something you want to be breathing a lot of.

My mistake on this project (there's always at least one of 'em) was to use the dado insert as my template: it's slightly shorter than the regular insert and there's a small rubber spacer at the back to snug it up to the front of the throat: all of my blanks were slightly too short as a result. Here's how I tried to fix the problem:

Tablesaw_Insert_Grubscrew_1885.jpg

That's a small grubscrew at the back of the insert. To adjust it to the correct length, use an Allen key to shorten or lengthen the exposed screw. It worked, thank goodness. The original inserts are slightly thicker than the MDF blanks I used, so I had to drill out some adjustment holes for more grubscrews so that the new inserts could be level with the top of the table:

Tablesaw_Insert_Levellers_1886.jpg

I may need to find some longer grubscrews: these are at about their limit without losing their grip in the MDF. An alternative fix might be to laminate some thin material underneath the drilled holes (about 1/16th of an inch would be about right) to provide a bit more depth.

The day's output (it was easier to mass-produce them once I'd got the first one working properly):

Tablesaw_Inserts_Group_1887.jpg

The one at the far right is used with a regular-width blade. The rest will be used with the dado stack at various widths (I didn't feel up to messing around with the dado blades today, so that will be a job for tomorrow).

Posted by Nicholas at 05:58 PM | Comments (2)

Woodbutchering, New Year's style

After far too long, I got back to work on a few woodworking projects I'd let lie undisturbed in the dusty basement. The first was to fix a mistake I made on the first bookcase carcase . . . I'd forgotten to put in a rabbet at the back to hold the plywood back panel in place. This should have been an easy task with a dado stack on the table saw, but it needed to be done differently for the partially-assembled carcase.

The only way to do it, really, was to use a router and a rabbetting bit. This is a very useful bit . . . although this was only the second time I'd needed to use mine since I bought it. I needed to cut away about 1/4" of material, so I used the small rabbetting bit from Lee Valley.

I had to go fairly slowly, as the router can be unstable on thin edges, so I rigged an additional support along the sides so that the router didn't tip (which can gouge the wood and leave you with a repair job to do). Because the case was partially assembled, I could only support part of the way without the clamps holding the support interfering with the router. It took about five times as long to do the job this way as it would have if I'd done it right in the first place.

Then, of course, I realized I should have been using the large rabbetting bit instead!

This bit is big enough that I had to remove the baseplate from my router to insert the bit:

Router_1877.jpg

It may not look scary there, but when it's turning at umpteen thousand RPM, it's potentially very scary. Of course, while I thought the original job went well, the re-do with the larger bit didn't go quite as well:

Router_mistake_1878.jpg

That's where I got impatient and tried to use the router without properly supporting it. And the worst thing is that I knew I shouldn't have been trying the shortcut. Fortunately, it's not going to be visible in the finished bookcase.

Posted by Nicholas at 05:18 PM | Comments (5)

QotD: Elections and the media

There is no greater threat to democracy, I am now convinced, than a free press. Far from clarifying or illuminating the choices before the voters, the media's job seems mostly to be to get in the way — interposing ourselves between the candidates and the voters in a manner that fundamentally distorts and trivializes the debate.

Andrew Coyne, National Post, 2000

Posted by Nicholas at 01:44 AM | Comments (0)


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