May 31, 2006

Visiting the "moonbat mall"

Gerard Vanderleun has a particularly, um, aromatic trip down memory lane, in the form of a trip to his local University district:

Saturday was an especially good day for seeing the University District as it really is. It was Street-Fair Saturday and, as I remarked to my friend after strolling a couple of blocks, the streets had been transformed into what can only be described as an open-air Moonbat Mall.

Here in the bright light of a perfect day causes of all sorts and flavors jousted for your attention with the scents of a dozen different countries' street food and offers to rub your skull with copper wires. They were still selling and buying tie-dyes that Jerry Garcia wouldn't be caught dead in. You could get sculptures made of polished bones, or you could get sharpened bones driven through your nose while you wait. Parents abused small children openly by paying insane clowns to paint what could be flowers on the faces of the kids. At one point, three generations of goth womanhood walked down the street under parasols; daughter goth, mother goth, and an older woman in deep goth wearing a t-shirt that proclaimed her to be "Fairy Goth Mother." [. . .]

The crowds swirled about us in all the flaky ancient types we've all come to know since, well, 1968. Nothing new about them and, even when confronted with someone with a spider web tattooed on his face, holes the size of silver dollars thought his ears, a couple of dozen piercing in his face and limbs, nothing particularly shocking. All rather common to tell you the truth; just blandly ordinary for the University District. I had a brief moment of shame when I realized that back in the 60s and 70s I had played a small role in inventing all these types, but it passed upon the purchase of a corn dog.

Posted by Nicholas at 03:34 PM | Comments (3)

Misleading studies

A link from SDA took me to this debunking of a study on the economic value of housework:

Salary.com released a "study" of the value of housewife work. They claim that if paid for all their work, housewives would earn $134,121 per year. In addition to the usual maid, cook, and chauffeur roles, Salary.com included CEO and psychologist. I think they forgot, um, callgirl.

As Kate put it in the SDA post, "Let's just say she has 'issues'." The author is a very strong advocate of daycare and perhaps even more strongly against stay-at-home moms. It's still a very funny post.

Posted by Nicholas at 02:09 PM | Comments (1)

A different angle on minimum wage laws

Dale Amon finds an interesting aspect of both minimum wage laws and illegal immigration:

I realized this morning there is a way in which politicians can hide much of the pain [of minimum-wage induced inflation] indefinitely: illegal immigration. Think it through. Raise the minimum wage in an environment where there is cheap, willing labour, undocumented and outside the system. What is the rational employer response? Raise wages for legal employees and export the costs to the undocumented workers. Illegal immigrants are not voters so this is a win-win situation to both the ruling class and those who keep them there. The voters get a higher real wage and living standard because the inflationary cost has been shifted. The pain has been exported outside the political game.

Statist politicians cannot do anything about illegal immigration because if they stop it, the deferred inflation will cause prices to rise enough to erase the excess income of their constituents. Employers will have to either drop low end jobs or else raise prices to support them. Voters will not be happy and it is well known the wallet is a bigger determinate of election outcomes than just about anything else. So, QED, illegal immigration is now a structural requirement of the centralized Western bureaucratic state.

That's a connection I'd never thought of myself: I wonder how close to the truth it is . . . especially in the United States, where the illegal immigrant debate is generating such huge amounts of heat.

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

QotD: "Conservative" rock music

As for anti-authoritarianism, if there's one thing the last six years have taught us, it's that conservatism and authoritarianism are more than compatible — hey go hand in hand, so long as the authoritarians themselves are sufficiently conservative. Sorry. But Miller can't claim anti-authoritarian anthems like "Won't Get Fooled Again" or "Cult of Personality" (is there a better recent of Corey Glover's warnings about ceaseless devotion to political power than the right's bizarre allegiance to President Bush, despite his record?).

Of course, there's also something humorously desperate about trying to compile a list of songs from a style of music whose very existence defies the fundamental tenets of conservatism, and claim them for conservatism. Everything about rock n' roll, from its roots to its composition to its rise, was in defiance of the "tradition" conservatives hold sacred.

Radley Balko, "Reagan Rock", The Agitator, 2006-05-30

Posted by Nicholas at 09:59 AM | Comments (0)

May 30, 2006

More on the Haditha massacre

Jon sent along a link to this Hot Air round-up of information on the investigation into the murders in Haditha:

The Times says three or four Marines are suspected of carrying out the killings with several more facing charges of having covered it up or done nothing while the shooting was going on.

The rest of today's coverage follows two tracks. One is devoted to showing how tough the Marines have had it in Haditha. This AP story paints it as the equal of any snakepit in Iraq; Zarqawi is rumored to have lived there, and voter turnout for last year's constitutional referendum was estimated at 150 out of a city of 90,000. So hard is it, in fact, that Knight-Ridder's Iraq correspondent reported last August — three months before the alleged massacre — that some of the Marine officers stationed there worried that their men might crack. Editor & Publisher reprinted the article today.

Posted by Nicholas at 01:55 PM | Comments (0)

Andrew recasts Godwin's Law for Canadian debaters

Jon sent this link to Bound by Gravity, where Andrew has performed a very useful transformation of Godwin's Law, specifically for Canadian content:

Godwin's Law, Canadian Variant:

As a online discussion about Canadian politics grows longer, the probability of a comparison involving the United States of America or a member of the Republican party approaches one.

Whenever a journalist, blogger, or commenter chimes in with a reductio ad americanum my respect for what they have written immediately drops a few notches, and I am less likely to take their point of view seriously. It is lazy rhetoric, and rarely appropriate. Even when the comparison is valid, the author's point could have been made (usually far more succinctly) using a different choice of words.

Bonus Snark:

Godwin's Law, Conservative/Libertarian Variant:

As a online discussion about left-versus-right politics grows longer, the probability of a comparison involving the USSR or Stalin approaches one.

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

Free World Cup highlights

FIFA's website will provide free 2-minute highlights for all games in the upcoming World Cup:

A two-minute video of every match at the June 9-July 9 tournament will be available within an hour of the final whistle at www.fifaworldcup.com.

Fans will also be able to follow the action on their mobile phones, either by downloading software from the website or by signing up for SMS alerts.

"No matter where you are in the world you will be able to follow the action before, during and after matches," said Jerome Valcke, FIFA's marketing and television chief, on Tuesday.

That's very cool.

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

This week's Carnival of Liberty

This week's edition of the Carnival of Liberty is being hosted at New World Man. Go have a look at what the bloggers of the Life, Liberty, Property group have been writing about.

Posted by Nicholas at 08:15 AM | Comments (0)

QotD: Spelling

I'm pretty sure nitpicking a geek's spelling certifies that I will be doomed to become one. Thank God it's too late for me to die a virgin.

Sheep count, right?

"ThisIsMyHandle", commenting in the thread for a post on Fark.com, 2006-05-29

Posted by Nicholas at 08:05 AM | Comments (0)

May 29, 2006

Dance interpretation

Alex K. sent this link to the Bujold mailing list: Evolution of Dance. I get exhausted just watching this one . . .

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

Canadian military hardware wish-list

There's a good round-up of the Canadian Forces' hardware wish list posted at Daimnation. It includes a link to this Chris Wattie article:

Defence sources say Gordon O'Connor, the Defence Minister, will make a pitch to a Cabinet committee tomorrow for six major projects worth more than $8-billion.

[. . .] At the top of Mr. O'Connor's list will be four new C-17 Globemaster cargo jets, which the sources said would be bought directly from the U.S. manufacturer, Boeing, in a "sole source" acquisition.

Long overdue. Not necessarily these particular planes, but creating a long-range, heavy-lift "organic" component. This sort of thing can be supplemented by rentals of foreign aircraft as needed, but for the kind of missions Canada has taken on over the last few years, it's incredible that it's taken this long just to get to the formal proposal stage.

The government will also be asked to approve the purchase of 17 tactical transports — smaller, propeller-driven aircraft that can land troops or cargo in remote, rough airstrips. The likely winner of that contract will be the C-130J, the latest model of the venerable Hercules now in service with the Canadian air force.

These will probably be coming on line just as the oldest of the current Herc fleet are ready to be retired. If the tender goes to the current most likely winner, the air force will be happy. However, the competing manufacturer's agents are very busy trying to sell their alternative solution by dangling a fair bit of domestic off-sets (especially in Quebec). Let's all just hope that (if the politically expedient option is chosen instead) the Airbus A400M will be a capable aircraft. When it gets airborne.

Mr. O'Connor is also proposing to buy as many as 20 new heavy-lift helicopters for the army and a total of 18 new search-and-rescue planes.

It must be galling for the current Canadian deployment to Afghanistan . . . they're depending on the Dutch for use of Chinook heavy-lift helicopter support. Chinooks which used to belong to the Canadian Forces.

The army is to get a replacement for its 24-year-old logistics trucks, while the navy will get approval for its three new joint-support ships, a combination troopship and resupply vessel due to be built over the next five years, the sources said.

The new ships for the navy will be an interesting development. As Mark C. points out in his post at Daimnation:

I smell a fix here. In return for the JSS (at least most of them) being built in Canada (hang the added expense and delays, politics is politics), when the government gets around to the amphibious assault ship it may consider an off-shore purchase. The Dutch have a nifty example but there are several other possible sources (France, UK, US, Italy — the last is the un-Canadian "hybrid" aircraft carrier that the Liberals so misleadingly and viciously attacked in the 2004 election).

It will be fascinating to see whether the Defence Minister can get cabinet to go ahead with this plan.

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

Investigating alleged atrocities — or hiding actual ones

Perry de Havilland looks at the contrasting ways the USMC and the London police deal with allegations of gross injustice:

The alleged atrocity carried out by a fire-team of US Marines in Iraq is ghastly news and whilst I hope, like so many other allegations against Allied soldiers in the Middle East, it turns there is much less to this than meets the eye, the reports do seem to be indicating that this time there really was a monstrous massacre of innocents.

However the fact this horrendous incident has not been swept under the table shows that the US military does have structures that work as intended. Whilst it is appalling such a thing could have happened, it would be even worse if it had happened and the people responsible got away with it.

In that respect at least, one cannot but compare the accountability of the USMC with what happened when British police shot dead Jean Charles de Menezes, a innocent Brazilian man, and what we got was a stream of barefaced lies and complete fabrications and still no one has been brought to book (which should not just be the people responsible for the killing, but everyone involved with what has clearly been a conspiracy to pervert the course of justice).

It is a noted characteristic — of both bureaucracies in general and totalitarian regimes in particular — to automatically move to hide evidence of both natural and man-made disasters. That the USMC is (at least on the surface) moving to uncover the facts of the alleged atrocity is a very good thing: if a terrible crime like this has been committed, the swift investigation will minimize the chance of another atrocity.

The reactions of the London authorities to the murder of Jean Charles de Menezes reflects the habits of Soviet or Chinese Communist officials: deny, deflect, lie, or whatever else might seem necessary to keep the story from being told.

Posted by Nicholas at 11:50 AM | Comments (0)

QotD: Limits to Presidential power

The Bush administration now claims that it can arrest, detain, and imprison U.S. citizens indefinitely (which means forever) without ever charging them or bringing them to trial. It claims it collect data on U.S. citizens, listen in on their phone conversations, monitor what books they read and what websites they visit, and track their credit card transactions — all without a warrant. It claims it can fine or imprison libraries, ISP, phone company, and credit card company employees who complain or reveal that the information was handed over. And it now claims it can arrest and imprison journalists who dare to tell the public that any of this is happening.

Last February, one Justice Department official even argued that the president has the power to order the assasinaton of terror suspects living in the U.S. — even U.S. citizens. No trial, no arrest, no public hearing.

Given all of this, it's difficult to come up with a series of questions aimed at pinning down Bush supporters on the limits of executive power because, quite frankly, there don't seem to be any limits left.

Radley Balko, "What's Left?", TheAgitator.com, 2006-05-25

Posted by Nicholas at 12:17 AM | Comments (2)

May 28, 2006

QotD: Illegal immigrants versus slaves

Let's see. With immigration, we have willing employers paying willing workers a mutually agreed-upon wage. The workers came here voluntarily. Indeed, some risked their lives to be here. The workers are free to switch jobs, live where they please, and do as they please with their money. Employers may pay low wages, but if the'yre too low, they'll lose the best workers to other employers — even in the case of illegals. There are no chains. No whipping posts. No brands.

Now — and I can't believe I even have to do this — let's talk about fucking slavery. See, Mr. Riehl, with slavery, Africans were kidnapped from their homes, from halfway across the world. They were packed into ships against their will, like meat. They were beaten and bred like animals. They were murdered if they resisted. They were bought and sold as if they were mules. They were routinely ripped from what little semblance of family they were permitted to have if their "employer" wished to sell them. Slaves who escaped (i.e., "looked for other employment") were whipped, shot, or lynched. And all of this went on for generations.

Yes. Of course. Immigrants are exactly the 2006 equivalent of slaves. Or the next best thing to slaves.

Radley Balko, "Dan Riehl: Ignoramous", TheAgitator.com, 2006-05-25

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

May 27, 2006

Smoot & McKinnie plead guilty

The final chapter (I hope) of the infamous Love Boat case has finally closed: Fred Smoot and Bryant McKinnie have pleaded guilty to misdemeanor charges:

Vikings cornerback Fred Smoot and left tackle Bryant McKinnie pleaded guilty Friday to misdemeanor charges stemming from the team's raucous boat party last October.

Each agreed to pay a $1,000 fine and perform 48 hours of community service.

Smoot and McKinnie pleaded guilty to disorderly conduct and being a public nuisance on a watercraft. The second charge will be removed from their records if they stay out of trouble for a year.

I don't know about anyone else, but I'm really hoping that the only time the Vikings are in the news is on game day this season!

Posted by Nicholas at 08:26 AM | Comments (0)

QotD: Gender Imbalances in China

[. . .] in the east the so-called guang gun — "bare branches": since China introduced its "one child" policy in 1978, the imbalance between the sexes has increased to the point where there are 119 boys for every 100 girls, the most gender-distorted demographic cohort in history. The pioneer generation of that 20 per cent male surplus is reaching manhood now. Asked about this on the radio a year or two back, I suggested that maybe China's planning on becoming the first gay superpower since Sparta, and promptly received a ton of indignant emails.

Mark Steyn, "The future is spelled C-H-I-N-A", Macleans, 2006-05-26

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

May 26, 2006

Get your Hamlet geek on!

SJK has started a blog which, for the time being, is all about Hamlet.

Hugely belated hat tip to Liam, who "was supposed to post about that a week ago."

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

Knife control registry next?

Steve H. has a bit of innocent fun at the expense of the English:

The British police, not satisfied with protecting criminals by confiscating firearms and prosecuting people who defend themselves, are now confiscating knives. Next they should try to prevent people from biting each other by removing their teeth. That wouldn't take long in England [Hi, Andy!].

The people who are against knife confiscation want a five-year mandatory sentence for people caught carrying a knife.

After that, he then slashes up Star Trek fans:

The article to which Fark links shows a photo of — no joke — a Klingon "batleff," which is a moronic thing you hold with two hands. Sort of like a giant concave pizza slicer. The cops in the story whine about how deadly it is. Look, assholes, what you have there is a NERD TOY owned by . . . a NERD. Let me remind you how the food chain works. Nerds are not purveyors of violence. Nerds are TARGETS of violence. Wedgies. Titty twisters. Red bellies. You know what I'm talking about. No one nerdy enough to create a hilarious Star Trek pizza slicer is going to be man enough to use it. And anyway, it probably weighs 75 pounds. What nerd can lift 75 pounds? The muscle in a nerd's body is normally concentrated in the right wrist, for reasons best not explored. It takes more than a wrist to wield a hefty piece of steel as long as your leg.

He's right: a pole-weapon of that type takes more than watching a couple of episodes of Star Trek to master. In the hands of someone who knows how to use long weapons, it might be dangerous, but in the hands of a typical fan . . . it's only dangerous to the fan. Oh, and any other fans standing behind or beside him.

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

Sorry, a bit distracted at the moment

. . . my employer has just announced they're being acquired. Situation at work is . . . fluid.

Posted by Nicholas at 02:11 PM | Comments (1)

QotD: The Parliamentary Press Gallery

We have decided — and by "we," I mean every large news organization in Canada without exception — that nobody in Canada needs information about how we are governed any more. In a shockingly short time, we have shrunk the moral distance between the Sunday political shows and the weeknight reality shows to zero. Both shows are about who gets voted off the island.

We have become a ridiculous bunch. For the past five years it was hard to find 200 words, in even the Globe and Mail, on the contents or ramifications of any bill before the Commons. In fact, for months at a time, the people whose job it is to cover Parliament would claim there was nothing going on in Parliament. Oddly enough, when a session was suspended or prorogued, or Chrétien dropped the writ for an election, we would read long, long lists of important-sounding legislation that would now never be passed. How come we never heard about a bill until it died on the order paper? One of life's little mysteries.

Paul Wells, quoting a speech he gave in 2003 in "Period Piece", Inkless Wells, 2006-05-25

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

May 25, 2006

Iran expresses anger to Canadian ambassador

The original National Post story about Iran imposing colour badges on religious minorities has escalated:

Canada's ambassador to Iran was summoned to the Foreign Ministry in apparent diplomatic fallout from remarks by Prime Minister Stephen Harper after a Canadian newspaper report suggested religious minorities in Iran would be forced to wear badges.

A Foreign Affairs Department spokesman confirmed an Iranian television report that Ambassador Gordon Venner was summoned on Wednesday.

The spokesman refused to say what was discussed at the meeting. However, it came days after Harper criticized Iran over a National Post report that quoted Iranian exiles as saying Iran's conservative parliament was debating a draft law that would force Jews, Christians and other non-Muslims in the country to wear special patches of coloured cloth to distinguish them from Muslims.

Iranian officials have denied that any such provision existed.

Earlier posts on this subject are here and here.

Posted by Nicholas at 04:26 PM | Comments (0)

Nooooooooooooooo!!!!

Say it's not true, Bob!

Nearly fifteen years ago, I stumbled across a line in Details magazine that's always struck me as good advice: always leave a party ten minutes before you should. At least I think that's how it went. On first reading it's a bit like Heraclitus' "can't step into the same river twice" comment, but once you figure out, it all falls into place. Anyways, over time, I've done my best to abide by that bit of advice, sometimes doing better than others.

All of which is an overly long way of getting to my point: it's time to shut down Let It Bleed.

Another of my favourite blogs shutting down. It's getting lonely in the blogosphere . . .

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

Innocent until proven URK!!

This is one person whose presumption of innocence is going to be questioned:

A man charged with murder in Massachusetts was so angry with his lawyer's performance he attacked the attorney in court, trying to strangle him as a shocked judge looked on, Boston radio reported on Wednesday.

Posted by Nicholas at 02:55 PM | Comments (0)

The mystery of "Canadian Content" rules

As most of you have probably figured out by now, I'm not much of a fan of the Canadian government's meddling in the entertainment and broadcast industries. Their weird and whacky "Canadian Content" rules are just part of the distorting influence of the feds in this area. I didn't realize just how odd those rules can be, until I read an email from Mike Major to the Canadian Browncoats mailing list, talking about a new SF venture:

[. . .] a local group of producers and actors are doing a hard SF serial distributed through the 'net which, while not in the [Firefly/Serenity] 'verse is certainly evocative of a similar kind of feel.

http://www.rebelspace.com

Thought there might be some interest in Canadian home-grown, produced, acted, directed and everything else hard SF. Oh — they can't get funding from the government because it's not set in Canada.

While I don't think the government should be providing any funding to anyone in the entertainment business, if they must do so, they should at least be reasonable in how they choose who gets funding. So a group of Canadian actors, with a Canadian crew, using a Canadian script, and Canadian producer/director isn't enough to qualify the production as "Canadian" enough . . . because it's not set in Canada?

Someone want to parse that one for me? Because they certainly hand out lots of money to plenty of productions that are shot in Canada using foreign actors, directors, producers, etc. Is the "set in Canada" the most important criterion?

Posted by Nicholas at 12:20 PM | Comments (2)

It had to happen sooner or later

Jon sent along a link to 1-900-Reality:

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

I don't know if this counts as blasphemy or not . . .

The Chosen Beers:

HE'BREW 9

The First Ever Extreme High Holiday Beer.

Hat tip to James Lileks.

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

QotD: Mark Twain

A good half of the humor of Mark Twain consisted of admitting shamelessly to vices and weaknesses that all of us have and few of us care to acknowledge.

H.L. Mencken, "The Ulster Polonius", Prejudices: First Series, 1919

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

May 24, 2006

Canada takes 4 of top ten spots . . .

. . . on the Worst Beers in the World list. Steelback's "Tango" was rated the second worst, while their "Silver" was fifth. Sleeman's "Clear" was judged the fourth worst, while their "B-40 Bull Max" malt liquor came in as eighth.

Of course, the beer ratings were heavily biased towards beers available in North America — I'm sure there are some terrible beers lurking in England, Germany, or India, for example — but they didn't make this list.

Posted by Nicholas at 03:29 PM | Comments (2)

Captain Goddard to be buried at the National Memorial Cemetary

Captain Nichola Goddard, who died in action in Afghanistan last week, is to be buried in Ottawa's National Memorial Cemetary, according to this report in the Globe and Mail:

The cemetery, within sight of the Parliament buildings, was established in 2001 at the urging of Gen. Romeo Dallaire, now a senator, who believed that Canada needed something equivalent to the American military burial grounds at Arlington, Va.

To date few soldiers killed in combat have been buried there, military historian Jack Granatstein said Tuesday.

"I think this is where people who are killed in action, killed overseas, should be buried," said Mr. Granatstein, former director of the Canadian War Museum.

Capt. Goddard, 26, died May 17 near Kandahar in a Taliban ambush. She was the 16th Canadian soldier to be killed in Afghanistan. All the others have been buried in their hometowns.

Her funeral will be held Friday at St. Barnabas Anglican Church in Calgary, where she married Jason Beam in 2002.

Hat tip to NealeNews.

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

Mid-century comic books

I wasn't really much of a comic book reader, although I did pick up the odd Superman or Fantastic Four. James Lileks, however, appears to have spent far too many hours reading comics:

Oh, they could ask us to buy the chick comics (Millie the Model) or the half-heartened Western features, but they knew we were here for superheroes, for Titanic Combat, for the thwacks and the ptangs and titles like "Lo, a Villain Cometh!" or "Enter — the Paste-master!" or "This is the Way A Hero DIES!" The best Marvel covers had no word balloons — the comic equivalent of dumping the laugh track in the operating room scenes of M*A*S*H — and even the cheapo reprint Monster titles had a Marvel vibe, thanks to Stan and Jack.

Everyone read Spidey, because he was Us. Everyone read Fantastic Four, because we all wanted to be smart like Reid, funny and strong and Tragic like Ben (although we could do without the skin condition. On the other hand, he had a girlfriend chicks, which was a bit depressing to someone who got laughed at in the lunchroom for a single volcanic zit.) I don't know if anyone wanted to be Johnny Storm — the whole burning & flying thing was fine, but there was something colorless about him. Likewise Sue Storm, who was a wimp at first — a literally colorless Betty Brand if that's not redundant — before she got the Kirby Hottness Upgrade Package in the early 70s. Everyone read these books. They were the best.

I guess I sat out most of the hyper-enthused comic book era . . .

Still, he got me with this observation, because I did grow up with the rockets-and-ray-guns SciFi vision of the future:

These books still have a tremendous pull, mostly for nostalgia's sake. [. . .] Now the future is the present; we all have gadgets and computers, space exploration is rote and dull, and the idea of the future — a place with jumpsuits and slender finned rockets and Planet Squads and men barking "Come in, Space Command!" to a hand-held mike — seems like a false alarm. There is no future, as such; there's just more of the same. Quicker smaller better faster, but no big change. No skyscrapers with Saturnian rings around their apex, no 50th floor walkways, no interplanetary Congresses with Venusian fish-men applauding Future Superman for his exploits.

After watching the small black-and-white TV pictures of the Apollo 11 mission — men on the moon! — I think we can be forgiven for thinking that by now we would have the Moon bases, the tourist traffic to Mars, the manned exploration of the gas giants, and all the cool toys of the most golly-gosh-gee-whiz 50's and 60's space operas.

On second thought, we do have most of the toys: we're just missing the big stuff. The exploration of space stuff that somehow got bureaucratized to death in the 70's and 80's. NASA, you've got a lot of karmic debt to work off.

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

QotD: Advice for the Left

When discussing Canadian politics, try to stick to Canadian politicians and processes. Dragging George W. Bush into the discussion every other sentence might be entertaining (and especially for us on the right), but try to remember that he lacks executive authority within these borders. Canada has her own elected representatives — George is not now, and never will be, one of them.

Chris Taylor, "A Primer for the Recalcitrant Left", Taylor & Company, 2006-05-18

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

May 23, 2006

Follow-up on Iranian religious policies

According to this extensive round-up at Unqualified Offerings, the scare story about Iran requiring religious minorities to wear distinctive badges or clothing (posted here) is false:

The National Post's Chris Wattie follows up his own paper's earlier report with even more denials. Excerpt:

     

Meir Javdanfar, an Israeli expert on Iran and the Middle East who was born and raised in Tehran, said yesterday that he was unable to find any evidence that such a law had been passed.

"None of my sources in Iran have heard of this," he said. "I don't know where this comes from."

     

Amir Taheri's original article is three pages long. That's a lot of detail, albeit, as one rereads the article, poorly sourced detail. There are no quotes from the law in translation, and the lone Iranian poobah quoted speaks largely of the dress requirements for Muslims. What I'm saying is, it's very hard to believe Taheri's article constitutes an innocent mistake. The smart bets are either that his story is correct, or that he lied. If you prefer, he was either right, or he wrote in reckless disregard of the truth.

Hat tip to Hit and Run.

Posted by Nicholas at 11:35 AM | Comments (1)

New Carnival of Liberty

This week's Carnival of Liberty has been posted at Left Brain Female. Go see what the Life, Liberty, Property bloggers have been writing about this week.

Posted by Nicholas at 08:11 AM | Comments (0)

QotD: The Phone Company

The least surprising thing about the Bush administration's massive domestic surveillance operation is the role of America's phone companies as junior partners in the mission. In fact, the welfare-warfare state has seldom had such a good ally as Ma Bell and all her rapidly in-breeding progeny.

I do not think I'm channeling my inner Dr. Sidney Schaefer when I say the phone companies are among the most contemptible actors on the American socio-political stage today. Like the recording industry, the Bells seek to preserve a particular business model via intrusive government regulation. This regulation is purchased with heavy campaign contributions on both the state and federal level, not to mention loyal toadyism in any government official's War on Whatever.

Jeff A. Taylor, "Unliberty Bells: Phone guys—fascists or fellow-travelers?", Reason, 2006-05-19

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

May 22, 2006

Doors

This long weekend's woodworking achievement was a couple of doors for corner cabinets in my office. Clive was visiting on Saturday, so we got all the pieces measured, cut to size, and trial-fit, and I applied stain to the floating panels before we knocked off for dinner.

Doors_2063.jpg

They look a bit odd here, as the panels are already stained while the rails and stiles are only stained on the inside edges. Here they are with the openings they'll fill:

CornerCabinetUpper_2066.jpgCornerCabinetUpper_2067.jpg

Upper cabinet, without door

Upper corner cabinet, with door

This is the lower corner cabinet, with the door it'll have attached:

CornerCabinetLower_2068.jpg

The regular bookcases are coming along nicely, too:

CabinetUpper_2064.jpg CabinetLower_2065.jpg

Upper bookcase

Lower bookcase

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

QotD: The American Taliban

I've been running around with my hair on fire trying to convince my straight readers that religious conservatives don't just hate homos. Their attacks on gay people, relationships, parents, and sex get all the press, but the American Taliban has an anti-straight-rights agenda too. As I wrote on March 23: "The GOP's message to straight Americans: If you have sex, we want it to fuck up your lives as much as possible. No birth control, no emergency contraception, no abortion services, no lifesaving vaccines. If you get pregnant, tough shit. You're going to have those babies, ladies, and you're going to make those child-support payments, gentlemen. And if you get HPV and it leads to cervical cancer, well, that's too bad. Have a nice funeral, slut."

After raising the alarm for months back here in the sex-ads section, I was intensely gratified to read Russell Shorto's brilliant cover story, "The War On Contraception," in the New York Times Magazine last weekend. To readers who think I'm being hysterical: So you don't think the religious right would seriously go after birth control? Fine, don't believe me. But maybe you'll believe Shorto when he lays out the American Taliban's plan to deny access to birth control — any and all types, folks, not just emergency contraception.

Dan Savage, "Savage Love: Straight Rights Update", The Onion A/V Club, 2006-05-17

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

May 21, 2006

New model cat carrier

Check out the new Tabby Tote® feline transportation system.

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

Uniform humour

Damian "Babbling" Brooks has some good-natured fun with the US Air Force's proposed new uniform:

I'm not sure the USAF wants its full-dress uniform to be a carbon-copy of a First-Year Canadian Officer Cadet's semi-dress uniform. But hey, if they do, at least it will give me something else to razz them about.

I'll even send a few of them chinstraps for their wedges. Nothing says dominant world airpower like a chinstrap.

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

QotD: Speaking and Writing

As it happens, I'm reading Volume I of the collected Orwell, and the comparison between his prose and mine is the occasion for much pained wincing. But at least when I use a long word, it's not because I think I'm getting paid by the syllable (in acclamation). No, actually, this is the way I talk. Disturbing, I know. If you've ever wondered what it would be like to live with a character from a slightly stilted Edwardian novel--well, just ask any of my roommates. Except I can't do all those complicated hairstyles or twirl a parasol.

But I digress. To my mind, the very best prose is the kind where you can't quite put your finger on why it is so damn good . . . where the whole thing is so polished, precise, and true that you can't pick out a single, clever sentence to put in your quote diary. Sadly, I'll never have the pleasure of producing such . . . but I can admire it in others.

Jane Galt, "Crossed Signals", Asymmetrical Information, 2006-05-10

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

May 20, 2006

QotD: Bad Wine Reviews

While reading Parker can help increase your knowledge about wine, reading bad wine writing doesn't teach you much. Here's Robert Draper in the February 2002 issue of GQ, writing about the 1999 Bacio Divino: "The '99's fruit attack soars like a meteor shower, then seethes in the palate like a cosmic bath of nearly unplumable depths . . . like an unforgettable encounter with a raven-haired ingenue, one is left feeling exhilarated, intrigued, and ultimately covetous." Pfui! That's purple prose all right, and not because it's stained with wine. Besides saying nothing, the paragraph ought to be used in writing schools as an example of mistakes to avoid. Meteor showers don't soar, they fall to earth. Things may seethe on the palate, but not in the palate. The word is unplumbable, not unplumable. And while I may have been exhilarated and intrigued by my encounters with raven-haired ingenues, I've never been covetous. But I thank Mr. Draper for such a magnificent example of bad writing.

Jeff Cox, Cellaring Wine, 2003

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

May 19, 2006

Visit Beautiful Baltimore . . . but don't ask for directions

. . . because you'll be arrested if you do.

Hat tip to Hit and Run.

Update 1: A Baltimore Sun article paints a slightly different picture than the original link above.

Update 2: Of course, it's a still bad idea to be a male stripper in Baltimore, as well.

Posted by Nicholas at 04:22 PM | Comments (0)

Iran and religious minorities

UPI quotes a report in the National Post as the source for this report on Iran's proposed law concerning religous minorities:

Iran's parliament passed a new law this week that would force the country's Jews, Christians and other religious minorities to wear color-coded ID badges.

Iranian expatriates confirmed reports the Iranian parliament, or majlis, has approved a law that would require non-Muslims to adhere to a dress code which mandates they wear "standard Islamic garments," according to Canada's National Post.

The roughly 25,000 Jews living in the Islamic Republic would have to attach a yellow strip of cloth to their clothing, Christians would wear red badges and Zoroastrians would wear blue ones.

Normally, the invocation of the word "Nazi" is covered by Godwin's Law: the conversation is over. In this case, the use of the term is fully justified.

Hat tip to Hit and Run, where at least one commenter thinks the news item is a hoax. I rather hope he's right.

Posted by Nicholas at 02:55 PM | Comments (0)

T-t-t-t-tooooo m-m-m-much c-c-c-caffeine???

Take the Caffeine Intake test and find out.

Hat tip to Roger Henry.

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

Life, the Universe, and Standard #42

The latest and greatest posts of the last two weeks (at least of blogs within the Red Ensign Brigade) have been collected together as Red Ensign Standard 42.

What are you waiting here for? Go see what else the Brigade has been writing about!

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

Contradictory signage

Jon and I were at a Lick's burger joint earlier this week. Just above the cash registers were a pair of signs:

Contradiction1_17May06.jpg

Click the extended entry to see clearer versions of the signs.

Contradiction2_17May06.jpgContradiction3_17May06.jpg

Jon's comment: "How can we reward ourselves if they've got cameras on the cash registers?"

I guess you had to be there . . .

Posted by Nicholas at 11:16 AM | Comments (0)

QotD: Legalization of Drugs

[. . .] in a situation of [drug] legalization, the government would regulate drugs, and massively profit through tax revenues. That is the last thing that anyone should want.

In Pennsylvania, where I live, the state is currently the only authorized distributor of wine, liquor, and gambling services. It's hard even to come up with a decent bottle of champagne or a reasonable game of cards (hard, but, thank God, not impossible). Most states are extremely dependent on income from the tobacco settlement and from taxes on cigarettes.

The government is already the primary purveyor of vice in our great nation, and it's a small step from here to a government that's your primary pornographer, pimp, and narcotics dealer. I would not object to this at all if they delivered these key services efficiently. But no.

If you think we've got a wasteful bureaucracy now, just wait until the American state is the cocaine kingpin. The government can't even deliver hurricane aid, much less heroin to all the Americans who need it.

Crispin Sartwell, "Save the Dream", Creators.com, 2006-05-10

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

May 18, 2006

Florida . . . by Fark

The usual suspects at Fark clearly love Florida. You can tell by the loving care they've put into these suggested new specialty license plate designs.

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

Are you a tax payer?

Indian Cowboy takes an analytical approach to the question of who really pays taxes:

Personally, I'm of the opinion that you're only a 'taxpayer'if the amount you pay in taxes approximates per capita government expenditure (Which is being charitable, considering that close to 40% of our budget goes toward various forms of social welfare). In other words, you put in about as much as you take out. Any less and you're a tax recipient, any more and you're a tax donor. So today I'm going to look at a couple things: First, how much are people actually paying. Then, how much are they getting back. And finally, I'm going to ask you just how 'fair' it is that some people pay nothing for something, while others pay a whole lot more, for a whole lot less.

Posted by Nicholas at 11:21 AM | Comments (2)

Sidewalk art

Some pretty impressive sidewalk art pieces.

Posted by Nicholas at 11:18 AM | Comments (1)

A possible answer . . .

. . . to the question of why we have troops in Afghanistan:

"Then he turned to me and said, 'Please excuse their staring. They are just very surprised that you are a woman working with all of these men. I have told them that you climbed over the mountain with us with your heavy bag and that you had no problems. They think that you must be very strong. I explained to them that you are just like the men, and that you can do everything that they can do the same as them.' "

Goddard added: "It was perhaps the greatest statement of equality that I have ever heard — and it was given by a Pakistani-raised, Afghan male in the middle of an Afghan village that is only accessible by a five km walk up a mountain. It just goes to show that anything is possible and that stereotypes are often completely wrong."

Captain Nichola Goddard, 1st Royal Canadian Horse Artillery, was killed in action earlier this week, the first Canadian woman to die in combat:

Although Canadian women lost their lives in action in both the First and Second World Wars, Goddard was the first to do so in a combat role.

"I believe it's safe to say she was the first woman in a combat-arms military occupation (such as artillery, infantry, or armoured) killed in front-line combat," said Lieut. Morgan Bailey, a media liaison officer in Ottawa.

Goddard was serving as a forward artillery observer, helping to target the artillery guns by observing where the shells fell.

Combat roles were first opened to Canadian women in 1990.

Canadian forces were acting in support of the Afghan National Police and the Afghan National Army, who had received information a large number of Taliban fighters were massing in the Panjwai district, about 24 kilometres west of Kandahar, an area that has seen off-on fighting for weeks, said Fraser.

Posted by Nicholas at 11:04 AM | Comments (1)

QotD: Government Spending

This is hardly the first case, after all, in which Parliament has been informed of government expenditures long after they have been made. Budget after budget, up to and including the last, have misrepresented the government's fiscal position by stuffing billions of dollars in current spending into previous fiscal years, circumventing that most hallowed of Parliamentary prerogatives: the power to scrutinize and approve how government spends the money it takes from taxpayers, before it is spent.

But these were at least open in their contempt for Parliament. And, at least in theory, Parliament could put a stop to such flimflammery if it chose. In the current example, by contrast, neither the public or Parliament had any knowledge of the overrun, or the misreporting, until it was too late. It was a deliberate act of deception, a calculated defiance of Parliament, and a fraud upon the public. That the program was also catastrophically mismanaged is, in the circumstances, almost an afterthought.

Andrew Coyne, "Why should we ever trust the Liberals again?", National Post, 2006-05-17

Posted by Nicholas at 09:53 AM | Comments (4)

May 17, 2006

Blogging the Old Testament

David Plotz has undertaken a new task: blogging the Bible.

  • Introduction:
  • Like many lax but well-educated Jews (and Christians), I have long assumed I knew what was in the Bible — more or less. I read parts of the Torah as a child in Hebrew school, then attended a rigorous Christian high school where I had to study the Old and New Testaments. Many of the highlights stuck in my head — Adam and Eve, Cain vs., Abel, Jacob vs. Esau, Jonah vs. whale, 40 days and nights, 10 plagues and Commandments, 12 tribes and apostles, Red Sea walked under, Galilee Sea walked on, bush into fire, rock into water, water into wine. And, of course, I absorbed other bits of Bible everywhere — from stories I heard in churches and synagogues, movies and TV shows, tidbits my parents and teachers told me. All this left me with a general sense that I knew the Good Book well enough, and that it was a font of crackling stories, Jewish heroes, and moral lessons.

    So, the tale of Dinah unsettled me, to say the least. If this story was strutting cheerfully through the back half of Genesis, what else had I forgotten or never learned? I decided I would, for the first time as an adult, read the Bible. And I would blog about it as I went along. For the millions of Jews and Christians who know the Bible intimately, this may seem obscene: Why should an ignoramus write about the stories and lessons that you know by heart and understand well?

  • Genesis, Chapters 1 through 7:
  • Chapter 4
    First murder — that didn't take long. I never realized there was a vegetarian angle to Cain and Abel. Cain offers God the fruit of the soil as an offering, while Abel brings the choicest meat. God scorns Cain's vegetarian platter, so Cain jealously slays his brother.

    Here is a more charitable reading of what kind of father God is. He's not indulgent or lax. He's laissez faire. His job is to push the children in the right direction, but in the end, He understands they must be free to make mistakes. When He rejects the vegan special, God chastises Cain with this advice. "Sin couches at the door; Its urge is toward you, Yet you can be its master." This is just about the best advice you can give anyone. It is conservative idealism, compressed into a sentence: We must decide for ourselves to do right. Not that Cain pays attention: He kills his brother in the very next verse.

  • Genesis, Chapters 8 through 19:
  • Chapter 19
    This chapter makes the Jerry Springer Show look like Winnie the Pooh. The Sodom business is worse than I ever imagined. Two male angels visit Lot's house in Sodom. A crowd of men (Sodomites!) gathers outside the house and demands that the two angels be sent out, so the mob can rape them. Lot, whose hospitality is greater than his common sense, offers his virgin daughters to the mob instead. Before any rapes can happen, the mob is blinded by a mysterious flash of light. The angels lead Lot, his wife, and daughters out of the city, and God destroys Sodom and Gomorrah with brimstone. Lot's wife looks back and is turned into a pillar of salt. (God may have listened to Abraham's rebuke, but He surely didn't heed it. What of all the innocent children murdered in Sodom and Gomorrah? What of Lot's innocent wife?)

This will be an interesting series to follow . . . it's a long, long time since I read any part of the Bible longer than a chapter. I'm looking forward to more of this.

Hat tip to Let it bleed.

Update, 18 May: The next set is now posted:

Chapter 21
That Sarah is a nasty piece of work. In an earlier chapter, she pimped the slave-girl Hagar to Abraham, then grew furious and exiled Hagar when she got pregnant. Now, having borne her own son Isaac, Sarah throws another fit about Hagar. She orders Abraham to banish Hagar and Ishmael (to protect Isaac's inheritance). With God's endorsement, he casts them out into the wilderness with just bread and a little water.

Posted by Nicholas at 06:47 PM | Comments (6)

A farewell to the Netherlands

By way of Andrew Sullivan's Daily Dish, here is the farewell, both from Dutch politics and from the nation, of Ayaan Hirsi Ali:

[. . .] To return to the present day, may I say that it is difficult to live with so many threats on your life and such a level of police protection. It is difficult to work as a parliamentarian if you have nowhere to live. All that is difficult, but not impossible. It has become impossible since last night, when Minister Verdonk informed me that she would strip me of my Dutch citizenship.

I am therefore preparing to leave Holland. But the questions for our society remain. The future of Islam in our country; the subjugation of women in Islamic culture; the integration of the many Muslims in the West: it is self-deceit to imagine that these issues will disappear.

I will continue to ask uncomfortable questions, despite the obvious resistance that they elicit. I feel that I should help other people to live in freedom, as many people have helped me. I personally have gone through a long and sometimes painful process of personal growth in this country. It began with learning to tell the truth to myself, and then the truth about myself: I strive now to also tell the truth about society as I see it.

That transition from becoming a member of a clan to becoming a citizen in an open society is what public service has come to mean for me. Only clear thinking and strong action can lead to real change, and free many people within our society from the mental cage of submission. The idea that I can contribute to their freedom, whether in the Netherlands or in another country, gives me deep satisfaction.

Ladies and Gentlemen, as of today, I resign from Parliament. I regret that I will be leaving the Netherlands, the country which has given me so many opportunities and enriched my life, but I am glad that I will be able to continue my work. I will go on.

Update, 18 May: Mark Dowling offered this link in the comments: Verdonk reconsiders revocation.

Posted by Nicholas at 03:51 PM | Comments (1)

Tories announce plan to eviscerate Gun Registry

Because they know they don't have the votes in the Commons to kill the Gun Registry outright, the Tories are doing the next best thing:

The Conservative government will no longer ask long-gun owners to pay to register their weapons and will not prosecute those who fail to register at all, Public Safety Minister Stockwell Day announced Wednesday.

Day said the government will reimburse long-gun owners who registered their weapons, and it will table legislation to repeal the registry of non-restricted firearms.

The government plans to transfer responsibility for the Canada Firearms Centre to the RCMP. It will also cut $10 million in annual spending at the centre and redirect it to crime-fighting.

After the recent revelations that the former government cooked the numbers to hide the fact that they were spending far more on the registry than Parliament had allowed, this is good news. The data in the registry is so unreliable that even for supporters of gun control, this is a good thing. One of the big arguments in favour of the registry was that police, in responding to a call, could be informed if firearms were on the premises before they arrived. The problem is that the data is so badly organized that it couldn't be sent to officers in real time, and even if it was, it was neither complete nor up-to-date. Police officers should probably always assume that weapons might be present on any call . . . to not do so is to put themselves at greater risk.

The gun registry was always a boondoggle: the kinds of weapons most frequently used in violent crimes were not hunting rifles, shotguns, and .22's, but those were the majority of firearms owned by Canadians (both among those who chose to register and those who "forgot").

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

I'm glad I don't get comments like this

Austin Bay gets the oddest comments on his blog, but this one is either the product of a terribly diseased mind or the most outrageous troll:

Mr. Bay, the problem you present has a basic fallacy. As any right thinking person knows it is White European Males that are the cause of the world's problems. The indigenous American population can not be faulted as part of the "man is the problem" school. One need only watch "Dances With Wolves" to fully comprehend this fact. Since White European Males were not on the North American continent at the time of the die off of the species in question, it is intuitively obvious that man was not the cause.

Where are the "re-education camps" when you need them? In the true sense of fraternal socialism.

Austin closed that item with this: "Yes, we are trying to correct the problem with the spam filter."

Posted by Nicholas at 09:51 AM | Comments (1)

QotD: Sex

Every adult must at some point have paused during some slapstick piece of debauchery and thought, "Christ, this is ridiculous". Having testicles is like being chained to the village idiot. Sad, but there it is. And when we have solved every racial, political and economic problem, we will still be stuck with that one.

Harry Hutton, "Non-Kinky Sex is a Waste of Time", Chase me, ladies, I'm in the cavalry, 2005-01-31

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

May 16, 2006

Shocking footage!

Violence and terror on the rails!

Posted by Nicholas at 07:24 PM | Comments (0)

Patent trolling to be limited?

Jon and I were discussing the whole patent troll area the other day, so when I saw this thread on Slashdot, I figured I had to link to it:

Forbes is reporting that the Supreme Court has just limited the power of patent trolls to obtain permanent injunctions against infringers as a matter of course. The court has ruled that the principles of equity apply, meaning that a court considering slapping an injunction on the infringer must consider how much damage is really being done . . . which in the case of EBay's Buy It Now feature, isn't much, since the company that owns this so-called patent only has it for the purposes of suing other people." From the article: "The high court's decision deals a blow to patent trolls, which are notorious for using the threat of permanent injunction to extort hefty fees in licensing negotiations as well as huge settlements from companies they have accused of infringing. Often, those settlements can be far greater than the value of the infringing technology: Recall the $612.5 million that Canada's Research in Motion forked over to patent-holding company NTP to avoid the shutting down of its popular BlackBerry service.

Patent trolls can sometimes be said to have a beneficial role in the economy, but most of them seem to exist only to extort money from successful businesses.

Posted by Nicholas at 07:02 PM | Comments (1)

But only people with something to hide will worry, right?

Congressman James Sensenbrenner wants to know where you've been visiting on the web. He's so curious that he's planning a new law to make sure he can find out:

Note how vague the child pornography provision is written:

   

Whoever, being an Internet content hosting provider or email service provider, knowingly engages in any conduct the provider knows or has reason to believe facilitates access to, or the possession of, child pornography shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than 10 years, or both.

   

Now think about what that means. If you run a discussion board or a blog, and someone posts a link to child porn in your comments, perhaps deep in your archives, if federal prosecutors determine you "had reason to believe" that link exists, you could well be looking at 10 years in prison.

I'm pretty vigilant about deleting spam comments and porno trackback links, but even on a small blog like this, it takes time and attention to keep ahead of the 'bots. On a big blog (and most adult-oriented sites are much larger than even the big blogs), it might not be possible at all.

No, I don't think U.S. attorneys would use that language to go after Joe Blogger. But I could certainly see them using it to go after a sex blog or porn-related discussion board. And the idea that the government wants to create a database of the websites you're visiting ought to creep you the hell out. What's left that wouldn't be subject to data mining?

Chilling? Probably not to the kind of folks who think the government isn't doing enough to keep tabs on the rest of us.

Posted by Nicholas at 05:29 PM | Comments (0)

Blatant misuse of the term "Libertarian"

This post at Nobody's Business highlights one of the most faulty uses of the word "Libertarian" since someone used it to describe Lyndon LaRouche:

When McConnell, a Confederacy buff and Civil War re-enactor (that's him in the picture), started his pet project, he predicted that it would cost five to 10 million dollars, most of it to be financed with private donations. His high estimate turned out to be almost 90 million dollars off, and a local newspaper discovered that more than 85% of the cost will have to be borne by taxpayers.

The kicker? According to the same newspaper, "the 58-year-old McConnell [is] a libertarian who often criticizes government spending."

Of course, this guy's no libertarian — he's just your regular porkin' politico who'll do you expensive favors if you promise to reciprocate.

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

No sense of history

How soon I forget . . . that May 10th was the second anniversary of Quotulatiousness. It just seems like a few months ago that Jon installed a copy of MovableType and opened up shop as Blogulaciousness. He invited me to start a blog on his account, so of course I was delighted to do so. I wasn't sure just what I'd end up blogging about, but I knew I'd be putting up a "Quote of the Day" entry regularly, so my blog name came about as a backhanded compliment to Jon.

Jon decided that blogging wasn't for him after a few months, and Blogulaciousness went dark, but he was kind enough to allow me to remain on the site as a tenant blogger. Jon is still an active reader and commenter, but in spite of my repeated suggestions, has not returned to active blogging.

Posted by Nicholas at 08:42 AM | Comments (4)

Below the Beltway hosts Carnival of Liberty XLV

The latest edition of the Carnival of Liberty is now online at Below the Beltway, collecting last week's noteworthy and interesting posts from the members of the Life, Liberty, Property group.

Posted by Nicholas at 08:31 AM | Comments (0)

QotD: Civil Liberties

The government doesn't need our freedoms to keep us safer. No one — no lawyer, judge, or historian — can point to a single incident in American history where national security was impaired because someone insisted on their right to free speech or their right to privacy or their right to due process.

Andrew Napolitano, quoted by Nick Gillespie, "The Born-Again Individualist", Reason, 2005-03

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

May 15, 2006

The YouTube Strikes Back

Elizabeth sent this link to yet another Star Wars spoof:

The Empire Brokeback

Posted by Nicholas at 05:24 PM | Comments (0)

Sea Kings again

The Sea King helicopters get another media pasting:

Our soldiers are as brave, disciplined and deadly as any in the world. But they are often equipped with old, inappropriate and overpriced kit.

There is some consternation in the ranks about the likely deployment in Afghanistan of 30-year-old Sea King helicopters. The craft were serviceable enough in their day, but they are slow, lack manoeuvrability and are especially bad in the heat.

That the MoD may be obliged to blow the cobwebs off their rotor-blades will not, however, surprise anyone familiar with the dire record of that department.

The only difference is that this report is from the Daily Telegraph.

Posted by Nicholas at 12:43 PM | Comments (3)

QotD: The Da Vinci Code

Devout Christians, who perceive the book as an attack on their faith, have not taken this lying down. Cardinal Francis Arinze recently denounced the novel, urging legal action against Brown and issuing a vague threat: "Christians must not just sit back and say it is enough for us to forgive and to forget . . . There are some other religions which if you insult their founder they will not be just talking." The Church of England has taken a smarter approach, producing a user-friendly series of documentaries and a movie trailer that shows Jesus making a funny face — always comedy gold. (Not since the Falklands War have Anglicans proven so much better in a fight than Catholics.)

Tim Cavanaugh, "You're Already Part of the Phenomenon", Reason Online, 2006-05-12

Posted by Nicholas at 12:26 AM | Comments (0)

May 14, 2006

Tabernac! The Church Strikes Back!

The Roman Catholic Church is making an attempt to reclaim the religious meanings to words Quebecers have been using as swear words:

Montreal's Catholic churches are trying to take back the tabernacle and the chalice, reminding Quebecers that the common French-language cuss words are still sacred objects to the church.

The churches launched a cheeky publicity campaign on the weekend to teach the true meaning of words that roll so easily off the tongues of many francophones when they stub a toe or strike a thumb with a hammer.

Several Montreal churches were festooned with gigantic black posters with the names of religious objects in blood-red letters and the true definition in smaller white type.

Posted by Nicholas at 05:23 PM | Comments (1)

The play's the thing

Yesterday, we drove out to Stratford to catch the final performance of "Hamlet" by Playmakers! Theatre School:

hamlet_2006.jpg

As many people have noted, watching "Hamlet" is always a series of little "So that's where that phrase came from!" experiences. It's always amazing to me how many common phrases were introduced in that play. It can be a bit distracting — if you're afflicted with an etymological mind — but pleasantly so.

This is only the second time I've seen Playmakers perform "Hamlet", but both times it has been a wonderful opportunity to watch young actors demonstrate how much they've learned and how good they can be. The first time, Brendan McKenna's portrayal of Claudius and Jennifer Zylstra's Gertrude (while great personal performances) were pushed into the background by absolutely rivetting scenery-chewing by Chris Huggins in the title role.

This cast, while tackling a longer version of the play, was much more well-balanced: Andrew Petker's Hamlet, was a more intellectual portrayal . . . his Hamlet was much more human . . . and much more believable. Eric Finlayson, in his final Playmakers appearance, had more of the calculating Claudius than the bluff, hearty portrayal Brendan McKenna chose in the previous production. Kiersten Hanly's Gertrude was less tortured by Hamlet's madness, but much more hurt by Hamlet's clear distaste-growing-into-hatred of her new husband.

Nora Smith did a brilliant job as Ophelia, managing not to let the character's descent into madness become the predictable route, but rather highlighting the pressures which finally caused her retreat from the "sane" world.

Brendan McKenna, now the Fight Choreographer, had a very convincing rapier duel between Hamlet and Laertes. It's been a few years now since I did fight scenes for any Playmakers! performance, so I was able to enjoy watching this one without making any mental notes about how I might have arranged things differently . . . Andrew Petker and Tom Beattie were excellent onstage swordsmen (from my non-judgemental seat in the audience).

Posted by Nicholas at 12:09 PM | Comments (2)

QotD: Obesity

So forget fast food, TV, computer games, and the Internet. The truth is simpler (and at the same time, more compicated) than that. For the first time in its million year history — in fact, I'm a member of the first generation to find itself, full time, in this position — most of our species has too much to eat, rather than too little.

For this, Auntie Evolution did not prepare us. (Eventually she will, of course, as those whose blood vessels don't clog up with lard have marginally more offspring than those whose blood vessels do — or should I have said, "margarinally"?) Auntie Evolution prepared us for lengthy stretches of famine, alternating with occasional periods of starvation.

L. Neil Smith, "Candy From Babies ", Libertarian Enterprise, 2006-05-07

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

May 13, 2006

QotD: Culture

Increasingly I find myself more concerned about culture than politics. 8-year-old girls in PORN STAR t-shirts, singing along to raunchy rap on the car radio. Kids (and not a few adults) tethered to PS2 for hours on end. Non-stop remakes of 70s movies instead of making original films — an increasingly self-referential pop culture that quotes itself incestuously. ('High' culture does it too). People who drive one block to the 7-11. The fact that Hugh Hefner STILL isn't dead.

Kathy Shaidle, "Is politics just a load of crap or what?", relapsed catholic, 2006-05-11

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

May 12, 2006

Vending Machines

If you like vending machines, Japan is the place to go:

PhotoMann recently decided to 'collect' images of unique vending machines found in Japan. They are everywhere. Estimates suggest there are 5.6 million vending machines which works out to be one for every 20 people in Japan. Sales from vending machines in 2000 totaled $56 billion! The most common are drink and cigarette machines followed by machines with pornography.

Of course, no post on Japanese culture is complete without the obligatory "you've got to be kidding me" entry:

Truly Bizarre!!

This vending machine has truly bizarre contents... 'used' schoolgirl panties! We had heard that such machines existed but had never seen them. A colleague came across this machine in suburban Tokyo just recently (May 2002). This particular machine is a converted cigarette machine that now takes 10,000 yen notes (about US$80 bills). The current contents run from 1000 to 3000 yen.

Hat tip to "JtMc" for posting the link.

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

eBay pulls New Zealand auction

Apparently, New Zealand isn't really for sale:

With a starting offer of just one cent, brisk bidding for the prime chunk of South Pacific real estate quickly boosted the price to 3,000 Australian dollars before eBay pulled the plug on the auction this week. "Clearly New Zealand is not for sale," eBay Australia spokesman Daniel Feiler told the New Zealand Press Association, adding that 22 bids had been made before the company acted.

Posted by Nicholas at 11:21 AM | Comments (0)

QotD: Europe

Question: What do you get when you take two world wars, add the two most malign ideologies of the century, throw in genocide, the collapse of religious institutions, radical secularism, a political elite sealed off from opinions it finds distasteful, spiraling social costs, deathbed demographics and growing numbers of an unassimilated immigrant population?

Answer: You get Europe in the new millennium — mired in aggressive pacifism, moral nihilism, resurgent anti-semitism and reflex anti-Americanism. And, if you want to blame all that on Bush and Cheney, you have to shut your eyes and ears to a mountain of statistical evidence. To those on the American left who find Europe more "sophisticated", you're right: it's sophisticated in the sense that a belle époque Parisian boulevardier is sophisticated — outwardly dapper and worldly, inwardly eaten away by syphilis and gonorrhea. It's only a question of how many others the clapped-out bon vivant infects before his final collapse.

Mark Steyn, "Europe Day", Steyn Online, 2006-05-09

Posted by Nicholas at 10:29 AM | Comments (2)

May 11, 2006

Woodworking anti-FAQ

I somehow missed seeing this year's annual appearance of the rec.woodworking anti-FAQ, but it's well worth reading:

This is the rec.woodworking anti-FAQ. This anti-FAQ will be posted annually to rec.woodworking on the first of April. The purpose of this anti-FAQ is to minimize the amount of chatter about wood working on rec.woodworking, thereby making the newsgroup more lively and interesting to read.

Suggestions for improvement should be kept to yourself. To be perfectly honest, I don't give a flying fig about your opinions. If I want to know what you think, I'll ask you. Just don't hold your breath.

I realize that putting FAQ in a header ensures that almost nobody will read it, but I'm doing this for my own satisfaction.

And an example question-and-answer:

2.2 SHOULD I BUY A TABLE SAW OR A RADIAL ARM SAW?
Buy a band saw instead. The cut wanders all over the place and they leave nifty decorative ridge lines. Then you'll get the chance to spend hours and hours hand planing the ridge lines and straightening and squaring the butchered wood with antique hand planes. (See Hand Plane FAQ)

Speaking of butchering, the purchase of a bandsaw can more easily be justified to your spouse because it is absolutely indispensable in cutting frozen food.

You can also use band saws to cut thick stuff in half, such as yourself, other people, frozen bread and chickens, dead cats, and Ming vases, none of which can be handled by a TS or RAS. The most a TS or RAS can cut is little more than the thickness of a hand.

Hat tip to Avery Austringer.

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

A very cool translation site

Geoff Hart sent this link to Polly Glotto. It's where you can find how foreign phrases are pronounced (I'm not sufficiently multilingual to decide how accurate the renditions are, but it's at least good for a general sense).

I sent the link to my co-workers, and soon had to send this message: "Je regrette maintenant d'envoyer cet URL".

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

A tech writer's blog

Dick Margulis, one of the regular participants on the TECHWR-L mailing list, has started his own blog, which he's chosen to title in this manner:

words / myth / ampers & virgule

occasional essays on working with words and pictures
—writing, editing, typographic design, web design, and publishing—
from the perspective of a guy who has been putting squiggly marks on paper for
over four decades and on the computer monitor for over two decades

And, no, don't panic: it's not just about the persnickety details of technical writing . . . if it was, even I wouldn't go there!

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

The VRWC Chronicles, Hansard edition

Jon sent me a link to this Stephen Taylor post:

Mr. Mark Holland (Ajax-Pickering, Lib.): Mr. Speaker, the point that the minister misses is very simple. There is a difference between expressing an opinion about the judiciary and launching a personal attack on the independence of Canada's chief justice and to put words in her mouth. There is a huge difference.

Canadians want to know are the comments from the member for Halton and the Prime Minister's close association with the ultra right wing Civitas Society part of their real agenda, an agenda to destroy the independence of our judiciary?

Right Hon. Stephen Harper (Prime Minister, CPC): Mr. Speaker, I cannot resist answering a question about the vast right wing conspiracy. What I will say is that I will speak to the Minister of National Defence and see if there is any possibility in the budget of a black helicopter, so we can fly the hon. member around to investigate his concerns.

My hat is off to the Prime Minister for this one. I guess it proves he does have a sense of humour after all. [Pause] Oh. [Pause] You mean he was serious?

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

QotD: NeoPuritanism

Over the years I've seen the neopuritans go into exactly the same kind of phony hysterics over comic books, video arcades, home video games whose themes they prudishly disapprove of, and pornography, each and every one of these things harmless, if not positively beneficial (Internet porn may be the only thing keeping the otherwise sinking American economy afloat), and certainly entitled to a more honored place in human civilization than the dogwhistles complaining about them.

"Dogwhistles?" I pretend to hear you asking. A marvelous concept from that splendid movie Strange Days. Dogwhistles are neopuritans whose assholes are so tight that when they fart, only dogs can hear them. Rude, but every bit as valid as Mencken's definition of the affliction.

L. Neil Smith, "Candy From Babies ", Libertarian Enterprise, 2006-05-07

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

May 10, 2006

No miracle for Boro

After a whirlwind lead-up, let down on the field: Sevilla 4 Middlesbrough 0. No joy in Boro town tonight.

The brutal details.

Posted by Nicholas at 05:40 PM | Comments (0)

QotD: Bob Rae on Federalism

At least one candidate, Bob Rae, himself a former Ontario NDP premier, has warned against that sort of positioning. Last week, he said Ottawa must be seen "not as a nanny, not as a scold, not as Big Brother, Big Daddy, whatever." In an echo of Clinton's famous declaration a decade ago that "the era of big government is over," Rae said, "The federal government is there to help facilitate change, to be a constructive partner, and to have sometimes the fiscal capacity to help make things happen. The days of heavy centralized bureaucracies running big programs, those days are gone." That sort of talk has some Liberals viewing Rae, the converted former socialist, as staking out a position slightly to the right of other big names in the leadership pack.

John Geddes, "How to win friends and not be a loser", Macleans, 2006-05-04

Posted by Nicholas at 12:49 AM | Comments (1)

May 09, 2006

Carnival of Liberty 44

Robot Guy is hosting the most recent Carnival of Liberty.

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

Conspiracy theory top 10 list

Mike S. Adams collects the top ten conspiracy theories he's heard recently from fellow academics and college students:

Over my last 13 years as a college professor, I've heard some pretty wild conspiracy theories attempting to blame various social ills on white people. After hearing a particularly strange one about Hurricane Katrina — from a 20-year old white girl, no less — I decided to publish my Top Ten.

Most of these quotes are paraphrased because they were not recorded soon enough after I heard them for exact duplication. But no subtle nuance in wording can alter the idiocy these paraphrases contain. And, sadly, 100% of them come from college professors and students at our so-called institutions of higher learning. I hope they entertain you as much as they entertained me — although something tells me they will irritate more than a few readers

It seems that, in American politics anyway, that the conspiracy theorists always inhabit the party currently out of power (right now, the Democrats, but in the mid-to-late 1990's, the Republicans). Some of the most hilarious theories have dropped right out of circulation — like the ones about the Clintons' running drugs into a rural airport in Arkansas to support their election campaigns — mostly because they were whacky right-wing theories. If "your" party is in power, you don't have the same incentive to concoct weird explanations for the phenomena.

I wonder what will happen if the Democrats make substantial gains in the mid-term elections? Will we get a return of anti-Clinton theories drowning out the anti-Bush theories? I suspect not: the occupancy of the White House seems to be the deciding factor in conspiracy theorization. Even after the Republicans took control of the House of Representatives, Bill Clinton was the devil behind every event (according to the wilder-eyed theorists, it was actually Hillary all along).

Hat tip to Tom Wright for the link.

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

QotD: Manliness

Manliness certainly isn't in demand. The women of today seem to want a metrosexual who loves to shop, helps with the housework, and never does anything that she wouldn't want to do. He may wear an earring. Modern marriage sounds like a sort of heterosexual lesbianism. The man should be as little like a man as possible while having complementary genitals.

This gelding of men, pushed everywhere in the media (note the universal prevalence of girlish male models with waxed chests and slight figures) can easily be seen as the desired consequence of female hostility to men; the corresponding de-feminization of women, as another front in an anti-male war led by hostile feminists. Perhaps. I have assuredly thought so at times. Yet women seem as unhappy in their mannish roles as do men in womanish ones. One thing is sure, which is that women do not understand men — their drives, needs, nature, or inner light.

Fred Reed, "Playing At Adventure: Thoughts On The Spreading Mismatch", Fred on Everything

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

May 08, 2006

Mark Clemmit looks back at 20 years of Boro history

Mark Clemmit looks back to the death-and-birth of Middlesbrough FC:

When I think back to 20 years ago and the final game of the season — a 2-1 defeat by Shrewsbury — that sent us down to what is now League One and into liquidation, I never thought we would be where we are now.

The club collapsed in the hands of the liquidator and the Ayresome Park gates were locked.

We only got the go-ahead to start the Football League season at 5.20 on the Friday night and the first game of the campaign was on the Saturday afternoon. From that perspective it is an enormous journey.

They were training at the local park, Albert Park, where Boro legend Brian Clough would walk every morning from his family home to Ayresome Park.

There was training, with jumpers literally used for goalposts, and there was a tiny squad of mainly youngsters.

That's where it all began really. The journey since then has been extraordinary.

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

A link for math geeks and Lego fans

Andrew Carol has managed to build a Babbage Difference Engine using Lego blocks.

Hat tip to Pat Mathews.

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

A Joss Whedon imitator unmasked

Another very funny interview with "Joss Whedon".

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

Unintentional fun

Some friends of Victor decided to make a funny video. They got a bit more attention than they'd planned . . .

Posted by Nicholas at 10:20 AM | Comments (0)

May 07, 2006

QotD: Fear

There were two sounds of terror: the Emergency Broadcast Signal, which you learned was the sound of the end of the world, and the sirens, which announced tornados. I had a Wizard-of-Oz notion of twisters — evil dirty-cotton fingers that wrote death on the land, throwing up fences and cows and houses. Before you understand death, or sociopathy, or evil in any form, you understand the implacable nature of, well, Nature, and how there's nothing you can do about it. Dad cannot make it go away. The President cannot command it to cease. It can kill Bozo and Mr. Greenjeans. It comes, and it is done when it's done. I was born in the year of a Tornado, and when I would look at the newspapers my parents had saved, it was like looking at the Pompeii Daily the day Vesuvius burst.

James Lileks, The Bleat, 2006-05-04

Posted by Nicholas at 09:36 AM | Comments (0)

May 06, 2006

Off to Niagara again

Off on another quick wine-tasting tour today. I may post something later tonight when I get back . . . but the smart money is betting against that outcome.

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

May 05, 2006

The long, dark night of Europe's soul?

Jon sent me a link to this post at Winds of Change, examining (with many, many links . . . most of which I haven't followed) the state of Europe, spiritually:

We've written a lot about Europe here. It was Cicero who coined the phrase "aggressive docility," and it's one that continues to ring true. While both France and Denmark performed much better than North America did during the Cartoon Jihad, the long term trends and comprehensive difficulty those societies have with defending themselves at any level is concerning. Watching its Weimarization bring Nietzsche's "Last Man" to life leaves many of us wondering if we are seeing the finale for Western Civilization in Europe unfolding in our time, even as some in Europe itself and beyond wonder, and not without reason, if that future Europe will also be Judenrein (German term, means "without Jews").

Ultimately, however, Europe's problem is spiritual - and I use that term in ways that go beyond any specific religion. Some say Europe's death began in the trenches of the Somme during World War 1, and note that all the rest from Bolshevism to Fascism to the postmodern nihilist Left has been the saga of its long death throes. Others place the fall later, noting that Europe died in Auschwitz and that The Holocaust was also "a form of self-administered lobotomy for Continental European culture."

Posted by Nicholas at 02:56 PM | Comments (0)

A dumb criminal story

This is just too funny: Crap crim caged for four years.

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

The Supreme Court makes the right decision

Although it's impossible to feel anything other than sympathy for the plight of accident victim Zoe Childs, the Supreme Court of Canada made the correct decision in this case:

A young paraplegic who lost her mobility at the hands of a repeat drunk driver can't claim damages from the hosts of the New Year's party where he tanked up before getting behind the wheel.

The Supreme Court of Canada ruled unanimously Friday that social hosts "as a general rule" bear no responsibility for their departed drunken guests. The high court upheld lower court rulings that found home owners — unlike bar owners — do not owe a duty of care to the public for their guests' alcohol consumption and subsequent behaviour.

"A person who accepts an invitation to attend a private party does not park his autonomy at the door," wrote Chief Justice Beverley McLachlin.

"The consumption of alcohol, and the assumption of the risks of impaired judgment, is in almost all cases a personal choice and an inherently personal activity."

Unlike tavern owners, said the court, social hosts can't monitor their guests' drinking, may be inebriated themselves, and aren't trained to detect whether departing guests are intoxicated.

This is an encouraging sign that the current Supreme Court recognizes that individuals are responsible for their own actions. Getting drunk is a conscious decision and driving while under the influence of drugs or alcohol is the responsibility of the individual, not that of other parties (except as noted in the article).

Posted by Nicholas at 02:34 PM | Comments (0)

Misappropriating Jane Jacobs' legacy

An article in Opinion Journal points out that modern urban planners claim to revere her teachings, yet are clearly missing the point:

Modern planners have contorted Jacobs's beliefs in hopes of imposing their static, end-state vision of a city. They use a set of highly prescriptive policy tools — like urban growth boundaries, smart growth, and high-density development built around light-rail transit systems — to design the city they envision. They try to "create" livable cities from the ground up and micromanage urban form through regulation. We've seen these tools at work in Portland, Ore., for more than three decades. But the results have been dismal and dramatic. The city's "smart growth" policies effectively created a land shortage, constricting the housing supply and artificially inflating prices. By 1999, Portland had become one of the 10 least affordable housing markets in the nation, and its homeownership rate lagged behind the national average. It has also seen one of the nation's largest increases in traffic congestion and boasts a costly, heavily subsidized light-rail system that accounts for just 1% of the city's total travel. Not exactly how they planned it.

That's because these planning trends run completely counter to Jacobs's vision of cities as dynamic economic engines that thrive on private initiative, trial and error, incremental change, and human and economic diversity. Jacobs believed the most organic and healthy communities are diverse, messy and arise out of spontaneous order, not from a scheme that tries to dictate how people should live and how neighborhoods should look.

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

Demotivator posters for the SCA

Yet another kick at the infamous "Motivator" poster meme: Demotivator posters for the SCA.

Hat tip to Rob Galbraith for the link.

Posted by Nicholas at 10:28 AM | Comments (1)

ESR on Eurogames

Long before personal computers were common, the board wargaming hobby was a big deal among the geekerati. I had a fair number of wargames in my own collection, and they occupied a fair bit of my spare time (rather in the way that blogging does now, I suspect). Eric Raymond takes a look at the gaming segment that not only survived the rise of the home computer, but is actually thriving: the Eurogame:

I enjoy strategy games. I'e been playing them since the heyday of the elaborate hundreds-of-tiny-counters hex-map historical-simulation wargames in the 1970s and early 1980s. But those games don't get played much any more, largely because they took so long to set up and learn; after 1985 or so younger gamers moved to computer simulations instead, and as the hex-wargame genre stagnated many old-school gamers eventually abandoned it in favor of military-miniatures gaming.

[. . .]

These became signature traits of a huge freshet of new games that hit the U.S. market in the new century. Other standouts have included Puerto Rico, Domaine, Power Grid, Alhambra, Shadows Over Camelot, and Ticket To Ride. Most of these games are imports from Germany, republished in English; the style is generically known as "German games" or "Eurogames" and I've heard it alleged that in Germany these games are a mass-market form of family entertainment rather than being confined to gamer-hobbyists, science-fiction fans, and technogeeks as they still mostly are in the U.S.

I've long thought that the Eurogame is in part a response to competition from computer games. Computers do the detail-crammed historical-simulation game better than you can with counters and a board, so they got steamrollered. Eurogames, on the other hand, do something computer games are poor at — face-to-face multiplayer games — and they do it with furniture that's pleasant to look at and handle.

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

Are we running out of grapes?

That would be the only answer I could come up with for the question "Why would you want to make wine out of seaweed?"

A German marine biologist is carving out a new sideline by developing wine made from seaweed.

Dr Inez Linke says the 16% proof wine, made from the brown laminaria saccharina seaweed, tastes like a fine sherry and is extremely healthy.

"Marine algae contains many minerals, salts, vitamins and proteins that makes this particular wine extremely healthy and boosts the immune system," said Dr Linke.

Of course, last year someone was talking up Chinese fish wine, so who am I to criticize?

Posted by Nicholas at 08:07 AM | Comments (0)

QotD: The Newspaper Boy

A vanished breed, the Newspaper Boy. They neither hawk nor toss, except in some quaint hamlets where the publisher's son rises once a week to put an unrequested copy of the local paper on the doorsteps. Pity. I was a newspaper boy, and a very bad one; it taught me that the world depends on people who get up early on Sundays, and that I did not want to be one of them. The trick is to be the guy who pays them.

James Lileks, "First Day Covers", Lileks.com, 2006-05-03

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

May 04, 2006

A couple of links from the Freakonomics blog

The Freakonomics team, Stephen J. Dubner and Steven D. Levitt, provide a couple of interesting links:

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

I'm sure your IT folks aren't like this . . .

Snipped from the most recent edition of the BOfH papers:

"I talked to the security people and they said..."

"Sorry, you talked to OUR security?"

"Yes, and they..."

"About an electronic transaction?"

"Yes, and..."

"And you know their skills in computing are limited to putting a red card on a black card?"

"Or vice versa," the PFY says.

"No, they ring the helpdesk for that."

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

Dalton's rent-controlled mansion

Jon sent me a link to Joan Tintor's post about Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty's sweetheart rent arrangement:

As the Star reported, McGuinty is paying only $1,460 monthly to occupy the house, far less than its carrying costs.

To give you an idea of the costs, a $1-million dollar mortgage at 5% with a 25-year amortization period would require a monthly payment of $5,845.90.

The 2006 assessment for the house is $1,050.000. At this year’s mill rate, plus the 3% increase approved by council, that means an annual tax bill of $9,806.42.

Add in $300 a month for utilities and insurance (a modest estimate) and you get monthly costs of $6,963.10 (this does not include maintenance or repairs).

I have to admit that I don't get all worked-up about this: the Ontario Liberal Party is covering the shortfall. I would get upset if the taxpayers were doing so. Being a taxpayer in Ontario is unavoidable, but being a member of the Liberal Party is optional: if they're willing to foot the bill for Dalton's little mansion, who am I to criticize?

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

McClaren expected to be named England coach

A report on BBC Sport tips Middlesbrough FC manager Steve McClaren as the successor to current English coach Sven-Goran Eriksson:

McClaren arrived at the FA's Soho Square headquarters at 1540 BST and was rushed inside, with a statement and news conference expected imminently.

The board meeting to discuss the successor to current coach Sven-Goran Eriksson finished before 1430 BST.

McClaren, currently manager of Middlesbrough, is also a coach in Eriksson's current England set-up.

The 45-year-old made his way to London from his Yorkshire home earlier on Thursday.

Bolton boss Sam Allardyce — who was also in the running for the job — has said he expects to miss out.

McClaren failed to come out for the post-match interviews after his Middlesbrough side's 1-1 draw at Allardyce's Bolton on Wednesday.

Update, 13:50: Report confirmed.

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

The Official Grauniad primer on identity theft

By way of Slashdot, here is a disturbing Guardian piece on how easy it can be to purloin someone's identity:

This is the story of a piece of paper no bigger than a credit card, thrown away in a dustbin on the Heathrow Express to Paddington station. It was nestling among chewing gum wrappers and baggage tags, cast off by some weary traveller, when I first laid eyes on it just over a month ago.

The traveller's name was Mark Broer. I know this because the paper — actually a flimsy piece of card — was a discarded British Airways boarding-pass stub, the small section of the pass displaying your name and seat number. The stub you probably throw away as soon as you leave your flight.

[. . .]

We logged on to the BA website, bought a ticket in Broer's name and then, using the frequent flyer number on his boarding pass stub, without typing in a password, were given full access to all his personal details — including his passport number, the date it expired, his nationality (he is Dutch, living in the UK) and his date of birth. The system even allowed us to change the information.

Using this information and surfing publicly available databases, we were able — within 15 minutes — to find out where Broer lived, who lived there with him, where he worked, which universities he had attended and even how much his house was worth when he bought it two years ago. (This was particularly easy given his unusual name, but it would have been possible even if his name had been John Smith. We now had his date of birth and passport number, so we would have known exactly which John Smith.)

On my last trip to the States, I probably saw a couple of dozen discarded boarding passes (on various airlines) while waiting for my connecting flight at Atlanta. A not-very determined identity thief could hoover up hundreds with very little effort at all.

I think I'll be a bit more careful discarding my boarding pass stubs — and any other information which has both my name and an identifying number — from now on.

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

The TSA follies continue

An article in Wired shows that the TSA is busy protecting the nation's air travellers from such suspicious characters as these:

  • A State Department diplomat who protested that "I fly 100,00 miles a year and am tired of getting hassled at Dulles airport — and airports worldwide — because my name apparently closely resembles that of a terrorist suspect."
  • A person with an Energy Department security clearance.
  • An 82-year-old veteran who says he's never even had a traffic ticket.
  • A technical director at a science and technology company who has been working with the Pentagon on chemical and biological weapons defense.
  • A U.S. Navy officer who has been enlisted since 1984.
  • A high-ranking government employee with a better-than-top-secret clearance who is also a U.S. Army Reserve major.
  • A federal employee traveling on government business who says the watch list matching "has resulted in ridiculous delays at the airports, despite my travel order, federal ID and even my federal passport."
  • A high-level civil servant at the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation.
  • An active-duty Army officer who had served four combat tours (including one in Afghanistan) and who holds a top-secret clearance.
  • A retired U.S. Army officer and antiterrorism/force-protection officer with expertise on weapons of mass destruction who was snared when he was put back on active-duty status while flying on a ticket paid for by the Army.
  • A former Pentagon employee and current security-cleared U.S. Postal Service contractor.

While I'll admit that the Navy guy sounded suspicious, the rest of them don't sound too risky.

Of course, the TSA folks have been known to prevent people from travelling regardless of the circumstances before.

Posted by Nicholas at 10:27 AM | Comments (5)

QotD: Why men murder

While a man, sociobiologically speaking, seeks a beautiful young woman as the (or a) mother of his children — beauty being a biological metonym for health — a woman seeks a man who is of high social status, because he will be a better, more secure provider for their children. This distinction helps to explain why men are much more likely to kill in response to public humiliation than women, and also why murder is, statistically speaking, a lower-class crime. Lower class men are more sensitive to insult because they have nothing to offer women except raw physical power, an asset that declines sharply with age. If they fail to display such raw physical power in response to a public challenge or humiliation, their value as a potential mate vanishes altogether. They face genetic oblivion.

Theodore Dalrymple, "The Murderer Next Door: The limits of sociobiology", City Journal, 2006-04-24

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

May 03, 2006

Oil prices

Jon sent along this link with a suggestion that I might find it bloggable:

If oil were a commodity like any other, the free-marketers would be right. But it's not. Most oil reserves are controlled by governments, many of which conspire through the OPEC cartel to manipulate the market. These governments aren't the kind that any sane person would want to see in control of such a vital asset. Their power can only be countered by action from our own government.

Let's just run that assumption past again: "Their power can only be countered by action from our own government". Why is this? Because only governments can deal with other governments? No, that can't be it: mere individuals can deal with their own and foreign governments at all levels. Because companies are naturally corrupt, and only Simon-pure, incorruptable government officials can be trusted? Even in government-loving Canada, that line would get you a belly laugh at best. So why?

Of the top 14 oil exporters, only one is a well-established liberal democracy — Norway. Two others have recently made a transition to democracy — Mexico and Nigeria. Iraq is trying to follow in their footsteps. That's it. Every other major oil exporter is a dictatorship — and the run-up in oil prices has been a tremendous boon to them.

It's funny that both Jon and I mis-read that statement to imply that Canada wasn't considered a "well-established liberal democracy"! And the Fascists have only been in power for a few months!

Of course, the key word is "exporters". This table explains the difference: Canada is number eight on the producers list, but not in the top 14 exporters. I did find it interesting that Canada and Mexico are the top two exporters of oil to the United States (combining for more than twice as much as Saudi Arabia), but that doesn't compare with the huge total production of the Saudis.

Posted by Nicholas at 03:50 PM | Comments (0)

Nova Scotia fails basic economics, again

Nova Scotia's government, having solved all the problems available, have now decided to regulate the price of gasoline and diesel:

Nova Scotia will regulate gasoline and diesel fuel prices, beginning July 1.

Service Nova Scotia Minister Richard Hurlburt said Wednesday the responsibility for setting prices for fuel will be left to the province's Utility and Review Board after a hearing process this fall. Service Nova Scotia and Municipal Relations will act as the interim regulator until the review board process is in place.

"Nova Scotians want more stable gas prices and they want to know those prices are justified," Hurlburt said in a release.

"Nova Scotia will soon be the only province east of Ontario that does not regulate gasoline and that's a reality we have to respond to."

Because, of course, you have to keep up with the neighbours, right?

After this, the Nova Scotia government will be requiring the rivers to run uphill (just like in New Brunswick, eh?).

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

The Red Ensign is Raised Again

Ray, the Raging Kraut, has once again taken on the task of raising the Red Ensign Standard. This is his third time (someone else should be carrying some of the weight, wouldn't you say?), and a fine job he's done. Go see what the other bloggers in the Brigade have been writing about over the last couple of weeks.

Posted by Nicholas at 12:58 AM | Comments (0)

QotD: "Positive" and "Negative" Liberty

There are two kinds of liberty, negative and positive. Negative liberty is freedom "from" things; positive liberty is freedom "to do" certain things. Berlin describes how these notions of liberty have been put to very different uses in history and how each concept attracts a different kind of political soul.

Negative liberty means simply that one is free from interference by the state and others, that one has a zone of liberty and in that zone there can be no interference so long as another's liberty isn't constrained. What you do in the zone of negative liberty is your business.

Positive liberty takes a dim view of simple negative liberty, arguing that it is meaningless unless a person has a real, positive freedom — the power "to do" vital things. Being left alone, in the world view, is meaningless if you don't have the power "to do" the important things, whatever they may be — get an education, earn a fair wage, live in an alienated society.

Dick Meyer, "'We Know What's Best For You'", CBS News, 2006-04-26

Posted by Nicholas at 12:49 AM | Comments (0)

May 02, 2006

Main website may be down

My main Quotations site (http://www.quotulatiousness.ca/) may be offline for part of today, as Clive is committing maintenance on the server. He assured me that it would be only a temporary interruption.

Posted by Nicholas at 03:43 PM | Comments (0)

Latest Carnival of Liberty

The 43rd edition of the Carnival of Liberty is now up at Searchlight Crusade.

Posted by Nicholas at 10:27 AM | Comments (0)

Catallarchy marks May Day

Over at Catallarchy, the May 1st remembrance is for those victims of totalitarianism:

Welcome to Catallarchy's annual Day of Remembrance. Contrary to the promises of ideology, nations whose governments pledged to create a workers' paradise usually became places of rampant slave labor. The plight of the less fortunate became even less fortunate. Today, we chronicle a small part of their lives.

Posted by Nicholas at 12:29 AM | Comments (4)

QotD: Gas Prices

For all the whirring of political machinery at home, $75-a-barrel oil will not be wished away by manipulating additives or guaranteeing free ponies to voters. (As of this mid-morning writing, oil has been dropping for two days, and now sells for $71.05 per barrel). As Bradley notes, the United States is facing down Iran, Russia's oil industry has been consistently underperforming, and Iraq is a basket case in the oil export market. Some of these situations are related to American policy, but most of them share an important factor: state control of oil production, a more critical factor than gas-guzzling Americans or the hobgoblin of Chinese demand. "Nature's cupboard has not gone bare," Bradley says. "This is a classic lack of capitalist institutions. It's the role of entrepreneurship to anticipate demand, and that's what you're not seeing. The problem is on the supply side, not the demand side."

The solution there is to let the price continue to rise, which would either encourage more greedy, jowly fatcats to get into the production game or encourage consumers to reduce their oil consumption. Instead, Bush, having diagnosed America's oil addiction, proposes a weird solution: trying to get the addicts a better price for the drug. The oil spike of 2006 is a Seinfeld news cycle, a story about nothing.

Tim Cavanaugh, "Oil Addicts Run Starving Hysterical Naked", Reason, 2006-04-27

Posted by Nicholas at 12:26 AM | Comments (0)

May 01, 2006

Let It Bleed pays tribute to JKG

Bob does a reverential waltz past the coffin of economist John Kenneth Galbraith:

From the website johnkennethgalbraith.com, which I offer for giggles: "Galbraith will turn ninety-seven in October, and it is unlikely that many professional economists in their thirties, forties, and perhaps even their fifties have read him with much care. By contemporary standards, Galbraith was more an economic sociologist than a technical economist ... Had Galbraith devoted more effort to gathering empirical evidence to support his views and to finding ways to test them statistically, his influence on economics would have been greater. Galbraith bears the responsibility for failing to do this." [emphasis added] "Empirical evidence to support his views"! Ha! You slay me! He's been quoted in Bartlett's, for God's sake - what more do you people want?!

Posted by Nicholas at 06:20 PM | Comments (0)

The Canadian Special Operations Regiment

A post at Castle Argghhh! linked to this National Post article on the new Canadian Special Operations Regiment:

Canada's newest special forces unit began training its first soldiers this week, gearing up at a breakneck pace to prepare for a first mission that could come as early as August and send the Canadian Special Operations Regiment to a hot spot anywhere in the world with only a few hours' notice.

The National Post was given an exclusive look at the first soldiers of this elite unit, the first new regiment formed by the Canadian army since the ill-fated Airborne Regiment was created in the 1960s.

But Lieutenant-Colonel Jamie Hammond, the regiment's first commander and a former Airborne officer himself, says the new unit will not be anything like the Airborne Regiment, which was disbanded in 1995 in the wake of the Somalia scandal.

"We don't want Rambos here," he says during a break in the demanding training regimen this week. "In fact, we're looking to weed out the Rambos. We want quiet professionals."

Lt.-Col. Hammond insists that his new unit is much more than just a battalion of paratroopers. The regiment will all be trained to parachute into action, but he says with a shrug: "That's just another way to get to work."

John, the Castellan of Argghhh!, points out the potential for problems if the regiment's missions are not clearly defined and carefully planned:

There's a reason we keep the Rangers and the SOF as separate elements, aside from the obvious reality of we can afford to. One would hope, however, if they are going to train them up as thoroughly and expensively as SOF personnel, they don't get used a lot as conventional high quality infantry — not just a less-than-optimum use of resources (if you need the infantry, you probably also need the SOF) but if you get 'em killed doing grunt work, they aren't there to do SOF work.

Of course, most Canadians are still in that little dream world where soldiers are only there for peacekeeping and never actually fire their weapons or are in the firing line when others are firing. The idea of the JTF2 and the new CSOR getting involved in combat operations is still an unwelcome, foreign notion. Canadian public opinion took a nice long vacation from diplomatic and military reality between 1991 and 2005.

Posted by Nicholas at 05:48 PM | Comments (0)

Libertarian graphic novel

In this week's Libertarian Enterprise, there's a link to a new graphic novel by L. Neil Smith and Scott Bieser, called Roswell, Texas.

The publisher, Big Head Press, will be releasing several pages every week (there's 30 or so pages available right now).

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

Blacksmithy link

An old, old friend of mine has recently started blogging at Hammered out bits. Darrell has been busy researching and re-creating blacksmithing for many years (he'd already been doing it for years when I first met him in the late 1970's).

Hat tip to Dea for the link.

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

Post-draft roundup

As I mentioned, I'm not familiar with college football, so the draft isn't the big feature of the off-season for me, but I'm probably almost alone in that. The reaction of Minnesota Vikings fans?

"i'm so upset with the first 3 picks,i can't take it."

"Welcome to the Childress era. And you guys shit on Tice and called him stupid. See where that got us?"

"Well, after day 1, I would give them no better than a C-. I am hanging my head in shame looking at what we ended up getting for Moss and Culpepper. What a disgrace."

"C at best...The QB they took in round two SI said was a practice squad player at best? What are the Vikings thinking????

You'd have to say that the fans are almost never happy with the draft picks the team makes. I was surprised that the team didn't move up in the first round to attempt to get their "quarterback of the future" from one of the top three (Leinart, Young, and Cutler), but they did select a QB at the end of the second round. The Vikings selected the following players in the draft:

  • First Round No. 17: Chad Greenway, Linebacker, Iowa
  • Greenway was one of the more commonly projected picks for the Vikings in the first round. And linebacker is a position that needs to be upgraded from last season.

  • Second Round No. 16 (48th overall): Cedric Griffin, Defensive Back, Texas
  • Griffin is able to play both cornerback and safety, which is a good thing as the Vikings lost Corey Chavous and Brian Williams to free agency this year.

  • Second Round No. 19 (51st overall — acquired in the Culpepper trade from Miami): Ryan Cook, Offensive Lineman, New Mexico
  • Cook was considered a bit of a "reach" by most commentators, although if Matt Birk's health doesn't improve this season, having another backup center will be a good insurance policy.

  • Second Round No. 32 (64th overall): Tarvaris Jackson, Quarterback, Alabama State
  • The Vikings traded their two third-round picks to Pittsburgh to select Jackson, but the concensus seemed to be that he'd still have been on the board by the time the second of their third-round selections came up. He is considered a "project", and will probably not contribute until next year at the earliest.

  • Fourth Round No. 30 (127th overall): Ray Edwards, Defensive End, Purdue
  • Edwards may be another project player, as he was not thought to be particularly motivated during his time at Purdue. Pro Football Weekly's draft book said: "Plays soft. Scouts do not like his motor, production or personality."

  • Fifth Round No. 17 (149th overall): Greg Blue, Safety, Georgia
  • Blue's stock slipped from being a third- or fourth-round projection due to a poor showing at the combine (according to reports at the Star Tribune). He may be converted to linebacker eventually, but is expected to be a special team player for the near future.

  • The Vikings traded their lower-round picks including a draft-day trade for Philadelphia's Artis Hicks, who is expected to move into the starting offensive line.

As soon as the formal draft was over, the Vikings got extremely busy in signing free agents (college players who were draft-eligible, but who were not drafted), signing seventeen players.

The professional sports writers were somewhat less condemnatory:

Within the next few weeks, draft choices will be scrutinized much more objectively. On draft day, the most negative thing anyone says about a selection is that "he has potential," while early picks "will fit right in." The latter rounds are filled with "steals."

Plus, there's always some talking head on TV who insists that the 197th overall pick was high on his board.

The truth is that if top pick Chad Greenway quickly becomes a starting linebacker, and one other draftee makes an impact, it will have been a terrific draft for the Vikings. If your team can get two players, you should turn a cartwheel.

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

QotD: Gas Prices

The Tax Foundation helpfully reminds us that over the last 25 years, the gas and oil industry has paid far more in taxes than it has reaped in profits.

Not that it should matter. Let's assume a gas company, gas station owner, or refinery owner is selling his product at inflated prices. So what? Until it lands in your gas tank and you pay for it, it's his damned property. I've never understood why politicians feel the government should have the power to determine the price at which one person must sell his own property to somone who wants to buy it.

Radley Balko, "Gas", TheAgitator.com, 2006-04-27

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


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