July 31, 2006

QotD: Life

The solemn proofs, so laboriously deduced from life insurance statistics, that the man who uses alcohol dies slightly sooner than the teetotaler — these proofs merely show that this man is one who leads an active and vigorous life, and so faces hazards and uses himself up — in brief, one who lives at a high tempo and with full joy, what Nietzsche used to call the ja-sager, or yes-sayer. He may, in fact, die slightly sooner than the teetotaler, but he lives infinitely longer. Moreover, his life, humanly speaking, is much more worth while, to himself and to the race. He does the hard and dangerous work of the world, he takes the chances, he makes the experiments. He is the soldier, the artist, the innovator, the lover. All the great works of man have been done by men who thus lived joyously, strenuously, and perhaps a bit dangerously. They have never been concerned about stretching life for two or three more years; they have been concerned with making life engrossing and stimulating and a high adventure while it lasts. Teetotalism is as impossible to such men as any other manifestation of cowardice, and, if it were possible, it would destroy their utility and signifcance just as certainly.

H.L. Mencken, "Alcohol", Damn! A book of Calumny, 1918

Posted by Nicholas at 12:25 AM | Comments (0)

July 30, 2006

QotD: Civilization and Barbarism

In his shrewd book Civilization And Its Enemies, Lee Harris writes:

    "Forgetfulness occurs when those who have been long inured to civilized order can no longer remember a time in which they had to wonder whether their crops would grow to maturity without being stolen or their children sold into slavery by a victorious foe. . . . That, before 9/11, was what had happened to us. The very concept of the enemy had been banished from our moral and political vocabulary."

It's worse than Harris thinks. We're not merely "forgetful." We've constructed a fantasy past in which primitive societies lived in peace and security with nary a fear that their crops would be stolen or their children enslaved. War has been the natural condition of mankind for thousands of years, and our civilization is a very fragile exception to that. What does it say about us that so many of our elites believe exactly the opposite — that we are a monstrous violent rupture with our primitive pacifist ancestors? It's never a good idea to put reality up for grabs.

Mark Steyn, "Before the white man came? War", Macleans, 2006-07-18

Posted by Nicholas at 11:07 AM | Comments (0)

July 29, 2006

QotD: The Drug War

Memo to would-be drug legalizers: Forget medical marijuana. This is your wedge issue.

Most people are happy to have some drug prohibitions and you're just going to have to live with that. However, worries about having one's door knocked down at night should create the political opportunity to curtail some of the worst excesses of the War on Drugs.

Seize that opportunity, please.

Jeremy Lott, "This is the police!", JeremyLott.net, 2006-07-28

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

July 28, 2006

A bad review of Aaron Russo's latest film

The Onion's A/V club didn't much like Aaron Russo's America: Freedom To Fascism:

One-time Libertarian presidential candidate and Rude Awakening auteur Aaron Russo has some very good news for you: You don't have to pay income taxes anymore! Congrats! Don't spend all that extra money in one place! According to Russo, at least, there's no law on the books forcing individuals to pay any kind of graduated income taxes. In fact, according to Russo's documentary America: Freedom To Fascism, income taxes are downright unconstitutional. Now the bad news: any day now, jackbooted thugs will break down your door, seize your belongings, and insert a computer chip inside you so you can be monitored at all times by the looming one-world international government. Yes, America: Freedom To Fascism gives the Michael Moore muckraking-underdog treatment to the kind of delirious conspiracy theories generally associated with mentally ill homeless people screaming at passersby to stop stealing their brainwaves.

In a word, ouch!

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

A great game, too bad about the result

Victor's soccer team had a rescheduled game to play last night. We don't normally play late evening games, so this was a new experience for both players and coaches. Playing under the bright lights adds a new dimension to the game.

Our opponents were tied for the division lead, with only one loss and one tie, but were missing some of their players (they fielded 12, while we had 14, giving us the advantage on substitutions). Victor had a prior commitment, so he didn't arrive at the field until part-way through the first half.

We went down 2-0 early, due to a fluke bounce on a corner kick and a missed offside call by the referee. The first ten minutes or so were all spent deep in our own end, with too much pressure to allow any offensive action to develop. After the harrowing start, our team settled in and started taking the initiative. The first half ended at a 4-3 mark, with two of our goals scored by Chris, who has rarely been able to play striker (he'll be playing striker more often, now that we know he's got the chops for it).

The second half was a mirror image of the first, with our team providing most of the pressure and our opponents back on their heels. We moved into the lead about ten minutes into the second half, and kept the pressure on. With only five minutes left in the game, we held a 7-6 lead.

Luck turned against us during the last few minutes, with both the tying goal and the winning goal scored from offside, but the referee didn't recognize the foul, so both goals stood. (To be fair, at least one of our goals had been scored from offside as well, so I don't have as strong a case for complaint.)

In spite of the disappointing final score, it was a great game with some excellent individual performances by several players.

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

July 27, 2006

Graf Zeppelin wreck located

The Polish navy believes they have located the wreck of the World War II German aircraft carrier Graf Zeppelin:

"We are 99 percent sure — even 99.9 percent — that these details point unambiguously to the Graf Zeppelin," said Dariusz Beczek, the Navy commander of the vessel, the ORP Arctowski, said soon after returning to port Thursday morning after the two-day expedition.

During their time at sea, naval experts used a remote-controlled underwater robot and sonar photographic and video equipment to gather digital images of the 850-foot-long ship, Zajda said.

"The analyses of the sonar pictures and the comparison to historical documents show that it is the Graf Zeppelin," Zajda told The Associated Press. [. . .]

The Graf Zeppelin was Germany's only aircraft carrier during World War II. It was launched on Dec. 8, 1938, but never saw action. After Germany's defeat in 1945, the Soviet Union took control of the ship, but it was last seen in 1947 and since then the ship's fate has been shrouded in mystery.

Posted by Nicholas at 05:07 PM | Comments (0)

That's not what you want to see . . .

. . . when you look out of your office window.

Yeah, I know, even if it's a fake, it's still funny.

Update, two minutes later: Yeah, viral marketing is suspected.

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

QotD: Music

All first-rate music suffers by the fact that it has to be performed by human beings — that is, that nature must be permitted to corrupt it. The performance one hears in a concert hall or opera house is no more than a baroque parody upon the thing the composer imagined. In an orchestra of eighty men there is inevitably at least one man with a sore thumb, or bad kidneys, or a brutal wife or katzenjammer — and one is enough. Some day the natural clumsiness and imperfection of fingers, lips and larynxes will be overcome by mechanical devices, and we shall have Beethoven and Mozart and Schubert in such wonderful and perfect beauty that it will be almost unbearable. If half as much ingenuity had been lavished upon music machines as has been lavished upon the telephone and the steam engine, we whould have had mechanical orchestras long ago.

When the human performer of music thus goes the way of the galley-slave, the charm of personality, of course, will be pumped out of the performance of music. But the charm of personality does not help music; it hinders it. It is not a reënforcement; it is a rival. When a beautiful singer comes upon a stage, two shows, as it were, go on at once; first the music show, and then the arms, shoulders, neck, nose, ankles, eyes, hips, calves, and ruby lips — in brief, the sex-show. The second of these shows, to the majority of persons present, is more interesting than the first — to the men because of the sex interest, and to the women because of the professional or technical interest — and so music is forced into the background. What it becomes, indeed, is no more than a half-heard accompaniment to an imagined anecdote.

H.L. Mencken, "The Tone Art", Damn! A Book of Calumny, 1918

Posted by Nicholas at 08:29 AM | Comments (3)

July 26, 2006

Looking after the children

Jon just got his first Child Care Benefit cheque from "Uncle Steve". Here is his celebratory message:


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

Souvenir of the Czech Republic

Jon's in-laws just got back from a trip to the Czech republic. Among the photos was this visual souvenir of the World Cup:


Posted by Nicholas at 10:23 AM | Comments (0)

Holy Bog, Batman!

Jon sent along this link, with the comment "How long until someone says that the page to which the book was opened is miraculous?"

Irish archaeologists Tuesday heralded the discovery of an ancient book of psalms by a construction worker who spotted something while driving the shovel of his backhoe into a bog.

The approximately 20-page book has been dated to the years 800-1000. Trinity College manuscripts expert Bernard Meehan said it was the first discovery of an Irish early medieval document in two centuries.

"This is really a miracle find," said Pat Wallace, director of the National Museum of Ireland, which has the book stored in refrigeration and facing years of painstaking analysis before being put on public display.

Of course, the part that Jon is referring to is this:

The book was found open to a page describing, in Latin script, Psalm 83, in which God hears complaints of other nations' attempts to wipe out the name of Israel.

Revelations-style commenting to start on certain conservative blogs in three, two, one . . .

Posted by Nicholas at 10:13 AM | Comments (4)

QotD: Policing in Britain

The police, Fraser shows, are like a nearly defeated occupying colonial force that, while mayhem reigns everywhere else, has retreated to safe enclaves, there to shuffle paper and produce bogus information to propitiate their political masters. Their first line of defense is to refuse to record half the crime that comes to their attention, which itself is less than half the crime committed. Then they refuse to investigate recorded crime, or to arrest the culprits even when it is easy to do so and the evidence against them is overwhelming, because the prosecuting authorities will either decline to prosecute, or else the resultant sentence will be so trivial as to make the whole procedure (at least 19 forms to fill in after a single arrest) pointless.

In any case, the authorities want the police to use a sanction known as the caution — a mere verbal warning. Indeed, as Fraser points out, the Home Office even reprimanded the West Midlands Police Force for bringing too many apprehended offenders to court, instead of merely giving them a caution. In the official version, only minor crimes are dealt with in this fashion: but as Fraser points out, in the year 2000 alone, 600 cases of robbery, 4,300 cases of car theft, 6,600 offenses of burglary, 13,400 offenses against public order, 35,400 cases of violence against the person, and 67,600 cases of other kinds of theft were dealt with in this fashion — in effect, letting these 127,900 offenders off scot-free. When one considers that the police clear-up rate of all crimes in Britain is scarcely more than one in 20 (and even that figure is based upon official deception), the liberal intellectual claim, repeated ad nauseam in the press and on the air, that the British criminal-justice system is primitively retributive is absurd.

Theodore Dalrymple, "Real Crime, Fake Justice", City Journal, 2006-07

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

July 25, 2006

Indian Cowboy hosts the Carnival of Liberty 55

I was so busy putting together the Red Ensign Standard that I forgot to submit anything for this week's Carnival of Liberty.

Posted by Nicholas at 01:00 AM | Comments (0)

QotD: Morality

It's a sign of a party's moral bankruptcy when it starts worrying about your moral purity instead of its own. That is the state of the Republican Party today. [. . .]

Promoting purity in government is a bit like promoting chastity in a prostitute. But Goodlatte might have at least deserved points for good intentions if he had proposed tougher penalties on corrupt public officials. Or meaningful and enforceable ethics rules for Congress. Or — heaven forbid — reducing government involvement in the gambling industry, the root cause of the Abramoff scandal. But instead of targeting his colleagues, Goodlatte is targeting ordinary Americans and their Internet pastimes.

Shikha Dalmia, "Betting on Republican Values", Reason Foundation, 2006-07-20

Posted by Nicholas at 12:59 AM | Comments (0)

July 24, 2006

QotD: Filming Atlas Shrugged

It's looking increasingly like a sure thing that Ayn Rand's scrappy band of multi-millionaire underdogs will finally make it to the big screen within the next few years. Erstwhile colleague David M. Brown of Laissez Faire Books has the scoop, including news that to accomodate the epic scope of Atlas Shrugged, it will be filmed as a trilogy. Given the way Rand broke the book up, that raises the intriguing possibility that audiences will be queued up for summer blockbusters titled Non-Contradiction, Either-Or, and A is A. I will gladly pay cash money — and possibly even gold bullion — to hear a trailer with Peter Cullen growling, basso profundo, "This summer . . . the movie event you've been waiting for . . . Non-Contradiction!" Let's just hope they have the good sense to reserve the extended Galtalogue for a DVD extra.

Julian Sanchez, "Lord of the Blings", Hit and Run, 2006-07-14

Posted by Nicholas at 08:59 AM | Comments (3)

July 23, 2006

Red Ensign Standard 44


This is the 44th Raising of the Red Ensign. This issue is by submission only, and not all bloggers in the Brigade have submitted items for this round-up. The Standard is a biweekly (except during the summer months) round-up of interesting posts from the members of the Red Ensign Brigade. If you are interested in joining the Brigade, leave a comment on this post or send an email to "Quotulatiousness AT gmail dot com".

The next Red Ensign Standard will be hosted at Gen X at 40.


The Red Ensign Brigade


First up are the good folks down at The London Fog, who have a few items to call to your attention. First, an article called And the ration lines grow longer still, Bigotry and Hatred in Action, Approved by the Ministry of Fairness, and Trudeau Becomes Prime Minister (in that last post, does anyone else see similarities between Trudeau and Putin?).

Next up, Temujin, of West Coast Chaos offers these links: A nice place to visit . . ., contrasting the Beirut of a few weeks ago and now, and The Spirit of Northern British Columbia, some images of the rare Kermode, or Spirit, bear.

The Phantom Observer was busy, with postings including The Fall of the Harper Minority, Fisking Belinda's Obvious Blather, The Liberal Blogosphere Opportunity, and The Notoriously D.L.Z..

Over at [Castle] Argghhh!!!, John D. offers this link: Some people are just obtuse b@st@rds. In my opinion, John is being too kind to Major "Major Moron" Davies here:

As if, in the cosmic scheme of things, the "Public" truly gives a flying flip in this regard. My guess is, Major Davies, if you were to poll the public as they filter through the doors, they'd be aghast at your attitude.

I am.

I'm sure there are rules and regulations to be followed. I have no doubt of that. I used to be a US Army paid military historian with staff responsibility for what amounts to a regimental museum here in the US.

And I would have found a way to get that Medal back to the guy whose name is on the back of it. I might have had to do a little fundraising to go to the extreme of actually sending someone with it, to bring it back, but I would have moved heaven and earth to get that Medal (in this case, a Victoria Cross awarded to a Gurkha soldier) back to its named recipient.

It's a shame that horsewhipping blackguards is no longer socially acceptable.

Ed (the "Robot Guy") offers a few select aerospace links for this edition: blowed up real good, third time's the charm, and battery powered airplane.

Ruth, at Rootleweb, was busy posting about the situation in Lebanon and the repercussions here in Canada: Anti-Israeli Media and Harper Bashing, Anti-Israeli Media: More Proof, CAF Issues 'Statement', Harper's Plane, and Lebanese Canadians Thank Harper.

Alan at Gen X at 40 sent these links: Make Your Own Cause, Another Constitutional Thing for Steve, All Star, and Mongolian Blue Bums (that last link should probably carry a warning for those of weak constitutions).

Alan has also foolishly nobly offered to host the next Red Ensign Standard.

Here, I've been busy with a new puppy, and playing around with a new camera. Also a reminder of my only-occasionally-updated blog on Ontario wine.

This Standard is linked at the TTLB Ubercarnival, and at the Blog Carnival.


The Red Ensign Brigade Reserve
(blogs temporarily inactive or did not submit postings)


Previous Red Ensign Standards


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

  1. Castle Argghhh
  2. Raging Kraut
  3. The Last Amazon
  4. Bumfonline
  5. Tiger in Winter (now blogging at Tiger in Exile)
  6. Taylor and Company (no longer online)
  7. Myrick
  8. Bound By Gravity
  9. Dust My Broom
  10. Ravishing Light
  11. Babbling Brooks
  12. Musing
  13. Freeway to Serfdom
  14. Nathan's Updates From Seoul
  15. Striving Against Opposition
  16. The Phantom Observer
  17. Abraca-Pocus!
  18. Tipperography
  19. Turning 30 and a half
  20. Canadian Comment
  21. London Fog
  22. The Monarchist
  23. West Coast Chaos
  24. A Chick Named Marzi
  25. Raging Kraut
  26. Robot Guy
  27. The High Places
  28. The Last Amazon
  29. Robot Guy
  30. Quotulatiousness
  31. RootleWeb
  32. Gen X at 40
  33. Quotulatiousness
  34. The High Places (no longer online)
  35. Rootleweb
  36. The Phantom Observer
  37. West Coast Chaos
  38. Minority of One
  39. Dust My Broom
  40. Taylor & Company
  41. Raging Kraut
  42. Rootleweb
  43. Just Between Us Girls
Posted by Nicholas at 09:15 PM | Comments (5)

Lost in translation

Lois McMaster Bujold sent this link to the Bujold mailing list "because some things have to be seen":

Posted by Nicholas at 11:51 AM | Comments (0)

Saturday evening photos

After dinner on Saturday, we drove down to the lake to let Xander have a walk in new and different surroundings. It was dog-walking central . . . the only people who didn't have dogs with them were the young couples who clearly wished all us dog walkers would get the heck out of their romantic moment.

I took the opportunity to try doing some low-light photography with the new camera.


Looking northwest from the eastern breakwater in Whitby harbour. This was taken with an 18-55mm zoom lens on manual focus (ISO 200).


Xander found the constant boat traffic fascinating . . . and the even more constant water bird noise quite distracting. Same lens using the autofocus feature.


Looking south towards the harbour mouth. Same lens and settings.


Switched to a longer, but slower, manual focus lens here (70-200mm zoom). All the sunset photos I took appear with more yellow and less red than was visible to the naked eye. I tried compensating for it, but it was only partially successful.


The light was fading rapidly by now, so I switched to my fastest lens, a 50mm manual focus lens at 800 ISO.


The harbour light (same lens and settings).


Proof positive that there are idiots and vandals everywhere. I've bumped up the brightness and contrast a bit so this would show up. This was one of the "artworks" left by previous visitors on the base of the harbour light. Same lens at 800 ISO.

Posted by Nicholas at 12:59 AM | Comments (0)

QotD: Prehistoric Warfare

Had the same casualty rate been suffered by the population of the twentieth century, its war deaths would have totaled two billion people. [. . .] The common impression that primitive peoples, by comparison, were peaceful and their occasional fighting of no serious consequence is incorrect. Warfare between pre-state societies was incessant, merciless, and conducted with the general purpose, often achieved, of annihilating the opponent.

Nicholas Wade, quoted by Mark Steyn in "Before the white man came? War", Macleans, 2006-07-18

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

July 22, 2006

Call for posts

I'll be posting the next edition of the Red Ensign Standard later this weekend, so if you have anything you'd like me to highlight, send me the URL.

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

Aging related to social class?

Alayne McGregor sent these two links to the Lois McMaster Bujold mailing list. I'm sure the findings will be unpopular, if only because they fly in the face of long-held beliefs in certain economic quarters. the BBC reported:

People in lower social classes are biologically older than those in higher classes, according to research.

A study of 1,552 volunteers revealed a low social status can accelerate the ageing process by about seven years.

The UK/US team analysed key pieces of DNA called telomeres which are thought to correlate to biological age.

The scientists, writing in the journal Aging Cell, believe the stress associated with belonging to a lower social class may be to blame.

And the Guardian said this:

Scientists have uncovered evidence of a new class divide: the lower our social standing, the faster we age.

The claim follows the surprise discovery of accelerated ageing among working class volunteers, leaving them biologically older than those higher up the social ladder.

Genetic tests showed that being working class could add the equivalent of seven years to a person's age.

And moving down in the world by marrying someone from a lower social class also added years to a woman's biological age, scientists report today in the journal Aging Cell.

Posted by Nicholas at 10:04 AM | Comments (0)

QotD: History

Of course, [the world's] not ending; it never does. Not all at once, anyway. Every day the world ends somewhere for someone. Ideas take a little longer to die, and history dies only to don a sheet and haunt everyone in the neighborhood for a couple hundred years. Part of this mess today is due to the idiocy of the First World War, the Mother of all Wrong Turns at Albequerque. My grandchildren will deal with the empty echoes of Kaiserism.

James Lileks, The Bleat, 2006-07-17

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

July 21, 2006

Shiny, Happy, Imaginary Planet

I linked to a post by Scott Burgess earlier this week, which did a nice demolition job on the New Economics Foundation's "Happy Planet Index". But apparently, even Scott was taking the numbers too seriously:

Apparently NEF just made up Vanuatu's life satisfaction number by extrapolation from other countries. But, truly, this competely defeats the purpose of self-reported life satisfaction. There are undoubtedly unique aspects of Vanuatu's culture, economy, climate, character, etc., that would enter into their pattern of self-reports. So it's pretty funny that Vanuatu "wins" in a much-touted index in part due to numbers the authors made up.

Hat tip to Jane Galt for the URL.

Posted by Nicholas at 04:50 PM | Comments (0)

Hey, look! A puppy!


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

Busy day

No chance to blog.

Perhaps I'll find some time later.

Posted by Nicholas at 02:20 PM | Comments (0)

QotD: The Planet of Toronto

Some days, working in Toronto feels more like being on the Away Team to the planet of the Progressive Latte People.

Paul Canniff, "Stuff I Can't Make up: T.O. Edition", Daimnation, 2006-07-20

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

July 20, 2006

The economics of hybrid cars

A recent article by Shikha Dalmia at the Reason Foundation website finds that hybrid cars are less economical than their conventional counterparts:

But despite all these drawbacks, hybrids are at least better for the environment than say . . . a Hummer, right? Nope.

Spinella spent two years on the most comprehensive study to date — dubbed "Dust to Dust" — collecting data on the energy necessary to plan, build, sell, drive and dispose of a car from the initial conception to scrappage. He even included in the study such minutia as plant-to-dealer fuel costs of each vehicle, employee driving distances, and electricity usage per pound of material. All this data was then boiled down to an "energy cost per mile" figure for each car (see here and here).

Comparing this data, the study concludes that overall hybrids cost more in terms of overall energy consumed than comparable non-hybrid vehicles. But even more surprising, smaller hybrids' energy costs are greater than many large, non-hybrid SUVs.

For instance, the dust-to-dust energy cost of the bunny-sized Honda Civic hybrid is $3.238 per mile. This is quite a bit more than the $1.949 per mile that the elephantine Hummer costs. The energy cots of SUVs such as the Tahoe, Escalade, and Navigator are similarly far less than the Civic hybrid.

This, on top of the news that hybrid sales, "every month this year have been down compared to the same time last year. Even sales of the Toyota Prius — the darling of the greens — have dropped significantly." It definitely won't please the folks who are happily giving the finger to the H2.

Posted by Nicholas at 04:46 PM | Comments (0)

Custom-tailoring the news

This news article was pretty much custom-tailored to catch my attention. It's a big-money government handout to a corporation, the corporation is a railroad, and the railroad has a spectacularly bad safety record.

Oh, and the money is to allow the safety-challenged railway to run dirty and/or toxic loads through a major urban area alongside an internationally known hospital. How could the story get any better?

Using government statistics, the Mayo Clinic prepared a report for the FRA showing that DM&E "has one of the worst, if not the worst safety records of all U.S. railroads." According to the report, DM&E had 107 accidents involving trains carrying hazardous materials in the past 10 years, including a record 16 in 2005, and the company reported train accidents at a rate of 7.5 times higher than the national average from 2000 to 2005.

Larry Mann, a national rail safety expert who helped draft the Federal Railroad Safety Act of 1970 and who's now working with Mayo, said DM&E is "a poster child" for not how to run a railroad.

"It's unsafe at any speed," he said.

The amount of money in question? Two point five BILLION.

Posted by Nicholas at 03:53 PM | Comments (0)

QotD: Hollywood

I can't talk about Hollywood. It was a horror to me when I was there and it's a horror to look back on. I can't imagine how I did it. When I got away from it I couldn't even refer to the place by name. Out there, I called it.

Dorothy Parker

Posted by Nicholas at 12:05 AM | Comments (2)

July 19, 2006

Debunking hydration

Kim du Toit asks why "hydration" is suddenly the fixation of the week:

Good grief, I watch the local soccer moms going for their daily "walk" around this neighborhood, clutching quart bottles of water as though thirst will overcome them before they reach the corner of Coit and Legacy. Good grief.

"Hydration" is rapidly approaching "tactical" as my own personal most-loathed word.

Here's a newsflash: even in our current 100+ temperatures, if you've had a couple of glasses of water within half an hour of setting out for your walk, you're not going to get dehydrated. Especially if your walk is less than half an hour's duration.


He's quite right: low-level panic about dehydration is endemic. Nobody seems to know why they're worried about it, but everyone seems to have a bad case of the dehydration meme this year.

Hat tip to Jon for the link.

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

Bonus quote of the day

As with the arrest of Canadian marijuana seed dealer Marc Emery, the U.S. government is reaching across borders to impose its oppressive paternalism on citizens of more tolerant countries. How would the U.S. react if an executive of an American media company were arrested in Beijing for violating a Chinese law against subversive online speech, or in Tehran for creating indecent Web content viewed by Iranians?

Jacob Sullum, "You May Be a Businessman in the U.K., but Here You're a Racketeer", Hit and Run, 2006-07-18

Posted by Nicholas at 09:41 AM | Comments (0)

So who is being gamed here?

The Register has some interesting Google Earth images to share:

Chinese black helicopters circle Google Earth
Those among you who like your skies darkened by black helicopters are invited to mosey on down to the remote Chinese village of Huangyangtan which hosts what must be the strangest military installation ever spotted by the Google Earth Community . . .

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

QotD: Spam

CipherTrust has [. . .] analyzed the effectiveness of various kinds of spam. It turns out that pornography is far and away the most effective spam, with a click-through rate of 5.6%. The next-best click-through rate? Pharmaceuticals, at 0.02%. [. . .] Imagine the blockbuster just waiting to happen: when Citibank starts offering online pornography.

Stephen J. Dubner, "Phun Phacts About Phishing (and Spam)", Freakonomics Blog, 2006-07-07

July 18, 2006

Shiny, Happy Planet Index — refuted

Scott Burgess takes the bludgeon of fact to the tissue of fantasy that is the New Economics Foundation's "Happy Planet Index":

But those wondering why so many residents of such exemplary societies as Colombia and Cuba take such risks to emigrate to the evil paragon to the North are soon set right:

    "We might think that the vast number of immigrants coming to the West is itself evidence that our life is inherently better. The reality, however, is that these immigrants represent a tiny proportion of the overall populations of their countries of origin. Many are lured by false images of the luxurious Western lifestyle and their dreams are shattered by a reality which is itself bereft of luxury and, for many, of spiritual or community value."

They're being lured here under false pretences, you see. Often by relatives.

The report continues:

    "It is a peculiarly Western arrogance which assumes that people with little in the way of material wealth cannot possibly have as high levels of well-being as the world's richest."

See the top ten in terms of life satisfaction, above.

As sanctimonious and dubious as the report is — given its contrived statistics (see appendix 2), its taking policy-makers to task for "having been led astray by abstract mathematical models of the economy that bear little relation to people's day-to-day realities" is particularly amusing — media coverage has been even worse.

Go and read the whole post. It's worth it.

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

Carnival of Liberty LIV posted

The latest version of the Carnival of Liberty has been posted at Ogre's Politics and Views.

Posted by Nicholas at 05:21 PM | Comments (0)

Airbus versus Boeing

Michael Jennings has an interesting post up at Samizdata, talking about the ongoing duel between Airbus and Boeing:

The Farnborough Air Show is on near London this week. In the commercial jet market, things have changed dramatically since the Paris Air show last year. A year ago Airbus had their first flying displays of their very large new A380 airliner, and for the fifth year in a row Airbus received more orders for airliners than did Boeing. Through a combination of more modern aircraft, more modern production lines and (perhaps) state subsidies, Airbus has come from a distant position in the market to market leadership.

However, this year Airbus fallen to a distant second in the market, having received only 117 orders this year to Boeing's 480. The A380 is behind schedule, the first airlines to receive it will be getting it six months late, and Airbus has scarcely recieved an order for it in the last couple of years. (Total orders are presently for 159). Boeong has received orders for 400 of its new mid-market 787 aircraft (and orders for Airbus' A330 and smaller A340 variants have dried up completely) and is also significantly ahead of Airbus in the upper mid-market segment containing Airbus' A340-600 aircraft and Boeing's 777-300.

A very interesting view of the whole major aircraft market, and the potential changes for the two major players.

Posted by Nicholas at 02:48 PM | Comments (3)

So much for "No sex please, we're British"

The Register examines some recently released Aziz Corporation tidbits:

It's official: the UK office is a steaming cauldron of sexual desire in which colleagues exchange flirtatious emails and smouldering looks as a ritual prelude to forming the work-based beast with two backs.

That, at least, is according to research by the Aziz Corporation, which concludes that not only have one third of Brits had a "fling" with a fellow worker, but that the majority of managers consider the practice "perfectly acceptable".

I've worked in some offices where a proportion of the staff appeared to be using the company directory as a dating service, and (in one company) a distant office had the reputation of having a "duty roster" — the only way we could account for the kaleidoscopic changes in formal, informal, and temporary relationships the staff in that office seemed to indulge in. I'm sure that distance made the partner-swapping aspect seem much more common than it was in reality, though.

All of that pales in comparison to the reported rutty habits of British offices, according to Aziz:

The hoi polloi, meanwhile, are apparently going at it like jackrabbits. In addition to the aforementioned 35 per cent who've enjoyed a brief encounter with a fellow worker, 29 per cent have formed long-term relationships with someone from work.

This orgiastic Bacchanalia is fuelled by a heady mix of saucy email exchanges (28 per cent of pollees said they'd indulged in e-flirting), and good, old-fashioned sexual fantasising (44 per cent 'fessed up to light daydreaming about a colleague).

Posted by Nicholas at 10:51 AM | Comments (3)

QotD: Maturity

As grownups, we don't often find our inner three-year-old steering the ship, but it happens. You scream at your computer. Your body orders, pays for, and consumes a mint chocolate chip ice cream cone when your mind could have sworn it was dieting. My inner child goes ape in a group. Five minutes in a lecture hall, and I'm ready to turn the curtains into my own personal trapeze.

Jennifer "Chotzi" Rosen, "Rheingold", Cork Jester, 2006-07-13

Posted by Nicholas at 08:13 AM | Comments (0)

July 17, 2006

Truer words were never spoke typed

I belatedly read a series of email messages which quite amused me. This is from a Yahoo group called Railroad_Modeling_Still_Makes_Me_Grumpy, which is a successor group to one that Jon founded several years ago. The discussion started with some product announcements including a very spendy item:

<Original poster> I'd be very interested in some more info on that Heljan container crane

<John> 1000 units being imported by Walthers. $800 bucks a piece (I rounded up). Very cool, and can be joystick controlled (not included). My problem is that I'd need a container ship to go with it . . . And I'm down to a single kidney.

<CT> When any SWMBO finds that someone has spent $800 on an operating toy crane that is going to get really boring after about an hour, lack of kidneys is going to be a really minor problem.

The operating toy crane fantasy that is common to the male species will NEVER be understood by the "My Little Pony" species . . .

Posted by Nicholas at 05:36 PM | Comments (2)

From deep in the music video vault

Dire Straits, "Money for nothing"

Posted by Nicholas at 03:27 PM | Comments (0)

No charges to be laid in murder of Jean Charles de Menezes

Perry de Havilland outlines the depressing news:

So we now know that the police officers who shot dead Brazilian Jean Charles de Menezes, claiming they thought he was a suicide bomber, will face no charges. Instead, Scotland Yard may face charges under, wait for it, health and safety regulations.

Yet all this utterly misses the point. I am willing to believe that the event itself was all just a horrible cock-up but what I am not willing to accept is that after shooting dead the wrong man, the authorities can issue a stream of bare faced lies with complete impunity. Very soon after the event it must have been clear to the police they had made a horrible blunder and this fact soon came out. However we were then told that the unfortunate Brazilian had significantly contributed to his own fate . . . he was wearing an unseasonable padded jacket1, he had run when challenged by the armed police and been chased in the tube station2 and finally had vaulted over the gate and run on to the train pursued by the cops3 . . . all of which we now know was completely false.

1 He was in fact wearing a short jeans jacket

2 He rode to the station on a bus without being challenged

3 He calmly used his season ticket to pass though the automated gate

Under the circumstances, at the time, it all seemed like the police were being (understandably) over-enthusiastic in attempting to prevent a suicide bombing. As the facts started to come in, it became clear that the job had been botched. As more facts came in, it became stunningly clear that the police were a mob of cack-handed imbeciles, and worse, that the bureaucracy was covering up like mad.

Rule of law? Faugh! Rule of moral cripples with delusions of righteousness, more like.

And lest we point fingers across the Atlantic and say "It could never happen here!" I'd point you to any random day's posts at The Agitator to confound that notion. (Update: Have a look at the graphical evidence.)

Posted by Nicholas at 12:47 PM | Comments (1)

Geek social interaction

Michael Suileabhain-Wilson wrote about the Five Geek Social Fallacies a few years back. It's still worth reading:

Within the constellation of allied hobbies and subcultures collectively known as geekdom, one finds many social groups bent under a crushing burden of dysfunction, social drama, and general interpersonal wack-ness. It is my opinion that many of these never-ending crises are sparked off by an assortment of pernicious social fallacies — ideas about human interaction which spur their holders to do terrible and stupid things to themselves and to each other.

Social fallacies are particularly insidious because they tend to be exaggerated versions of notions that are themselves entirely reasonable and unobjectionable. It's difficult to debunk the pathological fallacy without seeming to argue against its reasonable form; therefore, once it establishes itself, a social fallacy is extremely difficult to dislodge. It's my hope that drawing attention to some of them may be a step in the right direction.

Hat tip to Tracy MacShane for asking for the link and to Scott Raun for providing it (when Tracy's "google-fu" was insufficient).

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

Sony withdraws racist ads

The PSP White ads many felt to be openly racist (discussed here) have been withdrawn, according to Sony:

The billboards, which went up in the first week of June only in the Netherlands, showed a white woman dressed in white threateningly grabbing the face of a frightened-looking black girl, with a message saying "PlayStation Portable White is coming."

The provocative image was one of several versions showing the two women in different poses, company spokesman Nanako Kato said Wednesday. They appeared exclusively in Amsterdam and several other major cities in that country.

Sony said the ads were intended only to emphasize the colour contrast between the existing black PSP and the new ceramic white PSP.

Of course, the ads have more than repaid their creation costs by raising awareness of the company and its upcoming product release. In fact, by making a public gesture to withdraw the ads, the company has probably doubled the effective reach of the ads; people who were unaware or indifferent to the offensive quality of the ads are now being informed about the ads (and the product they promoted) in a different context. Sony's advertising agency has probably earned a nice bonus for all this.

Posted by Nicholas at 08:32 AM | Comments (1)

QotD: Soccer

If you want a sport where the best team always wins, I don't know where to direct you. Part of the beauty of soccer, and one of the life lessons it contains and that we should emphasize for our kids, is that even when you're outmatched you can still win if you keep your wits about you, keep working hard, keep your eye out for the smallest oportunities, and don't lose faith that it can happen. Few other sports teach us that as well as soccer does, and it translates very effectively into life.

Patrick Van de Wille, posted to the Soccer Coach mailing list, 2006-07-11

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

July 16, 2006

Playing with a new camera

Traded in my Nikon CoolPics 4300 with a dodgy autofocus mode for a Pentax *istDL digital SLR. The autofocus was just fuzzy enough that sometimes down-sampling the images for posting on the blog improved the photos dramatically. The Nikon also had a shutter speed measured in minutes: forget taking any action photos at all, unless that blurry motion smear is an intentional effect.

I didn't realize how much I'd missed the SLR until I started using the *istDL today. Being able to swap lenses is a luxury you can get quite used to, I'm afraid. I'm still no photographer, but I'm much happier with the quality of photo so far.


Molly was quite unimpressed as I tried to work out the differences between the way the old and new cameras worked. This was using the new 18-55mm autofocus lens that came with the camera.


Along the shore of Lake Scugog, just off the new waterfront trail in Port Perry. We were looking for an area to take Xander so he could cool off in the water . . . it turned out he wasn't too interested in getting wet, he just wanted to drink the lake water.


This is an attempt using the macro feature of my one long zoom lens (a 70-200mm). The bee was fairly co-operative.


Xander was wilting in the heat after about half an hour.

Posted by Nicholas at 11:49 PM | Comments (3)

Sunday Puppy Pictures

As usual, photos of the pup in the extended entry:


Hey, no red eye for a change!

As you can see, we believe in colour-coding our pets. Anything in white and orange is a pet. . .
Harry tries to sneak up on a sleeping Xander


Thin rawhide chew substitutes for the hard-boiled puppy PI's jaunty cigarette.

A new toy that makes non-squeaky noises when you bite it. Just the thing to hide under a chair.

Posted by Nicholas at 12:36 AM | Comments (0)

QotD: Limits to military power

Suffice it to say that I think [the Green Lantern's power ring] makes an okay premise for a comic book. But a lot of people seem to think that American military might is like one of these power rings. They seem to think that, roughly speaking, we can accomplish absolutely anything in the world through the application of sufficient military force. The only thing limiting us is a lack of willpower.

What's more, this theory can't be empirically demonstrated to be wrong. Things that you or I might take as demonstrating the limited utility of military power to accomplish certain kinds of things are, instead, taken as evidence of lack of will. Thus we see that problems in Iraq and Afghanistan aren't reasons to avoid new military ventures, but reasons why we must embark upon them: "Add a failure in Iran to a failure in Iraq to a failure in Afghanistan, and we could supercharge Islamic radicalism in a way never before seen. The widespread and lethal impression of American weakness under the Clinton administration, which did so much to energize bin Ladenism in the 1990s, could look like the glory years of American power compared to what the Bush administration may leave in its wake."

Matthew Yglesias, "The Green Lantern Theory of Geopolitics", TPMCafe, 2006-07-10

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

July 15, 2006

QotD: Genetic Modification

The libertarian argument for genetic enhancement is that parents should be free to choose what's best for the children. Rarely considered is the possibility that some might define "best" in ways that are not only peculiar but harmful. Even leaving aside oddballs who may want their child to be a cat person, what if some people decided to breed submissive females — or boys genetically purged of competitiveness, aggressiveness, and other macho traits?

What's more, the choices may not be entirely free. Aldous Huxley's Brave New World, in which the state determines each child's genetic programming, is an unlikely future. But what about more subtle coercion? Suppose we get to the point where genetic intervention, or chemical brain modification for those already born, can reduce the risk of criminal behavior. Could parents be charged with negligence if they reject such procedures and their child commits a crime? Could a teenager with antisocial tendencies be forced to undergo the treatment? What about the scenario depicted in the film Gattaca, in which the unenhanced become an underclass, and prospective parents face tremendous social pressure to genetically engineer their children?

Cathy Young, "A Guide for the Modern Prometheus", Reason Online, 2006-07-11

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

July 14, 2006

Words as blunt instruments

Okay, it's only the runner-up this year, but I thought it was brilliant:

"I know what you're thinking, punk," hissed Wordy Harry to his new editor, "you're thinking, 'Did he use six superfluous adjectives or only five?' — and to tell the truth, I forgot myself in all this excitement; but being as this is English, the most powerful language in the world, whose subtle nuances will blow your head clean off, you've got to ask yourself one question: 'Do I feel loquacious?' — well do you, punk?"

Stuart Vasepuru
Edinburgh, Scotland

Go read the rest of the entries. Hat tip to Ron Hearn, who sent the link to the Techwr-l mailing list.

Posted by Nicholas at 01:56 PM | Comments (1)

He must be talking about a different Toronto

Peter Samuel describes a wonderful place that sounds so unlike the city most of us know:

The city of Toronto has made major efforts the past couple of decades to revive the waterfront on Lake Ontario and to link it better to the central business district. The revival is generally a success. Scores of handsome condo/apartment towers have gone up. Heavily used ferries now provide service to islands just offshore to newly created hiking trails, a nature preserve, and attractive promenades where wharves once rotted. A nicely streetscaped Lake Shore Boulevard runs the length the waterfront, and of course there's a new trolley line.

Toronto's laissez-faire, Houston-style approach to zoning — no historic district or plan reviews, no affordable housing requirements, no car parking requirements, very liberal floor/site ratios etc. — is probably forging the rapid developments that capitalize on lake views and downtown proximity. Freedom from stifling U.S.-style zonings has produced a vibrant mix of activities and services . . . The area is thriving.

Posted by Nicholas at 11:20 AM | Comments (2)

A case of mistaken identity

I guess it's been so long since a Canadian prime minister said anything like this that the mistake is quite understandable:

Arab papers are carrying Saudi Arabia's condemnation of Hezbollah. That hasn't stopped the UN and EU capitals from denouncing Israel. Go figure. But Australian Canadian* PM Stephen Harper isn't having any of it:

    Harper, who is in London for a two-day visit, called Israel's response to the kidnapping of three soldiers "measured" and "simply self-defence".

[. . .]

* Well, he sounded like an Australian!

Hat tip to Jon for the URL.

Posted by Nicholas at 10:22 AM | Comments (0)

Harper renaging on election promise?

Paul Wells compares the top five priorities of the Conservative campaign to the top five priorities of the Conservative government . . . and calls Stephen Harper on it:

n his latest column, Stephen Harper offers an update from Ottawa. "It's been quite a ride," the PM reports. Since the election, the new Conservative government has made progress "on all of our five priorities — from cleaning up the federal government, to cutting taxes, cracking down on crime, supporting families, and strengthening our country at home and around the world."

Read that list again.

Notice anything?

Maybe not if you don't live in Ottawa. But in the capital, everybody who read that list spotted it immediately. Harper is playing Hide-the-Priority. And he's being pretty clumsy about it.

The fifth item in his list was never among the five priorities the Conservatives campaigned on. The fifth Conservative campaign priority was: "work with the provinces to establish a Patient Wait Times Guarantee." Harper has replaced it with this business about "strengthening our country."

And it's not a typo.

Go read the whole thing.

Posted by Nicholas at 08:22 AM | Comments (1)

QotD: Boys

Society is awakening to the possibility that boys have been disadvantaged. In past decades, what it means to be a boy has been redefined, deconstructed, reconstructed, politically analyzed and mathematically modeled. In the process, the meaning of being a boy's father has become jumbled as well.

In the midst of the confusion, The Dangerous Book brings non-political truths into focus. For example, most boys like rough-and-tumble. They are riveted by tales of heroism on blood-soaked battlefields. They will learn history eagerly if it is presented in a chapter on Artillery.

Like Peter Pan, the Iggulden brothers have rediscovered the Lost Boys and are beckoning for them to come out to play. "Oh . . . and bring along your father too," they add with a dangerous wink and a smile.

Wendy McElroy, "New Book Revives Lost Notions of Boyhood", FOXNews.com, 2006-07-04

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

July 13, 2006

QotD: LOTR Musical

The recently announced closure of the "Lord of the Rings" musical was no surprise to the Flea partially because I had heard reliable rumours to the effect weeks in advance and partially because I have now seen it. And it is bad. Shockingly bad. And that is saying something considering I walked in expecting dancing Hobbits.

Nicholas Packwood, "And Eve Was Weak", Ghost of a Flea, 2006-07-12

Posted by Nicholas at 12:54 AM | Comments (0)

July 12, 2006

Fark gave this an "Ironic" tag

Canada will be hosting the 1st World Outgames, an athletic competition for gay, lesbian, and transgendered athletes, but many of the competitors are having trouble getting their visa applications approved to enter the country . . . because many of them come from countries where being gay is a crime:

Just two weeks before the games are to begin, 242 foreign participants are still waiting for visas, say organizers for the 1st World Outgames.

More than a dozen other participants for the event, which runs July 26 to Aug. 5, have already been refused entry to Canada, they say.

On Tuesday, the Liberal party issued a statement calling on Solberg to look into the matter. [. . .]

Noel St. Pierre, an immigration lawyer in Montreal, told CBC that several of those rejected entry into Canada were told it was because they have criminal records.

St. Pierre said he was investigating the nature of the criminal records, since many of the invited athletes face prosecution in their home countries for being homosexual.

The 1st World Outgames are being billed as the largest sports gathering in Montreal since the 1976 Olympics.

I hope that the minister sees this as the kind of bureaucratic stupidity that can — and should — be quashed. If any of the applicants have criminal records for things that would be considered crimes in Canada, fine, but if the criminal record is for something that is perfectly legal here then morally there's only one correct answer.

Hat tip to Fark.com (but you can safely ignore most of the troglodyte comments in that thread).

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

It doesn't have to make sense — it's government policy

According to this report at CNN, Toyota is going to recall thousands of Tundra trucks in order to make them less safe:

The recall, announced Monday, is meant to make Tundras comply with a set of safety regulations. The rules say that vehicles built after 2002 must have a child-seat anchor system known as LATCH in the front seat if they also have a front-seat airbag shut-off switch.

The Tundras in question were built with an airbag shut-off switch but not the LATCH system.

The solution? Spend lots of money and inconvenience customers...to remove the airbag shut-off switch.

The move not only doesn't enhance the safety of these vehicles, it actually makes the vehicles unsafe for small children riding in the front seat.

Those shut-off switches exist because airbags can injure and even kill small children even in otherwise minor crashes.

There are few things more implacable than bureaucratic stupidity.

Posted by Nicholas at 06:36 PM | Comments (0)

BTDT, got the leg sprains

Neptunus Lex tries to recapture the swash and buckle of youth:

Three weeks ago I went back to my collegiate roots, found a local fencing club, hit the piste.

Starting to, you know: Regret it.

Turns out that a couple three generations of younger fencers have come up since last I was at the nationals. Some of them quite good. Some of them right here in Sandy Eggo. And the first week I was reminded of leg muscles that you don't use for anything else, except for fencing. Vividly reminded. And then last week I got back spasms trying to keep from falling after 25-year old synapses wrote a check 45-year old legs are apparently unable to cash. That was with me all week.

I didn't go back to Olympic-style fencing, but I did take up Renaissance-style rapier-and-dagger fencing. Also for the record: those leg muscles you forget about for modern fencing act exactly the same way even if you're all pouffed up with a doublet and codpiece.

Hat tip to The Armorer.

Posted by Nicholas at 06:07 PM | Comments (0)

How photographs can (be made to) lie

Here is a primer on how photos, in this instance glamour photos, are "optimized".

Posted by Nicholas at 04:34 PM | Comments (1)

QotD: Wit

Wit has truth in it; wisecracking is simply calisthenics with words.

Dorothy Parker

Posted by Nicholas at 12:33 AM | Comments (0)

July 11, 2006

Zizou's last hit

Put your head into it.

Hat tip to Hit and Run.

Posted by Nicholas at 03:32 PM | Comments (1)

Death toll rises to 147 in Mumbai bomb attacks

The wave of attacks in India earlier today has claimed 147 lives, with over 400 injured — and those numbers are still not complete. In what I have to say is the most stupid use of "scare quotes", Associated Press had this:

India's major cities were put on high alert. Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh called an emergency Cabinet meeting and said that "terrorists" were behind the attacks.

What the hell else can you call an attack on civilians, calculated to cause high casualties except a terrorist attack?

Chaos engulfed the crowded rail network in India's financial capital following the blasts that ripped apart densely packed carriages on trains that police said had either pulled into stations or were traveling between them. Doors and windows were blown off the train cars, and witnesses said body parts were strewn on the ground.

After meeting with his Cabinet, Maharashtra state Chief Minister Vilasrao Deshmukh said Tuesday night that the death toll was 147, with another 439 wounded, the Press Trust of India reported.

Posted by Nicholas at 02:21 PM | Comments (1)

Latest Carnival of Liberty

The 53rd edition of the Carnival of Liberty is being hosted at Homeland Stupidity:

Welcome to the 53rd Carnival of Liberty, where we celebrate the rights to life, liberty, property and the pursuit of happiness. “That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed,” Thomas Jefferson wrote in the Declaration of Independence.

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

QotD: Wine

"All wine would be red," said the late Leon Adams, "if it could." While I'm not convinced that the Domaine de la Romanée-Conti's '95 Montrachet feels socially inferior when it bumps into a bottle of Beaujolais Nouveau on the streets of Beaune, I can sympathize with Adams's sentiment. Many drinkers think of a white wine as foreplay and feel somehow unsatisfied with a meal that doesn't lead eventually to red. Which is why, though summer undoubtedly has many features to recommend it — hot weather, tiny bathing suits, long days — some of us can't help dreading it as the doldrums of the red-wine drinker's year. It's hard to think about opening that big old bottle of Beaucastel or Beychevelle when you're sweating like a . . . I was about to say pig, but in fact, as my animal-mad wife has reminded me, pigs don't sweat. Sweating like a horse, maybe. Whatever. Anyway, I'm happy to report that some read wines go well with suntan lotion.

Jay McInerney, "Summer Reds", Bacchus & Me: Adventures in the Wine Cellar, 2002

Posted by Nicholas at 12:28 AM | Comments (0)

July 10, 2006

This is why jobs take forever to complete

While this starts as a model railroad thing, it perfectly encapsulates so many tasks:

Click to see full-size cartoon

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

Movie trailer

Aaron Russo, who ran for the Libertarian Party's presidential nomination in 2004, has now turned his hand to documentary film making. The trailer is chock-full of soundbites that, taken out of context, help to maintain that widespread image of libertarians as nut-cases.


Even if some of what is discussed is real, true, and urgent.

For the record, even if — as strongly asserted in the trailer — the US income tax is technically "illegal", most people hearing this for the first time will mentally file the claim as conspiracy theory/kookiness. If you're trying to persuade people, getting the wildest statements front-and-center is a really good way to block any chance of your message getting through.

More clips here, here, and here.

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

QotD: Prayer

And what's up with the people who pray for material things? If you believe that God answers prayers for merchandise, it means the gap between the Almighty creator of the universe and Walmart is closing. God still has the lowest prices and widest selection, but how long can that last?

I have to say that I wasn't surprised to learn that praying for sick people didn't help. If praying worked, convenience stores would have lines of monks down the block every time the lottery reached $100 million.

But I was delighted to learn that I can hurt people by praying for them. Now when I get mad at someone, I no longer need to say that I wish he was dead. I'll just say, "I'll pray for your health," thus killing him.

Scott Adams, "Praying for Sick People", The Dilbert Blog, 2006-07-03

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

July 09, 2006

QotD: Revolutionaries

Would the founders — whom our government celebrates today — have tolerated the government we have now? As [Tyler] Cowen notes, we rose up and revolted against a government that was far less intrusive, invasive, and — at risk of hyperbole — tyrannical than the one we have now. My guess is that alcohol prohibition alone would've been enough have Paine or Jefferson calling for arms. Never mind the New Deal, the Great Society, or today's encroaching police state.

Radley Balko, "Independence Day?", The Agitator, 2006-07-04

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

July 08, 2006

QotD: The true nature of government

Perhaps it was inevitable that the longest federal trial in Idaho history would be followed by the longest jury deliberation in such a trial — a 20-day marathon that had news people joking about whether the jury planned to put in for retirement benefits. The eight-week trial of Randy Weaver and Kevin Harris grew out of such a bizarre set of circumstances that it's not surprising it took a while for the jurors to sort things out. It probably also took them a while to come to grips with the idea that government agencies could so blatantly engage in entrapment, lying, cover-ups, and the killing of innocent people. As one alternate juror, excused before deliberations were completed, put it: "I felt like a little kid that finds out there is no Santa Claus"

Alan W. Bock, "Ambush at Ruby Ridge", Reason, 1993-10

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

July 07, 2006

And you thought waterskiers were bad . . .

Just imagine your lake with half a dozen of these babies flying around all day . . .

Posted by Nicholas at 04:59 PM | Comments (1)

The Reg on WGA

The Register rounds up the current state of things on the "Windows Genuine [Dis]Advantage" scene:

What would you call a computer program that surreptitiously installed itself onto your computer, collected personal information about you without your knowledge or effective consent, was difficult or impossible to remove, installed pop-up banners that constantly harassed you, and presented significant security vulnerabilities?

If you were Los Angeles resident Brian Johnson, the answer would be simple. You'd call it Windows. Or more specifically, it's the anti-piracy software download known as Windows Genuine Advantage.

His class action lawsuit (PDF court documents available in linked article), filed in US federal District Court in Seattle, Washington on June 26, 2006, alleges that the Microsoft software violates California and Washington State privacy laws, consumer protection laws, and anti-spyware laws.

Go read the whole thing. It's worth the time.

Posted by Nicholas at 11:47 AM | Comments (0)

Sony goes for the bigot market

Jon sent a link to this post which takes aim at Sony's latest race-baiting ad:

It seems to me pretty stupidly racist, frankly, and I'm certainly not one who is keen to toss that term around lightly. I think that the latex gloves that the White Beast is wearing so she doesn't even come in contact with the black girl/boy (I honestly can't tell) is an especially nice touch, as is the way the necktie thingy forms a Madonna-esque cross with WB's bra support. Yech.

Nice to see that Sony is willing to be "edgy".

For the slow-of-comprehension, that last sentence was intended to be read sarcastically.

Posted by Nicholas at 11:06 AM | Comments (1)

Religious discrimination or bureaucracy as usual

Jon sent a couple of links on this story: a US soldier was killed on active service, but the Veteran's Administration refuses to allow his grave marker to carry his religious affiliation. The Washington Post sums it up here:

At the Veterans Memorial Cemetery in the small town of Fernley, Nev., there is a wall of brass plaques for local heroes. But one space is blank. There is no memorial for Sgt. Patrick D. Stewart.

That's because Stewart was a Wiccan, and the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs has refused to allow a symbol of the Wicca religion — a five-pointed star within a circle, called a pentacle — to be inscribed on U.S. military memorials or grave markers.

The department has approved the symbols of 38 other faiths; about half of are versions of the Christian cross. It also allows the Jewish Star of David, the Muslim crescent, the Buddhist wheel, the Mormon angel, the nine-pointed star of Bahai and something that looks like an atomic symbol for atheists.

While it's quite likely that there would be some resistance to putting a Wiccan symbol on a grave marker or official memorial, I think the real reason for this is sheer bureaucratic inertia and/or incompetence. If the US Army can list the name of the faith on the soldier's dogtags, they can accept the use of the religious symbol on the grave or monument. I think the VA is just doing what massive bureaucracies do all the time . . . delaying making a decision until there is no risk of them being blamed.

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

QotD: Academic Expulsions

Ever and anon another so-called radical professor is heaved out of a State university, always to the tune of bitter protests in the liberal weeklies. The usual defense of the trustees is that the doctrines he teaches are dangerous to the young. This puts him on all fours with Socrates — surely a somewhat large order. The real objection to his ideas, nine times out of ten, is that only idiots believe such things. But that objection has to be kept quiet, for it is saying nothing aposite against a professor in the average State university to prove that he is an idiot.

H.L. Mencken, "Prima Facie", Baltimore Evening Sun, 1931-07-25

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

July 06, 2006

Why Warren Buffett supports the Estate Tax

I'd often wondered why Warren Buffett, the world's second richest man, was such a big supporter of the estate tax (the government's proof of the concept that you can't take it with you). This might help to explain it:

The estate tax weighs heavily on those who have asset-rich businesses, typically family businesses that have taken years to break even and accumulate value. When the owner dies and the children take up the reins, the estate tax comes into play, sometimes costing as much as the business itself. The heirs are then forced to sell the business before losing any more money. This is how Buffett came to own Dairy Queen and the Buffalo News, among other businesses, as they were being sold at lower prices than their actual value. In the latter case, Buffett bought the paper for less than what it would wind up making him each year.

Beyond providing Buffett with a bumper crop of businesses to purchase, the estate tax also provides him with customers. Any financial advisor will tell you that the major component of a sound financial plan is composed of asset allocation, not blue chip trades on the stock market. And that is why they recommend you purchase some life insurance to shelter your money from large taxes such as the estate tax. And why not purchase that life insurance from Buffett's very own insurance company, GEICO?

Our great philanthropist doesn't benefit if the estate tax is repealed — he loses on cheap deals, affluent customers, and spread his own "common man" mythology. Unfortunately, too few realize that Buffett is so self-interested. As he talks about how much he dislikes inordinate wealth, he has done his damnedest to make sure no one else achieves it.

Posted by Nicholas at 11:52 AM | Comments (1)

O pleez spehr mi!

Yet another bone-headed attempt to "simplify" the language (as if l33t-speak hadn't already become the online world's lingua franca):

When "say," "they" and "weigh" rhyme, but "bomb," "comb" and "tomb" don't, wuudn't it maek mor sens to spel wurdz the wae thae sound?

Those in favor of simplified spelling say children would learn faster and illiteracy rates would drop. Opponents say a new system would make spelling even more confusing.

Eether wae, the consept has yet to capcher th publix imajinaeshun.

The funniest part of the article is this claim:

Thae sae th bee selebraets th ability of a fue stoodents to master a dificult sistem that stumps meny utherz hoo cuud do just as wel if speling were simpler.

Yep. Making a system simpler would make mastering that system easier. Except for those of us who already use the older, more complex system. I don't know about any of you, but I find my reading comprehension drops to a crawl when I try to parse those "simplified" sentences in the quoted text above. And worse, the "voice" I hear the words in is pretty stereotypically rural — slow, oddly paced, and with terribly unsophisticated pronunciation.

Posted by Nicholas at 10:46 AM | Comments (2)

QotD: Childhood Obesity

When a news story reads like a comedy skit, something has changed. Researchers using heavy teddy bears and other extra-weight toys in order to get kids to burn more calories signals a move into some sort of perspective-free zone where the manifestly stupid does not get a second look.

The obsession over childhood obesity in America is an exercise in ignoring the obvious. Kids are fatter because they are much, much less physically active than previous generations. Opportunities for unstructured, creative play — the kind of play that goes on for hours and burns the most calories — are greatly reduced today. They are reduced for a host of reasons including smaller families, worries about safety, and neato electronic gizmos.

Heavier blocks, balls, and teddies really are not much of a factor as long as playtime is built around busy adult schedules and adult ideas about what is fun.


Jeff A. Taylor, "Heavy Lifting on Obesity", Reason Express, 2006-07-05

Posted by Nicholas at 12:41 AM | Comments (4)

July 05, 2006

The inevitable eBay auction

After England's ignominious exit from the World Cup at the hands of Portugal, this was probably inevitable:

As any true Englishman knows, our national football team's traditional crash-and-burn in the World Cup is never as a result of our own shortcomings.

Previous top quality excuses have involved excess heat, unexpectedly low atmospheric pressure, the wrong kind of grass on the pitch, players' concerns over the political situation in East Timor, etc, etc.

Mercifully, though, the 2006 debacle can be attributed to just one cause: "cheating goofy england hating portugezer" Cristiano Ronaldo whose shameful protestations at Wayne Rooney's treatment of Ricardo Carvalho led to the normally even-tempered Liverpudlian's expulsion from the match.

Just in case it's not clear enough . . . you can look up the meaning of irony if you need to.

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

Soccer stadium to be built in Toronto

The federal government has confirmed the previous Liberal government's commitment of $27 million towards a new soccer stadium in Toronto:

Finance Minister Jim Flaherty caught soccer fever Tuesday, formalizing the government's share of building a stadium to house Canada's first Major League Soccer franchise.

He said the federal government will kick in up to $27 million, as promised last fall, for the construction of the open-air venue, located on the city's waterfront. The $62.9 million facility is due to be completed on May 1, 2007. The timing of the financial agreement coincides with the FIFA World Cup underway in Germany.

Flaherty said he hopes Canada will be able to compete in the next tournament, taking place in South Africa in 2010.

Canada is currently ranked 83rd in the world.

As a soccer fan, I'm happy that Toronto is going to be getting a major league soccer team. As a taxpayer, however, I'm much less happy: the three levels of government should no more be putting up money for a soccer stadium than they should be paying for any other kind of private enterprise. If there's enough fan support for a team, then there'd be enough private funding to build the stadium. If it can only be done by forcing non-soccer-supporting taxpayers to contribute part of their taxes to the deal, then it shouldn't.

This is no more than corporate welfare for sports teams. Since all three levels of government are involved, all Canadians are paying — even if the total amount is relative peanuts — for something to benefit Toronto's soccer fan community and especially the owners of the new team. How is this fair, equitable, or just?

Posted by Nicholas at 10:32 AM | Comments (2)

While on the topic of Asian railways . . .

This link was sent to one of the mailing lists I monitor:

How about some human-power?


Click on the first photo, "Wudu station of TRA", then click the "Next Page" link at the bottom of each photo. Be sure to read the captions . . .

Taiwan, in 1976, still had a human-powered railway. 1946 I might have believed, but 1976?

Hat tip to "<><><> TOM <><><>"

Update: Christian sent another URL to the list with this little gem:

Travellers in Cambodia have to deal with one of the world's worst train networks.

There is only one passenger service a week, and it often travels at not much more than walking pace.

So people in the north west of the country, near Cambodia's second city of Battambang, have taken matters into their own hands.

They have created their own rail service using little more than pieces of bamboo. The locals call the vehicles "noris", or "lorries", but overseas visitors know them as "bamboo trains".

A tiny electric generator engine provides the power, and the passenger accommodation is a bamboo platform that rests on top of two sets of wheels. A dried-grass mat to sit on counts as a luxury.

While definitely a step-up from human-power, it's still not quite Eurostar.

Posted by Nicholas at 10:22 AM | Comments (1)

North Korea train aid

According to a report at Strategy Page, the North Korean government has an interesting approach to upgrading their dilapidated railway network:

Meanwhile, North Korean officials engage in even more bizarre behavior. For example, food and fuel supplies sent to North Korea have been halted, not to force North Korea to stop missile tests or participate in peace talks, but to return the Chinese trains the aid was carried in on. In the last few weeks, the North Koreans have just kept the trains, sending the Chinese crews back across the border. North Korea just ignores Chinese demands that the trains be returned, and insists that the trains are part of the aid program. It's no secret that North Korean railroad stock is falling apart, after decades of poor maintenance and not much new equipment. Stealing Chinese trains is a typical loony-tune North Korean solution to the problem.

Hat tip to Jon for the URL.

Posted by Nicholas at 10:17 AM | Comments (0)

QotD: Gay adoptive parents

I am becoming more and more disgusted with the so-called Moral Majority and the Christian Right. These people are so wrapped up in their 'morality' that they are willing to leave kids to suffer and feel unloved to fuel their hate and fear of homosexuals. In Arkansas, the state supreme court recently over-turned a ban forbidding gay parents to adopt or foster children. Not only the current governor, a so-called 'born-again' christian, but both leading candidates for the position in 2007, decried the ruling. To me, this doesn't make sense. In every state that I know of, adoptive parents must undergo a pretty thorough background check. They must be free of felonies, have no history of violent or abusive behavior, and no convictions for child abuse or pederasty. Even the slightest of allegations of tendencies toward such behavior is enough to derail the adoption process, in most cases.

So what we have is adults in a stable, loving relationship, wanting children. We have children in foster care who want and need to be loved and raised in a stable, loving relationship. Seems simple, doesn't it? Both sides have a need. Each side can supply the need of the other party. BUT! Someone on the outside, wishing to impose their own moral values on someone else is screwing up the whole process.

Ron Beatty, "One of the Greatest Cruelties", Libertarian Enterprise, 2006-07-02

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

July 04, 2006

"Extreme" rail travel?

You don't normally pay extra for these kinds of thrills:

Pens leaked. Air-tight bags of crisps and peanuts burst open. Laptops crashed and MP3 players stopped working. Passengers began feeling nauseous, and some reached for their oxygen masks. A few were sick.

But few of the 500 passengers on board were complaining. For railway buffs, this was as close as it came to paradise. We were on board the first passenger train to journey the 4,000km (2,500 miles) from Beijing to the ancient Tibetan capital of Lhasa and the final 1,110km yesterday took us up through the 5,072m (16,640ft) Tanggula Pass and across the roof of the world.

Hat tip to Phil Clark for the URL.

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

First anniversary of the Carnival of Liberty

The 1st Anniversary Carnival of Liberty has been posted at The Unrepentant Individual:

The 1-year blogiversary edition of the Carnival of Liberty is up. The fledgling carnival, along with the LLP Community, has grown from a few bloggers irate over Kelo into a strong collection of libertarian-oriented writers. And today we celebrate not only the 230th anniversary of the Declaration of Independence, but the anniversary of the Carnival. I've got it posted up at The Unrepentant Individual, and hope you all enjoy it. There were some phenomenal posts this week!

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

Georges DuBoeuf fined

A French court has fined the firm of Georges Duboeuf for diluting their Beaujolais with non-Gamay grapes:

A French court on Tuesday convicted respected wine exporter Georges Duboeuf Wines of fraud after one of its wineries mixed a variety of grapes in its Beaujolais.

The court in Villefranche-sur-Saone in southeast France fined the vintner the equivalent of about $42,500 Cdn, well below the $212,500 the prosecutor had requested.

While the small quantity of impure Beaujolais wine never made it to market, prosecutors were pushing for big fines to ensure that such practices don't spread in the struggling French wine industry.

Rumours about wine makers in Beaujolais adding grapes or even partly vinified wines from other regions have been common for years. Tony Aspler even used the idea in one of his mystery novels. It's surprising that Georges Duboeuf got off with such a light fine, under the circumstances.

Hat tip to Jon for the URL.

Posted by Nicholas at 03:25 PM | Comments (0)

Urination for the nation

One of the downsides of individual freedom is that sometimes individuals choose to use their freedoms in ways that disgust and distress others. This is a case in point:

Furious veterans are renewing their demands that the National War Memorial be guarded to protect it against "disgusting" assaults after young men were caught urinating on it during Canada Day festivities.

A retired major snapped digital pictures of several people relieving themselves on the monument around 11 p.m. on Saturday, as thousands poured into the streets following the fireworks.

Most cheered and laughed when they were photographed using the memorial as a toilet on the nation's birthday.

Hat tip to Jon for the URL.

Posted by Nicholas at 10:40 AM | Comments (6)

Happy Fourth of July

For those of you not at work today, have a good holiday!

Just for the occasion, here are a couple of all-American images to mark the day:

Bust of Thomas Jefferson

Monticello_1930.jpg   Monticello_1933.jpg
Pictures of Monticello, from our trip to Charlottesville back in March.

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

QotD: Flag Burning

I consider myself a highly patriotic guy and I understand how people can get worked up over the flag being burned. I love my flag. But symbols are personal things, and everyone is free to interpret them however they see fit. For me, a flag that I'm NOT allowed to burn is a symbol that the government is too intrusive in my life. And it's an insult to anyone who died to defend freedom. But that's just me. You might prefer your symbols of freedom to have as many restrictions as possible.

It seems to me that the great thing about the flag is that it symbolizes something inherently indestructible: the concept of freedom. You can burn the flag as many times as you want and the concept of freedom is not only still there — it's stronger. I like that about my flag. I would go so far as to say it's my flag's best feature. [. . .]

The thing to remember about freedom is that it's not given, it's taken.

Scott Adams, "Burning Flags", The Dilbert Blog, 2006-06-30

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

July 03, 2006

El Neil on the history of empires

L. Neil Smith finds an uncomfortable commonality between the Roman, British, and American empires:

We have now reached a point — I suspect the Brits reached it in the 19th century, and the Romans well before the birth of Christ — where the political process selects only the most crooked, dullwitted, and demented among us, a point where decent, intelligent, and rational individuals have no place in public life and are winnowed out by the system. A point where commemorating a Revolution is seen as a dire threat.

In a moral sense, America has reverted to the Stone Age. It has become a dark cave where the light of the Bill of Rights never shines. The White House is occupied by a stumbing cretin with the ethical outlook of a piranha, carefully isolated by handlers and flacks — as he has been most of his life, long before he became a politician — so that he doesn't have the merest clue what's going on in the real world.

Posted by Nicholas at 08:04 AM | Comments (2)

QotD: Universities

Let us not burn the universities — yet. After all, the damage they do might be worse . . . Suppose Oxford had snared and disembowelled Shakespeare. Suppose Harvard had set its rubber-stamp upon Mark Twain.

H.L. Mencken, "The Saving Grace", Damn! A book of callumny, 1918.

Posted by Nicholas at 01:13 AM | Comments (0)

July 02, 2006

Mister Ghost asks "What does Canada stand for?"

If you're not already overloaded with Canadian content, you could do much worse than to read the varied responses to Mister Ghost's question, What does Canada stand for?. The responses include both bloggers and mainstream journalists (my response is the very last one in the list, because, of course, you save the best for last, right?).

The first part of the post is cross-posted to Iraqi Bloggers Central.

Posted by Nicholas at 08:56 AM | Comments (1)

QotD: Soccer

Increasing the [soccer] goal size even fractionally would increase scoring and open up the game. 6 inches to a foot in each direction would vastly increase the scoring and I think that would be fun for everyone except the keepers, and as a former keeper I realize that you have to be close to criminally insane to play in the goal anyway so who will care what they think?

Tim Hiddemen, posting to the Soccer-Coach-L mailing list, 2006-06-28

Posted by Nicholas at 08:49 AM | Comments (0)

July 01, 2006

QotD: First Day of the Somme

The casualties sustained on the opening day of the Battle of the Somme totalled 57,470, of which 19,240 were fatal. The Newfoundland Regiment Battalion ration strength on June 30, 1916, was 1044 all ranks, including administrative staff and attached personnel. Actual fighting strength was about 929 all ranks, of whom twenty six officers and 772 other ranks deployed into the trenches. A further officer and 33 other ranks were attached to the Brigade Mortar and Machine Gun Companies while 14 officers and 83 other ranks were held back as reserve and for special duties.

So far as can be ascertained, 22 officers and 758 other ranks were directly involved in the advance. Of these, all the officers and slightly under 658 other ranks became casualties, but exact figures are not available as casualties were reported for the day as a whole. Of the 780 men who went forward only about 110 survived unscathed, of whom only sixty eight were available for roll call the following day. The Battalion's War Diary on July 7 states that on July 1 the overall casualties for the Battalion were 14 officers and 296 other ranks killed, died of wounds or missing believed killed, and that 12 officers and 362 other ranks were wounded, a total of 684 all ranks out of a fighting strength of about 929. About 14 of the wounded subsequently died from their wounds. Afterward, the Divisional Commander was to write of the Newfoundlanders effort: "It was a magnificent display of trained and disciplined valour, and its assault failed of success because dead men can advance no further."

"Beaumont-Hamel Newfoundland Memorial", Veteran's Affairs Canada

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

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