August 31, 2006

Thursday quick links

A short list of things that amused or alarmed me:

Posted by Nicholas at 05:14 PM | Comments (0)

QotD: Religion

I'm not religious, so I don't have a God in this fight [. . .]

Tim Blair, "Forces of Darkness Confronted", Tim Blair, 2006-08-26

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

August 30, 2006

BMI: a broken reed

Rogier van Bakel has some concerns about the continued misuse of the BMI as if it actually related to real world people:

Now, what tool do you think the researchers behind this new study used to arrive at their conclusion? Why, the Body Mass Index, of course. The same Body Mass Index that the Mayo Clinic team called "badly flawed," adding that "a more accurate gauge should be developed." The Mayo scholars drew upon no fewer than 40 studies, covering a quarter of a million people.

[. . .]

The AP story glosses over all that. Reporter Alicia Chang swallows the old party line hook, line, and sinker. She never mentions that the Body Mass Index has been debunked — nay, demolished — explicitly by the Mayo team just last week, and implicitly by the Centers for Disease Control last year. She basically tells dissenters to shut up by asserting that there is "little room for denial that a few extra pounds is [sic] harmful."

Really? In my book, there's little room for denial that science writers of Ms. Chang's ilk ought to be be doing something better fitted to their talents. Burger-flipper, maybe? I'll have mine with extra cheese.

I've written a couple of posts about this in the past: here, here, and here.

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

QotD: Sex, Lies, and Airport Security

Today's QotD is probably NSFW in some areas, due to adult content.

This guy was so worried that his mom might find out that he has (and travels with) a penis pump, he lied to airport security and claimed the device was a bomb. Now he faces a prison term . . . and the whole world, including his mom, knows that he has (and travels with) a penis pump.

[. . .]

I say, if you're "caught" in the airport with any sexual devices, plaster a huge grin on your face and describe the item proudly. "Yes, that's my VibraMaster Clit Licker 8100 SR5 with Nipple Suction Attachment! Woooo eeee! No way could I leave home without that. You wouldn't believe the orgasms that thing produces — I mean, if I can't travel with the boyfriend, I've got to have this thing along. Want me to switch it on so you can see how it works?"

It's asinine that anyone would rather be thought of as an airplane bomber than admit he owns a penis pump.

Regina Lynn, "That's not my bomb, baby", Sex Drive Daily, 2006-08-24

Posted by Nicholas at 08:40 AM | Comments (1)

August 29, 2006

Joss Whedon, as read by Morena Baccarin

Morena reads Joss Whedon's Hugo award acceptance speech at the World SF Convention (the audio and video tracks aren't quite synched up).

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

User-friendly technology

My system at home is due for a backup, as Norton Systemworks kindly reminds me every time I turn the machine on. Last night, it finally got me worn down enough to start the Norton Save 'n' Restore utility to burn a CD. I did a full system backup a couple of months ago, so I only really need to do an incremental backup now (only new and changed files). I selected the directories and files to pick up, clicked OK to start the backup and went downstairs for twenty minutes.

When I went back upstairs, I find that my backup is still processing . . . and it's only at 5% completion. Hmmm. Odd, that. There's only a couple of hundred megabytes of data to work with here, so why is it taking so long? After a few more minutes with no further sign of success, I kill the backup process and start over again.

This time, after half an hour, it managed to get to 3% before going off into the weeds. Crap! The error messages are remarkably unhelpful, but they do provide a link to the Symantec web site. Fine, let's go there to see what's the likely cause of the problem.

Oh, but wait. Symantec wants me to install some ActiveX controls to allow it to diagnose my problem . . . and, of course, it won't allow me to use any browser but IE. So, I copy the URL into an IE window, download and install the ActiveX controls, and . . . hey! presto! . . . it doesn't find any issues. But it directs me to another page . . . which is full of bonehead-level "help". You know the sort of thing you get when you call first-line support at an ISP: "Is your computer plugged in?" "Is it turned on?" "Does anything appear on the screen?"

But it's too late to worry about it now. I just shut down the machine and went to bed.

This morning, rather than running the Norton backup utility, I decided to just run a manual backup with Nero. It's less than half a CD's worth of data, so I can easily do that before getting breakfast. But Nero can't manage to burn a CD either. As soon as it starts to write to the blank CD, it spits out a bunch of errors about unregistered calls and goes off into the weeds.

One software package going weird — it happens. Two of 'em? That implies either operating system problems or hardware issues.

Anyone taking bets on how long it'll be before I manage to run a successful backup?

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

Some images just need to be captioned

Patrick Reusse posted this picture with a request for captions:


How about "Experts have been called in to help the Vikings to avoid stinking up the field again this year . . ."

Posted by Nicholas at 12:58 PM | Comments (1)

Essential gaming site

For those of you sitting at home all summer, just gaming away the time (you know who you are), you might want to add this site to your bookmarks. It's a compilation of game information, FAQs, walkthroughs, reviews, and other information for all kinds of games.

Posted by Nicholas at 12:16 PM | Comments (2)

Boot on the other foot department

Imagine, just for a moment, the unlikely event of an American or British university using "Steve" Harper, everyone's favourite ice-sculpture PM, as a target of mockery. Okay, first get past the idea that anyone in the entire outside world knows or cares who the current Canadian prime minister is . . .

I still think that Lakehead University's current ad campaign mocking George Bush is a dumb move. But some dumb moves work better than your brightest moves: who'd ever heard of Lakehead before this ad campaign?

Gilbert said Lakehead plans to ride out the public relations storm without removing the posters or taking down the Web site.

"You don't undo the damage that has been done, if there's damage, by simply retracting," he said, adding the school will try to respond individually to people who expressed concerns.

Posted by Nicholas at 12:08 PM | Comments (2)

Carnival of Liberty 60 posted

The latest Carnival of Liberty has been posted at Socratic Rhythm Method. You could say that Matt sees Liberty in Jeopardy in a very literal way.

Note for LLP list members:

I'll be hosting next week's Carnival, so if you have items to offer, you can send me an email at "Quotulatiousness @ gmail dot com" or use the Blog Carnival submission form.

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

QotD: Parenthood

I have noticed, with no small amount of bittersweet regret, a detectable shift from "Daddy" to "Dad." One mere short syllable, but it's the difference between "mo applesauce pees" and "give me a car." It's inevitable, I suppose; kids grow up. (If you feed them, that is.) "Daddy" is baby-talk born of unconditional love; "Dad" is uttered breezily as the kid walks past and vaguely notes your presence. It's pronounced "dad," but it sounds like "Old Log."

James Lileks, "Father knows best: Don't worry about these things", Star Tribune, 2006-08-25

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

August 28, 2006

Cautionary tale

Jon sent along this link with the following explanation:

Kim du Toit calls this the Best. Video. Ever.

Takes a while to get going, but it is amusing.

Note what the hicks are driving, by the way.

The last line is, I suspect, a jibe at The Quotemobile.

Posted by Nicholas at 05:27 PM | Comments (1)

Who could ask for anything more?

Hussey's General Store.
Original image hosted at

Link courtesy of Craig Z.

Posted by Nicholas at 05:23 PM | Comments (0)

How not to treat your new $135m airplane

A software glitch is reported to be the cause of this expensive little time waster:

Trapped F-22 Pilot Cut Free

Raptor canopy stuck in down and locked position sawn open by fire crew after 5h.

A fire crew had to cut open the canopy of a US Air Force Lockheed Martin F-22A Raptor fighter with chainsaws on 10 April to free the pilot, who had been trapped inside for 5h.

Posted by Nicholas at 05:16 PM | Comments (0)

QotD: The decline of old hobbies

Pity the stamp collectors.

A friend in Brockport Theater is an active stamp collector. [. . .] Twenty years ago he was the youngest member in the Buffalo/Rochester stamp club. Today, he still is.

Christian Tucker, message posted to Yahoo group Railroad Modeling Still Makes Me Grumpy, 2006-08-28

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

August 27, 2006

QotD: California Wine

Not so long ago, the phrase California wine belonged in the same book of oxymorons as, say living poet and Dutch cuisine. You knew, on some level, that such things existed, but you didn't necessarily want any of them on your dinner table.

Jay McInerney, "Mondavi on Mondavi", Bacchus & Me: Adventures in the Wine Cellar, 2002

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

August 26, 2006

Independence movements, writ small

At some point, independence movements stop being realistic. This one for example, may be a step or two over the line:

A kilt-wearing Czech rebel, inspired by William Wallace, has been causing chaos in his home country.

Dubbed the Czech Braveheart, Alois Stuzka is staging a one man protest demanding independence for his home region.

Stuzka, 27, said: "I want to give people in my home area pride in their heritage just like the Scots."

He caused chaos as he sped along one of the country's main racing tracks on a child's scooter during the Motorcycle Grand Prix in Brno.

He then interrupted a premier league football match as he ran across the pitch during a game between Brno and Slavia Prague, also in his home town of Brno.

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

QotD: Western Perspective

But people are not Ewoks. It is not a mistake to criticize our empires of old or the continuing expression of racism and prejudice. It is not a mistake to be appalled by the wars of conquest or the incalculable suffering brought about by epidemic disease and slavery. It is a mistake to imagine the conquered peoples lived in a state of innocence before our rapacious ancestors arrived on the scene. There are two reasons the Eden story leads to error when imposed on our history or contemporary matters of policy. First, turning "the Other" into Ewoks infantilizes them. By this dodge, we well-meaning people of the West may feel guilty but all the decisions remain in our hands. From dam-building to debt-relief to "Do They Know It's Christmas?" the empires shape-shift into NGOs and the old crusading philanthropy carries on uninterrupted.

The second mistake lies in taking cultural difference for existential innocence. In so doing we mistake our myths for history; our sentiment for circumstance. It is impossible to make rational decisions on this basis. Even the relatively untroubled neighbourhoods of Paradise make West Side Story look like, well, a musical. Coke-bottles from the sky and undergraduate anthropology classes notwithstanding, the Bushmen of the Kalahari endure a murder-rate forty times that of downtown Detroit. Teaching cultural ecology for several years taught me one thing: Pointing out this sort of fact is no route to popularity among well-meaning undergraduate students. So much education has no relationship to the world as it is but a re-enactment of the world as we wish it to be. If only the wishful thinking was confined to the classroom. It is one thing for Brangelina to bring their child into the world at an armed camp and call it Eden. It is quite another to decide issues of war and peace on the same basis.

Nick Packwood, "Appreciation of Television", Ghost of a flea, 2006-08-24

Posted by Nicholas at 09:35 AM | Comments (0)

August 25, 2006

USB = Used to be Secure, Buddy

Bruce Schneier points to a cute little piece of software which "silently copies the contents of an inserted USB drive onto the PC. The idea is that you install this piece of software on your computer, or on a public PC, and then you collect the files — some of them personal and confidential — from anyone who plugs their USB drive into that computer."

I've been quite casual about plugging my 1Gb USB drive into computers. Clearly, I need to be more careful from now on . . .

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

Contributed links for Friday

Jon (who really should be blogging) sent in these links:

Martina sent this one along as well: Stupid Comics. Scarily bad Canadian content from the 1970's.

And for you multitool fanatics, here's a doozy. Contributed by Pat M.

I'd noticed this on a few Google Earth viewings myself, but Edmonton seems to suffer worst from sudden seasonal dimorphism.

Posted by Nicholas at 09:54 AM | Comments (2)

QotD: The goal of terrorism

The point of terrorism is to cause terror, sometimes to further a political goal and sometimes out of sheer hatred. The people terrorists kill are not the targets; they are collateral damage. And blowing up planes, trains, markets or buses is not the goal; those are just tactics.

The real targets of terrorism are the rest of us: the billions of us who are not killed but are terrorized because of the killing. The real point of terrorism is not the act itself, but our reaction to the act.

And we're doing exactly what the terrorists want.

Bruce Schneier, "Refuse to be terrorized", Wired News, 2006-08-24

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

August 24, 2006

Final flight of the US Navy's F-14 Tomcat

A narrated slideshow on the last flight of the iconic US Navy fighter.

Posted by Nicholas at 06:04 PM | Comments (0)

The Iraq situation is . . .

. . . looking up. No it's all going to hell. No, wait it's improving.

Links all contributed by Jon, who wonders whether these are "just transparent attempts to turn around the 'we're losing' meme? Or are they more opaque than that?"

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

Specialized Chess Set

This is for heavy chess players: it's made of chain mail.

Posted by Nicholas at 05:57 PM | Comments (3)

QotD: Packwood's Law

Packwood's Law: Sufficiently advanced stupidity is indistinguishable from existential evil.

Nick Packwood, "Holocaust International Cartoon Contest (Team Canada)", Ghost of a flea, 2006-08-23

Posted by Nicholas at 12:09 AM | Comments (1)

August 23, 2006

Ouroboros Rights

A long time ago, I wrote:

In this day and age, something like this should not need to be said: anyone in the western world should agree that any adult human being must be given the same rights and responsibilities of any other adult human being. There should not be classes of individuals with "greater" or "superior" rights: equality before the law. Anything else results in the grotesqueries of trying to counterbalance the rights of a gay Chinese disabled man against the rights of a transsexual HIV-positive Kenyan (does the gayness of one cancel the transsexuality of the other? Are Chinese considered more or less oppressed than Africans? Does being disableddifferently abled trump all the others?) No matter how you slice it, it's still iniquitous.

Thaddeus Tremayne shows that we've already reached the stage where competing "special" rights are clashing: the Gay Police Association is being investigated for hate crimes because they published an ad:

A CRIMINAL investigation has been started by Scotland Yard into an advertisement from the Gay Police Association (GPA) that blamed religion for a 74 per cent increase in homophobic crime...

Detective Chief Inspector Gerry Campbell, who leads the domestic violence and hate crime unit, disclosed the investigation in a letter to Ann Widdecombe, the Conservative MP. He wrote: “The original advertisement has been recorded as a religiously aggravated hate crime incident following a crime allegation by a member of the public.

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

So long, Brian, and thanks for all the fish

NealeNews is shuttering, after four years of highly useful service:


Today is the last posting for Nealenews. After spending five hours a day, seven days a week for the past four years updating this site, I have reached the point where I no longer have the energy or desire to continue.

In an attempt to prolong the inevitable, I recently decided to cut back on the postings, including weekends, but news operates on a 24-hour cycle and rather than become irrelevant through neglect, I've decided to pull the plug.

Four years is a very long time in web years. That must be nearly three generations of newbies. The half-life of the average blog seems to be about eighteen months before hitting the burnout zone. And every blogger or serious web publisher knows all about the burnout zone.

Posted by Nicholas at 09:15 AM | Comments (3)

QotD: Grape-stomping

But Lucy is no longer the reigning queen of slap-stomp. That honor belongs to a lady from Fox News. In a video making the rounds, she stomps grapes in a rubber tub set on a high wooden platform. Partway through she falls off and out of camera range, and for the rest of the video you just hear her horrific screams of pain. People can't stop watching this, which maybe explains why they love Lucy.

But it doesn't explain grape stomping. Or the fact that it's still done in this age of hygiene and motors. It's often just a harmless publicity stunt, quite effective when performed at ground level. But some wineries, in Portugal for instance, still press their best wine this way. Drunk men in dirty shirts with unclipped toenails and lit cigarettes dangling from their lips still climb into cement troughs, or lagars, filled with grapes. Then, whooped-up by a local band, they clasp arms and march back and forth in the muck, occasionally falling face down in it.

Fortunately, the alcohol level in Port is high enough to kill both toe jam and jock itch, though some feel those are part of the ineffable bouquet of Old World wine.

Jennifer "Chotzi" Rosen, "I Hate Lucy", Cork Jester, 2006-08-22

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

August 22, 2006

And now, the news in Swedish . . .

Swedish newscasters accidentally raised their ratings by accidentally re-broadcasting pornographic images:

Swedish state broadcaster SVT is in hot water after accidently broadcasting some sizzling Czech rumpy-pumpy as a backdrop to Saturday's midnight news, rather than the normal "output of other news channels", the BBC reports.

The "highly embarrassing and unfortunate" blunder occured on just one monitor, and only for 30 seconds before a panic-striken producer ran and switched channels, but that was enough for the Swedish tabloids which have predictably changed the show's name from Rapport to Rapporn.

There were no viewer complaints.

This is Sweden, of course.

Posted by Nicholas at 08:41 AM | Comments (0)

Minimalist art

A sheet of paper, some glue, and a lot of creativity. Some rather delightful creations here.

Hat tip to Kalina V. for the URL.

Posted by Nicholas at 08:40 AM | Comments (0)

Another nice result

Victor's team put on a great performance last night, defeating the opposing team by the convincing score of 8-1. René had his first hat trick of the season, Victor and Jake each got two goals, and Jarrett scored the other. Jarrett and Chris each played keeper for half the game, with Jarrett in particular doing a fine job.

This was the final regular-season game, with the playoffs scheduled to start in early September. I'd say that the team has chosen a good time to peak: our combined score in the last two games has been an astronomical 20-2 — against teams that each won by a single goal in our first meetings.

Belated team photo below the fold:


Absent from photo: Aaron, Arman, Jake, and Coach Rob.

Posted by Nicholas at 08:30 AM | Comments (0)

QotD: Advice Columns

So I'm back at work, sitting in a cozy bar, sifting through a gigabyte or two of email, sipping fine tequila. Now before anyone lectures me about advising under the influence, please note that writing an advice column is a lot like bowling: Not only can you do it drunk, you're probably better at it drunk. My good friend Miss Manners won't even look at her keyboard until she's ripped to the tits. And Abigail Van Buren II? Her assistant has to leave a trail of shot glasses full of Grand Marnier from her bed to her desk in order to get that crazy bitch to bang out a column.

Dan Savage, "Savage Love", The Onion A/V Club, 2006-08-16

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

August 21, 2006

Guilty money

$124,000 have been found guilty and sentenced to forfeiture. The accused were found hiding in a rental vehicle driven by Emiliano Gonzolez. Gonzolez himself was neither charged nor convicted of any crime: clearly he's considered the innocent dupe of the criminal gang of dollar bills.

It's not immediately clear whether the guilty money will be held by the government or merely released into the wild. Gonzolez should probably thank the kind law enforcement officers for saving him from an unimaginable fate. Who knows what that pack of illegal currency notes had in store for him?

Posted by Nicholas at 04:31 PM | Comments (0)

The power of (bad) ideas

This is an interesting article (courtesy of Jon):

Looking back, it is hard to know when this nonsense became so egregious, but I first began to notice it in the early 90's; and when my daughter started school, I became mildly concerned because it already seemed to be established and entrenched in the elementary school curriculum.

In order to have achieved that coup, these ideas must have been around for at least a generation; and absorbed by key people who would later be in positions of educational, artistic and political power and able to multiply the vector of its transmission and inculcation into a new generation.

Ideas are a powerful force in the world. Those who doubt that statement have never studied philosophy and the history of ideas.

Posted by Nicholas at 12:21 PM | Comments (0)

QotD: Sex lives of the Caesars

Gibbon, in his stately way, mourned that of the twelve Caesars only Claudius was sexually 'regular.' From the sexual opportunism of Julius Caesar to the sadism of Nero to the doddering pederasty of Galba, the sexual lives of the Caesars encompassed every aspect of what our post-medieval time has termed 'sexual abnormality.' It would be wrong, however, to dismiss, as so many commentators have, the wide variety of Caesarean sensuality as simply the viciousness of twelve abnormal men. They were, after all, a fairly representative lot. They differed from us — and their contemporaries — only in the fact of power, which made it possible for each to act out his most recondite sexual fantasies. this is the psychological fascination of Suetonius. What will men so place do? The answer, apparently, is anything and everything. Alfred Whitehead once remarked that one got the essence of a culture not by those things which were said at the time but by those things which were not said, the underlying assumptions of the society, too obvious to be stated. Now it is an underlying assumption of twentieth-century America that human beings are either heterosexual or, through some arresting of normal psychic growth, homosexual, with very little traffic back and forth. To us, the norm is heterosexual; the family is central; all else is deviation, pleasing or not depending on one's own tastes and moral preoccupations. Suetonius reveals a very different world. His underlying assumption is that man is bisexual and that given complete freedom to love — or, perhaps more to the point in the case of the Caesars, to violate — others, he will do so, going blithely from male to female as fancy dictates. Nor is Suetonius alone in this assumption of man's variousness. From Plato to the rise of Pauline Christianity, which tried to put the lid on sex, it is explicit in classical writing. Yet to this day Christian, Freudian and Marxian commentators have all decreed or ignored this fact of nature in the interest each of a patented approach to the Kingdom of Heaven. It is an odd experience for both a contemporary to read of Nero's simultaneous passion for both a man and a woman. Something seems wrong. It must be one or the other, not both. And yet this sexual eclecticism recurs again and again. And though some of the Caesars quite obviously preferred women to me (Augustus had a particular penchant for Nabokovian nymphets), their sexual crisscrossing is extraordinary in its lack of pattern. And one suspects that despite the stern moral legislation of our own time human beings are no different. If nothing else, Dr. Kinsey revealed in his dogged, arithmetical way that we are all a good less predictable and bland than anyone had suspected.

Gore Vidal, "Robert Graves and the Twelve Caesars", 1959

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

August 20, 2006

QotD: Novelists

Every writer of note, when I've scratched the surface, turns out to come from a lively context of other writers, correspondents, editors, critics, and literate and argumentative friends and colleagues. This observation has given me my personal definition of a genre — "Any group of works in close conversation with each other." As readers, we tend to encounter only the polished result of that uproar, as the book alone appears in our hand and the context drops away. I'm not sure this is a bad thing — like law and sausages, it may sometimes be better not to watch how novels are made.

Lois McMaster Bujold, "How I Met the Inklings", 2006-08-06

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

August 19, 2006

QotD: The Airline Business

Flying is being turned into an experience in which passengers, even though they are paying customers, are treated as near-criminals. It is no excuse for the airlines to shrug their shoulders and blame all of this on the security services. They must think of imaginative ways to make travelling as pleasant as possible in the current worrying security environment. If they do not do so, then frankly they can expect little sympathy from me if they subsequently experience financial troubles.

Johnathan Pearce, "Thoughts about how airlines can ease the pain of security clampdowns", Samizdata, 2006-08-11

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

August 18, 2006

Real nape-of-the-earth flying

A very interesting video clip of South African Mirage fighters flying low to the ground, at OPFOR.

Posted by Nicholas at 08:44 AM | Comments (4)

QotD: Liberty and Power

When you let people do whatever they want, you get Woodstock. When you let governments do whatever they want, you get Auschwitz.

Doug Newman, "We Have Met the Enemy in the War On Terror. . . and He Is Us", Libertarian Enterprise, 2006-08-13

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

August 17, 2006

Dangerously funny stuff

If you think you could do a better (however you interpret that term) job of programming the President's speeches, this is the tool for you.

Hat tip to Barb and Jon L. (not the usual Jon . . . a different chap this time).

Posted by Nicholas at 11:53 AM | Comments (1)

Terminological Exactitudes

Jon sent this link to a post at YourPlatform about the use and abuse of the language:

A while before, during a meeting at the company where I work, I heard someone from personnel remark that we were facing "issues around our diversity target implementation plan". It struck me that if this curious Lefty-inspired patois can be used — with a straight face — in a large modern business then the trenches in the language sector of the 'culture wars' must be all but overrun.

And there is evidence to be found in official communications not only of the changed language but also the altered priorities it attempts to mask. You can find some particularly rich hunting grounds among the well-stocked leaflet displays of Metropolitan Police stations. No one yet has formally announced that the Met doesn't 'do' ordinary crime, but each flyer makes it clear that if you are one of the large range of very modern sounding 'victim' types, then you are the priority for modern policing.

Posted by Nicholas at 11:39 AM | Comments (0)

Robinson facing year-long suspension from NFL

Koren Robinson, arrested earlier this week on several charges including drunk driving, is likely to be suspended for a year by the NFL. Patrick Reusse makes light of the situation:

Robinson saw the same sight in the mirror of his BMW, thought of Childress' mustache quivering in anger over a missed curfew, and continued through St. Peter, along a winding, leafy portion of Hwy. 169, into Mankato and onward to the Minnesota State campus.

This was a ringing endorsement of the discipline Childress has brought to the job in eight months for two reasons:

• One, here was a veteran player with experience in criminal court choosing to gamble with a felony fleeing charge over being late for Brad's curfew.

• Two, Robinson's official .09 blood alcohol reading made him easily the least drunk among the dozens of Vikings arrested on similar charges in the past quarter-century.

Shucks, at .09, Robinson would have been recruited by teammates to be the chauffeur along the 494 Strip during the Tommy Kramer Era.

Try as we might, no observation on the perpetual thirstiness of large numbers of Vikings will ever top that of Max McGee, the former Packers' radio analyst, when he saw Kramer twitching on the turf after taking a hit.

McGee, the owner of a 494 drinking establishment, said: "Gosh, I hope Kramer's OK. He's my best customer."

Under the circumstances, it'll almost certainly be a one-year suspension from the NFL, and Brad Childress would almost certainly release Robinson from the team. Robinson is another of a long list of players who have superlative skill on the football field, but insurmountable personal problems off the field.

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

Economical humour

A brief wander into the things that make some economists smile:

Call me a masochist but one of the great pleasures of being at George Mason is that I am regularly insulted by Gordon Tullock. You have to undestand, however, that in my profession not to have been insulted by Gordon is to be a nobody.

In anycase, here is one from yesterday.

"Gordon," I asked, "do you think we should ban child labor?" "No, keep working."

The other day Gordon asked me to read one of his papers and I pointed out a few typos. "Excellent," he said, "this will surely be your greatest contribution to economics."

Posted by Nicholas at 08:27 AM | Comments (0)

QotD: Fidel Worship

It has been a while since Western intellectuals made a habit of masturbating in public to comic-book fantasies of physically indomitable, universally erudite Communist revolutionaries. But then, an intellectual is someone who makes at least a modest effort to keep pace with the emergence of the historical record. Anyone who describes Fidel Castro as devoted to "peace" cannot be familiar with his strategic posture during the Cuban Missile Crisis; anyone who associates him with the quest for justice must not have heard about the abundantly documented "acts of repudiation" organized by the Cuban security police to terrorize peaceful dissidents in their homes; anyone who deems him a paragon of "rationality" can certainly never have imagined being thrown into a filthy jail cell with a violent rapist, or locked up and tortured in a psychiatric hospital, for such fearful crimes as "clandestine printing" or "dangerousness." Sacha Trudeau hints that Cuban friends have tried to explain life under dictatorship to him, but he reinterprets their suffering as mild psychological "suffocation" — not so much at the hands of a totalitarian state as by Fidel's personal example of "machismo and rigour." Somewhere, Alexander Solzhenitsyn is vomiting.

Colby Cosh, "And I said I do, I do",, 2006-08-14

Posted by Nicholas at 08:03 AM | Comments (6)

August 16, 2006

Vikings player in jail

Just when you think the new regime in Minnesota will be totally unlike the old one, you get this:

Vikings wide receiver Koren Robinson is in the Nicollet County jail in southern Minnesota, and he is accused of a long list of crimes starting with driving drunk, the county sheriff said.

Along with drunken driving, Robinson is accused of fleeing police, reckless driving, speeding and driving without a valid license, said Sheriff Dave Lange.

It'll be interesting watching how the new coach handles this little issue with his top wide receiver. Conventional wisdom says that a new coach has to be a tough disciplinarian, so (if the charges stick) Robinson is in for a long season in the dog house.

Posted by Nicholas at 09:33 AM | Comments (0)

Latest Carnival of Liberty

Below the Beltway is hosting this week's Carnival of Liberty. This is number LVIII.

Posted by Nicholas at 08:09 AM | Comments (0)

Spelin' gud in Po't Hohp

This one was so bad, I had to stop and snap a quick picture . . . but you'll have to visit The Back Seat Grammarian to see the true horror of home-cooked spelling.

This was on the main street in Port Hope on Saturday.

Posted by Nicholas at 12:21 AM | Comments (0)

QotD: Terrorism

I had many things to discuss, but at the end of the day they all seem obvious. Terrorists = bad. People who think the arrests were a PR move = foolish. Likelihood substantial portions of the business fliers will subconsciously adopt the nuke 'em from orbit, it's the only way to be sure posture after learning they can't take their laptops on the flight = high. Seriously, when I learned that they were confiscating books today, I had a vision of a plane full of people all staring straight ahead, hands in their laps, waiting, waiting, waiting for it all to be over. No books. Because, you know, they might overwhelm the cockpit crew with a dramatic reading.

James Lileks, The Bleat, 2006-08-11

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

August 15, 2006

Another nice game, with a good result

Victor's soccer team played their second-last regular season game last night, in what can best be described as an "Irish drizzle". I was late getting out of work, so Victor had to meet me on the front porch, with the equipment bag ready, and even so we only made it to the field a minute or two before the kick-off.

Our opponents were the team with whom we've been sharing a practice field all season long. They had a very low turn-out of players and only fielded seven to start the game (the minimum number for the game to be played). We put eight players out at first, then pulled Ryan off the field after counting our opponents. As players for the other team started to show up during the first half, we put more on from our substitution roster.

We went up by a goal inside a minute of play, and the vast majority of the action during the first half was inside the opposing team's 18-yard box. Not only did we have an advantage in numbers, but also in size: it seemed that all of our bigger players were out to face all our opponent's smallest players. Several passers-by asked if we were playing a team in our own age-group (the clear implication being that we were "picking on" a younger team).

After twenty minutes, we were sitting on a four-goal lead, and Tom (our goalkeeper) was loudly complaining that he was bored . . . there had only been two attacks and only one got far enough to kick at goal.

At one point, Victor took the ball just past the half, dribbled down the right side, beating three defenders in sequence, then made a sharp left turn, pushed the ball directly across the goal-mouth and chipped-in a lovely left-footed goal. It threaded the needle between two opponents and passed just out of reach of the keeper. It was one of the finest goals I've seen all season long (it was also his first non-penalty goal).

Victor added two more goals during the game to claim his first hat trick, and both of them required him to create his own scoring opportunity by working down the side-line and protecting the ball. He had a very good game indeed!

Victor's three goals were surpassed by Jake's four, and the final score was 12-1 (the one goal being scored by the older brother of one of the players wearing a borrowed team jersey, and technically shouldn't have counted).

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

QotD: Government Lies

The fourth thing is to pass a law — yes, this libertarian is actually saying "there ought to be a law (as long as it applies only to the government)" — making it an offense punishable by public hanging for any government employee, at any level, to lie to any individual for any reason. Government lies kill, far more reliably, far more universally and cruelly, than any so-called "weapon of mass destruction".

There are other solutions: a foreign policy that doesn't make the world want to kill us; a military — organized at the state or county level — that can't be called up by a president in absence of a formal declaration of war; immediate transfer to the front for any senator or congressman who votes to declare war and any president who asks them to.

But the point right now is to ask yourself — and everybody you know — what hard evidence you have for believing a single word they say.

The answer? Not a shred.

L. Neil Smith, "The Boys Who Cried "Terrorist"", Libertarian Enterprise, 2006-08-14

Posted by Nicholas at 08:00 AM | Comments (0)

August 14, 2006

Scotland to go ahead with sword ban

As I reported last year, the Scottish parliament is going ahead with a plan to ban swords, knives, and machetes:

Swords will be banned from sale in Scotland in a new effort to tackle the country's "booze and blades" culture.

Cathy Jamieson, the justice minister, will announce the move today.

However, it is understood that exceptions will be made for weapons required for religious, cultural or sporting purposes.

Retailers yesterday claimed the move was an over-reaction, as swords constitute just 1 per cent of knife crime.

Ms Jamieson, who has the backing of the police, will also launch a range of measures to restrict the sale of non-domestic knives, including hunting knives, bowie knives and machetes.

The usual reasons are trotted out for this nonsensical ban: "if it saves one life or permanent disfigurement it is worthwhile." If that is the standard by which government action will be judged, then most human activities are dangerous and could be curtailed.

At least in the initial draft, kitchen knives are not included, but as Theodore Dalrymple has observed, cooking is a rare activity in the modern British home. There might be relatively little outcry if kitchen knives were the next thing to be banned.

Of course, swords and knives are trivial contributors to the death and injury rate in Scotland . . . but that sort of thing is rarely taken into account by those who feel that the only way to improve things is by passing laws.

Hat tip to Elizabeth for the current URL.

Posted by Nicholas at 01:40 PM | Comments (4)

Weekend Puppy Pictures

As usual, below the fold to allow those who aren't interested in puppy pictures to avoid 'em.


The spare propane container in the background marks a spot where Xander thought he could tunnel through into the backyard of the house behind us.


Puppies at rest appear so calm. It's such a misleading impression.

Posted by Nicholas at 10:56 AM | Comments (4)

QotD: Bordeaux

In 1855 the wine brokers of Bordeaux created the famous classification, which ranked sixty-one wines from first to fifth growth, and the prices for these wines have been rising ever since. I can already hear myself someday trying to explain to my daughter as we sit in the twilight sharing a bottle of Romanian Cabernet Franc how classed Bordeaux — the stuff ranked first through fifth growth — was a beverage that was once bought and consumed by ordinary mortals.

Jay McInerney, "Bordeaux on a Budget", Bacchus & Me: Adventures in the Wine Cellar, 2002.

Posted by Nicholas at 08:45 AM | Comments (0)

August 13, 2006

QotD: Islamist Recruits

Let's face facts: Islamism's appeal, is largely to the sort of type of person who would have been tempted to cheer on the blackshirts in the 1920's. It combines authoritarianism, militarism, anti-socialism and anti-liberalism with a special squeamishness about human sexuality.

Western Leftists who ally with Islamism because they think the phenomenon represents the interests of the masses are fooling themselves. If it represents anything it's the prejudices of the bazaari and clerical class in organised form and we've already seen that in Europe.

It wasn't nice then either, but at least in those days the left automatically knew they were against it.

Marcus, "Lumpenbourgeois Losers", Harry's Place, 2006-08-12

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

August 12, 2006

Saturday Gun Pr0n


My favorite handgun, from the range trip on Wednesday afternoon. It's my Florida co-worker's wife's gun. She clearly has excellent taste in firearms.

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

QotD: Aromatic Wines

Vermouth is one definition of "aromatic wine." But what I had planned to write about was what wine schools and books refer to as "The Aromatic Grapes," namely . . . um . . .

    [error code 369v2!! That function not available!!]

(Note: this error pops up when wine professionals from India to Singapore to Sweden use some term like it meant something, yet nobody agrees on what. )

Some use "aromatic" as merely an adjective to describe any wine that leaps up out of the glass and grabs you by the beard (I've been meaning to shave that thing), proclaiming its presence and lineage.

Yet not all that wafts from your glass is aroma. The word is supposed to refer only to smells that come from grapes. Nuances from winemaking, like toasty yeast, vanilla-coconut oak, or buttery malolactic fermentation, are known as bouquet. By that definition, a beefed up chardonnay might wave semaphores in your face, but it ain't aromatic.

Jennifer "Chotzi" Rosen, "A Dab Behind the Ear: Just what IS an "aromatic" grape?", Cork Jester, 2006-08-11

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

August 11, 2006

Travel restrictions, British style

Well, it didn't take long . . . although I thought the overreaction of the authorities in Atlanta was bad, it doesn't hold a candle to what the geniuses in Britain are requiring now:

All cabin baggage must be processed as hold baggage and carried in the hold of passenger aircraft departing UK airports.

Passengers may take through the airport security search point, in a single (ideally transparent) plastic carrier bag, only the following items. Nothing may be carried in pockets:

  • Pocket-size wallets and pocket-size purses plus contents (for example money, credit cards, identity cards etc (not handbags)
  • Travel documents essential for the journey (for example passports and travel tickets)
  • Prescription medicines and medical items sufficient and essential for the flight (eg, diabetic kit), except in liquid form unless verified as authentic
  • Spectacles and sunglasses, without cases
  • Contact lens holders, without bottles of solution
  • For those travelling with an infant: baby food, milk (the contents of each bottle must be tasted by the accompanying passenger) and sanitary items sufficient and essential for the flight (nappies, wipes, creams and nappy disposal bags)
  • Female sanitary items sufficient and essential for the flight, if unboxed (eg tampons, pads, towels and wipes)
  • Tissues (unboxed) and/or handkerchiefs
  • Keys (but no electrical key fobs). All passengers must be hand searched, and their footwear and all the items they are carrying must be X-ray screened.

If you didn't sell your shares in airlines before yesterday, you're almost cetainly too late now!

Update: Not long after the terrorist attacks on September 11th, a Libertarian blogger (no longer remember exactly who, I'm afraid) predicted that the government's response to these and subsequent terrorist attacks would be to forbid travellers to carry any luggage at all. In fact, he went on to predict the inevitable future: air passengers would be required to strip naked, be x-rayed, cavity-searched, handcuffed, and then strapped into their cages for the duration of the trip.

At the time, this was hyperbolic enough to be funny.

It's not as funny now. In fact, it's not funny at all.

Update the second: Several people have reported that they've had books confiscated when trying to get onboard aircraft. Books. I know you can get a nasty papercut from a book, and a rolled-up newspaper or magazine can be a fair improvised weapon, but books? I can't imagine a flight of any duration at all without a book (or two) to read.

So, we're not allowed anything liquid, any electronics, any reading material . . . does anyone else think that this has the best chance to kill off the "travel for pleasure" market? If they're still allowed to serve alcohol to passengers in flight, then they'll almost certainly be making huge profits due to the increased intake among the bored, captive audience.

I'm almost sorry I started this post in the "Absurd" category . . . because it's becoming extremely absurd.

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

Humor versus Humour

If British humour puzzles you, you may find enlightenment at the Johnny Foreigner's Guide to British Humour page.

Or, more likely, not.

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

QotD: Alcohol

Alcohol is like love: the first kiss is magic, the second is intimate, the third is routine. After that you just take the girl's clothes off.

Raymond Chandler

Posted by Nicholas at 08:06 AM | Comments (0)

August 10, 2006

Redneck memorials

Someone Elizabeth works with recently suffered a loss in her family: her grandmother died suddenly. To mark their loss, the family is going to get group memorial tattoos.

There are times I wish I were kidding.

Posted by Nicholas at 08:35 PM | Comments (2)

Travelling by air can be fun

I literally just got home from my Florida business trip. I had the worst flight experience I've had in a long, long time. If you've been following the news, you already know much of what has been going on with air travel in the last 24 hours, but I was in the dark from noon yesterday onwards. At noon, I left our local office with a co-worker from down there and we headed to the local pistol range. (A couple of range photos will probably appear here later). So, as far as keeping up with the news, I was completely off-the-grid.

After punching lots of holes in innocent paper targets at the range, I got a quick shower and changed clothes, collected my luggage and rental car and drove to the airport. Everything went smoothly (which perhaps should have been my first clue) . . . rental checked in with no problem, picked up my boarding pass and checked my bag with the Homeland Security guy, passed fairly quickly through the security screening, and sat down at my gate to wait for the flight to Atlanta.

The incoming flight from Atlanta was delayed for nearly an hour, which automatically pushed our departure time back by over an hour. In the event, they turned the plane around very quickly and we backed away from the gate only an hour and ten minutes late. We were the only plane waiting for permission to take off, but the tower had some electronics problem which delayed us for another fifteen minutes.

Atlanta was having some very exciting electrical storm, so we circled for quite some time. Eventually, the captain came on the intercom and told us that if we hadn't managed to land within 20 minutes, she'd have to redirect to a different airport, as we were running short of fuel. Apparently the storm had been bad enough to delay scores of planes from landing, so our final approach to the runway took on a bit of an aerial ballet quality . . . there were so many other aircraft in the night sky, including two almost exactly parallel to us on the approach. With all these delays, we were very late getting in (scheduled in at 8:07, but we didn't deplane until 10:30). Even having landed wasn't enough: there were planes scattered all over, waiting for gates to open up for them.

Of course, the terminal we arrived at was under construction, so there were no arrival/departure boards active. I walked halfway across the terminal before I found a set that were working — my connecting flight had already left. A call to the Delta ticketing hotline left me on hold for about 20 minutes before I was able to talk to a live agent. There were no more flights to Toronto until the following morning, but she couldn't transfer my booking to that flight; I'd have to find the ticketing desk at the airport to do that.

You don't really get an idea of the scale of Atlanta's airport until you've walked from one of the outer terminal buildings to the South Terminal (the trains were looking Tokyo-crowded). It's a freakin' big place. And the signage could certainly be improved. Just saying, y'know?

I managed to go the wrong way and found every other airline's baggage services desk. But not the one for this odd, you've-probably-never-heard-of-it-airline called Delta. If I'd turned left instead of right at the top of the escalator, it would have bit me, but I do have a bit of a talent for taking the wrong direction.

And the people. Did I mention all the people? The literally thousands of others who'd also missed their connecting flights? Yeah, they're all straggling around at the same time, looking just as lost as I'm sure I did.

When I'd finally exhausted all the wrong alternatives, I did find the Delta baggage services desk. Yes, my bag would still be going to Toronto, but no, I couldn't get it out before it arrived at its final destination. But they did give me a nice little "emergency overnight kit". It included a toothbrush, toothpaste, folding brush, tiny little deoderant stick, and (most important) a T-shirt. All I had with me was my laptop case, two books (one already finished), a magazine, my camera, my Treo, and my travel documents. The T-shirt was a welcome addition to my collection.

The nice lady at the baggage services desk also suggested I'd want to rebook my ticket tonight, rather than waiting for tomorrow morning. That way, I could just "breeze through security" and as long as I was there within an hour of take-off, I'd be fine. She also told me that the airline would help me find a hotel for the night (that was more than I'd have expected, based on my earlier dealings with airlines). Perhaps the best advice I've had in a long time. There were a hundred or so people waiting for re-ticketing, but where else would I be going? It was after midnight before I got to the head of the line, reticketed, and got a discount coupon for a local hotel. All I had to do, I was told, was go to the ground transportation area and the hotel's shuttle bus would pick me up. Great . . . I'm getting tired, so just falling onto a shuttle bus is as complicated as I could handle.


Remember those thousands of milling, lost, temporarily-immobilized travellers? A significant number of 'em have been ahead of me, doing the re-ticket and get hotel coupon trick.

And they're all standing in line ahead of me, waiting for the hotel shuttle bus. So I jumped the queue and took a cab instead (I hope my employer will understand the urgency of that expenditure!)

The hotel was a real fleabag . . . when I turned back the covers, there were earwigs under the sheets. Because of all the delays at the airport and getting reticketed, I didn't manage to get in to the hotel until nearly 1, and I had to have a 6 am wake-up call to be back to the airport.

I have this problem sleeping when I know I need to be awake for a certain time. I wake up too early, assume I'm late, and start to panic. It wasn't too bad last night . . . 3am, 4am, 4:30am, 5:20am and 5:50am. I'm operating on too few ZZZZ's.

And today, security at Atlanta was just horrendous . . . I got to the airport at 7:00 and just _barely_ made my 9:15 flight . . . which then sat on the tarmac until 11:30. If I hadn't taken the advice from last night, I'd never have made my flight at all.

It was very weird . . . things that were perfectly acceptable items yesterday were now banned (water bottles, shampoo, mouthwash, toothpaste, etc.). There was a huge pile of personal toiletries being dumped just outside the security screening area. I was "lucky" that my toiletries were in the checked bag which remained at the airport when I went to the hotel.

Update, 11 August: I've been reliably informed that the insects I identified as earwigs were actually bedbugs. Ick. (Actually, looking at the images in those two links, I'll stick to my original identification.)

Posted by Nicholas at 08:22 PM | Comments (4)

August 07, 2006

Flying down to Florida again

I'm off on business for the next few days and I'm not sure how much time I'll have for blogging. Posting may not resume "normal" until late this week (no, I didn't consider last week to be "normal", in case anyone was wondering).

Posted by Nicholas at 12:08 AM | Comments (1)

QotD: Drinks

One of the fellows I can't understand is the man with violent likes and dislikes in his drams — the man who dotes on highballs but can't abide malt liquor, or who drinks white wine but not red or who holds that Scotch whisky benefits his kidneys whereas rye whiskey corrodes his liver. As for me, I am prepared to admit some merit in every alcoholic beverage ever devised by the incomparable brain of man, and drink them all when the occasions are suitable — wine with meat, the hard liquors when my so-called soul languishes, beer to let me down gently of an evening. In other words, I am omnibibulous, or more simply, ombibulous.

H.L. Mencken, "Reminiscence in the Present Tense", Minority Report, 1956.

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

August 06, 2006

Weekend puppy picture

Below the fold, for those of you who aren't interested in cute puppy dog pictures . . .


Xander, this morning on the front porch, before he discovered just how much fun it is to help dig up dandelions. He's good with the pulling 'em up part, but he's still not sure why I want him to stop digging after the roots are out of the ground (it's amazing how fast those clumsy puppy paws can dig up six inches of ground . . .).

Posted by Nicholas at 06:09 PM | Comments (2)

Saturday's woodworking

Clive was visiting yesterday, so a bit of woodworking got done:


That's the gate on the south side of the house, now looking much better than it used to: the posts were not the same height and the whole thing looked just a bit, um, sloppy. Once we decided to just make it look similar to our neighbour on that side, we didn't particularly have any design worries . . . it was just a matter of pushing all those decorative ends through the bandsaw. There's pressure-treated dust all over that part of my woodshop now.

We also got more work done on the last two upper bookcases, but they're not yet ready for finishing.

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

QotD: Compulsory Education

[C]ompulsory education [is] a bad idea which is (by and large) badly implemented by the state in the form of day-prisons which act as a factory for producing unacceptably large numbers of witless, traumatised, ignorant, semi-literate teenagers and not an insignificant number of violent, anti-social thugs.

Nor is this a secret shame. Indeed, it is the subject of much national hand-wringing about 'what to do'. And yet, if I dare to suggest that the whole idea of incarcerating children for at least 10 years and then indoctrinating them with the things that politicians think they should know about is both counterproductive and immoral and bound to produce very little except awful outcomes, the reaction I get is rather similar to the one I imagine I would get if I were to demand that all pregnant women be injected with rabies.

Thaddeus Tremayne, "Schools out (and not just for summer)", Samizdata, 2006-08-02

Posted by Nicholas at 09:08 AM | Comments (1)

August 05, 2006

QotD: Horses

[. . .] There were two police horses present, Wrangler and Oliver; the latter had been a racehorse before assuming constabulary duty. Gnat was duly awed; nothing about horse toys prepares you for the total horsitude of a real life example. They're among the densest looking animals around, for example. Cows look like they're retaining water; pigs are overinflated, and chickens are just bones and noise. But a horse? Solid flesh. Their hair is made out of muscle.

As much as I admire the art of the motorcycle, I understand why the derogatory term "hog" fits — it has a brash & grinning implication, it fits because it doesn't. Calling a motorcycle "Dog" would seem silly; horse would seem just wrong. (Calling a motorcyclist "Dog," however, is perfectly fine.) [. . .] The only word that synthesizes animals and humans is "horseman," and that makes perfect sense to anyone who's slid into the saddle and felt himself to be some chimerical hybrid. For the moment, anyway. Until the horse reminds you otherwise.

James Lileks, The Bleat, 2006-08-02

Posted by Nicholas at 01:05 AM | Comments (0)

August 04, 2006

How to avoid an awkward question, Sports edition

Paul "Dr. Z." Zimmerman being interviewed about the latest Football Hall of Famers: Were you surprised that Warren Moon was elected?

Dr. Z: Last year at the Super Bowl, Moon was out there doing radio or TV work, I can't remember which, for some station in Seattle. We started talking about the Hall of Fame. He was too polite to ask me what his chances were, but I brought it up and told him he had a hell of a good chance. He didn't think so. He thought the field was too strong. I told him, "You have a good shot because everybody liked you. You never stiffed anybody and you were always friendly and cooperative. I don't want to take anything away from your qualifications as a player, but those selectors in there are also writers and they have long memories. Their memories of you are all good ones." I hope I made him feel better. Was race ever brought up in the Warren Moon debate?

Dr. Z: It's been a long time since he ran track. And I don't know what race Moon really ran, the 100, 220, 400? How about ethnicity?

Dr. Z: I never discuss terms I can't spell.

Posted by Nicholas at 03:16 PM | Comments (0)

Vikings pre-season overview

The rather oddly named site Kissing Suzy Kolber offers their pre-season review of the Vikings:

The Vikings roster is slightly more recognizable than the guy with the headset. Brad Johnson is expected to anchor the offense (seriously?) even though he's making slightly less money than Ed Hochuli. Once again the running game will be compromised of a menagerie of hopefuls (like Chester Taylor) and glorified third down backs (like Mewelde Moore). I'm willing to wager that the team will be on it's hands and knees (Get away from me, Fred Smoot) begging Onterrio Smith to come back (according to reports he was last seen being fired from a Winnipeg area Chippendales establishment for concealing a foreign instrument).

Nasty. Funny. But the best line of all was in the comments to this post:

Anonymous said...
Hochuli should be making more than Brad Johnson. He's got a stronger arm and more mobility in the pocket.

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

Britain's Television Tax at Work

Jon sent along this little gem:

How much is the BBC/TV tax again?

Watch the video.

I joked with him that we'd never see something like this on the CBC: the production values are too high.

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

Literary engine

Lois McMaster Bujold sent this link to her mailing list: It's a neat little toy for finding authors whose work you might enjoy. For example, if you specify Lois herself, you'll get a map of authors that other readers consider similar (including the odd mis-spelling).

Posted by Nicholas at 11:10 AM | Comments (0)

Modern wine markets

An article by Karen De Coster and Eric Englund is quite worth reading, although there are some questionable assertions, like this one:

Not all wine is noteworthy. In fact, mass production and the use of low-quality grapes have brought forth a new class of wine known as "plonk." Plonk is a low-quality wine, usually made for the non-discriminating masses. Stores everywhere are loaded with tasteless wines — both domestic and foreign — that offer no distinction in taste between grapes or brands.

I don't know what idyllic oeneological paradise Ms. De Coster and Mr. Englund have been privileged to inhabit, but plonk is far from a new phenomenon. In fact, the vast majority of wine throughout history would be highly complimented to be compared to today's "plonk". Good wine has always been a rarity . . . our modern world — without a doubt — has far greater proportions of "good" wine than ever before (even as quantities of wine produced are growing at a breakneck pace).

Still, I can't fault them for this rather outspoken opinion:

Nothing is more dreadful than a glass of White Zin — yet people rip it off the store shelves like it is penny candy. It’s the most popular wine in America — yikes!! As the old joke goes: "If she drinks White Zinfandel she is easy, thinks she is classy and sophisticated, and actually has no clue. If he drinks White Zinfandel, he is gay." All White Zinfandel should be taken out behind the barn to be shot.

White Zinfandel is to modern wine as Baby Duck used to be to the Canadian wine scene.

Cross-posted to Ontario Wine Blog.

Posted by Nicholas at 10:33 AM | Comments (4)

Economists who blog

There's a brief article in this week's Economist (behind the subscriber wall, I'm afraid), talking about some notable blogging economists:

Why do economists spend valuable time blogging?

"Clearly there is here a problem of the division of knowledge, which is quite analogous to, and at least as important as, the problem of the division of labour," Friedrich Hayek told the London Economic Club in 1936. What Mr Hayek could not have known about knowledge was that 70 years later weblogs, or blogs, would be pooling it into a vast, virtual conversation. That economists are typing as prolifically as anyone speaks both to the value of the medium and to the worth they put on their time.

Like millions of others, economists from circles of academia and public policy spend hours each day writing for nothing. The concept seems at odds with the notion of economists as intellectual instruments trained in the maximisation of utility or profit. Yet the demand is there: some of their blogs get thousands of visitors daily, often from people at influential institutions like the IMF and the Federal Reserve.

Of course, economists are not all created equal in their writing ability and skill at explaining technical concepts for a lay audience. One of the strengths of the staff at The Economist is their ability to write clear, understandable articles which manage to convey a fair amount of technical detail without becoming completely incomprehensible to non-economists among the readership.

Posted by Nicholas at 10:24 AM | Comments (0)

Now, we wait for the double-blind study

I've occasionally been accused of "liking certain cultural foods only to appear more pro-multicultural". I now have another justification for liking curry (other than it tastes really good):

Eating curry may boost the brain and stave off Alzheimer's disease. Scientists looked at the curry consumption of 1010 Asian people aged between 60 and 93 who were currently unaffected by Alzheimer's. Their thinking ability was compared using a standard test called the Mini Mental State Examination (MMSE).

Participants who ate curry once or more in six months, or more than once a month, had better results than those who "never or rarely" ate it.

Dr Tze-Pin Ng, from the National University of Singapore who led the study, told New Scientist magazine: "What is remarkable is that apparently one needs only to consume curry once in a while for the better cognitive performance to be evidenced."

And I'll have a side-order of vegetable pakoras to go, please.

Posted by Nicholas at 09:56 AM | Comments (1)

QotD: Teetotalism

Teetotalism does not make for human happiness; it makes for the dull, idiotic happiness of the barnyard. The men who do things in the world, the men worthy of admiration and imitation, are men constitutionally incapable of any such pecksniffian stupidity. Their ideal is not a safe life, but a full life; they do not try to follow the canary bird in a cage, but the eagle in the air. And in particular they do not flee from shadows and bugaboos. The alcohol myth is such a bugaboo. The sort of man it scares is the sort of man whose chief mark is that he is scared all the time.

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

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

August 03, 2006

QotD: Canadian Mind Police

Why is it that some people don't understand that being Canadian doesn't automatically mean you think a certain way, that you hate all the right people, that you hold all the "proper" attitudes? It appeared to be incomprehensible to the dispatcher that someone might object to the use of public property to convey a message they found repugnant. The "freedom" my learned civil servant was referring to was, I think, not freedom of speech, but the freedom to agree with her.

"Occam", "You Don't Say?", Occam's Carbuncle, 2006-07-26

Posted by Nicholas at 12:09 AM | Comments (4)

August 02, 2006

Latest Carnival of Liberty

The 56th Carnival of Liberty is being hosted at Homeland Stupidity:

Welcome to the 56th Carnival of Liberty, celebrating the principles of Life, Liberty and Property, a weekly whirlwind tour of theblogosphere’s best writings on these principles.

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

QotD: 50,000 Canadians in Lebanon

How did "50,000 Canadians" come to be in Lebanon? Is it one of our major trading partners? Has Bombardier opened up a Ski-Doo plant there? Is Beirut where the Quebec Nordiques wound up? 50,000 Canucks out of a total Lebanese population of 3.8 million works out to about 1.3 per cent of the population. Hezbollah claims 400,000 supporters in Lebanon after 20 years of diligent recruiting and investment by Iran, but Canada has managed to amass an eighth of that figure with nary a thought. Despite significantly smaller populations than our G7 colleagues, we have more citizens in Lebanon than the Americans, British and Germans.


France is the former colonial power in Lebanon and the Western country with which it maintains the closest ties, yet even the French can muster only 30,000 citizens in the country. Formerly known as "the Paris of the Middle East," these days Beirut would appear to be the Saskatoon of the Middle East. Another decade or two and Lebanon will boast more Canadians than most of the Maritimes. If Canadians were represented within the global population as generously as they are among the Lebanese, there would be over 81 million Canadian citizens living outside Canada.

Mark Steyn, "50,000 problematic Canadians",, 2006-08-01

Posted by Nicholas at 12:04 AM | Comments (4)

August 01, 2006

Deadline crunch impacts blogging

As you've probably noticed, my blogging time has dropped to almost nothing in the last couple of days. I have a work deadline which is most unfairly stealing all those spare moments that I'd normally use for blogging. I hope to resume a more normal pace a bit later this week.

My apologies for the lack of new material in the meantime.

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

QotD: Zinfandel

Zinfandel has taken a firm hold in the California wine industry because of its ability to produce huge yields. It is the most common black grape variety and can thrive in even the hottest vineyard sites. Zinfandel is the ultimate Rodney Dangerfield (No Respect!) grape because of its association with that awful tasting (sorry ladies) yet highly profitable wine known as White Zinfandel. White Zin is a "pink" wine made from Zinfandel grapes left in contact with the grape's skin for just a short time. Bob Trinchero from Sutter Home Winery started this fad in the early 1970's and made this wine into a HUGE commercial success. Many wineries make the lion's share of their profits from their White Zin sales. The winning formula? Simple: cheap grapes + huge yields + broad California designation (ever heard of a single vineyard White Zin?!) = gigantic money. Too bad you didn't think of that first — you'd have enough cash to fill an Olympic size swimming pool. I'm willing to bet that the majority of White Zinfandel consumers have no idea that Zinfandel is a red grape and capable of making monster wines that can knock your socks off. Don't believe me? Go to a Zinfandel tasting, and see for yourself!

Scott Gunerman, "Zinfandel is American: Get used to it!", Wine Lovers' Page/Brat in the Cellar, 2000

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

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