May 31, 2007

QotD: The Next Presidency?

Of all the major candidates, Hillary Clinton is the one whose presidency is easiest to visualize in detail. No wonder we feel sick to our stomachs. [. . .]

[Barack Obama]'s the most charismatic politician to seek the presidency since Reagan. But where Reagan's priorities were crystal clear, Obama's are obscured by beautiful, meaningless rhetoric. What is the "audacity of hope," anyway? [. . .]

The only thing connecting [John] Edwards' policy switches has been popularity. He was for war when it was popular, against it after it became unpopular. [. . .]

Of all the Democratic candidates, [Bill] Richardson would be most likely to cut taxes. And after Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-Ohio), he's the most open to reforming drug laws. If the party really wants to make a play for the "libertarian West," it'll nominate Richardson. [. . .]

If — make that when — [Joe] Biden loses badly, he could start hosting his own talk show. There'd be no need for guests! [. . .]

No one in Washington is sure why [Chris] Dodd is running. No one outside Washington is sure who he is. [. . .]

[On Dennis Kucinich:] It's a matter of how much you might enjoy peace on earth and legal marijuana while your tax rates rise to pre-Reagan levels. [. . .]

[Undeclared candidate Al] Gore today is more liberal than the candidate who almost won in 2000, both for better and for worse. [. . .]

[Rudy] Giuliani might be the most socially liberal figure to make a serious run for the GOP mantle since Nelson Rockefeller. He also might be the most personally authoritarian Republican candidate since Richard Nixon. [. . .]

Like Giuliani, [John] McCain comes to public policy from an authoritarian perspective, not an individualist one. He's good on some issues, but his bias is for the executive to take the reins to ram through change and vanquish his foes. That might not be the ideal philosophy to follow eight years of George Bush. [. . .]

[Mitt] Romney has the most impressive management experience of anyone in the race. Unfortunately, the impressive parts came before he entered politics. [. . .]

[Sam] Brownback represents a different shade of the "compassionate conservatism" championed by George W. Bush. But perhaps not different enough. [. . .]

The vision of "compassionate conservatism" promised by George W. Bush was actually practiced by [Mike] Huckabee, with all the flaws that entailed. He's the GOP candidate who'd probably get along best with a big-spending Democratic Congress. [. . .]

It would be nice to live in a world where Ron Paul could actually win. [. . .]

The ascension of [Tom] Tancredo to the White House might so terrify Mexican migrants that they stop coming across the border altogether. In that circumstance, forced to work on other issues, Tancredo might become a fairly libertarian president. This is an unlikely scenario. [. . .]

[Undeclared candidate Newt] Gingrich is more interested in big ideas and multipoint plans than a coherent philosophy for government. [. . .]

Ron Paul aside, [undeclared candidate Chuck] Hagel's stances make him the strongest candidate some libertarians could dream of — especially those whose chief concern is ending the war. But his only constituency might be the media. [. . .]

If he runs, [at the time undeclared candidate Fred] Thompson will be the most pro-Bush Republican in the race; he narrated Bush’s bio films at the 2004 Republican convention. If you liked the Bush era but wished the president’s voice had a little more bass, Thompson’s the one. [. . .]

Nick Gillespie, David Weigel and Jesse Walker, "Presidential Scouting Reports: A libertarian fan's guide to the World Series of politics", Reason, 2007-06

Posted by Nicholas at 10:44 AM | Comments (2)

May 30, 2007

QotD: California

Is it a sign of U.S. cultural decline that the nuts are now leaving California?

Nick Gillespie, "Give al Qaeda an Inch...", Hit and Run, 2007-05-30

Posted by Nicholas at 11:52 AM | Comments (0)

Content Management Software pitfalls

I used to work in the Document Management software field, so this little cautionary story rings just so true:

"You destroyed the originals didn't you?" I sigh.

"Of course. What's the point in scanning them if you're going to keep the documents?"

"What was the point in scanning them in the first place?"

"We needed space in the document vault for some new contracts."

"So you destroyed licence documents — some of which are proof-of-purchase, some of which are one-time licences and will not be reissued by the vendor."

"But as you say, they're still in the content management system somewhere. Can't you just do a search on the content management server and find them?"

"Don't be silly — no content management server allows that — or you'd be able to change systems to some cheaper vendor. No, a proper content management system makes it next to impossible to extract your content in any automated manner so that you're forced to use their product and pay their licence fees no matter how crap it is."

Posted by Nicholas at 11:02 AM | Comments (0)

There's Green, and there's stupid Green

The Register reports on a "successful" trial project for greener street lighting in Westminster:

Westminster City Council is doing its bit to save the planet by installing energy-saving street lamps in every thoroughfare in the borough, the BBC reports.

The bold initiative follows a "successful trial" of the £1,000-a-pop Furyo Lanterns on Harrow Road which saved "on an average day", enough juice to light a house for two days and cut carbon emissions on the test highway by 0.28 tonnes over three weeks.

Sounds like a pretty good thing, right? Lower energy costs, no loss in street light lumens, it's a slam-dunk.

Oh, but wait . . .

So far so good. However, the Beeb says that if Westminster replaces all of its 29,000 street lights, it will save "up to £20,000 every year". Since the cost of the new, whale-hugging illumination is £29m, it will therefore recoup its outlay in a mere 1,450 years.

That's not quite an enticing return on investment.

Posted by Nicholas at 10:54 AM | Comments (0)

May 29, 2007

Economics 201

Yeah, that's the ticket! You produce more wine than the market can absorb, and much of it is poor quality. You fix this by: A) reducing output B) improving quality C) both, or D) threaten to resort to terrorism.

In France, apparently D is the correct answer:

A shadowy group of wine activists has issued a one-month ultimatum to Nicolas Sarkozy threatening "action" if the new French President fails to help the industry.

The Regional Committee for Viticultural Action (CRAV) has been known to hijack tankers of foreign wine and dynamite government buildings or supermarkets.

In a pre-recorded message delivered to France 3, a regional television channel, from "somewhere in the Languedoc hinterland", five balaclava-clad men read out a statement addressed to Sarkozy.

Looking more like Corsican nationalists or masked Islamic fundamentalists than winemakers, the "wine terrorists" vowed that if nothing changed and the price they received for their wine had not gone up, they would go "into action".

Samizdata has more.

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

The "Liberator"

L. Neil Smith talks about the inexpensive single-shot "Liberator" pistol, designed to be airdropped in mass quantities over occupied Europe in World War II:

The cost of the Liberator, plus its packaging, was a little over two dollars. Inflation being a measure of the greed and dishonesty of politicians, I am ashamed to say that the same weapon today would cost over twenty dollars. Over a million were made, and the idea was to drop them to partisans in sufficient numbers to give the Germans — even those who didn't get shot as the instructions showed — a real headache.

It is about here that the official stories diverge. I had grown up all my life hearing that the Liberators got duly dropped, some were used, the rest vanishing deep into barns and cellars, hidden from the mostly communist governments that came to replace the Nazis. Today, a Liberator in good condition will fetch around $2500 from collectors because most of them, presumably, are still hidden in those barns and cellars.

According to Wikipedia.com, however, most of the Liberators didn't get dropped. The OSS, into whose hands the project was placed, never really understood the idea (I knew a few of those guys when I was a kid, and they were neither brain scientists nor rocket surgeons) and the guns were eventually destroyed. Or given to the Philippines. Or something.

I don't believe it. I think the whole project became an historical embarrassment for an increasingly anti-gun US government. It couldn't have made us terribly popular with various totalitarian bosses in east Europe for whom it would have been a constant thorn in their sides. Yugoslavia's Josef "Tito" Broz would have been an exception. He wanted his people armed so that the Russians couldn't move in on him. At one point, he even had all of the nation's firearms registration records destroyed, making it virtually impossible for an invader to confiscate weapons.

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

New OWR now online

Michael Pinkus posted the new issue of OntarioWineReview last week. This issue talks about the Henry of Pelham winery, the Terroir wine event in Prince Edward County, and a report from the New Zealand Wine Fair.

Posted by Nicholas at 02:43 PM | Comments (0)

When fandoms collide

Clive sent along an amusing link to Harry Potter is actually Luke Skywalker:

Here's a one-page script treatment for the original Star Wars movie pitch, marked up to become a pitch for the first Harry Potter novel and/or movie. Hilarious send-up of mythical tropes that we seem to fall for every time. Joseph Campbell, eat your heart out.

Thanks, Clive. Sorry it took me nearly a week to post it!

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

Pirates lose close game

Well, it was a good effort, but the Pirates ended up on the wrong end of a 2-1 match last night. The score was tied at the half, both goals on penalties, and both penalties awarded for handball in the goal area.

Whitby Silver had a better passing game, so that they were better able to take advantage of the few opportunities that came along. We're still looking for our first win of the season, although a lack of practice is probably the reason for the low goal-scoring so far. I'm hoping to get a practice field assigned later this week.

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

QotD: The Ron Paul Candidacy

First, let's agree that there is no observer of the political scene wiser or righter than the embittered libertarian. He has witnessed the grandest of his dreams sputter out on the launchpad; he has watched his mildest expectations take flight and then explode into a thousand irregular chunks that melt the tarmac. He has watched the Libertarian Party splinter over that epoch-shifting question: Dave Bergland or Earl Ravenal? He has winced as the LP nominated, as its 2004 presidential candidate, the only man in America who could win even fewer popular votes than Ralph Nader in the late, brain-jellying stages of his dementia.

It was an embittered libertarian who told me to fear the Ron Paul 2008 campaign. Early in February, a few short weeks after Paul confirmed he'd be making the run, my source shelled peanuts and slugged beers and waved the red flag of doom.

"It's going to get ugly," he said.

David Weigel, "The Paul Paradox: Can a libertarian only win by losing?", Reason, 2007-05-25

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

May 24, 2007

Posting will be light for the next couple of days . . .

Elizabeth's cousin Susan died suddenly, so blog-related things will be a bit erratic for the next few days. Regular posting should resume by Monday.

Posted by Nicholas at 11:14 AM | Comments (3)

May 23, 2007

QotD: Dogs

Took Jasper to the vet for a heartworm test. Gnat wanted to hold the leash as we entered, but I had to take the reins; you never know when Sheba the Death Mutt is waiting inside, ready to pounce and open throats. There was a Doberman inside, looking, as do all sitting Dobermans, like a living exclamation point. This dog did not like Jasper, and gave him a warning growl that had murder in mind. Jasper turned and walked to the door and looked out the window: I will go now please thank you okay great. But no, I had to drag him over and make him sit in the same room as Killer MacBully. Jasper was already nervous, since I'm sure the vet's room smells like fear and doubt. I tried to distract him with a good chest rub, which has a way of making male dogs zone out, but it didn't work. Some people talk to their dogs as if they understood the exact text: you'll like the doctor! She's nice! Yes you will! Mummy's widdle smuckums. I can't. It's one of the things about pet ownership that breaks your heart: they can comfort you, but you really can't comfort them. They don't have to know your language, but you can't know theirs.

Well, you can, but I'm not going to lick his face to express benevolent dominance.

There's a sentence that's going to get me some hits for all the wrong reasons.

James Lileks, The Bleat, 2007-05-23

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

May 22, 2007

"Pirates" fight to a 2-2 draw

Yesterday evening's game was very fast-paced, and our lack of pre-game training sessions showed in the early going. For the first ten minutes after the kick-off, we were desperately defending, not even advancing the ball out of our own end. Our opponents kept the pressure up until finally, almost as an anti-climax, the ball was stroked gently into the lower left corner of our net. Victor, playing keeper for the first half, was able to fend off the other efforts.

After the first substitutions (we have 19 players on the team, and have to equalize playing time, so unlike the pros, we substitute frequently), the team settled down and we started to push into enemy territory. Kory A., working feverishly down the right side, scored the equalizer at about the 25-minute mark.

The last ten minutes of the half were a mirror-image of the first ten minutes, as the Pirates generated plenty of pressure and Whitby Red was unable to clear the ball or move upfield. Kory A. added a second goal to move us into the lead. The score was 2-1 at the half.

During the second half, both teams had opportunities to score, and the ball possession was about equal. About the seventy minute mark, Whitby Red was able to draw level, putting the ball past Tom L. in the lower left corner of the net.

The last fifteen minutes were frustrating for the Pirates, as several goal-scoring chances were fended off, including four corner-kicks.

Overall, a great effort for a team that had never played together before. Matt L., Cory R., Ian S., Micheal H. and Nicolas M. all showed great composure and some very good moves throughout the game. The team decided to call themselves the "Pirates" on a suggestion by Matt L. (our uniform is black and red, no pirate flag or anything like that).

Posted by Nicholas at 08:29 AM | Comments (0)

QotD: Boomers

It's a hoot to hear modern kids described as self-indulgent by the generation that created its own culture out of sex, drugs and rock 'n' roll. Talk about a sense of entitlement: When the baby boomers came along, they (we) got the voting age lowered for their benefit. They also demanded that the drinking age be lowered, and it was — only to be raised once they were safely into adulthood. Narcissism? Not for nothing were boomers dubbed the "Me Generation."

Steve Chapman, "Have We Raised A Generation Of Narcissists?: It's 10 p.m. Do you know how big your child's ego is?", Reason, 2007-05-21

Posted by Nicholas at 08:21 AM | Comments (0)

May 21, 2007

Famous clipper ship severely damaged in fire

The Cutty Sark, perhaps the best-known of all the clipper ships, has been seriously damaged in a drydock fire:

A fire which swept through the famous 19th Century ship Cutty Sark may have been started deliberately, police say.

The vessel, which was undergoing a £25m restoration, is kept in a dry dock at Greenwich in south-east London.

An area around the 138-year-old tea clipper had to be evacuated when the fire started in the early hours.

A Cutty Sark Trust spokesman said much of the ship had been removed for restoration and the damage could have been worse.

Half the planking and the masts had been taken away as part of the project.

The fire-damaged areas are shown in this BBC illustration:

Cutty_sark_damage.gif

More information is in this article at The Guardian.

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

Happy Victoria Day!

Today being a holiday Monday, in token regard for our monarch's notional birthday, posting will be light.

Actually, my U16/U17/U18 soccer team will be kicking off in the first game of the season at 7:00, so there's a bare possibility of either a victory cheer or a losing gripe later in the evening. It would help if we'd had a chance to get some practice in, but the team lists were only distributed last week, and there are so many kids signed up for soccer in Whitby this year (over 6,000, in a town of just more than 100,000) that there are no practice fields available on weekday nights any more.

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

QotD: Womb Envy

I try to think how we got here. The theory I developed in college (shared by many I'm sure) is one I have yet to beat: Womb Envy. Biology: women are generally smaller and weaker than men. But they're also much tougher. Put simply, men are strong enough to overpower a woman and propagate. Women are tough enough to have and nurture children, with or without the aid of a man. Oh, and they've also got the equipment to do that, to be part of the life cycle, to create and bond in a way no man ever really will. Somewhere a long time ago a bunch of men got together and said, "If all we do is hunt and gather, let's make hunting and gathering the awesomest achievement, and let's make childbirth kinda weak and shameful." It's a rather silly simplification, but I believe on a mass, unconscious level, it's entirely true. How else to explain the fact that cultures who would die to eradicate each other have always agreed on one issue? That every popular religion puts restrictions on women's behavior that are practically untenable? That the act of being a free, attractive, self-assertive woman is punishable by torture and death? In the case of this upcoming torture-porn, fictional. In the case of Dua Khalil, mundanely, unthinkably real. And both available for your viewing pleasure.

It's safe to say that I've snapped. That something broke, like one of those robots you can conquer with a logical conundrum. All my life I've looked at this faulty equation, trying to understand, and I've shorted out. I don't pretend to be a great guy; I know really really well about objectification, trust me. And I'm not for a second going down the "women are saints" route — that just leads to more stone-throwing (and occasional Joan-burning). I just think there is the staggering imbalance in the world that we all just take for granted. If we were all told the sky was evil, or at best a little embarrassing, and we ought not look at it, wouldn’t that tradition eventually fall apart?

Joss Whedon, "Let's Watch A Girl Get Beaten To Death", Whedonesque, 2007-05-20

Posted by Nicholas at 01:29 AM | Comments (1)

May 20, 2007

QotD: Green London

This magazine [the Financial Times] recently presented a rather touching portrayal of Ashton Hayes, a village in Cheshire with the aim of becoming "carbon neutral" — that is, emitting no unnecessary carbon dioxide at all, and perhaps making up for all that troublesome breathing by planting a few trees. That will take some work because the villagers' current emissions of carbon dioxide are about 25 per cent higher than the national average. In an effort to cut this to something more respectable, the villagers are urging each other to switch off unnecessary electrical items, insulate their lofts and trade in big cars for small ones.

This is all laudable stuff, so it feels a little mean to point out that the villagers could dramatically reduce their carbon footprints by bulldozing Ashton Hayes and moving to London. Yes, London: the "big smoke", the richest region in the European Union, is a city whose environmental statistics make it look dangerously like some hippie commune.

Tim Harford, "Undercover Economist: Urban neutral", FT.com, 2007-05-18

Posted by Nicholas at 01:09 AM | Comments (0)

May 19, 2007

QotD: High School

I had one last thing to tell them, which I didn't say. I intended it to be inspiring, but I just wasn't sure if it would come across that way, so I edited myself and left it out. I'll reprint it here, though, in case any of them stop by to read this:

This is entirely unrelated to writing, but it's something I wish someone had told me when I was your age: High school is a really important time in your life, and what you learn here and how you grow as a person will profoundly impact your adult years. But the social thing? It really doesn't matter, because after you graduate, you never have to see anyone from high school again, unless you really want to. A guy said to me yesterday, "If you win at high school, you lose at life," and that made a lot of sense to me. I'm sure you guys are a creative bunch of people, which means you have a certain degree of sensitivity, something that is usually the object of ridicule in school. Well, don't deny that because you're afraid of being unpopular. It's really not worth it. So stay focused, go to college, and thank me in your acknowledgments when your book is published. It's "Wil" with one "L."

Wil Wheaton, "on writing . . .", WWdN: In Exile, 2007-05-17

Posted by Nicholas at 06:34 PM | Comments (0)

May 18, 2007

Jane Galt: fellow sufferer of bandwidth shortage

Jane Galt's main blog is down right now, and her host's blog is also down. She's got a temporary backup site running at http://janegalt.wordpress.com/.

Posted by Nicholas at 11:23 AM | Comments (0)

QotD: Risk and perception of risk

I tell people that if it's in the news, don't worry about it. The very definition of "news" is "something that hardly ever happens." It's when something isn't in the news, when it's so common that it's no longer news — car crashes, domestic violence — that you should start worrying.

But that's not the way we think. Psychologist Scott Plous said it well in The Psychology of Judgment and Decision Making: "In very general terms: (1) The more available an event is, the more frequent or probable it will seem; (2) the more vivid a piece of information is, the more easily recalled and convincing it will be; and (3) the more salient something is, the more likely it will be to appear causal."

So, when faced with a very available and highly vivid event like 9/11 or the Virginia Tech shootings, we overreact. And when faced with all the salient related events, we assume causality. We pass the Patriot Act. We think if we give guns out to students, or maybe make it harder for students to get guns, we'll have solved the problem. We don't let our children go to playgrounds unsupervised. We stay out of the ocean because we read about a shark attack somewhere.

It's our brains again. We need to "do something," even if that something doesn't make sense; even if it is ineffective. And we need to do something directly related to the details of the actual event. So instead of implementing effective, but more general, security measures to reduce the risk of terrorism, we ban box cutters on airplanes. And we look back on the Virginia Tech massacre with 20-20 hindsight and recriminate ourselves about the things we should have done. In fact, the incident has been used as evidence both for and against gun control.

Bruce Schneier, "Virginia Tech Lesson: Rare Risks Breed Irrational Responses", Wired, 2007-05-17

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

New-ish tanks now double original cost estimates

Unusually, the government did not merge the capital costs and the support costs of the 100 Dutch Leopard 2 tanks when the original announcement was made. Now the total package is estimated to cost C$1.3 billion, not C$650 million. It's not clear from the article why this acquisition was handled differently than other recent military purchases.

Canada's purchase and long-term support of 100 slightly used Leopard 2A6 battle tanks will be $1.3 billion — roughly double the Conservative government's initial public estimate last month.

As he detailed a laundry list of military hardware the Conservative government plans to buy over the next few years, Defence Minister Gordon O'Connor surprised the Commons by announcing there will be a 20-year, $650-million service contract attached to the tank deal.

"The capital acquistion is $650 million and the support for 20 years is about $650 million; about the same range," he said in reply to an opposition question during debate over Defence Department estimates.

Of course, even at the higher price, it's still a bargain for top-drawer military hardware.

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

May 17, 2007

QotD: The value of online polls

This is why, despite all the emails I've received urging me to write about Ron Paul's strong performance in the Internet polls, I haven't been covering it. I like Paul, but Internet polls are meaningless as a measurement of anything but the enthusiasm of a candidate's supporters. I don't think, as some do, that Paul's performance is purely a product of cheaters spamming sites with multiple votes. There has been some of that, but the congressman does well even when the multi-voters are ferreted out and their ballots removed from the results. I just don't think it means a lot to win one of these contests.

But I have to laugh when the creators of these unscientific surveys try to find ways to discount Paul's wins without admitting the polls themselves are near-useless. When it became clear that Paul was doing well in Fox's text-messaging poll after the debate Tuesday night, for example, Fox host Carl Cameron suggested the congressman's supporters were gaming the system. He did not pause to ponder the point of offering a system so easily gamed. Nor did he admit that if the votes for Paul didn't mean much, the same was true of the remainder of the results.

Jesse Walker, "What Internet Polls Are Good For", Hit and Run, 2007-05-17

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

Mouseworld, part 3

James Lileks covers the third day of their Disneyworld experience:

It's like that all over. The Disney Experience is one of the most psychologically all-inclusive and seductive thing I've experienced in years. After a while you stop thinking outside the possibilities of Disney; it absolutely drives out everything else from your imagination. It hits you from every angle. It works your soft spots and worms in through the cracks; it finds your fascinations and feeds them. [. . .]

[. . .] It's as if Mickey exists both outside time and inside its specific examples. The effect is Total Mickey, Mouse without End.

The old tired Sinclair Lewis quote gets dragged out by the professional hysterics: when fascism comes, it will be wrapped in a flag and carrying a bible and etc. Well, friends, this is the Corporate State, right here, a world unto itself, bigger than two US states put together. They control the horizontal and the vertical, and the utility grid. The roads are private. The lakes are private. The control is hardly total — let Disney cease to pay taxes, and watch what happens. But the enormity of the area and the totality of the control is almost unprecedented. Surely it cannot be benign. Right?

James wrote something completely appropriate to finish this thought a few years ago, which I must recycle here: "Imagine, Winston, that the future consists of a boot pressing on a face. Here's the worst part, Winston — inside the boot is" MICKEY'S FOOT!!!

Posted by Nicholas at 11:43 AM | Comments (0)

US troops may have been exposed to nerve gas

A scary report in The Register about some 100,000 American troops who may have been exposed to low levels of Sarin nerve gas after the 1991 Gulf War:

It is believed that US soldiers occupying an Iraqi munitions depot at Khamisiyah mistakenly blew up a stockpile of gas rockets in March 1991, believing them to be ordinary explosive munitions. Nobody noticed any ill effects at the time.

It was only two months later, when Iraqi chemical weapons facilities were inspected by the UN as part of the ceasefire agreement, that the US began to realise that nerve gases might have been released into the atmosphere. [. . .]

It's perhaps also worth noting that declassified CIA reports suggest that some or all the sarin rounds blown up at Khamisiyah were of binary construction, meaning that they contained not sarin but two precursor chemicals which would be mixed to form sarin when the weapons were fired. Blowing up kit like this wouldn't release large amounts of nerve agent into the atmosphere; just precursors.

If the rockets weren't binaries, there would be an excellent chance of their sarin payload having decomposed to uselessness. This was a major problem for the pre-1991 Iraqi chemical weapons industry.

Posted by Nicholas at 11:00 AM | Comments (0)

IgNobel achievements

If you think the Nobel Prize is too stuffy and formal, then you'll probably find this selection of IgNobel Prizewinners to be just what you're into.

Posted by Nicholas at 10:54 AM | Comments (0)

Misleading headline

The headline bellows "Brawl breaks out in House of Commons", which sure would be big news, right? Our penny-ante politicos, rolling up the sleeves and going for the literal jugular? Kewl. Something reminiscent of Taiwanese political in-fighting, perhaps?

No:

Ottawa MP David McGuinty accused Tory MP Royal Galipeau of storming across the floor and unleashing a tirade of insults. He called the conduct the worst he has seen in his three years on the Hill.

"The member was clearly out of control, using unparliamentary language and in a threatening fashion grabbed my left shoulder and only left my side when several of my colleagues urged him to stop and to leave, but he would not," McGuinty said.

"He was really completely out of control, raising his voice, flailing his arms, gesticulating in a threatening fashion and making wild accusations."

If that qualifies as a "brawl", then I dread to think what they think a real brawl might be like.

Of course, the very best part of the article is here:

Galipeau, who is also from Ottawa, is deputy Speaker and charged with keeping peace and decorum in the Commons.

He must be keeping it in his parliamentary office, then, because he sure didn't display it on the floor of the House!

Posted by Nicholas at 10:34 AM | Comments (0)

May 16, 2007

Modern China

Guy Sorman talks about the state of China:

The Western press is full of stories these days on China's arrival as a superpower, some even heralding, or warning, that the future may belong to her. Western political and business delegations stream into Beijing, confident of China's economy, which continues to grow rapidly. Investment pours in. Crowning China's new status, Beijing will host the 2008 Summer Olympics.

But China's success is, at least in part, a mirage. True, 200 million of her subjects, fortunate to be working for an expanding global market, increasingly enjoy a middle-class standard of living. The remaining 1 billion, however, remain among the poorest and most exploited people in the world, lacking even minimal rights and public services. Popular discontent simmers, especially in the countryside, where it often flares into violent confrontation with Communist Party authorities. China's economic "miracle" is rotting from within.

I've had my own concerns about the real issues of the new Chinese economy.

Posted by Nicholas at 02:39 PM | Comments (0)

Sullivan sums up the GOP debaters

I didn't watch the most recent US Republican candidates debate . . . but that should come as no surprise, because I can just barely muster enough patience to watch our own politicians debate during an election. The non-stop, never-ending campaign for President must be an extra circle of hell — at least, it would be for me. Others, however, with rather more at stake (i.e., American voters) must suffer along regardless.

Among the coverage of the debate, Andrew Sullivan had the most interesting thing to say:

It's also clear that compassionate conservatism is dead. Every single candidate favors reduced taxes and big spending cuts. None, however, is prepared to say that Medicare and Social Security must be on the chopping block. The grand experiment in big-government Republicanism is therefore rhetorically over. Sorry, Mr Gerson — but only one Republican is dumb enough to embrace the bromides of government spending as the cure for all our woes. And he's got a limit of two terms. That's a victory of sorts for those of us urging conservatives to abandon their big spending ways. I say "of sorts" because in practice, there's no sign that any of them, except Paul and possibly McCain, mean a scintilla of what they are saying.

The final clarifier for me was, yes, torture . . .

Some issues really are paramount moral ones. Two candidates opposed it clearly and honorably: McCain and Paul. All the others gleefully supported it - including Brownback. He's a born-again Christian for torture. Giuliani revealed himself as someone we already know. He would have no qualms in exercising executive power brutally, no scruples or restraints. Romney would double the size and scope of Gitmo, to ensure that none of the detainees have lawyers, regardless of their innocence or guilt. That is in itself a disqualification for the presidency of the United States. A man who has open contempt for the most basic rules of Western justice has no business being president.

Couldn't have put that last sentence any better.

Update: David Weigel thinks that Ron Paul's efforts are being wasted:

But did Paul win the debate? As Mitt Romney might say: Golly oh-gosh, heavens no! If it wasn't for the reanimated corpse of Tommy Thompson or Jim Gilmore, the clown costume that walks like a man, Paul would been the obvious loser of the debate. As is, he merely tied for 8th place and will be remembered as "Rudy's pinata." He has less chance of winning the GOP nom now than ever, which is really something. If the other 9 candidates plus Fred Thompson died in a horrific baking accident, the GOP would draft Lyndon Larouche before nominating this guy.

Ouch.

Posted by Nicholas at 11:43 AM | Comments (0)

Former Paul aide declares bid for Paul's seat

A former Ron Paul aide has decided to toss his hat in the ring against Paul if he doesn't resign his seat. David Weigel says:

Prediction: The overlap between people who thought the Democrats were wrong to purge Joe Lieberman and people who think the GOP would be right to purge Ron Paul will be around 100 percent.

Posted by Nicholas at 11:26 AM | Comments (0)

Disneyworld, Lileks Style Part 2

James Lileks continues the tale of the family vacation:

When we ended yesterday’s entry, I was stuck in a small, crammed room in the dark at the Haunted Mansion, and remarked that I have been severely claustrophobic for many years. The various references to "the paper" or "my career" concern the trials of my employer, which began a several-year project of feeding jobs into the woodchipper right before I went on vacation. We continue:

The doors were shut and the lights went out and the room began to sink.

This was the test, in a way: the test of whether that evening attack in a movie theater in 1984 had any power left. I had my first panic attack — out of the blue, no hints or omens, ever — during a showing of "Vertigo." Honest. Rapid heartbeat, disorientation, fight-or-flight, the entire suite of symptoms at once. While I had to commend my condition for choosing an apt moment to assert itself, it also meant I had a difficult time convincing the emergency room nurse I wasn't just reacting to a well-crafted thriller. But it happened during the scene in the stable. Nothing was going on. Well, that's the genius of Hitchcock, isn't it? Even the most mundane moments are saturated with dread. Yes, and my shirt is saturated with sweat. Now if you could give me something.

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

May 15, 2007

Tulipmania

Tulipmania has, apparently, been oversold:

We think we know the story of "tulipmania": the 17th-century Dutch dropped fortunes on tulips, ruined their economy, even killed themselves over the bulbs. In short, tulipmania is remembered as the first market bubble. It has been used as an analogy for subsequent ones, most recently during the dotcom boom. However, Anne Goldgar tells us at the start of her excellent debunking book: "Most of what we have heard of it is not true." For instance, Goldgar couldn't identify a single person bankrupted by tulipmania. In this dense academic work — with longueurs for readers who aren't themselves tulipmaniacs — she tells a new story.

Yeah, sure. Next thing you'll be telling me that Lemmings don't commit mass suicide by throwing themselves off cliffs!

Posted by Nicholas at 01:53 PM | Comments (2)

The Lileks family hits Disneyworld

James takes the family to the secular high temple of Disneydom:

It's Disneyworld. The happiest, smiling-est, hottest, sweatiest, standing-in-lineiest place on earth. This year's motto: "The Year of A Million Dreams," which suggests they've completed Jungland: cool! I had a dream in which a large mouse was pulling my brains out my nose, and my brains were made of gold. Doctor, what does it mean? I didn't think it meant I had Disneyphobia, which makes its sufferers treat Mickey as a sin visited upon the world, a demon equalled only by that Dark God of Body-Rot, Ronald McDonald. I've always enjoyed Disney Products™ — I've just never had awestruck melty adoration of all things Mouse-related. At best, total love of this or that. At worst, shuddery dislike of some of its manifestations. For the most part, temperate admiration. I looked forward to this.

Not to spoil the story, but having spent four days in the realm of the Mouse, you could cut my wrists and I'd bleed Disney Kool-Aid. Because that's how much I drank.

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

May 14, 2007

Over-the-top iconography

Last week, Whitby made the news when a local parent strenuously objected to the Boy Scout badge her son brought home. The Toronto Star had somewhat predictable coverage:

Cale Northey went to a Scouts Canada camp to learn about gun safety. He came back with a "licence to kill."

That's how his parents view the badge the 11-year-old brought home from a target shooting event in Oshawa last weekend.

The badge features an Agent 007-type figure pointing a gun with a red target over his heart.

"I think it's terrible," said Cale's mother, Jane Northey. "We've got kids shooting up everyone these days. What kind of message are we sending them? This badge is a licence to kill sponsored by Scouts Canada."

I thought the whole thing was overwrought, and just another excuse for the Star to run a glib anti-gun article. Until I got a look at the actual badge, and I discovered that Jane Northey had a case:

ScoutShootingBadge_12May07.jpg

Could you have designed a badge that was more likely to get up the noses of people who aren't comfortable with guns? This is the intellectual equivalent of a drive-by mooning.

What. Were. They. Thinking?

What part of "responsible gun handling" does this illustrate?

Posted by Nicholas at 11:45 AM | Comments (2)

The attempt to squelch Ron Paul's supporters

Paul Levinson sent an open letter to ABC.com about the allegations that the site removed pro-Paul comments left on their site:

If this is true, the only justification ABC could have for doing that would be if they have proof positive that the comments were bogus — all or most originating from the same IP or same small group of IP addresses, for example.

Otherwise, ABC.com is guilty of an outrageous, heavy-handed administration of its comment section — so much so that, if the charges are true, ABC owes not only Ron Paul's supporters but the American people an explanation.

I hereby call upon ABC to explain exactly what happened with those comments — if they were indeed removed, why?

When that generated no response, he posted another one:

News media — whether tv networks or their message boards, or search engines like Yahoo which perform like news media, or smaller operations like Pajamas Media — have a responsibility to the American people. Unlike someone who sells shoes or pretzels, who can set store hours, open and close online message boards and blogs — pretty much do whatever they please under the law, as is their right — news media have a special, additional responsibility.

Especially in times of elections, news media must err on the side of being open to all candidates and their supporters. Yes, you must tolerate even an abusive e-mail, for the greater good of keeping your system open to all points of view.

That's why Jefferson and Madison in their wisdom insisted on protecting you under our First Amendment.

While I don't concur with Mr. Levinson's belief that the non-commercial media (like Pajamas Media) are in any way bound to the same criteria as the mainstream media, it's disturbing that PJM, of all groups, is indulging in the sort of strong-arm tactics they rightly condemn when done by the mainstream media.

It's my personal view that Ron Paul is one of the best presidential candidates fielded by either of the major parties over the last 40 years, and I would like to see him treated fairly (or at least as fairly as other declared candidates). He may not win — he's the definition of a long-shot candidate — but he does represent a wider swathe of opinion than other candidates who enjoy much better media access and friendlier coverage.

Posted by Nicholas at 11:03 AM | Comments (2)

El Neil recommends endorsing Ron Paul

L. Neil Smith suggests the unthinkable: that the US Libertarian Party boost a Republican candidate:

Ron Paul is — or could be — the Eugene McCarthy of the 21st century.

It is for those reasons that I suggest that delegates to the 2008 Libertarian Party national convention should at least contemplate doing something unprecedentedly decent, courageous, and intelligent, even for them. They should nominate "None of the Above" for President on our own ticket, and then immediately vote to cross-endorse Ron Paul. The endorsement could even state the reservations I mentioned above.

But the point is that it would help put the LP on the map in a very big way, it would help the campaign of the only man (apparently) in a position to salvage the dream of what America was supposed to be, and it would help America and the world by thoroughly repudiating the evil beat-up-and-kill policies of the two-headed Boot On Your Neck party.

You don't get that kind of chance very often.

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

"What part of Canadia are you from?"

Nathan Fillion interviewed by Craig Ferguson on the "Late Late Show":

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

May 13, 2007

Happy Mother's Day

Not much post-able activity this weekend . . . yesterday was a performance of "Taming of the Shrew" by PlayMakers (a few photos may be salvageable), and today was (finally) contacting all the team members for this year's soccer squad. Busy, but not bloggable stuff.

Posted by Nicholas at 08:29 PM | Comments (0)

May 12, 2007

QotD: Peace, Order, and Liberty

I was surprised that my colleagues on the panel seemed less alarmed by the steady concentration of more and more power in fewer and fewer hands. In my view, the greatest guarantor of liberty and good government is an engaged and sceptical populace standing between its leaders and the levers of power, but this is clearly not a universal sentiment.

Akaash Maharaj, "The Friendly Dictatorship Revisited", Akaash Maharaj: Practical Idealism, 2007-05-07

Posted by Nicholas at 09:45 AM | Comments (0)

May 11, 2007

OWR for this week

This edition of OntarioWineReview is now online, with a theme of "Spring Fever in Wine Country".

Posted by Nicholas at 01:27 PM | Comments (0)

The last Quirk

Well, the Star Tribune apparently is immune to common sense, reason, logic, and a well-orchestrated campaign of abusive email from all corners of the internet. James Lileks files his last Quirk column:

Oh, you poor, poor reader. You're busy. You want a laff. And what do you get? Economy-size downer: a columnist's sad farewell. Yes, 29 years after writing my first column for a Minneapolis paper, I'm writing my last.

Three decades! That's a grand run. You can't blame it all on cronyism, union protection and incriminating photos. I credit your patience, and the general suspicion that I might be worth reading the next time, too. That's all we can ask. We're only as good as the next column, after all. And since there won't be a next column, well, whew: Pressure's off.

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

The Gender Gap, economically speaking

Mark Perry takes a skeptical look at the much-used factoid about women being paid less than men:

6. Most studies that control for all factors that affect earnings show that motherhood and marriage explain almost all of the "pay gap." For example, research shows that:

a. There is no pay gap among single, full-time workers age 21 to 35, who live alone.

b. Among people ages 27 to 33 who have never had a child, the earnings of women are about 98% of men's.

c. Never-married women in their 30s who have worked continuously earn slightly higher incomes than their male counterparts.

d. Men spend only 1.6% of all potential work years out of the workforce, while women spend 14.7% of potential work years away from work.

e. A woman's lifetime earnings are lowered 13% by having her first child, and 19% by having her second.

Bottom Line: Here is what the AAUW didn't report: Median annual earnings of men and women age 25 to 34 with bachelor's degrees in the same field are roughly equal. In other words, there is no "pay gap," once you control for ALL factors that affect earnings, and compare apples with apples.

H/T to Paul Tuns.

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

Gravitic anomaly explained

Rizwana Z. sent this link to one of my mailing lists: Satellites solve mystery of low gravity over Canada:

If it seems Canadians weigh less than their American neighbours, they do — but not for the reasons you might think. A large swath of Canada actually boasts lower gravity than its surroundings.

Researchers have puzzled for years over whether this was due to the crust there rebounding slowly after the end of the last ice age or a deeper issue involving convection in the Earth's mantle — or some combination of the two.

Now, ultra-precise measurements taken over four years by a pair of satellites known as GRACE (Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment) reveal that each effect is equally responsible for Canada's low gravity. The work could shed light on how continents form and evolve over time.

Posted by Nicholas at 11:14 AM | Comments (2)

Senate bill delay

The NCC blog is complaining that the latest Senate reform bill has been delayed:

One year seems like an awfully long time to pass a bill that is only three clauses long. But when the bill in question (S-4) proposes to limit Senate terms to eight years, it is no wonder the dust collectors in the Upper House have pulled out every trick in the book to delay it.

This is one of those "I don't really care either way" issues, as the only real change is to impose term limits. Term limits without other, more radical changes are pretty much a non-issue: in fact, it'll increase the overall cost of running the Senate. Why? Because with more frequent changes in the composition of the senate, there'll be more ex-Senators drawing public pensions. Other than that, this is not a particularly useful change.

Posted by Nicholas at 10:06 AM | Comments (0)

QotD: World War 2

Winning WWII was the ultimate joint effort. But if you go to school in America, you graduate with the impression that the United States was 90% of that victory.

Our version paints Great Britain as a plucky and resourceful holdout against Hitler, on the verge of falling. Russia is portrayed as a bunch of hobos with flintlock rifles who got lucky because the Nazis didn't have warm coats. The French are presented as beret-wearing cheese-eaters taking German lessons.

Scott Adams, "Who Won WWII?", The Dilbert Blog, 2007-05-06

Posted by Nicholas at 09:47 AM | Comments (0)

May 10, 2007

3rd Anniversary

Nearly forgot to mention . . . today is the third anniversary of when Jon invited me to set up my own blog on his server.

Of course, this is better than last year, when I missed the anniversary by almost a week. The year before that covered pretty familar topics. And most of the original readers from the first year are still around (and even occasionally commenting, which is to be encouraged).

Posted by Nicholas at 04:45 PM | Comments (2)

Another ST:TNG episode guide

Also from Wil Wheaton, his review of another Star Trek: The Next Generation episode:

Data, Dr. Crusher, and Tasha tell a story so filled with sci-fi cliches, the ensuing drinking game would put Ted Kennedy into a coma: Tarella was an Earthlike planet (drink!) with technology equivalent to late 20 century Earth (drink!) The Tarellians were very similar to humans (drink!) and ended up in a big old nasty war, just like World War II (drink!) One faction developed a biological weapon (drink!) and unleashed it on the other half, eventually infecting them all (drink!) in a planet-wide plague (drink!) that infected the survivors so virulently, even when they fled the planet, they infected and killed the entire populations of the other planets they attempted to settle (drink!). A few of the more noble infected survivors tried to stay away from inhabited planets, but they were hunted down and killed, anyway (drink, and tip that 40 for the fallen Tarellian homies, yo.)

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

Modern parenting

Wil Wheaton has a bee in his bonnet about the failings of too many parents nowadays:

[. . .] I've recently concluded that there is, in fact, an entire generation of parents, about my age or just a little older, who are substituting technology for parenting. As a result, there's an entire generation of children who are overstimulated and undersocialized, and in some cases heavily medicated, because their damn parents would rather distract them with a DVD or video game than, you know, interact with them.

Is this the new way we're supposed to raise emotionally healthy and well adjusted kids? I must have missed a memo, because these people are everywhere. [ . . . ]

There's a car commercial running right now that is an unintentionally powerful and disturbing commentary on how many people in this generation of parents are raising their kids. It starts in a school lunch room, filled with kids who are jumping and running around, throwing food, and generally raging out of control. A teacher tries to get them to settle down, and is ignored, so he flips down a little display, like you'd see in a car-based DVD player, and the entire room instantly turns into slackjawed, television watching zombies. What's the message here? "If you can't get your kids to listen to you, don't worry, all it takes is a little DVD action to do it for you, so you can get back to the peace and quiet you inexplicably thought you'd enjoy when you had seven f*ing kids."

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

QotD: Environmental Indulgences

In a couple of hundred years historians will be comparing the frenzies over our supposed human contribution to global warming to the tumults at the latter end of the tenth century as the Christian millennium approached. Then as now, the doomsters identified human sinfulness as the propulsive factor in the planet's rapid downward slide. Then as now, a buoyant market throve on fear. The Roman Catholic Church sold indulgences like checks. The sinners established a line of credit against bad behavior and could go on sinning. Today a world market in "carbon credits" is in formation. Those whose "carbon footprint" is small can sell their surplus carbon credits to others less virtuous than themselves.

The modern trade is as fantastical as the medieval one. There is still zero empirical evidence that anthropogenic production of carbon dioxide is making any measurable contribution to the world's present warming trend. The greenhouse fearmongers rely on unverified, crudely oversimplified models to finger mankind's sinful contribution — and carbon trafficking, just like the old indulgences, is powered by guilt, credulity, cynicism and greed.

Alexander Cockburn, "Is Global Warming a Sin?", The Nation, 2007-05-14

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

May 09, 2007

Pluto comes clean

John Scalzi lets the cat out of the bag on how Pluto is feeling:

The funny thing about the demotion is that I never actually wanted to be a planet, you know? I was out here minding my own business and then suddenly Clyde Tombaugh is staring at me. And the next thing I know, people start calling me and telling me I'm the newest planet. And I remember saying, I don't know if I want that responsibility. And they said, well, you can't not be a planet now, Walt Disney's already named a character after you. That's really what made me a planet. Not the astronomers, but that cartoon dog. People loved that dog.

Ironically, I'm a cat person.

I'm not going to sue. Who am I going to sue? You think the International Astronomical Union has any money to speak of? There's a reason the most popular event at an astronomer's conference is the free buffet. [. . .]

One thing about something like this is you find out who your friends are. Jupiter couldn't have been nicer during the whole thing. Saturn's been a real sweetheart, too. And Neptune — well, we go way back. We're simpatico, always have been. But some others, eh. Not so nice.

No, I don't want to name names. They know who they are.

Oh, fine. Mercury. I got into the club, and Mercury was suddenly my best buddy. And I thought, well, okay — we're close to the same size, both of us have eccentric orbits, we've both got a 3:2 resonance thing going on. Similarities, you know? So we hang out, get to know each other, fine, whatever. Then the IAU vote comes down and I haven't heard from him since. Like the demotion might be catching or something. He may be right; he's not exactly a brilliant lane-sweeper himself.

Posted by Nicholas at 12:30 PM | Comments (0)

Historical context, lack of, see Time Warner

You wonder if he realizes just how accurate he's being here:

"The Googles of the world, they are the Custer of the modern world. We are the Sioux nation," Time Warner Inc. Chief Executive Richard Parsons said, referring to the Civil War American general George Custer who was defeated by Native Americans in a battle dubbed "Custer's Last Stand".

The sad thing is that enough people will have so little historical understanding that they'll take this at face value: Google/Custer killed by MSM/the Sioux nation. Of course, the Sioux were unable to capitalize on this one victory and the rest of the war went terribly for them, and their descendents still suffer the long-term consequences today. But that's perhaps reading too much into Mr. Parsons' thoughts?

Original article here. H/T to SDA.

Posted by Nicholas at 11:53 AM | Comments (0)

The Gutenberg Science Fiction Collection

Patrick Vera called my attention to the freely downlodable Gutenberg SF CD:

"The Project Gutenberg Science Fiction Bookshelf CD" is a long title for a small thematic excerpt from the wealth of public domain works of Project Gutenberg. 165 SF ebooks have been extracted in all available formats. The base for the CD is formed by the Science Fiction (Bookshelf) page of the Project Gutenberg Wiki. The page is frequently updated by volunteers so visit it once in a while for new ebooks added.

While there are many books in the collection I've never heard of, there are some definite winners:

  • Edgar Rice Burroughs' A Princess of Mars, Gods of Mars, Warlord of Mars, Thuvia, Maid of Mars, The Chessmen of Mars, plus Pellucidar and others.
  • Karel Čapek's R.U.R.
  • Lester Del Rey's Badge of Infamy, Police Your Planet, and The Sky Is Falling.
  • Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's The Lost World.
  • A. Merrit's The Metal Monster and The Moon Pool.
  • Andre Norton's Voodoo Planet and other books
  • Alan E. Nourse's Star Surgeon.
  • H. Beam Piper: everything he ever published, except the books still in copyright (this, to me justifies the whole project, frankly: Piper should have been recognized as one of the giants of the field).
  • Jules Verne: several different versions, in English and in French, of many of his works.
  • H.G. Wells: The First Men in the Moon, The Island of Doctor Moreau, The Time Machine, and The War of the Worlds
Posted by Nicholas at 11:17 AM | Comments (0)

The Food Police

Frequent comment writer, "Da Wife", has been having issues with the staff at her son's school. She asked if I'd let her rant about it . . . and I was happy to give her some space for it:

Our son is in Junior Kindergarten. Until he started school most of his food knowledge has been from us, his parents. Since he started school, when we serve certain foods, they have been increasingly accompanied by little commentaries from him such as "Cheerios are bad for you" (carbs). "Apples are good for you and make you big and strong". "Peanuts can make you die" (I guess a kid in his class is allergic). These comments are not something he would think of himself.

He has been coming home with many comments specifically about his lunch and snack contents. His lunch and snacks are balanced but do contain little treats such as Rice Crispy Squares. At home we offer good food and some treats too, and in general we do not preach about food causing death. Some gentle inquiries let us know that his teacher and the lunch helpers (from now on referred to as the Food Police) are indoctrinating our son and the other children in his class with the official Food Police views on food. Now remember that these are 4- and 5-year-olds who probably have very limited influence on what is put in their lunch. Aside from making them feel bad, how much good is the lecturing doing? Well it is doing a great job of undermining the parents' authority.

There is nothing quite as successful as undermining the influence of parents to make the children more susceptible to suggestion from other sources, such as the school system.

In February the school board conducted a month-long tally of all students’ morning snacks to see if the snacks are balanced and contain the major food groups. Yes, the official government-sanctioned Food Police were out to make sure that the children are eating properly. Yes, our tax dollars are now being spent on digging through kindergarteners’ snacks.

In March, I was unpacking my son's lunchbag and saw his sandwich was uneaten. His answer was that his teacher said it was too sweet so he did not eat it. I go to great pains to ensure that my very picky son will eat his sandwiches every day and at the same time ensure they are healthy. The sandwich in question contained 100% whole wheat bread. The margarine was non-hydrogenated 0mg cholesterol and 0mg trans fat with Omega-3. The jam was actually apple butter which — wait for it — is puréed apples and nothing else. But yes, to the eye it did appear that it was a sandwich with butter and jam. Maybe if the teacher actually spoke to me instead of making snide comments she would find out otherwise. This prompted a very angry phone call to the school office and a chat with the teacher the next day. She of course, not wishing to admit that she basically bullied a 4-year-old, said it was all in my son's head and he misunderstood. I left fuming after explaining to her the contents of his lunch and getting it across that her comments are not appreciated. The comments from the teacher seem to have lessened but I still hear that the other kids are still receiving them.

At the beginning of May, we received a "Healthy Eating Newsletter". This is from the same school that has not exactly been stellar on the province-wide standardized testing; maybe they should concentrate their energies elsewhere.

In another neighborhood school, if a child brings something the Food Police consider bad, the child has to take it to the office and trade it in for a piece of fruit. So nice of the school to take away a food that the parents spent their hard earned money on. I do wonder what happens to all these confiscated snacks. The office staff should have regular weigh-ins.

Up until about two weeks ago, we just simply attempted to deprogram our son whenever the need arose, aside from the one sandwich incident. Then came the final blow: after all the lectures, letters home about good eating, and the government-sanctioned snackbag inspections, then came the fundraiser. What do you ask was involved in the fundraiser? Selling apples for a dollar? Selling stuffed animals? Oh no: selling very large chocolate bars! Given out on behalf of the school by none other than Ms. Food Police herself, the classroom teacher!

Obviously the health of our children and our society is only important when money is not involved. The principal boasted about the good cause the money would go to. I was going to have a chat with the principal but then I remembered that he actually believes the themes of the month that involve teaching children about courage, empathy, sharing, etc. instead of the three Rs. As parents are no longer equipped to teach these themes at home, the school system has taken upon themselves the arduous task of teaching these qualities. After all, you hand in a report to your boss; he will not care if you cannot spell. As long as you do it with courage and are munching on a carrot stick.

And I used to think it was bad ten years ago, when we were getting the gears from Victor's school about "acceptable" foods . . .

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

May 08, 2007

Literary erotica

I dunno, it's not the way I'd have expected 'em to raise money, but you can't doubt that it'll be more lucrative than a sale of old books:

Vienna's City Hall has launched a "sex hotline" to raise money for the capital's main public library, officials said Tuesday.

It's unusual, but it's not particularly raunchy: Callers pay 53 U.S. cents a minute to listen to an actress read breathless passages from erotica dating to the Victorian era.

I can't imagine the same thing working in, say, Peoria, somehow.

Posted by Nicholas at 11:10 AM | Comments (4)

Political Autobiography, short form

Tim Cavanaugh saves you the effort of reading any autobiography by any politician, ever:

With the benefit of 20/20 hindsight, I can see that I was the Natural. I made a pledge, a pledge with teeth, not to carry water for the special interests. In a spirit of bipartisanship I reached across the aisle and found common ground, while building support at the grassroots and netroots levels. With straight talk, I fought as hard as I'd ever fought in my life for working families to keep our children safe.

I was a rising star with a big tent and a clear mandate. While others bogged down in cross-party sniping, I triangulated, working both ends to provide much-needed relief to our vanishing middle class. With a clear road map to real change, I put the pocketbook concerns of the voters first while saying no to the naysayers. The result was a bi-directional win.

Perhaps it was hubris to touch the third rail of American politics. I freely admit my Achilles' heel was that I ignored the elephant in the room. But I could not let a rogue actor continue to thumb his nose at the international community, while handing money hand over fist to the same old tunnel vision and short-term thinking. This is not about politics; it goes to who I am. To understand my decision, you'd have to go back to my recently discovered Jewish ancestor Madam Valdez, who arrived on the Mayflower. Those are the kind of deep roots and local values I brought to the Capitol. At a hastily called prayer breakfast, I consulted my deeply held beliefs, and mistakes were made.

After all that, you'd hardly be surprised to find him as a "goodwill ambassador" for the next 20 years, would you?

Posted by Nicholas at 10:49 AM | Comments (0)

QotD: Biological Imperatives

Being human means being evolution's bitch. And once you hit 25 or so, evolution thinks survival is a secondary concern to getting those genes back out into the pool.

Jane Galt, "Fitness Cost", Asymmetrical Information, 2007-05-01

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

May 07, 2007

Joe Canadian, redux

An older piece in Reason provided me with all the encouragement to post my favourite parody of the Molson "I am Canadian" ad:

Tabernac, mon esti!

Posted by Nicholas at 10:18 PM | Comments (0)

Star Tribune makes a blunder

Not being in — or anywhere near — the Minneapolis area, I don't actually read the print edition of the Star Tribune. This might disqualify me from being upset at the latest move on the newspaper's staff: cancelling James Lileks' Quirk column and moving him to local news reporting:

There's been some talk that I might leverage my mad web skillz into a tech beat, reporting on the Internet. But a local beat about the Internet? How many stories can do you about six guys in a loft coding a hot new start-up? And heaven forbid we have to illustrate them, because then you get the inevitable geek-by-the-screen shot. Look! He's customizing the drop-down location menu so it defaults to the United States instead of Afghanistan!

I don't want to write about the Internet. I want to write on the Internet. I'd rather develop content than report about content developers. It's that simple, and it's also a matter of recognizing my failings: I am not Biff Deadline, Ace Reporter. I can do long stories with lots of color, all aslosh with subjective opinions, but writing straight news — clearly, simply, briskly — is a skill I lack, and I take off my hat to those who've mastered that discipline.

My column will end a week from this Friday. (There's a series of pieces I can't wait to write.) After that, it's just-the-facts-ma'am — and I'll no longer be telecommuting, either. This means I will start burning my share of hydrocarbons like a good American. Hell, I may leave the vehicle running all day outside the building just to make up for lost time. Maybe I will put a green roof on the car to balance things out. Some turf, some switchgrass. It's murder on the paint but we all must do our part.

If you're in the Minneapolis area, you might have more opinionatorial weight with the pointy-haired-powers-that-be at the paper . . . you can contact them here to express an opinion.

Posted by Nicholas at 10:06 AM | Comments (2)

May 06, 2007

Ecumenical punch up narrowly avoided

A potentially bench-clearing brawl was avoided through careful diplomacy:

A soccer game bringing Muslim imams and Christian priests "shoulder to shoulder" on a field in Norway was cancelled Saturday because the teams could not agree on whether women priests should take part. [. . .]

But when the church decided to drop its female players, the priest team captain walked out in protest.

Just hours before Saturday's scheduled game, the church released a statement saying it had called it off because it was sending the wrong signal.

"We realize now that it will be wrong to have a priest team without women. . . . The reactions we have had today shows us that this is being interpreted as a gender-political issue. This is why we cannot go through with the soccer match."

Posted by Nicholas at 05:39 PM | Comments (0)

May 05, 2007

Soccer pre-season starts

Well, I'm off to pick up my team list and equipment for this summer's soccer season. I don't expect to be posting much until later today or tonight.

I'm just hoping that the luck of the draw has given me at least one goalkeeper! We can manage just about any other failing, but lack of a dedicated keeper is very tough to overcome. At times like this, I briefly envy the coaches of competitive teams, as they tend to be a bit spoiled for choice. Because I'm coaching house league, it's random chance who ends up on each team.

This is also the first time I've coached players in the upper age groups: we're a combined Under-16, Under-17, and Under-18 division this year, so I'll have players who are old enough to drive and have jobs playing for me. This may make scheduling practices a bit of a nightmare . . .

Update: Well, at least I don't have to spend half the night calling the members of the team . . . because they're adding at least one team to our division (lots of late applicants in our age group), so the team list I have now will be out of date by tomorrow. On the bright side, Victor is very happy with the team uniform. He immediately put on the jersey, once we got outside with our team equipment:

VictorTeamUniform_05May07.JPG

Posted by Nicholas at 11:46 AM | Comments (2)

May 04, 2007

Where's your Jamie Oliver now, then?

H/T to SDA, with extra trans-fat sprinkles on top. Oh, and the language is a bit NSFW.

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

Proof positive that the moon landing was a hoax!

This should provide final, conclusive proof that the moon landing was faked on a soundstage in Area 51 by Elvis — who's still alive BTW — and Bigfoot. Then, the CIA shut everybody up. With extreme prejudice. Except Elvis, of course, 'cause even the CIA can't get rid of Elvis.

Posted by Nicholas at 10:11 AM | Comments (4)

QotD: The U.S. Political System

We do have a problem with the political system. It's been increasingly rigged to favor extremists on both ends. So they're overrepresented and the center is underrepresented. They're not all extremists, but it is clear that the average Republican member of Congress is to the right of the average Republican partisan, who is to the right of the average American. You have the same leaning in the opposite direction in the Democratic Party. Reflect on the fact that until fairly recently, the House Majority Leader was Tom Delay (R-Texas) and the House Minority Leader was Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.). Just think about how much of the country that leaves out.

That is not a coincidence. The system has been rigged by partisan activists to their advantage. They participate in primaries. General elections don't matter because they've gerrymandered the congressional districts. They have the advantages of energy and being single-minded and they use these wedge issues which they're very good at and which both sides conspire in using in order to marginalize the middle. The result of that is the turnout among moderates and independents is down; turnout on the extremes is up. The parties are increasingly sorted by ideology so that all the liberals are in one party and all the conservatives are in another. That is a new development in American history.

The result of that is you have two quite extreme and narrow political parties talking, for the most part, over the heads of the center. That's greatly exaggerated because obviously the center remains important. We found that out in 2006. The center also gets much more important when you have divided government, which is one reason I'm so keen on divided government. It's the best way, maybe the only way, to force policymakers to notice the middle. You have to pit them against each other.

Jonathan Rauch, interviewed by Nick Gillespie in "The Radical Incrementalist", Reason, 2007-04-20

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

May 03, 2007

Neoprohibitionists

Perry de Havilland takes a strong position against nanny state would-be meddling by a group called Alcohol Concern:

    

Parents who give alcohol to children under the age of 15 — even with a meal at home — should face prosecution, a charity says today. Parents who let children drink should face prosecution, says Alcohol Concern. [...] A charity spokesman said: "It is legal to provide children as young as five with alcohol in a private home. Raising the age limit to 15 would send a stronger message to parents of the risks associated with letting very young people consume alcohol." It is illegal to buy a drink in a pub under 18, but a 16- or 17-year-old can drink wine or beer if having a meal with parents.

    

You know what I would like to see? Whenever someone threatens me with force if I do not modify my social behaviour more to their liking in my own damn home, I would like them get arrested and thrown in jail. And I would like to see them beaten with truncheons if they do not comply with the cops just like they want for others who do not comply with their wishes. Such people are addicted to using force to impose their will on others and so why not "send a stronger message" that threatening people via the political system is really no different to threatening them with violence via some other institution, like the Mafia, for example.

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

QotD: Holocaust Denial and Free Speech

With regard to the holocaust, I have — broadly speaking — two options. I can believe that it did happen roughly as claimed. Or I can believe that it is a gigantic conspiracy of lies maintained since the 1940s in the face of all evidence. Since debate remains free in the English-speaking world, it should be obvious what I am to believe. I believe in the central fact of the holocaust. On the secondary issues mentioned above, where my authorities do not agree, I suspend judgment.

Take away the freedom to argue with or against these authorities, though, and my assurance that they are right must be weakened.

Sean Gabb, "Defending the Right to Deny the Holocaust" Free Life Commentary, 2007-04-24

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

Back online again

Well, it took a while, but Jon just let me know that our bandwidth problems are (at least for the next couple of weeks) resolved. This has been the longest outage since I started blogging, and I set up a backup blog at http://quotulatiousness.blogspot.com/, which a few of you may have found while the main site was down.

I'll copy the "missing" posts over from the backup site when time allows.

Posted by Nicholas at 10:59 AM | Comments (0)


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