It's becoming a bit of a pain to cross-post everything between this site and the new one, so I'm moving all new postings over there (barring unforeseen issues). This site will remain for the archives, but new postings will only appear at
Along with the nice administrative features at the new site (very important to me), I've been able to add what promises to be a relatively transparent spam-blocking system to the comments.
Update: After mentioning to Jon (my virtual landlord) that I'd be moving over to the new blog today, he sent me this heartfelt missive:
Movable Type and I are going out drinking tonight, to try to lessen the pain of you leaving us.
Remember what we used to have? Do you remember it? Do you even think about it, while you're with your hot new (and most likely underage) WordPress? Don't you remember those all-night sessions of CSS twiddling and topic importing? Good times, good times. We had something, then. And it could have been like that again, but no.
But. No. You've moved on to someone new. Seduced by a pretty face and (I have to admit) fantastic <strike>legs</strike> GUI, and MT and I are left behind, tossed aside like a used tech writing temp.
If you hear a mournful duet of Alone Again, Naturally wafting through the air this evening, you'll know that MT and I are out there. Somewhere. Without you.
I wasn't really a TV news-watcher during his heyday (actually, it was a habit I've pretty much avoided all my life), but Jesse Walker sums up my feelings nicely here:
It [Cronkite running for president] was a joke, of course. But it was a wistful what-if of a joke, and it resonated. Time soon ran letters hailing the idea. "He knows more about national and international problems than any other two candidates put together," declared one reader, "and, as a duty, I think he would accept the miserable job." Four years later, the newsman was still fending off suggestions that he run for the office and "make a difference." Can you imagine anyone spouting such a fantasy about any of our anchors today? Maybe Stewart or Colbert, but not someone who delivers the news with a straight face.
And that's good. Cronkite's influence was a product of the three-network era, a time we should be happy to have put behind us. I'm sorry to see the man die, but I'm glad no one was able to fill his shoes.
Jon, my virtual landlord, has had a love-hate relationship with eBay for a while. This morning, the "love" phase seemed short and under-used:
Bought a magazine yesterday. Four bucks. Seemed like a good deal. Auction notes that out-of-USA losers should ask for an invoice to get their shipping rate. Thinking that shipping would be, oh, I don't know, another four bucks or so, I figured what the hell, and use the Get Reamed Up The Ass Now button to buy the thing.
Thinking that this was, perhaps, a one-time thing — just a spot of bad luck — I looked around today for another book that I would like to have. Found the book. Brand-new reprint of a rather old book for twenty bucks. Again, a decent deal. Shipping to Canada? Twenty. Two. Dollars. So, no book for me.
No wonder there's a recession, the dumb wankers.
Speaking of wankers: I took at look at the new Schwarz plane book and thought "what the hell." So I started the online ordering process. Shipping to Canada for the book and a set of DVDs (on a topic that shall remain nameless)? Thirty. Two. Dollars. Cap-and-trade this, wood-boy. I did not proceed with the order.
What the hell is wrong with these people?
I've found some eBay sellers like this: they seem to feel that the extra labour of filling in a customs sticker requires them to make a profit of 2-3 times the actual cost of shipping. After getting burned that way once, I've always been careful to check shipping costs before bidding.
When I requested Jon's permission to use his email on the blog, he replied with this:
I guess so. What I sent is not nearly as memorable as the first draft, though. I originally had something in there about how, after Obama nationalizes their health care, I hope the eBayers all get scrofula and schistosomiasis and itch for the rest of their lives; but then I looked up scrofula and schistosomiasis to confirm the spelling and decided that wishing those on anyone, no matter how much they distend my rectum with their take-it-up-the-ass shipping rates (Rectum?! Damn near killed him!), was just a bit over the top.
Lore Sjoberg provides you with an easy checklist to discover how bad your addiction may be:
If the ancient Egyptians had the internet, there would have been 11 plagues in Exodus, with “unreliable DSL” tucked in between the frogs and the lice.
It’s a pain when your DSL goes down, but the bright side is that it gives you a chance to rate yourself on the Internet Dependency Scale. Just compare your actions to those listed below and you’ll know what sort of pathetic digital symbiont you really are.
Stage 1 Internet Dependency
Immediate reaction: Check the wires, see if you can steal a neighbor’s Wi-Fi, then get up and do something else.
What you do while waiting for the connection to come back: Read a book, watch a movie, go for a walk. Is this a trick question?
If it doesn’t come back in an hour: Call your service provider, then go back to whatever you were doing.
Trust The Register to be on top of shocking stories like the "tattooed Swedish devil girls who jumped a cyclist":
Well, by an amazing coincidence, El Reg had its roving snapper on the streets of Örebro on 8 July, and although he was able to capture the action, his images were subsequently lost - for reasons which will become evident.
We did, however, get in touch with the Great Satan of Mountain View which, by an even more astounding coincidence, happened to have an Orwellian black Opel prowling the leafy suburbs of the Swedish town on that very day.
Google eventually agreed to provide its original uncensored Street View images of the assault, which we have forwarded to the appropriate authorities in the hope the merciless vixen attack pack might be brought to justice.
With bonus linkage to yesterday's photography story.
To mark Dominion Day (as you’d expect a squaresville loser like me to call it), the New York Times asked 11 Canadian expatriates to write on “what they most miss about home.” The cutting-edge funnyman Rick Moranis riffed on toques and beavers and the lyrics of God Save the Queen, raising the suspicion he’d simply recycled his beloved Dominion Day column of 1954 — which is not just environmentally responsible but very shrewd given New York Times rates for freelance contributors.
But thereafter the expats got with the program. The musician Melissa Auf der Maur, after years in the “American melting pot,” pined for “the Canadian mosaic.” But the great thing about the Canadian mosaic is that it engages in “a national conversation about literature like a big book club,” so the bookseller Sarah McNally said she missed “the pride and simplicity of a national literature, which probably wouldn’t exist without government support. We even have a name, CanLit, that people use without fearing they’ll sound like nerds.”
Multiculturalism, government books, using phrases like “Canadian mosaic” with a straight face, hailing the ability to say “CanLit” with a straight face as a virtue in and of itself . . .
[. . .]
Canada has done everything David Rakoff, Sarah McNally and Melissa Auf der Maur want—not least in their own fields. It taxes convenience-store clerks to subsidize books and writing and publishing and that wonderful “national conversation about literature like a big book club” in which everyone’s membership dues are automatically deducted from your bank account whether you go to the meetings or not. And still Mr. Rakoff and Ms. McNally and Ms. Auf der Maur leave. They applaud the creation of a “just” and “equitable” society, and then, like almost all the members of the Order of Canada you’ve actually heard of, they move out. Despite commending the virtues of a social “safety net” for you and everyone else, they personally can only fulfill their potential somewhere else, without one. Usually in a country beginning with “Great” and ending in “Satan.”
Benjamin Franklin is often quoted as having said "Those who would give up Essential Liberty to purchase a little Temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety". Here's a modern rephrasing, "The more you cede your own well-being to an 800-pound gorilla, the more that 800-pound gorilla is going to act like a thin-skinned asshole.".
In spite of the absurdity, it's now apparently against the law to take photographs if you're too tall:
According to his blog, our over-tall photographer Alex Turner was taking snaps in Chatham High St last Thursday, when he was approached by two unidentified men. They did not identify themselves, but demanded that he show them some ID and warned that if he failed to comply, they would summon police officers to deal with him.
This they did, and a PCSO and WPC quickly joined the fray. Turner took a photo of the pair, and was promptly arrested. It is unclear from his own account precisely what he was being arrested for. However, he does record that the WPC stated she had felt threatened by him when he took her picture, referring to his size — 5' 11" and about 12 stone — and implying that she found it intimidating.
Turner claims he was handcuffed, held in a police van for around 20 minutes, and forced to provide ID before they would release him. He was then searched in public by plain clothes officers who failed to provide any ID before they did so.
An Iranian artist has been sentenced to a five year prison term for setting the Koran to music. I would express outrage and alarm but I am writing from Canada and am in no position to point fingers. In Canada, we call our sharia courts "human rights commissions".
Nick Packwood, "Provoking the faithful", Ghost of a Flea, 2009-07-14
United Airlines has a public image problem, and they've made it worse by their less-than-scintillating performance in response to the Sons of Maxwell video "United Breaks Guitars":
Besides being genuinely funny, it's a great example of viral revenge, the flip side of viral marketing. The video accompanies a song by the band Sons of Maxwell that describes how United Air Lines' baggage handlers carelessly treated band members' checked instruments. A valuable guitar belonging to band leader Dave Carroll was broken. For over a year, United repeatedly declined his requests for compensation.
That's when the band turned to social media for revenge, posting its complaint on YouTube. United Breaks Guitars has a catchy tune, clever lyrics and memorable images. The video has gone viral and broken the band out of relative anonymity. After only three days, it had almost 1.5 million views and 10,000 comments, virtually all siding with the band. The story was picked up by CNN, NPR and CBS.
Faced with this social media juggernaut, United dropped the ball. It issued a single tweet stating, "This has struck a chord w/us and we've contacted him directly to make it right." So far, the company hasn't posted a response on YouTube or its own Web site. Dave Carroll knows how to take full advantage of the power of social media. United doesn't, and the cost is a PR nightmare.
Viral marketing was one of the innovations that corporations were initially well-positioned to take advantage of: they had the technology, the connections, and the money to push something into the public consciousness, yet leave a question in the public mind. Now that the tools are available to literally everyone with an internet connection, the corporate advantage has vaporized . . . in fact, the advantage is now clearly with the individuals or small groups, who don't need corporate approval to go ahead with their plans. A corporation, like United Airlines, is unable to move fast enough to keep up with guerilla marketing as conducted by people like the Sons of Maxwell.
Viral revenge is powerful. If your own organization faces a PR nightmare in social media, don't fall prey to a "Least said, soonest mended" mind-set. Not when profits are down and competition is high. Respond quickly and effectively, or be prepared to face the music. Over 3 million times, and counting.
For the sniper who has everything, a rifle-mounted cupholder:
The spare-time chainsaw-style mount (last slide) looks very much like a weapon from Doom or Quake . . .
This should be a doddle for USians, but not so easy for those of us who always confuse those square-ish states in flyover country: Know Your States.
I managed 90%, but I dropped New Jersey accidentally, which certainly messed up my accuracy.
H/T to "JtMc" for the link.
On July 20th, it will have been 40 years since many of us clustered around our tiny black-and-white televisions, watching the first moon landing (or for those of you of conspiracist leanings, a really convincing sound stage in Area 51). Why, after all this time, haven't we gone further? Why, for that matter, have we not been back to the moon for over a generation? Ronald Bailey explains the real reason:
The Apollo moon landings have often been compared to the explorations of Christopher Columbus and the Lewis and Clark expedition to Oregon. For example, on the 20th anniversary of the first moon landing, President George H.W. Bush declared, "From the voyages of Columbus to the Oregon Trail to the journey to the Moon itself: history proves that we have never lost by pressing the limits of our frontiers."
But what boosters of the moon expeditions overlook is that the motive for pressing the limits of our frontiers in those cases was chiefly profit. In his report from his first voyage, Columbus predicted that his explorations would result in "vast commerce and great profit." The extension of commerce was also the chief justification that President Thomas Jefferson gave in his secret message to Congress requesting $2,500 to fund what would become the Lewis and Clark expedition.
Forty years later, as we bask in the waning prestige that the Apollo missions earned our country, we must keep in mind that humanity will some day colonize the moon and other parts of the solar system, but only when it becomes profitable to do so.
Back in 1969, my friend Alan Fairfield and I sat in fascination (at least in the golden memory, they do . . . we were nine: I doubt that we paid as much attention to the broadcast as his mother thought we should). Mrs. Fairfield told us that we'd be able to go to the moon ourselves by the time we were grown up. It didn't turn out that way, and at the current rate of progress, it may not turn out that way for my grandkids.
But I still hope, one day . . .
[Alan Oak]: In a correspondence with feminist scholar Sylvia Kelso, published in Women of Other Worlds (1999), you wrote:
“Where has anyone experienced a matriarchy for test comparison?” you may ask. In fact, most of us have, as children. When the scale of our whole world was one long block long, it was a world dominated and controlled by women. Who were twice our size, drove cars, had money, could hit us if they wanted to and we couldn’t ever hit them back. Hence, at bottom, my deep, deep suspicion of feminism, matriarchy, etc. Does this mean putting my mother in charge of the world, and me demoted to a child again? No thanks, I’ll pass . . .
This leads me to another thought [. . .] Women do desperately need models for power other than the maternal. Nothing is more likely to set any subordinate’s back up, whether they be male or female, than for their boss to come the “mother knows best” routine at them. We need a third place to stand. I’m just not clear how it became my job to supply it.
Lois McMaster Bujold, interviewed by Alan Oak at WomenWriters.net, 2009-06
Stepping out of the Matrix back-story and moving to replace the human soldier, the EATR:
A Maryland company under contract to the Pentagon is working on a steam-powered robot that would fuel itself by gobbling up whatever organic material it can find — grass, wood, old furniture, even dead bodies.
Robotic Technology Inc.'s Energetically Autonomous Tactical Robot — that's right, "EATR" — "can find, ingest, and extract energy from biomass in the environment (and other organically-based energy sources), as well as use conventional and alternative fuels (such as gasoline, heavy fuel, kerosene, diesel, propane, coal, cooking oil, and solar) when suitable," reads the company's Web site.
That "biomass" and "other organically-based energy sources" wouldn't necessarily be limited to plant material — animal and human corpses contain plenty of energy, and they'd be plentiful in a war zone.
Just a tad creepy . . .
H/T to Alex Haropulos for the link.
Rather a bold claim, but Aidan Malley makes some good points:
Analyst Craig Moffett of Bernstein Research likens the relationship between Apple and AT&T as that between the former and music labels dating as far back as 2001, when Apple first had to ingratiate itself with labels as it incorporated music CD ripping into iTunes. Apple at first won important concessions and praise from its partners, only for them to regret it later as the iPod maker's popularity left these companies at the supposedly smaller company's mercy.
[. . .]
The attack is such that Apple has all but taken control of the partnership, according to the analyst. Now, the Cupertino company has "radically tilted" the normal balance of power against AT&T and cellular networks as a whole. If Apple preferred another carrier, many iPhone owners would switch to preserve the experience they already have; an incentive that forces carriers to keep the handset maker happy. At times, though, it also has the caustic effect of suggesting an conspiracy at the carrier to limit useful services, such as voice over IP calls, when cost or technical reasons are the real motivators.
And while the US government may be close to investigating exclusivity deals as possibly anti-competitive, Moffett argues that Apple's presence in the marketplace has actually helped competition by forcing companies to keep reasonable service rates and let apps dictate business rather than network services. Government intervention could paradoxically hurt the industry by telling providers how much they could discount a phone and hardware developers which networks they would have to support.
I'd have to say he's absolutely correct with the point on user loyalty . . . if Rogers stopped supporting the iPhone, I'd be moving my business to whoever took it over from Rogers. I'm certain that this is true of the vast majority of iPhone users. I was Bell customer for a long time, but the iPhone was enough inducement for me to switch cell phone companies.
That's a pretty big club for Apple to use to get its own way in any negotiations with cell phone companies.
Just a few links to provide you with click-therapy:
While I enjoyed my visit and tour of Monticello, back in 2006, I didn't get the full story. Wired tries to rectify that problem:
Thomas Jefferson loved new technology and modding his surroundings to his lifestyle. From food to comfort to efficiency, he was always looking for ways to improve his living space with inventions and hacks. If he were alive today, we like to think he’d be reading Wired.
Jefferson thought of his house, Monticello, as a machine for living. As such, it contains many insights into how a DIY gear-nut of today might have fared in the 18th Century.
“I would argue we are trying to debunk the madman-genius, nutty-professor image of Thomas Jefferson,” said Monticello curator Elizabeth Chew. “He is someone who was trying to adapt the latest technology in every realm of existence: science, how the house functions, in the garden. He is trying to put into use new ideas.”
Ronald Bailey looks at the too-good-to-be-true claims made for caloric reduction as a life-extending tool:
Last week, two research teams reported to great fanfare that restricting the calories consumed by rhesus monkeys had extended their lifespans. Calorie restriction is thought to increase longevity by boosting DNA repair. The idea is that the mechanism evolved so that creatures on the verge of starvarion could live long enough to reproduce when food becomes plentiful again. But did the experiments really show the CR works?
In my earlier blogpost on the research results, I noted that some experts quoted in the New York Times were not convinced. Why? Because the difference in actual death rates between the dieting monkeys and the free feeding monkeys was not statistically significant.
This doesn't necessarily derail the notion that calorie restriction may be associated with increased lifespan, but the way this study was performed does not appear to prove anything due to rigging of the data.
Craig Zeni sent along this useful link, which allows you to check the results of a search sent to both Bing and Google (so far, in my tests, Google is the hands-down winner): http://www.bing-vs-google.com/.
With all the unending uproar about how Grand Gears of BioDoomShockWar encourages violence and anti-social behaviour among boys, games for girls have been travelling under the radar. No longer:
Ridiculous Life Lessons From New Girl Games
Some parents worry that videogames might cause their children to become violent and antisocial, but what if the opposite were true? What if games could make kids exceedingly likable and fashionable?
A wave of new games for tween girls seeks to do just that, serving up innocuous gameplay designed to let players become perfect little princesses. Aimed at that lucrative, Hannah Montana-fueled intersection of childhood and adolescence, these games might give 8- to 12-year-olds their first experiences with fashion, make-up, popularity . . . even boys.
The weird thing is that you can view these "wholesome" games as being just as bad for girls as Grand Theft Auto’s random bloodshed and rampant criminality is for young, impressionable boys. And while GTA's influence on boys has been dissected to death, what about the Nintendo DS’ upcoming avalanche of games for tween girls? What kinds of values do preteens learn from these titles? Valuable life lessons, or bad habits?
Just for the record, I think kids are far more resilient than either class of critic can imagine. Playing a violent video game does not, in my experience, turn youngsters into nihilistic killers, nor would I expect girls to turn into proto-Stepford Wives after playing one of these "girly" games. Kids who have pre-existing problems may find more than just entertainment value in games, but (as with so many other "problems"), depriving everyone of the opportunity just to keep some people away from it isn't the answer . . . nor — if our collective long experiences with prohibiting drugs, sex, alcohol, and risky behaviour of all kinds — will it be any more successful.
Rick Newcombe provides an insight into why Los Angeles is suffering from a killer combination of rising unemployment and tax rates that no longer meet expenses:
[. . .] 15 years ago we had a dispute with the city over our business tax classification. The city argued that we should be in an "occupations and professions" classification that has an extremely high tax rate, while we fought for a "wholesale and retail" classification with a much lower rate. The city forced us to invest a small fortune in legal fees over two years, but we felt it was worth it in order to establish the correct classification once and for all.
After enduring a series of bureaucratic hearings, we anxiously awaited a ruling to find out what our tax rate would be. Everything was at stake. We had already decided that if we lost, we would move.
You can imagine how relieved we were on July 1, 1994, when the ruling was issued. We won, and firmly planted our roots in the City of Angels and proceeded to build our business.
Everything was fine until the city started running out of money in 2007. Suddenly, the city announced that it was going to ignore its own ruling and reclassify us in the higher tax category. Even more incredible is the fact that the new classification was to be imposed retroactively to 2004 with interest and penalties. No explanation was given for the new classification, or for the city's decision to ignore its 1994 ruling.
Their official position is that the city is not bound by past rulings — only taxpayers are. This is why we have been forced to file a lawsuit. We will let the courts decide whether it is legal for adverse rulings to apply only to taxpayers and not to the city.
The rule of law requires that both parties are equally subject to the outcome of a trial, win or lose. The city clearly feels that it's above that.
Victor sent me this link with the comment "Thought you might find this interesting... Worrisome, even." He was right, I do find it quite disturbing:
As part of a revision to defamation legislation, the Dail (Irish Parliament) passed legislation creating a new crime of blasphemy. Update: The bill went to the Seanad on Friday, July 10, passing by a single vote. This attack on free speech, debated for several months in Europe, has gone largely unnoticed in the American press.
[. . .] How does this impact free speech? Just don’t be rude.
- Atheists can be prosecuted for saying that God is imaginary. That causes outrage.
- Pagans can be prosecuted for saying they left Christianity because God is violent and bloodthirsty, promotes genocide, and permits slavery.
- Christians can be prosecuted for saying that Allah is a moon god, or for drawing a picture of Mohammed, or for saying that Islam is a violent religion which breeds terrorists.
- Jews can be prosecuted for saying Jesus isn’t the Messiah.
At risk of being too flippant, it's really just a codification of the kind of thought pattern exemplified by Canada's various "Human Rights" commissions, focusing on religion, rather than other forms of free thought and free expression.
The actual text of the new legislation goes a long way to convert the police into uniformed Revolutionary Guards:
36. Publication or utterance of blasphemous matter.
(1) A person who publishes or utters blasphemous matter shall be guilty of an offence and shall be liable upon conviction on indictment to a fine not exceeding €100,000. [Amended to €25,000]
2) For the purposes of this section, a person publishes or utters blasphemous matter if (a) he or she publishes or utters matter that is grossly abusive or insulting in relation to matters held sacred by any religion, thereby causing outrage among a substantial number of the adherents of that religion, and (b) he or she intends, by the publication or utterance of the matter concerned, to cause such outrage.
(3) It shall be a defence to proceedings for an offence under this section for the defendant to prove that a reasonable person would find genuine literary, artistic, political, scientific, or academic value in the matter to which the offence relates.
37. Seizure of copies of blasphemous statements.
(1) Where a person is convicted of an offence under section 36, the court may issue a warrant (a) authorising any member of the Garda Siochana to enter (if necessary by the use of reasonable force) at all reasonable times any premises (including a dwelling) at which he or she has reasonable grounds for believing that copies of the statement to which the offence related are to be found, and to search those premises and seize and remove all copies of the statement found therein, (b) directing the seizure and removal by any member of the Garda Siochana of all copies of the statement to which the offence related that are in the possession of any person, © specifying the manner in which copies so seized and removed shall be detained and stored by the Garda Siochana.
(2) A member of the Garda Siochana may (a) enter and search any premises, (b) seize, remove and detain any copy of a statement to which an offence under section 36 relates found therein or in the possession of any person, in accordance with a warrant under subsection (1).
(3) Upon final judgment being given in proceedings for an offence under section 36, anything seized and removed under subsection (2) shall be disposed of in accordance with such directions as the court may give upon an application by a member of the Garda Siochana in that behalf.
What's the Gaelic for "Death to the infidel"? Expect to hear a lot of it in the future.
He may be less familiar now, but most of us have heard of his most popular work: Parkinson's Law:
The book expanded on an article of his first published in The Economist in November 1955. Illustrated by Britain's then leading cartoonist, Osbert Lancaster, the book was an instant hit. It was wrapped around the author's "law" that "work expands to fill the time available for its completion". Thus, Parkinson wrote, "an elderly lady of leisure can spend the entire day in writing and dispatching a postcard to her niece at Bognor Regis . . . the total effort that would occupy a busy man for three minutes all told may in this fashion leave another person prostrate after a day of doubt, anxiety and toil."
Parkinson's barbs were directed first and foremost at government institutions — he cited the example of the British navy where the number of admiralty officials increased by 78% between 1914 and 1928, a time when the number of ships fell by 67% and the number of officers and men by 31%. But they applied almost equally well to private industry, which was at the time bloated after decades spent adding layers and layers of managerial bureaucracy.
Hard to come up with a better title than this one:
Once an empire, Britain faces big military cuts:
Afghanistan operations in the future could be affected.
[. . .] at a time of overwhelming public support for its service men and women, the global recession is causing Britain to face hard choices about its future military role in the world — putting at risk plans to build new aircraft carriers and heralding consequences for everything from operations alongside the US in Afghanistan to whether the UK remains nuclear-armed.
The start of the first full-scale official review of Britain's defense forces in more than 10 years was announced on Tuesday. It came within days of three of Britain's most influential independent research institutes forecasting that the £34 billion (about $54 billion) defense budget will be seriously cut.
The question of whether to support a £76 billion ($124 billion) program to replace Britain's aging Trident nuclear weapons system also looms large.
The Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR), warned that the UK cannot afford much of the defense equipment it plans to buy, questioned the value of renewing the submarine-launched Trident nuclear deterrent, and said it was "delusional" to think the UK could act alone without closer European defense cooperation.
Actually, the "delusion" is that there is any will in Western Europe for any kind of military action, under any circumstances.
An interesting article in the Ottawa Citizen about a recently discovered wreck near Kingston, which may be the remains of HMS Wolfe:
A team of divers is set to plunge into Lake Ontario near Kingston, Ont., next week in a bid to confirm the discovery of a legendary Canadian-built ship from the War of 1812, the HMS Wolfe.
In collaboration with marine archeologists from Parks Canada, the divers plan to take detailed measurements, drawings and photographs of a sunken wooden sailing vessel that appears to match the size and last known location of the famous 32-metre sloop: the flagship of British naval commander James Yeo and star of a dramatic 1813 battle west of Toronto that helped thwart the U.S. invasion of Canada.
The suspected discovery comes just three years before the 200th anniversary of the war, adding urgency to the efforts to identify a possible new showcase relic for bi-national commemoration activities.
Clive sent me this update from The Register:
The Metropolitan Police has issued guidance to its officers to remind them that using a camera in public is not in itself a terrorist offence.
There has been increasing concern in recent months that police have been over-using terrorism laws and public order legislation to harass professional and amateur photographers. The issue was raised in Parliament and the Home Office agreed to look at the rules.
The guidance reminds officers that the public do not need a licence to take photographs in the street and the police have no power to stop people taking pictures of anything they like, including police officers.
The over-used Terrorism Act of 2000 does not ban photography either, although it does allow police to look at images on phones or cameras during a search to see if they could be useful to a terrorist.
This is a belated follow-up to incidents like this one (oh, and this one, too). It's refreshing to see that at least one government recognizes that recent police enforcement of a non-existant law must be curtailed. It's also sad that this sort of thing is still so rare as to be noteworthy.
Oh, and Canadians shouldn't try to be smug about this . . . we have over-enthusiastic police enforcement of mythical laws as well.
Unlike some (like my virtual landlord), I've not been all that impressed by Sarah Palin as a potential presidential candidate. Maybe I'm missing the blindingly obvious:
"This unusual move might be the right move for her to become president of the United States," insisted William Kristol, editor of The Weekly Standard. Columnist Jonah Goldberg assured the governor that no matter what, "You are the 'It Girl' of the GOP." National Review editor Jay Nordlinger confessed, "I am an admirer and defender of Palin's. Oh, what the heck: I love the woman."
Why on earth are they infatuated with her? Palin has hardly helped to revive the conservative cause. For all her alleged star power, she did nothing to improve the GOP ticket's fortunes on Election Day. She showed no gift for articulating conservative themes, beyond ridiculing liberals as overeducated, big-city elitists — a description that applies equally well to most conservative commentators.
[. . .]
But it's really not hard to see why Palin inspires such devotion. And I do mean "see." She has one obvious thing going for her that Miers didn't: She's a babe, and she doesn't try to hide it.
Update: Bonus quote from Katherine Mangu-Ward in the Los Angeles Times:
When Sarah Palin complains that people are spreading lies about her — shocking untruths that cast aspersions on her intelligence, integrity and fecundity — she is right, but it's like a stripper complaining about catcalls. There's a reason lifelong politicians are often self-important blowhards (cf. Joe Biden) — a Kevlar ego is an asset come election season. This is how we choose our candidates: It's the folks who remain standing after everyone digs dirt, turns it into mud and slings it.
If Palin is resigning now because she's trying to get ahead of a scandal, then the system — as painful as it may be for those inside it — worked. The useful, brutal mechanism of bitter partisanship ferreted out another corrupt or inept pol, discovering failings that would have remained hidden in a gentler, kinder world.
Update, the second: Jon (my virtual landlord) offers this as a commentary.
Update, the third: Over lunch, Jon suggested that it would be amusing to see someone mash the famous bunker scene from Downfall with the resignation of Sarah Palin as Alaska governor. Of course, this scene is getting over-used:
USA Today is reporting an odd discrepancy in the distribution of stimulus spending:
Counties that supported Obama last year have reaped twice as much money per person from the administration's $787 billion economic stimulus package as those that voted for his Republican rival, Sen. John McCain, a USA TODAY analysis of government disclosure and accounting records shows. That money includes aid to repair military bases, improve public housing and help students pay for college.
The reports show the 872 counties that supported Obama received about $69 per person, on average. The 2,234 that supported McCain received about $34.
Investigators who track the stimulus are skeptical that political considerations could be at work. The imbalance is so pronounced — and the aid so far from complete — that it would be almost inconceivable for it to be the result of political tinkering, says Adam Hughes, the director of federal fiscal policy for the non-profit OMB Watch. "Even if they wanted to, I don't think the administration has enough people in place yet to actually do that," he says.
Although the pattern certainly implies intent, I think the view of OMB Watch is probably correct: the current administration hasn't yet developed the kind of competence that this sort of huge scam would require . . .
Even with the vast sums of money being spent, it'll take some time for the differences to show up in actual infrastructure.
Give it long enough, and it may start to resemble rural Nova Scotia in the 1970s, where you could accurately predict whether the local MPP was government or opposition by the state of the roads. I mean, literally the high quality tarmac, signage, and other amenities would stop dead at riding boundaries, then resume when you crossed over into the next riding. My local guides were eager to point this out to me as we travelled through the province.
Michael Pinkus has some brief items in this week's Ontario Wine Review that are worth passing along:
Hooray for Hudak . . . Niagara West-Glanbrook member of Provincial Parliament, Tim Hudak, took over the reigns of the Progressive Conservative party in late June. What does this mean for Ontario wine lovers? Well as with all things political time will tell, but Tim is a member of the Facebrook group Boycott Cellared in Canada Wine — could we see real change if he takes office . . . something to think about in 2011 when you cast your ballot.
And They Call it Democracy . . . The Cellared in Canada debate is heating up. It started as just a rumble but now it seems that everyone is getting into the act and putting their two cents worth in. Now it’s time for every Tom, Dick and Harry; Molly, Johnny and Billy to lend their voice to the fray . . . and trust me you want in on this topic. Environmental Defense Canada has started a website where you can sign the petition to “Put the ‘O’ Back in LCBO” — read it and put your name down, if we stir the pot enough we might just make some good broth. This is one case where too many cooks in the kitchen spoiling the concocted soup would be a good thing.
The Call to Go Local, Now it’s Wines Turn . . . You can’t turn around and sneeze these days without someone throwing the word “local” at you. “Go local”. “Buy Local”. “100-mile diet”. “Eat what’s in your own backyard”. It’s out there and they’re the buzz words of the 2009 (and for the future). Now it’s time for the restaurants to look at their wine lists and do the same thing says Adam Pesce of Taste T.O. in his article “Where’s the Local Wine? ” A very good question indeed Adam. It’s time to step it up Toronto, wine country is an hour to an hour-and-a-half away (depending on traffic on the QEW), how much more local does it get?
Some wag once remarked that she judged a book or movie by 1) whether it had more than one female character of note who, 2) talked to each other, 3) about something other than men. It’s amazing how few works pass all three of those tests.
Lois McMaster Bujold, interviewed by Alan Oak at WomenWriters.net, 2009-06
In his new book Mr Collins examines 11 of the 60 “great companies” studied in his two earlier books that have since deteriorated to “mediocrity or worse”. Mr Collins says that when he charted the factors that led these firms to greatness, he had never claimed that they were certain to remain great. By comparing each one, where possible, with similar firms that had fared better, Mr Collins identifies five stages in the process of decline. Stage one is hubris born of success (possibly brought on by reading the case study of the firm in one of Mr Collins’s earlier books). Firms start to attribute their success to their own superior qualities. They become dogmatic about their specific practices and fail to question their relevance when conditions change.
Stage two is the undisciplined pursuit of more: firms overreach, moving into industries or growing to a scale where the factors behind their original success no longer apply. Stage three is denial of risk and peril. Warning signs mount, but the firm’s headline performance remains strong enough for bosses to convince themselves that all remains fine. Problems are invariably blamed on external causes.
In stage four the problems are clear enough that firms start grasping for salvation. Rather than returning to the fundamentals that made them great (which Mr Collins regards as the most promising route back to greatness), they gamble on a new, charismatic saviour-boss, dramatically change strategy, make a supposedly transformational acquisition or fire some other supposedly silver bullet. The longer a company remains in stage four, the more likely it will spiral downward into stage five: irrelevance or death. However, inspired (at times, perhaps too much) by the Churchillian belief in never giving up, Mr Collins points out that many still-great firms have bounced back even after getting to stage four, including IBM, Nucor and Nordstrom.
In a bid to win this year's police officer of the year award, a New Mexico police chief tases a 14-year-old girl for running away from her mother:
It all started when the 14 year old got in a fight with her mother. Her mom drove her to the police station looking for help.
When they got there the girl took off running and the police chief later found her in a nearby park.
When he approached the girl the chief says she took off running again. He says he told her to stop, but when she didn't, he hit her with the Taser.
H/T to Radley Balko, who wrote:
The kid hadn’t committed any crime. The chief told a local news station, “he does not regret his actions. He adds he warned her several times and had no other choice when she did not listen to him.” So you shoot electrically-charged barbs into her head? God help this guy’s kids.
Ronald Bailey looks at some interesting ideas on possible similiarities between the D.C. Metro train collision in June and the recent Airbus crashes . . . lead-free solder:
Over at DC Metblogs, contributor TONIGM speculates about a possible source for the problem - tin whiskers. As he explains:
When people first started building electric circuits, they used tin metal to solder the interconnections between the copper bits. It wasn’t long before they noticed the tin would get “furry”, growing spiky whiskers as the part was used. These spikes could grow long enough to short out the circuits, and then were so weak that they would break off right after doing so. A smart metallurgist figured out that adding a small amount of lead to the tin alloy stopped this behavior.
[. . .]
So yesterday, I dropped a note to one of my expert friends, who agreed with me that the circuitry in the Metro replacement part, more likely than not, contained lead-free solder. And then, he pointed out the likelihood that the latest Airbus crashes had lead-free solder components in their flight controls.
Could the Metro crash have been causeed by yet another unintended consequence of zealous regulation? We'll see what the investigators determine.
That's a disturbing thought, as we've grown more and more dependent on (relatively speaking) flawless performance of our electronic gadgets . . . and the worst problems to try and diagnose are intermittant ones — where a temporary glitch only shows up now and again, not in a predictable pattern.
It's sometimes breathtaking when common sense prevails: prevails:
"The farmers are not our enemy," the State Department's Richard Holbrooke recently declared, referring to Afghans who grow opium poppies. Since the U.S. government is officially determined to wipe out their livelihood, they could be forgiven for misunderstanding. To reassure those who interpret ripping up their crops as a hostile act, Holbrooke said, "we're going to phase out eradication."
This policy shift is a long overdue admission that anti-drug efforts in Afghanistan are strengthening the Taliban insurgency and undermining stability. But the reasons Holbrooke cited for the change apply more broadly than he is willing to acknowledge, indicting not just poppy pulling in Afghanistan but an international drug control regime that has been an expensive flop for nearly a century.
Holbrooke, the special U.S. envoy to Pakistan and Afghanistan, told A.P.: "Eradication is a waste of money. It might destroy some acreage, but it didn't reduce the amount of money the Taliban got by one dollar. It just helped the Taliban." By encouraging farmers to view the theocratic insurgents as defenders against foreign invaders bent on eliminating their income, he said, "the U.S. policy was driving people into the hands of the Taliban."
Don't expect the logic to permeate other areas of US drug control policies, however. There are too many programs running to allow a quick reversion to common sense. But, that being said, this is still a positive sign.
H/T to Craig Zeni, who said it was rather more excitement than he'd like to experience.
Lester Haines looks at Britain's latest food wonder: preboiled eggs, for those who are just too busy (or too culinarily challenged) to boil water.
Yup, the Happy Egg Company will, for just 89p for two or £1.49 for four, boil your eggs "to perfection" for you, whip off the shells and deliver them for collection to the nearest Asda, Waitrose or convenience outlet chain One Stop.
As the company's blurb puts it: "Why wait for your hard boiled eggs to boil when you can now have one in the blink of an eye."
According to the Telegraph, the Happy Egg Company's marketing supremo, Rob Newell, enthused: "Happy Boiled Eggs are the perfect solution for people who love free range eggs but don't have the time or knack to prepare a boiled egg. As the summer months approach, we are confident they will be a real hit for picnics and offer fresh inspiration to those wanting a tasty and nutritious snack in minutes."
I guess this goes to prove that there is a market for anything.
3. Norms and practices. Bloggers have undermined the blogosphere. Bloggers do not link to each other as much as they used to. It's a lot of work to look for good posts elsewhere, and most bloggers have become burnt out. Drezner and Farrell had a theory that even small potato bloggers would have their day in the sun, if they wrote something so great that it garnered the attention of the big guys. But the big guys are too burnt out to find the hidden gems. So, good stuff is being written all the time, and it isn't bubbling to the top.
Many have stopped using blogrolls, which means less love spread around the blogosphere. The politics of who should be on a blogroll was too much of a pain, so bloggers just deleted the whole thing.
[. . .]
5. Reader burn out. You all are not clicking on the links like you used to. I'm not really sure why. In the past, if I was linked to by a big mega blogger, it meant 10,000 new readers in one afternoon. Now, a link by a mega blogger sends over a couple hundred readers. Readers are probably tired out of trying new stuff. Maybe we've sent you to too many crappy places over time and you're sick of it.
[. . .]
9. Link Monitoring. In the past, I could easily figure out which blogs had linked to me and then send them a reciprocal link. For whatever reasons, Google Blog and Technorati aren't picking up the smaller blogs, and I have no idea who's linking to me.
I'm not sure why I've been blogging for five years . . . it's certainly not the money, booze, and groupies! I've thought about stepping away from the keyboard every now and again, but I don't actually write as much as I once did, so large chunks of my "blogging" time are actually copy-paste-and-code sessions, rather than writing.
The blogroll has certainly diminished in importance over the last couple of years. The Red Ensign bloggers, my primary affiliation, has diminished to about a dozen active blogs, of whom perhaps 5-6 produce the vast majority of posts. Other blogrolls I'm on have similar profiles of activity. Blogrolls don't matter compared to when I first started blogging back in 2004.
I remember worrying about SiteMeter and the Ecosystem, as they showed me what my visitors were reading, where they came from and where they went. Time has also not been kind to the ease of gathering that sort of information, as more readers come in from search engine results, RSS feeds, and goodness knows what other channels. If/when I move the blog over to the new site, I may not bother including the links for those tools. They're no longer all that useful or informative.
I do miss the cameraderie of the early blogging years . . . but as more of the early blogs go dark, the replacements are less likely to be bloggers and more likely to be Twitterers, Facebookers, YouTubers, Farkers, Slashdotters, and all the other Web 2.0/New Media options that are now available. What was that old expression about the only constant being change?
It is possible that Sarah Palin was both unfairly mistreated and personally attacked by the media and many on the left, and that her family was rather ruthlessly and mercilessly run through the ringer . . . and that she’s a not particularly bright, not particularly curious, once libertarian-leaning governor who sadly devolved into a predictable, buzzword spouting culture warrior when she was prematurely picked for national office by John McCain.
These two scenarios can coexist.
As for quitting her position as governor 18 months early, her rambling press conference statement was bizarre. If she’s quitting because she’s tired of politics and is ready to return to private life for good, good on her. If she’s quitting the job she ran for and committed to because she thinks she’s now too big for the office and wants a higher profile to position herself for national office, then she deserves all the scorn and derision coming her way.
Some links you may find worth following:
Chris Anderson looks at the paradigm shift that led to the embracing of "waste", and in turn, to our modern world:
Don't blame Honeywell — blame the computing world of the 1960s. In those days, computers were expensive mainframes. Because processing power was so scarce and valuable, it was reserved for use by IT professionals, mostly working for big companies and the government. Engineers both built the computers and decided how to use them — no wonder they couldn't think of nonengineering applications.
But as the Kitchen Computer hinted, computers would soon get smaller and cheaper. This would take them out of the glass boxes of the mainframe world — and away from the IT establishment — and put them in the hands of consumers. And the real transformation would come when those regular folks found new ways to use computers, revealing their true potential.
All this was possible because Alan Kay, an engineer at Xerox's Palo Alto Research Center in the 1970s, understood what Moore's law was doing to the cost of computing. He decided to do what writer George Gilder calls "wasting transistors." Rather than reserve computing power for core information processing, Kay used outrageous amounts of it for frivolous stuff like drawing cartoons on the screen. Those cartoons — icons, windows, pointers, and animations — became the graphical user interface and eventually the Mac. By 1970s IT standards, Kay had "wasted" computing power. But in doing so he made computers simple enough for all of us to use. And then we changed the world by finding applications for them that the technologists had never dreamed of.
Once upon a time, programs would be praised for their 'elegance' . . . that is doing something in the least possible number of instructions. Programs were, by modern standards, incredibly tiny. And, as a direct result, restricted to the expert users who could put them together in ways that did useful things. To the early computer users, we are incredibly wasteful in our abundance . . . but, as Chris Anderson points out, it was the deliberate "waste" which has led to the abundance we now enjoy.
Image from the article
Various links of potential interest:
With the recent turmoil in Iran, the song "Shah of Shahs" has a very interesting resonance.
Robert Higgs includes a lengthy excerpt from a 1939 book by Raymond Moley called After Seven Years. Moley was a close adviser to President Roosevelt, but became disillusioned during the early part of Roosevelt's first term. This excerpt is an excellent summary of how destructive to normal business uncertainty can be, specifically the kind of uncertainty inflicted by politicians.
Confidence consists, on the one side, of belief in the prospect of profits and, on the other, in the willingness to take risks, to venture money. In Harry Scherman’s brilliant essay on economic life, The Promises Men Live By, the term is, by implication, defined much as Gladstone defined credit. "Credit," Gladstone said, "is suspicion asleep." In that sense, confidence is the existence of that mutual faith and good will which encourage enterprises to expand and take risks, which encourage individual savings to flow into investments. And in an age of increasing governmental interposition in industrial operations and in the processes of capital accumulation and investment, the maintenance of confidence presupposes both a general understanding of the direction in which legislative and administrative changes tend and a general belief in government’s sympathetic desire to encourage the development of those investment opportunities whose successful exploitation is a sine qua non for a rising standard of living.
This, Roosevelt refused to recognize. In fact, the term "confidence" became, as time went on, the most irritating of all symbols to him. He had the habit of repelling the suggestion that he was impairing confidence by answering that he was restoring the confidence the public had lost in business leadership. No one could deny that, to a degree, this was true, The shortsightedness, selfishness, and downright dishonesty of some business leaders had seriously damaged confidence. Roosevelt's assurances that he intended to cleanse and rehabilitate our economic system did act as a restorative.
But beyond that, what had been done? For one thing, the confusion of the administration's utility, shipping, railroad, and housing policies had discouraged the small individual investor. For another, the administration's taxes on corporate surpluses and capital gains, suggesting, as they did, the belief that a recovery based upon capital investment is unsound, discouraged the expansion of producers' capital equipment. For another, the administration's occasional suggestions that perhaps there was no hope for the reemployment of people except by a share-the-work program struck at a basic assumption in the enterpriser’s philosophy. For another, the administration's failure to see the narrow margin of profit on which business success rests — a failure expressed in an emphasis upon prices while the effects of increases in operating costs were overlooked — laid a heavy hand upon business prospects. For another, the calling of names in political speeches and the vague, veiled threats of punitive action all tore the fragile texture of credit and confidence upon which the very existence of business depends.
The eternal problem of language obtruded itself at this point. To the businessman words have fairly exact descriptive meanings. The blithe announcement by a New Deal subordinate that perhaps we have a productive capacity in excess of our capacity to consume and that perhaps new fields for the employment of capital and labor no longer exist will terrify the businessman. To the politician, such an extravagant use of language is important only in terms of its appeal to the prejudices and preconceptions of a swirling, changeable, indeterminate audience. To the businessman two and two make four; to the politician two and two make four only if the public can be made to believe it. If the public decides to add it up to three, the politician adjusts his adding machine. In the businessman's literal cosmos, green results from mixing yellow and blue. The politician is concerned with the light in which the mixture is to be seen, the condition of the eyes of those who look.
Mutual misunderstanding and mutual ill will were, of course, unavoidable in the circumstances, and the ultimate result was a wholly needless contraction of business [in 1937-38] — a contraction whose essential nature was so little understood that it was denounced in high governmental quarters as a "strike of capital" and explained as a deliberate attempt by business to "sabotage" recovery.
I've argued in the recent past that the worst thing governments can do at this point in a period of economic upheaval is to introduce additional political uncertainty.
Visitors since 17 August, 2004