Thursday, August 31, 2006

I Demand a Royal Commission

I filled my gas tank yesterday for under 80 cents a litre. Only a couple of weeks ago the price was over a dollar.
I went and checked crude oil prices and they had moved only a little bit in that time.
Could someone please explain to my the outrageous behaviour of these companies?
I am outraged.
But it is odd I found no outrage regarding this discrepancy on the news last night, nor even today.

GO Again

I just enjoyed it but some people have the job of understanding why.

Grant McCracken tries

To be honest I think what I love is the mix of amateurishness and precision. Many of the things MCCracken did not see immediately I saw right away. These guys have respect for their audience. That is what I thought was the key point.

Those Apple-PC Ads

I have not since the Apple II owned an Apple computer. I hate the pain of all the effort getting going with drivers and all the rest of the PC architecture.
But I think Grant McCracken's analysis of the current Apple ads running now on television is spot on. Is there a computer buyer who does not already have an Apple who would buy one as a result of seeing this religious exercise?

Landes on Gaarder

My sister posted a couple of times on Jostein Gaarder's unfortunate and quite shocking self-expression during the Israel-Hizbollah war - one post is here and another on his qualified apology here.
The estimable medievalist, and scholarly expert on fakery, Richard Landes, has seen fit to respond with a close reading of what Gaarder chose to say and the results are not pretty in terms of the possible interpretations.
The first two parts (he has more to come!) are thorough and fascinating. You can start here and then go here.
It is a lot of work but well worth it in terms of the historical breadth and knowledge of the ways of thinking behind many arguments.
I look forward to the work of reading future parts.
This effort certainly explains the title of Landes' blog.
The other good thing is I will never feel bad at not investing time in Gaarder's novels. (I will stick to Stephanie Plum.)

Watch that Logo!

I have been making some inconsistent and fumbling attempts to learn a little Arabic.
It seems I have to be careful where I put my flash cards. A T-shirt will not do.

Where will I buy what in two years?

Most of my recently-purchased wardrobe was bought at Wal-Mart. There are compelling reasons to get jeans and somewhat generic shirts and the like there.
The last time I was in a Wal-Mart they were renovating the food section. Will I start buying organic foods (which I currently consider a crock) soon?
I recently bought an HDTV at Canada's equivalent of a Best Buy. Where do I get the next one.
Grant McCracken sees some interesting trends. In fact I really look forward to the outcomes.

Predatory Media

The CBC National News this morning had a nice feature on Monarch butterflies, especially on what appears to be the explosion in their numbers this year, at least around here.
Amusingly, the feature opened with a screen-size shot of what was apparently a Viceroy butterfly. This latter does its best (apparently enough to fool the CBC, though often that does not seem much) to appear to be a Monarch Butterfly, signalling to potential predators (often birds) that it will taste quite foul, as the Monarch, which grows up on a diet of milkweed, does.
Does this suggest we have birdbrains somewhere?

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Squirrels again

In an earlier post I described the break-in to my home by a squirrel. Within a day both the accessible screens had been penetrated. So I had them replaced by squirrel-proof screens.
Within an hour of the challenging screen being put in place, this is what one of them looked like.

I am trying to formulate new plans.

Meanwhile, my sister found me a link to a squirrel-themed EDS ad to match the cat-herding one linked in the previous post.

This all provides a slightly different perspective on the little monsters than Doc's touching post.

Monday, August 28, 2006

Management courses

I am no longer in management, but one of my recollections is that one suffers through many sorts of advice (in courses) that are somewhat humorless and not quite credible.
While this ad, which featured in some of those courses and which I have often wanted to find again, captures the feeling of hi-tech management well.

Hat tip - Martin!

I love the way they review their scratches. I know I keep waking up and finding some whose origin baffles me.

Obsession and its Place

Obsession never had such a voice as the Web offers. This work is clearly the outcome of someone's being more prepared to work on a small and simple problem than I could.
What it tells me is nothing new, after Pallywood. But it tells me this theme has not given way, and that Western media are willing to remain credulous if not complicit.
I had this much of this post in draft when I stumbled over this post, which says it even better.

DeLong and Dillow - this is why I love the Internet (for the 'attitude')

Recently one of my readers went out of his/her way to make a comment to the effect that an economist I quoted did some analysis "rather that(sic) simply adopting an attitude". This startled me - among the analysts whose blogs I read, economists seem the least likely to simply post an attitude. No doubt I will find out one day what was meant. I have some biologists whose blogs I read and when they speak out on economics I have yet to see other than an attitude.
Two of the economists I most like reading show attitudes all the time, Brad DeLong recently tackled some of Marx again. He displays attitude all the time, in posts labelled, "Why oh why ...?".
Chris Dillow responded to this post but tends not to use the titles of his posts for display. Chris has a slightly different way of showing attitude - for example, in his post, laying a charge at the end about Smith vs. Marx that can only be justified by seeing more of DeLong's views.
I am not sure what my comentor's problem about attitude is. But I can only say that this exchange, from two guys, both on the left end of the economics spectrum to a degree, is one of the reasons I want more attitude. Not fantasy. And the Net really delivers this.

A Nice Step Forward in Africa

This seems to me to be very good news, and in a delightfully unexpected place.

Jessica Walter and David Immergulck

I continue working through 'Arrested Development'.

I have already explained what a delight it was to find Jessica Walter at play.

And now I find my rock-star cousin, if slightly indirectly!

The episode 'Key Decisions' from the first season includes many background uses of John Hiatt''s 'Cry Love'. This was in the good Hiatt period when my cousin was the lead guitar!

Bob Dylan and the Louvre

Alex Ross has some interesting observations in a post about Bob Dylan. It includes this very curious quotation:

More people have see the Mona Lisa than ever listened to Michael Jackson. And only three people can see it at once. Talk about impact.

Huh? Has Dylan ever gone into the Louvre? It would seem not. Though maybe he means something different by 'see' than I might.

And is his claim about Mona Lisa vs Michael Jackson remotely true? Maybe his demographics are confused. He always struck me as somewhat oracular and superficial, however quite brilliant (see earlier posts on the Scorsese documentary).

I welcome back-of-the envelope calculations.

Friday, August 25, 2006

I love brilliant and wacky

And this is it! It is, in fact, a piece of utter genius.

OK GO Treadmill Dance

This is truly another one of those crazed and delightful pieces of genius from obessionals. More on them in a later post.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Joys in the Great Satan

One thing I love when I get back to a country that has satire is the ability to pick up The Onion.
Thie particular article I found an utter joy. In a small way it reminds me of my own neighbourhood in Toronto.

I truly love this line:
I know this neighborhood would benefit from the diversity of more people like me moving in

Mischief on the Minimum Wage

Chris Dillow supplies his usual exceptionally intelligent analytical mischief in a discussion on the minimum wage triggered by Don Boudreaux' experience getting comments that do not address intellectual points at all. (I should point out that I think mischief in this context is a good thing.)

I like his point 5:

When I was a Trotskyite in the early 80s, I supported a minimum wage precisely because it was "impractical." We did so to show that capitalism* could not deliver living wages for all.
I'm still not sure if this argument is wholly wrong.

And I also think it is worth taking a close look at his final comment:

by capitalism, I mean private, unequal and hierarchical ownership of capital, not a free market economy.

As he has pointed out frequently, there are separate issues here.

It's Jessica Walter!!

Of course.
I have been reading in various blogs about the arrested TV series 'Arrested Development', and had no idea what all the discussion was about. Had I simply read the IMDB entry on the show, I would likely have been more interested in watching it while it was running.
Now of course there is no longer any real pressure to watch a television show under the pressure of being confined to a schedule; one need only wait for the DVDs. In this case, a kind friend has supplied me with those, and I spent the whole first episode wondering who that wonderful actress was who was playing Lucille. And of course the answer is in the subject line above.

UPDATE: This is very Wes Anderson in spirit. Seems to me it works better as a TV series.

False Positives

We are going to have a few of those and it seems air passengers are enforcing some.
And air marshals some others.
I know I would be nervous sitting on a flight watching any kind of odd behaviour. Even just waggish, as might have been the case in the first story. And right now I might see fit to stop a flight because of that nervousness.
These could all be false positives (the "30 sminutes to live" could be a mishearing, passing around cellphones could be showing off pictures). And the problem is one can have false negatives too. And these are greater disasters.
One blog I have learned a lot from looks at this in a different, but also important, area.

Check out these Linguistics!

...before I go ballistic.

Via Language Log again, I must recommend the work linked below from the beautifully-situated city of Vancouver, B. C. (Paris is beautiful, Vancouver is beautifully-situated).

This is not quite up to the standards of the Columbia Business School Follies but it is getting there.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Some Real Heroes

An undoubted one here and another here.

This is Really going to Complicate my Travel Plans

Language Log find a lovely new recommendation from the Transportation Safety Administration.
Personally, I think the sentence as written deserves the 'willfully obtuse' reading.

Read me the story again, please

I will confess to never tiring of hearing the text of 'The Importance of Being Earnest'. Given that Soulpepper was doing it this summer, it was clear I had to go yet again, and am freshly back from tonight's production.
It is no surprise to me that it was very enjoyable, very well-acted, with some wonderfully surprising performances.
I was very worried, formed as I was by Edith Evan's Lady Bracknell, but Nancy Palk was imperial and wonderfully stentorian in the role. And was that the very gorgeous Brenda Robins as Miss Prism? Oliver Dennis' Dr. Chasuble made me feel right at home.
In the end one must simply thank Oscar Wilde for the sheer pleasure of the sound of it all.
But thanks again to Soulpepper for letting me wallow once more in that sheer pleasure.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Multicultralism again

I have never been one to fight the notion of multiculturalism or blame it, as I have so often seen done, for many of the current ills relating to Islamist extremism. In fact, I always thought the arguments were inane.
But the excellent blog true.dough has pointed me to a very nice article by Amartya Sen, showing me that much of this was because of people meaning somewhat different things by it (not a major surprise). The article is well worth reading.
My meaning has always been what I think is the classical liberal meaning, that each individual is free to make his/her choices among the many available in a rich cultural environment. And that we should allow all those environments to exist, to the degree they did not try to remove the others by force or through exploitating the state.
Choosing a different passage from true.dough (her choice focusses on a core example) , the centre of the issue is:

The importance of cultural freedom, central to the dignity of all people, must be distinguished from the celebration and championing of every form of cultural inheritance, irrespective of whether the people involved would choose those particular practices given the opportunity of critical scrutiny, and given an adequate knowledge of other options and of the choices that actually exist in the society in which they live. The demands of cultural freedom include, among other priorities, the task of resisting the automatic endorsement of past traditions, when people - not excluding young people - see reason for changing their ways of living.

It is not the business of the state to interfere with anyone's choice of 'cultural' practice. If I want to become a Muslim, no power of the state should stand in my way. If a Muslim wants to leave the faith, and become a Zoroastrian, or an atheist, this is not the business of the state.

I suspect Sen is right that this is not exactly what everyone means by 'multiculturalism' today. Pity.

I resemble that poster


("poster" pun is intended.)

h/t Brad DeLong

Monarchs on the Move

I did a morning north-south drive through Toronto and saw several Monarch butterflies. Every one of them was flying west (a couple with a slight lean to the south). My guess is that this generation is now on the move.
We may explore for more details later this week.

Monday, August 21, 2006

This Fatuity is Something Else

This likely aporcryphal tale has a delightful weirdness.
It does have a certain consonance with a story John Simpson includes in this memoirs, about meeting Osama himself before he was Osama.

Update for the Doc

I am now into Stephanie Plum #2 (and I am cheating - I have not been on a flight).

I invite my commenters to post the match of this

Norm posts it. It is wonderful.

They Sounded like Dupes

I heard them on the radio this morning and it seemed clear to me where this was coming from.

Steve 'Angry' Janke says it much better then I.

I, a Muslim

This is really quite wonderful.
I would like to remind readers that I grew up in a small-town Ontario that was suffused with Christian hegemony. I never had to lie to keep from being killed (though perhaps I might have been marginalized).
That experience left me no big fan of any religion.
But this video is wonderful in its exposure of nonsense. Is there a Christion version of 'taqqiya'?
What does 'martyr' mean in the Christian context? It means you get killed. What does 'martyr' mean today in the Muslim context today? Hundreds of others get killed. Not at all admirable.

Sunday, August 20, 2006

Shuggy says it so well

Like how can a guy past 30 call himself either Bono or Edge?

Ibsen - Rosmersholm - Greatest First Half Ever? and then what?

Mostly because of our July time in Oslo, especially the time at the Ibsen museum, we went to see the Rosmsersholm production at the Shaw Festival this weekend.
What I felt at the end of the first act was 'Wow!'. Generally I think it was really great writing (though I cannot recover the life of the mid-1870s wherever it was set in Ibsen's imagination enough to get the detailed issues - it was interesting, as 'liberalism' was being used to mean leftism, which I would not credit today, and its opposite was clearly state control on moral grounds. I think in the last years the rationale for state interference with people's lives has changed.) And yet the dramatic part was unquestionably solid.
On the other hand, it was harder to make sense of the second act, as so much was made of the recovery ot Rosmer's 'innocence' (and I had never got why anyone should care, except him - and even then, he should just have grown up and accepted that maybe he was not perfect). But there is a really tough question for Rosmer - and he seems to try out about every answer. One is to expiate Rebecca's sins by proposing to her again! And then he wrings his hands for a pointless period. Finally he tells her that she needs to commit suicide to expiate her sins and make him feel good. Aaarrrggh. What was this? Part of it I could see as a (sort of) Norwegian - but I would expect them to commit suicide themselves, not ask their profoundly desired lovers to do it.
No doubt I need to read a lot of literary criticism on this. I was a bit distrustful of the staging, and my scan of the Project Gutenberg version of the play suggests someone took liberties (though I think the Project Gutenberg one is bad enough I might buy the idea it was this specific translation that confused me). The final staging, a dance between Rosmer and Rebecca, had them leave the stage together. This does reflect the words if not the staging.
The Project Gutenberg translation repeatedly talks about the White Horses of Rosmersholm, and the Project Gutenberg translation about the White Mists of Rosmersholm.
There seems to be a big difference. No doubt someone can tell me better.
The acting, as I so often assert, was very good.
Peter Hutt was superb - the right mix of malevolence, and still drawing understanding of his situation. Patricia Hamilton continues her tour de force career as the straight-talking household help. I thought Waneta Storms was pretty good as Rebecca, though this was my first time seeing this play - I would love to see a production where she is more openly unsympathetic, and the other way around. (She did get past the fact that I has seen her in the worst play I ver tried towatch in Toronto, called 'Clout'.)
Everybody else was at worst REALLY good. Patrick Gilligan's sweet Irish voice gave Rosmer the innocent idiocy that seems key to what I thought Ibsen was getting at (but I am not sure).

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Still no Capri Pants at the Rogers Cup for Women

Hingis and Santangelo are not in quite such radical attire as last night's protagonists, but these are NOT Capri pants (thankfully).

Monday, August 14, 2006

Capri Pants and Tennis

After Nadal made his mark, it seems that the men's shorts are getting longer. While Nadal's pants are indisputably Capri, it also struck me that many of the men are wearing long shorts - both Gasquet and Federer, and many others, at the Rogers Cup here in Toronto.
The Rogers Cup for women is on right now in Montreal, and I am watching an early match on television between Tatiana Golovin and Ana Ivanovic. Nobody would describe their below-the-waist-wear as Capri pants! I think they know something about comparative advantage.

Tennis Line Calls

EclectEcon raises a very good point, quite consistent with my observation from the Rogers Cup last week in this post.
He comments first:
The sports announcers have repeatedly told us that approximately 30% of all player challenges have been upheld (i.e., the line calls were incorrect). This seems like an inordinately large number of errors by line judges.

One should keep in mind that the only line calls being measured here were those being challenged by players, who have an incentive in the challenge system to get it right. Both my friend and I at the tournament on Friday noticed that almost all challenges were made by players on calls on their side of the court, on shots where they were no doubt watching the ball closely and it was right in front of them, and much farther from the line judges.

Where I utterly agree with him is on this:

Alternatively, with this many instances of having line-judge overcalls, I can imagine a different scenario in which the technology becomes fast enough that line judges are eliminated. I wouldn't mind seeing this form of capital-labour substitution.

What I wrote earlier, and I do believe the technology is ready to supplant the people:
I have no idea what the underlying technology is behind the decisions of whether the line judges were right. What happens in the stadium is that we all look at the TV screens, and a simulation is shown of the flight of the ball, ending with exactly how it landed compared to the line. My guess is most of this simulation is fluff, and there is some good fundamental technology which gets the key point right - where the ball landed. But I do not know. And I do wonder, if this is so reliable, is it really still so slow that we even need line judges?


One thing I loathe is officious behaviour from petty tyrants and it seems an unfortunate woman ran into a piece of this in the UK Post Office. What is good is that it appears the Post Office in the end recognizes the behaviour as a stupid mistake. But it remains a bit alarming that a front-line clerk could get away with such nonsense.

Hat tip to Little Green Footballs.

The key quotes:

A five-year-old girl's passport application was rejected because her photograph showed her bare shoulders.

Hannah Edwards's mother, Jane, was told that the exposed skin might be considered offensive in a Muslim country.

A woman behind the counter informed them that she was aware of at least two other cases where applications had been rejected because a person's shoulders were not covered.

Mrs Edwards, a Sheffield GP, said: "I was incensed. I went back home and checked the form. Nowhere did it say anything about covering up shoulders. If it had, I would have done so, but it all seems so unnecessary."

Unecessary and fatuous! Read the whole hting.

Sunday, August 13, 2006

Free to Choose : Another Reason to Love the Internet

What wonderful television is now available to us from the past. Via Greg Mankiw's blog , this utterly enjoyable show featuring Milton Firedman (and the likes of Michael Harrington and others). The link is here.
I did not see this when it was originally shown, and wonder what I would have thought then. Today, knowing how profoundly right Friedman is about the tremendous value of business enterprises truly under competitive presssure, I find the first episode an utterly fascinating discussion. Friedman's perspective is delightfully broad, and he makes Harrington look very shallow indeed. And I love his contrarianism!

UPDATE: Wow! This is superb television. Where was I back then? And oh, does Michael Harrington look a terrible fool in the engagements. (Sad, I read him once with great reverence.) You can see the public choice notion arising nicely in the discussions too, which makes the political guys in the discussion very uncomfortable, as they should.

UPDATE: Episode 2 features Donald Rumsfeld in a previous life!

One Reason I keep reading Brad DeLong - Gunter Grass front

And there are many.
But this post and his link in it to the past show how insightful he often is.

Reports from the Lebanon-Israel Border

Michael Totten continues his record with another superb post. When you get down to the PayPal button, consider clicking it; this is far better journalism that I see from any local source.

UPDATE: I think this is a nice other recommendation of the same link.


This would be funny if there were editors.
After all, these guys are just responding to the demand for outrage.

Media, cont'd

My sister's recent post on our uncle caused me to reflect a bit - I somehow doubt he got two or three days of CBC coverage as an individual casualty in the Canadian advance after D-Day. Every Canadian casualty today in Afghanistan (even in a drving accident, or shot by one of his co-soldiers) gets a few days' coverage on Canadian media, especially the CBC, which can be interpreted in a variety of ways. One is to think that we are very lucky today.
But it got me onto the question of what today's media coverage would look like in the hottest parts of World War II. Hot Air pointed me to a very nice exhibit of this (scroll down to the large image) here.
I paricularly like the headline:
Jewish Resistance shatters hopes for a peaceful solution

What were the actual headlines then?

Saturday, August 12, 2006

What are you Watching on the News Tonight?

There is a lot of press, especially on blogs, about ludicrously doctored photographs from the Lebanese front (Mr Green Helmet).
But to be honest, most people I talk to are completely unaware of the wonderful analysis Charles Johnson chooses to point to again in Richard Landes Pallyood video (this video ought to make you laugh your heart out or feel pained at the idiocies made of it in the west). Landes is a medievalist, well aware of the history of lying media (check out his publication history). He does great work here.
It is extremely sad to imagine a society in which this sort of nonsensical construction of reality substitues for reality. Not a good lesson for the kids. The guy in the gutter on the cellphone, the shots into the empty window, the sham of the doctor in Jenin (already fortuately exposed as fraud on Canadian TV) - these are no ways to build a civil society, and what this sadly proves is that a large part of the West has no interest in building such a world.

Friday, August 11, 2006

Very Happy I am not Flying Right now

The current best I can find on yesterday's flareup is here.

A combination of the funniest and saddest things I recall hearing was the announcement yesterday that no Canadians were involved. Sad, because there is a track record of Canadians being involved in UK plots, and funny, that it was so sad it required to be said.

On the other hand, I bet there are a good number of personal computers under some pretty interesting examination right now. And I fear I would be surprised if no Canadian shows up being engaged. We shall see.

James van Allen has died

From the mischievous and enjoyable Bob Park, with whom I find I frequently disagree, I learn the sad news:

Almost nothing was known about conditions beyond the ionosphere when the US launched Explorer I on 31 Jan 58. The Cold War was at its peak, and the Soviets seemed to own space. Sputnik I, launched 4 Oct 57, carried no instruments. Sputnik II, a month later, could only send back Geiger counter readings taken when it was in sight of the ground station. In June, however, at a conference in the USSR, James Van Allen, a physics professor at the University of Iowa, announced that Explorer I had discovered the first of the two "Van Allen radiation belts." Soviet space scientists were crushed; the "space age" was not a year old and already the U.S. had taken the lead in science. Two years ago I visited Prof Van Allen in his office at the U. Iowa. At 89 he was down to a 7-day work week. He showed me an op-ed he was sending to the NY Times in which he described human space flight as "obsolete". I don't believe they used it. Van Allen said using people to explore space is "a terribly old fashioned idea."

I am of the generation that was so excited with what we were learning from satellites about space. With Parks, I cannot figure why we shoot people up there today; it was neat having some of the species on the moon in 1969, but it is hard to know what value we have got out of it other than the lift that experience provided.

An Educational Day at the Rogers Cup

This is really a post commenting on the previous post!
I learned some fascinating things today at the Rogers Cup. The moment my friend and I got seated, a man seated behind us asked me (at that point spouting off as if I knew what I was talking about) what the very strange scores he was seeing in his program for earlier rounds in this tournament in the doubles. I looked at what he indicated and was equally baffled - there were scores like 6-4,2-6,10-4 and 3-6,6-2,11-9. What was going on in the third sets? I had no idea. In any case, he went off and did some research and let us know that these scores reflected a new rule for running doubles matches, effective this week, whereby the third set, if needed, is replaced by a "10-point tiebreaker" (i.e. the first team to ten or more points leading by at least 2 wins). Wow - tennis can innovate for the market.
Even better, there is now a new 'challenge' rule. It seems in each set a player is entitled to two challenges to line judge rulings. Actually - that is not quite true - they start with a number 2 assigned to them, and they lose 1 each time they make a challenge that the technology in place denies (i.e. the line judge was right, despite what the player thought). When they get to 0, they can no longer challenge. If the player's challenge is upheld, the quota is not decremented. I guess the summary is they get the right in each set to challenge until they have submitted two losing challenges. This creates soem lovely strategic questions for players (I was amazed today when one of them challenged in the first game of a match). It can also get the audience involved, as we all have passionate views about the correctness of line judge calls, and are willing to share those.
I have no idea what the underlying technology is behind the decisions of whether the line judges were right. What happens in the stadium is that we all look at the TV screens, and a simulation is shown of the flight of the ball, ending with exactly how it landed compared to the line. My guess is most of this simulation is fluff, and there is some good fundamental technology which gets the key point right - where the ball landed. But I do not know. And I do wonder, if this is so reliable, is it really still so slow that we even need line judges?
Many sports now allow review of judgments using various kinds of technology. During the 'football' (in the rest of the world sense) World Cup, I ached for such a thing. For it to work, though, it seems to me each team would need about 15 challenges, and they should be encouraged to ask referees to evaluate possible 'diving'. Maybe FIFA will figure something sensible out; I hope so.
But back to tennis.
I sort of complained about not having three singles matches this afternoon. But while watching the TSN coverage this evening, I realize now, listening carefully to some very intelligent comments from Peter Burwash, that there is a difficult fairness issue with the old pattern of having three singles matches. This meant there was a significant gap in the recovery time for one of the semi-finalists, as opposed the the one who played in the afternoon. Now this problem does not simply go away; one semi-final is played tomorrow afternoon, another in the evening - so the two finalists will have had different recovery times.
The afternoon matches were very entertaining for just the reasons I thought; these players will be the stars of tomorrow (is my memory right that Pete Sampras impressed me no end on the Friday of this tournament in 1990, just before beginning his years of dominance? - mind you, he stood out completely back then, as nobody I have seen since did in this tournament).
Peter Burwash also commented on tonight's TSN show about the changing audience relationship to the match here. Apparently one of the players (Malisse) had asked the umpire to request that the audience be more quiet. That used to be my wish - a reverential hush. But my French Open experience this year suggests otherwise. The Gasquet-Nalbandian match there featured an hilarious and very enjoyable audience engagement (nobody was shoulting "Allez, Richard", or sighing "ahh, Richard" today). For anyone but the players, this is surely more fun, and it seems to me the players can learn as well. We shall see.

Shrug - no Capri pants today

Beautiful weather predicted for the Rogers Cup quarter-finals today, which I will be attending with a friend. I was disappointed, of course, that Rafael Nadal did not make this round, but I do look forward to seeing a bunch of excellent young players (Berdych, Gasquet, Murray, and Nieminen - who at 25 is the old man of the group).
It is a little disappointing the organizers have scheduled only two singles matches for the day session, rather than the usual three, but I am nevertheless expeecting great entertainment. I knew the minute I heard Nadal had been eliminated that the Federer match would be in the evening, but I've seen him before so that's not so bad.
I suspect I will also be disappointed slightly at having to watch Gasquet without the great sound effects that were there at Roland Garros back in May as he lost to David Nalbandian.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Triumphs regarding Megan Follows

I did a solid IMDB search on the subject of Megan Follows shortly after very much enjoying her work in the production I reviewed earlier of Stoppard's The Real Thing.
What stunned me is that she had appeared in two CSI episodes, one for the Las Vegas series, one for the Miami. So I put myself on the watch.
So what happened late last week?
CSI (with no qualification, Las Vegas) has the episode in which a murderer's sister winds up in effect adopting the victim's child - I convinced myself that was the Megan Follows CSI episode.
The same day or the next I see an old CSI:Miami episode which features Eric Roberts as a particularly unpleasant death row inmate, and who shows up as a victim (not of him) later in the show but Megan Follows and she survives! Well, of course as I watch each show, I am not 100% sure it is she but later research confirms my suspicions.
I love serendipity.
Hey - she has been on "Cold Case" and "Crossing Jordan"! More syndication to allow me not to watch the CBC.

Adamson's Monster Part Deux

Long ago I reported on my creation of a monster.
Imagine my shock today as the monster found new means of self-expression.
Already this squirrel had started throwing itself on the window screens to explain that we were not tossing peanuts out at a sufficient rate.

So this beast expresses itself.
You can see how useful the 20-year-old cat is as a defender of our territory.

Shortly after this creature was enjoying some more dancing on the screen

to the shock of all three of us, the squirrel poked through the screen and landed on the living room floor! We were all shocked. And to my amazement, the little monster found its way out through the hole it had punched in the screen.

Monday, August 07, 2006

It Bears Repeating

As neo-neocon says, it bears repeating.


The Museum of Civilization in Ottawa Hull, Canada, has a very interesting exhibit on the somewhat ancient (400 BC - 400 AD) somewhat civilization (pretty much everything they did was clearly derivative of the Greeks and Romans) of Petra. We spent a few hours there last weekend.
It seems some nomadic tribe called the Nabateans got the idea that they no longer needed to wander around on camels themsleves anymore, but that they would be far better off putting together some key technology (gathering water in the desert, and surely providing some basic security), and living in one place, an amazingly striking complex of ravines near Petra, Jordan. They managed to get a handle on the incense trade and gather significant revenues off the camel trains carrying spices from the east to the Mediterranean (I assume nobody can distinguish how much they managed to extract as rent, and how much was really for services, and the later history makes that not totally clear).
What was most striking was that a bunch of desert nomads, once they settled in place in these amazing sandstone canyons, did not waste a lot of time before developing stunning sand-carving skills! As said above, though, most of the art was pretty basically functional (once you accept that people need oversized temples and tombs), and the aritistic stuff was things you had seen better jobs of done by previous Greek civilization (the example that most stood out to me was a Venus de Milo (I jokingly mean a limbless Venus body), lacking all the basic rightness and eroticism of the THE Venus de Milo).
(One theory I have is that they did not do anything much at all themselves except gather rents, and hire people to create all the work we saw.)
In any case the incense trade collapsed and maybe the economy collapsed, or perhaps only reverted (see earlier posts on Cuba). The curators of the exhibit were unclear and openly uncertain.
One nice thing at this museum is the presence of volunteer kibitzers. When I could not find the Medusa head promised in the text below the item, one of these walked me around the corner to where it was visible (yes, we agreed the signage was poor). He then mischievously took me over to another supposed Medusa head and expressed his skepticism that it was anything but a somewhat upset woman, and I had to agree totally. Now this is the kind of museum I can enjoy!

It really has come to this (non-political)

Some people need to know how to fake being a geek.
Others among us have come by it honestly!

Sunday, August 06, 2006


I posted earlier I do not know what the story really is. And pretty much none of the standard news sources are very useful even today as they very vaguely report the results of the tests on the B sample.
However, there are some very useful online resources worth monitoring, and I will be doing so.
One of course is the Amateur.
Another is, h/t the Amateur, Free Floyd Landis (and do not think that that is his objective). He is great on the real value and meaning of the tests, and he caught the French Lab Director out in this ludicrous utter lie, that anyone with any vague knowledge of testing would see immediately.
Also, h/t the Amateur, the Boulder Report.

It is still true for me that his last week turnaround (even if he had shot up testosterone, which seems unlikely to have helped much) was one of the most amazing things I have ever heard of in sports (as documented, I sadly missed it in the sky).

The Amateur weighs in
in his usual intelligent way.

Mexico is at a Key Point

Dan Drezner and his commentors provide some good perspective.
Obrador has shown every sign lately of being a destructive populist, so it will be interesting to see where it goes.

The CBC and the Nature of Things

This weekend I was asked why I was not blogging so much about the deficiencies of CBC reporting.
I had to think. My first response, after some thought, was that it has not been so bad in my experience lately. A second thought was that, caught up in CSI reruns, and old episodes of Law and Order (far more informative about the real world than my memory of the CBC) I had not seen much of it lately.
I think that the truth is a mix of the two.
About a month ago, ads began appearing about an upcoming episode of "The Nature of Things' (a show that used to be a science show until it was taken over by David Suzuki, and so is about something else now I cannot figure out but is mostly full of nonsense) which would focus on 'The Accidental Revolution', apparently a miracle of agricultural development that took place following the collapse of the Soviet Union, when Russians suddenly saw no reason to piss away free oil on Cuba.
I had no plan to watch the show but someone told me it was interesting. And the first episode, at least the 40 minutes I saw, were sort of OK, if by 'agricultural revolution' one might mean the combination of marginal improvements on some of the very briliiant steps taken in the middle ages that did revolutionize agriculture at that time, combined with some privatization to motivate many many people to spend tedious hours producing crops. Totally absent from the show was any mention of actual agricultural yields (so far as I recall). Touched upon lightly at the end was a clear statement that this was a disctatorial government. Moreover, there were specious ocmparisons (well, false ones) of Soviet agriculture to today's Canadian style.
So yes, that was somewhat interesting.
The second episode began with a hagiography of Che Guevara, including an embarrassing interview between him and Knowlton Nash (well, it should embarrass Knowlton Nash and the CBC of the time). And I mean hagiography. Knowing something about Guevara, (see also this by Paul Berman) I found that I have little interest in the rest of the show.
OK so this is only a small bit of the CBC.
And I have yet to give up totally. But what a joke this is. Especially calling the show 'The Nature of Things'.
By the way, as I seek to find something else to watch, it slmost sounds like a show arguing that some new Cuban naturopathy is better than the medicine we have here. Well, I don't want them touching me. Which is gladly no problem.
And when I was a kid it was a science show. Shame.

UPDATE: I have finally managed to sit through the whole second episode, and I was slightly unfair above. But it is at times inadvertently hilarious - at one point Suzuki observes that the economy only works because of the black market, while at the same time pontificating on how wonderful the judgment of the Cuban leaders is. Are there NO editors at the CBC?

Reuters is Shameless or Incompetent, or Worse?

Via Doc, I came to this, from Charles Johnson. Now he is a web designer, and was one of the key players, perhaps the central one, in the exposure of Dan Rather's attempt to use falsified documents in the guise of news in the last election campaign, and the linked post is about his trained eyes catching a suspicious Reuters photo.
As Doc's post points out, Reuters has gone so far as to admit that it has suspended the photographer (who was also shot many of the photographs from Qana that also raised suspicions). More on the same guy here.
Johnson points out that after the withdrawal of the photo by Reuters, it still has currency elsewhere, one of the problems with this sort of thing. Hard to get it back in the stable.
Reuters has been under severe criticism about its choice of stringers, photographers, and its editorial handling of reports for a while. This example is a nice concrete instance explaining why.
And finally Johnson reports this howler from Reuters, showing their apparent lack of commitment to really getting to the core of the problem:

“The photographer has denied deliberately attempting to manipulate the image, saying that he was trying to remove dust marks and that he made mistakes due to the bad lighting conditions he was working under,” said Moira Whittle, the head of public relations for Reuters.

I myself am moderately new to digital editing of pictures to clean up dust marks, etc. There is NO WAY that could account for what Johnson documents. Shame.

How to Strain a Relationship!

We were driving back today from Ottawa to Toronto; one delight attached to this activity at this time of year is the plethora of blueberry stands, selling locally gathered wild blueberries (they are cheaper than, and taste better than, what I would buy normally in Toronto in a grocery store). The stand we stopped at was manned by a jolly fellow who explained that he was standing in for this wife, who had to be at the drag races today.
This seemed remarkable enough to me, but he went on. As it turns out, his daughter is leading the local circuit this year. He mentioned, with somewhat of a twinkle in his eye, that her boyfriend was also a drag racer. He told me I could read about it in the Toronto Star. And indeed I can, in this article.
The story is interesting:

"As soon as I line up against him, I'm not going to take it easy on him," promises Jessie. "It's all about racing, not relationships. It's all about who's the better racer."

Clearly the words of a hot driver who tops the championship and is undefeated after four meets. Just for the record, her boyfriend is running dead last.

Jessie is getting some deserved satisfaction, and I have seen similar things in other sporting areas:

"A lot of guys choose to come up against me because they think I'm easy, that I'm a duck just because I'm a girl," says Jessie, a trainee mechanic.

"Then when I whip them, that's very enjoyable."

So who introduced whom to the sport?

Eric and Jessie first met in Grade 12 at the East Northumberland Secondary School in Brighton. "It was love at first sight," Jessie says. "He's pretty cute. I knew just by looking at him he was a good guy."

Life and love was uncomplicated at first because only Jessie was involved in drag racing. Her pedigree behind the wheel was impeccable: her father, uncles and cousins all race and are renowned at drag circuits as the Racing Tandys.

But Eric took the hook.

Last year, he made his debut at the Shannonville circuit in the Street racing class in his dad's 1980 Camaro. Eric was simply unbeatable and swept both the championship trophy and the Rookie of the Year award.

This year, the young Beer Store employee decided to move up to the faster Pro class. All he needed was a faster set of wheels.

So what vehicle has taken him from first to where he now stands?

"I bought the Malibu from Jessie's family, and we put in a new engine and a transmission," Eric says. But ever since the switch, his luck has run out quite a bit faster than his car.

"Eric is a very good racer, but he's having some difficulty adjusting," Jessie says charitably. "He's gone from street champ last year to dead last in the Pro class this year."

Obviously the vivacious blonde enjoys owning the bragging rights down at the track these days. But hope springs eternal for her boyfriend.

"Her car's faster than mine and she is a great racer, but maybe tomorrow it will be my turn to win," Eric says, hopefully.

Well the attitudes seem good!

And all this from wanting some blueberries!

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Go see GrrlScientist's Heat Picture

This is too sweet.

Go Red Sox

OK I guess I have decided the Blue Jays will not be there at the end of the season. This is painful to say, as I have enjoyed the visits of actual Blue Jay birds to my backyard this summer, and the allegiance passes from bird to baseball team.

But Russell Roberts caught my eye with a post promising One more reason to root for the Red Sox.

I have no wish to visit ill upon a sick old man, but I am certainly willing to encourage people to hear from those who have suffered from the actions of that old man and have good personal reasons to speak forthrightly.

The Worst News of the Last Week

Manifestly, it is the death of the Doha Round if it is really true. (I read there is some attempt to shock it back into life, but without Europe this is sadly dead meat.)

Owen Barder examines the culpability here.

Of course, every country should abolish all tariffs, quotas and subsidies, unilaterally and immediately, in their own interests as well as everyone else’s. But in the Alice-in-Wonderland world of trade negotiations, we still talk about changes which would be in our own interest as “concessions”.

What is fatuous is that the rent-seeking special interests own the discussion in our own media in Canada (no guiltless party in this farce). It is very unusual to see anyone speaking out for the interest of consumers versus the various interest groups using the government to protect themselves from competition. Andrew Coyne is an unusual columnist on this front.

Airplane Reading

Overseas flights are a great excuse for buying and reading the delightful literature I tend to call 'trash'. I tend to lean to detective novels, rather than, say, science fiction, or 'thrillers', but all such categories tend to some fuzziness.

My summer travel featured some surprises.

One of my enjoyable experiences was Memory in Death, by Linda Howard, writing as J Robb (ahh, branding). Much to my surprise, when I started reading the book, it turned out that the story was set in 2059! Fortunately, it bore no other signs of being science fiction, and in fact it baffled me it was not set in 2005, as the setting in time seemed utterly irrelevant to the whole story. Nonetheless, not a bad read, and I enjoyed the main character, a policewoman.

Another, and this was a revelation, was Janet Evanovich's Eleven on Top, featuring a bounty hunter named Stephanie Plum. The author had me giggling already on page 1 and it never let up; along the way, there is a not bad mystery novel, which also features quirky family history, as well as some entertaining portraits of a specific world. Evanovich seems very prolific, but also pretty competent.

Now when does the trash struggle to a slightly different level? I also bought Bret Easton Ellis' Lunar Park; there is no question that this was in a different league, and I was happy I started it on a very long flight and so could just read through it without much interruption. Of course I have heard of Bret Easton Ellis, but have never read any of his earlier work. This one starts with a mini-autobiography, which is utterly compelling and entertaining, and then slowly starts a twisted change. Earlier details I knew were true transmute into details that seem less certain (web searches later even confirm some of the false trails, like an invented actress wife who may have had an affair with keanu Reeves, which is wonderful). The novel shifts from seeming to be a scathing self-critical autobiography, and starts to become a bit of a mystery novel. And then it becomes truly zany, as we more or less need an exorcism to get things back on track. But really on track? Well, back to what does seem to be really true, but what was going on in the middle? It is a great performance of sheer writing, shifting styles, dragging the reader all over the place. And those last several pages, taking me back at least to Joyce's ending of 'The Dead', the snow 'faintly falling', those last several pages go utterly nuts with a one-thought riff on the themes that had gone before. It is simultaneously sad and funny, and very beautiful. I would love to read him writing in a more naturalistic style about something I cared about. Much as I enjoyed the ride, in the end it was hard to care much.

Carbon Tax Part 2

OK at 3pm today the wholesale electricity price was just under 32 cents per kWh. My previous post shows how you can go watch this action in real time (well, hourly updates). The rate I am paying for that same electricity is under 7 cents, maybe under 6. Shameful.
I was pleased to see a San Francisco Chronicle article on this topic, by a professor from Berkeley identifying another collection of politically produced, and utterly disgusting, subsidies, and he explains handily what is wrong with them.
This passage captures brilliantly how I characterize the behaviour of the ontario government in this electricity fiasco:

Another problem with subsidies, even if they discriminate good ethanol from better ethanol, is that they simply misinform us about the cost of our behavior. Driving your car with a gallon of ethanol doesn't do 50 cents worth of good for society, it just does less damage than driving it with gasoline. The subsidy certainly does a lot of good for the folks who sell ethanol, especially agribusiness giants, such as Archer Daniels Midland, who are nicely situated to lobby Congress for more subsidies. Most people think it is wrong for the government to lie to its citizens, but there's no other way to portray ethanol subsidies: Your government, by distorting the price you pay so it doesn't reflect real costs, is lying to you.

(Another small plug for Tim Harford's The Undercover Economist - in which the same language about truth is used in a similar way.)

Do I hold up much hope for sensible behaviour from our government on this front? Our Prime Minister is an economist, and it will be interesting to see how he decides to handle the political presure about Kyoto, and the real concerns about climate. But looking at the Liberal party, one of our candidates said the words "Carbon Tax" and pretty much had the universe descend upon him.

To quote the Chronicle article again.

A carbon charge (which analysts say should increase gas prices anywhere from a nickel to as much as $1.50 a gallon) would make gasoline, oil, coal and natural gas reflect their true cost. It would make ethanol or biodiesel much more expensive if manufactured with coal, and somewhat more if manufactured with natural gas, than those fuels made with minimal fossil fuels -- which is how it should be. And it would set in motion a cascade of adjustments through the economy that wouldn't have to be coercive (like the current federal fuel economy standards for cars) and wouldn't have the very expensive errors inevitable with subsidies and regulations.

Of course this 'tax' should be returned to people in some way indifferent to fuel and carbon usage so the ultimate effect is revenue-neutral. And it should likely be charged on more than simply pump prices for gasoline, for example, on electricity.

As pointed out in the end of the article, the world would be much better aligned than it is today, in California, and certainly than in Ontario:

We'll have, as a society, just as much money to spend, but the price of everything will quietly but honestly go up or down to signal what you're doing to the planet by using different fuels (and things made with different fuels). People who find ways to burn less carbon will be better off, people who don't, will not. That's rational policy, fair policy and a policy people can understand and vote on.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Monarchs Everywhere

Pretty well all sources are reporting a plethora of Monarch butterflies this summer, and I have noticed the same, as I drive around, at the golf courses I play, and even here at my home.
The only sad thing is that the milkweed I have growing in the backyard has drawn no attention from butterflies.
In any case, I have no idea what it means that there are so many Monarchs around this early - the current densities are what I am used to seeing late in the summer as they migrate. But I hope it means something good for them.

Don't Mention the Carbon Tax

Today has been a very hot day in my part of Canada - in fact, the Ontario energy system has hit record usage levels. There is a very interesting web site that provides information on what is going on at all times.
Earlier this afternoon, this organization documented that the wholesale price of electricity in the (pretty much open market) system was over 22 cents (Canadian) per kWh. At the same time I know (go investigate that page) I will be charged, at the retail level, at most 6.7 Canadian cents per kWh!
This is yet another gigantic subsidy to the middle class, which has the even worse effect of inviting us to overspend on electricity (much generated by burning fuels and releasing carbon).
The current government faces re-election soon, and so will not fix this. The previous one, ideologically eager to try to do so, started to fix it, and then retreated. The power of us politically capable middle class people to rent-seek remains largely unchallenged. And we'll all talk a good game of how we care about the environment, and then make sure that nobody who tries to address the problem seriously can be elected.

How on Earth did we get here?

Norm Geras puts it so well, it makes me glad I do not have to. Augean Stables points to a similar reflection.
In fact the Telegraph article perhaps summarizes it best:

You could criticise Israel’s recent attack for many things. Some argue that it is disproportionate, or too indiscriminate. Others think that it is ill-planned militarily. Others hold that it will give more power to extremists in the Arab world, and will hamper a wider peace settlement. These are all reasonable, though not necessarily correct positions to hold. But European discourse on the subject seems to have been overwhelmed by something else - a narrative, told most powerfully by the way television pictures are selected, that makes Israel out as a senseless, imperialist, mass-murdering, racist bully.

Not only is this analysis wrong - if the Israelis are such imperialists, why did they withdraw from Lebanon for six years, only returning when threatened once again? How many genocidal regimes do you know that have a free press and free elections? - it is also morally imbecilic. It makes no distinction between the tough, sometimes nasty things all countries do when hard-pressed and the profoundly evil intent of some ideologies and regimes. It says nothing about the fanaticism and the immediacy of the threat to Israel. Sir Peter has somehow managed to live on this planet for 75 years without spotting the difference between what Israel is doing in Lebanon and “unlimited war”.

"Unlimited war". Another phrase I hear, with no shame from its promulgators, is "genocide". The Israelis must be very bad at it if that is the goal. The Europeans who decided to make this a goal for the Jews were far more effective, and I suspect many of the beloved resistance fighters in the Middle East are prepared for similar efforts.

It is shocking to me what discourse can pass uncommented and more or less unremarked. It is even sadder and more shocking that 'the left' (yes, I know it does not mean much, but I felt I was there once) can sign up for this shocking stuff so enthusiastically.

Part of me has tried to think it has to do with age; I was of an early baby-boom generation born not long after the Second World War, and maybe those born later have just forgotten one of the key lessons of that war. But it is not just that. Worse, there seems to be ignorance of the fact that the anti-Semitism of the Muslim Brotherhood and its descendants is tightly tied to that Nazi past.

There is a sad continuity here many are far too ready to forget.