Thursday, September 28, 2006

David Aaronovitch makes such good sense

And even better gets it onto Channel 5 in the UK. Hope the CBC can find the same good sense from someone.
(I am SO impressed he ran the London Marathon! And even funnier, the moment Norm Geras appeared on screen, I knew it HAD to be Norm.)

Vival La Muerte is the most sickening motto. And it is deeply tragic that what I once thought of as the left (like Aaronovitch - pro-immigrant, pro-women's rights, internationalist) is signing up for it big time.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Salman Rushdie meets someone who wanted once to kill him

View the full video at:

I truly hope that, as they suggest, this is one step along some more or less steady path. However steady, it is going to be a long haul.

h/t Hot Air

Monday, September 25, 2006

Paikin's New Show

I was disappointed to see TV Ontario's Studio 2 show disappear this summer.
I am now seeing its replacement - "The Agenda with Steve Paikin". Paikin is unquestionably one of the finest journalists I have seen at work.
But what a challenge for my first viewing! - an interview with Conrad Black. And it is utterly the delight one would expect from these two - a little sparring, and two sharp minds trying to educate us and entertain us. Black has a great line saying his great affection for the US is largely unabated by the outrageous persecution he is suffering in the US courts.
In any case, 10 minutes into my first watching of the show, I look forward to visiting it often! Paikin has lost nothing. And picking Black - well, pretty sharp! Moreover, Black sort of endorses Stephane Dion for Liberal leader! (Dion is one of what I consider to be many good leadership candidates the party has.)
And Paikin gets to run another debating panel! And I will say, it is fun having Eric Margolis back!
So this show is likely to be fine.


There are major concerns about illiteracy and even innumeracy.
The Economist's View folk cite a very old but very sensible essay by Paul Krugman on the prevalence, and acceptability, of ignorance about basic economic issues. It is well worth a visit.
Ignorance of the implications of comparative advantage in exchange should really not be socially acceptable.

What we know and How we know it

Norm Geras points to a wonderfully incisive review by Jerry Fodor of a recent book I knew nothing of by Michael Frayn.
Michael Frayn is one of my favourite writers - the play "Noises Off' is one I will hustle to see put on by any company within reasonable distance. It is a play so wonderfully written that it can be put on well by almost any company, and the company will love it because it is brilliantly about putting plays on! I have read a couple of his comic novels and loved them (I do not recall their titles, but do not make much of that, as I generally do not remember a few weeks later what I have read.)
But when someone responsible for great comic entertainment writes a book called "The Human Touch : Our Part in the Creation of a Universe", I worry a little. Now I would never buy it. But I must say I am happy Frayn wrote it as it has provoked a fine review by Jerry Fodor which does much to address many very sloppy modes of thinking that seem to have spread widely.
Fodor looks at three major confusions that are part of Frayn's discomfort at modern science.
First of all, Frayn is something of an old-fashioned positivist; sometimes he is so quite explicitly. ‘I must surely be a little positivistic here once again. I must limit myself to what is observable – if only by myself.’ Why must he, I wonder? Positivists thought they could impose a priori epistemic constraints that scientific theories must acknowledge.

I don't know, it just seems hard for me to believe anyone from the 20th century can confine himself, or the rest of us in our curiosity, to that.
As Fodor comments:
It’s one question what’s the case, and another how we know what’s the case. Very often, we’re able to answer the first sort of question even though we can’t answer the second. In particular, we’re rarely in a position to say just what it is about our experience (or about anything else) that warrants our claim to know that a proposition is true. That being so, it’s not an argument against the proposition being true that we don’t know how we know that it is. The sun will rise tomorrow morning; I know that perfectly well. But figuring out how I could know it is, as Hume pointed out, a bit of a puzzle.

Amusingly, Fodor's next target is somewhat of a converse to this positivism:

as Frayn rightly points out, seeing is shot through with interpretation. There’s quite a long inferential route between the patterns of light that fall on the retina and the perceptual beliefs that their falling there eventually engender; between, that’s to say, my having ten toes and my knowing that I do. That’s all very interesting (it really is very interesting). But it’s not – it doesn’t begin to be – a reason for doubting that the perceptual beliefs we have are very generally true.

I have seen many things I knew were not there. This never seemed a major problem to me. Most of them are there and is not too hard over time to sort out the difference.
Fodor again, arguing that this interpretation is largely corrective and to be trusted (he does not pretend it cannot be tricked):
for example, the most familiar instances of perceptual inference (the perceptual ‘constancies’) regularly bias perception in the direction of truth; the interpretations are better guides to what is actually going on than the data that they interpret. Double the distance to the target and you halve the size of its retinal image. But there are inferential mechanisms in perception that correct this geometric effect so that things generally don’t seem to get smaller as they move away (they just look further off). That’s just as well since, as a matter of fact, the size of things doesn’t vary with their distance; it’s only the retinal images that shrink.

As someone who cares a lot about photography, I know, as most photographers do, that cameras do not perform these interpretive corrections and this often makes the result of one's efforts disappointing.
There's more and I say go read it. But there is this nice summary, which fits so many people I know and how they appear to think (it is hard for me to know, but this seems a model/explanation):
Frayn is the kind of philosopher who can’t quite believe that what he believes is mostly true; that, by and large, things are much as we all suppose them to be, and that we suppose them to be that way mostly because that’s the way they are. And yet, on the face of it, that’s surely the view that has much the most to recommend it. As a matter of fact, there’s no competition; it’s the only story that anybody has a glimmer of how to tell. It’s one thing to remark that there could be other stories; it’s something quite else actually to tell one that is remotely plausible. No doubt, there’s plenty to worry about at the fringes of what we believe; quantum entanglement really is hard to swallow, and I, for one, can’t get my head around black holes.

Fodor also has Frayn's great virtue, that while making you think he can make you laugh too, and he concludes with this joke:
Once upon a time, a visiting scholar presented a lecture on the topic: ‘How many philosophical positions are there in principle?’ ‘In principle,’ he began, ‘there are exactly 12 philosophical positions.’ A voice called from the audience: ‘Thirteen.’ ‘There are,’ the lecturer repeated, ‘exactly 12 possible philosophical positions; not one less and not one more.’ ‘Thirteen,’ the voice from the audience called again. ‘Very well, then,’ said the lecturer, now perceptibly irked, ‘I shall proceed to enumerate the 12 possible philosophical positions. The first is sometimes called “naive realism”. It is the view according to which things are, by and large, very much the way that they seem to be.’ ‘Oh,’ said the voice from the audience. ‘Fourteen!’

I cannot finish there - I want to go back to the middle of Fodor's review, which has a very nice comment on a common confusion:

There are lots of cases where we know more about how the world works than we do about how we know how it works. That’s no paradox. Understanding the structure of galaxies is one thing, understanding how we understand the structure of galaxies is quite another. There isn’t the slightest reason why the first should wait on the second and, in point of historical fact, it didn’t. This bears a lot of emphasis; it turns up in philosophy practically everywhere you look.

And I will confess, I was also curious about Fodor's characterization of the book as, I am not sure how fairly, a romanticism about a lost centrality:
it belongs to a philosophical tradition that reaches back at least as far as Kant and which persists in the neo-pragmatism that is as close as anything gets to being the current philosophical consensus. Frayn’s version goes something like this: back in the good old days, it seemed perfectly clear that everything turned around us, both astronomically and otherwise. The moon, the sun, the planets and the stars were put in place to be the backdrop to a moral drama of which God was the audience and we were the heroes and villains. What we did or failed to do mattered to the whole scheme of things; it was what the whole scheme of things was for.

I have no idea how fair the review is, but the review is a lovely description of some unfortunate trends in some modern thought.


Vie Instapundit, this delightful observation from Jose Maria Aznar.
Don't let anyone forget that bin Laden made it clear that the tragedy of Andalusia (Islam leaving Spain) is one of the key things we has said he wants reversed.

Sacred Water

I actually read this in the paper cited on Saturday and thought of posting on it, as I fully believe we need to start systematically pricing water across very large domains soon.
It seemed such a silly article, but let me at least point to another great blog and their post on that article.

Wallace vs Clinton on credibility

The Chris Wallace interview with Bill Clinton yesterday has been all over the blogosphere in the last day, for good reason.
I loved having Clinton as US President - one felt so good after every speech.
And I find Chris Wallace a superb journalist.
But in a question about which one of the two is not telling the truth, I have no problem deciding which side I would believe.


I am generally a great fan of the Becker-Posner blog, but I trembled a little earlier today when I noticed that they had decided to post on DDT, which seems a very treacherous subject for anyone to take on without doing a LOT of research.
The back of my mind said, "Tim Lambert will find something basically wrong in no time."
And he has.
And for those who think Tim does not get some basic economics, I would say this argument is exactly of the right form:

Yes, bed nets don't work if they are not available, but money spent on DDT spraying could instead be used for buying nets. The new long lasting nets appear to be more cost effective than DDT in the long term

I do not know the answer, but I care about people getting the arguments right.

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Ryder Cup - Justice was Done

I posted earlier on my trouble watching tape-delay.
Today was the day the play was broadcast live, but I also had to get from London, Ontario to Toronto. Should I wait for it to finish or get moving, to be able to prepare for the week ahead.
The glorious thing is that the European players solved it for me. Many years ago they blew a big lead in the last round to give the US team a win. I noticed Colin Montgomerie giving a good reason to believe that this was less likely this year (in the previous two days all the Europeans had played and none had been shut out of points - I think a good point).
Whatver his logic, it did not take long to recognize that NO turnaround would happen this year as the Europeans also totally dominated singles play.
Twenty years ago this was pretty even. This year makes me wonder if it ever can be again. Have we lost a tournament that once was fun to watch?

Planet Earth

Can one sing David Attenborough's praises too highly? We are now a few weeks in Canada into 'Planet Earth', all epsiodes of which have been glorious (especially on HDTV), and I have now learned that the newly diluted TVO, obviously desperate to fill its schedule with reruns, will be doing his series on birds.
I saw only two of those episodes but they made me REALLY want to see all the others, so I think this years is going to have several excuses to be inside.

The most recent searches that led to my blog

They make me feel proud:

based on this letter what things did sullivan ballou value

(I am crying already)

"heaven, i'm in heaven" movie

(Yes yes yes - Astaire - Rogers)!!

"squirrel proof screens"

(dream on, man!!)

alicia woynarski

(huh?? I had better do that search) (OK did that too - feel good about it - it is one reason I blog)

Not unrelated to Benedict's Comments

This observation from Trey Parker. (UPDATE : Trey Parker and Matt Stone - apologies.)

I remain convinced that many of today's complacent will ultimately figure this out.

What Benedict ultimately said in his speech actually is offensive to a good part of the Muslim world, and on exactly this point. I do agree he could have said it better - but we were not his audience at the time.

West Side Story - no PLO credit for that

In an earlier posting I observed that several of us PLO members had plans to see London, Ontario's Grand Theatre high school production of 'West Side Story'.
I had hoped, though I knew that the fact that this show came from Leonard Bernstein and Stephen Sondheim, that we could chalk it up on the PLO side of the world.
Having now seen the show, no, it does not work. All the excellent art stood out too well. The very small jazz band playing the music delivered it beautifully, and the key artists performed wonderfully.
There is regrettably nothing Philistine about those wonderful Sondheim lyrics hitting Bernstein's' music in ways I rarely imagine happening outside an 'ABBA' song. I just get blown away by single lines like, "And I pity, any girl who isn't me tonight", or "It's alarming how charming I feel", which do simply scan so beautifully, as do all the lines in 'Maria'.
As for messages, well, this show just does not age - and nor should it, I guess, based on Shakespeare, and a story he surely stole from an earlier world. And what is more primal than love crossing tribal boundaries, with the prime victims those being the ones trying to stop the senselessness?
And in that context, for me, the song 'Somewhere' just seems devastating. It is so hopeful, and at the same time, such a great condemnation of the world around the characters.
Half the fun was watching the young performers adopt their roles - and in the case of this show, it is not so hard, as it is ABOUT teenagers, or people just older. In the context of high school and University productions I have seen, there were not weak roles taken. There are a couple of the performers I bet I will see again if I live long enough.
Two numbers seemed to me glorious for the high school performers. The 'I Feel Pretty Sequence' sucked me in totally, with all the performers, with great voices, and wonderful performing. The Jets were lucky enough to get the Officer Krupke song, which I did not know (I was of an age to be a nerd when this show came out) - I can think of almost no number in American musical theatre that could so engage a bunch of late teenage boys - and it worked - they were wonderful!
This was my first year even knowing the Grand Theatre did this! It is on my schedule now forever!
As a last reflection, let me say it is stunning what two Jewish boys from Boston and New York can produce, that says SO much more about the world they lived in!

UPDATE: Noel Gallagher's review is very good here and highlights some individuals.

Friday, September 22, 2006

Montreal Shootings

I do not know what I think about gun regulation (I know what I think about the nutty costs of the Liberal gun registry). I own no gun, I have thought of getting one, and of course securing it and registering it, as part of a survival package.
But I watch the press and I remain stunned at one key point. Had every individual at l'Ecole Polytechnique, or Concordia, or Dawson College, been packing a gun, and trained in using it in short order, the number of casualties would almost surely have been much smaller overall than it was. This is a point made perfectly sensibly in a Toronto Star Column.
I am not pretending that this would not create other problems, but the casualty rate in ALL those cases would likely have been reduced were more people carrying guns. The offenders could have been defended against and eliminated much faster than by waiting for the arrival of the police. Wild west? Yup! In these specific cases likely effective. Problematic - yes. Let us have an honest discussion and not pretend these explosions are a case for gun control - in many ways they are the opposite.

Sports on Time Delay

When I was young I was an enormous fan of a number of sports, and this was not easy. For example, even during Wimbledon in the 1960s one could not be sure that local newspapers would provide full results of the previous day's play. The information drought could be profound. The idea that one of the local radio or TV stations would keep you up to date was laughable.
And now I am utterly spoiled. I can get Wimbledon scores live as the sport happens, and this is true for all sports I know that I care about watching. The Internet drains tape-delay of any suspense there might once have been. (And yes I know I can try to hide from information but that is not me.)
Back then if a TV station had said it would show the key matches several hours, or even a day, later, that could have seemed a great bargain - after all, I was likely to have had no idea how the match came out.
As communication technology has improved, different broadcasters make different choices about the value of immediacy in sports. For example, in the last couple of World Cups of football, in the cable TV universe in Canada, viewers have had, for a modest price, been able to tune into any match they wanted live. This has not been so true in the US, where major networks sometimes have exclusive rights and do not expect their audience to care about live coverage. Worse, they often don't seem to care about sports coverage itself, but rather some human interest nonsense around the sport.
So this weekend what is happening on television in Canada for the Ryder Cup? The Ryder Cupis a team golf event, pitting a US team against a European team, and it produces a fair bit of intensity and is entertaining, as the balance between the groups is pretty good. Canada may not be directly involved but we fans spend the year able to watch both tours.
And so what do we get this weekend? It is utterly uninteresting for the first couple of days - what is showing on Candian TV is the US coverage, which is tape-delayed, hours behind reality, where any real fan already knows via the Internet what has happened. It seems amazing to me advertisers can believe they can get value in a situation like this.
It seems from the scheduling that Sunday's competition may be shown live, but it is not clear to me yet.
But I do know with certainty that if it is also tape-delayed, I won't really be watching. I will have had all the results on the Internet and it hardly seem worth the trouble when there is surely something else with more suspense.
These are some issues here of sports economics and I would love to hear from those who have thought about these issues more than I have. But I know what I think and my eyes will not be glued to any tape delays ever again in my life.

The Benedict Gefluffle

Let me start by reminding you that I am an atheist. So all of you religious guys can put out fatwas. Somehow I think not many would.

Joseph Ratzinger, who had as a Cardinal developed a terrible reputation among Catholics I knew as guardian of the doctrine, now that he is the Pope, strikes me to be doing quite a good job of making the case for his views (with almost all of which I disagree).

But this is a chalenge of our times - cna people respect the differing views others have?
And Benedict walked into a big problem here.
So first I ask anyone to read the actual speech he gave last week - here is one place to look. (Yeah some of the rendition in my browser is pretty goofy but I think I get it overall.)
It is very interesting:
a) at one level, the quotation from the 14th Century Byzantine emperor that produced most of the outbursts is rather glancing and hardly worth the emphasis the rest of the world has given it;
b) his main message is that Biblical scholarship, and study of the Jewish and Christian scholarship over the centuries, has emphasized that God should justify himself by 'reason' ('logos');
c) which means that conversion by force is against scripture and orthodoxy (he has to gloss over several parts of Christian history at least for this);
d) to say it slightly differently, you have to convert others by reason for it to be legitimate, and this unites all Christian history with the Greek history (so he says);
e) he does not disclaim the views he quotes from the 14th century. The response to this has made the point that may have been part of what he was getting at.

He presents his argument with great erudition - it blows me away in many elements. I have rarely seen such far-ranging arguments from a bureaucrat, which is what I consider him to be.

And the interesting first reaction of the Muslim world was to explode on a) and threaten violence, the whole point of which was to ask what Islam had added to Jewish and Christan views, other than the notion of 'jihad', which in the view of the quotation he cited replaced 'reason' by 'jihad', which is not 'reasonable argument'. What is ironic is that the reaction proved the case of that old Byzantine emperor in spades.

And is it true that is not what Benedict meant? I do not know.

But in the end:
a) he also has to argue from revelation and scripture and that is nonsense, just as it is wrt the Koran, whatver space he rhetorically leaves to science and empricism.
b) the track record of past Popes is not great on converting others or dealing with their failure to believe purely on the basis of reason;
c) on the other hane, their track record is sure better in the last 50 years than that of the Imams;
d) 'Christian Scholarship' and 'Islamic Scholarship' are, in my view, both utterly unproductive, as simple re-reading and annotation of texts with no reference to the outside world (NB: there are many academic disciplines today that function exactly in this manner, and in fact consider that a virtue to be defended, which I do not);
e) reading his speech, I am stunned at the amount of work he has put into understanding a broad variety of traditions - more than I would - I would not even bother to care about the different strands of revelation - Ratzinger is a very sharp guy, with the ability to absorb and integrate a very broad base of traditions. I would like to see one of the hysterical Imams come close to this, despite their nonsenical claims that Islam produced modern science.
f) I don't care much for any of these religions. Only one seems to be out to kill me today, though.

In any case - how on earth did this speech turn into an excuse to have riots over large parts of the Muslim world? Well, it is not for me to answer, but I doubt I will get an answer that will make me think highly of the rioters.

Did Benedict provoke it deliberately? Maybe. He is no fool.

This is an Unwelcome Hiatus

I want Paul back!!

And I guess he says he will be.

Great News - Dear Economist goes public

Tune in here.

Likely PhotoShopped Cat-Blogging (but fun)

From Paul, via Mark - the cat reminds me of my own. However real, it does make me laugh.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Monarch Butterflies around Toronto

I had stopped seeing them on my daily drives about a week ago. But on Tuesday, devoted to a round of golf on a course somewhat northeast of Toronto, they seemed to be everywhere (UPDATE: Wow what bad writing - *I* was devoted to the golf, the monarchs were not, though I would like to think they were - let us just leave it at that). And they were a very rich orange, nectaring like crazy on the madly blooming goldenrod all over the golf course.

I sure hope this late generation can make it to Mexico.

Wonderful use of animations of statistical tables

Via Greg Mankiw, an utterly brilliant talk on international health. It may sound dull, but not in Hans Rosling's hands.

Monday, September 18, 2006

Andrew Potter hits another Homer

Amen to this post.

Natural behaviour? Cows aren’t natural entities. Like dogs, they’re completely artificial. They’re basically living meat sculptures, shaped by humans, for human purposes, over thousands of years.

This reminds me of other discussions I find bizarre when I visit Austria, and people there use the term 'natural' to describe the land there, almost entirely converted to human purposes, agriculture and skiing. (Not fair to pick on Austria, as lots of Canadians seem to have the same notions.) Do people really think farm fields are 'natural'?

Well, actually, I do. As are cities. They are the construct of this wild little species, that has asserted itself so widely across the planet. But the distinction people like to make between cities and farms seems utterly fraudulent to me. As is any distinction among the various things we have done to shape our world.

Sunday, September 17, 2006

A Threat to the Philistine Liberation Organization

Several members of the PLO will be watching a production of West Side Story this weekend coming.
Many factors suggest this is not appropriate PLO territory - Leonard Bernstein was a major classical music conductor, and Stephen Sondheim is the author of brainy shows (and was a major Broadway nerd in his youth).
But if you look at the details, I think our behaviour is excusable. It is a high school production. Surely even if they were doing grand opera, the fact that it is high school should excuse us.
I must say though, that I think the line "It's alarming how charming I feel" is almost the best English-language song lyric not to be part of an Abba song.

No this isn't Kansas, Toto

As mentioned earlier, I spent last week in Arizona. Unfortunately this picture is pretty much all of Arizona I really got to see. (The view from the hotel room.)

Terry Fox Run 2006

I am finding I quite like the atmosphere of the University of Western Ontario's Terry Fox 'Run'. The picture above (click to enlarge, as for all the pictures) is from the 'concrete beach' - the upper left of the picture proves we were at UWO!
Students born after Terry Fox' death organize and participate. And of course any student scene has its points.
There is some serious specialization - even if you have some other sport, you might come out.

There are some interesting fashion statements - check out the hairstyles! I suspect they are from France.

Sometimes the dedication can be impressive. One woman walking near us was clearly limping all the way. And then we saw some serious commitment!

And just as you start to grow weary of the activity, the band is available to inspire!

Saturday, September 16, 2006

One voice

I am watching a bit of the 'March of the Penguins', English version.

Morgan Freeman reads the English soundtrack

And this reminds me that I go out of my way simply to hear his voice in a movie, no matter how stupid the film. Does anyone else reading this have such a silly criterion?

Air Travel - the pluses and minuses

In air travel, as in so many areas, you never know!

Yesterday, I was flying back from Phoenix to Toronto via Denver, and many things that could go wrong went very right.

I was flying TED out of Phoenix (half of United) (having got up at 3:45 AM!) and was told I had to get my seat at the gate. At the gate they had only middle seats (I am over 1.88m) and my heart sank, but I got an exit row seat and I will say, it was very comfortable, and my neighbours were very congenial. Wilder, the plane arrived early.

I have come to quite like Denver airport, and very much enjoy Lefty's Mile High stop (right beside the Air Canada gate), and I had a great breakfast there. Next to me for about an hour were a wonderful couple of US public servants, one working for the GSA and one for the EEOC, on their way to visit his relatives in El Paso. He (the latter) (yes they were both hetero) was embroiled in a transgendering case, and had some interesting perspectives. He was a delightful character, and had done stand-up comedy on several amateur nights. I suspected he was looking for another career.

Later I had a nice chat with an acupuncturist plagued by the protective policies of his charge card company. His wife, who shared a card with him, was in China, and the card company balked when it saw charges accumulating in both Denver and Beijing, so her attempt to impress her clients had been foiled. He was trying for the second time to explain to the company what the situation was, and how it would get worse, as he was flying to New York.

Philosophically, these experiences made me feel really good about the people who generally are on the road. (A view emphasized even more by the week I spent working, about which I cannot say much.)

At one point at my left someone clearly part of a rock band was talking about how he was planning to self-produce his own CDs. He was calculating how many shows per week he needed to survive, but was also preparing to invest in some significant CD replication hardware. I suspect the threat felt by the large record labels is very real.

And what was bad? To give credit to Air Canada we were on the ground 20 minutes early, and I was through customs and immigration with my bag at 4:40, which was before I thought we would be at the gate. And then, sadly, Park 'n' Fly did not get a bus to the place I was waiting until 5 and even when I got tho their valet centre and had paid, could not produce my car before 5:17.

This spoiled what had been a great travel day! More later on Park 'n' Fly's valet parking (which had negative value compared to the next option this trip).

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Greg Mankiw is mischievous

Worse things have been said about him.

But this post exposes his Loki-like character.

A 'Chill in the Air' in Phoenix

My Sept. 11 travels were successful if tiring.

The morning weather report on one of the TV stations reports that there is a 'chill in the air' coming, with high temperatures dropping later in the week to the mid-90s. For those of us from Toronto, that is around 34-35.

That is no chill in the air where I come from.

(BTW - it does seem the 'dry heat' thing is real - as I headed for my taxi here, I did not break into a sweat last night, as I surely would have on an ostensibly cooler Toronto day in the summer.)

Sunday, September 10, 2006

How Many More Sunny Days this Year?

September 11, 2006

I won't be blogging much tomorrow as I will be in the air for a large part of the day! And this never crossed my mind as I booked the flights.
On the day of the actual murders, I was part of a team preparing the festive opening of a new local site for the multinational I work for. The person who was co-manning my post (we had demos to do for the visitors) arrived a little late, shortly after 9am, and told me a plane had flown into the World Trade Center, and I naturally pictured a small biplane. It did not take long for me to have my misconceptions corrected.
In fact, several executives had flown to Toronto that morning, and were wandering around worried about some of their customers.
The festive opening became something other than that.
And the world has become something other than it was then, in our foolish naivete.

Saturday, September 09, 2006

Is There Somewhere to Order the T-Shirt

T-Shirts with the logo of a happy murderer, who also managed to destroy a successful economy, abound.
Is there somewhere I can find a T-shirt featuring a real hero?
Yes, I can order the usual one too, but why has everyone else got that awful person's head on his T-shirt? Cute in the beret but is that really enough to overcome the nasties?

An exercise in subjunctives

Were I Jack Layton, how many people would I want watching my policy convention on the Parliamentary channel?
Were there something better on TV, I would be off there, and not blogging on this rather awful experience.
Were I Jack Layton, I would ask the US Open to start their weekend matches much earlier!
Were there an election, could I stomach voting for a representative of this political party?
Were these guys to look even vaguely electable, I wonder how hard it would be to move to Costa Rica.
Heaven be thanked, I think this is all the subjunctive for contrafactuals.

Cushman on Rickman

Robert Cushman has long been one of my favourite local theatre reviewers. In today's National Post he tells a wonderful story about Alan Rickman's debut, in the midst of ruminating on managing a career that spans stage and screen.
What are my two favourite Rickman roles?
Certainly the movie Close My Eyes, in which he gets to use throughly what Cushman calls "the voice, the irony, the authority, the all-pervading mournfulness", all of which are needed as the character's wife begins an affair with her brother (played by Clive Owen, the matinee idol still-to-be).
That was on screen.
On the stage I had the privilege to see him in Coward's 'Private Lives'. The play is always a delight, but this pairing was quite good.
Thanks to Robert Cushman for an amusing look at the start of this fine career.

Insight from the NDP Convention

The NDP does not provide it.

But the blogosphere? Yes - if technology allows - try this spot.

Resolutions Passed Unanimously

Of course the 'diversity' resolution (at the NDP convention) was empty enough to be without much content; it asked for an improvement to the system of security certificates, and against racial profiling. Amusingly, someone (Libby Davies, I believe) even argued that 'racial profiling' was bad for all of us; well, I am honest enough to say that when applied at airport security it is certainly a benefit to me; recent history does not suggest that a late-50's geek is a likely candidate to be a problem, so racial profiling should make my passage through investigation a lot simpler. I am not sure what Libby Davies could mean. And personally, I want the security guys doing whatever is most efficent and most effective.
In any case, the point is that this sort-of-resolution passed unanimously. What should we make of that.
I like Chris Dillow's take on this. It should be alarming.
Now, the Liberal party has an entertaining campaign going on, and there is no way this one is going to produce unanimously passed resolutions. This is one reason I can at least manage voting for them again.
The story of Paul Summerville shows what happens in the NDP on this front. Real diversity is not welcome.

More NDP Fun - 'Incredible' is a compliment describing ostensible non-fiction

Well, I think the speaker meant it as one. Thomas Mulcair chose to describe what I assume to be a book guiding their policies, Natural Capitalism, as 'incredible'.
I do not know the book but I fear he is right that it is incredible. (I did scan the reviews and maybe they have discovered the Coase theorem, which is actually not a bad thought.)

NDP starts off just as expected

So the NDP Policy convention is on its way! They just passed a resolution to withdraw our troops from Afghanistan now, rather than, as the leader Jack Layton had proposed, in February 2007. Layton is somewhat waffling now, and clearly repudiated his own party's position by saying that of course Canada had to consult allies before acting immediately.
What a joy to lack power! One can occupy such convenient spaces, lacking any responsibility.
BTW I would have thought that their convention blogs might have some value. So far what I have seen is completely out of date and quite stilted. Curious - not a cool party at all.

Not a good sign

I typed 'Margaret Atwood' into this dialogue and noticed two things I found quite disturbing.

One is that Alice Munro's name appears to be misspelled.

Worse, Anne Tyler winds up positioned close to Atwood. This shows me that the criteria they are using have nothing to do with me and what I care about when I read. Atwood for me is a cold fish, almost lacking any sense of human empathy, while Anne Tyler's novels spill over with the glorious messiness of real life and make me care totally about her characters. I cannot recall ever having a single sympathy with an Atwood character. (Mind you she has a wonderfully savage sense of humour.)

Perhaps I should try more than one experiment.

UPDATE: Tried 'James Joyce'. Again the artifice determined the mapping more than the heart.

UPDATE2: Tried "Scott Turow". And got John Gresham nearby????

Monarchs in the Star

This is a spectacular year and this is THE spectacular part of it for the amazing trip of those tiny butterflies (well, actually, relative to butterflies, there are reasonably large, but they are tiny relative to me).

The Toronto Star has a nice article today (with a picture from a competent photographer)on the migration. It also features comments from Donald Davis, who lives in the GTA and is one of the leading figures of Monarch research over the last many years.

Sacha Baron Cohen in the minor country of Canada

I have never actually seen a whole episode of 'The Ali G Show' but have come from glancing blows with occasional episodes to develop quite a respect for Sacha Baron Cohen's ability to make me laugh. And to see into the core of things.

Perhaps the most classic performance is this Ali G interview with his 'main man, Professor Norman Chomsky'.

Chomsky handles it all with a somewhat befuddled sense of bemusement but Cohen's apparent stupidities are wonderfully incisive, and he is no fool.

He has a movie out now featuring one of his other personae, Borat, a Kazakhstani reporter trying to make sense of the United States.
This film got a showing at the Toronto International Film Festival, one of the most painful orgies of self-congratulation I have ever seen a cultural community prostitute itself to (I have to suffer through it annually - the local media actually get really excited because Reese Witherspoon is in town, and worse). Just start reading the text on this page. What is delicious is that the projector broke down during the showing and the film could not be shown to the end.

Cohen tried to calm the disappointed crowd with a speech that, according to today's Globe and Mail, included this passage, which I think is utterly perfect:

It is a very great honour to make a visit to the minor nation of Canadas. Our countries are very similar, and not only because of the projector system.

I suspect he had not been long in Toronto but he saw an awful lot in that short time. His read on Canada was as quick as his read on Norman.

UPDATE: Andrew Potter found this same story with a somewhat different slant.

A Reminder from Brad DeLong (take it seriously)

It is such a simple thing to do and so easily neglected.

So When IS the Women's Semi-Final Actually Being Played?

The US Open web site says 7pm.
All the usual TV sources (see this post AND the comment) will begin broadcasting at 8pm.
Does anyone know which of the following is true?
a) People who arrive at Flushing Meadows on time will be required to sit through a whole hour of varied entertainments, no doubt with past glories being featured. Maybe Billie Jean King and Jimmy Connors will play an exhibition (yawn).
b) We'll be seeing the match on quite a significant tape delay (in which case I will likely not be watching - just cannot stay away from Internet live scoring).

Friday, September 08, 2006

Links to this Blog

My oh my - sometimes you just do not want to look closely at sitemeter reports.
If Maria Sharapova (however her name is pronounced) did not have breasts, the hit rate on this blog would be as miniuscule as I would expect.
On the other hand, think of the disappointment of those who arrive at this blog from that search.

Sad, if Unsurprising

One breath of fresh air in the last federal election campaign here was the presence of Paul Summerville as an NDP candidate in Toronto, even more as apparently a key economic adviser. It was amazing to hear the party's economic spokesman actually making sense for a change.
Well, the outcome was likely predictable, especially as the NDP heads into its policy convention this weekend with its hilarious policy proposals to deal with.
Paul announces the news at his own blog (if indirectly).

The key point is the obvious one:
Mr. Summerville says that if the NDP is to be taken seriously it has to accept the market economy is [not] "a necessary evil but an indispensable part of the engine of prosperity and by implication, justice. In addition, the party must accept the fact that Canada does not, and never will have the capacity to rewrite the rules of engagement in the global economy. ... Consequently, saddling the party with anti-trade, anti-corporation, anti-market rhetoric just perpetuates its marginal status at federal level.”

I expect him to be a welcome addition to the Liberal party.

Avian Marginalism at a Winery

Part of the day was getting a winery tour. While waiting for it to start, we noticed frequent noises that sounded like shotguns going off.
The tour guide explained to us that these were just noises, fired off electronically to discourage birds from harvesting the grapes before the humans get them.
Shortly thereafter we were sent off by the tour guide to wander among the vines and sample the grapes. The only problem I had doing that was fighting off the house sparrows! I noticed as well that as the shooting sounds went off I may have twitched a bit but the birds were utterly uninterested.
Now of course what I do not know is how many unfazed sparrows would have been in the field had there been no gunshot noises. What is vital is what happens at the margin.

Mysterious Monarchs

Last year around this time I spent an afternoon at Port Stanley, on the north shore of Lake Erie. The most striking feature that afternoon was a very steady and heavy flow of Monarch butterflies, all flying westward along the north shore of the lake. None were venturing out over the water. I assumed they were headed west in order to go south between Lake Erie and Lake Michigan and avond a major water crossing.
It made me wonder whether Monarchs originating farther east might use the Niagara peninsula in the same way.
Today I spent the afternoon in Niagara on the Lake. On my way, I noticed many butterflies in Toronto flying with apparent purpose, but I stopped noticing them after the turn south, and I saw not a single one during several hours in Niagara.
On the other hand, Journey North does show some evidence they use this path, and also that they may go straight across one of the lakes.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Book Tag

Man I Hate This - but why not? I was tagged here and all defenses collapsed with this post.

A Book that Changed My Life It is likely this or some other similar Sawyer effort, that made it clear to me I wanted to be a mathematician. The irony is that once I became one, I wanted to be something else, as I happily am now. But the mathematical style of thought I still consider utterly vital.

A Book I Have Read More than Once Well, sorry but it IS Ulysses.
I REALLY like Leopold Bloom (not so much the other characters). I think I have also read a couple of Michael Connelly novels twice too. But I am less sure about those. I know when I re-read Ulysses.

A Book I would take with me if I were stuck on a desert island Do I have time to decide? I think I would like one of those math books like the Sawyer one, for the sheer diversion. Otherwise, yeah, surely, Shakespeare.

A Book that made me laugh Out loud in an embarrassing way? The Tom Sharpe one on literature ('The Great Pursuit'?), that features 'Pause o Men for the Virgin'. He saw through the crap of postmodernism long before it had latched and wrecked so many Western brains.

A Book that made me cry Not sure - can think of some movies (The Red Pony) but no books.

A Book I wish had been written The Origin of the Species

A Book I wish had never been written Too many choices - any of the variety of hate-spewing nonsense out there now.

A Book I'm currently reading My sidebar has the official version but I am primarily on the 4th Stephanie Plum novel.

A Book I've been meaning to read Hmm. I have an underdeveloped sense of duty. Maybe finally "War and Peace"?

What turned me onto fiction This is REALLY a great question, as I loved non-fiction almost exclusively until my late teens. What flipped me? I think maybe Ray Bradbury, which is really funny, as I find science fiction unreadable now.

Who do I tag? Nobody. No way, no how, no body.

Take that!

I know there are those with poor views of my gardening skills.
I can only say 'take this'!.

Extraordinary Day

I was waiting to head to the office when a good number of Monarch butterflies descended on my backyard, largely focused though on a neighbour's flowering tree. My photographic skills failed but this shot at least hints at what was there:

What Does your Cat Watch, part 2

Well, earlier I told about how someone tried to entertain my old cat.
But the picture below shows clearly, I think, what he really thought.

Bilinguilalism, one reason I love it

OK maybe not bilinguialism itself, but the commitment to broadcasting Quebec TV stations in Ontario (where essentially nobody speaks French).
Today our Sports Network has to choose between the US Open Tennis and the Canadian Open Golf, located this year in Hamilton, Ontario. The English Sports Network has chosen the golf.
So what does a tennis fan do? Looks for the French language sport network, also broadcast locally, which feels no need to preempt excellent tennis for some golf tournament in Ontario! Even better, the play-by-play announcers are pretty good comapred to the English ones.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Would Fixing This be so Hard?

More tennis.
The name is surely Sha-ra'-po-va. Notice - em-pha'sis on the second syllable.
So why does she not want to fix this and get the press placing it where it belongs. Can it be that hard?
Or has she decided to do, quite reasonably, the immigrant thing, and just let her name be changed?

"The State of American Tennis"

Is there anything more tedious? Tennis is one of the truly globalized industries and it is an utter delight to see all the various other (non-US) countries contribute good players. Only the state of Canadian tennis could seem less relevant.
But. But. There is a concern. Now here in Canada it seems all our TV rights depend on stations from the US so we had better hope those stations maintain their commitment to this sport even as their tennis players get wiped out. So Andy Roddick! Hang in there! I want good local coverage of major tennis tournaments and fear tha6 if you lose, I lose. OK maybe James Blake should win. I like that idea. He is great.

Youzhny - Woo Hoo

The day I froze at the French Open started with a match between Carlos Moya and Mikhail Youzhny (whose name I misspelled - not just mistransliterated - back then). The Russian impressed me (as you can tell if you follow the link) but was beaten on clay by the clay-player Moya.
I am stunned now, and delighted, to watch the same Youzhny beating Nadal at the US Open. Now Nadal has abandoned the Capri pants for simple long pants. No doubt this is what has determined the outcome.

What Does your Cat Watch?

My cat has some significant veterinary needs, taken care of by a veterinary assistant who comes in at least daily, and twice a day when I am away.
Worse for the cat, some of his misbehaviours have caused me to ban him to the basement and be locked up there when there is nobody to supervise him - so his freedoms have been terribly curtailed.
After a two-day absence last weekend I returned home and was surprised to find the TV in the basement on. Could I have forgotten it when I left?
Later I talked to my cat's nanny - it turns out he (the cat) had been very upset at my long absence, so visibly annoyed that she left the Discovery Channel on for him.
I turned it off before I noticed, but I hope she had tuned it to the HDTV Discovery Channel.
Some animals are really spoiled.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

A Significant Compensation

Friday I was spending some time reconciling with a relative, and things were going nicely. Finally, of course, the Israel-Hizbollah war came up and the rant about the excesses of those awful Israelis escalated. My faithful readers will know this would have caused me to make the mistake of responding. And in the obvious ways - maybe the side that apologizes for civilian casualties, and feels embarrassed, and tries to avoid them, etc, has moral advantages over the side that is determined to produce civilian casualties, both in Israel and Lebanon. I even went so far as to say that I have an instinctive response against the side that clearly believes in the motto "Viva la Muerte". And there is no question who they are.
Well, my interlocutor packed up and walked away. Sad to my mind. I was depressed. This was not where I wanted to be.
But I did get a bit of feedback that mattered. As I looked around after this fiasco, a woman seated at the next table commented quietly, "I am Jewish". I guess I am not the only person who eavesdrops. And yes, in the end, I think she was right to do it, though I was initially startled. Her view in the end, sadly, did really matter. I thank her so much for being there.

Friday, September 01, 2006

Landes Posts Part Three of his Gaarder response

You can find it here.

It makes me despise even more the double standard I see daily.

UPDATE: Earlier parts referenced here.

Friday Cat-Blogging

I know that
a) I normally don't cat-blog on Fridays, and
b) this is not about my cat,
this post contains one of the most poignant and sweet cat pictures I have ever seen.

"Another one for the Ages"

That is media talk - and a quotation from the broadcaster at the end of the match - I think it was only the second round of the US Open tennis as Andre Agassi beat Marco Baghdatis (I woke up fortunately early enough to find the replay on). My guess is nobody will remember this match in a month, and they won't replay it next year during any rainout. (They did so with an Agassi-Blake match this week, but that was two American players.)
Doc asked an interesting question over at his blog. It sure did not look as if any fix was in on this match, though I suppose they could arrange some pretty interesting charades.

A Family of Nerds

And clearly a third generation of bloggers. I laughed out loud (with delight) when I read this.