Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Who Matters? - Bill Walsh Did

Sure we have lost Ingmar Bergman and Michelangelo Antonioni, but we have also lost Bill Walsh and Damian Penny does a very nice succinct description of why one might care.

I lived several years in the Bay Area, and so also was aware of Walsh as the Stanford coach. And in some ways that was more exciting.

Former Heisman Trophy winner and star NFL quarterback Jim Plunkett, recruited to Stanford by Walsh, said Friday night that he had known about Walsh's condition for some time. Plunkett, who won two Super Bowl titles with the Raiders, called the news "sad," because he has such a long and special relationship with Walsh.

Ave, Bill Walsh. Thank you for all the pleasure you helped give me watching Stanford and the 49ers play. (No - I did not go to Stanford.)

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Watching Golf Live

Today I did something I had never done before - went to watch a PGA Tour event live. I chose the early part of the last day of this year's Canadian Open Golf Championship. I enjoyed my time, but am watching, as originally planned, the end of the day's action on television.

So let me explain that first. While it is not clear to me that golf is one of the best sports to watch on television, it is one of the sports that is spectacularly better to watch on television than live! So note the distinction - curling is just about the best television spectator sport (up there with billiards/snooker, and poker, and I am not joking), because everything that happens can be arranged to happen under a camera in the normal time for a watchable sport (a couple of hours). But watching curling live is almost as good as watching it on television because, normally if you are watching it, there is a whole lot more going on than television will show that you can actually see from your seat in the arena. This is almost as true for the case where only one match is going on but in most televised bonspiels, one match is being televised, but others will be going on simultaneously for viewers in the arena, so the economics are very different.

So watching golf live, you are stuck at any moment in one place. From that one place you might be able to see a couple of groups on neighbouring holes, but totally inaccessible to your eyes is almost all of what is happening, and things happen at a very leisurely pace where you are. That really matters near the end of the tournament as scores may be changing all over the last several holes - you are stuck in one place and will find out retroactively only, and will certainly not see what happened in anything close to real-time (perhaps golf courses used on the tour will develop truly gigantic or ubiquitous Jumbotrons in the future to address this).

But there are many other problems I found today, which will affect any future decision to try such an experiment again.

a) I could hardly ever see the shots. About the only place I found I could pick up the ball from was right behind the hitters; I found I could get such positions on par 3s, which were the holes I least needed the help on, but I never found it possible on a par 4 or 5 to get behind the tee-off area and try to pick up the shot. My other success was picking up approach shots from behind a green. The TV cameramen appear to have such positions - they always pick up the shot; I also assume they have great skills and are selected for them.

b) Depending on your strategy for watching, this can be a pretty strenuous experience. Mine was a bit of walk around and try to follow what is interesting approach - wears you down in hot weather on hills. It is a lot easier sitting in the stands in a curling arena or at a tennis tournament.

On the other hand there were lots of good things about it.

a) At least today it was fun watching all the Monarch and other butterflies - I also saw a sandpiper and other animal life (more on some of it later). The course is also a bit of a wildlife refuge and if you are attentive that can be fun.

b) There is a ton of interesting technology at these tournaments - I was never sure which parts of it were for what but I spent a fair bit of my time near some people manning some devices at the expected ball landing area in the tenth fairway. I assumed these were GPS devices, which allowed recording the length of drives and remaining distance to the pin (Mike Weir left a 330-yard drive just short of a bunker in front of me!). This I learned by eavesdropping. (And now I just heard Ian Baker-Finch on the CBS broadcast refer to his IBM shot-length tracker - this makes sense.)

c) The people are fun to watch - the retirees come out early and in many cases just settle somewhere smart and watch the groups go by. They are very savvy and I found I learned a lot by listening to them chat about what earlier groups had done - like, "everybody who comes in on that line rolls away right" - making me think smart people would hire them as consultants. Several had weekly passes, and their advice might remain useful even with the tricky movement of the pin placements. Meanwhile, as I left, I noticed everyone arriving looked a lot cooler than the people I had spent my last hours with. Those arriving were coming to see, as best they could, what would be better presented on TV. Why? I have no idea.

d) Sort of like the last point, the demographics were fun. When I arrived it was hundreds of men in polo shirts or t-shirts and knee-length shorts (as was I), occasionally accompanied by a woman; they were more variously dressed (not more colourfully - the women seemed to like white and black - this may be like avian conditions, with their dull browns). Later I noticed many pairs of women, and, even more amazing to me, pairs of parents pushing strollers, as well as occasional families dragging reluctant children about. In only one case though did I see a teenage daughter with a parent!

e) The players can be fun, and some of this you would never see on TV. On one early hole, I had positioned myself with the technology in the first-shot landing area as Billy Andrade and Corey Pavin were playing the hole. Their drives landed close (as is so often the case), but we spectators and marshals noticed a Garter Snake working its way slowly to Andrade's ball as the players came up the fairway. Andrade's caddy noticed it first (we were all watching but not helping) and put a hand up in front of Andrade, who jumped back quickly when he saw it. At that point the fans said, "Ah, it is only a Garter Snake", and Andrade responded, "I am not going anywhere near it". Meanwhile Pavin, living in Texas, helped chase the snake back into safety in deep grass. Thinking of the scorpions and fire ants I have met in that state, I could see why he might have been so casual. I stuck with that group for a while, and the players and their caddies seemed very companionable. This was decidedly not true at all for several pairings I watched.

So how might I do this if I did it again?

a) I would not go on the weekend. I would go on the first two playing days - they are cheaper, and the groups are larger, so the idleness factor drops, and you won't have to worry in most tournaments about missing better TV coverage.

b) I would probably try more consistently to follow one or two groups OR just stay in one place. It is a hard balance. At my age, it is NOT easy to move between sitting down on the grass and keeping moving, as there is a cost to getting down and getting up.

c) I might try to smuggle a camera in. One of my original reasons for going was that I thought there might be nice pictures to get (and there would have been), but the terms and conditions on the tickets prohibited a camera. Many people had them.

Anyway still some thought needed on this. I had a great time.

And by the way, there are sports that are surely far more awful for their live spectators. I would pick the Tour de France as a classic, and forget all the drug problems. Imagine sitting for hours in the middle of nowhere waiting for these guys to zoom by, and they zoom by at 40 miles an hour in a gigantic anonymous pack, and that is it. You think you saw something, but you certainly did not see your hero standing within five feet of you scratching his earlobe; I had such experiences today, watching them scratch earlobes, for many players I have enjoyed watching, like Corey Pavin, Mike Weir, Stephen Ames, Briny Baird, Steve Jones, etc. So I would surely never watch the Tour de France! (Well, actually, as I work through my vacation photos, I have some small confessions to make in a later post.)

Congratulations to Iraq for a Great Victory

Iraq the Model tells it best, but I am sure the joy is widespread.

Of course the courageous Iraqi resistance beloved by so many could try to make their brilliant political statements as they did during the semifinal victory celebration. It is hard to explain how befuddled I am by the apologists of such actions. (And there are many among us.)

Saturday, July 28, 2007

More on the (non?)-Value of Blogging

I am vain enough to regularly check my sitemeter to see how the few people who find it and are not just my family and close friends get here.

So I was wandering about and found a search from the Ukraine. "Victoria Gydov wedding".

I remembered her name. She was a great performer in a performance at Western of "Ruddigore". This sentence I wrote in an earlier post,
London is so lucky that Victoria Gydov has moved there - she was wonderful, pretty good diction (very rare in roles like this), great singing accuracy. She played Rose Maybud.

sat for a while featured on her webpage, now replaced by links to the more conventional London Free Press (no free link to be provided by me).

In case you wonder, she did not invite me to her wedding.

I am unsure whether a London Free Press artistic review is better than one from me personally. But I would guess she and her agent can figure this out.

It was an utter thrill to be cited by her for a while on her webpage, and I assure anyone I will go out of my way to see her perform again!

What is so Great about Blogging

One of the joys in blogging, publishing and reading, is the ability to connect in unexpected ways with those who may share some interests with you, but, for example, have very different political views.

Glenn Reynolds exposed a nice example of this when one of his readers thanked him for some data a few days ago. And I understand this issue - it is really hard to get this right!

I now find to my amusement that one of my favourite bloggers, who politically I consider utter knee-jerk and rather silly at times (I do not expect good judgment from him there), has suddenly stumbled on the excellent rock band Rush. His initial enthusiasm is clearly its skepticism about religion, but on further exploration he has to struggle with their skepticism about his (what I would call) knee-jerk leftism.

One of the commenters cited the great lyrics from one song:

So the maples formed a union
And demanded equal rights.
"The oaks are just too greedy;
We will make them give us light."
Now there's no more oak oppression,
For they passed a noble law,
And the trees are all kept equal
By hatchet, axe, and saw.

And as a Canadian, I agree it would be the maples. But let me give P. Z. Myers credit - he is just proving his blog is always worth reading!

Friday, July 27, 2007

How Else Would one Fly into Space

There is some curious outrage about some possible news coming from NASA that some of the astronauts may have taken off drunk.

The report from a panel convened by the U.S. space agency did not name the astronauts involved or provide dates or the nature of the flights. NASA said it will investigate.

"Interviews with both flight surgeons and astronauts identified some episodes of heavy use of alcohol by astronauts in the immediate preflight period, which has led to flight safety concerns," said the report on astronaut behavioral health.

"Alcohol is freely used in crew quarters. Two specific instances were described where astronauts had been so intoxicated prior to flight that flight surgeons and/or fellow astronauts raised concerns to local on-scene leadership regarding flight safety," the report added.

"However, the individuals were still permitted to fly."

I know a small number of things. I personally would not go up sober. Moreover, I don't get the flight safety thing - from what little I may know, the astronauts don't really do much for the first while. Let them sleep it off until they need to send messages back home to Mom or appear to take pictures while the computers fly the vessel.

OK Now I am Worried about those Squirrels

Grrlscientist always has the greatest pictures and she found another one, with some further details, that will cause me to look more closely at the equipment being carried by my five regulars as they try to wander into the house.
I might not have taken her report seriously but for the comment from Bob in Helsinki (do follow the link), which now has me truly worried.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Is there some major grammatical confusion?

One of my favourite ScienceBlogs visits an important question. Chris is obscure about his own views on the existence of a deity and cites this dialogue from Contact.

I do, however, concur with one of my favorite characters in fiction, Dr. Ellie Arroway in Carl Sagan's Contact.
The question Do you believe in God? has a peculiar structure. If I say no, do I mean I'm convinced God doesn't exist, or do I mean I'm not convinced he does exist? Those are two very different questions.

But but is this not just stupid? The question is clear. The question "Do you believe in God" is not asking for its negative "Am I convinced God does not exist", it really only invites the second answer - you say no if you are not convinced.
So why does Chris, like Ellie in the movie, want to duck the question? I can only guess. The movie had to sell. Maybe Chris is worried about selling.
But the claim that there is confusion here is nonsense.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Gotta Love Marlon

But I am not sure I ever knew fully why until Norm pointed me at this wonderful analysis by Joe Queenan - short excerpt, which expresses the basic idea most clearly (but read the whole thing at least for the reference to Dean Martin!):

1972 was a banner year for this master of self-sabotage. In The Nightcomers, a weird prequel to Henry James's The Turn of the Screw, Brando winds up sporting matching arrows protruding from his head. In Last Tango in Paris, a once-controversial film that now merely seems stupid, he gets gunned down by a perky sex kitten whom he had been mauling fore and aft for the previous few weeks. Stalked and gunned down in the streets by tacky, classless gangsters in The Godfather, a stricken Vito Corleone later falls down dead while impersonating Dracula. Brando is probably the only major star in motion picture history to die in three different films in three different ways in a single year. Hats off to him for the arrow adios.

Flooding in Oxfordshire

CBC Newsworld is reporting on major flood concerns in England, with Oxfordshire one key crisis area. I lived in Oxford for a year - where I lived, we were on top of a hill so would not have been likely affected by this, except of course for shopping or going to work! We still have friends in Oxford, who also live on the top of a hill, so will mostly face disruption.

Water, water, everywhere .... Ironically the problem is assuring potable water during a flood. I hope all is well.

Under Siege

This is wonderful and makes me feel a bit less victimized by the squirrels who still seem determined to come in and simply fetch their own peanuts if I do not toss enough out for them.

The bird walks into the RS McColl newsagents in Aberdeen when the door is open and makes off with cheese Doritos.

The seagull, nicknamed Sam, has now become so popular that locals have started paying for his crisps.

Shop assistant Sriaram Nagarajan said: "Everyone is amazed by the seagull. For some reason he only takes that one particular kind of crisps."

The bird first swooped in Aberdeen's Castlegate earlier this month and made off with the 55p crisps, and is now a regular.

Once outside, the crisps are ripped open and the seagull is joined by other birds.

My squirrels have apparently been joined by a raccoon with my supplies in his sights and that worries me a bit more.

Mixed Messages in the Hotel

During a recent stay in a Vienna I was pleasantly surprised to see a sign in the hallway designating my floor as a non-smoking floor, and later even seeing this confirmation in the room itself.

A little later, I found a scene that ran slightly counter to these themes.

Now I do understand that this non-smoking stuff is likely somewhat new-found, and maybe they even wonder if they can revert soon!

Sunday, July 22, 2007

More Nostalgia

A lovely reminiscence from P. Z. Myers. Sad to think the date passed without my noting it.

I watched this in Ottawa, Canada, with family and friends, at a somewhat more advanced age than Pharyngula's. The moon has never looked quite the same since. Certainly not so inaccessible.

Forms of Criticism

Many years ago I had the privilege to attend a 'music criticism' session run by Hans Keller, and got exposed to his 'FA' approach. The session turned out to be a wonderful elucidation of Haydn's Lark Quartet. The process was a complete surprise to me - basically he re-wrote the quartet to emphasize key underlying themes and their connections more explicitly; this was like no criticism I had experienced. A book critic would have to re-write 'Pride and Prejudice' to match this bravura performance.

So what can one do to elucidate 'American Pie', surely one of the wildest and most undisciplined successful works of art of my time on Earth? Larry Moran has done me the great kindness of finding a lovely approach this, not by rewriting the song, but by attaching it to images explicating much of it.

Go over to Larry's post and watch the video there! For someone of my age, this is a great walk through some special times (not necessarily good times).

Cotler Reminds

Via Dhimmi Watch, an interesting report in the Vancouver Sun on former Canadian Justice Minister Irwin Cotler's recent testimony to the US Congress.

Cotler charged that the United Nations bears "express responsibility for the distorted narrative." Arab countries have mustered majority backing from Muslim and developing states to pass 101 UN resolutions that refer only to Palestinian refugees.

Oddly, this seems not so far to have made the news at the CBC news web site.

Friday, July 20, 2007

Giggle - hey man we are Silly!

I am sad I missed this show.

Weak defences:

The broadcaster acknowledged that the show, Dil Dil Pakistan, had talked about jihad and fighting but said it did not contravene the station’s policies against incitement because the comments were made in a historical context. But it said the show would be monitored more closely.

To be honest, I think we should invite more of this nonsense to appear on our local television, to educate, perhaps not the rather rigidly formed Avi Lewises of the world, (and wait - go see this - Flaggman on July 17!) but maybe some of his fellow travelers, who might be more open to reality.

The Other Side of Knut's Story

This was a sweet post.

But there was a controversy about the dealings with Knut, and shortly after I got to Austria, Knut was weaned off his keeper, as a creature too large and dangerous to be trusted with the loving relationship the two of them had. This was featured all over German television.

And now the question is what happens to Knut (an issue raised by many apparently heartless observers long ago).

My Google News searches show nothing since that day. I do put myself in the brain of that bear, wondering why his friends have cut him, and why he has been abandoned.

But maybe it is not quite so simple.

Mr Doerflein will remain on hand for Knut even if their play sessions have been called off.

“This doesn’t mean that I will never play with Knut again - it just means there are no fixed times anymore,” he said. “I am always there for him. Knut is still a child. He needs me.”

Mr Doerflein added that he feels "burnt out" after months of frolicking with Knut and has not always enjoyed being a celebrity in his own right.

"That is the worst thing. People want autographs, to touch me," he said. "When I am with my girlfriend, they want to buy me a drink. When I say ’no,’ they get aggressive."

Knut's keeper already has to worry about problems with humans! I hope he and Knut can stay friends!

Real Heroes

I have posted on this already, but it would be nice to have t-shirts celebrating someone who did the world some good, rather than celebrating mass murderers and slimeballs filled with hatred and a love for death like Ernesto Guevara.

Norman Borlaug, thank you! You have brought life where it might not have been. (It is sad what David Tufte discovers in his class - I am sure they all know who the murderous Guevara is, though they likely do not know what a sick creature he was).

Lovely Search

I like from time to time to look at how people find their way to my blog.

One of the recent visits came from someone with the search string "country of hutt". What would have drawn him or her is this post from last month. I think that could be nice tribute to William Hutt, but the way the search string is constructed makes me wonder if this is not more likely a search from some creatures for some game, one of them named 'hutt'. I will likely never know.


In a previous post, I described one of my business meetings undermined by sound checks for a student concert to follow that evening. The revelatory moment that afternoon came in the middle of the sound checks as the band "Juli" was doing sound checks by singing "Zerrissen"; we in the meeting being disrupted by this reacted as three or four of us suddenly commented that we really liked this band.

I finally got their latest CD and am really enjoying it! Getting the CD was some work - my plan had been to get it in Dresden, then the plan moved to Prague, and it finally bore fruit in a shop on the Kaerntnerstrasse in Vienna. I think this will become the CD in my car for a few weeks now, at least.

I have written in the past about the unexpected joys of business travel. This is an element I had not anticipated.

OK, You're in Vienna, you want a Klimt-related Souvenir

Nothing is more natural than wanting something related to Klimt.

But, you ask yourself, how can I decide what sort of souvenirs to get?

It turns out there is an easy answer, available across from the Belvedere.

Another Rumanian sign one can look at two ways

We found this on Waehringer Strasse in Vienna. It reads, "Rumania - simply astounding". Likely true in some way.

Translate or Transliterate?

My wife and I were walking by the Belvedere in Vienna by a Chinese restaurant and noticed this interesting menu in English. Well, sort of English. It is not a big error, but it amused us (it was very hot and we were tired). (It is just the title that caught our attention.)

Wednesday, July 18, 2007


Your Personality is Somewhat Rare (ISTP)

Your personality type is reserved, methodical, spirited, and intense.

Only about 6% of all people have your personality, including 3% of all women and 8% of all men
You are Introverted, Sensing, Thinking, and Perceiving.
How Rare Is Your Personality?

An Appropriate Putdown

I am about to cancel the last of my Toronto Star subscriptions. There are many reasons but this comment hits it on the head.

German Anti-Americanism?

I know it does exist, and I commend this blog as a source of reminders.
But I want to talk about my recent experience, spending time in Austria, largely watching German TV on satellite.

The theme on TV was Auswanderung! A focus on those who want to leave Germany for other places clearly more attractive in some way. The first two shows followed people leaving Germany for the US (in the next episode for Sweden). The first one we saw was a wonderful portrait of a very contrary air conditioning mechanic from Hamburg who simply pulled up roots and moved to Texas; by the end of the episode he was moving into a lakeside home, his kids were settled in high school, and he was revelling in freedome he said were inconceivable back home (no doubt true). Meanwhile the whole family was learning to ride horses and shoot (well, they knew how to shoot back home). There was a good deal of struggle with language, but otherwise the family seemed right at home.

The second episode followed a software engineer who moved to the Detroit area. The main problems seemed to be the quality of the beer and the fact that yards are not typically fenced in in North America (wherever I go in Europe, one is seriously caged into one's yard, er... garden).

But it was fascinating to see a weekly show utterly devoted to those leaving Germany for a variety of reasons, though largely the opportunity to do things German regulations and bureaucracy inhibit.

The shows were decidedly not anti-American. They showed America as a little exotic and different but in no way inferior.

'Stolen' Elections

One of Avi Lewis' knee-jerk leftist postures in the discussion with Ayaan Hirsi Ali was his assertion of the notion of the idea that the US is not a democracy because the election of 2000 was 'stolen'. Follow the links in my previous post to Dennis Prager's response, which is good. I think of it slightly differently, though his points were excellent.

The most important thing to characterize a democracy is that there is an orderly process to change governments, without calling the army into the streets, as is routine in almost any country whose government is approved by the Lewises of the world. The 2000 election proved in spades that the US does this superbly. The electoral system is a little counter-intuitive, but it defines processes, and they were followed.

Avi Lewis' problem is that the processes do not produce the results he wants. His desires should in no way contribute to our notion of what a democratic outcome is.

Back Home Again - Avi Lewis First Exposure

When I saw earlier in the year that CBC was giving Avi Lewis the platform of a television show, I was not really surprised, just slightly depressed, though it did help to prove that we do have a silly little country.

I have been spared watching the clown, partly because of long absences from the country, but on return was pointed to this appalling interview with Ayaan Hirsi Ali. Avi Lewis lecturing her on Islam? This would be funny almost anywhere else in the world. She does a very nice job with his slick leftist moral relativism. She really understands the point of key issues where he cannot get past his upper-middle-class convenient Canadian positions.

She has lived this - he has lived fretting about the expansion of lofts into his neighbourhood.

I especially loved her characterization of the non-Islamic aggressive religious documents as 'almost obsolete'. This is exactly true here, and one of the reasons I do like my silly little country.

UPDATE: Well worth listening to these deconstructions of the fool Lewis.

Prager catches the wonderful moment as Ali is stunned at Lewis' moral relativism, which Prager calls out particularly in Lewis' line "Homophobia is rampant in the United States". Lewis' fatuity is exposed completely.

On this homophobia issue, let me say that, as I will likely discuss further in another post, I watched "Blades of Glory" on my flight home, and then "Talladega Nights" during my sleeplessness tonight. Anyone who wants to defend Avi Lewis' stupid views must confront the fact that these are utterly middle-American comedies.

P.S. I don't like Prager's use of the word 'liberal' - it has been pre-empted in American politics to mean something that strays far from the model I still believe in that is best distilled in John Stuart Mill.

Thursday, July 05, 2007

Fred and Ginger

On my first day in Prague, the hotel receptionist gave me a map, which featured a very odd notation, "Fred and Ginger". What sort of site would that be?
Well, as it turns out, the reference was to a building! Wikipedia calls it the Dancing House. The puckish locals called it "Fred and Ginger" for obvious reasons, and it is quite striking, at least as seen (as in the photo here) from the Vltava.
Czechs are mischievous but so can Canadians be - or at least the Canadian-born, like Frank Gehry, the architect who contributed to this creation.

Leadership, Please ....

Richard Landes says it well - do we have the gumption?

There’s still a huge amount we can do, if only we start challenging the Arabs and Muslims on the terrain of values. They have no right to demand what they do; and we have the right to demand a great deal more than we do. And we should do it.

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Soulpepper's "Top Girls"

Having seen Canadian Stage's "A Number" some time ago, I was very excited when Soulpepper announced a production of "Top Girls".
It was all I expected - cracker-jack writing, and what performances! We are so very lucky to have the acting talent we have in Toronto. (It is not just luck - lots of people who have no interest in theatre are paying taxes that help keep this stable available locally.)
This play was a great vehicle for that very physical actress, Liisa Repo-Martell. The first time I noticed her, she was playing a dog, and she was magnificent in the role.
Her Angie was delightfully done, and she gets the last lines in the play, very telling and touching. Her Gret in the first act has few lines but had the audience around me laughing merrily. The second act starts with some wonderful interaction between her and Cara Pifko; it made my seat in the front row in the middle of the theatre a complete treat.
Megan Follows was as delightful as ever, and Kelli Fox was just magnificent as the sister of the Follows character.
The play begins entertainingly with a dinner celebrating the promotion of Marlene, the Follows character. The dinner is attended by famous dead women, and is a minor tour de force. Ann-Marie MacDonald is clearly having great fun as Pope Joan, and Robyn Stevan is uncanny as Lady Nijo.
I do not want to give too much more away, as I intend to see it again, with the SillyWife. Perhaps I can say more when that happens! (Hmm, three times to 'Our Town', now planning two seeings of this - how many times will I need to see the remaining productions of the year, "Three Sisters" - YAY, more Chekhov - and "Blithe Spirit" - Yay, Coward!?)

A Star is Born

John Smeaton rules. Ezra Levant kindly gathers some test screenings.


he was a bad boy.

every time he threw a punch he was saying Allah.

why would someone want to come to Glasgow?

Seriously, I wish I could believe I would have that same basic courage.

Hamas does something good!

Alan Johnston is free! Excellent!

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Yet More Czech Puckishness

This picture above contains several elements of silliness. Now maybe it was built when there was no humour involved but the humour is palpable now. Those who have been to Paris will recognize that the bridge looks awfully like Paris' Pont Alexandre III. And for a good reason! Though I am not sure what the reason is. But Prague is a beautiful city beautifully laid out along the Vltava (Moldau), much as Paris lies along the Seine. This bridge also sits at the end of the Parizsker street - featuring Dior and the like, and a beautiful tree-lined boulevard. Something is going on!

There is more. Take a look at that funny thing at the top of the picture. You are looking at the Prague Metronome. My tour guide commented that it was a symbol of the passing of time and of how time changes things; it is sited where a great statue of Stalin sat originally, clearly a key lesson in this vein.

If you have any doubts about the Czech enthusiasm for things Parisian, check (no pun) this out! From Petrin Hill.

The UK Attempts and Root Causes

I will link initially to Richard Landes on the UK bombing attempts. These are not nice people. I remain stunned at the apologetics people send me in defence of such monsters. This is Hitchens, quoted by Landes:
Only at the tail end of the coverage was it admitted that a car bomb might have been parked outside a club in Piccadilly because it was “ladies night” and that this explosion might have been designed to lure people into to the street, the better to be burned and shredded by the succeeding explosion from the second car-borne cargo of gasoline and nails.

Of course this is exactly the tactic used by the 'insurgents' that commenters I have wish to defend.
In a similar vein we have Michael Yon's shocking trip as reported a couple of days ago:
The village was abandoned. All the people were gone. But where?

Follow the link and read it if you can. It is not pleasant.
In a way it all relates to a very sensible post from Oliver Kamm recently. He cites Matthew d'Ancona to this effect:
We have heard so often, and will continue to hear, that the Iraq war and Blair's alliance with George W Bush were a recruiting sergeant for al Qaeda and its affiliates in this country. That may be true, but only in the sense that everything is a recruiting sergeant for this cause: the removal of the Taliban, the existence of the state of Israel, the Balfour Declaration of 1917, the end of the Muslim caliphate in 1924, the way women dress in the West. One of the conversations bugged in Operation Crevice that led to life sentences for five terrorists in April included a chilling discussion about bombing a London nightclub. "Now no one can even turn around and say 'Oh they were innocent'," said Jawad Akbar, "those slags dancing around."

One of my commenters once asserted confidently to me that Osama bin Laden was only concerned about Western occupation; but the issue here is the same - bin Laden spoke immediately after 9/11 of the tragedy of Andalusia - so where does this notion of occupation stop? How far do our appeasers wish to appease?

Watch out for those Vikings

I have interests in both sides of this story from Dymphna.

Monday, July 02, 2007

A Diminished Identity

About 15 years ago, my Austrian in-laws visited us and we spent ten days driving around B.C. and the Rockies. Along the way we exposed my mother-in-law to Nanaimo Bars. The effect was dramatic, and the result has been an expectation that whenever one of us goes to visit them in Austria, we bring Nanaimo Bars. (There is a similar experience with blueberry pie but it is not so relevant to the point of this post.)
This used to be easy but has become slightly trickier in recent years. Normally we would simply go to a large chain grocery store the day before the trip and buy them. In recent years we might have had to go to both of the local instances of that chain before achieving our goal. This year the chain failed us completely. Gottseidank, another chain came through, after some hard prodding of their bakery staff by my wife.
Nanaimo Bars are part of what connect me to Canada, quite like the Log Driver's Waltz. If Canadians are unwilling to support this institution, I fear my identity will diminish and I won't know what to do!
Wait - Wikipedia tells me what to do to maintain my Canadian identity!
... the term is common in the American half of the Pacific Northwest, next-door to BC, and has been used in places such as New York City, Los Angeles, Tokyo and Sydney because of the popularization of the treat by the world-spanning Starbuck's coffee chain.

I'll go to Starbuck's!


I am awestruck.

The Morning After the Night Before - Canada Day Fireworks Edition

My walk at the waterfront today did find some of what I expected - residue from the day before, where a fireworks display at sunset was the feature, a celebration of Canada Day.

The Parks cleaning staff had not got to this site quite yet.

Cleanup is in the hands partly of the city Parks Department, but some is also being done by street people gathering cans and bottles for redemption and some income, as well as these guys below (plus many many starlings).

During a walk there yesterday morning with my wife, we noticed many families arriving to spend the whole day. At one point we wondered what the young kids would do all day; of course, there is a beach, there are birds to watch, beach volleyball courts, and many other diversions. But this picture suggests one set of parents managed to keep a child occupied for quite a while gathering smooth stones.

As I arrived back at my car this morning, there was a man looking a little distressed standing nearby. He approached me, concerned about the parking rules where we were and I explained. He then realized his 20 dollar bill was no help and asked if I had change - I did and saved his day. We had a lovely chat - he had been there the day before, enjoyed the day, and his family had decided, after six years in Canada, to get brave and barbecue some hamburgers; for them this was a major barrier to cross in integration (it reminded me of the last scenes in "Barcelona", when the Spanish girls realize that European hamburgers are no representative of American ones, despite the globalized naming). We exchanged handshakes and names - he was "Mo" (I would wager Mohammed, not Morris). It was a lovely Canadian experience for me, and I hope for him.

On a similar note, let me welcome Alaa and family to Canada!

Lovely days in a lovely summer in an excellent place to live, however silly (in fact, its silliness is part of the charm).

High Quality Disobedience

Via Harry's Place, an utterly amazing story of courage and determination and some serendipity.

They have a lot of pride about what they went through. They want to hang on to it a little longer.

Pride they should have!

Being a Progressive

Via Craig Newmark, an interesting article on some of the impacts of Illinois' increase in the minimum wage. The effects are and were utterly predicatble and predicted, but what I find fascinating are the justifications minimizing the impact.

"We're definitely one of the more progressive states in this regard," said Illinois Department of Labor spokeswoman Anjali Julka.

The governor's office referred minimum wage calls to Julka. She said she was unfamiliar with the Rely Services situation but that the wage increase is estimated to benefit nearly 650,000 workers.

She said any impact on businesses should be minimal because minimum wage earners represent just a small percent of the workforce. Illinois has nearly 6 million workers, excluding farm jobs.

The obvious effects are that people who were employable at wages below the new minimum wage might well not be now; and this impact has hit several people, per the article. Thus, those who will be hurt the most are at the bottom edge of the working class in Illinois, but according to this person pleased with her state's "progressiveness", there aren't very many of them.

The ones to benefit most are surely those whose employers bite the bullet and do not lay off their employees working for less than the new minimum wage. But apparently there are not very many of them either.

Yet somehow 650,000 people will benefit - who are they? It would appear the change will potentially drive prices up, thereby harming most consumers.

Of course, as the progressive points out, these are all small effects. I doubt they would show up strongly in any overall statistics.

But they sure showed up strongly for over 100 people near Carlinville.

Another quote, this time from the governor:

I'm proud that in Illinois, we've kept our promise to help working people and make their lives easier after years of neglect at the federal level. As Illinois' minimum wage moves up to $7.50 an hour ... it will be a little easier for thousands of Illinois families to pay their bills, put food on the table or buy clothes for their kids.

Not for the 100 people in Carlinville.

This is what passes for progressivism?

Sunday, July 01, 2007

More Czech Puckishness

Maybe it's not puckishness, but it looks like it to me.

Note the entrances to this road tunnel, one picture from each side (click to get large versions).

Our tour guide says this was to honour Queen Victoria, by referring to Windsor Castle, but it looks like a touch of decorative humour to me.

And Happy Canada Day to Cory too

Cory Doctorow greets us with a Happy Canada Day. As a present he gives us a link to The Midget Militia - follow the link to their cover of LogDriver. It's a little different from that of the McGarrigles.

As for his comment about expatriate 'thirtysomethings', the NFB video is a bit older than that age suggests, but I am thrilled to hear the young 'uns enjoy it too.

I quite liked one passing parenthetical comment from him:

Canadians are like axe-murderers, we look just like regular people