Friday, August 31, 2007

Public Intellectuals and the Value of Art

The CBC ran a few nights ago a "deeply serious" interview between Brian Stewart (one of their most SERIOUS correspondents) and Charles Taylor. My problem is that I have seen the wonderful movie Some Girls and so cannot take a word of this seriously.
My problem? No, thinking about it, it is not my problem, it is yours if you take all this seriously.
(By the way it is a fine and weird movie! Go enjoy it.)


Ashbridge's Bay, August 31, 2007 - Monarchs!

Feeling too tired for serious exercise this morning (largely thanks to Fabrice Santoro), I decided to grab my camera and head to Ashbridge's Bay, intending to capture some evidence of the changing season. I had a particular tree in mind, with green, yellow, and red leaves in mind, which I never found.
But on the way, I had a first in my lifetime. And it was a surprise.
As mentioned before, I watched Monarch Butterflies travelling westward at a high rate last weekend. During the week, I've seen a couple of them flitting about, and had got to the point of assuming I would see no more.
So as I entered Ashbridge's Bay Park this morning I was a little surprised to see first one, then a pair, and then twos and threes flitting about. And about ten minutes into my walk, I hit my first tree pretty much covered with them!
There were a couple more similar trees and here are two or three shots I got. I tried to catch pictures of them flying, but that will take some practice. Maybe next year!
This was of the first tree I saw, and it amazed me. (click to enlarge)

I like this shot - note that many butterflies are in focus - the blur gives a sense of what a busy scene it was!

Here are a few individuals.

Several branches of several trees looked like this.

What a scene! What a morning!

UPDATE: (Sept. 1, 2007) Was back at the park and there was not a butterfly to be seen.


Tuesday, August 28, 2007

The Castle of Marriage

Another lovely poem from Sophie Hannah, via the proud dad, with some commentary from Frieda Hughes.


Gene Upshaw has some class

Gene Upshaw was a member of one of my favourite NFL teams during the time I had a great enthusiasm for the sport.

K. C. Johnson, who continues to host one of the truly obsessive blogs, obsessive in a way I have often approved, in his case analyzing the appalling injustice done to members of the Duke lacrosse team accused of rape, points to some superb comments from Upshaw about his (Johnson's) co-authored book on this appalling case.

The post linked to is interesting, but Johnson is tireless, and has devoted much of his recent efforts to exposing the academic quality of a group of Duke academics who rushed to judgment against the innocent lacrosse players; their profile is a fascinating reflection of much of what has diluted respect for humanities research in the last decades.

Every campus I know much a bout features similar politically oriented authors of dubious research, with even more dubious quality. This is part of our apparently somehow repenting past sins. Repenting past sins is a good idea but it should be done right.


Monday, August 27, 2007

A Modest Proposal?

from Steve Sailer.

I think these people need to see cowboy movies. I had to fight in places not to laugh.

Well Justified Fear

I have described my history of growing up in a moderately repressive Christian environment that was in many ways annoying. But those guys are not the problem today and Dr Sanity made me laugh in this post.

Actually, I think I have a healthy, rational fear of a religion which has millions of adherents aggressively seeking my submission or death.

For most of my life, it seemed reasonable to ignore Islam, and I liked it that way.

If I had thought about Islam at all (and I didn't) it is likely that I would have been completely turned off to it; as opposed to being indifferent to it. Once, while I might suffer mild disgust when stories of the extremism of some of its believers would make headlines; frankly, I never understood enough about the religion to place the responsibility for such behavior onto the teachings of its priests or leaders.

Actually the initial thoughts I had about Islam were somewhat romanticized notions, taught to me by the Christians, about its beneficient effects in the pre-medieval and medieval period. I have since learned the story is not quite so nice but it has some merits. As Dr. Sanity says, "Islam and I got along famously".

I have not changed anything.

Something else has.

UPDATE: A medievalist has corrected me regarding what the pre-medieval period is now considered to be. There was no Islam then.


Sunday, August 26, 2007

The Flight of the Monarchs

It is an interesting theme discussed in Hitchens' presentation at Google. He does point out that the various views arising from religion are so much less rich and interesting, and maybe in some ways less implausible, than those that the scientific method has imposed on those who care about it. (His target is cosmology and the Hubble telescope but mine for now is narrower.)

It hit me today the now understood truth about what those silly little Monarch Butterflies were up to today is something NO religion I know about would guess at. It appears to be the truth (not even a concept for the faith-oriented) and it is so strange than none of the silly prophets who have created the various nonsense people want to believe could hope to produce. They are flying to Mexico!?

Yes they are and it took a ton of hard work to figure that out. I am pretty sure the fact that they do this is in many ways stranger than anything in the fatuous books of the various religions. But each Monarch I watched today filled me with a beautiful sadness about and respect for the great world we live in, so much richer than the fatuities that the religions have tried to offer us as explanations for the world we live in.

Go Butterflies! You won't all make it but I am already waiting for your great-great-great-great-...-grandchildren next year!


They Should just Keep Their Mouths Shut

She remains unforgettable to me in a brilliant single-take film opening.
But of course she can be an idiot.
The mayor of Venice shows total class. (See the last paragraph.)
And her error is no greater than that of many who romanticize murderers. I know a few today.
(h/t No Pasaran.)


There are moments to love in sports

Carolina Kluft wins the heptathlon and insists that all her competitors join her on a victory lap. Nice sight.
It's a funny sport, like the decathlon. It is not 10 seconds of contact on the track but two days of side-by-side competition so one can see how this fellowship would develop.


This has the Potential to be a Really Fast Race

OK I am cool, as said before, about the CBC's long-time policy of not showing track and field live, as I would prefer to see it.
But when Don Whitman says roughly the line above in the subject line, in an edited presentation, regarding a race I had seen an hour before on NBC that WAS really fast, where nobody from NBC said anything so fatuously self-congratulating, I am deeply unimpressed with what seems to me the willingness of our national broadcaster to deceive us about the skills of their presenters. I would love to know when the assertion was recorded.
I will give them this point - both of the presenters are prattling on about the potential for a world record in the men's 100 metres, long after they surely know this did not come out even close to that. There is a different motivation here, though - to keep the ignorant watcher plugged in.
This seems a dirty game to me.


The Real Athletes of this Morning

There is a side story to the national beach volleyball championships.
I arrived at around 9 am to watch play, but noticed during the matches at that point that Monarch butterflies were working their way westward across the Ashbridge's Bay Beach; at the start of the morning I was seeing a butterfly every thirty seconds or so. Very impressive.
As I left they were arriving about every five seconds at whatever court I was sitting at, so sometimes there were three butterflies as candidates to be hit by a volleyball at any moment.
A lovely scene. But SUCH a marker of the season!


Another Morning at the Liveable Beach

This picture is meant to convey the fact that there were volleyball courts as far as one could see! And action everywhere. A great scene.

These folks are a mix of participants and passersby who got captivated by the men's match I watched; the men's game at this level is amazing to watch, with so much of the play devoted to recoveries outside the normal court, and many points determined that way, and this caused many people witnessing some crazy point to decide to stay put and view some more.

That ball is headed at a pretty tough angle and at very high speed; but note that someone is waiting. In the men's game as I saw it the defence is an enormous force.

In the shot above I really like that I caught all four players in one moment - while there is drama at the net, "they also serve who only stand and wait". And yes - they are not just standing, but are in poses of almost equal tension to those in the momentary confrontation.
This and the next three shots are from a great match between Fiset-Rencourt (in black, and they must be good as their names are on their bikini bottoms - click the pictures to enlarge and you too can read them!) and Moppy-Jo (Moppy is Amanda Moppet but I cannot spell Jo's last name).

The shot below is Moppy from a later match. I developed a certain enthusiasm for her play during the morning.

I had previously never thought much of beach volleyball as a sport, but there is always something wonderful in the atmosphere at an 'amateur' sport championship. The skills are really amazing to watch, especially among the men.
There is also the hilarious coolness aspect. It seemed the men were less glued to wearing sunglasses (even when the sun was a mere memory) than the women; more data collection is required.
The list of sponsors is telling. Bic sun lotion, Crocs footwear, brolle sunglasses (they do seem to have something to do with Bushnell binoculars and the birdwatcher in me sympathized), Sirius satellite radio (?), etc.
The cutest thing was DJ Mike, who kept music playing on a sound system through the whole event, as well as some pretty delightfully inane chatter. This is not like golf, where a cough from the gallery can bring the security people down upon you. These players know how to concentrate!
DJ Mike really amazed me at one point - it turned out that there was also a charity run-walk along the boardwalk in the morning, and he was asked to warn people watching from the boardwalk to yield to the runners. As the runners came through he managed to broadcast the "Chariots of Fire" theme. Sweet.
The Torontonians lucky enough to know this was happening (the Volleyball Canada web site is almost completely useless) stopped and watched and really enjoyed the privilege of seeing these people willing to work so hard at such specific skills. Some slight media coverage and attention locally would have been nice. I may be about it.


Saturday, August 25, 2007


That one looks vicious to me!


The Bawling Fearful Period of Infancy

My previous post showed I had just discovered this wonderful thing Google is doing.

My God, Hitchens is good! He is speaking to very smart people, as I pointed out before.

UPDATE: Do watch it!. He is even more dynamite in Q&A.

UPDATE2: He cites the completely brilliant Peter deVries! I must follow up on that citation. deVries was one of my favourite authors in the 1970s or so.


I love these questions

This video is completely brilliant, and I love that it comes from the students.

The Gisele Buendchen question is superb. Well, all the questions are good!

This is all microeconomics, the part of the profession that remains somewhat convincing.

World Track and Field

The CBC is doing its usual thing, and I cannot really complain - given that the event is in Osaka, it is probably a reasonable calculation that only a maniac would wake up to watch live coverage of the events. But why have have I seen different calls by networks for the soccer World Cup in the past? In any case I can now live with the edited materials.

In any case, it is really nice to watch. For me the sweetest thing so far was in the women's heptathlon high jump event, when Lyudmila Bloska, one of Carolina Kluft's closest competitors, joined in the encouraging clapping for Kluft's high jump. This is sport as it should be.

I confess I enjoy looking at the Baltic performers with their blond eyebrows (hair is one thing, eyebrows quite another!).


Cool Sport, or What?

More on liveability!

As much fun as it is to watch, I know this sport is cool and I am not. And some of its adherents know the best way to make the statement.

It is also a very athletic event - one of my favourite parts is the serve, well demonstrated here.

But then too the atempted kills and blocks at the net are fun, even when, in the end, all the action is somewhere else (a natural hazard for a photographer):


More on Liveability

I suspect the tournament has now become the National Mud Volleyball Tournament. I am not sure how far into the rain they play; I certainly don't intend to find out.


More from the worldwide squirrel insurgency

Well, this will just create another malcontent squirrel. What will we hear next from Finland? (h/t the Amateur Economist and Curmudgeon)


Friday, August 24, 2007

Fixing My Sidebar

I have been very poor at sidebar maintenance and it is a post by Glen Whitman that has inspired me to start working on it again.

I do not rely on MP3 players but do worry that I am not in touch with new music. I was as a result pleased to connect to Juli some time ago (must get them on the sidebar), by the pure accident of being on a German campus one day they would be performing.

What also amused me is Glen's mentioning Grey's Anatomy, which I never watch, except for one funny moment some time ago as Anna Nalik was featured on the soundtrack. Now she is the sidebar update that will happen shortly - the song that was featured on Grey's Anatomy was brilliant, but I do not have the same reaction to the rest of the CD it was found on.

One nice thing about reading a lot of blogs is finding a lot of enthusiasms!

Betty White Rules

My Betty White was on quiz shows and then played the happy homemaker on the Mary Tyler Moore show. It is perhaps a little shocking to discover a celebrity whose Betty White had an utterly different career. Nonetheless, this is very sweet - congratulations to Jay Leno and his staff for making this happen.

Now I am figuring I should get the first couple of seasons of the Golden Girls on DVD, with all the nudity and sex promised!


I Must Work on Developing This Expression

I can think of many moments where I would like to find this self-expression.

Yes we are Silly

Nathan supplies additional proof. I particularly liked:

Police said the trio's cover was blown when they refused to toss any objects.


Liveable - you betcha!

I am not sure how the Economist does this sort of study and I have NO wish to spend $200 to find out (seriously)!

But a report that Toronto is high on the list of cities that are rated 'liveable' is no surprise, especially on a day where the temperature gets into the 30s Centigrade, and the city hosts the National Beach Volleyball Championships down where I like to do my morning jogs. I spent a little more than my normal time down there today!


Monday, August 20, 2007

More Climate Change

I picked Doc as a foil for my first climate change post. I think he and I are very close in our thinking on the issue, but have very slightly different priors, and these can multiply themselves.
As proof of the closeness, let me point at Doc's post from earlier today - the Jeff Jacoby columns linked to are very good (except for the stupid 1934/1998 reference - this really is brain-dead), and I loved the video. The video was great at catching one thing I loathed as I tried to watch the Gore movie - "The debate is over". Well, that is great science!
The other great thing in the video is the appearance of Bjorn Lomborg, who understands opportunity cost, a notion beyond most of the global warming industry. The points about malaria are just the start of the discussion.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Rufus Wainwright Live

Faithful readers will know I decided to attend a Rufus Wainwright concert, after seeing a YouTube video of his performing one of his own songs. I thought there could be quite a show.
I should have known there was trouble as I queued to pick up my tickets and found myself surrounded by people like me! We old McGarrigle fans (and everyone I chatted with was one) would hardly inspire him and his backup singers to come out in witches' costumes and sing wicked songs.
And in fact he did not do what I hoped. Before the intermission he sang a bunch of songs. They were OK.
After the intermission he did do a version of 'Get Happy' wearing fishnet stockings, but I have to confess this left me rather flat, where a witch's hat and cape would perhaps have got me more entertained, especially with a better song.
In the end, I suspect the problem is that the YouTube video I saw was taped in San Francisco, and I have the relative misfortune to live and see his performances in Toronto. Well, performance - it will not be an issue again.
Now maybe if the McGarrigles came to perform!

How to Treat Teenagers - like Dogs or like Adults

I have seen numerous reports of places where loitering teenagers have driven the local businesses and their patrons to lean to 'The Mosquito', which emits a high-pitched sound inaudible to us older folk and very unpleasant to hear, in the hopes that it would drive away teenagers loitering in communal areas and just causing the usual trouble the aimless young create.

British shopkeepers tired of teenage loiterers have turned to the Mosquito teen repellent, which emits a high-pitch frequency that most teenagers can hear — but not most adults.

Reports exist of it being used in various places in the USA and Canada too.

But it has an unintended consequence.

But now teens have struck back against the Mosquito: They are using the same sound to communicate without adults' knowledge.

At issue is a text-message ringtone that emits the same pitch as the Mosquito. Using it, students can learn about a new message while they're in class — where they're not supposed to be using their cellphones. Most of their teachers can't hear the alert.

My preference is for the Austrian approach, at least in Krems.

Betrunkene, grölende Jugendliche haben in der Kremser Innenstadt immer wieder für Anrainerbeschwerden gesorgt. Nun will man am Hohen Markt mit klassischer Musik den Lärm verringern und Jugendliche von dort wegbringen.

Translation (very rough): "Drunken noisy youth are always causing trouble in the Krems inner city. Now playing classical music in the High Market should get rid of the noise and drive the youth from the area."

Generally, apparently, this has worked.

And the subversive response is harder to find here.

William Saroyan's "The Time of Your Life"

Yet another Soulpepper triumph! And it is a bit useless to say, as we saw its second-last performance and the run has ended, unless they extended it, and I have not heard that. This is yet another play I have never seen.

What a perfect delight, in a very odd play, magnificently carried by the very large cast. Central was Joseph Ziegler as Joe T (we never do find out why telling Kitty that his Irishness is a hint to figuring out what the full surname is means), who carried this role wonderfully. I am very curious to see Cagney in the same role in the movie.

Stuart Hughes thoroughly exploits the opportunity to play a tour-de-force role; he is utterly stunning as Kit Carson, with the fabulous tales and the dissolute behaviour. I have enjoyed him in many roles but he carried this one utterly wonderfully! And this character gets the great opportunity to tell one last fable in the play that actually seems to be reality and is surely meant to be justice being done. And a foreshadowing of what the US would have to do short years later in the world.

The eye weekly review is excellent and says much of what I would have were it running longer.

The one other key fact is that this is the first Soulpepper production featuring Martha MacIsaac in which her character does not get killed (so far as I could tell).

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Chef Mojo's Hearing

Via Instapundit, I came across this utterly wonderful testimonial to the efforts of all the innovators who put in long hours unsure of the outcome of their efforts. I hope all of those in the chain leading to this technology know what great things they have done.

She plugged the hearing aids into the laptop through a miniature data port in each device. I was hooked into her computer, with various clicks and snippets of sound breaking though the silence, as she set the programs for the various channels with which this device would service me.

Then she looked at me and said, hold on.

In my left ear, a sound like a starship engine cranking up blasted into my world, repeated in my right a moment later. Then silence. Then a little digital melody best described as a light variation on the Intel theme.

And then humming.

And I asked, what's that?

She smiled, and looked at The Lady. Say something, she said.

The Lady gave me a little look and said, Hey sweetie. And she started reading from a poster in the office.

I almost started crying.

I'd never heard her before. Not like this. Not this way. Not to the point of being almost normal. Her voice was pure sparkling clarity and oh so sweet.

I turned to the audiologist who said, the humming is the light fixtures overhead. I looked up and it occurred to me that the world was opening up in waves around me within this tiny office. I could hear the secretary a room away on the phone and the printer printing and a phone ringing behind me, and I knew right were it was.

It was overwhelming. I was like a child in a sonic candy store, grasping this way and that; lurching after sounds. Sounds that I could never have imagined in my wildest dream.

Sounds the rest of the world takes for granted.

That was 2 days ago. This morning, I picked up the aids after the requisite transfer of funds was completed. Essentially the cost of 3 very powerful laptops sit nearly invisible on and behind my ears, replicating the power of those very computers, analyzing sound to a degree that will continue to bogle my mind.

I have an automatic default setting that screens out sounds that are not of use to me if I don't need to pay attention. I went to work this morning with them, and as I walked along the kitchen's hot line, the sound of the hood fans faded out as I walked to the cook to ask him what his specials were today. I could actually talk to him on the line without the hoods drowning out the conversation.

On my way home, I was trying out the "music" channel on the car radio; switching back and forth between stations. A Spanish waltz here, new alternative there and Roger Daltrey wailing out on Who Are You to depths and highs I never knew existed.

I think for the first time, I really understand where Bill is coming from on the concept of singularity. In the mere passage of days, my life has blasted into another dimension; one where insects buzz, cats purr softly and tree frogs sound like an apocalypse of joy and sensation. Where a pair of devices smaller than the first joint of my pinkie whispers to me the leaves of trees in a summer evening breeze as I walk across the street to Domaine Mojo.

The future is hear.

Those who love to snivel at technology, snivel on. I don't really think you much care about other people.

I speak as someone as well with plastic lenses in both my eyes, seeing better than I ever did in my life before the operations.

As a side issue check out Suzie's rough morning. A large part of me still terribly misses my cat Oliver.

Weaselly is a Kind Word

What Norm said. The pronouncement, while perhaps true at some level, is sickening.

Some Monarchs are Less Sure

It is a tricky point for Monarch butterflies; at some point in the summer they have to determine whether to produce a new generation or cut and run back to Mexico. Last weekend I saw many of them who had made the latter determination.

This morning's jog took me past two of the little creatures, flitting around one another, with no obvious determination of what direction they were going, except that they were working on connecting with one another!

To each his own.

I guess their kids can fly to Mexico!

Monday, August 13, 2007

Not only might I be a man, I thought I was one

You Are 87% Feminist

You are a total feminist. This doesn't mean you're a man hater (in fact, you may be a man).
You just think that men and women should be treated equally. It's a simple idea but somehow complicated for the world to put into action.
Are You a Feminist?

h/t Chef Mojo

The Windsor Lebanon Sign

Damian Penny provides some links and information.

I think presenting Nasrallah as any sort of hero is shocking and completely awful. But I do not understand the fuss about the sign. For me to be consistent I have to accept this appalling public 'speech' as acceptable, and I do.

As does Damian Penny:

It's vile, but I think it should be protected speech. Indeed, if people in my country openly support Hezbollah, I want them to be as open about it as possible.

I certainly want to know who they are as well. (I know two or three.)

Now This Inspires Me

Must go prepare my "I'm with Stupid Sign"!

H/T Boing Boing

Monarchs are on the Move

For the last few weeks I have seen unprecedented numbers of Monarch butterflies in the Toronto area as I have been out golfing, sitting in my backyard, and driving around, or whatever.

Last weekend SillyWife and I spent the afternoon on the beach at Port Stanley on the north shore of Lake Erie, and during a couple of hours on the beach I noticed a half dozen Monarchs fly by. But what was striking was the uniformity of their direction - every one was flying due west along the shore of the lake, a pretty clear sign that they were among the early ones not breeding again here in the north, but heading on their most improbable and amazing journey back to Mexico.

We know from past years that a month from now we will see the same pattern at Port Stanley, but in much greater numbers.

This quiet miracle is one of the truly amazing and delightful aspects of life on our planet; these big beautiful butterflies carry out one of the most unlikey adventures every year. It is a joy to see it starting again.

Climate Change

My friend Doc has finally pushed me into commenting on this subject - by citing, of all people, the ultimately superficial and glib Mark Steyn on a subject of actual scientific significance - and I comment very reluctantly.

Reluctantly, because I think much of the evidence is of middling quality - the science by its nature has to do most of its work through computer modelling, generally on the basis of imperfect data. Of course this is what much of the science of economics must do as well; part of my youth was spent on economic modelling, so the limitations of such an approach are no surprise to me. But it is ridiculous to pretend this is not a reasonable approach to try to arrive at some truths; certainly it leaves many paths open to falsification, and this is vital.

My priors are clearly very different from that of many others. My guess is we as a species are quite capable of significant impacts on the environment we live in. My everyday experience, however, does nothing to tell me whether I am in some place being significantly affected by climate change. I recall pretty hot brutal summers as a child growing up around Ottawa; I now live in Toronto, with less experience of what it was like. Winters vary. One or two or ten years or tens of years is not the issue here.

I think the issue is over-emotionalized right now, on both sides. If those concerned about acting are right and we act too late, that could have some consequences; I am not sure what, and do not believe most of those promising awful outcomes, especially for Canadians (evidence could sway me)! (The reason I occasionally wonder if Canada is habitable is NOT that it is too warm.) Those who pooh-pooh the concerns seem to me awfully oblivious to what MIGHT be awful consequences.

The quality of the debate is pretty low in a lot of places. Now I tend to lean to markets as good tools for fixing problems, and the parts of the blogosphere I link to regularly in that same domain were a pretty grim disappointment yesterday. Doc, for example, cited Steyn saying:

Something rather odd happened the other day. If you go to NASA's Web site and look at the "U.S. surface air temperature" rankings for the lower 48 states, you might notice that something has changed.

Then again, you might not. They're not issuing any press releases about it. But they have quietly revised their All-Time Hit Parade for U.S. temperatures. The "hottest year on record" is no longer 1998, but 1934. Another alleged swelterer, the year 2001, has now dropped out of the Top 10 altogether, and most of the rest of the 21st century – 2000, 2002, 2003, 2004 – plummeted even lower down the Hot 100. In fact, every supposedly hot year from the Nineties and this decade has had its temperature rating reduced. Four of America's Top 10 hottest years turn out to be from the 1930s, that notorious decade when we all drove around in huge SUVs with the air-conditioning on full-blast.

What triggered the change Steyn refers to was an observation of some anomalies by Steve McIntyre, a global warming skeptic. NASA responded with a recognition that they had erred in calibrating some time series, and corrected them.

Many bloggers I read erupted in some sort of explosion of delight, as if this were actually some sort of actual change. Tim Lambert makes it very clear how insignificant this is except for sloganeers.

Because of the corrections to the GISS data 1998 and 1934 went from being in a virtual tie, to being in a virtual tie.. This, of course, has not stopped global warming denialists from endlessly hyping it as a big change.

Depending on the stability of the various models used, this may or may not lead to significant changes in parameters and the like (UPDATE: It turns out the GISS data have nothing to do with the modelling done to predict the future, at least the way I pictured it - the models are not statistical. ) ; I hope climatologists are pushing on these items, and can update their data as need be. But note, this was only about US data, not world data (a confusion that showed up again among bloggers trying to deny the concern about warming).

Right now I have a policy that when my market-friendly bloggers explode in excitement over something they consider evidence that we need not concern ourselves about anthropogenic climate change, I head to the Deltoid and to Real Climate for some perspective, a dose of sanity. (Actually check this for an even more brutal dismissal of the triumphalism.)

Doc passed on a bit of apparently careless reading from Melanie Phillips (I see no contradiction in the paragraph he cites Phillips as citing - it is certainly possible to have more extreme wet events and an average that is less wet) recently as well in the same vein. On the other hand, the quotations from Tom Segalstad were interesting and none of my usual backup sources have anything to say about his casual dismissal of all of climate science. My guess is they soon will. She also cites Dr. Stott as basically showing he is not sure. Sounds just like an economist.

We shall see. My biggest concern is that I have NO idea what we can do to correct our course. Trying to make everyone poor again, as it seems many of the greenest among us want, just seems a really bad idea to me. Moreover, much of the discourse is fatuous - I could not get more than 10 minutes into Gore's movie before wanting to find a romantic comedy on another channel - it was a bit like 'The Corporation' in terms of its indifference to facts. This is sad - it sets up easy targets. I think the whole thing matters. Wish I had an answer. But I sure have NO easy glib dismissal, and no wish to hear about what Mark Steyn has to say on any issue that actually matters. (I *do* enjoy laughing with him but he is less funny than Michael Moore with roughly an equal commitment to facts.)

In the end I thought that yesterday underlined the truth of this comment

Now, it ought to be obvious that the basis of climate change is rather more complicated than whether 1998 was the warmest year in over a century, or if it was warmer or cooler than 1934. And yet, by having made such a big deal out of 1998 in the first place, or by allowing the media to focus so tightly on that factoid, some folks who perhaps ought to have known better tied the perceived validity of their argument about this critical issue to an inherently weak assertion. As a result, the science of climate change looks a tiny bit shakier today, when nothing of significance has actually changed. There's a lesson here for anyone trying to explain such a complex technical subject to a general population, using mass media in which news coverage has acquired many of the elements of entertainment programming. You can't bore your audience or talk over their heads, but you also can't reduce complex arguments to such thin reeds that they snap at the tiniest shift.

More Hitchens Tub-Thumping

Sometimes you have to thump a tub to get the deaf to listen! And heaven knows, do I know some of the deaf! Simple excerpts, no doubt a revelation to the hearing-impaired I have mentioned above.

The founder of al-Qaida in Mesopotamia was Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, who we can now gratefully describe as "the late." The first thing to notice about him is that he was in Iraq before we were.

But no we created him and his group!

We further know that he authored a plan for the wrecking of the new Iraq: a simple strategy to incite civil murder between Sunni and Shiite Muslims. The incredible evil of this proposal, which involved the blowing up of holy places and the assassination of pilgrims, was endorsed from whatever filthy cave these deliberations are conducted in.

Hey wait - this is the noble resistance.

As a matter of fact, we even know that Zawahiri and his boss once or twice counseled Zarqawi to hold it down a bit, especially on the video-butchery and the excessive zeal in the murder of Shiites. Thus, if there is any distinction to be made between the apple and the tree, it would involve saying that AQM is, if anything, even more virulent and sadistic and nihilistic than its parent body.

Aha! It *is* Bush's fault.

The third assumption, deriving from the first two, would be that if coalition forces withdrew, the AQM gangsters would lose their raison d'être and have nothing left to fight for. I think I shall just leave that assumption lying where it belongs: on the damp floor of whatever asylum it is where foolish and wishful opinions find their eventual home.

Well, it won't be the first time there were wishful and foolish opinions about how to achieve peace in our time.


Brad DeLong catches a very embarrassing, though elementary, statistical confusion in a NY Times article.

Where The Hell are They?

You get to the subject line at the end. Amen.

Sadly, where the hell they are is where most of our political establishment want our troops. Hiding somewhere from our responsibilities.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

What Kind of Flower?

Via Doc and my sister, I tried this quiz out:

I am a

What Flower
Are You?

Actually I think it is not too totally far off. From what Doc says, I am certainly not introducing Canna Lilies to my garden!

(Posting this mostly just to prove I am alive. There are some posts in the offing, but I have been having too much fun lately.)

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

The Internet is SO Great

An e-mail in a group devoted to Monarch Butterflies pointed me to this utter delight.
I love his style and his content.

Freedom of Speech - is Andrew Moodie really such a total ass?

TVO has broadcast, wonderfully, parts of a debate at the University of Toronto's Hart House, basically on the proposition that hate speech in Canada should be decriminalized NB: There are three links preceding this - follow them all.). Along the way Christopher Hitchens participated tub-thumpingly and deliciously tried to provoke us Canadians to arrest him under our stupid hate law. We did not. And the voting students agreed with him.
What appalled and stunned me was the self-satisifed, lip-licking, and utterly ignorant behaviour of the series host, Andrew Moodie (whom, until then, I had moderately respected), summarizing the show. (See about 3 mins 50 secs into the last item linked to above. I love the comments at the site - dipshit, he should read Voltaire. In the end he proves himself to be an ass.)
He suggested Hitchens has never been on the receiving end of hate speech. Hmm, I think Hitchens made it clear he had received death threats - do those count? Hitchens is an atheist - I can assure Mr. Moodie that we atheists have a long history of receiving a fair bit of what would be called hate speech. Has Hitchens asked the state to stop the hate speakers? I think not. I certainly never have and would regard it is ridiculous to do so.
What planet does Moodie live on and why is his employment continuing? OK maybe it is not. We shall see in a month or so. But he, or his writer, is an ass. And I do not need to hear more of this fatuous pontification. (BTW - note the consistency of the YouTube comments on this!)
Why would TVO employ someone to introduce and extroduce a show on free speech who has no idea what it means?

Monday, August 06, 2007

Help! I Need a Portal!

The responses of the Rogers/Yahoo guys on their support line to the concerns I expressed amounted roughly to, "Yes we confirm we are stripping all your work away and you had better start sorting your new world out; mind you we are game to help". The latter part is nice but the clear unwillingness in the first part shows indifference to concerns about time inconsistency and has induced me to try to find any other main portal, anywhere, in almost any language I can read.

I am playing with I love its openness but the fact that Goggle originally had no major interest in creating a nice portal for people shows through violently. And this causes me to think they have a problem respecting time consistency. They will likely need serious upgrades and these tend to be destructive.

So what should I do? What do you use? I want to pop up a home page that shows me the weather forecasts in places I care about, the fate of the stock exchanges, top news in areas I care about, and that is about it. I had it beautifully tuned on My Yahoo, and then the arrogant clowns decided to destroy it.

Does Excite still exist? What does?

What Should We Do?

My priors on many environmental issues are pretty wishy-washy, which means I can really enjoy some very entertaining analyses of what we ought to do about the problems. This Times article gave me particular pleasure (for its mischief). A few points:

“The troubling fact is that taking a lot of exercise and then eating a bit more food is not good for the global atmosphere. Eating less and driving to save energy would be better.”

Paper bags are worse for the environment than plastic because of the extra energy needed to manufacture and transport them, the Government says.

Diesel trains in rural Britain are more polluting than 4x4 vehicles. Douglas Alexander, when Transport Secretary, said: “If ten or fewer people travel in a Sprinter [train], it would be less environmentally damaging to give them each a Land Rover Freelander and tell them to drive”

Organic dairy cows are worse for the climate. They produce less milk so their methane emissions per litre are higher

Almost all of this simply exposes that it is hard to optimize for more than one variable at a time.

Ignatieff and the War

At the time the Iraq war of 2003 started, I was a supporter of the initiative; in many ways it seemed the appropriate conclusion for the first Gulf War's limited end. I was hopeful, if not optimistic, that a reasonable civil society could arise in some time in Iraq (never did I think in a few weeks or months, and I am not yet sure).
My sister writes interestingly on Michael Ignatieff's repudiation of his support.
Norm writes interestingly on it as well.
For me, as I read it, what jumped out and shocked me was what I hope deeply was not really what Ignatieff meant. Ignatieff makes this remarkable assertion:

Among intellectuals, judgment is about generalizing and interpreting particular facts as instances of some big idea. In politics, everything is what it is and not another thing. Specifics matter more than generalities. Theory gets in the way.

Brad DeLong responds to this and some other statements with:
I think Ignatieff has it wrong when he contrasts realistic politicans with academic visionaries. The academics I know and respect labor under three ethical prime directives:

* Learn as much as possible about the issue.
* Fairly present all points of view that have significant support.
* Always remember that the world is a complex and surprising place, and that our theories, models, and data are limited: the map is not the territory.

The academics I know and respect don't make mistakes like those Michael Ignatieff attributes to an academic mode of thought: they don't believe that the ideas they play with are ultimately useless, and they desperately want to think thoughts that are true rather than thoughts that are false.

I hope DeLong is right - that academics in general are like him, can engage (and he has!) and not separate modes of thought so there is one in which facts seem not to matter.

Ignatieff's point now seem weirdly to suggest that henceforth he will worry about facts, and not ignore them as before. Even worse, he WILL ignore theory, if he gets politcal success. Bizarre.

BTW, I have always found Brad DeLong a useful, if occasionally slightly over-the-top, commentor on events and someone with whom I agree some part of the time. But he is always willing to justify his arguments and usually base them on facts. And he teaches at Berkeley!

Friday, August 03, 2007

Typical Rogers Service - *this* is Customer Service?

Over many years I have had a home page that serves as a very nice portal to all that I care most about knowing - weather in certain places, stock indexes, news of various sorts, items on my favourite sports. This resided nicely at (A cookie kept track of who I was and made sure that the right page came up for me when I wanted, and I could always log in and get the page I wanted if I got rid of the cookie).
As of this morning, it appears this has all been obliterated. That address now gets re-directed to, which contains a bunch of nonsense that my ISP,, seems to think I would prefer to what I have spent years creating. I have used Rogers' online support to ask whether there is a way to recover what I had created over the years, and, as is typical in Rogers' service, I have had no response.
So it is over to and learning how to recreate what I had.
So why would Yahoo and Rogers want to turn their existing customers off so badly? There must be a very significant belief their new mechanisms will attract a lot of new customers. I sure cannot see how.
For the moment, I shall certainly do everything I can to avoid Yahoo- and Rogers-sponsored pages. The new home page is already - it is no match for what I had, but it is not nearly as stupid as what Rogers and Yahoo imposed on me this morning.
Any hints anyone has on getting me back to where I was before would be very welcome.

Thursday, August 02, 2007


I have seen a lot of this nonsense today. It sounds pretty exciting until you check all the numbers and learn the net flow REMAINS staggeringly the other way.
All of which proves to me the smarter people are Canadians; and the smartest among them the numerous emigrants.

More Creatures from my Waterfront Walk/Jogs

Obviously the pictures come from the walks!
On the other hand these guys play a giant role down there at all times - they are Double-Crested Cormorants, and a nearby landfill has become one of the world's biggest breeding areas for the little devils.

One morning, SillyWife and I were jogging and turned the corner to one of the small enclosed bays and it was thick with these birds; clearly there was an amazing collection of fish that morning in the bay; these guys swim underwater and grab fish as they do so.
I have also been so lucky as to be at another of the small bays with the light just kind enough to let me see one of these birds chasing fish underwater.
They are amazing.
One thing you do not have to be lucky for, just have the right timing, is see them during their daily commutes; in the morning the sky can be thick with them flying just above the water, heading east from their home on the Leslie Street Spit, going to feeding grounds I assume are around the Scarborough Bluffs. It is awesome to see.
Their ubiquity has one funny effect; in the migration season, one can mistake a Loon passing through for one of these guys, as their behaviours, and body outlines, are fairly similar.

Filmmakers of my youth

The proofs of mortality among film auteurs this week have taken me back to my undergraduate years, years of staggeringly high pretension. Don't get me wrong - pretension can be a great motivator of excellent work, though it was never so for me.
But it did make me want to like films by Bergman and Antonioni. And, man, that was hard for me. I am a sentimental guy (the Irish perhaps?) and so I really liked "Wild Strawberries". But then there were all those other films, and I could make no sense at all of them. Antonioni was worse; my heart could not buy into a single film of his, and "Blow-Up", the English-language one, was the worst.
But to be honest I cannot recall a moment in an Antonioni film I actually enjoyed. (And, pretentious as I was, I worked hard watching the ordeals he produced.)
Times change. Maybe the saddest reflection on all this was listening to the CBC One network in the middle of yesterday afternoon and hearing the newscaster (no doubt pretty young) completely incapable of pronouncing Antonioni's surname (one might think this would be simple in Toronto). She produced in one short report three different versions, all incorrect. So these years later, they cannot even get your name right.
As for enjoyment of Bergman ....
I have yet to see "Fanny and Alexander" and people I trust are all pointing at it. I shall try to do so soon.
It is still the case that one of the sweetest memories I have is a weekend I got invited on a side trip from a business trip to wander around the Stockholm archipelago and actually for to pick and taste some Wild Strawberries. It was not possible to do that tasting without thinking of Victor Sjostrom and Ingrid Thulin.
In some blogs, I have noticed people saying, "but Bergman was a Nazi" (or at least a sympathizer). With my Norwegian immigrant background, I just think, what Swede was not?
In the end my personality is just not sufficiently depressive to take either of these guys completely seriously (except for some of Bergman - "The Magic Flute", as an example).
To my mind, on Antonioni, Norm says it best:
the film-watching public has come to have less patience with 'languid alienation' as a subjective condition. This might be because there are far worse human conditions, ones that make a greater demand on our attention. Or it might be because people feel that the languidly alienated are likely to have the means of overcoming such alienation within their own grasp. I have no way of testing the speculation, but it's what occurred to me.

Yeah it occurred to me too twenty years ago. :-)

Oh No not Tommy Makem