Monday, March 31, 2008

ATMs in this hotel

Normally on my trips when I go to an ATM in a hotel the proffered withdrawals are in the order of $40-$200.

Today I went to one in this hotel and the minimum proffered was $200! The top level on the screen offered was $2000, which I am sure my bank would reject (I did not test this).

I in the end asked for $200 and got two one-hundred-dollar bills.

I am really not in Kansas.

Toto, I am not in Kansas

I don't get this view out my window at home.

Moreover, I do not normally get this view at the hotels the consortium I am participating in right now normally chooses.

LiveLeak Responds

The first site to host Geert Wilders' surely over-extreme anti-Koran film 'Fitna' took it down for security reasons fairly quickly. But they have taken steps and responded in ways it would have been nice to see a Canadian bookstore chain apply back in the original days of the Danish cartoon controversies.

On the 28th of March was left with no other choice but to remove the film “fitna” from our servers following serious threats to our staff and their families. Since that time we have worked constantly on upgrading all security measures thus offering better protection for our staff and families. With these measures in place we have decided to once more make this video live on our site. We will not be pressured into censoring material which is legal and within our rules. We apologise for the removal and the delay in getting it back, but when you run a website you don’t consider that some people would be insecure enough to threaten our lives simply because they do not like the content of a video we neither produced nor endorsed but merely hosted.

I admire the fact that they apologize for the decision; they know it had elements worthy of shame.

Balto, an animal posting

Sleepless when jet-lagged on business travel, I frequently find myself in the middle of the night desperate to find something other than an infomercial on the TV and reluctant to spend my own good money on a movie I can see a year later at no marginal cost.

So this morning I wound up hearing Peter Coyote's voice (one of the best for making a documentary sound important) on History, talking about Alaska.

This was very informative. In Canada we used to have a lot of coverage of the Iditarod sled dog race, largely because a woman, Susan Butcher, had sled dog teams that regularly did well in the competition. But I did not realize the amazing story of the role that trail played in Alaskan history. Relay sled dog teams delivered serum to Nome, Alaska, during a diphtheria epidemic in 1925, and what a relay it was!

While numerous sled dogs played a key role in this amazing effort, one dog, Balto, was featured in this documentary, largely because he was made lead dog despite his musher's uncertainty about his skills, and then prevailed magnificently through extremely arduous conditions, including staying on the trail through long whiteout conditions, and refusing to run the sled into a river.

It is a great story, told in more detail here, and featuring all the teams involved in the relay.

I found the story very moving, as I always do seeing the devotion of dogs to their human pack leaders. That devotion is why I never chose myself to keep a dog, though my choice in cats produced one who ultimately wound up as committed. Life has its ironies.


Saturday, March 29, 2008

Earth Hour - Only the Essential

Earlier in the day I recall the CBC quoting a Toronto official saying that during Earth Hour (if you do not know what this is, I am not helping with a link) the city would not turn off any essential lighting; it will only shut off inessential lighting.

Huh? That is what I do - in the interest of saving my money. If I am not in a room the lights are out. Right now I have to watch episodes of Law and Order, that is essential, and read my computer screen, so I have some lights on in this room. Looking out the back of the house, I am astonished to see mostly darkness. This neighbourhood must really be gentrifying!

Out front the story is not so clear - lots of lights on in the school across the street, and many lights on in the front of houses visible from my porch.

It's all shambolism anyway.

But I still wonder - if all those lights the city is turning off are inessential, why are they ever on? This sounds 100% like our Mayorness.

Canadian Stage's 'Fire'

My declining interest in Canadian Stage's seasons has been driven to a large degree by their selection of musicals. In a way, I find this sad, as one of my unexpectedly favourite shows of my time as a subscriber was Leslie Arden's "The House of Martin Guerre".

But I never really saw the point of reviving "Hair" or "The Rocky Horror Picture Show". These were so much of their time, and their revivals I have reviewed on this blog, and I still think it was a mistake to invest the resources in this stuff.

So when I decided last year to place my subscription order, I surprised myself by deciding to select 'Fire' as one of the shows SillyWife and I would see. There was a simple reason - Ted Dykstra, who has consistently provided me a lot of pleasure over many years in Ontario theatre, particularly with "Two Pianos, Four Hands" (at the end of which his character recognizes that maybe he isn't even the best pianist in his neighbourhood - both characters do), a turn as Bottom in Stratford's wonderful "Midsummer Night's Dream", that featured Colm Feore as Oberon - omigod, 15 years ago!

And he has directed and been in several other productions I have liked.

This musical is vaguely based on the fact that Jimmy Swaggart and Jerry Lee Lewis are cousins (though why Mickey Gilley deos not get mentioned here as well has always baffled me).

But reality has not a lot to do with the show, which does a nice job of pointing out that televangelists and rock and rollers arise from similar traditions and are both working in entertainment traditions. The show up to the intermission does a nice job of building this analogy, and the last number before the intermission really grabbed me - a great illustration of the point. Rick Roberts and Ted Dykstra were just excellent and the energy was high. Roberts captured the intonations and rhythms of the Sunday morning evangelists I used to find it amusing to watch on television. Dykstra, perhaps only the second best pianist in his neighbourhood, recaptures nicely the crazy flavour that Jerry Lee Lewis brought to a performance. Kudos as well to Nicole Underhay as Molly, who unites these two figures.

But when the lights went down after intermission, all life pretty much left the show for me - the air went out of the balloon as the play become a political tract, and the presentation of Evangelical Fundamentalists, which I thought walked treacherously close to possibly justified stereotypes before intermission, decided to wander right in and lose all possible subtlety. What had been an energetic story of two conflicting brothers became utterly cliched, a path to come to having the wild brother ask for forgiveness from the other, and produce a pathetically lame finish, involving the strange notion that the paean to love in Corinthians is somehow typical of the whole New Testament.

We could have left at intermission and missed nothing we really wanted to see in the end.

And this has crossed my mind - I knew really nothing of this show before we went today, and today, reading the program in the intermission, I realized who David Young, the author of the book, was. He had created "Inexpressible Island", a play I dragged a party of friends to, and all of us fell asleep during the show. This featured R. H. Thomson, so you can imagine how tedious we must have found it - he is one of our finer actors.

Even worse - he wrote 'Clout', which Rondi and I left at intermission, despite a cast featuring R. H. Thomson, Eric Peterson, and Waneta Storms! I think this is the only theatrical production I have ever left at intermission. It was just silly, in my view.

So in the end I was not surprised to find that this was in the end only half a play worth watching.

I notice Martin Bragg has sworn off musicals for next year's season, but the only play I feel half interested in at the moment is the Peter Morgan (who wrote 'The Queen') offering. And I wonder even about that.

J. Kelly Nestruck has a very comprehensive roundup of responses to the show. I would also recommend that once you go over there, you read the last couple of weeks of postings he has on Toronto theatre - he has great insights.

By the way, today's matinee audience delivered a standing ovation (SillyWife and I did not stand), though in fairness to the audience, the standing started when the three principals appeared on stage, and they were spectacular even doing things I did not want them doing after intermission.

Fortunately, the cast did not then break into further song, as occurred at Soulpepper's "As You Like It" the night before, and this without anyone in the audience standing. We had already suffered the epilog that Shakespeare was so cute about, and now we have to stay seated and listen to the play go on even more?! And I liked that production - but this is just a stupid affectation. Perhaps another post.

Monday, March 24, 2008

How Do I not Recall This?

Having been older than Glenn Reynolds at the time, I too am stunned that I have NO recollection of the hostage-taking he cites (no doubt one to figure as an omen in future histories of our age).

an armed band of American Muslim militants invaded several buildings in Washington on March 9, 1977

I recommend the Washington Post article cited, featuring an appearance even by Marion Barry. This tidbit should sound familiar:

One of the captors told them that "if anyone does anything wrong, he'll cut their head and throw it out of the window," she recalled.

Even more I recommend the wedding announcement that triggers the whole post. The story is wonderfully characteristic of our world, featuring online dating, baseball, and an extended family that is only growing with second marriages.

I will confess that is is mostly the wedding announcements I miss since stopping my subscription to the Sunday NY Times. I guess I could invest the time on the online version!

Friday, March 21, 2008

P Z Myers certainly has ME laughing

He is clearly a celebrity in Minnesota. Apparently certain English celebrities are less known in Minnesota.

I'm a kind of sabot right now.

They singled me out and evicted me, but they didn't notice my guest. They let him go in escorted by my wife and daughter. I guess they didn't recognize him. My guest was …

Richard Dawkins.

He's in the theater right now, watching their movie.

Sorry one more on the speech

Melanie Phillips has figured out how to say more clearly what I found unsatisfying. The actual problem he faced was never addressed.

But hey, Obama doesn’t want us to talk about Wright’s sermons any more. He wants us to start swaying and clapping and chanting along with his hypnotic rhetoric, presumably so redolent of the cadences of Pastor Wright. Because Obama stands for change. And now we know what he wants to change. He wants to change the subject.

This is not to say it was not in many ways a good speech. It just does nothing useful to answer the question about his devotion to a nutjob bigot.

Obama's 'Race' Speech

I have struggled with this in some posts - eloquent and empty, it seemed to me, like many of his speeches. But that is inadequate.

Roger Simon reacted more emotionally. (And if you look at the history of the civil rights movement, his emotional engagement is very important.)

For me, it is a couple of comments to his post that capture what I think/feel about this.

dougf gets the point. For me this is not a large issue about race - it is about the support of a nutball.

And no surprise to me, Michael Totten hits the exact point:

Barack Obama gave a good speech, and I think he means well, but he should have chosen a pastor in the mold of Martin Luther King, Jr. It's real simple, and nothing he can say will ever change that.

Had I a vote, what would I do among the three remaining candidates? Wow - a tough call, and I do not know yet. All are promoting idiotic economic policies, so it is likely foreign policy is the main concern. At the moment (and this will change) I am starting to lean to Hillary. Oh dear.

Also a tone-deaf moment in the speech - 'typical white' - hmm.


Now that I have outed myself, I can point to this post as well.

CROCS overload!!! I'll add this to my list of reasons why I will always hate Kelly Taylor. Not only did she steal Brenda's man, but now she's making her entire family wear Crocs?! This woman must be stopped

A Halle Berry Connection to Alberta?

OK I have to come out and admit I read this guy's blog but really his point is pretty funny:

they named their angel Nahla Ariela Aubry.

The first thought I had was Nala from "The Lion King." Then I decided to do a little googling and it looks like they named her after The Northern Alberta Health Libraries Association.

I should blame Jackie Danicki for pointing me at this unfortunately compelling blogger.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Timothy Burke Addresses Some of my Puzzlement

Indeed, I had no pragmatism, other than trying not to be too badly brutalized by my neighbourhood Christians - and I more or less succeeded (but for a couple of incidents).

I do wonder though how this pragmatism differs from "cynicism that helps me get elected for stuff".


I know some of you think that this vision is a kind of weakness in the face of malevolence. I just don’t see any choice.


Obama Puzzlement

I had some curiosity as a child in a highly Christian environment whether I should go to Sunday School, so I did one day. I came home so appalled at the ridiculousness of the story they told there about some guy who got swallowed by a whale. Give me a break - this is nuts. Never went back.

So Obama spends 20 years listening to Jeremiah Wright. That is a new level of nuts!

This does not fill me with confidence.

(Not to say I think the alternatives are wonderful, any more than I think the alternatives in Canada are a delight.)

My Ears are Going

Joining other parts of my body.

Watching the great show "Restaurant Makeover", I hear the term "Werewolves Rancheros". A Mexican meat dish I guess.

And SillyWife has joined me in one error, listening to the CBC. She initially heard "rioting in the streets in Quebec" and I heard "the government-in-exile of Quebec". In both cases it was "Tibet". Oh well, the ears and brain fight to simplify things and fit them into what they know.

How Bad can Reporting Be? - Pretty Bad

Here's the story - a University professor gives out an assignment, and tells the students to work on it individually - do NOT share answers.

A student solicits other students to share answers to the questions on the assignment.

The professor accuses the student of cheating and there are actually people who defend him! What sort of world is this?

Utterly astonishing to me, or would be if it came from other than the leader of a union:

"Chris in our view is still innocent, so it is still too bad that he got zero for that 10 per cent," Loreto said.

Innocent. In what possible universe?

There has been a lot of nonsense because the cheating was carried out using Facebook but cheating it manifestly was. I give the professor credit for catching it - Facebook made documenting that a lot easier.

Another sensible perspective on this.

Monarchs are on the Way!

Numerous reports of sightings in Texas and even one in Oklahoma (probably not the brightest butterfly, given the weather there, however ambitious).

This is great news - must get the cameras ready and start to believe that the snow will fade. (Today is not bad - lots of rain and now I see grass again!).

And another visitor competing with that red guy

These guys come to getting into the peanuts more naturally.

He Was Back Today

He has made a lot of progress on those mysterious peanuts and so is even more motivated. Mrs Cardinal drops in as well, but remains a bit more elusive.

Monday, March 10, 2008

More and more

... evidence is accumulating that Alberta is the creative centre of this silly country.

I love the commenter who generalizes that Canadians speak slowly. He should go to PEI or Newfoundland.

Check out that Photographer

I view this as largely documenting how a photographer (the one in the picture) should commit himself to his job.

UPDATE: The Manolo ignores the photographer but has some precise and careful thoughts on this.

Hey wait - I don't want her answering the phone unless Barack cannot

This is too funny:

I might have seen this on my own, as KING is among my 500 channels. But I doubt it, so let me thank, as so often, Allahpundit.

Nederlanders in Iran

Thanks to Guy LaRoche for pointing out this brilliant video from Thomas Erdbrink.

We learn that life goes on and people are far more sensible most of the time than their leaders, religious or political.

LaRoche sums it up nicely:

What I love about this video, apart from Erdbrink’s clear and justified statement about the way journalism should be practiced, is that it shows normal people instead of foaming-at-the-mouth politicians or clergy. Watch, for instance, the Iranian skaters. What a familiar sight they are to our Western eyes. I also have to mention that this video is NOT apologetic of the Iranian regime. A good journalist simply needs to show, as best he can, the diverse reality on the ground and not stoop to all the hype-making politicians are known for. Hence the caption Erdbrink added to his video: “This video may be shocking to people watching Dutch current affairs programmes.” And at the end of the video he walks into an Iranian store to buy some pistachio nuts and… Gouda cheese!

Morning Visitor

He knows peanuts are good for something but has not yet figured out how to get into them!

Saturday, March 08, 2008

Snow. In Ottawa.

Paul Kedrosky knows how to really annoy with that WebCam shot of LaJolla.

For what it is worth, the storm is upon us in Toronto.

Photographic Lighting

I have been reading a lot of books and articles, trying to understand key elements of this skill.

I have lately been stalled on specular highlights.

I have now found an example that seems to embody the idea.

Get That Shovel Ready

This car had no snow on it late yesterday afternoon, and the weather channel says the real snowstorm has yet to arrive! What a winter. Snow. In Toronto.

Friday, March 07, 2008

Wal-Mart vs Starbucks

There is a very mischievous graphic out there.

I confess to getting the occasional latte but I must say Wal-Mart has become my retailer of choice, and this has recently extended into canned food, as well as other food areas.

Recently in California I sonehow lost a Timex watch that had cost me around $50. I found a Wal-Mart, drove in, and found within about five minutes a functional equivalent for $12!! It is a great little watch.

And hence a great big store!

Earth has not anything to show more cute

I say hustle on over here and pull out the handkerchief! (and regret that the newspaper cannot afford proofreaders)

Four tiny orpahned hedgehogs are snuggling up to the bristles of a cleaning brush - because they think it's their mother.

The four inch long creatures are being hand-reared by staff at the New Forest Otter, Owl and Wildlife Park in Ashurst, Hants.

Workers say Mary, Mungo, Midge and Slappy get comfort from playing with the centre's cleaning brush and enjoy rubbing against it.

Check out the story and the oh-so-cute pictures.

(h/t The Amateur Economist)


Why Doesn't This Guy Run for President?

I suspect he has always held similar views, and such views in 1972 were obscured by his one giant issue. But I thought this a wonderful succinct put-down of several key planks being mooted by many current crusaders.

My favourite bit is about a topic I have ranted on, simply because it so well describes what is so moronic about most of what I hear on this subject (and, by the way, the main stretch near my home features a pretty high density of these businesses):

Economic paternalism takes its newest form with the campaign against short-term small loans, commonly known as "payday lending."

With payday lending, people in need of immediate money can borrow against their future paychecks, allowing emergency purchases or bill payments they could not otherwise make. The service comes at the cost of a significant fee -- usually $15 for every $100 borrowed for two weeks. But the cost seems reasonable when all your other options, such as bounced checks or skipped credit-card payments, are obviously more expensive and play havoc with your credit rating.

Anguished at the fact that payday lending isn't perfect, some people would outlaw the service entirely, or cap fees at such low levels that no lender will provide the service. Anyone who's familiar with the law of unintended consequences should be able to guess what happens next.

His title says it all :

Freedom Means Responsibility


More on the Way

Via Gary Wise, I discover this lovely piece of work, which actually gets it nicely.

The line "Where's the Army?" refers to a former mayor's calling in the army for help during the snowy winter of 1999.


Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Viva la Muerte

I have no difficulty choosing sides when one side is in love with dying (and that usually means killing - they never just go off into a field by themselves and kill themselves). I have had discussions break off because the interlocutor had no real explanation for the suicidal/murderous nature of his hero. The love of purifying death is one of the first hints of fascism.

Alan Dershowitz explains this very clearly.

In particular:

Civilian casualties also increase when terrorists operate from within civilian enclaves and hide behind human shields. This relatively new phenomenon undercuts the second basic premise of conventional warfare: Combatants can easily be distinguished from noncombatants. Has Zahra Maladan become a combatant by urging her son to blow himself up? Have the religious leaders who preach a culture of death lost their status as noncombatants? What about "civilians" who willingly allow themselves to be used as human shields? Or their homes as launching pads for terrorist rockets?

The traditional sharp distinction between soldiers in uniform and civilians in nonmilitary garb has given way to a continuum. At the more civilian end are babies and true noncombatants; at the more military end are the religious leaders who incite mass murder; in the middle are ordinary citizens who facilitate, finance or encourage terrorism. There are no hard and fast lines of demarcation, and mistakes are inevitable -- as the terrorists well understand.