Sunday, August 31, 2008

Compulsory Edinburgh Animal-Blogging

I was last in Edinburgh three years ago, with the SillyWife, and I remain terribly disappointed that during our wanderings we did not arrive at this point.

I had known the story from childhood but still found the silly little statue very moving when I saw it 30 years ago. But only today did I discover the headstone in the graveyard.

It is lovely that people still leave flowers and stuffed animals - but that people leave sticks blows me away - they know dogs!

And yeah, you are right, this could have been the basis for a Disney movie!

Some Overdue Animal Blogging

I left London Saturday morning, and headed to Oxford, where I was greeted along the M40 by a huge raptor floating above the motorway, and then on arrival by this refreshing creature, however much some think them a pest.

I love Magpies, as they are so like Blue Jays and I wish they would extend their North American range into my part of the world, though maybe I'd lose the Blue Jays if so - better think twice.
Now when I go to Oxford I visit good friends, of whom one is an old feline buddy - though you might not know it from this view - I think it is just the three years' absence producing that look - "Where have YOU been?"

Of course this was posturing, as the same creature decided to join us on the deck for snacks later in the afternoon.

As for other animals, as I drove up from my Oxford stop to Edinburgh, there came a point where there were sheep everywhere! (Sorry, no pictures.)

Typical London Skyline

Cranes everywhere!

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There'll Always be an England

But it won't be the one I remember from the 1970s!

Already in the '90s I saw the baguettes creeping into the pubs, and now I can get a half-decent salad in most of them. But this?

Dear heavens! There is even nutritional advice!

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Saturday, August 30, 2008

What He Said - Playing for Pizza

Let me second the hearty endorsement in this post from Doc.

I picked up Grisham's Playing for Pizza in the airport, against my normal practice of avoiding Grisham novels (I tend to like his plots, but I find something amiss in his writing at the level of sentences and dialogue, and maybe characters, in his mystery/law novels - give me Turow anyday); I did exactly because I recall Doc giving a good review to a Grisham novel, though I was not sure this was the one. I loved it and found it a real surprise. As Doc says,

No convolutions, no feelings of emptiness. The existential questions are left unresolved, but it doesn't matter. It is set in Parma, Italy, about a former NFL quarterback, now playing for the Parma Panthers.

My next project - finding "Bleachers".

It's in fact a bit of a love song dedicated to Italy, especially to Parma, and for a lay audience, also an entertaining education in American football. I enjoyed also several plot turns that really led nowhere, or in a slightly misleading way.

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Friday, August 29, 2008

She got runned over by a damned old train

Don Boudreaux analogizes wonderfully, comparing Hillary Clinton's Democratic Convention speech to the perfect country song (which I mention in passing in this post):


He likens this self-parody to passages like:

And I will always remember the young boy who told me his mom worked for the minimum wage, that her employer had cut her hours. He said he just didn't know what his family was going to do.

(Read his post for even better examples.)
Having just watched Obama's acceptance speech, I have to wonder if there is any limit to the self-satire we will see in the course of this campaign. ("This election isn't about me. This election is about you", or the ridiculous like.)

Aside: No doubt Hillary Clinton was in favour of the increase in the minimum wage, one of whose effects would be expected to be just what happened to that single mom.

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A Moment of Respite in the Campaign

And a class act from McCain, observing Obama's nomination on an anniversary of Martin Luther King's "I Have a Dream" speech.

I imagine the gloves are off for only a single day.

(h/t Jay Currie)

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Large White Birds

In my peregrinations about London (UK) in the last couple of days, I had been pretty disappointed at the avian diversity, meaning the lack of same - I had mostly seen pigeons and gulls. And then wandering through St. James' Park I was relieved to see swans in the distance, and then realized their bills were not quite right.

My puzzlement was removed by this web page.

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Thursday, August 28, 2008

How Far Away does one have to go? escape this sort of thing?

(outside the Canadian Embassy, London, August 26, 2008)
And here is a more pleasant shot of the Embassy from the same day:

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Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Ahh, the colonies

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Nice to be Back

Up the Walworth Road, by the Imperial War Museum, across the bridge.

Look! No scaffolding! On the other hand, there is a crane sneaking into the picture.
While earth may not have anything to show more fair, you won't see it from most of the bridge, as there is fencing protecting a construction site most of the way across. At least you can read the poem written in several places on the fences.
Then along Whitehall, past all the statues of military luminaries, climaxing with Nelson in Trafalgar Square. Decide not to visit the National Gallery today, head up into the quite different spirit of Leicester Square, wander around a bit looking for somewhere to eat, and, giving up, head to Covent Garden. Snack and rest a bit while the buskers do their thing in front of Saint Paul's Church.
Then down through Charing Cross Station and across the Hungerford Footbridge.

Cranes everywhere!
Settle on the patio by Royal Festival Hall, and await my dinner companion.
That blister! And my legs are tired.


The Flush of Glory

Media saturation here in England, as the medallists return and fill the talk shows.
Boris Johnson, flush with his appearance at the Olympic closing ceremonies, cannot help making promises!

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Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Olympic Church Sign

Saturday, August 23, 2008

I Really Hate to Admit This

... but the CBC coverage of the Olympics has seemed to me to be very good this year.

I find Scott Russell a bit dorky, but in the end he and Diana Swain seemed to work quite well together, and during the nights I could not sleep, Ian Hanomansing manned the main desk really well.

The sport I know the most about is track and field, and I must say I have been surprised at how good the coverage has been. Michael Smith has come a long way since his earliest broadcasting days (as an ex-decathlete he had little appreciation of middle-distance and longer running events, but he knows a lot more now), and Dave Moorcroft is an utter delight. (And my memory is that Michael Smith is also a really nice guy - I have never met Dave Moorcroft.)

In events I know little about I am often amazed by the experts the CBC has recruited. Anne Montmigny helped me see things I would never have known how to see in the diving events. I hope she is used forever by any Canadian broadcaster covering diving events.

And it is interesting watching events one would never watch but for sleeplessness and availability. Why is volleyball not a professional spectator sport in North America? It is just thrilling to watch and the athleticism is stunning. Two weeks every four years is not enough to train me to parse what is going on on-court, but I would really like to.

(I had one major criticism during the opening ceremonies when I thought Ron MacLean uttered some confusing nonsense about "Great Britain" but I suspect now, having done some research, that he was in fact explaining the curiosity about nonsensical team naming at the Olympics and I was simply not listening carefully enough.)

Friday, August 22, 2008

Baby Birds

One of the great pleasures of morning walks at this time of year is the number of baby birds out and visible. This morning I saw at least three (sometimes it is not obvious).
This little robin was not sure what to make of me (I was not attacked by its parents as I would have been had it been a red-wing blackbird but I hope they were nearby).

Meanwhile this gull was clearly being neglected by nearby gulls and was probably wondering what happened with those nice gulls that used to bring it food.

A baby starling with much more confidence than the two birds above flew away as I removed the lens cap on my camera.

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Thursday, August 21, 2008

The Three Persist

I mentioned in an earlier post that the three were still around. I did not get a picture on the Day of the Great Egret. I did yesterday.

There are five swans in that picture - don't be fooled by the Mallard and the Canada Goose. You may have to click to enlarge.

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Horses on the Podium

As my sister and I were on the way to last Tuesday's concert, we were discussing the equestrian team medal won by Canada, and agreed it would be nice to see the horses on the podium and actually getting medals hanging around their necks, or even being interviewed by some horse working for the CBC - instead we got only the humans. It is nice to see the horses by the podium.

So it was nice to see Eric Lamaze, riding Hickstead, who together won the individual show jumping event , responding to the crowd's applause as he did a victory lap of the equestrian venue by pointing down at Hickstead.

Nice job Eric, and welcome back in a way. Even better job, Hickstead (who underwent surgery less than a year ago)!

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Squirrel-Proof Screen Own Goal

My squirrel-proof screens have held a couple of years, but the holes are multiplying, and I continue hunting for a defence mechanism - in the summer it is important to have windows I can open without having the squirrels enter to harvest my peanuts.

So I tried a new idea. When little Blackie the squirrel (one particular aggressive creature) comes to the screen and poses to nibble, I will grab a water spray bottle and hit him/her (henceforth her) square in the nose with surely very annoying water. Well, as it turns out, she LIKES having water sprayed over her head in a mist. Back to the drawing board, and no, I don't think I will go for alternative liquids. I want to use the same spray bottle for the plants.

Now I was reminded of this fairly recent experience by this post from Bonobo Handshake. I particularly thought the last picture on that post came close to home.

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Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Afghanistan roars onto the the Olympics Medal Table!

First ever!

And in taekwondo!

(h/t Terry Glavin.)

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Olympic 200m and other Jamaican Olympic athletics wins

Andrew Coyne says it well - Insane!

Go to his post though and read the comments.
I giggled at Emmett's but suspect this is more to the point, though it is not inconsistent with the question here!
These athletes will all now be under a lot more scrutiny than before and subjected to a lot more attention than their small country's anti-doping forces might have wanted to apply.
The next year should be interesting.

Yoda the Cat

Mind you, given the source, I still wonder a bit about the story.

(h/t Dlisted)

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Has It Really Been Two Years?

Two childhood buddies still at it after all these years!

Last time I saw Counting Crows turns out to have been over two years ago!

It's always a treat to visit with my cousin even if the music would not be my first choice. And it was even more fun being joined by two sisters, a brother-in-law, and nephew, and some friends!

As for the show itself, this was my favourite set from them so far, perhaps because of its relatively acoustic nature. In my geezerdom incredibly loud music, flashing lights, and a lot of screaming, just don't have the appeal they once had. No wait - in that sense I have always been a geezer. I think that growing up watching newsreels of the Nuremberg rallies have ruined rock concerts for me forever. We had a couple of real zealots in front of us, standing through most of the show - brought to mind this excellent and short description of how to apply the Coase theorem to this sort of a problem. In this case, they performed a service by being pretty cute and blocking my view of the lead singer. In any case, the two young ladies were as blissed out as any of Hitler's fans from the newsreels.

I cannot tell which songs are actually THEIR songs rather than covers, unless they are covers I recognize, which can be tricky, as it is hard to make out the words (I get curmudgeonly about diction from singers too), and they have a tendency to do rather eccentric covers - it took a while to realize it was "Thunder Road" when the parts Springsteen did with exuberance and energy were restrained and slowed down somewhat. On the other hand, the cover (did it end the show? - it was exuberant and excellent) of Dylan's "You Ain't Goin' Nowhere" got me very engaged.

If they keep moving in this direction I might start enjoying the shows as much as I recall liking the Camper van Beethoven concerts that used to cause his visits.

Another great evening out, despite some blips along the way.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Big White Birds

I spend many mornings looking for big white birds down on morning walks. Yesterday I did see those big white birds, and there are still three cygnets.

But I had a real shock when there loomed in front of me a Great Egret - I have never seen one of those around here, so it was a pleasant surprise. The morning hunting seemed to be bearing fruit - well, maybe fish and frogs.

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Mixed Feelings!

I'm always reasonably happy to see Canada grab a medal here or there during the Olympic Games but I would be happy with either outcome of this match, as I know I have a few relatives, and one in particular, who would almost surely be delighted seeing Canada eliminated (and nothing there against Canada).

The linked article mentioned a player named Tanya Harding, which startled me for a moment.

UPDATE: I think those relatives will be happy.

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Monday, August 18, 2008

Yes they still produce eccentrics this article proves.

A crowd of several thousand welcomed the return of El Ingles - as he has become known- and to cheers of "Ole" he flourished his red cape and executed a series of elegant passes, the only torero in history to perform with a titanium knee.

But despite doctors giving him a clean bill of health following heart and knee surgery he was warned not to pursue such a dangerous activity.

"People may think I am mad, the doctors certainly do, but I believe this is what such surgery is for - to allow you to continue doing what you love," he told the Daily Telegraph.

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Canada trampolines ...

... its way up the medals table, and does some team leaping to add to it all.

In the process the determined and ageless Ian Millar earns his first Olympic medal, in his ninth appearance at the Games. Nice to see.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

The Olympics and Race

Those of West African descent won all the 100 metre medals for men and women.

Even more amusing was to watch the 10,000 meters, East Africans everywhere, and NOBODY else.

Yeah, Race is not a concept of any value. :-) But it sure shows up here where purely objective results rule! I once had a bit of an e-mail dustup with a sibling who is a biologist - he said there is no 'race' only 'descent', and so I gave up as it seemed to me he was on some other agenda - descent IS race.

I am pretty sure I never had a hope, with the genetic background I have (Nordic-Irish, and likely the Irish is pretty Nordic - those Vikings!), of ever being competitive in either the 100 metres or the 10,000 metres.

Each Olympics gets Steve Sailer (and Steve Seiler) going, and rightly - go read these interesting pieces.

Busting Nepotism

Tim Harford offers an entertaining analysis of how to create incentives to get the right organization in place to do something as simple as pick fruit. He emphasizes rightly that "Incentives matter". But the story also shows that information matters!

They proposed a “tournament” scheme in which workers were allowed to sort themselves into teams. Initially, friends tended to group themselves together, but as the economists began to publish league tables, and then hand out prizes to the most productive teams, that changed. Again, workers prioritised money over social ties, abandoning groups of friends to ally themselves with the most productive co-workers who would accept them. In practice that meant that the fastest workers clustered together, and again, productivity soared – by yet another 20 per cent.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

CBC Olympics Coverage commentary (1)

First official post. CBC seem to have frumped up Diana Swain but she remains really cute.


I may try to appear curmudgeonly at times but I really like watching the Olympics, and as someone once involved in track and field, I particularly like watching athletics. As someone more focused on middle distance, I have never much cared for the 100 metres, but Usain Bolt just converted me!

This is the most awesome athletic declaration of dominance I have seen since Secretariat's triple crown. Utterly lovely.

UPDATE: The CBC delightfully features Donovan Bailey as colour commentator - his enthusiasm for this race is well justified and totally effusive.

Women's Wrestling Powerhouse roars to 17th in the standings

...helped by rowers

Friday, August 15, 2008

The CBC and Long Names

Somehow or other, Canada has entered into the Olympic Heptathlon an individual with a very long name.

She is doing well and I am impressed. Her name appears to be "Jessica Zelinka of London Ontario". (The "of" might be "from".)

She is currently very happy, though her name is misleading as she seems to live now in Calgary, Alberta. Two personal bests in four events. Way to go!

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I Think I Like This! But I am not Sure.

From Die Welt, this interesting report from Germany.

"Kabarettisten sollen nach Ansicht des Zentralrates der Muslime in Deutschland sehr wohl Witze über den Islam machen. „Es geht darum, dass man den anderen auf negative, vielleicht auch lächerliche Umstände aufmerksam macht, die er tagtäglich lebt, ohne ihn dabei zu verletzen“, sagte Generalsekretär Aiman Mazyek der „Leipziger Volkszeitung“. "

My loose translation:

In the opinion of the Central advisory body of Muslims in Germany, cabarets should features jokes about Islam. "The point is to draw attention to Muslims in negative and even ridiculous circumstances, that they daily experience, without injuring them in the process", said General Secretary Aiman Mazyek to the Leipziger People's Daily.

Hmm maybe not quite as whole-hearted an endorsement as I would have liked.

And one of the commenters (yes, the newspaper invites comment!) seemed right:

Kommt der Zentralrat der Muslime auch für den Schutz der Kabarettisten auf wenn diese dann bedroht werden?

Very loosely,

Will the Central Advisory Body of Muslims also support the protection of the comedians when they are threatened?

I hope we get to find out. I will be watching.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Nadia Comaneci!

For some odd reason she crossed my mind last night. (I was in my male mid-twenties in 1976!)

And not just mine, as she appeared in the press today. And such a nice story.

Stories like hers need to be recorded so nobody is ever as stupid again as so many in my generation about how rotten to the core the Communist societies were.

Her comfortable life is a world away from her life in her twenties when, banned by dictator Nicolas Ceaucescu from ever leaving Romania, she was given a job with the Gymnastics Federation and her wages were heavily docked by the government because she was childless.

She was even sent every three months to a clinic to ascertain whether or not she was pregnant.

I had no idea of this part of the story.

Permanently guarded, she was even followed when doing her laundry or visiting the shops in case she tried to escape Romania. She felt so trapped she even threatened to drink bleach to commit suicide.

In the end a very gutsy girl:

By 1989, she decided she'd had enough, and joined a group of Romanians being smuggled to Hungary.

Fleeing the country in the middle of the night, she was forced to trudge through snow for six hours and wade through an icy lake to escape the brutal regime.

Finally landing in Austria, she was greeted as an international celebrity and flown to safety in the US, where she once again met, and fell in love with, Conner.

The Olympic Ideal, Golden Age Version

Mary Beard reminds us that we are following brilliantly in the footsteps of our predecessors.

But were the ancient games much better? Were the ancient Greeks up-standing and honest sportsmen, honouring the gods rather than their own ambition?

Not really.
They also cheated, mostly through bribery. [ed. technological limitations, no doubt]

As always, read the whole thing.

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Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Oh No Please let the Swimming End

The CBC has now unleashed Mark Tewksbury. I need a shield of some sort now when I turn the TV on.

How did I survive several days of swimming without the Tewksbury rays attacking me?

Hmm - maybe by watching NBC. (Also not a great idea.)

Canada Has Slipped only a Couple of Places in the Last Day

We are now tied for 51st! An inconvenient 50 countries now have medals.

Olympics Great for Occasional Refreshing Moments

Many years ago an amazing athlete named Myriam Bedard was interviewed on Canadian television and was asked whether she had won her Olympic gold medal for Canada or for Quebec and she answered, incredulous at the question, "I won it for me". Now THAT is the kind of thing I like seeing.

Almost as unfiltered, one of our fine fencers, Sherraine Schalm, let loose after a disappointment, made worse in that it was at the hand or sword of an Hungarian. She was delightfully un-Canadian (i.e. direct) and turned back a couple of her interviewer's stupidest questions utterly brilliantly in this clip. Enjoy!

I especially loved:

I don't know if you have ever been a participant in the Olympic Games. [ed. she does know - he has not]
there are 32 other countries that are asking their athletes the same question - why haven't you translated that into a gold medal.

I also liked as a response to the exceptionally stupid question:

Can you survive this and continue this career?

Her response - wonderfully multi-part.

Of course! I love my sport.


all of a sudden someone tells you you can't interview people anymore - you have to go and file papers

this isn't what I'm made to do, this isn't what I love to do, and I'm good at what I do, so let me do it

The interviewer is not quite so great at what he was doing but that is a problem for the CBC.

I am a big Sherraine Schalm fan now. I wonder if she has a Paypal tip jar.

An Excellent Sad Post from Terry Glavin

Terry Glavin's frustrations with former allies gets some pretty clear expression in this post.

One last thing, though. Say Dobbin's right, and the Afghan mission really has changed Canada in some historic, fundamental way. How will historians look back on these times, and what big shift in the nature of Canada will they see?

It is my fear that the smart historians will notice that it was in Afghanistan that the Canadian Left's progressive internationalism died, and was buried, after autopsies revealed the cause of death as the replacement of international solidarity and socialist polemics with delusional windbaggery and the rote citing of neo-fascist drivel. Maybe we will even look back and remember the Afghan conflict as that critical historical moment when the mainstream "Left" in Canada ceased to be an effective force for progress entirely, and instead became a force of reaction and an irrelevant echo chamber for conspiracy theories and urban legends.


Meanwhile, in Kandahar, seeing to the enrolment of just one woman in a maternal and infant-health course is not just a profoundly meaningful and concrete act of solidarity, and it's not just an expression of progressive internationalism, either. It's a revolutionary act.

Over the past nine months, thanks the efforts of soldiers like Tylere Couture and rest of the Kandahar Provincial Reconstruction Team, Kandahar's Department of Public Health has delivered maternal and infant-health courses to about 800 women. That's 800 little revolutions.

So go right ahead and wring your hands about the Americanization of Canada, and feel free to wet your pants about imaginary pipelines while you're at it. There's work to be done, now, and that's why I'm sticking with people like Tylere Couture: Idealist, progressive, essayist, soldier.

Read the whole thing and add him to your daily reading.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Canada Still in the top 50!!

I just checked and only 46 countries have medals so far!

The Olympic Ideal

I had no idea the Council on Foreign Relations did anything like this - utterly excellent!

A long history of the intertwining of politics and the Olympics. This presentation documents nicely how some of the great 'traditions' have been added to the whole show. The torch run is described wonderfully as the "only Nazi symbol that survives proudly to this day".

h/t Kate Heartfield

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Olympic Opening Ceremonies Follow-Up

It has been entertaining watching the step-by-step revelations of the various fakeries involved in the Beijing Olympic opening ceremonies, from the fireworks CGI, to the singer who was too ugly to be allowed to appear, to other tricks. None of this news changes my original review.

What I have loved to discover is that my initial response was somewhat like a widespread response at home, apparently shared via the Web!

Others focused on the sheer numbers of people involved - more than 16,000 performers, mostly from People's Liberation Army song and dance troops.

"That certainly showed China's unique character," said one comment. "Namely, that we have 1.3 billion people."

I have rarely seen an opening ceremony with zero whimsy and no humour, but the Chinese pulled one off!

As Ai Weiwei (architect of the Bird's Nest, and proving that not ALL freedom of expression is lacking in China)is quoted in the fireworks link above:

Ai Weiwei called it "a recycling of the rubbish of fake classical culture tradition; a sacrilegious visual garbage dump and an insult to the spirit of liberty; low class sound play that's just noise pollution."

A Country Free of PC

Well, in the end, you come to understand why PC exists and has any force. This is really funny in a weird way - chase link and page down to second item - in that it reflects the amazing insularity of Spanish culture. Here is a piece of the ad.

And now the Spanish basketball team, the reigning world champions, have added another confounding chapter to a disgraceful timeline. In a full-page ad in Spain's best selling newspaper, the sports daily Marca, the team posed smiling and stretching the skin on the side of their eyes to appear Chinese.

The advertisement was for a courier service that sponsors the Spanish Basketball Federation, and apparently not a single player on the Spanish team thought that a slant-eyed gesture might not be the best image to project to the Olympic hosts.

Had the games been in Sweden, would their all donning blonde wigs have produced such a reaction?
On the other hand this is not a culture with a great history here recently.
In 2004, Spanish national soccer coach Luis Aragones referred to French footballer Thierry Henry as "that sh--- black;" also that year, Spanish soccer fans made monkey chants at black players on the English team; earlier this year, black Formula One racer Lewis Hamilton, of England, was subjected to such abuse in Spain that an International Herald Tribune reporter wrote that "it seemed almost as if the Ku Klux Klan had relocated to a racetrack near Barcelona."

Monday, August 11, 2008

A View from SillyWife's Apartment

August 9, 2008, after a rainstorm.

Two rainbows!!

Taste of the Danforth

I generally hate leaving Toronto on weekends as there is always something entertaining happening.
One annual event that has grown in significance and participation is "The Taste of the Danforth", a celebration of a section of one of our streets settled by a couple of waves of Greek immigration during the political upheavals there from the 50s to the 70s (Andreas Panandreou taught in Toronto during this time).
The result has been a stretch of the avenue dominated by Greek restaurants and celebrated by the festival. Primarily it features Greek food, but not exclusively. Friday night I had a lovely stroll through the show, consuming along the way some chicken on a stick, corn on the cob (Greek? maybe, like tomatoes in Italy and potatoes in Ireland), and a little pastry filled with lamb spiced with rosemary (believably Greek!).
I took a few pictures.
Beyond the food there are several stages with music, a great attraction - the fusion of rock and traditional Greek is a joy, and there are lots of other forms featured.

It attracts a cross-section of generations:

It attracts lots of us non-Greeks (as does the food!).

Perhaps most delightfully, there is evidence the show may go on for several years.

And of course, this being Toronto, even a Greek food festival has to make concessions to coffee and donuts, and apparently to Fajitas!

I got a few hours of happy walking and people-watching, sampling some food and music and enjoying the summer weather (mercifully dry that evening).

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Sunday, August 10, 2008

A Mystery Solved

Thursday morning I arrived to find a couple of wasps enjoying a one-third-eaten apple sitting on my deck railing. Having seen squirrels and raccoons disdain my fallen apples consistently, I was a little puzzled over who had been working on the apple.

Clearly, I had forgotten that apples actually ripen and may become more appealing as time passes! And I finally caught evidence of this.

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CBC on the Road

Driving home today I hit the best of what the CBC offers us, things like the documentary on Albert Mah from something called The Late Show.

Hearing it my view was that this should be widely available to Canadians - I cannot figure out even how to replay the show from the CBC website - hope the CBC will fix this.

Albert Mah was clearly a man worthy of enormous recognition.

For me the revelatory moment in the show was the revelation that he had brought the 15-year-old Dawn Greehalgh to Canada out of Communist China - what a guy! She has made a joy of my theatre-attending life for years, via herself, her family, and especially her hot daughter (and hey Mom looks pretty good).

So how does someone else get to hear the great story of Albert Mah?

The PGA Championship Finish August 10 2008

What a thrill watching Garcia, seeking his first major, and Harrington and Curtis, 'the Open' winners looking for a different major in golf! And Harrington won the most recent major, this year's 'the Open'.
I just watched Harrington, and then Garcia, tee off on 17 and that was unbelievable, both in terms of quality and competitiveness. Meanwhile Curtis is trying to save his game on 16 - and gets a decent outcome from a mess.
Harrington birdies 17. Garcia misses!
Harrington buries himself in a fairway bunker on 18. Curtis leaves himself a longish par putt on 16. Garcia heads into a fairway bunker on 18 too. This is getting really interesting.
Curtis saves his par on 16!
Garcia is not IN a bunker, just beside it.
Curtis hits a 4-iron on 17 and is over the green. Interestingly, Harrington and Garcia had hit 5-irons, while the CBS commenters had doubted the choice.
Garcia puts himself in a bunker by the 18th green.
(Typing gap.)
Harrington pops out of the bunker into the rough! - this looks REALLY bad. He is playing the way I might but at a different scale. Garcia races to the Port-a-Potties.
Hey maybe Harrington's ball is not in such a mess. We shall soon see. Don't forget to watch Big Brother tonight - oops, that is not the golf.
Garcia is back.
Harrington hits a beauty, leaving himself a middling level shot for par.
Back on 17 Curtis hits a horrible shot out of the rough. Now likely just a matter of Harrington-Garcia.
Garcia now shooting out of the bunker - decent shot but leaves him a longish putt.
Curtis misses his par putt at 17 - it will be a bogey. He is almost surely now out of the leadership race.
The long shadows are so pretty on the greens.
Harrington makes a long par putt!! This is pretty much over - a great moment, and terrible too. Garcia fights for second and misses the putt. But hey it does not matter to me so I wander back to Olympics coverage.
Harrington is a great hunter as we also saw last month.

So that was a small exercise trying to document how golf is at least as exciting as curling, and probably cricket. Other sports, like basketball and baseball, are intrinsically a lot duller. I typed this at the rate things were happening at the end.

Thanks to CBS for all the content!

Canada Still in the top 35 at the Olympics

Same logic as before - 13 more countries now have medals.

Mayor Miller to the Federal Government

He should act quickly! Don't let those Czechs into perfect gun-range-free Toronto!

Trap shooter David Kostelecký has followed on from the example set by air rifle champion Kateřina Emmons to win the Czech Republic a second gold medal at the Beijing Olympics. Mr Kostelecký hit all 25 targets in the final round on Sunday finishing with a final score of 146. The Czech shooter was the one competitor to turn in a perfect final round, despite facing heavy competition in the early rounds. The event took place amidst heavy downpours in Beijing. After the competition, an ecstatic Mr Kostelecký noted that he believed that the rain had brought him good fortune.

On a side note it was refreshing to see our sports minister Helena Guergis this morning on CBC television announce how much she was looking forward to seeing shooting events, having done some shooting of her own. No doubt Miller will have to get council to bar her from the city.

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Pledge is 'Creepy'

I'm with Alex on this!

As I've written before, I think the pledge is creepy.

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Morning Beach

From a walk a couple of weeks ago.

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Saturday, August 09, 2008

How to Fund Maintenance of your Bike Paths

Encountered on the stroll at UWO, an approach that had not struck me.

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In my (software) industry it is dismayingly common to think you are 99% done on a project only to find a game of whack-a-mole ensues that can reduce that number to 80, 60, 40, 20, 0, depending on the project (this is endemic in the industry because of the hopeless flexibility of software).

I am not sure lying can be so tricky.

Though Edwards implies that he was being "99% honest" when he was lying, and that "I used the fact that the story contained many falsities to deny it," he didn't just deny that the story was true. He said it was "completely false."

(Disclaimer: I know people who know Edwards, and they really like him, as a person.)

Canada in the Top 20 at the Olympics!

Well, OK, yeah tied for 20th with all the other countries with no medals so far.

Silly 'Censorship'

Today's Toronto Star features an article with so much spin, not fundamentally from the reporter, but revealed in quotations, that it actually reveals some very silly things about our country.

The basic core of the story is that the current government has announced its intention to discontinue a government program that had funded trips abroad to promote 'Canadian culture'. Well and good, in my mind; there seems no fundamental national interest to me at least in such a program.

But there are some very interesting comments.

"For me it shows the Conservatives are choosing censorship once again," said New Democrat MP Bill Siksay (Burnaby-Douglas).

Huh??? Not providing taxpayer money to selected people to go on junkets abroad is censorhip? And I assure you this man is not alone; many of our politicians (for obvious reasons - it gives them goodies to hand out), and many members of our cultural elite (for obvious reasons, it gives them goodies to receive) regard subsidies as so fundamental that removing them is censorship. Nope, sorry, not for me. Censorship is what goes on in China and Cuba, not the withdrawal of a free boondoggle.

(By the way there is another similar idiotic debate surrounding a Bill C-10, a proposal originally from the previous government, which would deny subsidies in the form of tax credits given to investors in movies that are deemed objectionable. Note that again, this is not censorship in any real sense, simply the removal of a financial advantage. I do oppose that stupid clause, but largely because it allows the government to act on a whim, and can be applied AFTER the affected third parties' investment decisions are made.)

Another quote.

Liberal MP Denis Coderre (Bourassa) said Canadians don't want the government unilaterally deciding what is culturally acceptable,

"I am totally disgusted," said Coderre, adding the whole thing "smacks of McCarthyism," referring to former U.S. senator Joe McCarthy's relentless obsession to root out so-called Communists in the U.S. in the 1940s and 1950s.

But hang on! What the government is doing should please Coderre - it will now not be making unilateral decisions about who is worthy of a goodie and who is not. Nobody gets this goodie. Moreover, there is no resemblance at all to McCarthyism - the government is not trying to deny anyone the right to try to make a living, other than by rent-seeking.

Now the core of the article is a leaked internal government document that is an analysis of the history of the grant, and it is rather funny to read; somebody not plugged in enough to the standard lefty trendoid orthodoxy takes a look at some of the lefty trendoids, finds their claims ridiculous, and the trendoids don't like it. Some quick examples:
In another case, the North-South Institute received $18,000 to help co-ordinate a Caribbean-Cuban conference in Havana in December 2006. The institute was described as a "left-wing anti-globalization think tank.

"Why are we paying for these people to attend anti-western conferences in Cuba?" the anonymous author asked.

Yeah, and moreover what has it to do with Canadian culture?
Former CBC journalist Avi Lewis, now a reporter with Al Jazeera, was described a "general radical" who could easily afford to travel on his own dime.

A production company, Klein Lewis Productions, co-owned by him and his wife, Naomi Klein, an author and social activist, received a grant of $3,500 to promote the film The Take at films festivals in New Zealand and Australia.

"Klein has sold millions of books, and certainly does not need $3,500 from the government of Canada," the note stated.

That is so mean. After all, they have deep family ties to the NDP core, so surely my taxes should help them enjoy the world. The fact that they are both idiots and rich should not matter.
Former Supreme Court justice Michel Bastarache: $3,000 to give a lecture in Cuba on the Canadian Charter of Rights.

Now I would love to have been there for that!

Now it is true that the reporter has gone out of the way to spin this as much as possible against the government; neither of his money quotes should have been used unchallenged. Or so you might think. But this is the Toronto Star and its charter more or less requires it to labour for the lefty trendoids in the country. This newspaper is at least honest in having no pretence of being objective or fair.

A Wet Summer Indeed

This year's July was apparently Toronto's wettest July in recorded weather history, and I believe it.

One symptom is recorded here on what is normally sandy beach:

In a normal year there would be no grass on the sand and these geese would not have this treat.

And in fact, only a few days after this picture, a few dry days had killed off this grass (maybe helped by the Ontario Beach Volleyball Championships)

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Virginia Postrel on Obama

This is how I see Obama too - the 'change' is no wish to let things happen, but rather to return to previous states. Her closing sentences are excellent.
The theme running through Dreams from My Father is the search for order, for stability, for roots in an undisturbed pre-modern culture. How that yearning for stasis translates into presidential policy is not clear, but I worry. But then I have no nostalgia for the order into which my grandparents were born--even though the old factories have moved away and people no longer grow their own food.

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Friday, August 08, 2008

Who Knew?

I love the great diversity of my city, though I have never believed the sort of drivel promulgated by many, including the Miller-babbler, that the UN has recognized Toronto as the most ethnically diverse city in the world. (FWIW, I have never found anyone able to supply the smallest evidence for this claim - and of course, that the UN says something officially is far from making it true or interesting.) In the end, I have spent time in Manhattan and London (England), and have seen real diversity.
But I had no idea my city had this community!

I confess I was thrilled to contemplate the idea of a Gypsy celebration down at Ashbridge's Bay. And then I got worried - maybe this is just a bunch of emigrants from Rome (Roma in their language).
But all is cool. It is really the Roma I hoped.

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Count on Norm for a good Giggle Before the Weekend


The reviewer, I would say, is without more ado a numskull.


Monarch Butterflies

It has been a scary summer - until about a week and a half ago I had seen only one, flitting through the backyard, ignoring my sumptuous milkweed plants.

But in the last ten days, I have now started seeing them, in Toronto, both down at the Beach and up in my neighbourhood, in London, Ontario, and last weekend in port Stanley. I am still disappointed that I have yet to see an egg, either in my backyard, or down at Ashbridge's Bay, where the milkweed population is amazing.

For a variety of reasons I will miss the migration this year - last year produced such a thrill. Oh well.

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CBC Describes Olympic Opening Ceremonies as 'Stunning'

I agree utterly. at least with these synonyms offered:

—Synonyms 1. stupefying, numbing


Megan McArdle on Olympics Coverage

Megan McArdle has some comments on Olympics coverage, but with a silly title (perhaps she is being ironic). I have watched international sports events on TV in many countries, and the coverage in the US is simply not that different from that in those other countries.

In fact the 'homerism' seems to me worse in many other countries. (The UK and Germany are particularly appalling. Austria is mostly self-pitying in summer events.) I recall Canadian coverage (where I have seen most of them) that is as blithely indifferent to foreign athletes as the worst of US coverage, and for me one of the glories was in the UK in 1978, listening to the finish of a footrace, "and it is XXX (British athlete, named) in first, the Canadian in second, and ...". The Canadian lacked a name, as almost all foreigners' names are lost in the heat of the moment. I suppose I should have been thrilled the country was at least noted.

In the end, sports coverage at Olympics particularly is pathetically laced with stupid nationalism, and ignorant narrowness. Occasionally good broadcasters are used (Geoff Gowan in Canada for Track and Field was one great example) but this is truly rare.

In the end, Megan hits exactly what bugs me:

I do find American Olympics coverage annoying, because they spend too much time "humanizing" the athletes with sob stories. Call me insensitive, but I don't watch runners because their puppy died tragically when they were fourteen. I watch them because they can run fast, and that's beautiful.


I have noticed in the past that is more scrupulous and sensible than the on-air performances (a long-ago example was Neil McDonald goofing up a statement from the Polish president when got it right) but even apparently thinks fawning over China is more important as a "news" item than covering South Ossetia. (Screen just approaching noon Eastern time.)

Silly yes, and to the point of being shameful.

War, what War?

I can understand the main CBC network broadcasting the opening ceremonies of the Olympics, but why on earth is Newsworld (ostensibly the 24-hour news arm of the network run on money confiscated from taxpayers) simply running the exact same coverage, when there is a major war going on in South Ossetia? Even the BBC is covering it now. I gain no benefit from having two channels with the exact same feed.

And I will give CNN credit - they are on it too.

Maybe the problem is that the whole news and sports staff of the CBC were sent to Beijing so nobody is left to carry out the network's claimed mandate.

Get in on This Contest

A witty Dylan-based comment on Justin Wolfers' happiness analyses has triggered this excellent contest. The more the merrier, in my view.

Some broader context: research shows that Dylan is the most highly cited songwriter in law journal and judicial opinions, including this one. And a fun fact: Matt Rabin is the only economist whose CV lists his favorite Dylan song.

A Stroll at UWO

SillyWife has the privilege of working at one of the loveliest university campuses I know.
Recently we used the occasion of being on campus wrestling with her new computer to stroll along some of the nice pathways available for a stroll. We had to cross the Thames River early in the walk.

Later on the way we met this poor disgruntled creature.

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Thursday, August 07, 2008

The Week After the Day Before

Remember the tree with not enough root depth?

Well, Parks and Rec have done some work but I am not sure where they intend to go with this.

At the moment it is sort of back standing - left alone I am sure it will try to grow again - plants are amazing.

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OK I am Dumb

So, like, I am big fan of Kevin Bacon, and his wife, Kyra Sedgwick. (I think 'The Woodsman' was one of the best movies I have ever seen - and it is not often on TV for some reason. :-) )

But does Mr. Dumbo contemplate that there is any connection between Kyra SEDGWICK and Edie SEDGWICK? No, not me. I could have read this.

In the end, she is so charming and intelligent un un-cliched I can almost stand James Lipton. (I love when she says it is easier to do love scenes with other guys than her husband.)

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King Banaian finds a great quotation

And I have to reproduce it from this overall excellent and interesting reflection:
A society that worries itself about which chromosomes scientists have isn't a society that takes science education seriously. In 1900 the mathematician David Hilbert famously drew up a list of 23 unsolved problems in mathematics; 18 have now been solved. Hilbert has also bequeathed us a way of thinking about mathematics and the sciences as a to-do list of intellectual challenges. Notably, Hilbert didn't write down problem No. 24: "Make sure half the preceding 23 problems are solved by female mathematicians.

By the way, there is ample evidence that this omission is NOT because Hilbert had anything against women mathematicians. To the contrary. Note that, unsurprisingly to me, it is the philosophers, in a discipline without measurable results, who were the sexist obstacles.

But back to King's post. I love his reflections on his daughter's eagerness to learn.

This got me to thinking about the reactions I've gotten to Littlest's latest explorations: literature (her high school sent a list of classics deemed "important for college-track students" -- she's decided to work through the entire, two-page list) and military history, an interest she shares with me since doing her 8th grade history project on Alexander the Great. The reactions have been either "military history? That's odd" or "No! She is so good at math!" She still is. She's also 14. Let the girl grow, please. Laissez lire.

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Happiness Inequality

Over at Freakonomics, Justin Wolfers is writing a series of posts about "Happiness Inequality".

Well worth a read. I hope it's true, as at some point soon I intend to descend from high-income to not so high at all! My guess is it will prove to be true.

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Search Arrivals at my Site lately

In order of appearance, not any other priority.

1) Toronto Star cancel subscription
Yay-hey - just did it!

2) Colin Ainsworth tenor
Yay-hey - great guy - hope he comes back to Opera Atelier

3) Chimes of Freedom Flashing
This reaches my blog - well, I will be darned -
A post after all. And heartfelt.

4) Jonah Lehrer
So pleased that comes to me.

5) Mark Collins McCain Foods

6) Slicker Marketing

7) top girls kelli fox
Soulpepper - cool.

8) what is wrong with detective goren csi
Hmm - totally puzzled.

That i enough for today.

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More Suppression of Free Speech

Please note that the publisher had actually serious plans.

And then went chicken.

I have seen this story in a number of places, but Roger Simon's summary seems the best one to me.

That the publishers reference the “Satanic Verses” in their defence is yet more despicable. In the early 1990s, when I was president of West Coast Branch of PEN, we did everything in our power to defend Rushdie against the attempts to suppress his freedom of speech. Random House does nothing for its own authors. The natural conclusion of their behavior in this instance is that nothing critical of Islam could ever be written.

PEN and the Author’s Guild should launch an investigation into this situation and if the allegations are true, should urge a boycott of Random House until it changes its policy. If I were Jones, I would sue the publishing house for all they’re worth.

[Full disclosure: I had three novels published by a division of Random House in the 1980s - Villard Books. At that point, I was very satisfied with the publisher and could not imagine them rejecting a manuscript for the reasons they are now. It’s a different world.]

Well, I figure I can boycott Random House for the foreseeable future, or at least just read their books from library copies, assuming I can figure out which books are from Random House.

Congratulations to the US Olympic Team

Via Norm, this utterly excellent piece of classy behaviour.

Sudanese-born 1,500m runner Lopez Lomong, 23, was elected by US Olympic team captains in what will be seen as an overtly political move to highlight China’s contentious support for the regime in Khartoum.
Lomong, who only became an American citizen in July 2007, said ‘words could not describe’ how happy and honoured he was to be asked to carry the Stars and Stripes into the ‘Birds Nest’ Olympic stadium.

"As athletes, we need to send the message to the government not to kill or bomb and to China to stop [supply arms to Khartoum] because those guns are not to defend the country, but to kill innocent people," Lomong told a pro-Darfur website recently, "This is the 21st century. We don't want kids growing up in refugee camps like I did."

Put that in your pipe and smoke it, Rogge and the IOC.

The Next Generation

My deck peanut-hunters now include what I am pretty sure is a new visitor. This little creature:

This bird's personality is quite different from the others of its species who have been visiting lately and I began believing that this was the baby of the pair who have been around since the spring. This little fellow will sit happily in the tree letting me take pictures - the others would dart in and out of the scene so nervously that a successful photograph was close to a miracle.
One miracle did occur later as I caught this moment from a different bird (I am pretty sure).

Later still there was evidence at least that there is a new generation when three of them were on the deck together.
One other very interesting fact is that the bird at the top has no hesitation on how to whack a peanut open by pecking at it persistently. This was not well-known among the jays here a few months ago.


Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Can I Just Have Another Minute or So?

h/t Jonah Lehrer

Another Great Morning Sky

In Ashbridge's Bay, July 23

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"I am Totally Ready to Lead"

This is too good.
See more Paris Hilton videos at Funny or Die

h/t Kate

A Sunny Day

... in Port Stanley (it even scans nicely with the Foggy Day song).
Loafing on the beach there is one of our favorite activities.
And you can see we are not alone!

Click to enlarge and note that there are also creatures in the sky. Where humans and fast food mix near water gulls are not far away.
Check out the top of this oil tank, nicely decorated for us tourists.

Click to enlarge and you will see that the decoration on top consists of gulls awaiting the next shift.
Perhaps as shifts change the Level 1 cache is the roof of Mackie's, the source of heavenly pleasures.

Life near the Great Lakes can be just lovely!

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The Day After the Day Before

A week ago Saturday we noticed a thunderstorm happening. We closed the windows when they started rattling so we missed the real force of it.

On the next morning, wandering at the waterfront, it began to hit us that this was a pretty good thunderstorm after all.

We hit this tree:

It clearly did not run roots deep enough.

As we progressed, we found two further completely collapsed trees at the waterfront:

What amazed us the most was that this tree, a great friend to the beavers, was still standing:

(click to enlarge and look closely at the trunk at its lower level).
Later we hit another tree that had lost its head!

Quite a day and we did not really notice it at the time.
Worse, we looked into the backyard after the storm and were mystified that our milkweed looked like this:

Normally they stand up. :-) We simply did not get what had happened until the next day.

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