Monday, September 29, 2008

Malalai Kakar - I Had no Great Idea for a Post on This

Ophelia repeats my feelings.

And explains why.

But now she's gone, and the bastards have won.

I hope the bastards have won only this small battle, but the current election campaign in Canada is not making me happy at all about such issues. A government that appeared once to have a principled position has proven its fear of the electorate. I am ashamed of our Wobbling commitments, and of the electorate that makes it wobble (especially the political parties that make the wobble a principle - an utter rejection of any reasonable international commitment to civil life).

A Newman-Redford Pairing We Did Not Need

Steve Sailer honors Paul Newman by telling a story about of what is one of his favourite movies, and certainly one of mine (I must see it again soon), "The Man who would be King" and about a role Paul Newman did not take.

In the 1970s, the project got relaunched, with Paul Newman and Robert Redford attached. (I'm guessing with Redford as Danny and Newman as Peachy ...).

From director John Huston's autobiography "An Open Book:"

" ... Paul, speaking not as an actor but as someone interested in the improvement of the breed, cast it right there: "For Christ's sake, John, get Connery and Caine!"

Another fine act of charity from Newman, as I cannot believe the tone of the existing film could have survived the buddy-film casting of Newman and Redford in the 1970s.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Inkless on Class Acts

What he said (at least for the English-Canadian part).

To my mind, in English Canada, Paikin is utterly unique in his ability to actually moderate a discussion, often calling out obscurantism and nonsense. I've noticed many the arched eyebrow over the salary he gets from TVO, but I have always viewed him as superb and maybe even worth some of my tax money (any CBC case would be much harder to make with me). He actually runs a regular Canadian policy discussion show that is not an embarrassment!

(To be clear, I do not think Don Newman runs a policy show - I admire him too, but that about ends the list.) It is a politics show. Sadly, in some ways, quite different.

SNL on the Political Week

Alahpundit gathers the skits together.

Actually, much as I like in a weird way McCain's dice-rolling, the Katie Couric intervew with Sarah Palin skit is wonderful. Tina Fey is just marvelous. I have not watched SNL in ages but maybe I should use my non-sleeping time on Saturday nights in another way. And I loved, "when cornered, you become increasingly lovable".

I was very surprised about how even-handed the Obama-McCain debate skit seemed. I loved the idea of the surge being proposed in 1985.

And Clinton - well that is how Clinton strikes me in this race, though it goes slightly over the edge at the end. Not without some cause.

Small update: what a boring campaign we have in Canada - except for having way more parties. Nader has dropped out, right?

Saturday, September 27, 2008

R.I.P., Paul Newman

The news wires now have it everywhere.

It's a sad irony in a very small way that one of his fine movies got a reference in a post last week.

As one ages the world seems to get smaller, largely because it is too easy to forget the new breed coming along. But even that philosophical reflection will not stop me from being sorry there will be no more Paul Newman movies.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Mama Bison Lost a Battle

I think I got this picture at a crucial juncture for Mom and kid. Mom clearly felt that day that the kid could find his/her own bloody food. She yielded to the child just before this shot, but not without a lot of resistance.

(Cologne Zoo, Sept. 11, 2008)

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Stephen Gordon asks a Good Question

Normally I am not out in the evening so I do not hear the radio news, which is invariably the CBC for me.

The idiotic report Stephen mentions below dominated every report I heard tonight.

I thank him for making me wonder how idiotic the reports were. It seems, pretty idiotic.

Why on earth do journalists think that this sort of thing is newsworthy?

Airplane Movies

I have suffered some long flights, but love those personal entertainment stations. One movie I watched, largely as a result of what I thought to be narrow choices, was "What Happens in Vegas".

To my utter shock, I actually quite enjoyed it. Ashton Kutcher, even more astonishing to me, was excellent.

But it did remind me of this crazy and enjoyable YouTube offering:

As I think about it, Ashton Kutcher - Demi Moore - Bruce Willis (loved Moonlighting). Maybe this makes sense.

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Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Stand-Ins of the World, Stand Up!

I recall enjoying two great theatre productions from the year I worked at Queen's University in Kingston, one of 'The Cherry Orchard' and the other of Tom Stoppard's 'The Real Inspector Hound'. I remembered few details of either, and tonight's attendance at Soulpepper's production of the latter proved that my few detailed memories were erroneous (though vaguely close to right).

However accurate my memories, the play is an utter delight, and the production was excellent. The device of having two critics commenting on a fatuous murder mystery (I rather wish I had ever seen The Mousetrap) is very Stoppardian, as is their misfortune on finding themselves drawn into the play. Oliver Dennis and Michael Simpson were wonderful as the critics, each getting deeper into his obsession, Dennis' critic concerned about being the stand-in, and Simpson's satisfying new-found lust, and managing it combined with his marriage, and the lust of the night before. The rest of the cast did a fine job lampooning the sort of play Stoppard was having fun with.

Now this was a two-part evening, with the same ensemble, the other part being Peter Shaffer's 'Black Comedy', which I had never previously even heard of. This was a very witty piece of work, beginning with a few minutes in absolute darkness, puzzling me no end where we were going. In the end, it was a most amazing piece of physical comedy, with Mike Shara simply shocking doing slapstick, for me a first with this theatre company. For me, this play also really allowed the very fetching Caroline Cave and Sarah Wilson show fine comic skills and fetchingness.

Ensemble efforts like this from Soulpepper have proven to be consistently superb, so I find it hard not to mention everyone.

Michael Simpson is always great as a character who seems slightly lost and was in both halves. He has not always got roles that he handles perfectly but he got two here. Oliver Dennis is a reliable performer in an amazing variety of roles, and he manages the critic obsessed with his status and the gay neighbour brilliantly. Corrine Koslo was new to me and great in both her roles, one as the cleaning lady in the Stoppard, and as the I guess sort of Christian neighbour in the Shaffer. William Webster gets to be officious, magnificently, as always, in both plays.

And I cannot fail to mention C. David Johnson, who is just great in Soulpepper's comic stuff - here he takes on the role of a slightly uptight father in the Shaffer, and I won;t say what in the Stoppard, and carries it well. He always has a fine sense of comic timing. I single him out mostly as he was Street Legal's Chuck Tchobanian. (I also hope I have raved about his performance in Soulpepper's past productions of 'The Play's the Thing' - I ought to have!)

I think this choice of plays may have strayed from the original mandate of the company, but maybe plays from the '60s should start counting as classical drama. Both plays were also products of a very specific time, and the theatre reminded us of this with intermission music consisting of Beatles' songs. Both plays are deeply about cultural conflicts of specific interest in that time. It does remain a tad tricky for me recognizing that maybe the '60s were quite a while ago.

Thanks, Soulpepper. I wish I could have gone to this earlier, and reviewed it earlier (and sold one more ticket for you!). Given the current tendency to bring things back in the next year, I would say give this one a thought. It almost looked as if the cast had as much fun as the audience I shared it with.

New Dimwit Party

Unbelievable! And they are proud of this.

Part of their policy is to:

Reform the CRTC to ensure that prime time television in French and in English is written, directed, stars, and is about Canada and Canadians

I'd really like to know what on earth this is supposed to mean. But even if it applies only to Canadian television stations, it would be a fatal blow to them. As John Ivison so handily puts it:

No more trash like Mad Men, 30 Rock or John Adams -- we will instead be force-fed quality programming like Canada's Next Top Model and reruns of The Littlest Hobo.

This was classic "loony left" stuff from the party that discussed introducing a trans-gender day of remembrance, nationalizing Canada's primary industries and withdrawing from NORAD, NAFTA and the WTO at its last policy convention.

I don't fully understand why TV is so privileged, though. Would it not be a logical extension to insist that all food available in grocery stores be from Canadian sources, that only cars manufactured in Canada be available for purchase, that only books by Canadians be available in bookstores, etc.? And moreover, those books can only be about Canadians! I await the New Dimwit Party position on these suggestions shortly.

I have long thought Layton was a stupid little man and now he is intent on making me certain of this.

Gasbags Indeed

Rondi discovers the complicity between CTV and the rent-seekers in our arts community. (I would bet CBC news is even worse, and most of our print media.)

Mike Brock takes down Wendy Crewson - my regular readers will know how much this must hurt me. She deserves it, though.

What bothers me about the group of actors and pro-arts-people, is not so much that they're demanding government funding for the arts, it's that they are misconstruing reality in an ever-so overdramatic way. It seems they are unable to leave their acting on the stage.

Take for example, Wendy Crewson, who recently found herself without work when the Canadian Movie Network, ended it's run of the show ReGenesis.

On Canada AM this morning, Wendy plead to Canadians to understand the importance of funding the arts through taxpayers dollars, pointing to the fact that Canada has gone from nine original Canadian TV series to two since Harper has been in power.

She even likened this arts collapse to the economic collapse in the US, drawing a comparison between the deregulation of the US financial industry, and the deregulation of the Canadian entertainment industry.

The only problem is that Wendy is a gasbag. And her statistics are a little bit off base.

Read the whole things.

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Lawn Signs and Life

It was sweet - I got a call earlier today from the NDP asking whether I might vote (yes that is all they asked for) for their local horrifying to me candidate, Marilyn Churley, whose lawn sign I have agreed to host (this might have misled them).

I give them credit - when they asked me is there was ANY chance at all I would vote for her and I said "No" they went on to the next call. I was a bit disappointed not getting a cross-examination but also impressed at their economics. And this was our NDP!

Pigs ARE Smart

Heather Mallick, who is not, continues to get coverage in the US! Another media success! And she gives David Warren time there.

The joy here is the embarrassment to the CBC. It deserves more.

Thanks to Kate and David.

Why does Mallick not want to appear on FOX News? I would have thought CBC would welcome this publicity. Hmm - maybe they know better.

Giggle - What is Asceticism?

He forgets to mention siring Saint Justin. Who can be seen here (unadulterated) or here (entertainingly adulterated).

The spoof is far more entertaining than the real thing.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Cologne - Sept. 19-20

I posted somewhat hopefully about the somewhat sham Anti-Islamization conference planned for Cologne on September 20 and planned protests against that.

Well, it's all over and the smoke has cleared and my impressions from all I have read are that the 'blockade' turned into the usual ugly left-wing stuff, attacks on police, setting fire to garbage, violence and beating of people simply trying to get to the wrong place.

"The city was ready", as Diana West reports on her blog. Ready for mob rule, as she reports. Maybe the saddest piece of this story is that the city's administration regards this sorry outcome as a triumph.

However dubious the original 'conference' was, the brown-shirt behaviour here is clearly on the other side, and breaks my heart. SillyWife and I have loved Cologne in our visits there the last few years - staying near the University has particularly exposed us to its lovely multiculturalism and cosmopolitanism. A visit to the local Roemisch-Germanisches Museum proves this cosmopolitanism is a long-established feature of this beautifully-placed city on the Rhine.

What became of the left? Why the love of childish and stupid violence? A quiet protest would have been an eloquent statement against the apparently stupid 'conference' planned on the day. Instead it became an excuse for more infantile acting-out. Has the left been left only to the children now?

You Lookin' at Me (Part 2)?

(Some Kind of Penguin, Cologne Zoo, Sept. 11, 2008)


Monday, September 22, 2008

Aren't I a Pretty Boy (actually, Girl)?

And not a phoque!

(California Sea Lion, Cologne Zoo, Sept. 11, 2008)

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Yup, It's an Old house

I had waterproofing done for my house, never apparently done before, and the diggers unearthed some evidence of the fact that the house is now pushing 90 years (amazing, really!).
I have no idea when these soaps were the rage.

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Hitchens Lets Loose

My virtual vote is still Obama's but I wonder more and more why it might be.

Christopher Hitchens expresses his disappointment.

What sentence can you quote from his convention speech in Denver? I thought so. All right, what about his big rally speech in Berlin? Just as I guessed. OK, help me out: Surely you can manage to cite a line or two from his imperishable address on race (compared by some liberal academics to Gettysburg itself) in Philadelphia? No, not the line about his white grandmother. Some other line. Oh, dear. Now do you see what I mean?

Why is Obama so vapid and hesitant and gutless? Why, to put it another way, does he risk going into political history as a dusky Dukakis?

Hitchens' questions are at least entertaining. I have no problem remembering lines from Sarah Palin's speeches. Wipe that lipstick off.

This election should have been easy. I wonder if Hillary, with all the negatives she had, could have done worse.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

The Perils of Bilingualism

The reactions of artists in English Canada to the cutting of some arts programs are about what one would expect - sanctimonious whining driven by a strong sense of entitlement.
And that is what makes this video clip from French Canada so much fun - while I disagree with the guy about the funding, the sense of humour and play is hilarious.

It plays two ideas off one another beautifully, the ham-fistedness of the Tory criteria outlined in the link above versus our bilingualism, with a particular emphasis on the word 'phoque'.
(h/t Inkless)

Friday, September 19, 2008

Female Prime Ministers

Norm had the words taken out of his mouth and took them out of mine.

There was I thinking over breakfast, 'That country has a real dearth of female prime ministers.'

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Monkey

Who are those guys? We had better watch out!

(Did not get the species, monkeys at the Cologne Zoo, Sept. 11, 2008)

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Paul Wells owes me a coffee

and the cost of taking coffee stains out of my pants.

I am afraid my coffee came busting out as I hit this great passage in his compelling report from the office.

What caused the projection was this:

“We need to tap into the talents and skills of the entire country,” Dion says. He wants a Canada where not only the well-off can go to school.

Excuse me, sir. Are you aware that you’re giving this speech at Western?

(For those who might not know, Western is one of the preppier of the Canadian universities.)

You Lookin' at Me?

(Nile Crocodile, Cologne Zoo, Sept. 11, 2008)

Is McCain really this Goofy?

UPDATE: He is and has been for a while. Apparently the link is now dead, but it was McCain having some fun with barbra Streisand as far back as 2002 on SNL. I am sure with that info you can track a live link down.

Mad Dogs and Englishmen ...

go out in the noonday sun.

But not sensible bears.
(Grizzly Bear, Cologne Zoo, Sept. 11, 2008)

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Ice Sport in Koeln

Doc sent me a note while I was on vacation suggesting I do some research on curling rinks. This struck me as a great idea, but arrived unfortunately just as I was leaving the Scottish Borders, where I had already noticed flyers posted inviting people to join local curling clubs (after all, the Scottish Borders are in Scotland, the origin of the sport).
So while in Koeln I did a little research and discovered that there are curling clubs near there, but the two closest were located 40 kilometers or so distant, so I did not choose to check them out.
But on a standard sightseeing tour of the city, I noticed from the bus as it drove by the Koeln Arena (a very striking building) that the Koeln Haie (Cologne Sharks) were playing against Dusseldorf (who have regrettably named their team 'The Metro Stars') that evening. And so I decided to go to the match.
I think I have seen about three professional hockey matches in my life. The earlier ones all featured teams called 'Seals' (if I recall correctly, 'Golden Seals'). Water animals are a suitable theme for a sport played on ice.
First observation was that their Zamboni was a Toyota - I have never noticed what the Toronto Zambonis are. Hmmm.

I apologize for the lack of focus but the local team seemed to have two mascots, one clearly meant to be a shark, and the other apparently a crocodile. The crocodile may be a reference to another Koeln sports team. (The American Football team are the Crocodiles.)

Here is a pre-game shot of the stands at my end of the arena.

Note the fans in sweaters, with names of the stars, Ludemann and Julien. The latter is surely a Canadian, and it seems they are allowed about a half dozen Canadians.
For some reason the fans were waving signs with the number 80 on it - I still have no idea what that was about - some commenter please help!

As for the game, well it looked like the odd bits of hockey I occasionally see on TV.
But it also looked really different - my guess is they play European or International rules over here, and what struck me is how fast (yeah - the TV to live comparison is always that but this is not what I mean) the game was, and how little hitting there was.
The play was really exciting - Koeln opened with a goal in the first couple of minutes, Dusseldorf responded within a minute. This happened again a few minutes later. Play simply roared back and forth from end to end, totally unlike my experience of watching the little NHL I watch on TV.
Typical play situations are the same.

Attendance was 14,000 or so! The fan behavior was an amusing mix of North American and Euro soccer - the sections behind the goals were clearly intended to be noise-makers and they were!
I had a pretty good seat and one thing that really struck me was how many women attended - there were lots!

Sadly this is roughly how the game ended.

Terry Glavin on As It Happens

As it happened, I was driving home at a time when As it Happens was on the radio this evening, and Terry Glavin was engaged in a discussion of the Afghanistan mission (you can hear it as part 3 at the linked site), with his NDP MP Denise Savoie as another interviewee - it is hard to describe the whole discussion as an actual debate.
If you do not care to listen to it, Terry Glavin describes the whole discussion here.
There was a sad predictability to it as the NDPer in the end had to start pushing the notion that the Canadian involvement was somehow serving the Bush administration rather than Afghans.
It would be nice if the NDP was unafraid to show some real leadership for once, and was untroubled by the challenge of formulating a legitimately progressive position on Afghanistan, and was unashamed to stand solidly with the Afghan people as they struggle against the forces of reaction in their shattered country.

But we live in the real world.

Phishing with a Sense of Humour

This was too excellent - an urgent PayPal account request, with a link, as it turns out, to this location:

Is there a wicked sense of humour here adding to the general malice of a standard phishing expedition?

Monday, September 15, 2008

More Animal Blogging

This bird has an amazing capability to make sounds and works truly well with the woman who does the presentation!

You can see it here.

I would embed but the html is rejected by blogger.

The best comments are about parrots watching this!

Obvious if Unintended Consequences

On my morning in Manchester, a wonderfully funny news item was covered on the TV news.
It appears there is a serious problem on the buses in England - they are over-full of old people, displacing and making travel more difficult for the under-60s.
And why? It has to do with this rather odd (to my mind) policy:

If you are resident in England and are aged 60 or over or are 'eligible disabled' you are entitled to England-wide concessionary bus travel.
Since 2006 you have been entitled to the statutory minimum concession of free local bus travel in your area from 9.30 am to 11.00 pm on Monday to Friday and at any time during weekends and public holidays - and this will continue. Since 1 April 2008 you are also entitled to free local bus travel in all other areas of England during these off-peak times.

Local authorities may offer extra benefits to their residents as part of their concessionary scheme – for example, free or reduced off-peak tram or rail travel, or free bus travel before 9.30 am Monday to Friday.

However, these additional benefits will normally only be available to that region’s own residents. So if you visit an area that offers additional services, you probably won’t be entitled to them – make sure you check first with the relevant authority.

The report was done from a bus full of happy and enthusiastic over-60s heading on an excursion to some lovely place far from their homes; there was also a discussion with a local councilor (also over 60 and enjoying a free ride). The local councils are apparently directly responsible for the costs, with some kickback from the central government, which the councils generally say is inadequate. I expect they are right, as even the reporters of the item seemed surprised at this new mass vacationing of seniors, and I imagine the responsible politicians have roughly the same economic ignorance as the typical journalist. Price something at zero and watch the amount demanded grow!

Now you are right to think that I regard this policy as somewhat foolish. On the other hand, I would pledge my vote in the upcoming Canadian election to any party that promises to put a similar policy in place in Canada by next January!

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A Lesson That Keeps Giving

When the gubmnt decides to ban something, and reasonably makes an exception for private clubs, it is amazing what institutions can become private clubs.

(This bistro is announcing to potential customers that it is now a private club and so can allow smoking, and that it is really easy to become a member, so come on in!)

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Sunday, September 14, 2008

The Meaning of Politics

In the midst of two campaigns I care about, the Canadian, where I have a vote, and the US, where I must simply be a fascinated observer, Chris Dillow posts with excellent economy on what I still (hmm, long ago I was on another side, so maybe 'still' is wrong, but I did learn this lesson long ago, so maybe 'still' is OK) think is the key point about elections, ploiticians, and policy:

And this is where politicians differ from the rest of us. They think the state and leadership are solutions. We think they are the problem.

Some of his commenters correctly ask who 'we' are in this statement. If 'we' are Chris and I that seems fine. But I think anyone who actually tries to look at history would be tempted to join the 'we'.

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Animal Blogging

As this post goes up I should be over the Atlantic and I hope I am half so mellow as this fellow.

(Fish otter, Cologne Zoo, Sept. 11, 2008)


A Most Surprising Poster

Now I know there are "American Football" Leagues in Europe, and I knew this even before Doc's excellent recommendation (I have long wanted to see the Vienna Vikings play), but this poster in Cologne caught me utterly off guard.

If I am translating it correctly, it indicated that there is an "American Football" developmental league for women! Do we even have that in North America? Moreover, somebody thinks spectators can be attracted to see the Cologne Falconets play against the Stuttgart Scorpions Sisters.

Regrettably, I arrived in Cologne after this game had completed.

The world is a wonderful place a lot of the time.

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The McCain Sucker Punch?

I wondered if this might be part of the McCain campaign goal in chosing Palin - invite the Democrats to score an own goal by emphasizing the role of prior experience.

Fully 47 percent say Obama lacks the proper experience — an even worse reading than the 36 percent who had the same criticism about McCain running mate Sarah Palin, serving her second year as Alaska governor after being a small-town mayor.

Depressing Canadian Election Campaign

Well, at least one part is depressing, as Harper effectively removes Afghanistan from the discussion, and any appearance he had of principle on the issue at the same time.

By not blogging on this earlier, I have been granted the opportunity to link to Terry Glavin, as always excellent on the subject and the ethics involved. Let's hope the Post makes his essay available via a link.

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Saturday, September 13, 2008

I'd Love to See the Impolite Version

(Somewhere in the UK, September 2008)

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NDP Policy

I don't expect much of the NDP in recent years - though once there was a little heft, and occasional attempts to understand policy implications. So it was hardly surprising to see this press release from the campaign back home.
Layton outlined five practical measures to stop hidden fees and help consumers:
* End hidden fees with laws requiring full disclosure of charges by banks, cell-phone operators, and other companies. Including the unfair practice of charging more for cell phone text messages.
* Ban ATM fees.
* Stop price gouging at the gas pumps.
* Put a cap on interest rates and fees charged by ‘fringe banks’.
* Cap the interest rates on credit cards.

I was readying to post on this topic but David Reevely beat me to it, with this excellent post, rather wittily (but also to the point) titled NDP will eliminate bank machines, gas stations, credit cards, Layton promises.

(BTW-I do like the idea of full disclosure.)

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Do the Democrats recognize this Fatuous Blunder?

Glenn Reynolds summarizes it extremely well, synthesizing the efforts of many other bloggers.

Democrats make fun of McCain for not using e-mail. He's a stone-ager, unlike The One!

Oops - not so simple. He uses the Internet and e-mail for years, but the wounds from his POW captivity mean he cannot type well, so others do the typing.

If this is the Obama campaign hitting hard, God save them. The tragedy is that the killer is in Forbes years ago.

In certain ways, McCain was a natural Web candidate. Chairman of the Senate Telecommunications Subcommittee and regarded as the U.S. Senate's savviest technologist, McCain is an inveterate devotee of email. His nightly ritual is to read his email together with his wife, Cindy. The injuries he incurred as a Vietnam POW make it painful for McCain to type. Instead, he dictates responses that his wife types on a laptop. "She's a whiz on the keyboard, and I'm so laborious," McCain admits.

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TNR #4 - Sophie Hannah - Point of Rescue

I was pleased on my trip to see Sophie Hannah's 'Little Face' available in almost all the bookshops I visited, but having read it, I was really looking for 'Point of Rescue'. I finally found that book, delightfully, at Heathrow, so I could buy it and read it while in Germany.
She is a very pleasant writer to read, with great sentences, and an overdose of delicate humour (no doubt the poet showing through). As in 'Little Face' the plot centres on identity confusions and child-rearing, in very interesting ways.
A mother appears to kill her daughter and herself, and this winds up connecting with the disappearance of another family, and a bit of an odd fling by one frustrated woman who rewards herself a little too much with some time off.
It was a delight to have Charlie and Simon back. I am curious to read the next book to see what becomes of their wedding 'plans'.
The plot I found a little too complicated for my reading style when travelling - a snippet here, a snippet there, etc. More trivial writers satisfy that need better. But I never really minded rolling back a few pages to remind me where we were, as each sentence is a lot of fun to read.
She left entertaining clues all over the place though in the end I did feel the identification of the villain was perhaps a bit of a deus ex machina.
But I will be back for the next one.

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Deutsche Bahn Blogging Baptism

That previous TNR review was done from a train flying at an insane speed from Koeln to Frankfurt. Man I like this Western world! Much of this I would have dreamed of as a kid had I the imagination to think any of it possible.

TNR #3 - Janet Evanovich - Motor Mouth

What great timing to find this on sale at a Motorway service stop in the UK. The same smartass as in her Stephanie Plum novels, though this one centres around NASCAR and Alexandra Barnaby. The timing was perfect - I started reading it as all the Sarah Palin stuff hit the media, and Evanovich hits perfectly the spirit of the Palin world, which I think is at least a bit the NASCAR world.
The plot is ridiculous, and funny, but it really is hard to call her books crime novels. They are plays on American culture, and its staggering diversity, not the diversity they talk about in Universities and the HR departments of large organizations, but that on the ground.
She is ribald, skeptical, entertaining. Here a body is found in the back of a NASCAR trailer, and the consequences take us through south Miami, parts of North Carolina, but never Harvard or Yale.
I am posting these to help me in the future not buy this book again. For luggage weight reasons, I left it in the Meininger Ho(s)tel in Koeln.
If you move really fast they might let you take it!

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Sept. 20 in Cologne

I saw these posters early this week in Cologne and wondered what it was all about.
Charles Johnson caught wind of it and explained it to me.
That list contains virtually every racist, fascist leader in Europe, and you can bet that the usual suspects will be defending it. The concept of fighting against the global jihad has lost much of its credibility, because some of the most visible spokespeople refuse to unequivocally renounce their associations with this crew of vile Neanderthals.

I hope the planned 'Verhinderung' of this meeting can be carried out reasonably, but it is quite conceivable that the organizers of the protest contains another gang of usual suspects.
On the other hand, their web site holds some hope.
Robert Spencer also has some thoughts on the 'conference'.

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Thursday, September 11, 2008

Why are You in Manchester?

Walking back from a meeting I had arranged (delightful, with Norm), I stopped in at a convenience shop along the way and spoke some words. The words proved I was not a local in Manchester, and the (very attractive) girl behind the counter asked, "Are you on holiday?", to which I responded "Yes, I am on vacation".
She then said, "So what are you doing in Manchester?"
I think the above is self-explanatory, but I am not sure I could have explained it to her.

Where Was I?

I work for a large multinational and the Lab I work in was officially opening its new site on September 11, 2001. I was a member of one of the teams who was to run demos for reporters and our executives to demonstrate what great stuff we do.
I was setting up my terminal around 9am when part of my demo team came in and reported that an airplane had flown into the World Trade Towers.
I pictured one of those freaky small plane crashes, but the truth came fast.
The opening ceremonies for the new site got shortened and the planned demos were pretty easy to do, as the reporters had a better story elsewhere, and most of our executives had customers to worry about in the World Trade Towers.
A day that should certainly live in infamy, and I remain amazed at the people who do not regard it so.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Animal Blogging

I promised sheep.

They seem more interested in me as a curiosity than I was in them.


Theere'll Always be an England

After leaving London and renting my car I became quite a radio listener and one of the stories dominating the airwaves in the first few days was the offensive from pedants against Tesco's express lane labeling - "10 Items or Less".
Tesco has caved and will now use the label "Up to 10 Items". I actually heard someone on the radio concerned that it was not clear from this whether the limit was 9 or 10 items.
Oh dear.
And of course, the Language Log team are all over this one - you can start here.
Like me, the Language Log guys lean away from prescriptive grammar (as the 'rules' are rarely followed in any universal way by good writers in the language).
SillyWife is a believer in maintaining the less/fewer distinction, and I can understand this as an investment in a hard lesson learning English as a second language. My host in Scotalnd was firm that 'less' was utterly wrong.
I could perhaps sign up or such a position if I knew of a single possible sentence disambiguated by using the distinction between the continuous and the discrete, which is what the prescriptivists seem to think makes the difference.

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Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Very Odd Pricing Strategies

Hmm, dear, I think we had better go order our audio guides separately.
(From the previously noted salmon leaping centre.)


Scott's View

My days in the Scottish Borders on this vacation wound up being a little saturated with Sir Walter Scott (I should some time read something by him). Apparently he liked to ramble, and stare out over this viewpoint.

It probably has not changed a lot since the time he was doing that!
I like looking at this, as my own ramble the day before had begun with an ascent of the hill in the foreground (and was followed by some terrifying moments inviting a fall into the Tweed river).

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Monday, September 08, 2008

The UK Economy - Whither?

On the day of my arrival the Chancellor of the Exchequer was already describing the economic situation as the worst since the '60s.
Mostly I saw little of this, except for a walk of about a mile that I did in Manchester last week - every second building I passed was for sale - these appeared to be largely rental properties and I do not know what that means, but it is utterly unprecedented in my experience to see this density of house-selling.
And during this week the Times reported on the car sales slump.

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One More Cat Blog - Envy!


British Weather

As I leave the UK, I expect a little less obsession on the Continent about weather, though the British concerns this year make some sense. In many regions this is the 'dullest' summer on record - and my week in London featured cloudiness with one day's exception, and my time recently in Hampshire has featured clouds and rain, eliminating all the standard outdoor touristic options.
This causes many to dream of better weather, but this can be hazardous, as I learned on the Manchester TV news. I found a print version of the report here.
What stood out was this passage:
She suffered fatal injuries in the impact and died instantly. It is thought she was dazzled by the sun as she swerved to avoid a wakeboarder.

It seems there are hazards associated with leaving a British summer and exposing oneself to the blinding light of Canada.

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Sunday, September 07, 2008

The Conventions from Overseas

Besides the other things I refer previously to missing because of this vacation, I have certainly been sorry to be confined to BBC/ITV/Sky coverage of the two conventions. I do very much look forward to the campaign when I get home, and am even more excited that there will be a Canadian campaign, it seems, during that time, which will of course be relatively colourless.
But the British coverage has been interesting. There was the knee-jerk BBC swoon after Obama's acceptance speech, though the parts I have seen did not strike me as some of his better speech-giving, but rather some of his toughest talk and major continuing migration to the centre. How must the reflex lefties who got him the nomination be feeling now?
What has amazed me here was the BBC's, and every network's, response to Sarah Palin's acceptance speech. This was certainly partly driven by the low expectations, but, and I have watched the speech on YouTube now (what a great tool!), by how marvelously she delivered it, especially when the teleprompter appeared to fail and she began to deviate a little from prepared text. It is very easy to see how she became governor and why she has high approval ratings. And her role as a self-appointed pit bull with lipstick should create a lot of entertainment in the weeks to come. My favourite British comment on Palin came from SkyNews yesterday morning : "We don't have any women like that here", with a response from another commentator that maybe far in the North (Scotland?) they might. (Of course they likely do have all sorts of such women, but I do not think they have come along so far as to allow them to express their skills in the same way. The UK has changed a lot, but not as much as it needs to.)
I do not get at all the many blog references I have seen describing her as shrill and negative. I thought all the criticisms of Obama were utterly fair, though I wish she would keep her index finger in the speech and stop waving it around and pointing it at me. Jackie Danicki has a post that captures a good bit of my overall view, and Megan McArdle's somewhat random reflections hit many points I agree utterly with. McCain knew he had to roll the dice, and did he ever!
I found the mixed reviews for McCain's acceptance speech odd - he is a terrible orator, of course, but he moved me terribly when he described the ultimate effect of his torture in the hands of the North Vietnamese. And I thought he reached out brilliantly to the centre as well.
Continuing disclosure : I would still vote Democrat had I a ballot, and again only because I cannot see how the Republicans can build a decent and competent team of advisers, especially on economic issues, and have full confidence that Obama will do that. And I am someone who has reached the stage of considering Obama a pompous windbag, who has a running mate who is even more so.
When you read this I will have moved on to Germany, and am even more curious about what they make of Sarah Palin.

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TNR #2

Sam Bourne - The Final Reckoning
A man is shot by mistake at the UN and the hero explores his background. Naturally, the dead man's daughter is a major babe, and the dead man has a past, and there is sex and stuff.
I never did finish this one. Just left it in my hotel room.

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Trash Novel Review #1 - A New Series (Hereafter TNR)

Tess Gerritsen's "The Bone Garden".
Excellent portrayal of the poor options for women in the nineteenth century and a fascinating portrayal of the horrendous conditions in hospitals, especially for women giving birth.
Not really much of a mystery and not much of a love story.

I am glad I read it - I finished it and left it with a friend, and I do not torture friends.

(The main purpose of this series is to help me avoid buying a trash novel twice, though I doubt I will have a live WiFi connection as I am making such decisions.)

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Over the last few years I have physically been present for three football matches involving leading teams in Europe.

Surely completely by accident, all three have involved an Arsenal team.

I had the good fortune to attend this match - can it really have been 6 years ago? It was unforgettable to me - I have never been driven out of the stadium at a North American sports event.

I believe I saw the 2001 Arsenal-Fulham match accurately described here, largely because my closest London friend and I could think of nothing better to do on the day. In the end I think there would have been nothing better to do on the day!

And this week, thanks to the sacrifice of Mavis Pilbeam, I was able to watch the second match of the Aresenal-FC Twente back to back in the Champions' League.

Here's Arsenal's team warming up, or maybe just conferring.

And here is a broader picture of the amazing Emirates Stadium (not like the football stadiums I recall from 30 years ago).

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There'll Always be an England

Packing to head to Germany, but Winchester Cathedral has erupted in an explosion of change-ringing, so I am malingering, and have opened all my windows despite the weather.
When I lived for a year in England thirty years ago it was two doors down from a church with some very aggressive Friday-night change-ringing. As a mathematician with musical tendencies, I found this utterly fascinating, even if it meant it was impossible to hear the sound on the television.
All my previous trips to Winchester have been business trips so I have not been here on a Sunday morning.
What a delight!

Weekend Cat Blogging

Not having cats I have to borrow some from my hosts here in the UK.
The guest room I occupied contained a favourite duvet of this cat, who is clearly rather suspicious of my intentions.

This fellow is trying for the Cary Grant look but not quite managing it.


An Excellent Gesture

And this typifies what makes both presidential candidates this year attractive.

Both campaigns have been running negative television ads and, at the just-concluded political conventions, pulled no punches in exploiting partisan differences.

Obama and McCain said Thursday will be different.

"All of us came together on 9/11 — not as Democrats or Republicans — but as Americans," they said. "We were united as one American family. On Thursday, we will put aside politics and come together to renew that unity."

Saturday, September 06, 2008

What Have You Done?

Part of my trip was a visit with a friend I made merely through sharing an office 30 years ago. It remains clear to me why I liked him and his wife at the time, and it shows particularly through their children.
This was my first trip in many years without the SillyWife, and my host's very witty second daughter caught me wonderfully off guard with the question, "What have you done with XXXX?", where XXX was SillyWife's name. I tried to explain that SillyWife had done it to herself but in the back of my mind there was always this brilliant cartoon.
Let me assure you the SillyWife is still about, perhaps unlike Dr. Millmoss.

Eurovision Dance Contest?

The "Dancing with Stars" memes appear to have spread rapidly, and now many countries can feature pairings of celebrity non-dancers with dancers, and the BBC tonight make it clear there is a European dance-off.
I really wish I would get this on North American TV - or perhaps a world dance-off.
From the Azerbaijani guy proposing to his partner on the show, to the amazing happiness of the Ukrainians (though their non-dancing celebrity was an Olympic gold gymnast, surely stretching the rules), this is just a great show.
This is yet one more case of me fearing that I was in that lucky generation that got to see so many wonderful things of this sort, and that life won't be so nice in 20 years. I hope I am wrong. I think there is good reason to think I am wrong.

UPDATE: Final voting seems to favor Poland - I agree.

UPDATE: Don't think I was frivolous - it is exactly silly shows like this that create the civil society that will make the European Union the great model it might well become.

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A Real Treat

While up in Scotland I got wind of a site for watching salmon work their way upstream. This has become the highlight of my trip to date.
The visit started out auspiciously with seeing this sign.

It became even more exciting on arrival at the weir and the discovery that the fish were trying to work their way up the river!

Fish were leaping on the order of a few a minute, and the many people gathered around cheered madly and loudly with each leap. The way the weir is set up, every fish we saw was sure to be swept back - those that make it up the river make it through a ladder (you can see a bit of it in the picture) in the middle of the river, and we could not see into the ladder.
This was a pretty good substitute for my being a bit concerned that the timing of this trip meant I would miss the 2008 version of these two wonderful events last year.

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Friday, September 05, 2008

My Current Hotel

Well this astounded me as I headed for my room!

Like Obama, I have not held an executive position (unless you count the amateur track club I founded) and so am baffled!
I must say it is nice here, though - this is the view out the room's window.

Fire Alarm Technology

This sign was in a recent hotel room and it made me very nervous.

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Thursday, September 04, 2008

South Bank Busking

I am baffled by this busking 'skill' but clearly one young fellow is impressed.
(London, South Bank, August 29 in the evening.)
Another skill is having no head.

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Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Language Skills in Some Areas

This is the label of what was a very pleasant Rioja wine for sale on the patio of the Royal Festival Hall - so one assumes the winery knew a good part of their output was being exported to England. They clearly then went out to hire the best translator they could find to make sure the label had a very nice explanation of the qualities of their wine. This was the result.

(Reading the translation, my guess is they got a Spanish-English dictionary for someone's teenage kid and let that soul loose. Why be so stingy - you need get it right only once!)

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Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Windbag Gaffes versus Fumbler Gaffes

Windbag one here. Too funny.

This will be a fun couple of months.

Social Fabric in the UK

I noticed signs like this posted all over the bus stops in London, along with others simply pleading that passengers not assault the transport staff, and it made me wonder about the state of the social fabric around something so apparently simple as public transportation.
This sign is from Edinburgh, on a bus I rode on Sunday.

I am aware of an incident in which a passenger tried to assault a TTC (Toronto) driver with a hammer, but we have yet to plaster the city reminding all our citizens that this is not acceptable behaviour.

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Monday, September 01, 2008

History Is Alive in England

I still picture the medieval contractors with their carts of tools being dragged by yoked cattle through the prescribed entrance.
(V&A Museum last week, with the real explanation here).

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