Sunday, November 30, 2008

More Sophistication from Mumbai (you Idiots!)

An utterly depressing report.

The other doctor, who had also conducted the post-mortem of the victims, said: "Of all the bodies, the Israeli victims bore the maximum torture marks. It was clear that they were killed on the 26th itself. It was obvious that they were tied up and tortured before they were killed. It was so bad that I do not want to go over the details even in my head again," he said.

And nobody is claiming only the Jewish Centre outcomes were unique, though likely more extreme.

Slimeballs. Thugs. Don't even contemplate the word 'sophisticated'.

Consistency amidst the Confusions

It is not surprising that news reports from Mumbai remain full of contradiction. But one thing remains solid - the attackers were exceptionally stupid thugs, not at all sophisticated.
(h/t Charles Johnson.)
Azam said he was member of the Lashkar-e-Taiba, but the Kashmir- based Pakistani militant group has denied any role in the attacks.

Let's hope the next generation of young murderous males notes this level of loyalty.

Azam said they had originally planned to sail back on Thursday - the recruiters had even charted out a return route, stored on a GPS device.

Give me a break! He was that stupid? I am sure his masters were not. Another good lesson for the next susceptible rounds of stupid thugs.
The next day, they beheaded the skipper

What is with these people?
Kill I understand, why behead?

Despicable slimeball thugs. Sophisticated? Give me a break!

Don't Even Seem to Belittle Oriana Fallaci in front of Mark Steyn

Rambling and bellicose, and clearly written with great passion.

He is reliably funny, even with all the intensity, and the pipsqueaks he targets are clearly proven to be such. Including the Journalism Doctor (what self-importance!).

A bit of his well-justified admiration:

La Fallaci had just raised with the Ayatollah the matter of “the condition of segregation into which women have been cast” in the Islamic republic. “They can’t study at university with men, or work with men,” she said, “or go to the beach or to a swimming pool with men. They have to take a dip apart, in their chadors. By the way, how do you swim in a chador?”

What a splendidly offhand question. Alas, the Ayatollah didn’t care for it. “This is none of your business,” said Khomeini. “Our customs are none of your business. If you do not like Islamic dress you are not obliged to wear it. Because Islamic dress is for good and proper young women.”

“That’s very kind of you, Imam. And since you said so, I’m going to take off this stupid, medieval rag right now. There. Done. But tell me something. A woman such as I, who has always lived among men, showing her neck, her hair, her ears, who has been in war and slept in the front line in the field among soldiers, according to you, is she an immoral, bold and unproper woman?”

That was 1979 - before any “literary hoax” called The Little Green Book was ever published. I had a thousand points of disagreement with Oriana Fallaci, but I adored her. She was a fearless woman, and when she went into a room with the dictators of the day she was full of facts. In a navel-gazing media forever congratulating itself on “speaking truth to power”, she just got on and did it.

And clearly very annoyed, he lets a bit loose on the Journalism Doctor:

In his “open letter” to me, Professor Miller wrote of Oriana:

"When the New York Times wrote her obituary on Sept. 15, 2006, the headline called her a 'writer-provocateur.' Sound familiar? Remind us of anyone we know?"

What a sad little man. He actually thinks he’s insulting me by comparing me to the peerless Fallaci. But, of course, he's only doing it so he can go all J-school on us:

"Journalists usually try to deal with primary sources (Writer-provocateurs seldom do)."

Oh, my! I wonder if he has any idea quite what a Ryerson-atrophied pansy he sounds wagging his finger at Oriana Fallaci? “Writer-provocateurs” don’t “deal with primary sources”? Well, her “primary source” on Ayatollah Khomeini is Ayatollah Khomeini. What have you got, Finger Boy? When she was hurling her chador at him in 1979, what were you doing? Retyping press releases from Ed Broadbent?

The pipsqueaks asked for it, and it is fun to watch the wrath come down. A sad little man indeed. And I love the word "Ryerson-atrophied".

Underachieving Sophisticates

The level of failure is becoming more and more evident.

The only terrorist captured alive after the Mumbai massacre has given police the first full account of the extraordinary events that led to it – revealing he was ordered to ‘kill until the last breath’.

Apparently the recruiting was not entirely perfect.
the attacks were meticulously planned six months ago and were intended to kill 5,000 people.

Maybe not so meticulously. Or perhaps the estimating skills were deficient.
Mercifully, the group, armed with plastic explosives, underestimated the strength of the 105-year-old building’s solid foundations.

Sophistication indeed!
Imagine what might have been the outcome if the local police had been willing to shoot.

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Shoot, not just Carry

More from Glenn Reynolds on this.

This whole unwillingness to shoot business is becoming a problem.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Oliver Kamm Finds a true Howler

Read it all.

But here are the key bits:

He has a new book of essays by Noam Chomsky -
And emblazoned on the front cover is the bold message "'The world's greatest public intellectual' - Observer".

Kamm knows the original quotation:
The mighty Chomsky, the world's greatest public intellectual, is prone to playing fast and loose.

Bodley Head are the publishers. I will take special care in the future to avoid buying their books. This is playing fast and loose in a very special way.

Keystone Terrorists part 2

I had assumed these guys were hardened and knowingly on a suicide mission. It would seem instead that they had the teenage male's presumption of invulnerability: (emphasis mine)

Kasab has allegedly revealed that their plan was to take hostages at the Taj hotel, Oberoi Hotel and Nariman House and then use them to escape from the city, he added.

While there is every reason for the captured terrorist to lie, this was also interesting:

According to a Mumbai crime branch official, the ten terrorists had not come to Mumbai before this to conduct any 'recce' and they had learnt about the locations with the help of Google Earth.

These boys sound less and less sophisticated and more and more stupid.

I wouldn't want these guys in my country either

The Keystone Terrorists

At least if this report is true:

Shortly before the terrorists moved into their targets in South Mumbai, a black and yellow taxi, with three passengers and enough ammunition to bring down a dome, sped in the direction of the airport. Instead of taking a slip road that would have taken the passengers straight to the airport, the driver took the flyover which bypassed the airport, only to get stuck at a red light.

At rush hour, the lights stayed red for long, at which the passengers berated the driver and asked him to cut the traffic lights. The driver moved on, but the wait turned out to be a minute or two too long. The car exploded. All that was found was a severed head and parts of three human legs. Had the terrorists' plans of coinciding a blast at the airport with the attacks on the Taj and Oberoi hotels succeeded, the death toll of 26/11 would have been much bigger than it already is.

First rule with GPS - update those maps!

Again, nothing I would call sophistication. Just savagery.

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Sophistication Indeed

I have to agree with Kate Heartfield here:

So let's break this down. (1) The terrorists assaulted several targets simultaneously. How hard is that, provided you have enough people, access to Google maps, and some wristwatches? (2) They took and kept hostages. How hard is that, provided you have guns and the hostages don't? I mean, the FLQ took hostages, for goodness' sake. (3) They carried enough weapons and ammunition to fight for several days. Okay, so they had some money and there were a lot of them. Fair point.

What stands out here is not great organizational skill or sophistication, but savagery.

The Rough Men

Sleepless again, I find CNN absorbed in its silly 'Heroes' show and the BBC feed utterly dead on Rogers Cable so I have moved to IBN's live internet feed.

And I find an amazing homage to Hemant Karkare, the head of India's counter-terrorism effort, killed in the current Mumbai battles.

It is alternately heartbreaking and inspiring. Sad that vermin have killed someone so apparently interesting - a mechanical engineer who made a curious career change. Young family still, but daughters spread over the world - funeral held up to let them return from the US and the UK. I love some of the coverage - "You must have done something right when you come under attack from all political groups". Well, maybe not - maybe everybody else was right.

But one thing is clear - India has to figure out how to stop the next attack, as it did not figure out how to stop this one.

Mumbai and Packin'

Glenn Reynolds has repeatedly been making the point, rightly, that the Mumbai attackers depended on the fact that the populace is unarmed:

Of course, if significant numbers of citizens were armed, the response would be much harder to overwhelm.

It has always struck me that the annual anti-gun obeisances in Canada around the Marc Lepine shootings (coming up depressingly soon) are utterly fatuous, as the simple fact is that if the students had been armed Lepine might have killed at most one or two people, not fourteen.

Disclosure: I have never owned nor fired a gun.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Grim Laugh of the Day (no Mumbai connection)

From Glenn Reynolds. Heh.

Shop online — you may save a life!


Occasionally people ask about the name of this blog.

Fortunately I need do no work today to explain the name.

To be honest, I do worry about the potential outcomes here; it is hard to imagine any good outcome at all. Fortunately, a disaster in Canada is really only a disaster to Canadians and won't matter much to the world.

Class Acts

On CNN, an escapee from one of the hotels under attack in Mumbai, Jonathan Ehrlich, tells a harrowing story of his escape. What I thought was most delightful was his order to the rest of us, "Book an airline ticket to Mumbai." I recall the same feeling back in July 2005, with nothing like so close an encounter with the slimeballs, in London.

Sara Sidner

... has been thrust into likely international prominence as CNN's correspondent at the Taj hotel in Mumbai. Attractive and articulate, she has managed to keep me engaged when all she really has to report is continuing explosions and sounds of gunfire from the hotel.

I've had two rather sleepless nights and I continue to be amazed to find her still standing guard outside the hotel, dealing tirelessly with unruly crowds, authorities, and no doubt her colleagues as well. How does CNN hire so brilliantly? I have become accustomed over the years to seeing local Ontario anchorettes popping up on CNN International during my summer trips to Europe, and now I discover that Sara has come from a station I used to watch when I was in Berkeley, KTVU. Good poaching, CNN!

According to her CNN profile:

She adores animals especially monkeys, horses and big cats.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Alleged Gunman holding a Gun

John Hinderaker makes a great point about some very stupid reporting.

Notice the object the terrorist is holding in his hands. It's a gun. He isn't a "suspected gunman," he's a "gunman."


Thanks to pk.

Attention Span (Mumbai)

As commandos enter the Jewish Center, shown for a couple of moments on both BBC and CNN at the top of the hour, attention has moved away on both networks, on the BBC to the Thai airports (a story worth some coverage), on CNN to Christina Applegate's breasts (also a somewhat worthy story).

When I could not sleep through last night and absorbed myself in news coverage, CNN did not break away, but the BBC had to include several sections of their news coverage explaining the implications of the Mumbai attacks for the England-India cricket tests matches underway in India.

Culture. Priorities. I suspect the Indians would understand the BBC's.

How Dumb can a Question be? (Mumbai)

I cannot even recall who asked it in the midst of all the channel-changing, but someone onscreen actually asked at one point, "Why would anyone attack the Jewish Center?"

Indeed. When did that poor soul graduate from journalism school? How readily we forget. Maybe forget is the wrong word - many people (including some commenters to this blog) seem ignorant of ties between Islamism and other past forms of anti-Semitism. Appalling.

More Hermeneutics - Russian Women Spam

I have received this note a few times today. It was accompanied by this lovely picture.

Don't read - page down past the quotation.

Hello man my new friend!

I understand, that you do not know me and I do not know you, but
probably in the future all can change. All good always occurs in the
future and I ask a few patience from you to read my letter up to the
end. In the beginning I want to be presented you and to tell a little
about my life. My name is Elena and to me it will be very pleasant,
if you will name me so. Was born 32 years ago and all this time I live
in Russia, in Cheboksary . Now I work as the pediatrist in hospital and I very
much like my work as I every day communicate with many different
people. My life goes in regular intervals and every day is similar on
previous. I like my friends and love my family. Certainly the most
important i want to found love and my the husband to be the happiest
woman in the world. For all my life I could not meet the man to which
I could trust completely and with which I would like to connect my
life, but very much I want.
Several days ago I laid at home on a sofa and thought. Why I am
lonely? Why I cannot find my special the man? Probably I have made
nothing to be happy? Certainly I can be together with the man which I
not love, to give birth to the child and simply to be mum, but to not
be happy in the family, but I do not want it. I want to love the man
and simply be happy to be with him. Also I have thought. Why to not
try to get acquainted with the man from other country if I could not
find my special man here in Russia? Now we live in 21 century and I
know, that many people use the Internet and "Marriage agencies" to
get acquainted with suitable the man in any point globe. I do not want to
be lonely during my life or simply to sit and wait, when my love will
come to me. I want to do itself my life happy and have found such
marriage agency here in my city. I knew, that their help will be not
free-of-charge, but they have asked the big sum of money from me.
Nevertheless I have thought and have decided to not be greedy this
money, for the sake of my happiness and my love. Money - never can
give to me of it. Probably my destiny to be with the man from other
country? I do not know, but I want to try to know.
They gave to me yours E-mail and have told, that you also are
interested to find the woman for a life. I think, that now you can
understand, how my letter has come to you, could learn a little about
my life and about me, but I do not know your desires and I ask to
think. We can try to build serious relations or probably simply to be
friends. If you do not have desire simply speak to me and I can
understand. Nevertheless if I am interesting to you it would be very
pleasant for me to learn also a little more about you and to receive
your photos. I understand in computers not much, but I hope, that you
also can receive my photos in this letter. Certainly appearance not
the most important in the person both his private world and soul are
of great value, but nevertheless it is more pleasant to receive the
letter from the person and to see, how he looks. All this, that I
wanted to tell to you and now I shall wait only your answer. Excuse,
if I something have offended you in my letter or something has told
not correctly, but understand, that I try it for the first time and I
worry a little. Even if serious relations are not interesting to you
or I am not pleasant, simply let to me know. Ok?

Please reply only my personal e-mail:

bye bye

Tired of loneliness Elena

Fact One: The To: field on my mail client never showed my address - always someone else's. How dumb can they be? This is easily fixed. So they put NO attention into this one thing.


I think they have put a lot of brilliant attention into the text, working hard to make it seem someone is struggling to write in English using a dictionary.

I especially like
Now I work as the pediatrist in hospital

Lovely choice of non-word.
Probably I have made nothing to be happy?

I cannot recall from what Russian I once knew whether this make/do confusion should occur there as it naturally does in German.

And of course the final "Tired of loneliness" is quite sweet.

Another problem is that each individual message has a different reply-to address.

I imagine these people may get a lot better at this over time. I wonder how many hits they get.

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The Question I have been struggling with

James Hamilton poses it starkly:

How many economic-advice-giving organizations does it take to run a White House?


There was already some inherent ambiguity and conflict as to what the respective contributions and roles would be for Larry Summers at the National Economic Council, Christina Romer at the Council of Economic Advisors, Tim Geithner at the Treasury, and Peter Orszag at the Office of Management and Budget. ... based on my knowledge of those four, I could imagine them working together very effectively.

What I'm less clear about is how creating yet another separate advisory group is going to facilitate that. Fortunately Justin Fox has come up with a solution to the potential problem: Obama just needs to appoint Jason Furman to run the "Coordinating Council of Economic Advice-Givers".

I sure hope Obama has the executive skills he clearly thinks he has.


The savagery is unbelievable - not on the scale of 9/11, but hardly untypical of the representatives of Islamism.

During a sleepless night I got the shock of my life, finding the CNN coverage much better than BBC's. While this tone is absent now from the coverage, I found offensive some initial comments suggesting an almost fawning admiration for the organization behind the current attacks.

Now I work in software development, and I know organization, the sort it takes to create something new and useful, and try to get people to appreciate the result sufficiently for my company to recoup its costs. That is what I consider organization to be.

What did this take? Find a bunch of disaffected layabouts, young males looking for murderous excitement and glory. That seems pretty easy these days in the Muslim world. Get some money to support destructive attacks on any modernizing part of the world. Also pretty easy. Get lots of weapons. Really easy! (And largely the fault of that modernizing world.) Choose a bunch of low-security targets to attack. And then, knowing in advance that you are entering a world built on mutual trust and co-operation, exploit all that to inflict violence on an unexpecting and innocent population.

This is not organization of any serious quality. Nor does it require much in the way of character, except for a Jeffrey Dahmer sort of character. (And Dahmer at least fought against his tendencies.) No courage involved. Not much in the way of brains. And what nobility! - to attack the maternity ward of a hospital, a Jewish centre, a cafe, the railway station, and some hotels which were clearly a favorite spot for Mumbai families to stage family events.

One wonders where this will lead.

UPDATE: The minute I post this Barbara Starr on CNN begins to rave about the sophistication of the attacks. WTF? Sophistication is Mozart, is building a gothic cathedral, creating the iPod. Mass destruction is something any of us can do with almost no brains or organization. And yes, this attack is more complicated than wandering into a shopping mall and opening up with an AK-47, but it is not that complicated when you pick targets, as these cowards did, that are essentially dependent on not being secure. It is a lot easier to wreck a civil society than build one.

We are all Indians today.

Soulpepper Spam

I got this nice e-mail from Albert Schultz regarding activities at Soulpepper.

Thank you for supporting Soulpepper. I would like to extend a special offer to you for three remarkable shows happening here at the Young Centre. As a Soulpepper patron you can receive $20 tickets to Radio Play, Sylvia Plath Must Not Die and Doing Leonard Cohen. Radio Play features Canada's foremost contemporary dancer Peggy Baker and celebrated actor/writer Michael Healey in a delightful piece that blurs the line between dance and theatre. Sylvia Plath Must Not Die and Doing Leonard Cohen are two acclaimed works by Calgary's internationally celebrated One Yellow Rabbit Performance Theatre. Book your $20 tickets today by calling the Young Centre box office at 416.866.8666 and quoting SOULPEPPER652.

Hmm, I thought, that is a tad vague. I went to the Web page and discovered tickets for all these shows are priced at $20 and $30.

Surely, I then thought, he cannot mean that the reward I get is paying $20 for $20 tickets? So I called, and guess what!? That is exactly the deal.

It's bad enough they keep hundreds of people sitting around while their privileged donors drink, but this is really silly.

In any case, no big deal - I have to give them credit for their spamming. I do wonder what Albert thinks is so special about his offer. This is close to sleaze.

UPDATE: Soulpepper responded to my posting with this claification:

I wanted to address your concerns about the Young Centre offer to Soulpepper patrons that you received by e-mail for $20 tickets to our upcoming programming. The prices you reference from our website does indicate that the range is $20 - $30, but omits the fact that the $20 is exclusively student pricing. By quoting the code for this offer patrons can save $10 off of the $30 general ticket pricing.

I hope this clarifies a few points and that this hasn’t soured your experiences of Soulpepper and the Young Centre.

This does make me a lot happier! I wish it could have been made clear in the original note - and maybe the box office staff should have been briefed - I explicitly asked, after identifying the code, "Does this mean I get a $20 seat for $20?", and was told "Yes".

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Wednesday, November 26, 2008


Arnold Kling's observations here are quite likely to have applicability far beyond New Jersey.

I sympathize profoundly with this bit:

I am convinced that those of us who save for our own retirement are going to be taxed to pay for other people's defined-benefit plans. For some reason, this crime bothers me even more than most other government crimes.

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Canadian University's Students Are Stupid

No question in this case. Their morality is dubious, and their facts are not facts.

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Canadian University Looks Stupid

And actually, it is clearly stupid, insofar as an institution can be stupid.

Yes, there's nothing today's coeds look forward to more than the creepy 46-year-old Divinity student who is paid to chat them up about white privilege!

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Road Pricing in the Bunker

I visited Singapore for three weeks almost twenty years ago, and was impressed at the time by what amounted to a congestion charge. It is no surprise to me to learn that, as technology has improved, they have apparently introduced Electronic Road Pricing (ERP), which I consider an excellent idea.

I learned about this from this post by Bryan Caplan, who also points to this wonderful YouTube video - it is worth watching, and got belly laughs from me.

Caplan's post is also interesting in the discussion of the psychology of Singaporeans regarding public policy. I met many very kind and friendly people, but the answer he describes to the question posed match perfectly my recollections of attitudes towards what the government was doing.

It was in Singapore as well that I was startled as a taxi-driver shouted "F**king Honkie" when feeling dissed by someone else out on the road. Of course it turned out he was referring to someone from Hong Kong, not me.

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Tuesday, November 25, 2008

The latest recruit to the new Obama administration

Iowahawk hits it beautifully, capturing a lot in the process:

Ending weeks of speculation and rumors, President-Elect Barack Obama today named Bill Clinton to join his incoming administration as President of the United States, where he will head the federal government's executive branch.
"I am gratified that the President-Elect has entrusted me with this important responsibility," said Clinton. "I'm looking forward to getting back behind, and under, the Oval Office desk again. As I have told the President-Elect, I pledge to do whatever I can to serve his historic administration by making sure that none of that bullshit he talked about during the campaign will ever see the light of day.
Obama also announced that he had accepted his own appointment of himself as an Assistant Undersecretary in the Department of Housing and Urban Development.

"It's a fairly low-stress job that I'm reasonably qualified for," said Obama. "I really can't do much damage there, and it will give me plenty of free time for Oprah specials. Plus work on my next autobiography and re-election campaign."

Even as I laughed, I wondered nostalgically if this might not be a good approach.

Professionalism on Two Sides

Bush and Krugman.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Ashbridge's Bay Avian Environment

It's winter here!

On top of the usual year-round canada geese, ring-billed gulls, double-breasted cormorants, mallards, and swans, we now have buffleheads, oldsquaws, chickadees all over, kinglets, and a couple of creatures I saw today and could not identify. (I never saw a kinglet, nor with certainty a chickadee, but it was clear they were there.)

This is the winter occupation! (I think the kinglets may well be year-round - but I have seen only one that I could confidently identify, a golden-crowned, in three years, and their chirping is harder to isolate other than in winter).

One bufflehead let me take a fuzzy shot.

Another winter feature are the conferences of gulls on ice:

Of course there are other sorts of bird-brains that show up.

(About similar to the 9/11 troofers previously documented.)

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Best Sentence I Read Today

Steve Sailer, on Barack Obama's economic statement:

Finally, "fuel-efficient cars and the alternative energy technologies that can free us from our dependence on foreign oil and keep our economy competitive in the years ahead" haven't gone through the formality of being invented yet.

And talk that says any of us will free ourselves on dependence on foreign oil is clearly the tsalk of a scoundrel, and Obama never differentiated himself from any other candidate in the primaries on this topic.

I love Steve's use of "formality", though I have been thinking, what other words could we use - courtesy, kindness, obeisance, ...?

Friday, November 21, 2008

Weak in the Knees

I am not sure why Serena Ryder has been in the news lately, but she has - I think she rightly finally won one of those dumb Canadian awards - and I must say I LOVE her song "Weak in the Knees", and I love her throaty voice (apparently derived partly from smoking a lot). (I would mostly line up for the suggestions in the song, but, being married, would likely dodge the suggestion to come to bed.)

But hey she can also choose and do great covers!

The voice makes the cover work as well as it does. I do not like the slowing of the tempo. Holly knew what he was doing.

That voice really works for this old song!

And it is nice to see the young'uns inspired by old coot songs. Ryder's voice is stunning.

When Neil Young wrote the lyric line "And I'm getting old" it was ridiculous, but look at this couple! It is almost nonsensical - at least Neil Young looked lightly wasted at the time.

And finally - some Leonard Cohen, with her voice a total delight, and help from the family:

Wow!!! Wow!!! If I were still buying CDs, I know I would be buying Serena Ryder CDs. I have never gone to see her perform live and might do that. For now I think I might go back to "Weak in the Knees".

Wow! Wow!

Hey, Ontario can still punch them out!

Thursday, November 20, 2008

The Crow Vending Machine

I love this TED talk!

I have long been a big fan of corvids. And want to use this as an occasion to plug all the books of Bernd Heinrich, who has done studies of ravens that show their ingenuity to match that, unsurprisingly, of crows.

Sunday, November 16, 2008


Doris Kearns Goodwin brings me to helpless tears. That is just the Lincoln part of her talk!

But the talk is lovely also about Lyndon Johnson, a man much under-appreciated by history. "This aging lion of a man."

Her baseball memoir is lovely, too. My first childhood vaguely solid memory is my father saying "Don Larsen just pitched a perfect game," obviously explaining to me some enthusiasm I did not then understand. I was 7 then so it makes some sense.

A New Respect for Ants

A wonderful TED talk by Deborah Gordon, exploring the emergent behavior of an ant colony, trying to figure out how it arises from such simple creatures. They are not so simple!

It exposes as much about the obsessions of scientists, and their odd assiduity, as it does about the ants. And it made me laugh in many places. And it seems that there are ants who only stand and wait, and one hopes they surely somehow serve in the process.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Utterly Amazing Facts

With 'Diamonds are Forever' on my TV screen, I had to do some research at IMDB and hit this stunning fact about Jill St. John, which IMDB labels as 'trivia':

In same ballet class as youngster with Natalie Wood and Stefanie Powers, the three women all later had long term relationship with Robert Wagner.

What a ballet class! What a dream. Robert Wagner always seemed to me somewhat appealing but really ....

A Silly Province in a Silly Country

Michael Arrington's summary is a bit unfair to the stupid laws in this province, but the laws are clearly stupid.
In Ontario one can help arrange car-pooling only with the following witless constraints:

The only way you can ride with someone is if you meet ALL of the following extremely impractical set of specific criteria:

* You must travel from home to work only – (Not Home to School, or Home to the Hospital or the Airport)
* You cannot cross municipal boundaries – (Live outside the city and drive in – sorry you cannot share the ride with your neighbour)
* You must ride with the same driver each day – (Want to mix it up go with one person one day and another person another day – no sorry cannot do that – must be same person each day)
* You must pay the driver no more frequently than weekly – (Neighbour drives you to work better not pay her right away just in case she drives you later on in the week)

Meanwhile, as Arrington points out, our idiotic government makes traffic lanes unavailable by designating them for high occupancy.

Because God is Dead and We're Alone - OK

I linked earlier to a lovely interview with Louie CK and now recommend this wonderful progression. Utterly the sort of humor I enjoy. I guess I should have watched this show.

hat tip Calla

Friday, November 14, 2008

Obama's Economic Team

Brad DeLong makes me think that my precise reason for a virtual Obama vote is justified.

That Barack Obama has an economic advisory team that consists of lots of very smart and public spirited people who think differently is not a problem but an advantage, no matter what Michael Fletcher thinks

Thursday, November 13, 2008

No I am Never getting another Cat


Reasonable to a Fault

Via Paul Kedrosky one truly lucid discussion of the financial mess we may be in:

"You could buy all of General Motors for $2 Billion and you would be overpaying."

And please do not try to save THIS GM - as he says, bankruptcy proceedings are a way to restructure.

I hope his optimism is justified.

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Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Soulpepper's "A Raisin in the Sun"

Since this year's Soulpepper program was announced, Rondi has raved to me about the movie made from this play. so we went tonight. The play was great, the performances superb, causing tears to well up in just the right places - just a fine theatrical experience, but for one unprecedented thing in all my years of theatre-going.

My ticket said the play would start at 7:30. At 7:35 (long past the point where I am accustomed to a play supposedly scheduled for 7:30 starting) rows 5 and 6 of the orchestra below me were empty and we were sharing odd theories of what was going on. Another five minutes later an army of dressed-up folks, in pinstripe suits and wrapped in dead animals, filed in to fill those seats slowly, with no particular concern for the fact that a couple of hundred other people had been sitting and waiting long beyond an announced start time.

So look! - I do understand how private parties probably contribute significantly to Soulpepper's bottom line, and I care about that bottom line. But the private party COULD conceivably be informed that the start time is the start time, and no they cannot have another round of drinks. Soulpepper chose to treat all of us who had got into our seats on time with UTTER contempt by holding up the start by almost 15 minutes to accommodate some people who cannot check their watches.

I have NEVER experienced the like in all my very many years of theatre-going. I doubt I am quite ready to boycott Soulpepper, but one more repetition and I probably will. If they have so little regard for their normal customers (and I am not quite normal - I see almost every production, and many of them several times) I cannot see why I should maintain my regard for them, despite the intrinsic quality.

In the intermission we found what the private party was - at first I thought I had seen John Tory and suspected the Conservative party of Ontario. Instead, it turned out it was a TD Securities function (interesting that they can have such in these times). I have thought of switching my finances from my current host to TD in the last years - not a f***ing chance now ever.

But the play and production are great - go see it, but call in advance to see if there is some private party planning to nullify any notion of what the start time will be! Actually - maybe you should skip the show and rent the DVD of the movie - you can start it whenever you want.

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Tuesday, November 11, 2008

What do we do now?

With the presidential campaign over, we have time to fill and I ran into a strong recommendation from Johan Norberg about one thing to use the time for - read Newsweek's summary of the last couple of years.

It made me think a lot more favorably about both presidential candidates, and realize that, of the two, it was Obama who remained most true to himself, through a process that struggles to warp anyone. Norberg picks some great quotations (and read them at the linked post above). My favorite displays how self-aware and thoughtful and ironic Obama is in many ways:

Obama recalled that he often joked with his team, "This Barack Obama sounds like a great guy. Now I'm not sure that I am Barack Obama, right?" He added, pointedly, "It wasn't entirely a joke."

And another snippet that says a lot about relationships:

So that Christmas season, 2006, Michelle and Barack went for some long walks on the beach in Hawaii, where they were visiting his grandmother, and "just talked it through. It wasn't as if it was a slam-dunk for me," said Obama. "I think part of the reason she agreed to do it was because she knew that she had veto power, that she and the girls ultimately mattered more than my own ambitions in this process, and if she said no we would be OK." Michelle was able to extract a promise: if he ran, her husband would have to quit smoking.

This rings very true to me.

And Steve Sailer suggests something even truer, to my mind.

The Greatest Addiction

Whatever is the right answer, the discussion is entertaining.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Opera Atelier - The Abduction from the Seraglio - they strike again

See it! (Of course I say that about every one of their productions.)

Under time pressure, we left the theatre after two or three minutes of curtain calls, but half suspect there were many people still applauding as we reached our target ten to fifteen minutes later. People loved this production - as did I; I have seen three or four productions in my life, and this was by far the most exuberant, funny, moving, and overall enjoyable of all, by far.

Previous productions have struggled with the problem of filling a lot of orchestral time with no singing, but this company has little difficulty, with the commitment to a large balletic component, and the ability to make those components more than just twirling and jumping (though that is fun to watch); they add humour, and a degree of plot development as well through the choreography they choose.

The highlights in the cast were the servants, Lawrence Wiliford as Pedrillo, and Carla Huhtanen as Blonde. They were able to inject all the humour their roles required, and in many ways more - Wiliford is not just a fine singer, but a great slapstick performer, and mugger, in the sense of making faces, and acrobat. Huhtanen (my favorite Papagena ever, over many productions seen of the Magic Flute) is utterly skilled at roles like this for Opera Atelier.

The other great role for generating humour is that of Osmin, also wonderfully filled by Gustav Andreassen.

Frederic Antoun appeared to fit in well with the ensemble in his initial Opera Atelier role as Belmonte. As Konstanze, Amanda Pabyan sang wonderfully, but seemed to me to have some difficulty getting the Baroque gestures that are such a part of Opera Atelier's productions exactly right; they seemed off, and when I studied scenes where she and Huhtanen were paired and intended to be gesturing similarly, I noticed small differences, small but significant in how I found I was responding. The miss I perceived on the gestures extended to arias in which she was alone as well (I have watched these gestures for years now.). I suspect the female lead did not have enough time to rehearse getting this entirely right. But this is a small point - she held up through the coloratura work, and the audience overall loved her.

I cannot say enough about Curtis Sullivan - his role as Pasha Selim was perfect for his bass baritone, his acting skills, and his utter naturality as part of this company. Also, he is a hunk.

As always, the dancers were an addition to the drama (I think this is very special to this company). And set design, and costume design, and stage management, etc. etc. etc.

And then there is Tafelmusik - I too often forget how great they are in this role - Marshall Pynkoski made their presence a key point in his introductory speech and that was right. What a delight that Toronto has such a fine baroque chamber orchestra!

Readers anywhere near Toronto have some time to see the production! So go.

Thanks so much to Marshall Pynkoski and Jeanette Lajeunesse-Zingg for founding this company and keeping it going.

Oh yeah - thanks to Mozart, though they won't help him much.

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I Never know how to Stand or what to do with my Hands ...

... when trapped in a group photograph, and this post my Stephen J. Dubner is not going to make it any easier (though I now lean to the Rahm Emmanuel posture).

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The fearless leader

I don't watch "Meet he Press" so I missed this.

The One is ready. Let us hope this is just more windbaggery (I still think it is).

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Opera Fan Thwarted by the Economic Crisis

Bryan Caplan is upset.

He needs to go to Obama for a bailout.

Lovely Indeed

I am not sure I agree with Phil generally but these pictures do make the first snowfall there look charming.

In Toronto we had some snow last week which lasted about an hour on the ground, and some scraping of frost off the car the same day. But it was not that pretty. On the same day, the SillyWife was subjected to a blizzard, maybe a hundred miles or so away.

Several days later I was in her town, having driven down there in almost 70-degree-Fahrenheit weather, and there was still snow like this in a nearby parking lot! And with some remarkable colored leaves immediately at the side!

Such an unpredictable time of year in this part of the world!

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Sunday, November 09, 2008

Sunrise at the Beach

I should be the guy in the picture, not the guy taking it!

Ashbridge's Bay, November 6, 2008


Away with those Leaves!

I do miss the leaves in the winter, but their absence does permit several interesting sightings that would otherwise not have happened. The only time I have seen porcupines in nature is a result of the absence of leaves. And my morning walks are a lot more entertaining when creatures cannot hide in leaves. Here were two little creatures unexpectedly the object of a lot of human (and some canine) interest shortly after dawn a couple of days ago.

(Ashbridge`s Bay, November 6, 2008)

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Saturday, November 08, 2008

Back to the Zoo

One bit of brilliance at the Cologne Zoo is the placement of the meerkats so close to the entrance. It is impossible not to be utterly charmed by these creatures, especially with them prepetually in a sort of lookout mode.

OK maybe not perpetually. It is a bit difficult to parse this picture, but it features two babies fighting playfully, and leaving it to the adults to stand on guard.

(Cologne Zoo, Sept. 11, 2008)

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This is why I feel good about Obama

Brad DeLong has his silly moments, but this gives me great comfort.

What strikes me are a couple of key points.

The bench is very deep right now. Practically everyone competent and qualified for high executive office has come over to the Democratic Party over the fourteen years since the coming of Gingrich. Thus there are a huge number of superb choices available for every position.

This just seems obvious to me.

Everyone's knows that this is bigger than any of us, and that the right attitude is to ask for an oar, find a place on a bench, and start rowing. There is an awful lot to do.

Yup. I never believed for a second the Republicans could produce a team with these qualities. Obama has not yet but he has a shot at it. And I hope he does!

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Count on Iowahawk

I love his punchline:

In his famous speech at the Lincoln Memorial 45 years ago, Dr. King said "I have a dream that one day my children will live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character." Let us now take pride that Tuesday we Americans proved that neither thing matters anymore.


A Squirrel that Needs to get back on the Wagon

... after treating on some fermented pumpkin.

h/t Phil Plait

Drydock Season

Every fall down by Ashbridge's Bay the local marina moves sailboats to drydock - quite a scene with cranes, and many many people, a bit of a party atmosphere. I missed the event this year, but you can see the effect - bare not-ruined docks, where late the sweet boats launched.

The picture was taken on an unusually warm November morning, which allowed this interesting visual effect from the nearby water treatment facility. (Note also the boats NOT in the water for the winter.)

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Pragmatism on the Obama Front

And we need more of this pragmatism.

Drafting people to do unpaid work was an appalling idea. I'd sure like to understand the new plan though. Do they really intend to pay college students $40 per hour? That should increase enrolment!

Friday, November 07, 2008

The Yellow Fish Road

UPDATE: Please see comment below from rkelley.

Recently I noticed this rather odd graffito on the curb near a corner of the block I live on. I was perplexed - was this some religious statement?

Later, this rather odd crest appeared, affixed to the curb. And yes, a storm drain was nearby.

Even later, I found rather odd document in my mailbox; I have scanned top and bottom. Click to enlarge if you want to read it.

What the hey? A bunch of government agencies have spent money painting graffiti and affixing silly crests to the curbs of our city to mark the location of storm drains? Here is the overall effect of such a valuable program.

Which is easier to notice? The storm drain or the yellow fish? I am pretty confident even I could think of a better way to spend the money that was laundered through this program by our gubmnt.

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Last week I took a half-day vacation to join in the festivities at the University of Western Ontario surrounding the performance of the German elektropop band Dyko. (Well, German-language, given that the vocalist was born in Melbourne, Australia.)
For me, part of the charm and pleasure was their amusing integration into their art of German language training videos, which came from John`s background in Australia, and certainly reminded me of the video set I used as an introduction, set in a time long ago, though it seems John`s were even more ancient than mine.
In this interview you can see an extract (Wo kann ich hier tanzen gehen)from one of the language videos that played a rather large part in the afternoon`s activities, most particularly in the songwriting workshop following their too brief concert.

It is also a delight to see the comment threads on their YouTube videos - many students saying `They came to my school today!`. And in fact the event here was part of a tour arranged around learning the German language.

Many photos are here as well.

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A Frightening Start

Michael Moynihan explains how dismaying it is to hear rumors that Obama is actually considering Robert Kennedy for EPA head.

UPDATE: Even more passionate and thorough. Surely this cannot happen!

I had rather hoped Obama was more sensible. We shall see.


Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Terry Glavin in Afghanistan!

He has been posting actively and wonderfully from Kabul.

This post on Obama supporters in Kabul is a nice introduction.

Once you have found your way to his blog you should read the other posts as well. Browse, and be enlightened.

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A Great Day for the USA

Nobody can deny the significance of the first African-American President-elect. Even I was moved seeing Jesse Jackson's tears, and hearing Colin Powell describe his. And had I a vote, I would have cast it, with enormous reservations, for Obama, though I have referred to him, and I think accurately, as a windbag. In the end I just have more faith that he will gather good advisers. Why I think this, given his flirtations with Jeremiah Wright and Bill Ayers, might be the base for an interesting psychological study.

I also think both candidates are quite decent people in some basic ways. But I had NO idea how truly decent, and quietly so, McCain is. John Hinderaker added some education for me (this is on top of the adopted Bangladeshi child that never seems to be mentioned).

A nurse entered and seemed surprised to find anyone there, and it wasn't long before I found out why: Almost no one visits anymore. In his time, which was not very long ago, Mo Udall was one of the most-sought-after men in the Democratic Party. Yet as he dies in a veterans hospital a few miles from the Capitol, he is visited regularly only by a single old political friend, John McCain.

It is a lucky country that can celebrate the defeat of such a man.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Yup, It's the Concession Speech!

Dan Drezner, like me, is looking forward to a gracious concession speech.

It fits with both campaigns. For McCain, it would be his chance to do the honorable thing — and help to improve his media image. For Obama, it would be consistent with his message of reaching across party lines.

I like the ritual of concession speech, and this year it will be more important than ever. If Obama wins, there will be a lot of angry GOPers upset over a liberal Democrat winning office; Obama will be lucky to have McCain’s imprimatur.

If McCain wins, the collective shock from the media and the Obama faithful will be enormous — so big that only a good concession larded with lots of grace and promises that the election actually was free and fair.

I agree with Drezner that the campaign has been a disappointment as compared to the primaries.

Obama's Grandmother

Joe Klein says it very well. I am sorry she missed what is likely to be the great satisfaction of tonight (or would be for her, not me).

But think, for a moment, if you will of Madelyn Dunham, a white woman from Kansas, strolling the aisle of a supermarket, or having lunch in a coffee shop, with her grandson--way back at the turn of the 1970s, when such sights were uncommon, even in Hawaii. Think about what her friends might have thought, or said, about her...situation. Think about what she poured into the child during the years when her daughter was in Indonesia and she was the closest thing to a mother that Obama had; think about the impact that she and her husband had on creating the man we've come to know, and the satisfaction she must have felt in her dying days.

UPDATE: Obama matches Joe Klein

(I do not know why this is not working but I recommend going to, looking for videos, and playing `Tears for Obama`s Grandmother`. Hmmm - new news - works fine in Internet Explorer 7.)

Sunday, November 02, 2008

Another Career for McCain?

I'd say he seems a little stiff, but he is clearly a good sport here, and the material he was given is not that great.

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