Saturday, February 28, 2009

Mandolin - Who Wins?

There is the much-maligned and wonderful Jethro backing up Steve Goodman:

And then there is my wonderful cousin, backing up John Hiatt:

And he is my cousin so I know the answer.
But wow Jethro is good too.

Friday, February 27, 2009

What Does "Work" Mean?

I have enjoyed this campaign and found it amusing but still don't get what some people think is so important about it. I have no idea how one would determine whether this campaign "worked". And why would I care?
My own atheism started very early and has never wavered, but I don't really care much about other people's views so long as they do not plan to apply force to me. As a kid I think I suffered one physical assault for the atheism (more for the fact that I could have fun on Sunday mornings) and a little psychological intimidation. And yes it would be better if I had not had to suffer that.
But REALLY those poor religious people. I almost feel sorry for them. One fool who thinks church attendance soared after 9/11 and other equivalent nonsense. I do admire the United Church guy who thought the ad could be easily transformed, but one must remember that United Church of Canada moderators have a long recent history of not exactly agreeing with any reasonable notion of Christian doctrine.
This video worried me far more at the end, with the lead to the upcoming video, than with any news on the bus ads.

My initial experiment on exploring this site has proven to be a true entertainment.

There seems to be rather little actual content, but I must say I did really like one piece of integrity that shows up in this memorandum.
Funds are used for authorized purposes and instances of fraud, waste, error, and abuse are mitigated.

Mitigated? Already this government is preparing for fraud, waste, error, and abuse! And I do not blame them.
And I even want to commend their honesty. They could have said they planned to avoid all these outcomes. But they know better.

The. Cutest. Ever.


The Dutchman

One blog I quite enjoy is Jeff Shalit's.
He filled in a 25 random items post recently and one item leapt out at me.

One of my favorite songwriters is someone few people have ever heard of: Michael Peter Smith. He wrote The Dutchman, among other songs. (He is not to be confused with the insipid Christian songwriter Michael W. Smith.)

I have long thought this is the best song ever written! (OK a bit of rhetoric there.)
You can break into tears here:

For me the saddest and most beautiful line is Margaret's seeing the unborn children in his eyes.
Michael Smith was part of a stunning Chicago contribution to music which also includes Steve Goodman and John Prine.
I know of The Dutchman and of a lot of other great music from the stunning Max Ferguson, back in the days when the CBC could have flaky hosts who were interesting.
And here is Michael Smith performing it. So gentle.

Or, maybe even lovelier, though a cover, from the irreplaceable Steve Goodman:

Credit Crisis

"Everybody that qualifies for a mortgage already has one." This really is a lovely discussion of the history that got us here.

The Crisis of Credit Visualized from Jonathan Jarvis on Vimeo.
h/t Get Rich Slowly

Night Drive

My erstwhile local paper (pretty erst by now!) has a nice article on Garnet Rogers.
Maybe this is a bit over the top but I will say the song has given me goosebumps from time to time.

The title track is a haunting, atmospherically evocative, deeply felt memorial to his brother as both companion and memory.

It's the kind of song that gives you goosebumps, not only because it's a personal story of love of one brother for another, but because it's both universal and timeless as an expression of loss and sorrow, acceptance and transcendence.

Judge for yourself:

This song has been as close to synaesthesia as I have experienced - the fluttering music does make me think I am seeing stars. His live performances of it have always affected me.
My favorite Garnet song is a lot more concrete, and apparently a true story.

When I see Garnet live, I always request this song. So far I have got a 100% response. He seems a very nice guy. Hmm, maybe even a bit "soft-headed".
UPDATE: Oh my. I had never listened to this song.

It's too late by the grave.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

This Whole Thing About Corporate Jets

... has long seemed to me like the stupidest sort of populism. For large company CEOs the time savings just might be vital.
Glad to see Scott Adams join the debate today.

That Title is a Rhetorical Question

I had never heard of a Fennec Fox.

In Defence of Volcano Monitoring

Charles Johnson assembles some commentary.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Naomi Klein gets something right!


So I Channel-Surf to The Golf Channel

And what do I see but Tiger, and what is the next thing I see but a stunning perfect approach shot!
The Universe starts to work its way back into form.

Ed Morrissey gives me a laugh

I missed this howler (and it does remind me of comments that Obama's greatest lacunae are his lack of understanding of economics and history):
And yes, when Obama said this, I did laugh:

And I believe the nation that invented the automobile cannot walk away from it.

Wow — I hope Germany never does, either! Did we suddenly become the Soviets, taking credit for everyone else’s inventions? Doesn’t anyone fact-check Obama’s speeches before making them? I doubt many people will remember this speech for that, or for anything else, either, but it’s a particularly sloppy mistake.

Massive and Multiple

So the errors were.
An excellent talk from Alan Blinder. (Wonky day today.)


For all my crustiness about Obama, let me say this was a bad joke, though his story is a great American story.
I do agree with him that "the strength of America is not found in its government".
Hmm. I think "volcano monitoring" might be a good idea, and should be done by the government. Also, a fast train line between Las Vegas and Disneyland seems like a pretty worthwhile project to me.

I Am Exhausted

I tried to watch the whole speech.
But it is exhausting and annoying. Does he actually know the solutions to the real problems he describes? He thinks so. I have NO reason to believe him.
And it is horrifying to imagine all the bureaucrats who will be re-shaping the industries he thinks need re-shaping. He is right about the need, and almost surely wrong about the competence of those he will be giving the job to.
And I do agree that the tie in the US of health insurance to a job is pernicious, I am also convinced that whatever this government winds up prescribing will damage the US as a medical innovation center. We in the rest of the world will lose a giant subsidy we have basked in.
And for God's sake - "A cure for cancer in our time"? Utter windbaggery.
I love "long-term affordable health care". We get what we pay for. And we will get exactly that.
In the end, even if wonky me cannot keep my attention fixed, I have to admire this guy's chutzpah. He says he is going to push.
We shall see.
"We know that the most formative learning comes in those first years of life." Do we?
"New incentives for teacher performance"? I like that! I doubt he means it. And even if he does, I doubt he can get it past the teachers' unions who are one of his constituencies.
"Dropping out of high school is no longer an option. It's not just quitting on yourself, it's quitting on your country!" Disgusting. What level of intervention in my personal life does he consider reasonable? And omigod we get the sickening "what he can do for his country" with a Kennedy reference. This is truly sad.
Hmm he is now on about parents. Does he plan to do something to cut down the single mother epidemic? He mentions nothing.
This is truly one fine politician - a tapestry of contradictions can sound like sugar.
More humorously, he is now blathering on about the deficit and earmarks. It all sounds good and won't happen with Pelosi and Reid in charge.
Wow - he talks but I doubt he will walk - on education and agricultural subsidies, though the wording was tricky.
OK now it is getting silly. He talks 'accountability' and of course dodges his non-accountable behavior and simply points at putting the wars on the budget (which is the right thing to do). He leaves out anything else.
At the end he goes all Jimmy Stewart. Sweet but silly.

But Fear Itself - part two

He responded to this growing criticism last night.
He talks a great game. That is a first step.
We'll see if the windbaggery can turn into reality.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Is This Not Ominous?

That is right in front of my neighbor's house. And it's the gas company. Better post this before we all go sky-high on the block!

Monday, February 23, 2009

Obama Button

I haven't seen the movie but I must say this line of Steve Sailer's made me giggle:

Watching "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button" is like listening to a Barack Obama speech. It's obviously something of a higher quality than the norm, and it induces a not-unpleasant trance-like state as it goes on and on, but it's hard to remember what the point was.

He has the windbag pegged.

Cuteness Olympics

You lose. They win.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

I'd Have Thought

This should be an easy post-retirement day.
But first the curling and now the golf.
And I am as a result missing the red carpet women! (Yes I know there are men.)
Couples won't quit and we REAL coots cheer the young puppies.

Even More Stress!

I have to flip back and forth with my remote between the golf and the red carpet at the Oscars!
Can these people simply talk to one another and work this out?

The Stress, the Stress!

Mickelson-StrIcker is getting hard to take.
And this is AFTER the curling!
I need quieter Sunday afternoons (even my squash mornings are not this brutal). And later I have the Oscars!

Way to Go Venus!

Venus speaks up!
Venus Williams won her 40th singles title Saturday, defeating Virginie Razzano of France 6-4, 6-2 in the final of the Dubai Tennis Championship.

During the trophy presentation, Williams spoke about Shahar Peer, the Israeli player who was denied entry into the United Arab Emirates for the tournament because of what organizers called security concerns.

“I felt like I had to talk about her,” Williams said. “I thought it was brave of her to come here and try and play despite knowing that it is not going to be easy for her. My dad grew up in an area where if you spoke too much, it was your life. So I felt I had a small opportunity to say something where everyone will listen.”

Peer was denied entry into the country a week ago. The WTA fined organizers of the tournament a record $300,000 Friday, saying it will compensate Peer and ensure other Israeli players aren’t shut out of future events.

“I am not here to rock any boat or upset people, I am just here to do things that are right,” Williams said. “And I think right things are already happening next week and right things will happen next year.”

Way to Go Andy

Andy Roddick won't play in Dubai.
h/t LGF

Interesting Quotation from John Nash

Via Econlog.
Then gradually I began to intellectually reject some of the delusionally influenced lines of thinking which had been characteristic of my orientation. This began, most recognizably, with the rejection of politically-oriented thinking as essentially a hopeless waste of intellectual effort.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

George Mason U?

Holy Cow!

The Value of Blogs

Nick Rowe reflects extensively on his investment of resources into blogging at Worthwhile Canadian Initiative.
I know ONE thing. My life is richer because Nick is blogging.
Read his whole post but some good key points are in this selection:

OK, I know, I've been ducking the main question: "but how does it compare to published research?".

Damned if I know. And of course, whatever I say will (understandably) be seen as self-serving.

Blog posts are published, just in a different medium. Blogs (like books, journals and working papers) are a form of conversation, but they are recorded conversation, and public conversation. Anyone can see what you said. (In fact, blogs are a lot more publicly available than expensive inaccessible books and journal articles).

Blog posts can also be cited, by other blog posts, just as journal articles are cited by other journal articles. Some citations are favourable; others are unfavourable. Just like journal articles.

Blog posts are even refereed, by the commentors especially. Sure, most of the comments are anonymous, but then so are referees for journal articles. And anyone can referee a blog post; you don't get the risk of a little clique of like-minded people all refereeing each others' work, and approving it because it confirms their views and cites their own work favourably.

But the big difference, of course, is that journal articles get refereed before publication, while blog posts get refereed after publication. Even a departmental working paper will normally be reviewed, at least briefly, by one or more of one's colleagues, before publication. Anyone can post anything on a blog.

I believe that some blog posts are as good in content as anything that gets published in a refereed journal. They may lack all the scholastic trimmings, but that's not obviously a disadvantage. But most aren't (they don't try to be). And some are really bad.

And I Thought Nouriel Roubini was Depressing Me

Martin Wolf kicks while I am down.
If Mr Geithner or Lawrence Summers, head of the national economic council, were advising the US as a foreign country, they would point this out, brutally. Dominique Strauss-Kahn, IMF managing director, said the same thing, very gently, in Malaysia last Saturday.

The correct advice remains the one the US gave the Japanese and others during the 1990s: admit reality, restructure banks and, above all, slay zombie institutions at once. It is an important, but secondary, question whether the right answer is to create new “good banks”, leaving old bad banks to perish, as my colleague, Willem Buiter, recommends, or new “bad banks”, leaving cleansed old banks to survive. I also am inclined to the former, because the culture of the old banks seems so toxic.

By asking the wrong question, Mr Obama is taking a huge gamble. He should have resolved to cleanse these Augean banking stables. He needs to rethink, if it is not already too late.

Atwood Reconsiders

In this short essay.
Whatever my general lack of taste for her work, she is manifestly an extremely intelligent and very witty person. And she shows it in this essay. And I can't help her in the decision in any useful way.
h/t Norm.

Creative Use of Intellectual Property Law

I have to confess I admire this in a weird way.

While it is a unique case, it should not be shocking that the bikers are so defensive about their logo, says Prof. Ken Hardy of the Ivey School of Business at the University of Western Ontario in London.

"This is basic marketing: you define yourself," said Hardy, who teaches business students the importance of brand identification – or "branding" – in mainstream marketing.

If they lose the power of their trademarked logos, Hardy says, "they're diminishing their stock as a badass." That stock helps them recruit members, conduct business and feel special, the professor says.

What I did NOT know is that the Hells Angels are headquartered in Oakland, California. Having lived near there, I am not really surprised.
Lawyers representing the Hells Angels have already notified the court that all items bearing the Hells Angels' winged-skull logo are the property of the club's headquarters in Oakland, Calif., and not individual bikers.

An Entertaining Typo

The Composite Drawler finds an entertaining typo.
You have to follow the link to see the excellent typo but I also like his question:
Nevertheless, it's nice to see the Feds are on the ball, at long last. Next, we get to see if the MSM mentions his close ties to and support for the Democratic Party's high Muckamucks. I'm betting it will be on the same day Roland Burris voluntarily steps down from the Senate because he truly recognizes it's the right thing to do. That will be a few months after they start cross-country skiing in hell.

It's been quite a month of apparent corruption dominated by the Democrats.

Some Problems in Life are Very Tolerable

Trying to figure out whether it is Isla Fisher or Amy Adams that I am looking at is certainly in that category.
h/t Instapundit

Yes He Can

Change that gives me hope!

But Fear Itself

Roosevelt's words ring through the decades since.
But what does this Democratic President do, asks John Hinderaker.
While other factors no doubt predominate, it's hard to escape the conclusion that some part of that drastic decline is attributable to the near-hysteria emanating from the Executive Branch.

I think Matthew Kahn is asking a somewhat similar question.
The thing is, if Hinderaker is right about the motives, the strategy does not seem really to be working all that well. So maybe a more positive view would help.

Friday, February 20, 2009

The Difference Between a Good Joke and a Bad One

Her's the good one. Note that the post author likely understands the merits of this system compared to the current situation.
Compare to this idea of a joke. Dumb populist rant, determinedly ignorant of the issues and relevant facts, not surprisingly h/t five feet of fury.

I Love the Continuities in Art

It all started with this post.
Nostalgically, I thought about what the first song that attracted me to Dar Williams was - and it was the babysitter song.

She uses here a narrative form I love - the narrator who simply does not get what is going on. It is lovely and challenges the listener to do more than simply accept the surface story. It is a form far too little used. When it cruises to its end it is crushing.
In this song it is brutal and as a result, totally lovely. "She's the best one we've ever had."
Last night I started reading Anne Tyler's "Celestial Navigation". What a self-incriminating narrator in the first chapter. Where can she be going?
I have roughly the same trust in Dar Williams and Anne Tyler. Two great artists in two very different forms.
And they can find different forms, if not themes.

More from the 'Famed' Accountability Model Administration

Let's enable political constraints on the Inspectors-General.
The provision, which attracted virtually no attention in the debate over the 1,073-page stimulus bill, creates something called the Recovery Accountability and Transparency Board — the RAT Board, as it’s known by the few insiders who are aware of it. The board would oversee the in-house watchdogs, known as inspectors general, whose job is to independently investigate allegations of wrongdoing at various federal agencies, without fear of interference by political appointees or the White House.

In the name of accountability and transparency, Congress has given the RAT Board the authority to ask “that an inspector general conduct or refrain from conducting an audit or investigation.” If the inspector general doesn’t want to follow the wishes of the RAT Board, he’ll have to write a report explaining his decision to the board, as well as to the head of his agency (from whom he is supposedly independent) and to Congress. In the end, a determined inspector general can probably get his way, but only after jumping through bureaucratic hoops that will inevitably make him hesitate to go forward.

Impressive what this wonderfully accountable administration will slip into an economic stimulus bill.

Harry Reid IS an Idiot

He has the strangest notion of 'voluntary' that I have ever heard of.

Actually, he has no notion - he just knows he cannot politically admit that taxes are collected in the end at the point of a gun.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Is Pelosi an Idiot?

She has always struck me as so but there must be something more to her than I see. Whatever it is, it is certainly not visible in this interview.

Obama and Protocol

I am coming to really respect some parts of this guy!
Rather than follow the published protocol and simply go to the airport as planned, his team has apparently decided to stop off in Ottawa's Byward market (absolutely a place to visit in Ottawa) and have a Beaver Tail.
This has knocked the socks off the whole CBC staff. And off me.
Is this a way to shorten the meeting with Ignatieff?

Wanna Feel Good?

Then don't watch "Dr. Doom" Roubini.

h/t Calculated Risk

Quick Impression of the Harper-Obama Press Conference

Man - two really bright guys, and pretty articulate.
Obama still tends to fudge contradictions - he describes our borders as open and secure. Unfortunately the reality is clearly that there is a current contradiction between these adjectives. But he just elided it - let's see what press comment on it later.
I loved Harper pointing out that the Canadian stimulus package removed some tariffs. Of course Harper has a much easier task in a Parliamentary system with a supine opposition party than a US President has even with a Congress of his own party, but with rather different political motivations.
I enjoyed the fact that of the four allocated questions, the two given to the Canadian press were given to women to deliver (both the US questions came from men). It would appear Obama enjoyed that too. :-)
Obviously this was meant to be a showcase, but I must say the official bits I watched (not the swooning from the CBC that has polluted the day) have been good.
Harper has also figured out that Obama turns his pro-American position from its past liability to a possible asset.
Mister curmudgeon almost feels a bit encouraged again.

Yes, Andrew, It Was

You are spot on.
This need for heroes, this cult of charisma — and we in the media are the worst offenders, though for more explicable motives — is not merely empty and shallow. It is dangerous. At the very least, it is a distraction. At the worst, it is a kind fascism. It appeals to all that is hollow within us, and — worse — within them. Was that not the least attractive thing about Trudeau: the glamour?

Of course we still suffer from many of his godawful policies, too.

He's a Good Dog

One of my favorite songs. I intend to make seeing Fred Eaglesmith live (I never have) a high priority now.

"I think he actually knows some things that actually I don't."
Having found that on YouTube, I discovered another of his songs I had never heard, with truly funny lyrics.

Even better though than this is the Dar Williams version with a lesbian edge (sorry - I cannot embed it). I agree with the commenter who says he could hear Dar Williams sing the phonebook and wallow in the voice.

Canadian Retail Sales December 2008

Well how bad actually is this?
The change from December 2007 to December 2008 looks like noise (there is the question of whether we are looking at a different number of days, as I have heard may be the case for some such year-to-year comparisons).
I do not know the variability of the base numbers but it is interesting to see that the sectors suffering relate to cars, indoor furniture, and gardening! I understand cars. Gardening? Perhaps that is from BC, where I do not think they had this year's winter storms last year.

Oh God Now I Feel Terrible

About that turtle the commies made me eat.
He/she must once have looked a bit like this total cutie.

Thomas Walkom, However Self-Important is Certainly not Alone


The Virtues of Communism

This is a great story.
I did a tour of China in 1997 and by pure luck got invited to some sort of official dinner with the Politburo of Jiangsu Province in Nanjing. What leaps out in the story linked to is:

Khrushchev was determined, ably seconded by Bulganin, to put us all ‘under the table.’ He and Bulganin proposed toast after toast in ‘pepper vodka’ and they kept eagle eyes on us, especially on George and Ray Crepault (the ‘wily French boy,’ as they called him) to make sure that it was ‘bottoms up’ each time. Someone said we drank eighteen toasts, but I wouldn’t know

In our case the Toronto Mayor, Mel Lastman at the time, had visited the week before. So there were toasts to Mel, to Toronto, of course to Norman Bethune, and to any other excuse for yet another shot paid for by the peasants of China.
To add to the toasting, my hosts insisted that I should, as the foreigner, be treated to a variety of foods that almost caused me to retch, including, the worst, a cooked turtle, which sat there looking like a turtle.
And in our case, perhaps less dignified than the Pearson team, I left the dinner arm in arm with the provincial premier, each of us claiming to be holding the other up.
My guide and I got out of that evening very good hotel rooms and service, so I cannot complain. But I will never forget picking away at the turtle body, being inspected by a dozen eyes insistent that I honor their generosity.

Lower Expectations and Deliver More

Unlike Rondi, I am actually watching the CBC coverage of the Obama visit.
Harper is pretty smart - the expectation on Parliament Hill was that it would be almost impossible to see Obama under the planned protocols. As soon as the limo pulled up, Harper pulled Obama, who was entirely willing, to break the published protocol, and step out and wave to the gathered crowds, who were gathered in pretty fond hopes.
It was the right thing to do.
It remains true that it is an utter embarrassment to think that I have to pay for the CBC on the grounds that it resembles a news organization. Right now they are about as news-oriented as the Vatican. And guess who Jesus is?

Florida in Toronto

It was with a little dismay that I noticed the appointment of the latest trendoid, Richard Florida, to the University of Toronto. I feared there might be consequences, and it appears there have been, though maybe my share of the 2 million dollars is a small price for the amusement Andrew Potter has just given me.
How much would you pay for a map that had all the cities and towns marked, but erased all of the roads and highways that would get you there? I’ll go out on a limb and guess that most of us would spend zero dollars. But that is because most of us are not Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty, whose Liberal government recently dropped 2.2 million taxpayer dollars on a completely useless road map to prosperity.
If McGuinty is smart, he will thank the two for their paper, shove it in a drawer, and go back to his preferred mode of governing, which is banning things. But if he were smart, he probably wouldn’t have commissioned it in the first place, since the study bears the overwhelming greasiness of the “Creative Class” snake oil that Florida has been peddling for the past few years.
In one bizarre passage, we are told that in the creative economy of the future, growth will “no longer be limited by physical resources and hours in a day, since creativity is potentially a limitless resource.” I wonder what it means for the province’s pizza delivery folks, security guards, and drycleaners to be told that they, too, must start bringing more creativity to their work. Certainly, the report doesn’t say.

At this point I am hoping the people who fix potholes in Toronto can develop some of that limitless creativity. They do a lot more for my well-being than a thousand Richard Floridas would.

In the end, Martin and Florida have done little more than restate Bertrand Russell’s witticism about work being of two kinds: “First, altering the position of matter at or near the earth’s surface relatively to other such matter; second, telling other people to do so. The first kind is unpleasant and ill paid; the second is pleasant and highly paid.”

Nothing much has changed since Russell wrote that in 1932; the only difference now is that creative elaborations on that basic insight sell for millions of dollars.

Also - an excellent discussion from David Revely exposing some apparent dishonesty in all this.
I feel so used.

An Extremely Attractive Symbol

Whatever my general crustiness, I find it impossible not to be rather moved by the initial meeting during Obama's visit to Ottawa. He, the head of state of the US, born of a Kenyan father, and she, the (representative of) the head of state of Canada, and practically the head of state, born in Haiti, meet on the tarmac.
This combination would have been unthinkable in my childhood, and it says much about what is right about the West, or maybe just Anglo North America. It does not hurt that they are both hotties.

Canada's Back to Normal!

No need to feel pride today! Rondi explains it well.
For a sanity check on this I took a look at the TV BBC World headlines - not a mention of where Obama is, but a report on where Hillary is! (Actually her tour is likely more important.)
OTOH, CNN is engaged in the visit. Now I might have gone to Ottawa to see Suzanne Malveaux if I had known she would be there! And I might have had a chance actually to see her!

How Can You Help the Economy

On $8 a Week.
I enjoyed Tyler Cowen's suggestion top find ways to pay excessive bank fees, James Hamilton's to buy stocks, but particularly Paul Kasriel's:
I would use the extra cash to start a hedge fund, which would purchase newly-issued asset-backed securities. I would finance my position through the Fed’s TALF program.

h/t Marginal Revolution

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Another Bout of Arts Funding Rent-Seeking

The Canadian arts commnunity is a sorry excuse. The pigs are back at the trough begging for yet some other involuntary expenditure to be fed them.

Mochrie and fellow actors Charlotte Arnold and Bruce Dinsmore spoke on behalf of the performers union ACTRA, which along with other groups is calling for the CRTC to reconsider the distribution of new media content as broadcasting.
They also urge the regulator to introduce a levy on internet service providers whereby three per cent of revenues would go to a fund that would specifically support the creation of Canadian online programming, from documentaries and webisodes to comedy skits and internet games.

Oh no - our stories will be lost! Well yes, they are worried that their stories will be lost because nobody in Canada wants to pay for them, which suggests to me they SHOULD be lost! If you need to threaten me with jail to get the story told, I object.
Our ISPs object and speak rather refreshingly sensibly.
Likening the levy to an unnecessary tax, Ken Engelhart, Rogers senior vice-president of regulatory affairs, said Canadian content already exists.
"People [already] visit Canadian websites," he told CBC News. "We don't see a reason why it needs a subsidy."

I do see a reason why one is being demanded, though. It's HARD to create art interesting enough to garner an audience on its own - much easier to simply pressure bureaucrats and politicians to feed you funding. And actually, the demanders are not really all that good at creation (particularly because their business model has come to be to harvest subsidies, not entertain and interest a real audience).


P. Z. Myers is dead right.
What Myers does not say but seems to me be true from other posts and reports is that Hitchens' challenge was carried out right in the gangland area of the Syrian thug gang.
He's sure got bravado. Hmm, maybe that is what PZ means by brass.

Aargghh - Housing Starts in Spain!

What a fright!
Not a single start in December?! This is becoming really frightening.

Err, No

Thomas Walkom rather self-importantly asks:
Am I the only one who is sick of the fixation on Barack Obama's visit to Ottawa?

I suspect what he really means is whether he is the only person in the employ of the Toronto Star who is not swooning over Obama's visit.
It was a good start to a column that, as usual, goes nowhere after that.
But he is right, the national swoon on the CBC and Star continues.

Accountability - Windbag or Visionary?

Today's Toronto Sun has an amusing article on the eagerness of Canadians to see more accountability from government. It is amusing in its theme that this is based on Barack Obama:

President Barack Obama's pledge to run accountable, transparent government clearly appeals to Canadians: Three-quarters of us want to pry open our federal government to more public scrutiny.

A pledge is one thing. Action is apparently another.
In his first weeks in office, President Barack Obama shut down his predecessor’s system for reviewing regulations, realigned and expanded two key White House policymaking bodies and extended economic sanctions against parties to the conflict in the African nation of Cote D’Ivoire.

Despite the intense scrutiny a president gets just after the inauguration, Obama managed to take all these actions with nary a mention from the White House press corps.

The moves escaped notice because they were never announced by the White House Press Office and were never placed on the White House web site.

They came to light only because the official paperwork was transmitted to the Federal Register, a dense daily compendium of regulatory actions and other formal notices prepared by the National Archives. They were published there several days after the fact.

Paul Wells made a similar complaint some time ago.
Perhaps the Obama staff are just having a difficult time figuring out how to use those old Bush web sites.

The War Formerly Known

A recurring and entertaining theme in recent posting at Normblog has been a watch on the Obama administration apparently not avoiding the phrase or concept "war on terror" quite as consistently as they once seemed to want to do. Norm has invented the very handy initialism FKATWOT (formerly known as the war on terror) as he counts the official straying. You can see some recent examples here and here of his slightly obsessive enumeration.

And Now I Have to be Proud of Margaret Atwood!

Will wonders never cease?

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Mansbridge gets to talk to Obama!

To be played on The National tonight at 9 and during its various repetitions - (but PBS has far more interesting plans).
Mansbridge makes reference to our 'extreme' casualties in Afghanistan.
Obama rightly does not jump on this and goes "Waa-waa" in his answer. (When you are a windbag you can do this well.)
But what standard is the CBC using to decide the roughly 100 casualties Canada has taken in Afghanistan over several years is 'extreme'?
Probably not the standards of the major Canadian movie, Paul Gross' "Passchendaele", of this calendar year. How far into that battle might we have hit 100 casualties (casualties meaning soldiers killed)? It did not take many years. Perhaps under a minute? With a much smaller national population?
I have no wish to be dismissive about what each casualty costs a family, but I also sure do not want us judging current ways by brain-dead standards. And it appears the CBC is making a small industry out of stupid comparisons.

Ottawa's Getting Ready and We're All Excited

That is too sad. That is a quote from Don Newman, a reporter I normally respect. But even he must clearly sign up for the CBC's Obama-week. I have time on my hands and I am certainly not going to Ottawa to see the windbag, and he won't even speak, I imagine!
Look - the guy is flying in for a shop-window short visit - nobody much will see him. He is endorsing policies at a good clip that are not friendly to Canada.
What is it with us?
In my childhood I saw a limousine presumably containing JFK drive through Ottawa. That was pretty exciting.
I don't think at that point that JFK had lined up behind quite so many policies hostile to Canadians.
UPDATE: AFAIK Obama is not even planning major windbaggery. I could be wrong but he will be pressed for time.

The Calm Before the Storm

The block this afternoon - snow almost in utter retreat - great for mid-February. It is still cold but we can actually park our cars and put our garbage bins out into reasonable places!
It's all over tomorrow for a while, according to all weather predictions, but it looks like a real roller-coaster ride coming up. Will report if it gets interesting.

Advertising Atheism on

No more interesting a show than you could expect from such a topic. But entertaining.

Rob Buckman (with whom I once shared a couple of Martinis in North Toronto, and many of whose shows I have watched) seemed to me the most sensible person.

Kathy Shaidle did herself no favor with this appearance. It is ironic that so many people on the left objected to her appearance on the show. She is a lot smarter (I know this from her blog, though even there she can be pretty snippy) than she showed on this show. All those who objected should have been happy to see her there.

This is the Right Thing

I am ashamed I watched part of this tournament today fed over the internet.
I think this is a fine and gutsy decision.
The Tennis Channel will not televise the Barclays Dubai Tennis Championships this week to protest the United Arab Emirates’ refusal to grant an entry visa to the Israeli player Shahar Peer. Peer was scheduled to play Anna Chakvetadze in the first round.

And I am entirely ready to boycott future purchases from the WTA (I fear I have paid for next year's tickets in Toronto) if the WTA does not fix this.

Solomon was not critical of the WTA’s decision to play the tournament.

“It’s easier for us to pull the plug,” he said. “It’s different for Larry and the WTA, who were more or less strung along and led to believe she would get the visa. His players were on the ground, and everything was in motion. The rug was pulled out from under their feet.”

He added: “The entire field of competitors is diminished by this happening. It hurts them all. Shahar earned the right to be in the tournament. She’s been on a roll and could have won it. It’s just hard to imagine this happening in this day and age.”

Scott said that United Arab Emirates officials did not tell him why Peer was denied the visa, but that he believed Israel’s incursion into Gaza was a crucial element of the decision. Still, he said, he knew for about a year that Peer might have trouble entering Dubai.

Solomon is too kind. The WTA has no excuse and I am happy to drop my biennial subsidy to them.

Canadian Do-Not-Call List

CBC Radio had an interesting report this morning on a telemarketing scam I have been getting on my cellphone recently, from an organization starting off by telling me my car warranty has expired. As soon as I hear that, I hang up, or, worse, erase the phone message their computer left. I know when my car warranty expires (well, unless GM enters Ch 11 and even then I suspect they will want to honor existing warranties if they ever hope to sell a car again).
But what struck me as fascinating was the unintended consequence story hiding in this tale of annoyance. Canada recently implemented a do-not-call list for telemarketers. This is a fine concept but the implementation matters. If you follow the link and read even the government's praise of the program you will see it is riddled with holes. One key example is the exemption of registered charities, whom I find the most annoying, and over long years I have learned the only way to get rid of them is to refuse them money consistently over several years. At least the guys calling about cleaning your ducts are possibly offering a service, not just taking your money for their pet causes.
But that is not the unintended consequence. It is this. The way this is implemented is that the CRTC maintains a database of phone numbers registered to the do not call list, and requires telemarketers to purchase the list at a certain update frequency and use that database to eliminate numbers they would potentially call but are required by Canadian law not to.
And apparently it is pretty easy to sign up and buy that database. Now, suppose you are a telemarketer not under Canadian juridisction and not subject to Canadian law, apparently like this warranty scam operation. What a resource! And the Canadian government will sell it to you! Hundreds of thousands of phone numbers, almost all currently in operation.

In Canada, many consumers have complained that they are receiving more phone calls from telemarketers than ever since registering on the Canadian do-not-call list.

The Consumers' Association of Canada says the highly touted list designed to stop many telemarketing calls is having the opposite effect.

"It's a travesty," president Bruce Cran said. "Here we have all these people thinking they were getting rid of incoming phone calls. Anyone who is registered should suspect their phone number is being broadcast to the four winds."

The Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission launched the registry in September to great fanfare, promising that those who registered would see a drop in unwanted calls. Millions of Canadians have registered their names, home phone numbers and in some cases their cellphone numbers.

The problem, said Cran, is that the CRTC sells the registry list online. "In Toronto, you can get 600,000 names for $50," he said.

It is people with the same mentality as those who designed this brilliant system who will soon be working on deciding whether GM's and Chrysler's plans for restructuring are viable. Good luck to us all.

The Ultimate Reboot

Juan Enriquez strikes again at this year's TED, with a few cheap jokes and what seem to me also some insights.

Good for a giggle or two and some reflection.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Small Town Indeed

I am from an even smaller town ( a suburb of Ottawa!) but I agree that this is pathetic.
I am an atheist myself but all I ever wanted was to be left alone. When I grew up that was a large claim in my community.

Our Appalling Press

Charles Johnson is right, and when Bush ordered this strike it would have been a wedding party.
Now it "includes" some bad guys. How many?

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Please let him hold to this

Whatever defence I might make of George W. Bush, I flatly regard his watch on science as a total failure. The new lad sure says the right words!

"respected the integrity of the scientific process". Amen!
He is a tad fuzzy about who the leaders were in his cited cases, but some of them were indeed working for the state.

Reclamation and a Bullet Dodged

The lawn fights back even more, aided by several days of thaw and two days with an inch of rain each day.
My fear was that the return to colder temperatures today would cause a renaissance of ice; fortunately strong winds appear to have cleared the wetness and the world looks really good today.

When MacLeans gives this away ...

How can they make money?
Now retired, I assiduously look for ways to cut expenses. I remain a print subscriber to MacLeans, but can I keep it up?


This is too funny.
h/t Instapundit

The British Government Debased Itself ....

Pat Condell gets it spot on. Beware, he holds little back. "Freedom, go to hell, indeed."

Doc has another approach that I quite like too (I would attend and help with the funding). Though Wilders would have to get through our border guards!

Bridges TV

I have not known quite what to post on the grimly amusing tale of the shop-window "moderate Muslim" who beheaded his wife, until I stumbled on this post from Charles Johnson.
It unites a gang of the scoundrels in one picture.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Miguel Jacob

Another of last Wednesday's activities was a two-hour lecture and question-and-answer session with a local Toronto fashion photographer, Miguel Jacob. I was a bit disappointed at the overall turnout, probably dominated by his family and their friends (all also apparently very interesting people), as I think a lot of people missed a really good opportunity to learn from a very interesting artist.
Essentially an autodidact as a photographer, he is clearly doing some very nice work, and shared with us his commitment to experimentation and the willingness to make and try to learn from mistakes.
He also shared with us his own enthusiasms, and this gave me the name of a few other photographers (not one of whom I had heard of), to study.
If only you had been there.
Here is a nice little video of some of his portfolio.

Thanks to the Hart House Camera Club for this!

This is Looking like a Great Show

Tonight's The Agenda.
Steve Paikin is far and away the best interviewer in this country (and right up there with the best in the US).
My guess is it may be run live over the Internet and archived for later watching.
I know at least that Brad DeLong and Tim Kane will be there.
This is the kind of thing that gets me excited and it should you too!
UPDATE: I missed it live but it is currently on the web site (for a short time). A useful discussion, if with a little more snark than it needed.

On Becoming a Jew

I don't share Nick Cohen's surname, but I sure share how he feels these days.

As the struggle between theocracy and liberalism intensifies, I can see some being pushed into taking the same journey I have taken and finding their views towards Judaism and Israel softening as they realise that antisemitism helps drive the fascistic ideologies of the 21st century just as it drove the Nazism of the 20th.

I will tell them that the opponents of totalitarianism must never be frightened. If their enemies say they are Jews, they should shrug and say: “All right, I am.” As long as readers of the Jewish Chronicle don’t object, of course.

More from that Concert

The rest of the concert I referred to in an earlier post consisted of duet work between Zhenya Yesmanovich (who also served largely as MC and should get someone to set up a Myspace profile page) and Maia Broido.
It had been too long since I last listened to Brahms' Sonata for Violin and Piano #2, and their performance was spirited and very enjoyable (I had one foot quietly tapping toes throughout), and in the other part of the concert, they played three songs from "Porgy and Bess" as arranged by Jascha Heifetz. The former did entertain the audience mightily, but I thought, as I think many there did, that Broido's violin work did a lovely job of conveying what the human voices normally convey in those songs, especially in "It Ain't Necessarily So".
You can see Broido and Yesmanovich here in a different context.

Governor-General a Bimbo?

She does need some geography lessons about Canada. At least she is good-humored about it all.

"We never stop learning," she said. "I have learned something today and I truly appreciate that Senator Nancy Greene took the time to point this out to me and to the children who were at Rideau Hall."

In an interview yesterday, Ms. Greene apologized for correcting Ms. Jean, who represents the Crown as Canada's head of state.

"I feel very badly that I might have embarrassed her," Ms. Greene said, nevertheless adding: "Hey, I'm from British Columbia, and I've got to correct these things."

Justice Done

Pick your victims with care.

"She probably thought I was an easy target but she shouldn't have judged a book by its cover. The look on her face was one of sheer amazement and she just threw my bag aside."

Mrs Hirst, a widow, from Mansfield, Notts, was able to stop and pick up the bag which she described as containing her "whole life", including her purse, keys and address book.

As a 17 year old, she was the Nottinghamshire County Schools 100 yards champion and qualified for the final of All England Schools Championship in Ashington, Northumberland.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

The Best Art Criticism I Have Read in Years

And of course it comes from Steve Sailer.

Golf course architecture is one of the world's most expansive but least recognized art forms. Yet this curiously obscure profession can help shed light on mainstream art, sociology, and even human nature itself, since the golf designer, more than any other artist, tries to reproduce the primeval human vision of an earthly paradise.

Yet even this most unfashionable of arts was swept in the middle of the last century by the same Bauhaus-derived tastes that made post-WWII modernist buildings so tedious. Only recently has golf course architecture begun to revive the styles and values of its golden age in the 1920s.

Hidden in plain sight, golf courses are among the few works of art readily visible from airliners. (A golf architecture aficionado can often identify a course's designer from 35,000 feet.) Assuming an average of a quarter square mile apiece, America's 15,000 golf courses cover almost as much land as Delaware and Rhode Island combined.

If you ever cared about golf read the whole thing.

Stanislav Vitort

I had the privilege yesterday of being treated to a free concert, in a very intimate setting, by the tenor Stanislav Vitort. The programme consisted largely of Russian art songs, but also songs by Brahms and Tosti, and the final scene from Otello.
Not only was his singing excellent, but he also fit in wonderfully with the informal and somewhat disorganized context of the concert - he had been called in at a late moment as a substitute, and committed himself whole-heartedly, and good-humoredly.
I look forward to seeing a lot more of him.

Is This Spinal Tap?

"I think you're taking a little time off tonight."
"Hip-hop music? That's a joke? What do you gas them up with?"
"I'm sure something fun happened."
"I've seen some of the other guests."
"Joaquin, I'm sorry you couldn't be here tonight."

UPDATE: That video clip will not now play. Try Gawker.

Encouragement for us Older Folk

Stump takes it in very many dog years and after a great recovery!

As Snyder watched Sommer circle the ring with his dog, she assumed he was showing another Sussex spaniel. That could not be old Stump, she reasoned. “I just didn’t think that he would get back in the ring, especially this far along,” she said. “Then, a couple of minutes later, I heard the announcer say his name was Stump and I was shocked. I couldn’t believe it.”

Four years ago, Stump nearly died after a bacterial infection raced through his body and entered his heart. After weeks in the intensive care unit, things got so bad Sommer considered euthanizing him. “Scott was just horrified,” Snyder recalled Wednesday. “But how Stump looked, and how depressed he was, he thought really hard about putting him to sleep that day.”

They agreed to wait another 24 hours before deciding. The rest of Stump’s life story now reads like a comeback tale that could rival any in the human sports world. Stump, now 10, recovered to make history as the oldest dog ever to win best in show at Westminster.

A little Grecian Formula 16 and maybe that could be me in a few months.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

That's The Attitude!

Sign in one of the local stores. (A grocery store, but with a large side business in garden supplies.) They have a sensible attitude towards winter.

Fighting Back

We're in the middle of the first thaw for a while. This is what my walkway looks like from my front porch - the grass is fighting its way out of the snow!

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

They're back

Jose is angry. And rightly so. I am depressed. And regrettably not surprised seeing this in my own family bigtime.

Is It Getting Worse

Steve Sailer has the best description of this afternoon.
S&P 500 Index closes down 4.8% after Treasury Secretary waves hands around for awhile.


My father was an economist and he taught me a lot about this frustration of Stephen Gordon's. Too sadly true.
It's okay to say "Here's the news. We haven't a freaking clue as to why it happened."

We Wholeheartedly Support Most Things They Do

George Strombolopoulos interviews Chris Martin.

I continue to find it funny watching all these pop stars struggling with their carbon footprints. Perhaps one reason some of them simply don't just flaunt carbon credits is that they KNOW carbon credits are not part of a justifiable market. Still it is two guys with pretty charming public presences.
So what are the last lines of "Viva la Vida"? I cannot tell whether St. Peter will or won't take him - and the lyrics out on the web are divided. It does make for two quite different songs.

Who's Prejudiced Here?

What a bunch of asses! 'Dressed like an Arab'! Who has the completely unjustified stereotype here? None of my Arab friends dresses the way Hailey did, but many Somalis in my neighborhood do, none of whom are Arabs.
The sense of self-importance of the 'research' team is palpable. It really is all about them.
A native Alabaman comments in the Headlines thread that he’d feel safer in Birmingham in a turban than in San Francisco in a Bush/Cheney t-shirt.


I haven't posted on John Updike since his recent death simply because I cannot recall what is actually in any of the books of his I read (I am pretty sure I read "Rabbit, Run" and "The Witches of Eastwick" - I know I at least saw the movie of the latter).
I very much enjoyed the entertaining interview replayed on CBC's "Writers and Company" that my travels delivered to me. You can find it here for a while. As Eleanor Wachtel says, he is "lovely to listen to".
And then via Rand Simberg, I discovered this essay from 1989. Bits of 1989 (or more exactly, the sixties) remain sadly constant, down to the 'bohunk'.
The protest, from my perspective, was in large part a snobbish dismissal of Johnson by the Eastern establishment; Cambridge professors and Manhattan lawyers and their guitar-strumming children thought they could run the country and the world better than this lugubrious bohunk from Texas. These privileged members of a privileged nation believed that their pleasant position could be maintained without anything visibly ugly happening in the world. They were full of aesthetic disdain for their own defenders, the business-suited hirelings drearily pondering geopolitics and its bloody necessities down in Washington. The protesters were spitting on the cops who were trying to keep their property—the USA and its many amenities—intact. A common report in this riotous era was of slum-dwellers throwing rocks and bottles at the firemen come to put out fires; the peace marchers, the upper-middle-class housewives pushing baby carriages along in candlelit processions, seemed to me to be behaving identically, without the excuse of being slum-dwellers.

He writes with a wonderful sense of irony, often at his own expense, a few times in this paragraph.
It was hard to explain my indignation, even to myself. The peace movement's predecessor and progenitor, the civil-rights movement, had posed no emotional problem. I had been proud, really, of my wife's going off to march in Selma, coming back with sore feet and a slight tan and stories of transracial sexual overtures (rebuffed, I was assured). Feverish with a cold, I marched with her in a large, singing, well-meaning crowd from Roxbury to the Boston Common one raw damp day, braving pneumonia in the process, and we were charter members of the local Fair Housing Committee, founded on the rumor that a black family had been finagled out of an Ipswich house they were on the verge of buying. I went to meetings and contributed to the NAACP and even lent a black we slightly knew some money that he never repaid—I was all for people getting a break, if the expense to me wasn't inordinate.

He captures our sanctimony well, and clearly saw it.
It was all very well for civilized little countries like Sweden and Canada to tut-tut in the shade of our nuclear umbrella and welcome our deserters and draft evaders, but the United States had nobody to hide behind. Credibility must be maintained. Power is a dirty business, but who ever said it wasn't?

He had a trip to the Soviet Union, and reflects.

And yet I came away from that month, and the two subsequent weeks in the Eastern-bloc countries Bulgaria, Rumania, and Czechoslovakia, with a hardened antipathy to Communism. The difference between our empires was not, as many were beginning to say, and were to say louder and louder during the impending Vietnam years, six of one and a half-dozen of the other. It was more like eleven of one and one of the other. Ours was the distinctly better mousetrap.

What made me think so? Was it the glittering display of luxury goods and all the spandy-new runway equipment in the Zurich airport? After my weeks of quaint Communist drabness, Swiss efficiency and prosperity looked like a science-fiction movie. Or was it the little leaks of fear that would show while I was in Communist countries, the spurts of steam betraying the underlying pressure—suddenly impassive expressions, quick lapses into French to evade the eavesdropping walls, a burst of real, scurrying terror from my escort when it appeared I had lost my passport? I had never before been in countries where people were afraid of their own government—where everything, in a sense, every motion of the mind and heart and pen, was politics. And there was something bullyingly egocentric about my admirable Soviet friends, a preoccupation with their own tortured situations that shut out all light from beyond. They were like residents of a planet so heavy that even their gazes were sucked back into its dark center. Arthur Miller, no reactionary, said it best when, a few years later, he and I and some other Americans riding the cultural-exchange bandwagon had entertained, in New York or Connecticut, several visiting Soviet colleagues. The encounter was handsomely catered, the dialogue was loud and lively, the will toward friendship was earnest and in its way intoxicating, but upon our ebullient guests' departure Miller looked at me and said sighingly, “Jesus, don't they make you glad you're an American?”

And he finishes with what a flourish! The sixties and early seventies in one paragraph!
Now the involvement slowly settles into the historical past. War movies are made about Vietnam that sound more and more like other war movies, and there is even (so I read) going to be an attempt to do for it what M*A*S*H did for the unlovely, initially unassuming Korean conflict. In an unforeseeable way, as the vets and evaders age together, and Maya Yang Lin's superb black-marble V-shaped memorial—decked out with personal memorials like a Shinto shrine, a calm and polished Hades of names that takes us below the ground and up again—consolidates its place on the Washington Mall and the national self-image, the years 1965-72 melt into a dreamlike “crazy” time when grunts fragged officers and cops bopped hippies, when brutalized soldiers painted peace signs on their helmets and the daughters of Wall Street lawyers committed murders and robberies in the name of social justice, a baroque time of long-haired hardhats and alliterating Agnewisms, of Joplin and OM and homemade bombs, a time costumed in buckskin and sandals and camouflage khaki and dashikis and saffron robes and miniskirts right up to the crotch, a darkly happy in-between time after the Pill and IUD had freed sex from fear of pregnancy and before AIDS hobbled it with the fear of death, a time when pot and rock ruled in Danang as well as San Francisco, a time luxurious in the many directions of its craziness, since the war and the counterculture and the moon shots were all fueled by an overflowing prosperity no longer with us—a historical time, after all, that in the long run will hold us united as the Civil War opponents are united in the silvery-gray precision of the daguerreotypes they posed for. What with Woodstock and Barbarella and The Joy of Sex and the choral nudity in Hair, there was a consciously retrieved Edenic innocence, a Blakeian triumph of the youthful human animal, along with napalm and defoliation. The Vietnam intervention almost shrinks to the big bad trip in an era of trips (“If you remember the 60's,” Robin Williams has quipped, “you weren't there”), but it discomfited me so much that I have avoided all of the movies about it, from the The Deer Hunter to Platoon, lest they revive my sense of shame, of a lethal stickiness, of a hot face and stammering tongue and a strange underdog rage about the whole sorry thing.

I recall sitting in my apartment in Berkeley listening to people cheering in the streets when Nixon finally surrendered to North Vietnam, and feeling satisfied. That leaves now a bitter taste in my mouth. But I did not come around in my thinking on this even during the 'Boat People' crisis; in fact, oddly, I remember hardly anyone connecting the Boat People to the surrender. I now wonder how much we are currently paying for that surrender.
I suspect I'll put some Updike books on my list.

Whose Stimulus Package

Typically sloppy CBC reporting - Heather Hiscox this morning refers to 'Barack Obama's Stimulus Package'.
As far as I know there are two stimulus packages under consideration. There is one from the House of Representatives, so manifestly and embarrassingly laden with pork that even the Senate realized it could not endorse it. There is a Senate package, which is largely the House package, stripped of some of the pork, but also stripped of most of the measures those economists who believe in a stimulus actually think would contribute to a stimulus.
I doubt either of these corresponds very closely to what Barack Obama's economic team would have produced.
There will be a third compromise package, likely combining the worst aspects of the existing two packages. And it will be implemented using stimulus logic.

Foxes Have Personalities Too

One of them notices something about the surface they are gamboling on; the other is puzzled.

Some of the greatest ideas are the simplest


Monday, February 09, 2009


SillyWife and I got home last night and changed our TV watching planning - we got caught up in the red carpet for the Grammys.
We have not watched this show for years! And we stuck to it until we fell asleep.
It did much for me - I was so surprised how good the show was. The writing was terrible - they should get the Oscar writers, BUT:
I LOVED the way they made collaborations of the weirdest company. Stevie Wonder and the Jonas Brothers! Taylor Swift and Miley Cyrus? Combinations I could not identify? Brilliant.
This is the material I normally hate and I loved almost everything they threw at me.
As the economy sinks I feel great about the world's entertainment.
My greatest disappointment - the fact is, I think the performances at the Grammys were live, and I think as a result a bit tinny. And the greatest discrepancy was the utterly beautiful "Viva la Vida", which haunted my fall vacation in Europe; as a CNN anchor said, this song has a wonderful smooth feeling that is utterly amazing.
A few years ago I felt dismissive about Coldplay.
A few years later 'Viva la Vida' makes me feel an utter fool. Surely one of the greatest songs of this so far young century.

Current Logic on the US Stimulus Package

1. We must do something.
2. This is something.
3. Hence, we must do this.
Aristotle, anybody?

Snow Day - the Horror

I lived one year about thirty years ago in Oxford, England. I recall one day of short-lived snow - some of it might have survived a day at the top of Shotover Hill. So I do understand the difficulties and reasonable (by my eastern Canadian standards) snowfall could visit on a location unprepared. (I also spent a day and a half watching San Antonio, Texas close down during what I thought of as a small sprinkling of snow.)
So this column by Victoria Coren seemed quite entertaining (h/t Flesh is Grass).
Every morning last week, we woke to see the landscape transformed: trees, fields, streets, cars all hidden under a thick, white blanket of rage.

Here's a smattering of the headlines that drifted our way. FURY OVER SCHOOL CLOSURES. FURY AS RUBBISH PILES UP. PARENTS PROTEST AS SCHOOLS SHUT AGAIN. And a seductive choice from my local gazette: WHERE ARE THE ROAD GRITTERS?


We could build a wonky snowman, fashion skis out of old tea-trays and clear spaces in the ice to leave birdseed. If you don't want to do that stuff with your children, why the hell did you bother having them? Was it only to give you something to complain about at dinner parties?

She reflects a little more broadly.
Because none of the other stuff really matters, properly, at all.

A six-inch overnight snowfall can teach the same lesson, but it's beautiful. It isn't any kind of tragedy that forces you to stop, just a dodgy transport service and a few closed schools. And, in the gap left by commuting-meeting-emailing-filing, you're staring at a wonderland, not phoning an undertaker.

If it takes an absent train-driver, road-gritter or schoolteacher to make you stop the carousel for a couple of days, you're a fool to be angry rather than grateful. Everything can wait, even maths tests. Hurray for learning that lesson while building a snowman! Don't wait for it to be something worse.

Of course here in snow-land there is a concept called 'Snow Day' There is even a movie based on the idea. On these days children prevail, school is closed, and the lives of the parents have to adapt even more. For all the impositions on people, it is a concept that is more light than dark. We are accustomed to being taken out of rhythm with some frequency each year.

Tanglefoot in Clinton

I had posted earlier on this being their farewell season, and to my delight John discovered they were performing in Clinton, Ontario, last weekend. SillyWife and I joined in at the attendance at the concert. I think John's assessment is spot-on, though I have somewhat different favorite songs. And to be fair about the sound, we were sitting about three pew rows behind a main speaker. Nonetheless I could always pick out the individual instruments in their amazing ensemble work. And I rarely had a problem understanding Al Parrish's lyrics, so there may be, as there too often are in these situations, issues of diction. In fact I found the two singers raised on church choir experience the easiest to understand.
I took a camera, but one disadvantage of the church venue was the lack of stage lighting, and the church lighting forced me to push the ISO to 3200, and we had not seated ourselves for photography, so I had to push the telephoto as far as possible. Out of this I got two semi-decent, if somewhat noisy, shots.
Al Parrish:

I had not seen Tanglefoot in some years. Partly I let my interest flag when Joe Grant left the group, but this was a mistake. His replacement does change the nature of the group somewhat, but also provides some amazing violin and viola playing, and a little more edge to the patter (being a woman). And here is Sandra Swannell:

They sounded pretty serious about breaking up. So I guess I can simply hope for their reunion tour.

Sunday, February 08, 2009

Jonah Lehrer on Colbert

It's a bit trivial but Lehrer holds up well to Colbert's style.
That link won't work if you're in Canada so you should go here.

My Biggest Laugh This Week

From the always entertaining xkcd:

This goes under the sidebar so click on it or, even, better, follow the link above where a mouseover on the cartoon also works.
And there is a wonderful exposition of how lovely this joke is from Language Log here.

Tuesday, February 03, 2009


Count on Steve Sailer to write something very interesting about the SuperBowl. Only as I watched the match this weekend with a brother did I notice how big Roethlisberger is, but I had had no idea of the other oddities in his path through life. My favorite bit of Sailer's ruminations is this:

Quarterback is turning into something of a caste. Now the quarterback at Clausen's old high school, Oaks Christian, is Nick Montana, whose dad is some guy named Joe. But don't worry, there's still hope for boys whose dads aren't NFL Hall-of-Fame QBs. It's said that the Oaks Christian second string QB next season will likely be Trevor Gretzky, the son of an immigrant.

Think of all the future Mannings!

Hoist on one's own Petard

I was one of the few Ontarians who actually had a lot of sympathy for Bob Rae when he was the premier of my province. So it is actually a lot of fun to read this today.
I must confess that while I did invest in an airplane company, save industrial towns, advance pay equity and spend heavily in housing and transit during my time as premier, it never occurred to me to pay people to sod their lawns, rebuild the docks at their summer cottages and pave their driveways.

With the impeccable sense of timing that has marked my career, my wife and I chose to renovate last year. But next spring we shall be joining millions of Canadians in saying “sod it.” And then sending you the bill.

Don't get me wrong. I am not sure it is a good thing in general to "save industrial towns" or "advance pay equity", or, in fact, do any of the things he credits himself with. But there is a turnabout here, and Rae has a right to rant. And that second paragraph above shows an entertaining sense of irony. In fact I too recently completed extensive renovations, unsubsidized by the current 'stimulus package'.
You have learned that deficits are not the product of the devil incarnate, but happen when there are recessions. You will regret that your every prior thought is in print.

Harper's MA Thesis is now being examined. It may provide us some entertainment as we proceed.

No Surprise to Me Here!

Smart businesses know mistreating employees is a bad idea. This is a fascinating experience report, and is certainly consistent with my impressions when I shop at Wal-Mart.
Why are unions so obsessed with Wal-Mart? I'm guessing that if the more-than-a-million Wal-Mart employees could be unionized, they would be compelled to contribute at least half a billion dollars per year in union dues.

There is much else that is good in the article.

Monday, February 02, 2009

Super Sport Sunday

What a glorious, if long, day.
Up at 3 am to watch the Australian Open. Long and not totally boring match, but Federer can surely play a lot better than this. I was very impressed at Nadal's ability to work through his physical problems, much as Verdasco did in the semifinal that helped create Nadal's problems.
Then at 2 pm the Ontario Women's Curling playdowns. I got to watch four ends blanked before I had to head to my next stop. It may not sound exciting to you but I am not sure I have EVER seen the opening four ends of a major match blanked.
And then, to the SuperBowl, a family party for the second straight year!
And what a great game!
Unfortunately we were watching in Canada, where the government props up local petty capitalists and denies us the REAL SuperBowl ads. Oh sorry - I should say - "the government defends Canadian culture". More precisely, the utter lack of same.
Of the ads I have managed to see, I do really like "I am a Budweiser Clydesdale", "I didn't know Daisy was dating", and's "If you hate going to work every day". The insects stealing the coke bottle was pretty good as well.