Monday, August 31, 2009

I Missed That Episode of Due South!

Too funny.

Note to Self - Here's Who to Boycott

Reminder why.
Grey Goose - costless - vodka all tastes thesame
Wendy's - not too costly - lots of substitutes
JVC - no problem - lots of other companies making similar gorp
RONA - Home Depot is fine
Coke - never touch the stuff
Touch of Grey - never touch the stuff
AXE Hair Goop - not a problem!
Montana's - rats, have to stop the weekly meals!
Arby's - have not eaten there in 20 years - this boycott is almost costless to me! - don;t even know what it is
Budweiser - don't drink it
IBM - I have no business so that should be easy
Advil - no sweat
Harvey's - I sure hope no McDonald's ad shows up

OK Who Is Shutting Me Down?

The US Tennis Open started today in earnest and I noticed that their web site has a wonderful facility - live coverage from some of the courts!
Well, maybe for you, but not for me. I get the usual heartbreaking message that this is not available where I live.
Why, I wonder? Is it part of the TSN rebroadcast contract?
For the moment, that is my assumption. So, of course, for the moment, provisionally, I will simply boycott all advertisers that show up on TSN's coverage for the foreseeable future.
There is a bit here of cutting off the nose to spite the face, but what could we do in such cases? And I imagine my planned advertiser boycott costs me nothing at all.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Barrett's Privateers

One of the great privileges of my job was the ability to visit many parts of Canada I would never have seen otherwise.
One night in Halifax I was stunned to witness college students in Halifax dancing to "Barrett's Privateers", an a capella sea shanty, something I am sure I would never see in Ontario (Upper Canada).
There is a delicious irony in that the song was written by a guy from Dundas, Ontario, about as deep into Upper Canada as one can get.
It turns out I can find the song, in a great version, on YouTube:

This video has another loveliness - Stan Rogers' younger brother looks so young! Garnet is a great performer and songwriter, and this is SO touching to see.

Ted Kennedy

I assume the hagiographies are largely over on TV, except maybe for the inane CNN.
My reactions have been roughly those reflected in this letter from Don Boudreaux.
I know almost none of the millions of people whose daily efforts make possible my life and that of countless other Americans. These people don’t hatch grand plans for arrogantly re-working society. They offer only to deal voluntarily with me and with others, never pretending – unlike Mr. Kennedy – to be endowed with a mysterious genius and a saintly inspiration justifying haughty intrusions into the affairs of others.
Politicians are mortals. But as their greedy lust for power and glory reveals, they are mortals especially flawed.

Ted Kennedy qua Senator has never been someone I could admire at all.
His son shows there was another side, the human in his home with his family. Thanks Ted Jr. for enriching my view of Ted Kennedy and providing a picture that has less to do with his power-hungry political behavior.

And of course none of this should allow anyone to forget Mary Jo Kopechne (and whether Ted Sr took Ted Jr to Chappaquidick Briodge as he took the kids to Civil War Battlefields and the like).
Afterword: (Yes some of this gets just silly - the notion of 'sacrifice', where power-hunger is what is at work, and the like. This is what he had in common with Republicans.)
Afterword II: Don Boudreaux strikes again. Maybe the hotel tips cover the difference!?


I giggled when I saw this in the South Keys in Ottawa.

Volleyball Nationals Part II

Some more pictures, as I did much better this year than the last time (better planning and thinking). Cordonier blocking Mondor, Broder poised to defend.

A Cordonier spike not, it seems, blocked by Mondor.

A spike by the amazing leaping Melanie, Broder in defensive posture.

Mondor blocking, not sure who is hitting.

Cordonier spikes.

I sure hope the sheer athleticism of the players shines through these photos.
Thanks players for a great match (Cordonier-Broder win a tough match in three sets).

As Far as my Eye Could See! Part I

Volleyball courts! It's the 2009 Canadian Beach Volleyball Nationals - Toronto weather chose not to cooperate but crowds of players still came.

As you can see it was cloudy, and it was also cool (under 20 degrees Centigrade). Nonetheless, the sport's rules make the attire of the players appealing.

With the ambience harmfully affected by the weather, I was not so committed as I was two years ago when the Nationals were held at Ashbridge's Bay last time. I attended only the Senior Women's Bronze Medal match, Tier 1. But really what a treat! It was BC's Cordonier-Broder against Quebec's Savoie-Mondor. Melanie Savoie initially seemed unfairly short, but her athleticism sure made up for that and erased that idea.

Meanwhile Liz Cordonier (purple shorts) and Marie-Christine Mondor were making good use of their height.

and with roles reversed

A little of Marie-Christine's power.


Saturday, August 29, 2009

A Brutal Disappointment

Things are turning around.
I investigated the CBC Sports site and discovered coverage of the Zuerich Golden League meet being available, and thought, rather naively, "Hey, I did not know these went two days, this is great!"
Of course it turns out that this is simply a link to what the CBC will broadcast today - I have already dismissed that garbage on my blog.
I will watch solely in the hopes there are a lot of pictures of the women's pole vault. (I do not aspire for pictures of Priscilla Lopes-Schliep, and I fear that is what I will get. Oh, and more, yawn, very long yawn, Usain Bolt.)

Wonders Are Not Ceasing

Not merely not an East African, a white guy runs under 13 minutes in the 5K! Go brother!

Friday, August 28, 2009

PM Harper - Please Double my contribution to the CBC

... so long as it goes with a continuing commitment from the CBC that they will keep negotiating the rights to stream and archive European coverage of the Grand Prix track and field meets in Europe (I am now watching the one from Zuerich).
A track and field fan like me would FAR RATHER have this, at whatever licensing cost you face, than the ludicrous highlight broadcast shows where some Canadian track stars analyze the 'highlights' (usually not my notion of same, and worse, you have some decathlete explaining a middle distance event, which is ludicrous beyond belief).
This current streaming model means we get truly expert European coverage, and a fairly comprehensive presentation of the event (though I am rather annoyed that this show started with Vlasic already having won her event).
If the CBC tells you they need more money, tell them that the first thing they should do is fix their web site so T&F fans like me no longer have to make wild guesses about which archived shows are which. Labeling that is useful would be really neat.

Reality the Year Their Teachers Were Born

Hans Rosling strikes again in a lovely way. And he is exactly right about how misinformed young people will systematically be.

Watch for that subject line. There are many people who would prefer to deny the progress, because it negates their narratives. Do not listen to them. Let Rosling's dataset change your mindset. No matter how much it wrecks your favorite notions about how the world is working.
He makes a fantastic point about the scheduling of social development versus economic development.
I love "We have a world which cannot be looked on as divided." Indeed!
His sense of history moves me greatly.
"And that doesn't come easily from the mouth of a Swedish public health professor." He is smart and funny. My sweet spot. And his humor makes the message so much more clear.
His most terrible phrase: "It will never affect a rich person".

I Know This Is Sensationalist

And after all, it is the Daily Mail, but it is funny.
The Met Office has caused a storm of controversy after it was revealed their £30million supercomputer designed to predict climate change is one of Britain's worst polluters.
The massive machine - the UK's most powerful computer with a whopping 15 million megabytes of memory - was installed in the Met Office's headquarters in Exeter, Devon.
It is capable of 1,000 billion calculations every second to feed data to 400 scientists and uses 1.2 megawatts of energy to run - enough to power more than 1,000 homes.

Count on the Daily Mail to make the story concrete to its readers:
It is the second time the Met Office has been criticised this year - after the machine famously helped predict a "BBQ summer" which turned out to be another wash-out.

Fortunately there is a computer performance benchmarking organization effectively rolling out benchmarks to help deal with power consumption.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Clive James on Honor Killing

h/t Norm
An excellent piece.
Apparently there is little to encourage fathers in these cases to the consideration that there might be loss of honour involved in murdering their helpless daughters.

It was news in Britain when, on 14 July 2006, in London, a gifted Pakistani girl (her name was Sumari) was slain by her father, brother and cousin. It needed all of them to do it, because apparently she had to be stabbed 18 times. Her crime had been to disobey them, and she died of the proof that they had been well worth disobeying. Taking it on the lam, the father — who, while thicker than any brick, had at least been smart enough to spot the lack of congruity between British law and his own beliefs — holed up in his land of origin, Pakistan, thus providing yet another statistic in one half of the two-way traffic whereby potential victims, if they are lucky, hide out in the West, whereas perpetrators flee the West to hide out in the East. That two-way traffic should surely be enough by itself to define the nature of the horrible cultural interchange, which is mainly a matter of our culture failing to provide sufficient protection against the consequences of theirs.

On the pathetic response of our Western societies:
No Minister of Community Cohesion has yet said that all communities would have a better chance of cohering with each other if those communities whose beliefs about honour were contrary to the law of the land could change them.

And what about community cohesion. The devil with it!
But surely, if moderate Islam is to hold its own against its extremist wings, then fraying, in that one respect at least, is exactly what the culture needs to do. There are more than a billion Muslims who are not engaged in jihad against the West, and not likely to be. We should try to remember just how few people are trying to kill us, even when they feel sorely provoked. But if the non-fanatical majority can't find a voice to condemn the few among their fellows who see nothing wrong with killing their own women for imaginary crimes, then they either condone that attitude or are afraid of those who hold it: either way, not a very encouraging start towards the more liberal Muslim future that we have been promised.

Wishing the feminists were more engaged:
We had also better believe that where men alone decide what women's rights are, the results are rarely good. Western liberal democracy, or a reasonable imitation of Western liberal democracy when it comes to the rule of law, is still the only kind of society we know about where women are not at the mercy of systematic injustice — that is, of justice conceived of and maintained as a weapon of terror. Where women are concerned, countries like Japan have climbed out of their dark histories to the exact extent that they have become Western-style liberal democracies, and no further. The same is true for the "Tiger" economies: the condition of women might have been ameliorated only because it has been thought expedient to subject theocratic pressures to the rule of law, but it doesn't matter why the law is there, as long as it is there. The rule of law does not guarantee justice, but there is no justice without it. It has been one of the sour amusements provided by our feminist movement in its modern phase to watch its proponents trying to blink this fact.

Honest bafflement:
At one point our feminists, getting frustrated as the pace slowed down in the home stretch to utopia, started telling us that other cultures (cultures practising clitoridectomy, for example) were more "authentic" in the respect of female sexual identity. A woman in Somalia, we were told, at least knows she is a woman. At one point, my friend Germaine Greer could be heard propounding this view, but she has a good heart, and perhaps found reason to dial back on her fervour after Ayaan Hirsi Ali, who has actually suffered a clitoridectomy in Somalia, pointed out that the practice, far from being a sign of authenticity, was a mechanism of repression. How Germaine Greer could ever, even momentarily, have thought anything different is a matter for study in a field that needs to be explored: the way Western intellectuals lose sight of elementary liberalism in the heat-haze of their own rhetoric.

There is much in his article that is about the more general silliness of the western left on third world issues.

The other crucial requirement, surely, is for the pampered intelligentsia of the West to give up finally and forever on any notion that the Third World — for all its deprivations and perhaps because of them — is some kind of Eden in which countervailing values against the excesses of the West may be found. What may be found is more often a heap of dead bodies.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

A Northrop-Frye-Themed Blog Hits the Air

The Educated Imagination is in action!
I think I once read a book by Northrop Frye; I can imagine I might do so again, and will surely use this blog as a tool in making that decision. A SillyBrother plays a role in this blog so it is worth a mention at the very least for that.

Prison Break

Warch out for the llamas!

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

IAAF World's Highlight - Go Berlino!

Thanks to technology, I was able to watch comprehensive TV coverage of the IAAF World Championships, not confined to the CBC's and US Networks' notions of what the 'highlights' were (notions that have essentially turned me totally off watching athletics in the last twenty years).
There were numerous wonderful moments for me, who have no interest in sprinting - top examples being the women's high jump showdown between the contrasting Friedrich and Vlasic and especially the amazing women's marathon.
But another highlight is discussed by the the Science of Sport guys, and hardly related to Science, though I agree a GREAT addition to sport! Once I would have been surprised at this German puckishness, but I know better now.

Blood Libel

There is something amazingly persistent about anti-Semitism. It does not even have to change its form. The Swedish newspaper Aftonbladet reported that maybe the IDF were harvesting organs from Palestinians (a minor variant of the classic blood libel). Of course this was all at second-hand.
Someone actually did some journalism (though the 'profession' seems no longer to care much about checking facts) to 'confirm' one specific case.

This is a story which started in 1144, with the disappearance of William of Norwich.
It isn’t going to die any time soon. Not in our lifetimes.


Monday, August 24, 2009

Charlie and the Hopeless Exit

"He never returned and his fate is still unlearned".
For some reason this song was bopping through my brain at the tennis tournament last week - there is NO logical reason.
And then I find Jeff Shalit has been thinking of it! There seems to me to be a growing pattern of Jeff hitting things that are on my mind in a strange way.
The story of Charlie is a fine one, and it could happen to any of us:

Climate Change Sanity!

These four videos are just excellent, h/t LGF

Start there and follow your nose to find the other three.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

How Do You Silence 80,000 People?

If you are Ariane Friedrich, and you are competing in the high jump at the IAAF World Championships in the Olympic Stadium in Berlin, you simply put your finger to your lips, and the whole stadium falls dead silent.
And then, when you have lost the event to Blanka Vlasic, and she takes some attempts at a world record height, and she asks for clapping and cheering, you join in and encourage the crowd to support her.
There are some great things in sport.

I Feel so Wealthy

Maybe not the way you might think.
When I was young, it was almost impossible, even on the next day, to find out the results of the sports that excited me.
As I write, I am watching a tennis match on my local cable TV whose result MIGHT have been in a local newspaper the next morning, but even more remarkably, I just watched Usain Bolt's latest amazing run, but am also able to follow the women's high jump final at the IAAF Athletics championship, by way of live video on my computer, thanks to the CBC. Moreover, anyone who is willing to pay a relatively nominal fee to the local cable company could get these services.
Today's possible experiences were utterly inconceivable to me as little as 20 or 30 years ago.
We are so rich.
And Ariane Friedrich makes her jump! Stunning how quiet she could make the tens of thousands of people become to support her, and wonderful how funny Ovett and crew again find it.

IAAF 200 - Bolt again

New world record of 19.19. Who is this unmasked man?
Steve Ovett and his companions laugh at the finish and Ovett loves "his confidence, his sense of fun". Yup!

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Wow - The World Moves Too Fast for Me

I got home from a day at the tennis tournament, popped on the great CBC streaming coverage of the IAAF Athletics World Championships, as archived, and was blown away by the utterly amazing great run by Caster Semenya in the 800 meters. I had not seen the like since seeing, my memory says, though I wonder how accurate it is, Kazankina, presumably on steroids (my memories of her remain generally positive), run under 1:55 at the Olympic Games in 1976. And I wondered, will I, if I live long enough, wonder some day if this run is so tainted? (And I guess the question indicates the answer.)
Turns it out it might come sooner.
The Science of Sport guys are all over it.
I have been quite silent on the issue, and will continue to do so because at this point, there is nothing but rumor to go on, with no confirmed (and independent) facts. In the days after her 1:56 time, it was widely reported/speculated that Semenya was born a hermaphrodite (having both male and female reproductive organs), and that she was cleared by testing done by Athletics South Africa (ASA). Both reports are unconfirmed, though I do trust my particular sources of that information.

I am not someone who thinks that sex (those in the humanities like the word 'gender', as it seem more fluid to them but I do not have any wish to use the word as other than a grammatical category) is totally fluid, but it is clear even biology is not delivering binaries here.
Actually if you go to the link, I do not mind their distinction between 'sex' and 'gender'.

First of all, the difference between sex and gender must be clarified. In most cases they are used interchangeably, but this is incorrect. Gender refers to how an individual portrays and perceives him or herself---for example male or female. It is more of a social construct than a biological one. Sex, on the other hand, is biological, and that is the essence of the debate in this case, whether or not Semenya is of male or female sex, not gender.

As pointed out as well, we simply do not know much right now. But this was an issue that HAD to arise somewhere in sports with sex-related categories.

Golf, The Olympics, and Etchics

Steve Sailer is spot-on right here and the NYT's ethicist looks like, well, what you would expect the NYT's ethicist to look like. As Sailer notes implicitly, all the 'ethicist' can think about is "Who? Whom?" and it makes his observations look very shallow compared to Sailer's two key points.
Of which one. Ethics? Give me a break!

Now, you might think that what would actually be most interesting from an ethical perspective about golf is that it's the most prominent sport in which players are required to referee themselves on the honor code. In 1984, I watched Arnold Palmer knock himself of contention on the next to last hole of the United States Senior Open by calling a penalty on himself that absolutely no one else saw or even could have seen. In sharp contrast, the culture of most other big time sports encourages players to cheat when the ref isn't looking.
The ethical issue for golf is whether it wants to lower itself to the level of the Olympics. I like the Olympics a lot, but their ethical history is a lot dodgier than golf's.

In spades!
And the next point is one that has crossed my mind many times when thinking about what sports could have ONE interesting championship every four years.
As for golf in the Olympics overall, well, it's kind of silly. The Olympics are good for minor sports that aren't widely interesting enough to hold public attention without the Olympics. Adding Tiger Woods to the Olympics is just going to distract from obscure athletes' single shots at momentary fame. Moreover, golf is not the kind of sport like the 100m dash that's deterministic enough to make one gold medal every four years interesting. Too much luck is involved, even more than in, say, tennis. Thus, golf holds 16 major championships ever four years. Woods is by far the best golfer ever, but he's lost 38 of the 52 major championships held since he turned pro. So, the idea of one gold medal in golf every four years is just ho-hum dumb.
Making the Olympics the global amateur golf championship makes a fair amount of sense, although not from a business standpoint since it would just be a low-key event like the Walker Cup. Of course, "The Ethicist" would blow a gasket because amateur golfers tend to be The Wrong Kind of People.

Quiz Question of the Week

...or perhaps some other frequency.
What University has a student residence named after a famous Canadian Communist, and even has this silly bust outside the residence building?

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Rogers Cup (women) - Day 1, Part 2 - the Canadians

A couple of Canadians were playing Monday and I of course had to see them (as I had never seen them before). I arrived on center court to find Stephanie Dubois, who sadly lost. She seems to have a lot of power and a not bad serve.

A qualifier, Heidi El Tabakh, had quite a forehand against Sam Stosur. I wanted to see this match as I had never heard of the lovely El Tabakh (person and tennis player) - here she is:

obviously able to throw herself into the action, and here is Stosur, who made such a mark at the French Open, and later:

Monday, August 17, 2009

Star Sightings - Someone Special

I love going to tennis tournaments because I think of seeing top players as seeing celebrities, who have earned in a way actors, say, have not. I saw a lot of great tennis players I wanted to see today but I also had another privilege.
During a very bad part of the day I decided to boogie back to the main stadium, and my attention was drawn to a blonde woman walking forcefully ahead of me - there were many people, blonde and otherwise, up there - she just seemed to have a special bounce.
I noticed that she was carrying a number of tournament towels, and thought, it is nice there are fans who will keep buying the merchandise. And then I noticed that she had a monstrous racket bag on her bag - it could hold 8 rackets easily, and I wondered where she had bought it (not that I need one).
Now this woman had enough basic charisma that I picked up my pace to see if I could figure out more about her, at a time when I had been flagging badly in the heat (I am of highly Northern European extraction).
Very quickly we came across the defining point - she wandered through the player gate, and I continued to recover from my ailments in the shade in a grandstand area. But as we separated, I realized - hey, they were not lying, Kim Clijsters is back!
Now I have seen her play here, so was not focused on this, but she has been a favorite for a long time. Yay!
And by the way, it is true, any photograph, and particularly television will hide how slim and lithe someone is.

A very useful and interesting web site

I think Ontarians who think they want to think about energy should visit this site daily - I am not up at that frequency.
It does something REALLY simple - track the province's electricity consumption, its sources, and display them.
Today I got home just before 7 pm and put my air conditioning on immediately on arrival - and this is the first time for me in two years. Fortunately, not a lot of other people seem to have.
I get a lot out of the information on this page. The leading sources of electricity are NOT carbon spitters, and the real leader is nuclear. We are a bit like France. We are lucky to have a lot of hydro. We are crap on anything else that is non-renewable, and that is normal too.
Where do we go? I do not know.
I spend some time in Europe, where some countries try to pretend they are nuclear-pure (i.e. we do not depend on that awful stuff), and almost surely import energy from countries that do not engage in that silliness.
It is hard for me to believe that this can continue, unless their politicians can generate enough wind to make up the difference.

Rogers Cup (women) - Day 1, Part 1

Well, Day 1 after the qualifying.
I decided, in my new 'time is cheap' mode to attend, perhaps not factoring in the effects on me of the heat which started a couple of days ago, and to which I exposed myself close to the edge (for me) on Saturday.
My objectives: one was to use the fact that it was early rounds and so many courts would be played, I could wander around, and see the actual embodiments of the players that so entertain me on TV; another was to see a couple of really fine matches, as probability suggested to me there would be, as there are so many matches in the first round. SillyWife and I, as I explained to a volunteer, have been regular attendees to this tournament from long before when Andre Agassi had Brooke Shields come along with him, but we have attended the quarter-finals only, for a long time afternoon and evening sessions, but for many years now, only afternoon sessions. I will blog some more about some of this later - there are interesting economic issues. I think I have miscalculated my utility functions.
But on to the day!
So I started off with a match between Ai Sugiyama (can I ask that you just Google them all and I not provide links?).
I have seen her play many times and remain impressed at her athleticism, though it is unclear to me her body weight is moving forward:

Those looking at the pictures closely and reading my blog equally closely will realize I have had a previous encounter with Ms. Benesova (Sharapova's somewhat unknown opponent).
Here she is today.

Now serving is not everything and I plan to post many more times on Day One, and in fact Sugiyama wins, though I find it amazing how hard that is to learn from the tournament Web site. More pictures to come!

I Did Survive Sunday

Though I knew it would be hard.
In order the day featured a nice long morning walk before things got too hot (summer has arrived!), that allowed us our study of the herons.
I made it through the morning political shows I watch, without Stephanopoulos, and with Chris Wallace, but with Carville and Matalin, as SillyWife and I speculated on that marriage. I suspect they have an answer to the question on the normblog profile about being able to have a relationship with someone who held some strongly different political opinion.
And then it really got tough.
Usain Bolt did it again, putting on quite a show (you don't need a link - though you should read a report about by how much he busted the existing event record). But as I watched the race, I had some thoughts and feelings that I noted reflected in some other blogs later; in particular, I was very taken by the performance of Tyson Gay, whom I had barely really previously registered. All through the previous rounds, the coverage I watched suggested he was injured and not up to the task. And what a run he had! And he said it himself, there was just a better guy out there, but he also thanked the better guy for showing him how far things could go. Weldon Johnson summarizes nicely and also points to the Science of Sport guys to read more (and if this sort of thing interests you you should).
Shortly after that, Andy Murray wore Del Potro out to win the Rogers Cup ATP tournament. I am hoping Del Potro rests a bit before the US Open, so he can repeat the French Open 'exciting and draining' (for his senior spectators) experience. I hope all these guys will be at their peak then. And this is not to suggest I would not like to see Andy Murray win - he played a fine match.
And at last, in the end, the PGA offered up the unprecedented in many ways, an Asian-born winner of a golf major (one must phrase this carefully, as Tiger is arguably primarily of ethnic Asian origin), and a final round of a golf major in which Tiger yields a lead to lose.
What a day!
Of course there was more but I cannot bore people with all of that - just with this.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

It's All Too Much For Me

A commenter on the previous post asks about my silence on the PGA Championship this weekend, so far utterly dominated, with occasional outbursts of comparability from some of the other players, by Tiger Woods. Now I am afraid the only hole I saw played on Saturday was the 18th, and earlier in the week much of my attention was caught up in the Rogers Cup tennis, where some very fine matches were played, with Tsonga defeating Federer on Friday, and Del Potro beating Roddick (thanks, Andy, for yet another great losing effort) last night. So even this afternoon's focus on the PGA will be compromised, as I have yet to see Murray this week, and must watch his final against Del Potro.
To add to all this, CBC is streaming live video feed (quite watchable, and the UK feed, so with better commentary than real CBC coverage would provide) of the IAAF World Athletics Championships.
When it's all back down just to golf again late today, I may summon up some words, especially if the unprecedented happens and Woods does not win.

Another Vote for Lisbeth Salander

Reuben Moore read them both (which I was told to do, but now it is too late for me to do it in order - I can see that reading the second first could affect one's reaction to the first).
No, Lisbeth Salander is not for the faint of heart. The title for the first book, Män som hatar kvinnor, is Swedish for Men Who Hate Women. Perhaps the publisher wanted to tone down the title, if not the story, for the English-speaking audience. The Swedish title of the second book, Flickan som lekte med elden, was not changed in translation. However, late in that book, the author describes the embattled Salander as, "the woman who hated men who hate women,"* clearly a reference to the original title of the preceeding book. Make no mistake, Larsson's ultra-contemporary trilogy is all about their war.

Herons on the Hunt

Thames River by Gibbons Park, London, Ontario, Aug. 16, 2009, around 8:30am

An Excellent Article on Health Care

David Goldhill in The Atlantic has an excellent article on the ills of the 'health care' system.
He addresses very early a question I have posed a couple of times - "Why be so fussed about rising costs in the system; Is that necessarily so bad?"
And he answers that it is bad because it is currently driven by the fact that people in general are not making decisions to spend their own money:

Modern group health insurance was introduced in 1929, and employer-based insurance began to blossom during World War II, when wage freezes prompted employers to expand other benefits as a way of attracting workers. Still, as late as 1954, only a minority of Americans had health insurance. That’s when Congress passed a law making employer contributions to employee health plans tax-deductible without making the resulting benefits taxable to employees. This seemingly minor tax benefit not only encouraged the spread of catastrophic insurance, but had the accidental effect of making employer-funded health insurance the most affordable option (after taxes) for financing pretty much any type of health care. There was nothing natural or inevitable about the way our system developed: employer-based, comprehensive insurance crowded out alternative methods of paying for health-care expenses only because of a poorly considered tax benefit passed half a century ago.
In designing Medicare and Medicaid in 1965, the government essentially adopted this comprehensive-insurance model for its own spending, and by the next year had enrolled nearly 12 percent of the population. And it is no coinci­dence that the great inflation in health-care costs began soon after. We all believe we need comprehensive health insurance because the cost of care—even routine care—appears too high to bear on our own. But the use of insurance to fund virtually all care is itself a major cause of health care’s high expense.


Want further evidence of moral hazard? The average insured American and the average uninsured American spend very similar amounts of their own money on health care each year—$654 and $583, respectively. But they spend wildly different amounts of other people’s money—$3,809 and $1,103, respectively.

Canada's government system started out largely covering catastrophic expenses, but crept into a form of comprehensive insurance, and I agree with Goldhill that this is the source of much of the system's problem (ours, like that in the US).
On cost control, something I do not see addressed realistically in any of the US proposals:
Cost control is a feature of decentralized, competitive markets, not of centralized bureaucracy—a matter of incentives, not mandates. What’s more, cost control is dynamic. Even the simplest business faces constant variation in its costs for labor, facilities, and capital; to compete, management must react quickly, efficiently, and, most often, prospectively. By contrast, government bureaucracies set regulations and reimbursement rates through carefully evaluated and broadly applied rules. These bureaucracies first must notice market changes and resource misallocations, and then (sometimes subject to political considerations) issue additional regulations or change reimbursement rates to address each problem retrospectively.

And as for the idea that the various single payer systems succeed so well at this:
Whatever their histories, nearly all developed countries are now struggling with rapidly rising health-care costs, including those with single-payer systems. From 2000 to 2005, per capita health-care spending in Canada grew by 33 percent, in France by 37 percent, in the U.K. by 47 percent—all comparable to the 40 percent growth experienced by the U.S. in that period. Cost control by way of bureaucratic price controls has its limits.

There is a reason a good deal of the medical industry is not opposed to the currrent Democratic direction:
In competitive markets, high profits serve an important social purpose: encouraging capital to flow to the production of a service not adequately supplied. But as long as our government shovels ever-greater resources into health care with one hand, while with the other restricting competition that would ensure those resources are used efficiently, sustained high profits will be the rule.

By the way, one dumb notion many people have is that the uninsured cannot get treatment; of course this comes at a price:
Hospitals are indeed required to provide emergency care to any walk-in patient, and this obligation is a meaningful public service. But how do we know whether the charitable benefit from this requirement justifies the social cost of expensive hospital care and poor quality? We don’t know. Our system of health-care law and regulation has so distorted the functioning of the market that it’s impossible to measure the social costs and benefits of maintaining hospitals’ prominence. And again, the distortions caused by a reluctance to pay directly for health care—in this case, emergency medicine for the poor—are in large part to blame.

In the end he proposes a combination of catastrophic insurance and HSAs, which is actually what my employer is providing me in retirement (modestly, as the government already provides me a comprehensive plan).
What seems likely to happen is a costly series of band-aids to add to the previous errors in taxation, and a past accretion of band-aids in the past that played whack-a-mole with the various symptoms that popped out of the system created largely by failed regulations that distorted any hope for cost discipline.
Goldhill early makes the point that health, medical care, and health insurance are quite different things. Amen.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Mungo Enjoys the German Election Campaign

Silly but fun. She didn't approve.

The Intrusive Squirrel

I am hoping still that the original is not a Photoshop. But the Photoshops sure are amusing.

Not the World's Greatest Listener

I'll say!

P.S. Fiction but fun

Thanks, Philly

I want Michael Vick back. I hope he comes back to what he was. He was utterly amazing! I won't ever forget the fun of watching his utter excellence on the field.

I hope Philly can rebuild him. I hope he is repenting of his vices as he says he is.

We Could Turn those Snow Shovels into Lawn Chairs


For No Other Reason than Because We Were Curious

There is sure a lot of stuff out there!


Lucky? Not four women killed in Kingston

Jonathan Gatehouse writes, I think ominously, on Canada's ability to contain the practice of 'honor murder', and I guess the quotation marks in the headline of the article point to the ominousness.
The twin currents of fundamentalism and identity politics are strengthening all over the globe, says Wikan, making true integration of immigrants more and more difficult. But at the same time, she rejects the notion that there are fundamental incompatibilities between societies, or a need to proscribe immigration from certain countries. “Honour killings are a matter of tradition more than religion,” she says. “And tradition can be changed. We have to take hope.”

Well, religions can be changed, too, and in my view they all should be. (It has been very satisfying to watch the Christian hegemony I gew up in the midst of vanish here; we don't want any other goofy beliefs replacing that one.) Certainly neither tradition nor religion should be used to justify the murder of Aqsa Parvez nor the four women in Kingston, and our legal system should try to get well ahead of the curve on this challenge.
In the end, I suspect what he describes is what will happen; we'll have some more instances and then get sensible and start worrying more about the problem.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Busker Economics

I have long enjoyed being a free rider on the efforts of buskers, most recently in Quebec City, watching the major derring-do of what looked like ex-gymnasts, but over my life in many places. One of my favorite spots is Covent Garden, but Toronto's Harbourfront often features great shows, and I can think of few cities I have been in where busking has not provided me enormous pleasure.
I think it was at Covent Garden one day, watching what looked like some moderately regimented succession of performers, that I began to wonder what the rules were. Were I there today, I would undoubtedly ask one of the performers, after having uncharacteristically left some money.
CBC's online news today reports that Ottawa is introducing some degree of bureaucratic regulation (and, of course, new fees) to the process in the Byward Market (which seems to me would be a fine place to busk).
The buskers seem to have different opinions.

From her music stand in the market Wednesday, violinist Cheryl Fitzpatrick said she thinks the rules are fair.
"It will regulate the musicianship," she said. "Also, give other people a chance so that somebody doesn't monopolize a corner all day."

But some clearly think that spontaneous self-regulation has been pretty effective:

But flutist Thomas Brawn said buskers respect each other's space and already do a good job of regulating themselves.
"Some bureaucrat's idea of controlling something is to put a fee on it," he said. " I've been improving their market for 30 years. They should be paying me."

I was a bit puzzled by this:

Sisters Madeleine and Ella Hopwood serenaded passers-by with the harmonies of their flute and cello. They come from Victoria, B.C., each year to play in Ottawa, where their father lives, during the summer.
"It's basically our summer job," Madeleine Hopwood said.
The permit fee might be out of their budget and could stop them from playing in the market next year, she added, as they take in quite a bit of money some weekends, but don't do well on others.
"It's a real chancy thing, so I don't think it would be worth it."
Her sister said a similar permit in Victoria costs only $10 for the whole summer.

Ottawa is asking $100 rather than Victoria's $10. But two sisters can travel from Victoria to Toronto (surely not for nothing) and are daunted by a $90 difference (though maybe if they stay with Dad and he pays the travel costs it makes more sense).
A search for 'busker' on the City of Toronto web site turns up an application form, mentioning no fee, and addressing implicitly another question I had.
That question was whether rules would be different in different spots. And the Ottawa case is an instance - they seem concerned only with Byward Market. In London, there could be a difference between Covent Garden, which has two really prime spots, and the South Bank, where the busking is a little less exciting and there is a lot of space for it. The Toronto application clearly makes the corner of Yonge and Dundas, where the Eaton Centre is, a special case.
I must become more curious about how this all works out.

The New Balls Canard

Sports commentators have remarkable confidence in some of their assertions (almost like business reporters). During today's coverage of the Rogers Cup Verdasco-Roddick match, the fact that Roddick is serving with new balls is cited as a great advantage.
I recall Paul Kedrovsky blogging about this, as I have often wondered about it.

The funny thing is, that seemingly isn't true. According to Wimbledon data analyzed by a pair of economists with a fondness for tennis arcana, first serve points are no more likely with new tennis balls than old ones. If anything, double-faults are more likely, implying it may be better to serve using older balls than newer ones.

If this were funny, it would be funny

Yale University Press makes itself a laughingstock.
The comedy comes partly from the pusillanimity of the decision, but also from the laughable process leading to their decision.

Labels: , ,

Kate gives me a Laugh

Indeed this appalling nonsense might be the way to solve the shortage of primary care physicians!

More Squirrel Terrorism

Reported by the Telegraph!
Mrs Brandts said: "We had our camera set up on some rocks and were getting ready to take the picture when this curious little ground squirrel appeared, became intrigued with the sound of the focusing camera and popped right into our shot."

UPDATE: I have been hoping that this will not prove to be Photoshop exercise. I like the story. But the Photoshop exercises here are too funny.

Keith Hennessey on Obama's Health Insurance Townhall

In a series of posts, Keith Hennessey looks at Obama's claims and finds them at best a tad misleading. (The link is to the last of a series of posts, and it links to all the others.)
In the midst of all the hysteria there is a fascinating debate going on, and the Web is offering us all a lot of opportunity to follow (and contribute).
Another good post - Tyler Cowen on ALS and a few single-payer systems.
UPDATE: All in one post here

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

A Lovely Sad John Hughes Reminiscence from Molly

Published oddly as an op-ed in the NYTimes.
About 15 years ago, I wrote John from Paris, where I was living, to tell him how important he was to me. I had been on a François Truffaut kick and had just watched the series of “Antoine Doinel” films that he had made with the actor Jean-Pierre Léaud. There was something in the connection of actor and director that I recognized in us, particularly in the first film of the series, “400 Blows.”
After Truffaut died, I heard that Jean-Pierre Léaud had suffered a kind of breakdown, going so far as to drop flower pots on people from high-storied buildings. This is most likely a rumor, French film lore, but I think I now understand how painful it is to lose someone like that. John was my Truffaut. A week after I sent my letter, I received a bouquet of flowers as big as my apartment from John, thanking me for writing. I was so relieved to know that I had gotten through to him, and I feel grateful now for that sense of closure.

John was her Truffaut in just that sense.
I wish they could all have made more of the following years. I think she diminishes his later films (of course, she was not in them) in ways I do not buy.
But he made her a star and rightly; she was one. What she did with what he gave her was her concern in the end.
She sounds pretty happy - not every actress expects more than what she got.

Ridiculous Requirements for Knowledge

I filled in a questionnaire today and it asked what my favorite ad was. I demurred, but Rogers Cable has an entertaining one where the tech service rep shares a ton of bafflegab with the father of a family as he sets up their Internet and Cable TV Connection, including Wireless.
It is slightly funny, but it is also painful. The technician lets the father appear knowledgeable and the father defends himself. (If the ad is on youtube, please point to it in a comment.)
But it strikes me that now the industry I worked in is almost delivering products that shipped.
I have been a customer for over 15 years and it has rarely been pretty; we started with DIP switches on dialup modems, and then the cable modems were not a lot better and needed frequent rebooting, and then the Wireless Routers needed firmware upgrades and often complicated settings.
I was part of this problem (working in software) and I still found myself struggling with this garbage as a customer for days for myself, and often the same for friends.
Now the thing is once you got it going it was REALLY worth it so this crap had its value.
What I love right now is it seems things are almost OK - we need occasional reboots of various devices (which SHOULD be shameful) but laypeople, once informed they occasionally simply have to turn everything off and on again, should now be able to get their networks going, with some small amount of documentation (not the four screens of settings and experiments once needed).
I am hopeful that soon someone can just buy a computer, answer a couple of menu questions, and have a system doing what he or she expected right away.
This has been hard to achieve because of stunning technological advancements that challenge any attempts at standardization, and that is what creates this problem.
I think we now have a US Administration that is ready to try to stop advance and guarantee a lowest common denominator for a long time (which is what we had in the ATT/Bell monopoly). It won't be easy but the president seems oriented that way, except for making sure his Blackberry works (as it does today).
I am not sure how I feel about this. I personally prefer the complexity but I have never liked how it favored those of us who loved to guess and experiment.

This is Dumb - Merkel is Not

MacLeans' brings us hot news that Angela Merkel has caught major attention.
Well, but not so obviously inside Germany.
At least, as the article linked to above reports.
So I can see it outside Germany. One of the reason I like visits to Germanic lands is that the women seem rather ready to advertise some assets, far more so than back here, though of course we get other displays.
But get a grip gang! Angela Merkel is one of the most serious leaders in the West. She led opposition in the old East Germany, is a trained scientist, did the united Germany the great service of finessing Gerhard Schroeder from office. She is no Johnny-come-lately like our Harper, the US's Obama (whichever sex you want to rave about), any Clinton, or Gordon Brown. I'd say to the Western press - get back to your own leaders.
She has to lead the most key economy in Europe; time will tell whether her somewhat different judgments about what needs to be done will be shown to be wrong.
But it won't be on the basis of her neckline or her sartorial flair. I'd say let her have her fun with that!
Hey by the way! What does her husband look like? Do you have ANY idea? I bet you don't unless you have been following blogs with an incredible attention to detail. Now that is what I call class in a politician. It's pretty much lacking in the rest of the peacock West.

Camille Paglia Saves me lots of Thinking

I was struggling because there is so much wrong in the US healthcare debate, and she actually summarizes much of it nicely.
Getting health care right is hard, and I know no national system that I think is deserving of serving as other than a cautionary model.
But it has been somewhat like watching a sitcom watching the Democrats, nominally completely in charge of the whole process, losing their grip on selling the healthcare debate.
Camille Paglia frustratedly puts it at the feet of the President, and I think she is largely right and picks out very nicely all the ham-fisted behaviors from him and his staff.
But who would have thought that the sober, deliberative Barack Obama would have nothing to propose but vague and slippery promises -- or that he would so easily cede the leadership clout of the executive branch to a chaotic, rapacious, solipsistic Congress? House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, whom I used to admire for her smooth aplomb under pressure, has clearly gone off the deep end with her bizarre rants about legitimate town-hall protests by American citizens. She is doing grievous damage to the party and should immediately step down.
There is plenty of blame to go around. Obama's aggressive endorsement of a healthcare plan that does not even exist yet, except in five competing, fluctuating drafts, makes Washington seem like Cloud Cuckoo Land. The president is promoting the most colossal, brazen bait-and-switch operation since the Bush administration snookered the country into invading Iraq with apocalyptic visions of mushroom clouds over American cities.
And why such an abject failure by the Obama administration to present the issues to the public in a rational, detailed, informational way? The U.S. is gigantic; many of our states are bigger than whole European nations. The bureaucracy required to institute and manage a nationalized health system here would be Byzantine beyond belief and would vampirically absorb whatever savings Obama thinks could be made. And the transition period would be a nightmare of red tape and mammoth screw-ups, which we can ill afford with a faltering economy.
As with the massive boondoggle of the stimulus package, which Obama foolishly let Congress turn into a pork rut, too much has been attempted all at once; focused, targeted initiatives would, instead, have won wide public support. How is it possible that Democrats, through their own clumsiness and arrogance, have sabotaged healthcare reform yet again? Blaming obstructionist Republicans is nonsensical because Democrats control all three branches of government. It isn't conservative rumors or lies that are stopping healthcare legislation; it's the justifiable alarm of an electorate that has been cut out of the loop and is watching its representatives construct a tangled labyrinth for others but not for themselves. No, the airheads of Congress will keep their own plush healthcare plan -- it's the rest of us guinea pigs who will be thrown to the wolves.

Sure, the pork-ridden Congress has proven prone to the inability to write clean legislation without the adumbration of all sorts of special-interest provisioning, or in fact to get down to one comprehensible effort at writing legislation at all. And now the Democrats defend their efforts on the grounds that there is no clear draft legislation! Which is not quite true - they have been sloppy enough making progress on some efforts to allow opponents to focus on some text, and generate perfectly understandable concerns about that text.
And for all his coolness, Obama has done quite a bit rhetorically to fan the flames.
Originally this was to be all about controlling cost (though he had said in the campaign that he wanted a single-payer system, whatever that means). And why is controlling cost vital? If people want to throw all the money they have to the medical system to keep them active and kicking, why would Obama would to stop that?
And then there is granny. His big defence yesterday in his townhall was that no, the current proposals do not include the government bumping off your grandma or refusing to treat her. But on the other hand, it was he who many months ago ruminated on the value of his own grandmother's hip replacement in the last year of her life, as I assume he was picking examples of 'waste' in the system. Which, I guess he thinks, could have been foreseen by a prescient bureaucrat.
He is not on message here because he does not have a clear message. I think that is because the White House has just ceded this to the Congressional leadership, now clearly a terribly rookie error.
And then as well, there is the deep confusion of what the goal is. And this is part of another point of Pagila's.
I just don't get it. Why the insane rush to pass a bill, any bill, in three weeks?

Actually three weeks might be good for getting at some simple target.
The current system here in Canada took YEARS to get into its current shape; I have mixed feelings about it, as it has personally so far served me well, though not SillyWife at a time when we resorted to use connections to obviate some waiting periods (which I actually think is more disgusting than using money, but I understand differences).
The original bills in the '60s established more or less catastrophic coverage for hospital stays, and did relieve many of the fear of sudden uncontrolled costs. It took many sessions of Parliament for the system to creep to its current state, and heaven knows, there are still those clowns who want to nationalize provisioning, not just the final billing.
In the end this is almost as much fun to watch as Hillary's effort back in the '90s. It is unclear to me yet whether this is more or yet competent.
Oh and Paglia is spot on on one other point.

The ethical collapse of the left was nowhere more evident than in the near total silence of liberal media and Web sites at the Obama administration's outrageous solicitation to private citizens to report unacceptable "casual conversations" to the White House. If Republicans had done this, there would have been an angry explosion by Democrats from coast to coast. I was stunned at the failure of liberals to see the blatant totalitarianism in this incident, which the president should have immediately denounced. His failure to do so implicates him in it.

Distracted Driving

h/t Jose M. Guardia

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Great Movies about Lingusitics

TMC is running My Fair Lady tonight.
I had forgotten the degree to which Zoltan Kaparthy is a shyster Eastern European. How old is this stereotype? Usually they are aged according to certain validity.
"There's a language expert here, a sort of imposterologist." Well the way you come to be an expert is to be one yourself.
"I can tell that she was born Hungarian." (In the saddest scene in the movie, as credit is misapplied).

The Obama White House

... does its usual asinine vain thing and Keith Hennessey has some fun.
I write in response to the request posted on the White house blog, “Facts are stubborn things.”
"If you get an email or see something on the web about health insurance reform that seems fishy, send it to ."
I call to your attention several fishy statements about health care reform legislation made by a gentleman named Dr. Douglas Elmendorf. He claims to be Director of the “Congressional Budget Office” and has posted frequently about health care reform on his website, This information takes the form of personal posts on his Director’s Blog, as well as in-depth reports that have the veneer of competent, thorough, impartial professional analysis. The IP address of his site is, and his organization has named their hideout the “Ford House Office Building.”

Always Use a Shorter Word

At least if you do not want to discredit yourself right away.
Nancy Lemon, a Berkeley Law Prof, does herself no favor in responding to Christina Hoff Sommers' essay, Persistent Myths in Feminist Scholarship. She'd likely have been better off settling happily for the fact that Sommers did not put "Scholarship" in quotation marks.
Instead she wades into it with:

Sommers first contacted me by e-mail on February 21, 2009, and told me she had been traveling around the United States criticizing me and my textbook. The timing of her e-mail message was fortuitous, as I was working on the final edits of the most recent edition.

I suspect the timing was in fact fortuitous, though that is clearly not what Lemon means, as the context makes clear, at least to those of us who remember when it was not a substitute for 'fortunate'. A linguist descriptivist like me might agree that the two words are now synonyms in relatively poorly-educated circles, but the usage here is entertaining to me, as someone has used a somewhat complicated word to describe a simple notion, a temptation those wanting to sound learned lean to. Why say the timing was 'good' when a really long and not-often-used word is available? Well, because then you might write what you meant.
Now I will confess that I almost quit reading Lemon at that point, but am glad I went past this obstacle, allowing me to hit this passage:
she asserted that Romulus of Rome, who is credited in my book with being involved with the first antidomestic-violence legislation, could not have done this as he was merely a legendary, fictional character, who along with his brother Remus was suckled by a wolf.
In fact, Plutarch and Livy each state that Romulus was the first king of Rome. He reigned from 753-717 BC, and created both the Roman Legions and the Roman Senate. He is also credited with adding large amounts of territory and people to the dominion of Rome, including the Sabine women.

Enough said, I think. That settles it for sure. Along with the wolf mother, no doubt. Ahh the pleasures of the academic life. Sommers gets a chance to respond and it is not pretty.
As she puts it:
Essentially everything in Professor Lemon's response is wrong.

A law prof at Berkeley?

Monday, August 10, 2009

The Corvid Mind

I'm not really surprised; I recall being impressed by crows as a child, but the link to Aesop is fun.
Four different rooks, called Cook, Fry, Connelly and Monroe, quickly discovered that they could raise the water level in a transparent container by adding stones, just like the mythical crow in the fable, which illustrates the virtue of ingenuity and how necessity is the mother of invention.

The comments at the link are very entertaining further anecdotal evidence of the wit of corvids.
And there is also this fine book by one of the great nature writers of our time.

h/t Andrew Sullivan


My neighbor apparently sent a note to the city, explaining that the maple in front of my house was likely to lose branches, and possibly damage my car. A few days ago, I saw a woodpecker visiting the tree, a hint that he might be making some sense (I have never seen a woodpecker in this part of town). This morning he became a prophet!

Fortunately, and to my amazement, there are no scratches on the back of the car (that were not there the day before).

Sunday, August 09, 2009

Unnecessarily tense

CBS assemble quite an entertaining crew of broadcasters for its golf coverage, and they are so lucky today, in that Tiger Woods and Padraig Harrington are engaged in a major duel; Harrington started the day three strokes up, was two down a while ago, and is one up on 16 but all hell is breaking loose, as Tiger has just made a truly amazing show (yawn? 182 yard 8-iron, no margin for error against water and within a few feet - and Tiger has made all but one putt within 10 feet this tournament) and Harrington screwed one up.
It is hard to find more fun than this!
UPDATE: Harrington goes into the water. This is over just as it really got engaging.
UPDATE: Did Faldo just say "One man flated and another man deflated"? This is why I love sports broadcasters!
In the end, though, as Harrington's miscues take command of the story, one should focus on the amazing 180-yard shot from Woods that made Harrington have to take some risks.
UPDATE: Tiger will win this and it will be 70 wins at the age of 33. I am so privileged to live in his time.
UPDATE: That approach on 18! Wow.

Saturday, August 08, 2009

One Roller-Coaster-Ride is Done

Well that was one fine trip.
The last 100 pages were an unending collection of dropping shoes (many no doubt from the first book, explaining the comment of my car-dealership-service-room-waiting neighbor).
All that Larsson had built got to explode in the last 100-odd pages, leaving me laughing and unable to drop the book. Amusingly, I noticed two references to roller-coasters in those last 100 pages, one as Lisbeth is on the stolen Harley, and one as she is simply looking at an amusement park, and I am sure it is no accident on Larsson's part.
The novel requires quite a bit of suspension of disbelief (mostly for me on Lisbeth's rather mythic hacking skills, though the idea that she so handily beats up the two Hell's Angels guys is also some stretch), but it pays back for that so nicely.
Tarantino? Well, maybe the lurid aspects are what makes the stories fun. I would want to watch.
Brad Pitt as Blomkvist? Sure, might work.
But who can possibly play Lisbeth Salander? Might Jorja Fox come back (though perhaps not quite age-appropriate)?

Friday, August 07, 2009

Oh No - Not Stieg Larsson Too!

He is dead ludicrously early of a heart attack. There is a hint of a third Lisbeth Sander novel, and I look forward to it, and would love to find the first.
All I know is that the second is utterly stunning.
I feel SO bad that this author will write no more.
UPDATE: I feel devastated that Lisbeth Salander has run her course.

The Girl Who Played With Fire

As part of a buy one get the next one cheaper at HEathrow on my way home last week I bought this Stieg Larsson noveL, and again let me say Wow!
A protagonist as contrary as one could ever imagine, and a VERY LARGE collection of background characters, all fleshed out to a degree unprecedented in my crime novel experience.
I am 70% through the book, cannot put it down, and look forward to Lisbeth Sander aging in even more interesting ways - after all, I have about 35 years lead on her, so she has a lot to offer me yet!
And yesterday, noticing that the guy next to me waiting for his car to be serviced was reading the same book, I was told it makes no sense to read this second book of the series without reading the first. I will hope that was not correct. I am having a great time and that seems evidence to me.
These Scandinavians and their crime novelists! I look back so fondly on Per Wahloo and Mai Sjowall.

Why I Read Brad De Long every day I can

One standard I apply pretty rigorously is my expectation that someone will admit when he is/was wrong; it is not a widely distributed quality, but Brad has it in spades. Moreover, he adds a gentle humor to the invariable admissions.
A truly fine example is this lovely sentence:

(Indeed, I have a half-finished paper that will now never, ever be finished on how Mussa was wrong.)

from this post,
titled with his usual combination of arrogance and cantankerousness,
Why Oh Why Can't We Have Better Nobel Laureates in Economics
He is forced to start off pointing out that there were many Cassandras regarding the current economic crisis, but that he is one of many who has to apologize to Cassandra.

Toronto Government Blather

I signed up to receiving media e-mails from the City of Toronto government during the recent strike, largely to plan the next disposal of a garbage bag.
I am getting a treat far beyond anything I could have hoped for.
Today I was notified by e-mail that the City of Toronto is marking Ecuador's Independence Day next Monday. Well, that is REALLY good news! I am pleased we have the resources to do that, on top of the resources to pay overtime to our lovely CUPE locals for cleaning up the garbage they did not clean up during their strike. We have a very wise mayor.
And his staff treats me as well to this revealing bit of government-babble:
Toronto is Canada's largest city and sixth largest government, and home to a diverse population of about 2.6 million people. It is the economic engine of Canada and one of the greenest and most creative cities in North America. Toronto has won numerous awards for quality, innovation and efficiency in delivering public services. 2009 marks the 175th anniversary of Toronto's incorporation as a city. Toronto's government is dedicated to prosperity, opportunity and liveability for all its residents.

Hmmm - let us read this carefully.
Toronto is Canada's largest city

and sixth largest government

Bafflegab and self-importance alarm has gone off big time. Sure, if you are a media person for City Hall, you likely think Toronto IS its government. That is false, and I am delighted it is false; the government contributes, and damages, this great city, which is so far more than our clown mayor and his minions, even if the minions do not see the distinction.
home to a diverse population of about 2.6 million people

You betcha, but of course it is really a lot more people, but these minions are counting only those in the administrative area of our clown mayor.
It is the economic engine of Canada

Well, it was - I think there is an ongoing debate about the appropriate tense for the verb in that sentence.
one of the greenest and most creative cities in North America

Millerbabble through and through, with a generous dollop of the U of T via Richard Florida. We do have a lot of trees, and generally I like them, though my neighbor recently pointed out that the maple in front of my house (which a few years ago attacked and destroyed my drains) is now regularly depositing branches onto my car, parked into the ever-more-expensive street parking in front of my home.
Toronto has won numerous awards for quality, innovation and efficiency in delivering public services

I doubt a single one of those awards was based on recent surveys of actual residents.
Toronto's government is dedicated to prosperity, opportunity and liveability for all its residents.

We're into Soviet-era levels of nonsense here.
I had a very enjoyable drive to my car dealership yesterday and the one thing the shuttle driver and I agreed on 100% is that we miss Mayor Mel Lastman. And may I say, that is something, but the succession has proven his worth!
UPDATE: I had to update this as I had the crazed notion that Barbara Hall as mayor was a more recent horror than was the case.

Thursday, August 06, 2009

Ray Price

I had not intended to post on this but got caught up in the wonderfulness of Ray Price.
He is still kicking!

But never never forget that this great singer took a risk in the early '70s and made some Kris Kristofferson songs mainstream.

It is important to realize that back in the '70s this was no small step. Ray Price helped Kristofferson change country music, so much for the better.

Norm is on a Roll Today

At least he is pulling my strings!
He starts documenting how nice we people in Toronto are (though if you drill down you see that some of the stories suggest that people even not in Toronto can also be nice!). Still this is a kind place and the Star is not afraid to report about that.
And then he gets to Merle Haggard! Now I have a recent history there, making hay out of a business trip that most people were dismayed to discover was to be hosted in Tulsa - but Tulsa with a treat! Norm links to two separate Haggard renditions of "Misery and Gin" and they form a lovely contrast.
Of course this was a hit for Haggard at the time that young feminist scholars were ranting on about how men did not expose their emotions; likely true of the pallid men they knew and lusted after, earnestly trying to get Arts Faculty positions, but certainly not true of the men who listened to country music. The emotions of loser men were what most of it was about.
And Bill Anderson could not have said it better, through the voice of Ray Price (also in that Tulsa concert), "they paint a purty picture of a world that's gay and bright but it's just a mask for loneliness behind those city lights ... it's just a place for men to cry when things don't turn out right ... I just can't say 'I love you' to a street of city lights".

R. I. P. John Hughes

He gave me a lot of pleasure. Jamie Weinman has a nice short obit. (In the attendance sequence in the Ferris Bueller clip, should you run it from the link, note that the Adamson is boringly and predictably present.)

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

Now That Was Fun - Megan McArdle Loses Her Patience on Big Pharma

This post is simply excellent.
Big Pharma areviewed as major bad guys and she stands up nicely for them.
Her substantial points apply just as well to software firms, but somehow there is not the same moral outrage against them. But many people overemphasize the significance of academic research, and underestimate the steps between promising research and a marketable product that will make money.
Maybe we'd all be better off taking fewer brand-name drugs. But we wouldn't have more innovation or more research if we eliminated the marketing budget, unless Dr. Avorn has evidence that a substantial part of that budget is wasted and doesn't result in higher drug sales. That could well be the case--as I've said elsewhere, I'm under no illusion that what companies do is always optimal. But Dr. Avorn has evidenced none of the basic business knowledge that would enable him to make that judgement. I am completely unsurprised to find out that Dr. Jerry Avorn has completed no work in economics, and indeed, so far as I can tell, no work in anything except being a professor of medicine? I'm sure he's a very good researcher on how patients use drugs. But he's pretty clearly no sort of expert at all on how companies actually make them--or anything else gracing our store shelves.

A Rebuke to the Toronto Electorate

We elected both of these idiots to be our mayor (I confess to voting for one of them once).
The sad fact is that even after ceasing to be mayor, one can find new forms of mischief.

Bicycling and Road Rules

I wish the Toronto police would get so serious.
Last week, according to news reports, the cops handed our more than 300 tickets to cyclists and drivers as part of a weeklong campaign.
Not surprisingly, many of the cyclists were unhappy. Too bad. It’s time they realized the rules of the road apply to them, too.

I have been on my bike over the last weeks a LOT more than in previous years.
I got a few complaints from the cycling fraternity. They insisted that rule-breaking cyclists are the minority, that they themselves obey the rules of the road, that it’s drivers who are more dangerous.
I’m skeptical, in the same way I doubt anyone who says they’ve never jaywalked or crossed against a red light. To put it bluntly: I do not see cyclists obeying the rules of the road to the same extent that car drivers do.

Well I am not skeptical. I live in a 4-way-stop neighborhood and have yet to see a cyclist stop at the neighboring intersections. Bicyclists appear to have nothing but contempt for the rules that somewhat sensibly apply to others on the road.
When I drive, there is nothing that is more of a concern to me than the unpredictable and idiotic behavior of people on bicycles. I assume it because they think of themselves as purer than the rest of us and above the rules but maybe they are just stupid, though it is hard to distinguish those cases.

Silliness on Nortel-Ericsson

Stephen Gordon comments on some comments on the Ericsson purchase of some Nortel assets. I have commented earlier, but he is more of an expert and a lot more forceful.
His very well argued bottom line:

Right there, we see why no Canadian in their right mind would spend much time or effort doing R&D: they know that the best price they can ever get is one offered by other Canadians. And this price is always going to be lower than what other innovators in other countries can expect to receive.
Worse, this also means that Canadian bidders can knowingly low-ball when they make their offers for Canadian-born intellectual property. Why didn't RIM outbid Ericcson? Because they know that they could bid low, invoke patriotism and still get the assets at a discount?
If we want Canadian firms to start thinking that R&D and innovation are things of value, perhaps we should disabuse them of the notion that they can be had on the cheap.

A key point is that the problem here is all caused by some stupid government wish to intervene that adds zero value to any part of the universe except for the holders of the power the law creates, and those who can capture them through rent-seeking.
I personally also have no idea how it is decided what firms are 'Canadian' and not. Nortel was owned by a collection of shareholders, as was my own, in both cases dispersed around hte world. The location of corporate headquarters is hardly a major issue, as I suspect both companies had (well, my former employer still has) assets all over the world.
I worked with Nortel, occasionally with people located in Ottawa, but also with people located in Texas. (They were more fun.)

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

I Tend To Buy Mine at Timmie's

But then this author did not likely have Tim Hortons as an option.
Large black is fine by me!