Friday, October 30, 2009

John Mackey Talks Utter Sense

As Obama leads the US into a moderately insane program, John Mackey talks total sense about what he offers his employees. (Rondi has posted previously on how nutty this makes white people, so to speak, feel.)
My guess is that what he does will soon be illegal. Pity.
I love his story about how his company began. These are the people we need more of. Sad to see the current administration in the US is waging war on them.

I Do Not Think Coyotes are Cute

And feel pretty vindicated.
She should have carried a gun. The coyotes lacked her concern for other living creatures.
A few years ago, a coyote ran across the path of my car in the east end of Toronto. There are actually people who do not want them shot. Their primary prey seem to be house pets. Hard calls.

Sickeningly Hopeless Change in Honduras

Fausta says it best.
Chicago politics in Honduras. Lots of great links.
On my last day of summer vacation I watched this nutball posturing at the border on CNN International, which lapped it up just as one might expect, and it struck me that it was great they had a constitution that allowed his removal from office.
Let's hope they are allowed a proper election. I would not count on it with Obama swinging his influence around.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

The Amazing Race - Mika

I wonder, and I am sure anyone watching the show, wonders how the dickens someone so freakishly worked out about height and water gets in that position.
It did allow us all to look at her for an artificially long time in her bikini, as her boyfriend kept shaking his head. I know I enjoyed it more than he did.
And I will be frank, I loved watching the Globetrotters cruise past her.
Hell, I would do a bungee jump in those circumstances.
I am VERY curious to know whether her man is still with her in a year. Solidarity last weekend is cheap.

Only Well into Season Three Do I Understand Why I Like Peggy Olson

... as she is talking with a potential roommate (on Mad Men, in by far my favorite couple of minutes of the show).
PR: Are you Swedish, because I am?
PO: Norwegian.
PR: Well, we won't tell my parents.
That is too true. The narcissism of small differences.
It gets better. Later in the episode, Peggy explains to her mother that her roommate to be, Karen Ericsson, is Norwegian.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Pro-Market or Pro-Business?

It is a constant source of dismay to me to notice that people (the great majority of people, it seems to me, and certainly a stunningly large number of journalists, almost all surely innocent of any education in economics) conflate the notion of supporting the application of market forces with support for business.
This has always seemed a comical error; for example, the whole job of Canada's CRTC is to protect local Canadian broadcasters (who happen to be business people who lobby hard to get regulations in place to protect their current positions, and avoid competition in anything resembling a fair market). Protectionism in general is also designed to support local businesses, and prevent competition in a worldwide market.
Luigi Zingales is worried about this conflation, and rightly worried that the current US Administration is responding to discontent in the population in exactly the wrong way.
He contrasts what he sees as the US historical view with a contrast:
In most of the world, the best way to make money is not to come up with brilliant ideas and work hard at implementing them, but to cultivate a government connection. Such cronyism is bound to shape public attitudes about a country's economic system. When asked in a recent study to name the most important determinants of financial success, Italian managers put "knowledge of influential people" in first place (80% considered it "important" or "very important"). "Competence and experience" ranked fifth, behind characteristics such as "loyalty and obedience."
He is deeply concerned that changes in the financial industry have increased the chances of regulatory capture.
The real effect of Gramm-Leach-Bliley was political, not directly economic. Under the old regime, commercial banks, investment banks, and insurance companies had different agendas, and so their lobbying efforts tended to offset one another. But after the restrictions were lifted, the interests of all the major players in the financial industry became aligned, giving the industry disproportionate power in shaping the political agenda. The concentration of the banking industry only added to this power.
He perceives in current events the worst populist behavior:
The pattern that has taken hold in the wake of the financial crisis thus threatens to initiate a vicious cycle. To avoid being linked in the public mind with the companies they are working to help, politicians take part in and encourage the assault on finance; this scares off legitimate investors, no longer certain they can count on contracts and the rule of law. And this, in turn, leaves little recourse for troubled businesses but to seek government assistance.
It is no coincidence that shortly after bashing Wall Street executives for their greed, the administration set up the most generous form of subsidy ever invented for Wall Street. The Public-Private Investment Program, announced in March by Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner, provides $84 of government-subsidized loans and $7 of government equity for every $7 of private equity invested in the purchase of toxic assets. The terms are so generous that the private investors essentially receive a subsidy of $2 for every dollar they put in.
And has this administration been utterly captured? He seems to fear this.
The alternative path is to soothe the popular rage with measures like limits on executive bonuses while shoring up the position of the largest financial players, making them dependent on government and making the larger economy dependent on them. Such measures play to the crowd in the moment, but threaten the financial system and the public standing of American capitalism in the long run. They also reinforce the very practices that caused the crisis. This is the path to big-business capitalism: a path that blurs the distinction between pro-market and pro-business policies, and so imperils the unique faith the American people have long displayed in the legitimacy of democratic capitalism.
Unfortunately, it looks for now like the Obama administration has chosen this latter path. It is a choice that threatens to launch us on that vicious spiral of more public resentment and more corporatist crony capitalism so common abroad — trampling in the process the economic exceptionalism that has been so crucial for American prosperity. When the dust has cleared and the panic has abated, this may well turn out to be the most serious and damaging consequence of the financial crisis for American capitalism.
In sum, do we have a pro-business anti-market administration? Maybe. If so this is not just a disaster in the short run, it could be a disaster for a very long time.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

The WTA - Short Analysis from Angus

He has it spot on.
People, women's tennis is in bad bad shape. The number one player, Dinara Safina, is a head case who has never won a slam.
Venus Williams is toast. She is done.
Somehow Serena Williams wins half of the grand slam events with no training program and no effort in any of the other events the rest of the year.
Things are so bad that Kim Clisters came back from a 3 year layoff and dominated the tour this summer.
Particularly regarding Serena I love some comments from my squash/tennis club tennis pro:
Is there anybody out there who questions Serena’s desire to be the best tennis player ever?
Yes, I do!
Serena loves her life outside of tennis and who can blame her. She is a celebrity with money to burn. She
can ride off into the sunset and never hit another tennis ball as long as she lives! But is this the road she should
take? Serena has never talked about retiring – but in my mind she is only a part-time player!
Should we be happy for her and let her continue on this path of mediocrity? She loves the glamour life and
really has nobody close to her in terms of talent so there is no need to really dedicate herself to her sport.
With a reduction in glut, a little less butt and a smidgen more guts, Serena Williams would easily be the
most recognized female athlete ever. Yes, she is that good. There are no weaknesses except for a frame that is
40 pounds overweight. Today’s top athletes are in prime physical condition – Tiger Woods, Roger Federer,
Rafael Nadal, Sidney Crosby, and Lance Armstrong. It just proves how good Serena Williams really is because
she is winning major championships with a handicap – she is chunky!
Serena can’t play her best tennis week-in-and-week-out because her physical condition is poor. A major
championship consists of 7 grueling matches over a 14 day period – with many rain delays in New York, Paris,
Melbourne and London this often means playing back-to-back matches with no recovery time – and this has
often been too much for Serena to conquer with her poor fitness!
...Martina Navratilova was in a similar position in the 70s and 80s – then she got her act together, lost 30 pounds
and totally dominated women’s tennis for 10 years. Weight is a major issue for these super-star athletes and if
you want to be considered the best in your sport for many moons you must look the part and right now Serena’s
shape is more like a pear than an hour-glass.
She'd rather eat; half-ass her way through non-major tournaments and complain she's not getting the respect
her 11-major-championships résumé demands.
And it's my right to rip her for choosing to be a celebrity tennis player rather than a single-minded
tennis assassin.
If she chose the latter, it would be front-page news every time she lost a tournament. She'd complete the
Serena Slam — winning all four majors — every other year. She'd be the most popular and powerful female
athlete of all time.
Think about it. At 5-foot-9, 145 pounds, Serena would be unstoppable on the court, on the cover of every
magazine still in circulation and downloaded on the Internet three times more often than Anna Kournikova.
Yikes, Michael, why can't you just tell us what you think?
He is right - her shape is ridiculous for a top athlete, other than in Poker after Dark. And I have already commented that she does not try in anything other than a major. If she did not whine about how the non-majors actually count in ranking, it would make sense; but that whining demeans the secondary tournaments and the fans who pay to go to them.
And though Angus is right about the state of women's tennis (men's is SO much more attractive now), I confess I will likely have more interest in attendance at the women's events than at the men's.
And, by the way, Michael's comments say a lot regarding why I so much like watching Sharapova, and don;t much like watching Serena. It's not race, it's not cuteness, it is Sharapova's indomitable will to win, no matter how awful things get.

Who Said It - Dictator or NFL Coach?

That was fun, and probably I should have got all 12, rather than 11. I missed the most obvious one, I suspect.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Stoppard's "Rock and Roll" at Canadian Stage

From the moment Canadian Stage announced they would produce Stoppard's Rock and Roll I have been looking forward to this, but some difficulties scheduling it with SillyWife meant we watched on the matinee of its last day.
I have long been a Stoppard fan, and thought this would be very interesting, as I expected a sort of mapping to rock and roll as an influence in the downfall of communism.
But it was not that at all.
What it struck me as, and brilliantly, is a play by a great playwright, pushing 70, mostly about what I hear now described as 'Life Course' (I first heard about this as what might be considered a euphemism at University of Toronto lectures in what used to be the geriatrics group). I may think that because I am in the seventh decade, but SillyWife, roughly a decade behind me, loved it too.
The play covers about 22 years between 1968 and 1990. In that time a beloved wife dies, the widower takes up with one of her students, gives up on that. His hippieish daughter meets a somewhat twitty journalist, has a daughter, separates, and comes back to care for Dad. A Czech philosophy Grad student at Cambridge in 1968, where all these people are located, returns to Prague after the Russian invasion in 1968. He and his friends undergo numerous violations from the Commies in the course of the 22 years, with all the various political positions moving around (around the definition of what real dissent means). They trade girlfriends and suffer various misfortunes, and have occasional connections to the professor back in Cambridge.
And there is an ongoing connection to rock music, which is integrated, I suspect more brilliantly than I recognized (I did see a lot of wonderful connections between what the characters said and what was in the songs, but I imagine a grad student with the script would embarrass me).
At the end, after the Velvet Revolution, there is a lovely reunion of characters in Cambridge, and then in Prague, and this is a great piece of writing, as Stoppard keeps the surprises, and delights, coming.
There is much interesting political discussion and Stoppard frames it well. In fact, I think his 'Travesties' was what caused me to realize how godawful Lenin was, but now he is older and presents things in a more nuanced manner.
I think the intertwining of English and Czech themes is a really good idea for this period, as the Prague story is in the end so attractive, though he can show at what cost. I went out of my way a couple of years ago to spend a few days in Prague and the official city tours quite rightly emphasize key and awful and great events from 1968 and 1989.
But this was no crass political game - Stoppard presents a complex lovely story about three generations who lived around those 20-odd years, and there is NO character I could not like. That is the sort of play I like, even when I find all of them somewhat alien. That is playwriting.
And then there is putting the play on to maintain that. And this was done, In fact as I look at the original cast in London, I still think that Kenneth Welsh, Shaun Smyth, and Fiona Reid in the main roles beat that casting. Toronto is an impressive theatrical city. And the supporting roles were all superb.
I need to toss in a bit about Fiona Reid. Is there any age in her life where she could not play someone of some other crazily different age? Not that I know. She did it at the start of her career and she is great at it now.
I expected a play mostly dominated by political interest but as the play closed, and I was wiping off tears, they were not primarily about the politics, they were about the life courses, and how it was going for people who had fought hard to make good lives, and how hard that could be.
Thanks Tom Stoppard!
A couple of small points. I never bothered with Pink Floyd, and he makes a case for them to me. I love his use of Syd Barrett (and of Alice's side in wanting to protect him) as a substitute for the Dionysian, well, and of Sappho .
Also, I must say, as a total new fan of Glee, I am glad to see that their excellent form was anticipated by Stoppard (and Cabaret and the whole history of the American musical) - he does a great job of making the rock and roll interventions relevant to the current plot.
I regret only that these comments are available only in the last performance of the show, so I am not selling more tickets for the company.

"Islamic Scholar"

This is, of course, a total oxymoron, unless you think scholar means someone who just reads and interprets existing texts and keeps to process going on.
Pat Condell has fun with the notion.

I hope this fight does not start here in Canada. I think my local mosque is a nice bit of architecture, but I have no wish for Islam to play much of a role here.

Friday, October 23, 2009

A Great Addition to the Media

Andre Breitbart's presence has been growing rapidly, lately especially with the carefully timed videos exposing the clear corruption in the organization ACORN.
He talks a bit about his motivation in this video - I am particularly taken with his epiphany at the Clarence Thomas hearings. I recall them well, and watched much of it; I started against Thomas and finished wondering what this was all about, but I think Breitbart's disgust at the gall of Ted Kennedy, and the clear media conspiracy of silence that allowed such arrogant gall, is something I missed at the time, but certainly stands out as he describes his own reaction.

A Lack of Grace?

Pettiness and infantile behavior has seemed a consistent characteristic of the Obama administration. Among countless instances, a recent one is nicely documented by Paul Mirengoff.
In short, the Obama administration falsely claimed that the Bush administration had done no planning or analysis regarding the worsening situation in Afghanistan, even though it (1) knew this was false, (2) had asked the Bush administration not to disclose its work, and (3) relied in part on the same work it claimed the Bush administration had not performed.
We've known for some time that Obama and his operatives have no class. This is apparent, for example, from the fact that Obama has never been able to say a positive word about his predecessor. George W. Bush, by contrast, was quite gracious towards Bill Clinton as, indeed, Clinton was towards George H.W. Bush.
But what Cheney described last night goes well beyond lack of class. One typically exhibits class by doing small, gracious things beyond the minimum that is expected. Class, in another words, is a plus. It's a very good thing to have, but its absence is not really a negative and certainly does not pose any danger.
But the rank, opportunistic dishonesty described by Cheney demonstrates an affirmatively bad character.
Staw man enemies are a mainstay of The One's speeches, but discrediting your predecessor by knowingly lying reaches new levels.


Not the same species as my Nith river kingfisher, nor the ones I see at Ashbridge's Bay, but this character bears a resemblance in looks and behaviour. AMAZING PHOTOS!

Satan Getting His Own Pearly Gates

Pat Condell is great.

I think he has a point - we atheists should start filing human rights complaints against all this nonsensical and offensive chatter about this disgusting God thing.
He puts it all so well. "The Cartel of Islamic Dictatorships." "shills in the Norwegian establishment".
The fundamental point is right - this idiotic resolution is deserving only of contempt. Not support, and worst of all, from the home country of Benjamin Franklin. Sick.

Why, Despite the Canadian Connection? I see essentially no mention of Hoder in the media or in Canadian blogs? Maybe I am not reading the right ones.
Why do I find out about this in Instapundit?
Meanwhile people fret with sympathy I cannot summon (nor can my sister) about clowns like the Khadrs.


EclectEcon reports on it, and it has been on my mind lately, as the current US administration is creating an environment that will be full of it for the next years.
Mind you, here in Canada it is constant feature of daily life. My favorite instance these days is the battle over a CRTC regulation coming up that will force cable TV companies to pay local broadcast stations to carry them. When cable started, it was just a benefit to the stations to be carried on cable as it increased their audience and hence the reach of the advertising they carried. Moreover, regulation has required that the local channel ads get swapped in on US TV channels simulcasting with any Canadian alternative, an enormous additional benefit, that hurts consumers badly particularly during the Superbowl, as I have lamented before. Over the years, of course, the increase in the number of available cable TV stations has diluted the audience.
The new fee to be charged to cable companies to carry local stations has set off a battle of advertising. The cable companies will quite sensibly simply pass the charge on to us customers (which I find painful), and this is politically difficult for the TV stations who lobbied successfully to have this idiotic levy assessed.
So they advertise like fiends. And it saddens me to see one of my favorite artists bought off to support the stupid cause. (And his song is embarrassingly moronic, not a normal Dave Carroll characteristic.)
Meanwhile the cable companies are pissing away money to defend themselves. I think they have a sensible case, as they are undoubtedly not free under regulation to simply drop the local stations off their lineup, which they could feasibly do, as our TVs still have antennas. I would happily forgo the additional charge were my cable TV supplier to drop all local channels, as I have a simple alternative way to get them for free.
In the end, the decisions here, and the tax (effectively) that we consumers will incur are entirely an artifact of government intervention and regulation.
And, as regulation piles upon regulation to correct a previous stupid regulation, we end with a total farce.
The farce goes so far that it is not uncommon to see the two opposing camps advertising back to back on local TV! No doubt that is money that would have been more valuable to us all spent on something else. Thanks, as ever, brilliant government!


Toronto is covered with billboards trumpeting the claim that 'Glee' is the funniest TV series available now. I am not sure about that, but I have been sampling it and I love it for more than that. Yesterday, I discovered that one of my cool nieces is a fan, so I think I can rave a little about it myself.
The show has so much fun with the cliches of high school movies, and the cliches are cliches, I suspect, because there is an underlying accuracy. The overall theme is that an idealistic young teacher decides to make his Ohio high school glee club a success, no mean feat given where the glee club fits in the school hierarchy.
The ongoing story undermines the hierarchy a little (the glee club has to help the football team out, for example).
It is no harm to the charm of the story that each episode features wonderful musical performances.
Nor that the writing is full of great little touches - "we can take home that blue ribbon like two prime heifers in love".
Lea Michele is wonderful as Rachel, and Jane Lynch as the cheerleading coach. But there is nobody weak. Well worth watching!
GlobalTV provides the last several episodes online.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

H1N1 - An Interesting Talk

I have forgotten who deserves the hat tip but this seems well worth the watch.
As I watch it I remain curious about why I am ready to believe this guy.
In no particular order, I would say, some items are:
  • The MIT imprimatur - helps a tad, but is decidedly not decisive. :-) After all, the MIT campus, like many campuses I know, can readily invite total quacks to speak.
  • The tone of the claims. The speaker has no arrogance about his conclusions. He appears to have great background knowledge of previous virus attacks, as of course do cranks so appear, but they are rarely so intelligent as to outline the limits of knowledge.
  • The tone of the response to questions. Little to say here - cranks tend not to be so reasonable.
  • The message. There is no miracle. There are only trade-offs under uncertain knowledge. And by the way, he explains why the inluenza virus(es) is/are such a devil to make clear claims about.
  • That along the way, some debunking is done - there is a claim that it is pointless for a healthy person to wear a mask (though it would be great if sick people did).
  • Some other things I cannot recall.
So there are lessons out of this. What will I do this fall? He makes a case for me to get both seasonal and H1N1 vaccinations this fall, though he promises no miracle from that, and I plan to do so. At the moment, I am too young to get a seasonal flu vaccination (yup, under our single payer, I am pretty sure I cannot even PAY to get it), and plan to monitor the provincial plans to get in as early as possible. It WILL mean queuing, but I Can bring a book, and am retired.
He makes dodging human contact seem pretty uncertain as a protection, which is sad in a way. I can pretty much dodge human contact right now, except with SillyWife, who cannot, and maybe she becomes a dangerous node. But he points out that such provisions in 1918-1919 did not really do much.
The other question is, "Do I re-evaluate my credibility-checking circuits?" I can probably make more sense after a few months. But really, this guy sounds nothing like what are the obvious idiot conspiracy theorists, like those dorks who think the World Trade Towers fell through a controlled demolition. They meet NONE of the criteria I listed below.
I'd love to hear more criteria, including guesses at why I buy into this guy and not the idiotic Troofers.
UPDATE: Ten minutes after original post. I understand every sentence he utters. Maybe this is the most important point - there is no self-serving bafflegab.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Was I Just Intemperate

In my previous post about the little jihadi shitheads who wanted to kill me and anyone else who might have arbitrarily happened to be downtown trying to do something with his or her life while the jihadists thought we should all be blown up.
I know no more eloquent argument for the world I want to live in than this.
If you think your jihadis are better, please let someone know. This blog is open to comments.

Our Best Defence - They're Stupid

Another jihadist plan shut down in Massachusetts.
Meanwhile, here in Toronto, the government releases a swarm of video and audio evidence against members of the Toronto 18 (no longer 18, but they seem to be convicting a pretty good number of these murderous fools).
And man, it is a good thing they are so stupid! I doubt they'll get a lot smarter; they don't seem to school themselves much except in a brainless religion (OK they are all stupid but this one seems to cause people to become more murderous than many others do) and explosive tooling and they're full of a witless teenage boy arrogance that makes them very vulnerable. I hope I am right.
There is not a lot of genius in this:
Also released on Tuesday were messages the terrorists exchanged in thumb drives in an attempt to avoid police surveillance. In one of them, Amara tells his accomplice to conduct reconnaissance in Toronto using a camera.
"Don't do anything too suspicious. Just check out everywhere, you known downtown. Check different places just uh, oh yeah and also for the chemical set like I told you I need a filter, I need Pyrex, I need something to weigh, for weighing, you know."
Amara's rambling instructions on planning the attack are interspersed with religious tracts such as, "God all mighty says in the Koran...instructing the faithful that when they meet a group of non-believers or when they are battling they should remember God a lot and that will keep them, God willing, being steadfast."
The final line in that article:
A judge said the men were motivated by an extremist interpretation of Islam that portrayed Canada as a "near enemy."
Extremist? Maybe. I am not convinced. After all, we Canadians are mostly infidels, and so really rather deserve to be blown up.
The CBC report cites more carefully the inspirational advice sent to the team by their gutless leader, to read more Koran, in fact at least four pages per day, as that would surely help blow a whole bunch of Toronto infidels going about their own daily business off the map. Would that not be fun?!
Again kudos to the security services. When the arrests were initially made, needless to say there were apologists suggesting that the police, RCMP, and CSIS were just being hysterical. Instead they were spot on.
Now the question is, when do these pathetic creeps start coming out of prison? And can they find a way to actually get a life? Can they actually be taught to do anything useful in life?
BTW - I note one appalling subhead in this CBC article. The little fanatic who was the ringleader is described as 'determined and intelligent'! Like those oh so 'sophisticated' murderers in Mumbai? Mayhem is really easy to produce. I think terms like 'intelligent' and 'sophisticated' ought to be reserved for constructive behavior.
Reporters and editors think in funny ways, and I am inclined to guess that there is a lurking admiration for people who want to do such damage. Just a guess, though.
But bottom line - so far the would-be mass murderers are stupid, not intelligent, and not sophisticated.

Another Reason I Dig Shakira

Needing a break from touring and performing, she decides to audit a Western Civ course, and does it incognito.
"It was such a long tour, I needed a break from me," Shakira told The Guardian. "The universe is so broad, I cannot be at the center of it. So I decided to go to the university and study history for a summer course, just to kind of switch gears, taste the student life."
There is no evidence she fully tasted the student life, in the form of taking the exam, mind you.
Still, she impressed the prof. (I'm pretty sure she would have impressed me,)
Her simple plan worked. Professor Robert Cleve, who taught the Introduction to Western Civilization: Ancient Civilizations from Prehistory to Circa A.D. 843 class, had no idea "Isabel" was actually a pop star.
"She told me she was visiting from Colombia and that she was just doing this for her own enlightenment and enjoyment," Cleve told the Associated Press in 2007. "She looked like just an ordinary student. She wasn't flamboyant...she didn't act like a big celebrity or anything."

Monday, October 19, 2009

Neither Dead Nor Much Like Martha Stewart

Amazing the places you find crooks.
Cheisi is reportedly recorded on wire taps says :”I swear to you in front of God … You put me in jail if you talk.” Later she adds: “I’m dead if this leaks. I really am … and my career is over. I’ll be like Martha (expletive) Stewart.”
To be honest I am astonished by this story. This is decidedly not the IBM I know, but then I was at best somewhat of a peon.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

A 269-Game World Series!?

This is a great talk. But I think seven games are enough and we can simply suffer the injustices that arise as a result.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

A Book Review I Cannot Ignore

Steve Sailer is reading H. W. Brands' biography of Benjamin Franklin.  It sounds very compelling, and I suspect it will justify his post title, "Most successful man in history".
Franklin's life has a comic aspect (in both the Shakespearean sense of turning out happily and in the absurdist sense of the improbability of it all) in that he's successful at practically all the multitudinous projects he turns his hand to. Franklin figured out as an adolescent that he was superior to practically everybody he met, so he'd better be as funny, modest, and nice to people as possible or they'd get mad at him for being better than them.
Next stop - Toronto Public Library website!

Friday, October 16, 2009

More Pranking - Why Did I Lose my Contact to Country Music?

And Kellie Pickler will not be working with us after tonight's show!

Taylor Swift is mischievous!

Lovely if silly.

Balloon Boy on Wife Swap

Man, YouTube is great!  And I have always enjoyed 'Wife Swap', while wondering how the show's producers find and choose the publicity-hound families they use.  It seems the Heenes work very hard to keep the cameras on them.
In any case, this is a telling bit of TV, as the publicity-hounds run wild.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

What was the Political Solution with the Red Army Fraktion?

Current news from Pakistan features murderous bombings every day or two, and I feel so sorry for the Pakistanis who just want a reasonable civil society.
I note from the CBC and CNN that there is a call for Pakistan and Afghanistan to arrive at a political solution with the murderous Taliban setting off the bombs.
I think I agree, if that "political solution" is like the one the German state made with the RAF.
I see no reason why we in the West should ask for anything less.
Mind you, The One does not make me feel good about this (nor did the Pakistani ambassador to Canada, telling Newsworld that Hillary was expecting negotiation), and I fear he will insist Pakistan try to make peace with the wildfires.

Newsworld's Politics Show

When hosted, in the good old days, by Don Newman, this was a fixture for me, similar to the US FOX and ABC Politics shows on Sunday morning.
And I was pleased when it was announced that Evan Solomon would become the new host, replacing Newman. (Am I hallucinating?)
I am now watching again regularly and Harry Forestell seems always to be the host. This is no problem - Harry also seems to be a pretty good reporter (and to be honest, I had nightmares where the show was handed over to CTV's Jane Taber).
But did this get announced anywhere? Did someone tell Evan (who has performed on the show as a reporter)?
I could easily just be out of it.

Blogosphere 1 - Ralph Lauren 0

The photo I find amusing, though I can see why others are appalled.
The great thing is Lauren did fall on his sword:
"For over 42 years we have built a brand based on quality and integrity. After further investigation, we have learned that we are responsible for the poor imaging and retouching that resulted in a very distorted image of a woman's body.
"We have addressed the problem and going forward will take every precaution to ensure that the caliber of our artwork represents our brand appropriately."

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

I Still DO Not Like Being Poked and Prodded

but these blasted humans will not be stopped!

Yoanni Wins An Award!

Generation Y wins an award from Columbia University.
Of course that well-beloved Cuban government won't let her travel to accept it.
Those of you who still admire Castro, please explain yourselves. I cannot imagine the excuses. Excuses is all they can be.
I have cited her a few times one this blog; I think my favorite of her posts was one in which she slyly uses her femininity, particularly sashaying to display her legs, to work past the authorities.
The link above includes this CNN report:

Are We Really So Bad?

For all we like to rag on one another. some parts of this species can be pretty impressive.
Why am I not surprised the guy who fixed this was wearing a cowboy hat?
h/t Ann Althouse

An Unfair Fight to Put It Mildly

A GWU senior asks Michael Moore a question; I agree with Moore until about 2:00 and then he goes off into lies (it is NOT the case that polls show most Americans wanting his beloved public option), babbling, and incoherence.
The contrast in articulateness is telling.
Many have observed that Michael Moore is the utter embodiment of the ugly American in the European view - fat, ugly, ill-kempt, and with no real knowledge of much except how to hustle.

h/t Reason

A Lovely Primer on Cap 'n' Trade

As Jodi says, she does it with models.
I am guessing she is a pretty good teacher.

P. Z. Myers Helps God Out

He has a great deadpan delivery. h/t Larry Moran
"And the ones that can groom themselves end up getting attracted to other males."

A Momentous 20th Anniversary

As Matt Welch's short essay observes, there is no single date to attach to this anniversary.
November 1989 was the most liberating month of arguably the most liberating year in human history, yet two decades later the country that led the Cold War coalition against communism seems less interested than ever in commemorating, let alone processing the lessons from, the collapse of its longtime foe. At a time that fairly cries out for historical perspective about the follies of central planning, Americans are ignoring the fundamental conflict of the postwar world, and instead leapfrogging back to what Steve Forbes describes in this issue as the “Jurassic Park statism” of the 1930s

It's a great essay. Read the whole thing.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Dancing With the Stars - Voting

I hope someone can get access to the voting statistics on this show and look at the behavior as the weeks go on.
As I voted last night I focused on casting votes only into the lowest-scoring teams I wanted to keep going. There were three or four teams with poor scores, and I want to keep Michael Irvin around!
Fortunately my real favorites got high enough scores that I did not feel the need to vote for them.
I hope someone like a Steve Levitt will pick up on what must be a very rich collection of data to look at how the fans behave.

The Onion Gets Obama to a T - but in a Derivative Way

"This is a different President and he just didn't think that a combative approach with hoses and axes would be the best way to solve this crisis."
"Fire has a complex, beautiful, and at times destructive history, but we would be remiss if we did not recognize its unique ability to create as well."

Obama To Enter Diplomatic Talks With Raging Wildfire
h/t, mind you to IMAO, who posted the clear inspiration for this last month.
It has its own ways of capturing the spirit of the fatuities one gets used to hearing from THE ONE.
“First,” said Obama, “let’s dispense with the reckless, insulting terminology of the previous administration. There is no ‘war on fire‘. There is only a ‘California Contingency Operation‘. While we still seek the defeat of the radical combustionist faction, Al Qindle, we also believe that we can seek common ground with other, less conflagrationist elements on a reasonable degree of self-sustaining oxidation that all sides can agree to.”
“These radical right-wing ‘fire-haters’ are disparaging areas of our country where a lot of things are now black. You don’t have to be Sherlock Holmes to figure out why they REALLY hate that part of the country.”

People can be so entertaining.

Nobel Badass!

Mungowitz is dead right. She summarizes a good bit of it really well.

And 'badass' fits it perfectly.

Hey We're From Harvard! Shouldn't We Get that Nobel?

Even if it's not a Nobel but a substitute.
Amazing nonsense from Harvard - our guy is better than your guy. Pathetic.
Or as (h/t to) Tyler Cowen puts it - sour grapes from Harvard.
egad some people are out of touch.

The comments at Tyler's post are a treat too.

Baucus as Madoff

Coyote Blog catches the way Baucus 'balances' its budget.
When reading the original House health care bill, it struck me that the new taxes on employers and such began immediately, but benefits were phased in between 2012 and 2017. Apparently, this same thing is being done in the Baucus Bill, and I have learned that this is specifically aimed at gaming the CBO numbers. Since journalism majors were such in large part because they didn’t want to do any math, this ploy will likely work with the media, who will print the CBO findings but will be uninterested or incapable of deconstructing the numbers games.

He cites Gormogons:
'Puter thought the whole thing smelled a little fishy, so he gave Sleestak and abacus, a quill and some parchment and set him on the CBO math. Using the above numbers, Sleestak calculates that projected revenues will generate $910 billion over 10 years. Outflows will be $829 billion over 7.5 years. Based on Sleestak's math, that's an average yearly inflow of $91 billion and an average yearly outflow of $110.5 billion, or a average annual deficit of $19.5 billion each year the benefits are actually paid.

TJIC covers this point most entertainingly and calls it a "Madoff-style Business Model".
Gang of crooks.

Incentives Matter

Though I am not sure how this would look in a serious rush hour, and suspect maintenance of those stairs will be prohibitively expensive. And why do we want people taking the stairs, anyway?

h/t David Zetland Though I have seen it many tiemes in the last couple of days, I steal my title from his text.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Brad Templeton Provides an Answer to One of My Questions a fascinating essay.
My question was, "Why does everybody think that taking public transit is somehow more efficient than using cars?" There is a two-level answer. First, not everybody automatically thinks that. For example, I was always just agnostic. Brad is now clearly leaning one way. Now, note that his analysis is an average energy cost analysis per passenger mile; your decision on what to do on your next trip is one at the margin. (More on that below).
I was disturbed to learn that city diesel buses and electric trolley buses are both mildly worse than the car in energy efficiency. Light rail systems are also slightly worse, on average, though it varies a lot from city to city. Commuter rail and subway (heavy rail) trains tend to be a bit better, but not a lot better. (Non-hybrid cars are also better at long haul than they are short haul.)

It's worth reading the whole essay to see where the numbers come from and how reasonable the analysis tries to be without devoting a career to it. As for the marginal analysis:
In spite of them, it is always the green move for any individual to take existing mass transit over their car. That's because the transit is running anyway, so the incremental cost of carrying one more passenger is indeed less than just about any private vehicle. It is similarly green to carpool in somebody else's car that's going your way.

I found the link above in a post at Overcoming Bias.
In that post Robin Hanson wonders even about that:
I wonder. When one rides mass transit one not only makes the train a bit heavier, one also makes it a bit more crowded, discouraging other passengers. Worse, one makes all future transit planners estimate that a slightly higher fraction of the population is willing to ride mass transit, encouraging them to build more and large transit systems. It seems to me that this last effect could bring the marginal cost of using mass transit back up to near its observed average cost, i.e., about the same than cars.

As I tend to have time on my hands, I enjoy the social aspect of public transit in the city, though at the times where I value my time more highly, I will drive. Intercity, I still tend to drive, and that is a combination of valuation of time, and my freedom to choose my route..

Sveriges Riksbank Prize in Economic Sciences in Memory of Alfred Nobel

To Elinor Ostrom and Oliver E.Williamson.
WSJ explains why in a short note.
But there are other perspectives:
In a decision as shocking as Friday's surprise peace prize win, President Obama failed to win the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences Monday.
While few observers think Obama has done anything for world peace in the nearly nine months he's been in office, the same clearly can't be said for economics.
The president has worked tirelessly since even before his inauguration to wrest control of the U.S. economy from failed free markets, and the evil CEOs who profit from them, and to turn it over to wise, fair and benevolent bureaucrats.

h/t Jose M Guardia for the other perspective.

Highlight of Last Night's 'The Amazing Race'

One of the tasks along the way last night in Cambodia in The Amazing Race was centered on a 1967 photograph of Jackie Kennedy and President Sukarno in a motorcade.
Along the way, as an exercise, participants were asked to identify the woman in the picture. There was rather a dismaying variety of responses, including 'Queen Elizabeth', and a confident assertion that the woman looked Cambodian.
This is dismaying, of course, not just as a measure of the passing of time.
The lowlight was the elimination of Zev and Justin (I quite took to Zev after watching him herd ducks), though losing your passport in a foreign country is rather a stupid thing to do.

The Battle of Oxford?

I certainly remember the inspiration of watching James Meredith enter Ole Miss back during the civil rights movement. But I do not remember ever hearing about this.
Forty years ago ..., in the early morning, a force of nearly 30,000 American combat troops raced toward Oxford in a colossal armada of helicopters, transport planes, Jeeps and Army trucks.
Their mission was to save Oxford, the University of Mississippi and a small force of federal marshals from being destroyed by over 2,000 white civilians who were rioting after James Meredith, a black Air Force veteran, arrived to integrate the school.
The troops were National Guardsmen from little towns all over Mississippi, regular Army men from across the United States and paratroopers from the 82nd and 101st Airborne Divisions.

I do recall federal forces were sent to Oxford, but had no conception really of how many.
And watch politics enter the discussion of reward for merit. Perhaps slightly compensated for 47 years later!
What the troops did in Oxford was so courageous that their commanders nominated them for scores of medals. But an internal Army memo from May 1963 states: "The focus of additional attention on this incident would not be in the best interest of the US Army or the nation. . . . decorations should not be awarded for actions involving conflict between US Army units and other Americans." Memories of what the troops did then faded away.
On Tuesday, there will be an epilogue to this dramatic battle. Oxford's mayor, Richard Howorth, and the city council of Oxford have tracked down as many of the troops of 1962 as they could and invited them to the city to be honored as heroes. They will march back through Oxford's Courthouse Square to receive the official thanks of the community they saved from destruction two generations ago.

There is clearly some courage and mettle in Kennedy's decision to act so forcefully, and then a rather weasely behavior in the aftermath.
h/t Instapundit

The Follies of Racial Accomodation

Steve Sailer has a VDARE column today, advising the GOP of how not to disappear from the political planet, a goal I am not sure I share, but along the way providing a sad and funny characterization of the quality and impact of US 'racial' (I use this word because part of what he shows is how arbitrary the government's concept of this is) accommodation. It makes me laugh and cry at the same time - there is much in this, but I noticed one story that rang very true for me.
See, in theory you don’t qualify for taxpayer-subsidized loans just by being “Asian”. No, you have to be a socially or economically disadvantaged Asian. And how do you demonstrate you are disadvantaged? You fill out a form about how you’ve suffered under the lash of white bigotry.
The Inspector General’s office discovered, however, that in the company where the victim toiled, his father was a senior officer and shareholder. In fact, this young martyr to social and economic disadvantage:
1. came from a wealthy family; e.g., according to a newspaper article, since 1996, three companies his parents founded and were affiliated with were sold for approximately $3 billion;
2. was raised in his parents’ home, which had an assessed value of $5.2 million as of January 1, 2005; …
5. was gainfully employed by the United States Senate, Goldman Sachs International … among others.
As the title of the 2005 report points out, after decades of handing out loans to each and every Asian who submitted a form claiming to be “socially or economically disadvantaged”, the federal government still hadn’t gotten around to developing criteria for “overcoming the presumption of social disadvantage".
In other words, if you are Asian, the government just takes your word for it.

This brought to mind, though the focus is not on the issue of the 'socially disadvantaged' concern, an experience I had as a grad student at Berkeley in the 1970s; when my scholarship funding ran out, but determined not to graduate for as long as possible in that wonderful Northern California lifestyle (we grad students all spoke longingly of being TAs with tenure), I took a job as a tutor with some office tasked with helping 'minority' students. The office had its own definition of minority, and I do not believe there was any concern about 'social disadvantage' in the program. I was assigned three students. One was a woman of East Asian background, bright and hard-working, but struggling with math; she fought hard and wound up doing pretty well. Her family was of fairly modest background. One was a black man, again of modest background, appallingly ill-prepared for Berkeley, but sincere, though by no means understanding what it really was to study; we made some progress, and he made whatever hurdle he has supposed to jump, but I worried for the next step. The third was a man with a 'Spanish surname'. I believe that was the exact category used at the time, and I wondered if they had a list that defined the term. In any case, this fellow had a surname that is likely shared by tens of millions of people in South America, and sure seemed Spanish to me; in fact he was a son of the US ambassador of a South American country, and rich and cocky, if at best moderately talented and committed to work. He was committed to mediocrity, and achieved it. He could have achieved somewhat greater mediocrity without my help, and he certainly could have paid for his own bloody tutor, and every session with him outraged me, though I liked the money. But it annoyed me that all sorts of hard-working Americans were essentially subsidizing this preppie.
Steve's article reminded me also of a clipping my mother sent me a couple of weeks ago, reminded herself by it of a comment I had made forty years ago about the impresssive disproportion of Asian students in my math classes.
Call it the China effect. An astonishing 88.3 per cent of young Chinese immigrants in Canada go to university -- more than double the figure for young Canadians as a whole, according to a new study.
When community college was added to the mix, 98.3 per cent of young Chinese immigrants sought post-secondary education by the time they were 21 years old.

These are stunning numbers, and suggest that Canada's immigration policy regarding the Chinas is likely building us a better future.
The article provides a portrait of one example, I think a bad one as both her parents are university professors. It would have been more interesting to hear about students from more modest backgrounds. (To be fair, it is an Ottawa paper, and the example is a prestigious Ottawa example, involving both an Ottawa high school and an Ottawa university.)
What about their kids?
Immigrant hustle is nothing new. But the China effect continues into the first generation born in Canada, with 81.3 per cent going to university and 13.6 per cent going to college, Finnie and Mueller found.

Now the China effect skews the overall statistics, which sound pretty good here for our immigration policies.

A little less than 38 per cent of non-immigrant youth went to university compared to 57 per cent of all first-generation immigrants and 54.3 per cent of second-generation immigrants, says Finnie, who mined the data from Canada's Youth in Transition survey, which asked in-depth questions of 26,000 Canadian young people who were 15 in 1999.
More than 90 per cent of immigrants from Asian countries other than China (including India and the Middle East) as well as those from African nations went to university or college.

I'd like to see that broken down a little more.
The study also looked at immigrants from English-speaking nations, as well as western and northern Europe.
About 70 per cent of them attend university or college, close to the rate for non-immigrants. The only group less likely to go than non-immigrants were those born anywhere else in the Americas, aside from the United States.

Ahhh I see, it is because they speak English that they aren't achievers.
The study, which I mmust read in detail, makes some fasconating observations, including:
Another interesting pattern was noted: those with a Canadian mother and an immigrant father were 19 percentage points more likely to go to university than non-immigrant youth. But if the youth had an immigrant mother and a non-immigrant father, the difference was 13 percentage points.

Our points system has its benefits - our profile is quite different from that in Europe.

The difference might have something to do with Canada's immigration "points" system, which favours people who are young, have more education, better language skills and relatives already living in Canada.
We're interested in nation-building," says Sweetman. "They're interested in people doing menial labour.

Sweetman, a researcher at the Queen's School of Policy Studies, was involved in research that looked at differences in education levels among U.S. and Canadian immigrants and how that trickled down through three generations.
The results suggested that differences in immigration policy -- Canada has a greater emphasis on skilled workers -- accounted for lower education levels among U.S. immigrants compared to Canadian immigrants. The gap is expected to widen because of the "intergenerational transmission of education."

I liked the last comment, as well:
"It's a two-sided message. The kids do well in the education system. And the education system does well by the kids."

I worked many years in a high-skill industry, surrounded by immigrants and their children, and I'd make the same comment about the workplace.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

I Am Trying to Picture the Practice Sessions

There's a bit of the dog walking on its hind legs to this, but it is still pretty impressive.

h/t Canadian Cynic

Clean Those Ears Out

I am watching the Stephanopoulos politics show this morning, and I think I hear that one of the panelists coming up is Nicole Wallace. This makes me think of The YellowPurple Rose of Cairo.
Hmm, I thought. I guess now that Bobby Goren is leaving "Law and Order : Criminal Intent", his arch-rival has no real function now. (And besides, I now recall, she was purportedly killed off in an episode last year.)
So I presume now she is stepping out of the the screen and becoming a political pundit. That should be fun.
No wait! It's THIS Nicole Wallace, apparently spelled Nicolle (who seems to have taken a bit of a bath on her house).

Saturday, October 10, 2009

In Defence of Venture Capitalists

A very nice essay by Paul Kedrosky.

Matter of fact, it sounds like VCs are being precisely the sorts of patient investors that people say they aren’t. They are giving risky companies a chance to experiment and find something that works, which is crucial, given that most successful startups don’t end up doing what they started out trying. It is a luxury that markets don’t afford other companies.
Wouldn’t it be nice if venture capitalist drove more innovation? Of course it would. But that’s like saying “Wouldn’t it be nice if supermodels followed you home?” Of course it would, but it’s fanciful. Innovation is one input into the startup business, not its main output. For startups or VCs to pretend otherwise is a speedy path to going bust. Venture capital investing is hard enough without turning it into a Disney-style dream factory for self-styled social engineers.

Friday, October 09, 2009

Innumeracy on CNN

Surprise! There is a wonderfully witless feature on CNN right now about discharges from the US military for being gay. Apparently one third of the dischargees are women. And of course they record later that 'most of the dischargees are women'. Hmmm.
Nowhere is there a discussion of what percentage of men versus women in the services are in fact gay. It's a lot more fun to impute other prejudices.
Oh hey they also have stupid innumerate assertions about the ethnic origins of the dischargees.
Disclosure: I don't see why gays should be discharged at all but that IS Obama's current policy. I do despise utterly brain-dead reporting.

People Are So Ingenious - Literal Videos

Persephone introduced me this morning to the concept, and it took me a little while watching the first included video to figure out what was going on. But once I did the pleasure was great. I can see a lot of enjoyable time-wasting coming up.
Rather than include any myself, I'd suggest you follow the link and let persephone educate you too.

I Could Not Make This Up - No Wonder Mitterand Defends Polanski

THE world is too crazy for me.
The book was written four years ago, before he joined the government, but is back in the headlines following his impassioned support for Roman Polanski.
Polanski has been arrested in Switzerland on child sex charges.
Mr Mitterrand, nephew of late President Francois Mitterrand, is expected to defend himself on TV later on Thursday.
Mr Mitterrand has come under attack from right and left.
In his 2005 book The Bad Life, he wrote: "I got into the habit of paying for boys," saying his attraction to young male prostitutes was not dimmed despite knowing "the sordid details of this traffic".

Ahh that glorious French culture, and its minister of state.

The Nobel Windbaggery Prize

When SillyWife told me this morning that the windbag had been granted (I certainly won't say 'earned') the Nobel Peace Prize, I knew that I had to turn immediately to Steve Sailer for a giggle.
The Affirmative Action Nobel indeed!
The hilarious career of Barack Obama continues to demonstrate how much white people long to give money, fame, and power to a black guy who meets minimum standards of presentability, regardless of his lack of accomplishments.

'hilarious' seems about right to me.
Also, TOTUS makes the case for the real winner.
Wow. I'm honored. Clearly Big Guy - who can't stop dancing on the bed up in the residence right now, by the way - won this award for his speeches. I mean, after nominating himself for the Nobel Prize for Peace two weeks after entering the office of the Presidency, let's face it, it isn't like he had anything to show for it.
He said if he'd known it was this easy to win a Nobel, he would have nominated himself for the Nobel Prize for Literature years ago for his 5th Grade essay on "Raisin the Sun" (of course, he would have had to share that prize with Billy Ayers). Or his yeast science project from 7th grade for the Nobel Prize for chemistry.

Yikes - I Get my Gas at a Canadian Tire Gas Bar

A great job by our law enforcement teams.
Sometimes I find it hard to believe we really have such loons in this country, it at times seems so pleasant.
His attack against Toronto would be so big it would reprise of the Battle of Badr, in which the Prophet Mohammed's forces won a decisive victory for Islam against a vast army of unbelievers.
Police had their eyes on Mr. Amara the whole time. He was spotted in public libraries, researching chemicals. He was seen in electronics stores, inquiring after circuitry. Covert police searches revealed he amassed a treasure trove of extremist literature, bomb manuals and prototype detonators.
Only a couple of comrades were fully brought into his confidence. But one of them turned out to be an informant. This agent, Shaher Elsohemy, arranged a shipment of three tonnes of ammonium nitrate on June 2, 2006.
“To put this in context, the 1995 bombing of the Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City that killed 168 people took one tonne of ammonium nitrate,” RCMP Assistant Commissioner Mike McDonell said at the time of the arrests.

Charming young lad. He clearly misunderstands Islam badly. Like a lot of other people.
I wonder how long a life sentence in Canada actually is.

Harper Steps Up Again

He actually understands the constitution, and cares!
"I can't recall that ever happening before," said Smith, now at the University of Regina and co-editor of the forthcoming Oxford Handbook of Canadian Politics.
But he added it was a welcome move by the Prime Minister's Office because "there seems to be a misunderstanding on the part of Rideau Hall as to the constitutional position of the Governor General under our system."

Thursday, October 08, 2009

I Was Like - No, no, no, no ,no - F*** You Celine Dion

Ellen Page maintains the edge:

"It's not often we have a Canadian over for dinner."
h/t Macleans

Climate Change Deafness

This is a great little video on how hard it seems to be for people to actually listen to what a man says.

The irony of course is that Mojib Latif was quite explicit about the limitations of most of the media he speaks with. And then they just proved how right he was!
h/t LGF
Disclosure: As I have posted before, I do find the evidence for AGW pretty compelling, and it also fits my priors. I am aware of the limits of models like climate models (I worked on economic models in the 1960s!). I am not sure what to do about AGW. Worldwide carbon taxing might be useful but that ain't gonna happen.
I love the title: Climate Denial Crock of the Week. Must subscribe.
It is also a bit dismaying how easy it was to find Canadian media buying into the misinterpretations of what Latif said.

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Obama's Cronies and the Arts

One can count on Iowahawk and his friends!

Let Them Ride Camels

And to think there are people in the West who support these clowns!?
The Hamas government has banned women from riding motorcycles in the Gaza Strip, saying the move was in keeping with "Arab traditions."

I tremble to think what other ridiculous prohibitions and sanctions come out of that 'principle'.
The Hamas statement said that men would not be allowed from now on to carry women behind them as they drive their motorcycles.

I've never been impressed by motorcycles as conveyances, but I am sure impressed with that woman on the back of the cycle, holding the guy riding his bike. Please please don't let these clowns loose in Canada.

Leafy Greens?!

Please, don't tell me this!
Leafy greens head a list of the top 10 riskiest foods regulated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, a report released Tuesday by a public advocacy group says.

h/t Instapundit

Google StreetView Hits Toronto

Well, goes live. They have clearly been prowling about town for a while. The pictures on my block pre-date the repainting of my porch this summer. They appear to have been shot early summer, and late morning. My car is parked out front, so I was likely home, though it seems my neighbor was off playing tennis. I am pleased it was not Tuesday (garbage pick-up).
I think it would have been more entertaining if they had taken the pictures at the peak of the winter.

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

Lear and Culture

The copybook handlers started this as I was watching the baseball elimination game.
Of course there was Olivier!

But then I saw Rumpole! And then Emma Peel! And the Elephant Man! And Sophie Brzeska!
There is something to be said for seeing some of these plays with performers one knows not at all. My wandering mind wondered why Emma Peel did not simply kick the crap out of all those against her, and why Rumpole did not defend his king more strongly.

That's a Nobel I Like to See!

A Nova Scotian gets one for good reason.

Willard S. Boyle, 85, and George E. Smith, 79, were honoured for inventing the eye of the digital camera, a sensor able to transform light into a large number of pixels, the tiny points of colour that are the building blocks of every digital image.
Their charge-coupled device, or CCD, is found today in devices ranging from the cheapest point-and-shoot digital camera to robotic medical instruments equipped with video cameras that let surgeons perform delicate operations deep inside the human body. It also revolutionized astronomy by letting spacecraft equipped with digital cameras take images from previously unseen regions of outer space and transmit them back to earth.
The work of the three men is "something that has really changed our lives," said Joseph Nordgren, chair of the academy's physics committee. "The impact on science is enormous."

Boyle was born in NovaScotia and taught a while at RMC.
They have certainly improved my life!

Hume Revived

I am not always impressed by David Brooks' columns, but this one is spot on regarding some of today's key issues.

The people on Mr. Bentham’s side believe that government can get actively involved in organizing innovation. (I’ve taken his proposals from the Waxman-Markey energy bill and the Baucus health care bill.)
The people on Mr. Hume’s side believe government should actively tilt the playing field to promote social goods and set off decentralized networks of reform, but they don’t think government knows enough to intimately organize dynamic innovation.

He is probably a little unfair to Bentham but the point is excellent. The US Democrats are heading in the sorry direction of Bentham, and what appalls me is that Michael Ignatieff is starting to show a strong leaning in that direction.

Taylor Swift's Wikipedia Entry

Is here.
It makes me wonder if she is also pranking Wikipedia. If not, she is somewhat preternatural.
Now I did know she was shy of twenty. But:
At age 11, Swift made her first trip to Nashville hoping to obtain a record deal by distributing a demo tape of her singing with karaoke songs. She gave a copy to every label in town.[20] Swift faced rejection, not just from record labels, but also from her peers.
Age 11?!
When Swift was fifteen, she rejected RCA Records because the company wanted to keep her on a development deal.

Talk about confidence! Evidently well-justified.
Swift first learned to play guitar from a computer repairman who showed her how to play three chords. After learning those three chords, she wrote her first song, "Lucky You". She began writing songs regularly and used it as outlet to help her with her pain from not fitting in at school. Other kids would react badly to her so she wrote songs about them.

And what is the sweetest revenge?
To go back to her youth.
When she was in fourth grade, Swift won a national poetry contest with a three page poem entitled "Monster In My Closet".
During one summer, Swift devoted herself to writing a 350 page (unpublished) novel.

Yikes. No wonder they didn't like her.
Swift's best friend has been Abigail Anderson, whom she has known since ninth grade. During a discussion of Shakespeare in an English class they learned what they had in common. "We were the ones in the back of the class saying negative things about Romeo and Juliet because we were so bitter toward that emotion at the time," said Anderson.

As for pranking Keith Urban, it seems this comes fairly naturally to her:
She was a member of Kirk Cremer's SNL-inspired kid's sketch comedy group, TheatreKids Live!, where she was a natural comedic talent.

As for pranking, she certainly pranked me in this video, where it was only by reading comments at YouTube that I realized she plays both the girlfriend and the longing girl!
The girl has great taste.
Swift's greatest musical influence is Shania Twain.
Swift is also close friends with Kellie Pickler, with whom she co-wrote Pickler's second single "Best Days of Your Life" from her self-titled album Kellie Pickler.

Abrams Brothers!

Too good. I knew Coldplay's "Viva la Vida" was a great song and these lads prove it by showing it can go bluegrass!


See more funny videos and funny pictures at CollegeHumor.

Country Music in Toronto, Swift, ...

I was out shopping for a bit and in the car I played 95.3, Hamilton's country radio station - Toronto is a bit shameful in its inability to support a country station.
There were nice reminiscences of Keith Urban's Saturday Night Show. I liked one comment - there were 15,000 attractive women! The total attendance was surely about 15,000, I would guess so surely there were at most 10,000 attractive women! (That Keith Urban was the star explains this discrepancy from human rights.) This was confirmed by the attendance in the private box I was in. In fact it was about 2-1 women, all attractive (we men can be so lucky!).
As I drove home a song came on and I, not really having listened to country for a long time, guessed it had to be a Taylor Swift song. Basically the song was "Some Kind of Wonderful" as a country song. I was right. And it is a nice song (as was the movie). Taylor Swift is not just a fun goof - she can perform her own songs! (The lyrics are funny and sweet. I am becoming a big Taylor Swift fan.)
"She doesn't get your humor like I do".

I completely love the line
"Can't you see the I'm one that understands you."
Thanks, Taylor Swift. You are enriching my life.

Monday, October 05, 2009

Good for Laureen

The eminence grise behind the PM's performance.

But Laureen thought her husband would be game — if only he had the right encouragement. The opportunity to find some came two weeks ago at the G20 summit in Pittsburgh. It happened that Yo-Yo Ma was performing at a luncheon hosted by Michelle Obama for spouses of the world leaders. At some point, Laureen found a moment to fly her idea past the world-renowned cellist.
Known as a generous artist, Ma said he thought “it would be fantastic,” said Watson.

The whole story in The Ottawa Citizen is worth a read.

Sunday, October 04, 2009


At some level. While in the ACC last night for other purposes entirely (I find hockey boring) I noted this wall of triumph:

(Click to enlarge.)
42 years and pushing! Meanwwhile the sporting performance futility is rewarded by enormous business success for Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment.
This is a point I am sure EclectEcon made on his blog, that there seems little motivation for the franchise to get better at sports performance in this environment; I just cannot find where. I'll update when he tells me.
The Wikipedia entry supplies the amazing and amusing information that all this hockey activity is there largely to support today's and tomorrow's retired teachers!
UPDATE: EclectEcon provides me a link.

More Brad Paisley - The Man I Call my Dad

And dragged back into real life and human caring. (Again, not rock.)
I prayed that she'd say yes.
Should not have started following links. (And no, this has nothing to do with my life as a child or parent.) But it is moving, and I won't fret about the evolutionary psychologists who know stepfathers kill their step-kids at a slightly higher rate than their own kids. I think Paisley should win this one.

I'm Gonna Miss Her

Keith Urban may have much to answer for. When I last had an active interest in country music Brad Paisley was just coming on and this was my intro to him. SillyWife should remember the drive we were on as he hit the chorus! I'm Gonna Miss Her. I've Got a Bite. So I am being dragged back down into this world of word play, wit, and pleasure. People way smarter than the academics I normally follow!
Of course they are rewarded quite differently for their skills. More fairly, I think.

Like A Tremendous Machine

Secretariat died twenty years ago today. A nice newish version of the incredible Belmont. Has an athlete ever looked happier or more focused and confident?

The more I watch this the more respect I have for Sham's team; they miscalculated, not realizing Sham was running against God, but they did not just roll over and quit.
h/t Kate

I Think I Went to the Right Concert Last Night

On the other hand, there is a certain bizarre charm here.

h/t Macleans
As it stands, I understand I could not have known in advance who the featured artist would be and I probably could not have gotten a ticket anyway.
So whether the ordinary person in Canada is sympathetic to galas (I am not), I am sympathetic to the courage, and competence, displayed here.

Who's Got the Best Seats in the House Now?

(Click to enlarge - you can see the relationship with the fans.)
I was delighted last week to get a phone call telling me I had won a draw for seats in the Toronto Star box at the Air Canada Centre for the Keith Urban show. I don't normally like going to large audience rock concerts, but I suspected that Urban's country self-identification (i.e. as a country star) would change the character of the audience in a salutary way.
And in fact an immediate difference was obvious as I approached the ACC - girls in cowboy hats everywhere!

It turned out there were five draw winners, each getting a pair of tickets, so ten of us, plus the Toronto Star rep and his date, and catering staff. SillyWife had come down with a cold, and I failed to identify any obvious spot for trying to give away her ticket, so arrived with one unused ticket in my pocket. Shortly after I had settled in, a couple arrived, who had decided with a small amount of guilt to use their two tickets themselves rather than give one to their daughter, a big Keith Urban fan. When the Star rep shared the information that I still had a free ticket, they called the daughter and she arrived just after the opening act and in time to see the whole set Keith Urban did.
Small-worldishly, one of the other ten guests in the box knew me from a pub I frequented some time ago. She proved a good resource, as she could tell me the name of the opening act, and also pointed out to me the little stage in the middle of the floor seating area. I had really enjoyed the opening act (Lady Antebellum) so much so that I commented to her that perhaps Urban himself would be an anticlimax. She assured me no. And warned me of his likelihood to get into the audience.
She was right on all counts. Twenty minutes into his set, Urban stunned me by wandering right into the audience, through crowds, as people reached out and touched, playing and singing all the way to the small stage in the middle. The pictures above are of him there, and the subject line of this post is more or less what he called out after finishing his first song on that stage. He played more than a a half hour out there before returning to the main stage, which, it should be noted, had a catwalk out the middle into the audience and ramps on both sides that allowed the performers to go down and make contact with the audience, which they did with amazing frequency.
This is one performer who can sure project a likable image and who works very hard to connect to his audience. He does it very well.
Now the ACC is a hockey/basketball arena, so expecting to hear the lyrics of songs is a fond wish. I know from my YouTube research that Urban can sing quite nicely, but what I DID not know from either that or from hearing him on the radio (my YouTube research had me listening to many songs I had heard on the radio, though I had not identified them with Urban), was what a stunningly good guitarist he is. This being country music, that gets to play a really prominent role in his performances, as well. The Wikipedia article linked above notes that his career included a phase as a studio player on multiple instruments, so this is no surprise.
He did a couple of 'acoustic' numbers, though what that means in a 15,000 seat arena is worthy of question. The top picture above is his performance of 'Only You Can Love Me This Way', and he managed to subdue the fans by dedicating it to Kidman. Later, from the main stage catwalk, he performed 'You'll Think of Me'; the very pleasant social atmosphere of the box up until then resulted in the daughter's turning to me and saying "There's your song!".
I'll mention it again. He and the whole band were constantly moving out to the audience and making contact. Really impressed me. And at the very end, he called all the roadies out on the stage, and they too ran out the catwalk and down the ramps to make contact. I have never seen anything like this at my previous arena concerts. (In fact the sheer sterility of 'The Who''s second final farewell concert, at the same venue, is still in my memory.)
The fans were devoted, obediently sang back lyrics on request from the stages, waved their arms, fired off useless flashes in taking pictures, held their cellphones open, and all that stuff, but it never felt so creepy as it often does in the few rock concerts I go to (I am always thinking Nueremberg). Part of it, I think, is that Urban just projects such a pleasant image, unlike most of the rock lead singers I see (one whose band is devoted totally to his self-absorbed and rather boring ruminations, in almost endlessly long whines.) Urban spares himself this trap by singing songs largely by other people, which allows a little ironic distance. And let's face it, 'take your cat and leave my sweater' has a mastery of tone one rarely hears. (UPDATE: See Marina's comment below.)
And now on to the opening act. Lady A were excellent performers, with good songs (they write theirs, but they are not stupidly self-absorbed), and I think it is fair to say they were great eye candy for all persuasions in the audience. Hillary Scott's Wikipedia entry includes this touching and amusing observation:
Scott claims that being part of Lady Antebellum, as opposed to being a solo artist, lessens the pressure on her on the stage.

She seemed to be handling it well!

This is not Hillary but rather her image on the big screens behind the stage.

(Usual advice about clicking to enlarge.)
My one disappointment of the night - that Lady A did not decide to emulate Taylor Swift's goofing around. They did join Urban for a nice version of 'Seven Bridges Road' late in his set.
Another observation. That guy Keith Urban (and his whole band) must be VERY fit. He did only one set but it ran over two hours. He was not standing still.
And one other thing I love is the sheer circus aspect of this 'bread and circus' sort of event. Lights flashing on and off, amazing amplified sounds coming from everywhere, and those large screens do so much to mitigate the size of the arena. And that funny mix of the intimacy Urban went out of his way to create with the larger scale of the fireworks and the like.
For me, the topper as a result of this night is that I would go see Keith Urban, or Lady Antebellum, and actually pay for it, at some time in the future. I had a GREAT time.
Thanks, Toronto Star. That was so much more fun than I expected!