Thursday, April 30, 2009

More Obama Speech Fact-Checking

Unfortunately, not BEFORE he opens his mouth.
Suddenly, however, Churchill becomes the paragon of treatment of prisoners. Except, of course, that he’s actually not. Almost exactly three years ago, The Guardian got the government to release information about torture and murder in the British zone in Germany from 1945-1947, targeting primarily Communists
...
Does anyone in the White House actually do research?

Given the chief's track record on historical fact (shaky at best), you'd think a layer of fact-checkers would be considered an essential part of the process.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Obama Interview

Impressive.
I certainly do not agree with all he says, and think he is deluding himself in some areas, but the engagement with policy, and the articulateness (no doubt partly the result of the Times not reproducing hesitations and the like) make it a very pleasant read.

Dancing with the Stars - Jewel on Melissa

While I agree somewhat with Jewel's views, it dismays me a little to see the spelling.
My concern is not really with the rules - this is just a silly reality show - but more with Melissa's capability to perform in future weeks, given that she has had her rib problem for the last two shows, and it does not seem to be getting better.
And of course Jewel is not quite a disinterested voice in this case. I find it hard to believe Ty can last another week against a Melissa (if she is halfway capable), Shawn, and Lil' Kim.

More on Payday Lending

There is an innumeracy about payday lending I have posted on before. Combine the innumeracy with the high horse of the 'progressive' and you can get pure fatuity. It is nice to see this succinct letter to the editor on the subject.

If H.R. 1214 is enacted, it will be back to thugs serving the low-income borrower market. That's a "reform"?

Yes, progressives really are looking out for the interest of the little man. Pshaw!

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Dancing With the Stars Results, April 28. 2009 - Live-Blog

As usual, a bunch of filler at the start. Have not really paid attention. Spme rather ineffective singer is accompanied by the opening of Beethoven's Fifth. There are also some dancers.
Into safety announcements.
Lil' Kim and Derek will be back - well-deserved.
I have since learned that the singer is the son of Alan Thicke and Gloria Loring. Why does this not surprise me?
Next filler - judges babble about virtues of the celebs who are dancing. They are focusing on Melissa's legs and I agree!
Ty and Chelsie are coming back too!
Another Robin Thicke song anad some talk of the couples through with Samantha.
Gilles and Cheryl get through. Seems right to me too.
I have to give them credit, the fake ads are not bad.
Interlude now for the candidate new pro dancers for next year. I am not really following this.
Next safe selection - Shawn and Mark will be back.
It is now between Chuck and the wounded Melissa.
Blah blah blah fake suspense. Melissa and Tony will be back! Fair from overall results, but I wonder if Melissa can actually dance anymore with her busted rib. Chuck is pretty classy, pointing out that this result reflects Melissa's great popularity (well, maybe he is suggesting that she is popular but incompetent, though it did not sound that way).
No more news to report today.

Pollyanna?

Alex Tabarrok talks at TED.

If he's a Pollyanna so am I.
Alex blogs at Marginal Revolution.

Nice Job Donald Trump

Of course, given the guy's marrying history, you would not expect much respect for women's own opinions.
The Miss USA contest makes itself an utter joke.
What a breakthrough for women!

Monday, April 27, 2009

Oracle Eclipses the Sun

After a failed feint by IBM, Oracle announced its intention to absorb Sun Microsystems.
This is a nice little summary of the lay of the land in view of this.
My favorite line:
Fun times have arrived in an industry that frankly had gotten boring.

This will certainly be one of my favorite spectator sports in the future.

Dancing with the Stars - April 27, 2009 - Live-Blog

So tonight we get each couple doing a dance, and then there is team dancing. I am not sure what the scoring plan is.
Oh no! Melissa is wounded. What is the scoring impact?
OK the team points count and get divided up and added to the individual scores.
Gilles and Cheryl go first. Gilles has required a cortisone shot in the left shoulder to continue. The physical pressures are quite something. Lively dance with one weird move where he reaches underneath Cheryl and somehow flips her over. Len liked their Lindy Hop. Bruno too, who enjoyed the comic elements a lot. Carrie Ann agrees. Score 9-9-9 to get 27. No better than last week.
Seems Lil' Kim and Derek are next. Will we get raunch as requested by Bruno last week? They do a paso doble. She is great at seeming like an annoyed horse (that is a compliment). Well I liked that dance, and I loved the slit skirt. She brought back spirit, and I would not even call it raunch. Bruno says she is back - indeed! I agree with the judges that she was very stylish as well as passionate. Len had expected a disaster and loved it. Scores 9-9-10 to get 28. It is Lil' Kim's first 9 from Len.
Now it's Chuck and Julianne. Chuck still cannot figure out what he did to get three 9's last week. This week they do a cha-cha and Julianne wants him to be flirty. He is sure trying with the hips. Carrie Ann liked the hips, but not his chin. Len is thrilled at where Chuck has got after his start, but does not like the stiff arms. Bruno agrees. Score 9-9-8 for 26. Chuck says, "It felt so good until we got to Bruno".
Shawn and Mark are next. Mark cannot convey what he wants as a feminine input so recruits his mother to explain it to Shawn. What impresses me is that with her body shape she still finds the lines really well. Len needed more. Bruno said it was a good samba. Carrie Ann liked it, appreciating solid technique and finding it also sexy. Scores 10-8-9 for 27.
I hope Melissa does not have swine flu. We'll know what the problem was soon. Hmm it's that rib again. X-Ray suggests it is a hairline fracture - she should not be thrown i nthe air. The judges will judge the last rehearsal. Bruno notes that the performance aspect is missing, and that is a real hit. Carrie Ann agrees, knowing that a rehearsal is a rehearsal. Len concurs. Score 7-7-7 for 21.
Next will be Ty and Chelsie. Good heavens! hey are spray-painting Ty! He says he is outside his comfort zone and I believe it. He is a bit stiff - she is carrying most of the movement. Carrie Ann loved it! Len is not happy - suggests Ty leave unless he excels in the group dance. Bruno says he liked watching it, and that Ty was using Chelsie as if she were a lasso. Score 9-7-8 for 24.
On to the teams - Gilles, Lil' Kim and Ty and respective partners form Team Tango, the rest Team Mambo. A substitute is dancing in place of Melissa on the latter team.
When Team Mambo perform it becomes clear how much better the professional dancers are than any of the celebrities (naturally enough). The dance is lively and scored 8-8-9.
Team Tango feature Lil' Kim in a nicely slit skirt again to start things off. Bruno loved it. Carrie Ann too. Len says Gilles' footwork was bad, but that Ty redeemed himself. Score 9-9-10.
It's impressive to see the improvements over the weeks as the celebrities keep working on their dancing. No doubt it helps that they are all pretty competitive and somewhat narcissistic.

How Stupid Can He Be?

Brilliant!
Just another way in which the administration seems in ways to have forgotten 9/11.

Sleeping Beauties

My morning walk occurred early enough today to find both swans asleep in or by the nest; fortunately, a Canada goose was willing to stand guard (click to enlarge).

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A Bird's Eye View

Spectacular! The flight of the goshawk is particularly engaging.

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Bea Arthur

I don't recall personally being a fan of All in the Family, Maude, or Golden Girls, but I never failed to enjoy Bea Arthur's delivery.
Yesterday, SillyWife and I were at the Elgin Theatre in a room that featured posters of past shows there. One of them was for Bea Arthur's "Just Between Friends", and I vaguely recalled, "Didn't Rondi tell me how much she enjoyed that show?" Yes, she did. Read what she has to say for a much better perspective than mine.

There's No UnderWear in Space

Carrie Fisher roasts George Lucas at the AFI. (h/t sorry, I have forgotten).
She's funny all the way, with her section on his commercial instincts being very funny and spot-on. And she sure finishes with a flourish.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Amazing Race - April 26, 2009 - Live-Blog

(OK not live but TV-live.)
So we are down to 4 teams - a) Kisha and Jen, b) Tammy and Victor, c) Margie and Luke, d) Jaime and Cara.
Everybody is headed to Beijing to start off. Margie and Luke and Jen and Kisha are already getting into it again in the airport. Everybody seems to be on the same flight. Tammy and Victor are using their ability to speak in the native language to good effect, getting seats near the front of the plane and requesting that all the others be seated in the back. Margie is still ranting.
Everybody is heading for a foot massage palace. WTF?
Tammy does not like feet and is worried she will have to massage one.
Jaime and Cara somehow get there first (not having left the airport first). The task is to drink some Chinese tea and then take a somewhat brutal foot massage, and then drink another cup of tea. Apparently this massage hurts and asking for it to stop is a reset.
Kisha and Jen are second. Jaime and Kisha are the victims. The masseuses seem to be enjoying it as their victims are in agony. Tammy and Victor come next, seemingly not showing much advantage from local knowledge. Tammy is the victim and partway through wishes she was massaging someone else's foot.
Margie and Luke are last - the show is rarely clear about how far behind this puts them. Luke is the victim.
Jaime and Cara are off to a swim centre. Kisha and Jen too, but neither seem able to find a taxi driver who knows where it is. Tammy and Victor now as well. Everybody is now in a cab.
Tammy and Victor get to the right door first - others are going to the wrong door. The task is now either dive synchronously, or swim 8 lengths of the pool as a relay. Tammy and Victor decide to dive as they don't think they can swim. Kisha and Jen get there second and they cannot swim. How the hell do they recruit for this show? Do they not tell people there will be swimming? Jaime and Cara have to run around the building from the wrong door and are now in play. Kisha and Jen will try diving. Margie and Luke are on site and will swim.
Jaime and Cara are swimming, and, as I would expect of NFL cheerleaders, they appear capable of swimming. Luke can also swim. This gives the TV guys a chance to pretend they are covering the Olympics by putting names beside the swimmers.
I failed to mention the swimmers have to wear the super duper Speedo suits and apparently it constricts breathing.
Jaime and Cara are on the way now to the pit stop.
It looks as if the synchro divers will be there forever.
Margie and Luke are on their way to the pit stop.
Tammy and Victor switch to swimming. Kisha and Jen are in the midst of an existential crisis with one of them in tears. While the crying continues, Tammy and Victor are on their way now too. As Rondi observed last week, Margie does not seem to have a very attractive personality.
Meanwhile Victor is cramping seriously, as Kisha and Jen switch to swimming (in lifejackets!). With lifejackets why not pick that right away?
OK now we get the fakery of all the teams sitting nervously in their taxis. If a footrace like a marathon were covered this way would they show each individual and hide any notion relative position? Obnoxious.
Jaime and Cara reach the pit stop first and are told they are first and that the leg is not over! End of show. Huh?

Opera Atelier - Coronation of Poppea

Had you suggested as little as ten years ago that I would find myself eager to see a production of Monteverdi's "L'incoronazione de Poppea" (henceforth Coronation of Poppea), I would have been at least extremely skeptical; for heaven's sake, it was written in 1643 - what did they know back then?. But given that this this is the current opera in production by Opera Atelier, the eagerness was guaranteed.
It turns out they knew a lot in 1643! What I had not expected was what a wacky ironic piece of work this opera is. Ostensibly about the triumph of love, the libretto is full of sarcasm, innuendo (some great double entendres), straightforward humor, along with stretches that look as if they were reasonably normal opera scenes (Ottoni's struggle as he contemplates killing Poppea is an example of that). Had I known the full historical background, I'd likely have appreciated even more irony; at least we had attended Stuart Hamilton's talk before the show so we knew the outcome of the 'happy' ending uniting Nero and Poppea - Nero kills her by his own hand later. Hamilton's final epithet - 'Everybody on the stage is rotten, so it's very contemporary'.
In any case, this opera offered Opera Atelier an opportunity they really made the best of. And they kept me guessing as well. We've been subscribers now for several years, and are accustomed to a mix of singing and acting, colorful ballet interludes, often nicely integrated into the rest of the opera, and involvement from a chorus located in the boxes on one side. So we found ourselves a little surprised at the intermission when we had seen mostly perfunctory dancing to mark set changes, no chorus, and no colorful costumes on the dancers. At the same time, this allowed a focus on the drama that was riveting, and the story moved along quickly, accompanied by that wonderful Monteverdi music rendered superbly by Tafelmusik. The death of Seneca was exactly the right point to insert the intermission, as this is in some way the moral center of the story (if there is a moral center of any real sort), Nero's declaration of his clear intent to replace Ottavia with Poppea. Moreover, it is one great piece of drama and singing; I had wondered why Curtis Sullivan had apparently been given such a minor role in this production, but his contribution to that scene was anything but minor. Marshall Pynkoski in his introduction had warned us that Joao Fernandes was a bit under the weather, but if it showed, I would sure like to see that scene again with him in full form!
After the intermission, Olivier Laquerre, who had seemed to me to be singing somewhat faintly earlier, picked it up, and that problem was no longer noticeable. Also after the intermission we got a very nice balletic number, which fit perfectly into the scene where Poppea is sleeping. And near the end we got a chorus as Poppea is to be made Empress. So my early confusion was addressed at least a little! Whoever wrote the last aria (Wikipedia seems to think the consensus is that it was not Monteverdi), it is utterly lovely and was done beautifully, and the irony of Poppea's later fate shone through, especially with the final gesture, with Nero poised threateningly over the prostrate Poppea. I love art where the form and content are slightly at variance with one another, and Opera Atelier marked it beautifully with that final small moment.
Michal Maniaci, a male soprano, played Nero (Nerone), and was terrific. It is interesting that the soprano register simply does not detract at all from his masculine presence in this role (nor did it in Idomeneo). Peggy Kriha Dye as Poppea was a convincing object of love/lust, and did a great job conveying Poppea's ambition. Just as in the production of Idomeneo, the two of them displayed great charisma. I'm a long-standing fan of Carla Huhtanen (best Papagena I have ever seen) and her Drusilla was a treat, moving between joy and despair a couple of times. Laura Pudwell was given a nice comic role and made the most of it. While I single out a few names, there was no role that seemed to me to leave anything really to be desired. The acting is uniformly excellent, and this is crucial in an opera like this where the devilish text and plot are so central.
My wife and I have been looking at our spending on live entertainment lately, and have noticed a waning of our interest in some of the companies whose productions we have attended regularly. As we walked away from the theatre after this show we agreed that we'd be subscribing to this company for the foreseeable future. They not only maintain a high level of quality but they are also willing to take a fair bit of artistic risk (beyond the already-risky focus on Baroque opera), and constantly surprise the audience (at least me and my wife).

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Ashbridge's Bay, April 25 - Castorian Update

Indirect evidence that there is still beaver activity (why did the Parks people not put wire mesh on this tree, not 100 yards from the beaver lodge?).

More direct evidence.

What is unknown to me at the moment is whether the widow beaver has found a new man.

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Ashbridge's Bay, April 25, 2009 - Avian Update

While a few buffleheads and oldsquaws are hanging around (might they stay all summer?), the complement of usual suspect summer species has filled out quite nicely. While one swallow does not a summer make, a whole bunch of them starts making one think about the warmer days coming. Even the kingfishers are back. The audio landscape is now in its usual state, dominated by redwings and cardinals, then gulls, song sparrows, the chatter of mallards, squawks of Canada geese, and the occasional croak of a kingfisher, or cry of a killdeer plover. Other regulars at the park report the return of the herons, but I have yet to see one.
And the highlight, as regular readers know - the swans are on the nest!

They are on the same spot used the last few years, with mixed success.

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But they have Universal Healthcare!

A fascinating photo-essay by documentary photographer Tomas van Houtryve.

When van Houtryve approached North Koreans, they walked off or averted their eyes. He never once photographed a smile. Even children ran away from him. “They’d turn and notice me and immediately bolt off—as if a wolf had come up to them.”

h/t small dead animals

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Saturday, April 25, 2009

Saturday Cat-Blogging

Maru starts out thinking the problem through and trying to apply intellect, but in the end sheer athleticism delivers the goods.

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Get Rid of the Stupid Hate Laws

A call for prosecution.
The target seems simply silly. Surely it would be better just to make fun of him.
h/t Language Log

Toronto the Good

This was a derisive term once, a suggestion that the city was pretty boring. And it once was, but is not now.
'Good' also has non-ironic meanings. And The Star has a nice story this morning. It's the usual 'losing a wallet' experiment, in which they leave wallets around the city. Of 20 left, 17 have so far been reported found, 7 within the first 24 hours. Not bad.

Slippery Tiles in the Shower?

I have recently returned to using my fitness/squash club more regularly, and when I returned the men's locker room had had a makeover, forced by a fire during a period I was not attending.
For a while it has puzzled me that as a result of the makeover, the floor of the shower room is much slippier than I recall it having been.
Why?
Could it be deliberate? Can it be awareness of risk compensation?
There is no question my behavior has changed, though I am not sure that my baby steps are a guarantee that I will avoid a nasty fall. Seems a sort of converse Peltzman effect.

Friday, April 24, 2009

When You Believe He Finally Cannot Make a Worse Appointment

He does.

Openness and the Internet

A nice history, 40 years in, of RFCs and how they came to become the basis of networking, including the Internet we know today. But I also liked the moral:
The R.F.C.’s have grown up, too. They really aren’t requests for comments anymore because they are published only after a lot of vetting. But the culture that was built up in the beginning has continued to play a strong role in keeping things more open than they might have been. Ideas are accepted and sorted on their merits, with as many ideas rejected by peers as are accepted.

As we rebuild our economy, I do hope we keep in mind the value of openness, especially in industries that have rarely had it. Whether it’s in health care reform or energy innovation, the largest payoffs will come not from what the stimulus package pays for directly, but from the huge vistas we open up for others to explore.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

The Right to Compete, not to Win

Ta-Nehisi Coates is spot on in this post.
People should have the right to compete in this country-- not the right to win. I'm not indifferent to changing the way these guys do hiring. But you can't do it like this. This is just stupid and hamfisted.

(You can find more on this as well from Steve Sailer).

Always a Dream to Come to the USA

The pirate prediction/guess is confirmed!
The crewman -- "Zahid" Reza -- says Abdiwali Muse told him it was his dream to come to the USA.

I suspect this will make many American ships even more attractive targets, though the pirates may have to be more careful about exactly how far they push things - early surrender seems a good plan.
h/t Instapundit

Succinct Analysis of the Auto Mess

And who is making it a mess.

His current bailout strategy amounts to asking thousands of bondholders and GM retirees to buy stock in a GM that the king's own policies mean they'd be loony to buy.
...
King Barack has only been on his throne for three months. His policies already have devolved into savage incoherence.
But let's face it, the king is also somewhat lacking in the lion-heartedness department.

A very good presentation of the combination of arrogance and ignorance informing many of the current initiatives.
UPDATE: The previous article is about GM. Scott Johnson does the heavy lifting regarding Chrysler. What is outrageous is the arbitrary changing of well-established rules after the fact, to achieve some ends that are not clear to me and are likely to have devastating unintended consequences. The willingness to work with this government is going to plummet if this sort of nonsense continues. Well, unless you are a community organization expectiong some handout.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Long Time Since I Had a Grilled Cheese Sandwich.

It looks to me as if there is now a branch of the Philistine Liberation Organization in Los Angeles, and it is hosting a major event this weekend.

“The 1st 7th Annual Grilled Cheese Invitational is the greatest combination of bravery and unnecessarily competitive cheese the world has seen since Neil Diamond’s 2008 world tour” says Tim Walker, the event’s founder and organizer.

In addition to the competition, KRAFT Singles will be on hand as the event’s title sponsor, offering up thousands of FREE grilled cheese sandwiches to the hungry masses.

Add to all this some cheese-themed poetry, comedy, cheesey music and exhibition cheese grilling and you have one of the more unique, entertaining and delicious events ever witnessed.

You have to register by tomorrow and book that trip to LA.
I sure hope none of the competitors uses real cheese.
Oh wait - that appears to be allowed:
The categories of competition will be as follows:

  • The Missionary Position: Any kind of bread, any kind of butter and any kind of cheese(or combination of cheeses) but no additional ingredients.
  • The Kama Sutra: Any kind of bread, any kind of butter, and any kind of cheese(or blend of cheeses) plus additional ingredients.
  • The Honey Pot: Any kind of bread, any kind of butter, any kind of cheese (or blend of cheeses), and any additional ingredients, but a sandwich that is sweet in flavor, or would best be served as dessert.


Still, it seems Donald Trump allows contestants who are not necessarily in favour of gay marriage, but is happy to have them eliminated simply for finding it out. So it might be dangerous to offend the sponsor.
h/t Al Dente

Now I Have to Find The Rap Fast Food Order


Fast Food Folk Song - Watch more Funny Videos

Earth Day Plan

To start working throug David MacKay's "Sustainable Energy - without the hot air". A little youtube video from him:

h/t Globalisation and the Environment.
And as I read it, I shall keep in mind the much bleaker "We Cannot Make a Dent in Global Carbon Emissions", which focuses on some of the same issues, but emphasizes a lot more the economic and political issues. (h/t same as above, previous post)
The two key points that summarize this is his global concern:
We don’t control the global supply of carbon...We no longer control the demand for carbon, either.

Now I need some good sources on mitigation/adaptation. :-)

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Kacie Kinzer's Witty Tweenbot Experiment

Is well worth an amused look.
In New York, we are very occupied with getting from one place to another. I wondered: could a human-like object traverse sidewalks and streets along with us, and in so doing, create a narrative about our relationship to space and our willingness to interact with what we find in it? More importantly, how could our actions be seen within a larger context of human connection that emerges from the complexity of the city itself? To answer these questions, I built robots.

Tweenbots are human-dependent robots that navigate the city with the help of pedestrians they encounter.

...

The results were unexpected. Over the course of the following months, throughout numerous missions, the Tweenbots were successful in rolling from their start point to their far-away destination assisted only by strangers

...

The Tweenbot’s unexpected presence in the city created an unfolding narrative that spoke not simply to the vastness of city space and to the journey of a human-assisted robot, but also to the power of a simple technological object to create a complex network powered by human intelligence and asynchronous interactions. But of more interest to me was the fact that this ad-hoc crowdsourcing was driven primarily by human empathy for an anthropomorphized object.

I'd agree with her that the results so far are pretty unexpected, and delightful.
h/t The Ottaawa Citizen, which article makes a further interesting note about the results, with this test being done in post-9/11 New York.

In today's world of terrorism and given a city like New York, where the everyday hustle and bustle can overwhelm a human never mind a 12-inch tall robot, surely these little guys wouldn't make it far. However, she was caught by surprise at the results of her little experiment. People actually stopped to help the bots reach their destination.

Make sure you watch the video in the first link!

Monday, April 20, 2009

Count On The Onion

Lovely. h/t Greg Mankiw

More American Workers Outsourcing Own Jobs Overseas

Did He Win the Treasure Chest?

Interesting legal reflections on some little used laws as the fourth Somali pirate comes before the law.
But I found this even more entertaining:
One thing is certain. The defendant has won second prize in the piracy lottery. So far, deterrence is not on the horizon. From the moment he was captured by US forces, the alleged pirate's life expectancy went up by decades. In the coming months, years and maybe decades, he is likely to get the best nutrition and accommodation he or anyone he knows has ever had. Given that he did not kill or injure anyone, a life sentence is very unlikely. If he serves 15 years in a federal prison and is then allowed to remain in America, he will likely come out the healthiest, most educated and perhaps oldest former Somali pirate around.

Dancing With the Stars - And Then There Were Seven

To find Melissa's inner maneater we start by having her visit Susan on Wisteria Lane. She is certainly right to emphasize the legs in her dancing. Bruno liked the maneater he had requested and is entirely with me on the legs. 29/30.
LT (whom I still cannot accustom to seeing in other than football gear) gets a little arrange on the driving range. 'Graceful' was in a funny way a skill he had in teh NFL, but it might be a different graceful from what is wanted here. Not awful - though he is not asked for much in the way of movement. Bruno loved the romance and he was right. 21/30 - all judges agreeing on 7.
In a twist this week the celebrities helped design their partner's dancing outfits, and LT designed quite the cover-up on his partner, who did seem to get a bit lost in the dress.
Lil' Kim has been scarily good at times. Hmmm - main goal is to tone down her purported sexiness; it has always seemed pretty toned down to me. Well, if that was toned down, I have been missing something in earlier episodes. Carrie Ann did not like it that much - oh dear. Len, mind you, for whom they toned it down, claims he likes her sexiness. Bruno wants the raunch of the old Lil' Kim back too. 26/30
Chuck is up next (I am a country music fan but had never heard of him). They re leaving a little raunch in - hands over the boobs. Chuck's contribution to Julianne's outfit design was not based on overdressing her. Definitely got the judges happy. 27/30
Ty says he is good at holding on, so he sort of likes the waltz. Good to choose a country waltz. Bruno liked it and Carrie agrees Ty is good at holding on. 24/30
Shawn seems to be having a great time. Though the week was full of award ceremonies! Wow - the gymnast sure knows where her body parts are. 28/30
Cheryl is trying to soften Gilles - rather than Wisteria Lane he gets synchro swimming. Seems he was softened nicely. Cheryl observes that her dress was a bit excessive too (i.e. she felt overdressed). 27/30
The group dance seemed somewhat pointless to me but when you have fewer couples there is more time on your hands, I guess.

Documentaries. Yeah, Right

David Henderson points to an extensive review from Tyler Cowen of a so-called documentary, The End of Poverty, purporting to explain poverty, with about the apparent same competence that the 'documentary' The Corporation elucidated anything about corporations (I should be fair and admit that maybe it might have taught something but began in such a fatuously unbalanced way that I chose not to endure the suffering too much longer, though my initial reactions were a bit like some of Tyler's to this other performance - and to give credit, the Canadian one at least had an amusing premiss).
From the review:
Where to start? A few months ago I went back and tried to read some Ayn Rand. As Adam Wolfson has suggested recently in these pages, it wasn’t easy. I was put off by her lack of intellectual generosity. I read her claim that “collectivist savages” are too “concrete-bound” to realize that wealth must be produced. I read her polemic against the fools who focus on redistributing wealth rather than creating it. I read the claim that Western intellectuals are betraying the very heritage of their tradition because they refuse to think and to use their minds. I read that the very foundations of civilization are under threat. That’s pretty bracing stuff.

I can only report that The End of Poverty, narrated throughout by Martin Sheen, puts Ayn Rand back on the map as an accurate and indeed insightful cultural commentator. If you were to take the most overdone and most caricatured cocktail-party scenes from Atlas Shrugged, if you were to put the content of Rand’s “whiners” on the screen, mixed in with at least halfway competent production values, you would get something resembling The End of Poverty. If you ever thought that Rand’s nemeses were pure caricature, this film will show you that they are not (if the stalking presence of Naomi Klein has not already done so). If you are looking to benchmark this judgment, consider this: I would not say anything similar even about the movies of Michael Moore.

Yikes, near praise for Michael Moore, and even for Ayn Rand.

To be sure, many arguments can be made against an excessive role for the market in economic development. It could be argued that public health programs should be stronger, that most privatizations have not gone very well, that free trade alone won’t much help poor nations, or that state-building and market-building must go hand-in-hand. There’s evidence for each of these claims, even if one does not agree with them exactly as just stated. Diaz picks up on the anti-privatization angle but for the most part lets the best arguments against the market lie fallow, probably because those arguments are too complex or too multifaceted to fit into the preferred narrative of the oppressed, poor victims. There’s not a word about technology transfer, remittances, immigration, education abroad, ideas of liberty or the many other ways in which the development of the West massively benefits the poorer nations of the world.

This is what troubled me about 'The Corporation'. It was pretty obvious that nuance and trade-offs were not going to part of a discussion that might with them have been interesting.
Facts aside, there is not a single moment when this film presents a genuinely critical or thoughtful approach to evidence it does not get wrong.

For all its exaggerations and clichés, you’ll actually learn more about poverty by watching Deliverance than you will from The End of Poverty. At least in Deliverance it’s clear that a lack of production is among the main root causes of poverty.

Most of all, the Robert Schalkenbach Foundation should be ashamed for having funded this movie. The Schalkenbach Foundation was set up in 1925 to promote the thinking of Henry George, best known as the author of Progress and Poverty and advocate of a tax on land. George was a flawed but brilliant and incisive thinker. He understood that wealth needs to be produced, and he also understood the strong case for free trade, most of all to protect the interests of labor. His 1886 book Protection or Free Trade remains perhaps the best-argued tract on free trade to this day; in that book George refutes exactly the arguments put forward by The End of Poverty. Has Diaz, Sheen, Portello or anyone working today at the Schalkenbach Foundation read it? One has to wonder if anyone who has read George could lend a hand to the production of the screed of mistruths and error that is The End of Poverty. I prefer to be subtler, but this movie does not allow it.

Amen

Globalization in Fine Form

Who thought this great idea up? It is so nice to live in a world where so many people have so much time on their hands.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Amazing Race

This is REALLY annoying; I am hungry. Better just deal with it having spent most of the day eating tomato sauce/ground beef mush plus spices (total yummm factor).
But now it is 8pm and there is no major golf or curling so I can actually watch "The Amazing Race", one of the few reality shows that seems to ask people to do other than connive against one another (though that does play a role.
Teams, starting out in Bangkok, must find their way to somewhere in China. Now I noticed in the past that the show makes stupid rules about this - some of the European travel could have been done a lot better by train than was prescribed to be done by plane.
I wondered who was left (missed last week)! The black dudettes, the shrimpy guys. This could be fun!
Great - mute guy and Mom are still in!
What happened to the slightly dysfunctional "Asian American" siblings? Still there - great!
And the NFL Cheerleaders are still in place. This is a meritocracy!
Everybody seems emotional about a tad of a confrontation between the black dudettes and the family with the mute guy. It seems ridiculous to me. Perfectly honest run for first access to the next instructions, in my view. Surely nobody chooses that horror!?
I love their road blocks! Cormorant fishing! I see cormorants on my morning walks - they are ugly and miserable. I would never want to cooperate with one of those birds.
These people seem happy using bad language. I will try not to.
OK it is a setup - not a real hunting test. And if I were a cormorant, I would catch that fish for one of those NFL Cheerleaders1
I must have missed something as others are working on hairstyling.
One of the cormorants bit Luke - good for that bird.
Looks as if the cheerleaders are doing well. (I am confused and did not see them pass the preceding test.)
The Asian siblings seem to get the hang of working with cormorants.
I am confused about where things stand.
Teams must now dance satisfactorily OR write nice Calligraphy. This is inanity at a new and high level.
My personal commitment is pretty well gone.
I MIGHT report on this.
This was fun. Even the Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders found the choreography oppressive.
The standards for calligraphy were likely lower. How could one tell?
Dallas Cowboys girls are stil not satisfying their Chinese judge (I am impressed). nd at the same time the stunt guys seem to be figuring out their relationship with the cormorants.
Nobody can say this show is not riddled with tension.
Teams as they make it to the end.
Black dudettes - 1, missed who was second (those Asian siblings?!).
Mute guy and Mom third.
Major whining and bitching. Greatest reality show ever!
Where are the cheerleaders? They are thankfully not out.
We can be happily rid of the short stuntmen and we seen to be at last!
What a brutal episode.
Can I last even two more weeks?

What an Audition Process

This one does not give me tears but it sure acquaints me with some more amazing personalities.
h/t Leo Kolivakis, suitably on Orthodox Easter weekiend.

Harper on the Road

My Prime Minister, too, and he seems to be at his best when he leaves the country.
Chris Blattman finds him entertainingly forthcoming. I like it too.
he’s actually an affable and gregarious and open personality,” Mr. Harper said. “And for whatever reason, he seems in a particularly good mood this weekend, and we’re all grateful for that.”

Congratulations Terry!

Hoorah. Well-deserved.

A Slight Departure

Part of me agrees utterly with these reflections. Obeisance to jerks like Chavez and Ortega ought to be considered repugnant.
It seems likely Obama has fed the constituencies of these idiots in their countries.
But does it really make a big difference?
Seems to me the major bad effect of this very sensible observation from Paul:
He heard this sort of anti-American rubbish from his spiritual mentor Jeremiah Wright for 20 years. It didn't bother him then and it doesn't seem to bother him now..

... will be on the dissidents in the affected countries, not much on the US. Or on me.
Anyway, this is sure no Reagan.

Brilliant

We had a TV reality show search in Canada to find a Maria for a stage production of "The Sound of Music" but I do not recall anything as brilliant as this as part of the process. I have been in Antwerp station but was not nearly so lucky as the people who were there at this time.

h/t The Volokh Conspireacy

Saturday, April 18, 2009

More Major Cuteness


Competition for ZooBorns.
I personally think this is one of the most valid uses of the Internet.
h/t The Unbroken Window

What is Objective Reporting?

I think Oliver Kamm has it right here.
Now, Jeremy Bowen was not "telling the truth": he was venturing a particular interpretation of the roots of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. I have numerous and fundamental differences with it. But it's important that it not be left to Robert Fisk to say what I am about to say.

On all that I have seen, Bowen's reporting from the Middle East has been informed and scrupulous. The judgement against him is an unwarranted slur on his professionalism and a threat to the notion of objective journalism.

This issue has nothing to do with the historical or current rights and wrongs of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. It concerns the responsibility - not even merely the entitlement - of a senior and experienced journalist to provide explanation and context for what he reports on. Objective reporting of international conflict doesn't mean that you split the difference between the protagonists. That wasn't how William Russell of this newspaper reported the Crimean War. It wasn't how George Orwell considered the Spanish Civil War. It wasn't how honest journalists such as Penny Marshall of ITN and Ed Vulliamy of The Guardian reported the Bosnian war. Objective reporting means that, while being aware of your partial information, you describe the world as you see it. This is the responsibility that Bowen has, and it's one that he has discharged.

Another Cute Ape


Let me steal the attribution from Charles Johnson; this is via the Center for Internet Studies of Animal Cuteness, aka ZooBorns.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Yeah I Know I Posted This Before

But Isn't it Great?
Now I cannot explain how wonderful it is that he is performing this in Holland unless you see him perform live, so I say see that!

And if you do not like the song enjoy Kori. I know I do.

And I Thought of Vermont as Land-Locked

This is particularly dim as I had recently blogged about my GPS guiding me onto the ferry across Lake Champlain last fall! So it may depend on your definition of land-locked.
Anyway Captain Phillips is back in Vermont and it is a riot listening to his accent, which Wolf Blitzer describes as 'New England'. Seems a lot more specific to me as he sure does not sound like anyone I have worked with around Boston.
Whatever, it is nice reminder of the great diversity of a great country.

This Really is Bad News

Madden retiring. Say it ain't so! (miserable h/t to Ta-Nehisi).
As I lived in the (real) Bay Area, he coached some of my favorite teams.
He has been one of my favorite broadcasters of NFL sport since then, the deepest irony being that the other has been Terry Bradshaw, who simply ruined a football season for me. (He utterly made a later year in my life when we met in an airport lounge and we talked at some length - he is delightfully all he seems to be.)
Thanks, John. It has been a great run. We owe you so much.
"It's about emotion; it's about life; it's about playing hard." (From the video in Ta-Nehisi's post. Thanks again, John.

Chris Dillow is Spot On

Amen.
The real question is why his views seem oddly heterodox.

Storm? What Storm?

Ta-Nehisi Coates links to this excellent parody of an ad from the National Organization for Marriage against gay marriage.

"...we will have no choice but to switch to digital TV"
This video is funny, but what I found really entertaining was that, having seen it, I wanted to see what was being parodied. When I went to youtube and typed in the search term "The Gathering Storm" I got an enormous number of parodies and had to work quite hard to find the original. Save yourself the effort - watch the parodies.

Worst President in a Hundred Years

From the blog of the Somali Pirates
h/t snapped shot

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Susan Boyle World Dominance

I am decidedly not at one with the Tired Old Fart on this topic. And Tired's posed weariness seems tiresome to me beside Susan Boyle's approach to her life.
"You have to take yourself seriously."
CBS News do a very nice interview.

Watch CBS Videos Online
And they make the point that this is no easy song to sing. When she hits that ascending series of notes that Amanda's finger warns us is coming, Amanda's reaction says a lot (Amanda has sung with consequences, unlike Tired and me).
She is now pushing 14 million views, and maybe only 2 or 3 hundred thousand are mine. (I love the way Harry Smith says he has watched it "over and over".)

I Knew There Had to be Fun in the Stimulus

Shameful

The buck stops somewhere, I am not sure where! I was briefed, I did not sign off.

What an ass - she suggests the reporters had not read the document - great way to earn respect as you duck any ownership of your own department's document!
This tone is too prevalent. Whatever else one thinks of the tone created by Bush and Cheney it was certainly one of ownership of decisions, however unpopular.
UPDATE: Her one apparently half-decent point was also wrong.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

More Riffs on Billy Bob from the CBC


A professional foosball player indeed! Would you say that to Shari Lewis?

Who is Elaine Paige?

It gets more and more entertaining with each viewing. There is a YouTube version now with over 5 million viewings.
But watching it over and over produces interesting results. For one thing she is VERY confident if also amusingly diffident about never having been kissed (and Piers Morgan rightly describes her as 'cheeky', and her response to Cowell shows she knows what she has.. But that great smile just before she opens her mouth shows she knows what we did not. And that amusing "And that's just one side of me." or "I am going to make that audience rock")! The feedback from Pebbles was all she needed.
I particularly love Amanda as with just a finger she shows she knows one challenge in the song, where the register rises. It is so eloquent, and as Boyle nails it, Amanda leaps to her feet.
One thing for sure - that girl who looks so dismissive at 1:24 is going to feel bad for years.
In the end, it is funny - I had NEVER heard of Elaine Paige until Susan Boyle mentioned her.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Pebbles is One Lucky Cat

I cannot stop watching this.
Repeated watchings tell me she KNEW! How?
There is a brilliant telling smile just before she starts to sing.
Pebbles should become the music critic of the Times!
Cats are SO knowing!

Monday, April 13, 2009

Lovely Surprise

Simon Cowell's eyebrows say it all as she starts to sing.

Susan Boyle - 47-letnia śpiewaczka z brytyjskiej wersji "Mam
Uploaded by luloczek

I usually find these shows a waste of time but this is quite moving.
h/t Dlisted
UPDATE: (2 pm or so) I see this popping up everywhere on the Web now. It is so great that this technology lets more than just that local British audience share the privilege of hearing what until very recently only her cat Pebbles ever got to hear.
UPDATE: (2:15 pm) A nice post on this by Peter Simpson, who captures the context and story nicely.

She is plain, gray, entirely nondescript, and as one judge later admitted everybody in the theatre during the broadcast was surely expecting Boyle to fail. What they got was remarkable - a brilliant voice, and brilliant, real television drama.

Reality TV has some small potential, however useless most of it. I have now watched the video a few more times and it really is clear how dismissive all three judges are as Boyle steps up, so to speak, to the plate. And to their credit they all retreat at the end - Cowell amusingly elegantly, I think suggesting in his statement that the 'something extraordinary' that happened was quite different from the 'something extraordinary' he anticipated - though perhaps so elegantly many missed it.
At the moment, for me, repeated viewings just move me more. Oh my, "Never been kissed." I hope Pebbles was watching!

Very Witty

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Sunday, April 12, 2009

Woo-Hoo!! US Captain is Free

Initially sounds like snipers at work. I do not care what the operation was. I DO care about the outcome. Great work. And good on you Obama!

Finance Today, but What About Tomorrow?

Amazingly, some reporter at the NY Times has discovered a problem in The One's statism.
As Washington cracks down on compensation and tightens regulation of banks, a brain drain is occurring at some of the biggest ones. They are some of the same banks blamed for setting off the worst downturn since the Depression.

Top bankers have been leaving Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley, Citigroup and others in rising numbers to join banks that do not face tighter regulation, including foreign banks, or start-up companies eager to build themselves into tomorrow’s financial powerhouses. Others are leaving because of culture clashes at merging companies, like Bank of America and Merrill Lynch, and still others are simply retiring early.

The writer does a lot of spin to make this sound good, and it could well be, in a dynamic, self-reshaping world that has been the US at times in the past.
Somehow I am not convinced that is a model we are heading into again in the near future.

Pirate Ethics?

Ophelia makes a gigantically good point.
People attempting to rescue a guy being forcibly held by heavily armed thieves are accused by the thieves of planning 'tricks.'

Those damned "cheese-eating-surrender-monkeys"!
The pirates are undoubtedly looking forward to dealing with an Obama administration eager to grasp their unclenched fist.
I am starting to think that when he decides he has to look credible it will be spectacular, I hope not in the form of Jimmy Carter. who did once try.

Turtles, not Pirates

Great story - go read this.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

The Masters and Ethnicity

Sports reporters are the last guys you would look to for profound social commentary, though they can hit it inadvertently.
I love the Masters - there is a combination of religiosity combined with meritocracy that feeds the whole event, despite the southern gentlemen behind the hosting at Augusta National.
But I am watching today, and there is commentary that asks whether, maybe Shingo Katayama might be the first Asian to win the tournament if he has a good day tomorrow.
Half of me has WTF bells ringing off into his brain? I had thought we at least had an ethnically Asian guy who has won more than once!
Of course this is all wildly dependent on slightly incoherent, though not unreasonable, classifications that have to do with past interbreeding in one's family.
American history means for some bizarre reason we classify the mostly Asian (but REALLY wildly mixed) Woods as black, and the current President as Black (and nobody has applied the resources to sorting out his background as has been done with Tiger).
There is no conceivably intellectual honesty behind this.
And in fact 'Black' and 'Asian' are not really ethnic notions I consider too seriously.
But how do we make sense of the focus on Katayama? Asian-born? What about armed forces children who might have been born in Japan or Korea? Do they count? (John McCain, though not for Asia, would fall into that.)
What about Andrew Kim, for a couple of years now one of the best US golfers? The surname should speak a bit - I do not know the whole story.
When golf was a totally white-bread sport, I can see why there would be excitement. But an ethnic Asian, by any reasonable definition, has won the Masters more than once. So shut up.
P.S. Woods is going to tear you classifiers to shreds with his current and forthcoming kids. Mix his mix with us Scandinavians and all hell breaks loose! :-)
Ooppss - my 'us' is the famous 'Scots-Irish' of the last while, though I think Tiger's wife is likely not so corrupted.

Plankgate

Count on Mark Steyn to have anticipated anything I just posted. With his usual grim humour. h/t Rand Simberg.
I want to find it hard to believe that a couple of the things Steyn says are very true, but I suspect in many ways the new President, still, I think, unable to manage everything around him, misses these key points.
In fact, a lot of today’s badlands were relatively ordered not so long ago, and many of them are getting badder and badder by the day. Half a century back, Somaliland was a couple of sleepy colonies, British and Italian, poor but functioning. Then it became a state, and then a failed state, and now the husk of a nation is a convenient squat from which to make mischief. According to Chatham House in London, Somali pirates made about $30 million in ransom and booty last year. Thirty mil goes a long way in Somalia, making piracy a very attractive proposition.
Obviously, if the United States Navy hanged some eyepatched peglegged blackguard from the yardarm or made him walk the plank, pious senators would rise to denounce an America that no longer lived up to its highest ideals, and the network talking-heads would argue that Plankgate was recruiting more and more young men to the pirates’ cause, and judges would rule that pirates were entitled to the protections of the U.S. constitution and that their peglegs had to be replaced by high-tech prosthetic limbs at taxpayer expense.

The country that elected Obama is not, as he might like to imagine, some necessarily inevitable byproduct of ACORN community organization. It took Jefferson's, Roosevelt's, Kennedy's, Reagan's intransigence to keep its progress and civilization in place. I currently still assume Obama sort of understands this (though he has not said much encouraging in the last couple of weeks to suggest he understands any of it). He deserves time, but as Steyn is pointing out, North Korea, Iran, the pirates, none of them are planning to give him much. Hey, I think I recall Joey the VEEP predicting this! And look how well it's going! No visible action whatever on North Korea or Iran, apparent thumb-twiddling (maybe well-justified) on the pirates.
We shall see.
He is wonderfully and far more accurately brutal about the UK - I wish I could laugh.
Meanwhile, the Royal Navy, which over the centuries did more than anyone to rid the civilized world of the menace of piracy, now declines even to risk capturing their Somali successors, having been advised by Her Majesty’s Government that, under the European Human Rights Act, any pirate taken into custody would be entitled to claim refugee status in the United Kingdom and live on welfare for the rest of his life. I doubt Pirates of the Caribbean would have cleaned up at the box office if the big finale had shown Geoffrey Rush and his crew of scurvy sea dogs settling down in council flats in Manchester and going down to the pub for a couple of jiggers of rum washed down to cries of “Aaaaargh, shiver me benefits check, lad.” From “Avast, me hearties!” to a vast welfare scam is not progress.

Ten years ago I would have thought this cannot keep going on like this. Now I wonder.
UPDATE: I meant to quite the last two paragraphs.

As my colleague Andrew McCarthy wrote, “Civilization is not an evolution of mankind but the imposition of human good on human evil. It is not a historical inevitability. It is a battle that has to be fought every day, because evil doesn’t recede willingly before the wheels of progress.” Very true. Somalia, Iran, and North Korea are all less “civilized” than they were a couple of generations ago. And yet in one sense they have made undeniable progress: They have globalized their pathologies. Somali pirates seize vessels the size of aircraft carriers flying the ensigns of the great powers. Iranian proxies run Gaza and much of Lebanon. North Korea’s impoverished prison state provides nuclear technology to Damascus and Tehran. Unlovely as it is, Pyongyang nevertheless has friends on the Security Council. Powerful states protect one-man psycho states. One-man psycho states provide delivery systems to apocalyptic ideological states. Apocalyptic ideological states fund non-state actors around the world. And in Somalia and elsewhere non-state actors are constrained only by their ever increasing capabilities.

When all the world’s a “distraction,” maybe you’re not the main event after all. Most wealthy nations lack the means to defend themselves. Those few that do, lack the will. Meanwhile, basket-case jurisdictions send out ever-bolder freelance marauders to prey on the civilized world with impunity. Don’t be surprised if “the civilized world” shrivels and retreats in the face of state-of-the-art reprimitivization. From piracy to nukes to the limp response of the hyperpower, this is not a “distraction” but a portent of the future.

How Dumb Can We Get, Part II?

Pretty dumb. P.S. Just in case you have something like Obama's grasp of history, John's description of Jefferson in that post is sarcastic. I tremble contemplating the Law and Order episodes featuring Somali pirate defendants.
I rather prefer John Keegan's approach to this problem.

Such ships must act promptly and ruthlessly, as piracy will spread unless it is stamped out. The Gulf of Aden is an exit from the Mediterranean, one of the world's most important seas, crossed annually by thousands of ships. So our campaign must be ruthless and pitiless: pirate ships must be sunk on sight and the crews left to swim to safety, if it can be reached.

The "cheese-eating-surrender-monkeys" seem to have figured this out. We can hope the hamburger eaters might get it.
Morin told Europe 1 that a rescue would have been impossible if the hostages had been taken to the Somali coast and "by its very nature, there is no such thing as zero risk".

The current routine payment of ransom is outrageous and will simply increase the size of the problem.
As for the case of the current US hostage, I sure hope some solution gets found favorable to his fate. I would have thought four well-timed snipers could fix the problem, but maybe snipers are a little less effective than the ones on TV, when their platform is a boat rocking on an ocean. I don't know. The logistics could be pretty difficult.
P.S. In case you are wondering, I think this and the last post are closely related.

How Dumb Do We Get

Pretty damned dumb.

Thursday, April 09, 2009

I Actually Heard This in Its Initial Eastern Timezone Incarnation Yesterday

I wasn't going to blog it but, having re-heard (and now seen) it, I am so appalled at what a jerk BBT was that it can use another link.

BBT's own publicist confirms as well that there was NO instruction to the CBC to restrict the topics of conversation.

BBT to me looks pretty affected by something and his bandmates seem to be very embarrassed, rightly. I will say one thing - when I saw Wille Nelson and Ray Price in Tulsa (with Merle Haggard and Asleep at the Wheel), I am VERY happy that this jerk was not part of the opening act.

I thought listing Michael Nesmith as part of the early influences, from the other band members, was way cool. One great Monkee!

What astonishes me is that there are actually people on a couple of mailing lists I participate in who defend Thronton's behavior! What can they be thinking?

Too Much Information For Me

So I figured you'd want to hear about it!

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My Fingers are Crossed

I would miss them both.

Of course, it won't affect me for several years (as I barely watch the show in anything but syndication).

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Wednesday, April 08, 2009

The Cleansing Power of Hard Times

A small step for mankind.
Not to say the cleansing is done.
More than 40 courses offered by departments across campus concerning women's issues, gender, sexuality and diversity will continue to be offered.

As Ian Dury so gloriously sang, "What a Waste".
h/t Kate

Smoke, Smoke, Smoke That Cigarette

And save your country a fortune!
However, smokers die some 10 years earlier than nonsmokers, according to the CDC, and those premature deaths provide a savings to Medicare, Social Security, private pensions and other programs.
Vanderbilt University economist Kip Viscusi studied the net costs of smoking-related spending and savings and found that for every pack of cigarettes smoked, the country reaps a net cost savings of 32 cents.

The issue has NEVER been one of costs - always simple puritanism.

Obama Dodges This One

CNN report that the crew on the hijacked ship have retaken control. Is this UA 93 again or a Steven Seagal movie?
Good news for Obama - he can still stay everyone's friend.

UPDATE: Maybe not. He may have to decide something.

Sickening Apologies

My guess is he just really wants to be loved. And sadly, he is getting it mostly back, even when there remain substantial differences.
Rondi is again right on.

The bad joke that is the Larry King Show

... emphasized its appallingness by recently featuring the lovely Jenny McCarthy espousing her nonsensical views. Could they not have had instesd the even lovelier Amanda Peet?
Phil Plait asks for a larger audience for a 'review' (he calls it a smackdown) of this travesty by David Gorski. I am happy to oblige. Go here.

I Wish the Local Church Signs

... were half so entertaining as this one from Greg Mankiw.

Barbary Somali Pirates and Obama

So the Somali pirates have seized a ship flying the US flag, just as Obama returns from Turkey. Biden was right - pretty well everyone is trying to create a challenge for the newbie.
From Wikipedia:

On Jefferson's inauguration as president in 1801, Yussif Karamanli, the Pasha (or Bashaw) of Tripoli, demanded $225,000 from the new administration. (In 1800, Federal revenues totaled a little over $10 million.) Putting his long-held beliefs into practice, Jefferson refused the demand. Consequently, in May 1801, the Pasha declared war on the United States, not through any formal written documents but by cutting down the flagstaff in front of the U.S. Consulate. Algiers and Tunis soon followed their ally in Tripoli.

In response, Jefferson sent a group of frigates to defend American interests in the Mediterranean, and informed Congress. Although Congress never voted on a formal declaration of war, they did authorize the President to instruct the commanders of armed vessels of the United States to seize all vessels and goods of the Pasha of Tripoli "and also to cause to be done all such other acts of precaution or hostility as the state of war will justify."

No doubt Obama would prefer a more multi-lateral approach than Jefferson.
Maybe he will start by trying to talk nicely to the pirates, continuing his outreach to Islam, which, as I have pointed out, has influenced the development of the US as cited above. It would appear that at least some definition of executive authority was helped by earlier Islamic piracy.

Norm is two for two this morning

One of two. I agree with Norm. Mind you, CNN is pointing out strongly this morning that this is the first legislative endorsement of gay marriage. But that is a sociological observation, surely not a legal one. At one point I was going to note that the Canadian approach is leaking into Vermont, but I am not sure we actually REALLY had any legislative endorsement here.

Two of two. I have never been a fan of the US boycott of Cuba, which has seemed at best self-defeating. Now I have, unlike almost every Canadian I know, personally boycotted Cuba, but that's mostly because I prefer vacationing somewhere more expensive.

My film industry investment

... is starting to look pretty ugly.
I'd better have a chat with my financial adviser Mr. Miller, and then find out who the FEW dissenting councillors on this vote were. Maybe one of them could move to my ward (I am pretty sure my current councillor jumped to Miller's orders).

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Economising

A couple of months ago I started noticing that the schedule of TMN was becoming quite dluted. I had been subscribing to it on my local cable provider because it brought fairly prompt exposure to all recently released movies.
But somehow this had stopped happening and it took me a while to find out. Its monopolistic position had been undermined by our fabulous CRTC so the license to show newly released movies was now being shared out, no doubt at higher cost because of competition, among many cable stations.
So in the last couple of weeks I gave up my subscription. One option would have been to add further movie channels, but the whole process was too complicated, and for lots of good reasons, as you might imagine, I preferred to cut costs.
What I have learned, since abandoning that channel, is how rich even basic cable is in good movie resources, a point Rondi has frequently made citing films she watches on TCM.
About an hour ago I tuned in to "Grand Prix" as a lark on TCM, remembering its sweaty palm effect on me back in the days, and figured I would have a good laugh. Well, what a surprise - it stands up pretty well if you remember when being a Formula 1 driver was dangerous. And wow - the leads, all great except for poor Brian Bedford who shortly later found himself exiled to the Stratford Festival. But having Eva Marie Saint and Jessica Walter, James Garner and Yves Montand! Woo hoo. Too bad I have to switch to curling soon.
I am starting to think I can reduce myself to the Food Channel, the Women's Channel, and TSN. I wish Rogers would price that in a way I thought fair.

If you Vote for McCain

... the Europeans will be really annoyed by your arrogant postures.
On 'Overnight' I noticed both BBC and Deutsche Welle struggling NOT to emphasize this point. The Germans have every reason NOT to welcome Turkey to the EU; DW did emphasize Austria's opposition, I suspect as an ersatz opponent.
Obama's position is NO different from Bush's. Personally I think they are both wrong - Turkey seems to be headed for hell in a handcart (just judging from their elections) and I cannot see how attachment to the EU will improve the situation of either side.
But the media hypocrisy about this is appalling.

Seems I am a Film Producer!

As are millions of us. Involuntarily.
How stupid can this place get? As we suffer another property tax increase blindingly higher than pledged by the campaign Millerbabble.
Now we get this Millerbabble:
“We don’t in the long-run want to run a film studio. That’s not what we’re good at. But we do want this film studio to succeed to create jobs in Toronto.We view this as a transition measure, but the transition may be several years.”

If it were not my property taxes I would just laugh! But what does he think he is good at? Maybe, like Obama, he should start running the car industry. Anyway, I await discovering Miller's core competence, other than perhaps looking like a Mayor. What a waste of money.
Anyway, for many years Miller plans to run a film studio. And he has cut a deal in such a way we taxpayers cannot find out what the deal is.
The money – “millions and millions” according to councillor Denzil Minnan-Wong (Don Valley East) treading as close as he could to the line without breaching the confidentiality code – will come out of the city’s land acquisition reserve fund.

Yeah let's make sure the voters are not allowed to understand what we are doing with their money.
I found this incredible:
Councillor Michael Walker (St. Paul’s) will be reported to the integrity commissioner for taking the confidential report to an outside forensic auditor over the weekend seeking insight – a potential violation of council rules.

I love the summary at the start of the article:
In a closely guarded deal worth undisclosed millions, city council yesterday approved a loan for the purchase of a minority stake in Filmport in order to partner with the producers of the legendary James Bond blockbusters to operae Toronto’s state-of-the-art studios.

I see it now - Halle Berry in a bikini exiting Lake Ontario (if we are lucky during most of the year when it is cold), and his blonde goodness saying, "Miller, David Miller". And at my expense and that of so many of us he consistently lies to. Not at his expense.
I like this city and utterly despise its Council right now. Tossing money away for nothing but the vanity of its "leaders".

April Can be the Cruelest Month

When it does this:

Of course, as the two Johns point out, it could be worse than we get it in Toronto.

Robert Spencer Misses a Key Point

He latches quite excellently onto the very silly statement from Obama's speech in Turkey (well, no doubt one of many boring unimpressive speeches).

“We will convey,” said Barack Obama to the Turkish Parliament Monday, “our deep appreciation for the Islamic faith, which has done so much over the centuries to shape the world — including in my own country.”
Undeniably the Islamic faith has done a great deal to shape the world – a statement that makes no value judgment about exactly how it has shaped the world. It has formed the dominant culture in what is known as the Islamic world for centuries. But what on earth could Obama mean when he says that Islam has also “done so much” to shape his own country?

That was my first reaction too.
After all, how has the Islamic faith shaped the United States? Were there Muslims along Paul Revere’s ride, or standing next to Patrick Henry when he proclaimed, “Give me liberty or give me death”? Were there Muslims among the framers or signers of the Declaration of Independence, which states that all men – not just Muslims, as Islamic law would have it – are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, including life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness? Were there Muslims among those who drafted the Constitution and vigorously debated its provisions, or among those who enumerated the Bill of Rights, which guarantees – again in contradiction to the tenets of Islamic law – that there should be no established national religion, and that the freedom of speech should not be infringed?
There were not.

Spencer enumerates some BAD influences on US History, leaving out the Barbary Pirates.
Of course, it is certain that Obama had none of that in mind. But what could he possibly have had in mind? His statement was either careless or ignorant, or both – not qualities we need in a Commander-in-Chief even in the best of times.

But I realized after a few minutes I had forgotten how stupid the sixties and seventies were and no doubt so had Spencer.
Well, one influence that clearly HAS affected Obama is the history of Black Muslims, a la Farrakhan.
Though maybe Obama does not want to emphasize that! It sure would not help me want to vote for him.

Monday, April 06, 2009

Speaking Austrian

Everybody seems to be having fun with the fact that Obama last week remarked in passing in a European Press Conference that he was not sure how to say something "in Austrian", finding this hilarious because Austrians speak German, in general. Well, yes and no.
I don't think it would be ludicrous for someone to say "in American", given the fact that there is at least one dialect that somewhat differs from the Queen's English in the US (and maybe more, just as in Canada).
Certainly many vocabulary choices in Austria would differ from those in parts of Germany (of course they also differ in regions within both Austria and Germany).
So in this case, I don't think this can be charged against him at all. Who knows, some Austrians might even have felt a bit inflated by this recognition of their uniqueness.

interminable, windy and not very impressive

This Telegraph writer has reached my point.
His performance at the first press conference in London with Gordon Brown featured moments in which he sparkled - his riff on loving the Queen was a high-point. But most of the serious answers that I listened to were interminable, windy and not very impressive. At points there were pauses so long that it appeared he had simply lost his train of thought.

You see that a lot in the press conferences and in the townhalls he sets up.
And his history is clearly infected with his political prejudices.
"Few people would have predicted that an American President would one day be permitted to speak to an audience like this in Prague. And few would have imagined that the Czech Republic would become a free nation, a member of NATO, and a leader of a united Europe. Those ideas would have been dismissed as dreams". (Not by Ronald Reagan they wouldn't have been, when most of Obama's Democrat friends thought the then US President's robust approach to the Cold War made him a loony on the loose).

Other discussion is his total focus on his own importance.
The author asked a great question:
Is there a computer which churns this stuff out for him?

Of course we know there is.

Sunday, April 05, 2009

In Cold Blood

No nothing to do with Truman Capote (despite there having been two fine movies in the last couple of year about writing that book), but rather the latest contribution of David Attenborough to nature shows - his series "Life in Cold Blood" on amphibians and reptiles.
It is running currently on TVO.
It is entertaining, informative, and truly harrowing!
If someone is offering it near you try to watch it!
I find he jumps around a lot but then part of his point is that there are sure a lot of ways to address problems (I am deliberately avoiding the word 'solution'). He is lovely at explaining what the little devils are 'thinking' about. And yes, I might well italicize that verb referring to my species and me.


Just finished the "Dragons of the Dry" episode, and wow, all I can say is, that was really interesting, on lizards. I Hope it was mostly true.

This Year's Dinah Shore

The first LPGA major of the year and what a great run at the end! The final group of three were the main competitors through many holes, trading occasional errors but a lot of great shots. The killer in the end was the second shot on 18 ("the best shot of my life"), from Brittany Lincicome (23 years of age!), which set up an eagle that moved her past Kristy McPherson and Cristie Kerr.
What struck and delighted me was the spirit on that last hole. McPherson barely missed a birdie putt that would have sent the match into extra holes. Kerr sank a stunning putt from off the green that moved her into a potential tie should Lincicome miss her eagle putt.
Walking up to the 18th green together, Lincicome and McPherson both were high-fiving the gallery, and patting one another on the back. Kerr was following, and mutual congratulations were not held back as the match ended.
Thanks - this is how sport should be. No screaming infantile McEnroe or fist-pumping showboats.
One small point - it would be great if future parents could find consistent ways to spell Kristie. And yeah, I know it's not called the Dinah Shore anymore. But I do not see why I should change at this point.

Saturday, April 04, 2009

Iowa?

Yup, Iowa. Congratulations.

I picture the pickup trucks already revving up to head into the state!

I have visited Iowa, and had a great time in Ames.

I also noticed the somewhat Stalinist architecture in Des Moines.

What was Collier Thinking?

I read this post and just tried to ignore it but Steve Sailer is dead right to raise it - it should embarrass Collier.
What the hell can he mean when he says?:

I don’t know this stuff and don’t want to. But I am just about prepared to believe that the average Chinese person is smarter than the average Englishman.

Sailer's transcription is wonderful:
In other words, "Please don't Watson me! I'll be however stupid I have to be in order to keep my nice job at Oxford."

Anti-Vaccination Crap

I saw promotions for this yesterday on CNN and was stunned.

Let's hope Larry King actually invites some real knowledgeable people sometime. Sad thing is they might not be celebrities with no brains.

More Arresting Lines

And more Fred Eaglesmith (sorry, he really impresses me).

Obvious great lines:
"I'm a house on fire too but I've got four alarms".
"One just blows through town and one blows the town away".
"She drives as fast as me but she stops at all the lights".
All great braggadocio.

But it is a great song as it incorporates these brilliant lines, a sort of surprising denouement (but not a finish - the song reverts to the braggadocio!):

"When she takes my hand and she looks me in the eye
I see something that I've never seen in my life
She takes the fire and turns it down low
She takes the night and makes it not so cold
She takes the distance and breaks it into miles
She makes my life just a little less wild"

This very unreliable narrator is full of himself (well herself if you listen, as I strongly recommend, to the Dar Williams performance) but yet recognizes that maybe some grounding is useful!

This guy is one fine writer.

Go Yoanni

Yup.

Friday, April 03, 2009

Alda's Adventures with 'The Current'

... continue. And in the process continue to confirm my assessment of the show.

Interestinger and Interestinger

For obvious reasons I have been following this story closely as it has appeared in the press.
IBM has made previous runs at possibly buying Sun, and the idea has never struck me as particularly weird. I have seen press references to a clash of corporate cultures, but I don't see that as the case at all, not since the mid 1990s. The cited article is rather weird in some other ways:
Sun is one of the largest sellers of server computers and is known for systems based on its Sparc chips. It has a vast software portfolio, including the Solaris operating system , the open-source MySQL database and the Java programming language.

Hmm let's see, IBM has a full set of Linux implementations across its platforms, AIX on Power, DB2, as well as freebie versions, and its own proprietary implementation of Java, which is the clear performance leader in the industry. I am pretty sure IBM software revenues are vastly greater than Sun's. In fact it becomes a VERY interesting question what IBM would do with all this software wealth it would purchase.

Straw Man?

Yes it was a straw man! "If it's just Roosevelt and Churchill sitting in a room...".
Again the historical ignorance mixes with the arrogance. There was a Stalin, in case that has been forgotten, and he had rather an impact, though maybe Obama is too young to remember that. Moreover, Germany and Japan remained rather influential forces throughout Roosevelt's life.
Nice rhetoric, but a miss, I would say.

Thursday, April 02, 2009

Arresting Lines

I mean lines in poems, songs, or just plain old prose, which I speak all the time, that stop me in my tracks.
Lately a couple have hit me, and they are both from Fred Eaglesmith!
One is from "He's a Good Dog", and it is the lovely "I think he actually knows some things that actually I don't." Those two "actually"'s are so brilliant - they make that line so much better than it would have been with either of them missing. And that line leapt out at me when I first heard the song many years ago.
Saturday night I heard, for the first time, "30 Years of Farming". While I could not get the complete lyrics (Eaglesmith's diction could be better - say like James King's - I will add James King's youtube embed), one devastating line just jumped to the foreground when I heard it -"Oh, my daddy stopped talking the day the farm was auctioned, there was nothing left to say." I am no major romantic about dying industries - I often think we should just put them away quickly, rather than, as we are now doing, wallowing in slowing a death that should be faster.
But that great line captures the problem with this view.
Thanks, Fred! You challenged me in just the right way.


And for better diction!