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Showing posts from 2008

Sifting through the ashes...

Sometimes I hate the Internet.
On my daily Reddit-crawl in search of a nice, neat meme to wrap up this tumultuous year, I came across this article concerning the Yellowstone Caldera. "Is A Volcan0 Big Enough To Cause An Ice Age Really About to Blow Its Top?"
There's the kind of headline that can really put some shit in your pants, you know what I mean? And then you read the article, which basically concludes well, we don't know for sure, but hey! it kinda looks like it (last line: "our civilization has now entered the geological interval of maximum eruption risk")...the shit just keeps on coming! Look, it's shit creek! Where's the padd--oh, shit!
Calm down, have some dip. Consider how odd it is that this isn't all over the news like an earthquake swarm. (I caught the coverage of the earthquake swarm last week, and thought humph, eruption comin' up. Didn't realize Yellowstone Caldera was quite that large.)  Note that, while Yellowstone is con…

Hobo Bus

Home again, home again, jiggety-jog, from my annual Christmas trip to see my dad and stepmom. As always, I had a wonderful time. I saw The Secret on DVD (blog entry forthcoming: suffice it to say I went into it scathingly sceptical and came out something of a convert). A blast from my distant past came in the form of Aggravation. And I got plenty of rest, relaxation, and hockey-watching in. There's something about the air along the shores of Georgian Bay that relaxes and rejuvenates. Would that I could have imported some of that Georgian air back with me...
Okay, that sentence demands some explanation.Well, a great deal of it, actually (sorry)...Eva didn't come up with me, for the same reasons I didn't accompany her to her parents' place Christmas Eve...reason one being Tux and reason two being Georgia-Peach. 
We're simply uncomfortable with the idea of boarding our two furry children. With good reason: we tried it at Thanksgiving and Peach escaped from her pen (surp…

For Your Christmas Enjoyment...

From our house to yours, a tradition: Dave Cooks The Turkey. (audio file: runs 21:50 or so). 

The Vinyl Cafe and its host Stuart McLean are Canadian treasures. Over six hundred thousand people tune in each weekend, and countless more download the podcast. McLean hosts his program from a new location every week, and by now has hit practically every community in the country. He makes everywhere he goes seem like somewhere you might want to move to, giving loving descriptions that focus on the human element. He also showcases up-and-coming Canadian musical talent: several of the people featured on the Cafe have gone on to win awards and achieve that kind of obscure fame that is, like the Vinyl Cafe itself, uniquely Canadian.
For most of us, though, the highlight of the show is a new Dave and Morley story almost every week. Dave runs a little record store, the eponymous Vinyl Cafe, whose motto is "we may not be big, but we're small." He and his wife Morley have two children--p…

Planned Obsolescence

The other night, an odd zizzing snap-crackle-popping  emanated from my monitor. The screen commenced to blink on and off and the campfire sounds intensified. There was a mad scramble for the power switch: I've got a fireplace screensaver...I don't really want to see my screen become a fireplace.
RIP Benq 17" monitor (2004-2008).

A couple of months ago, my wife's laptop keyboard threw its u...just like an old typewriter. The keycap was adhered back into place, but the connection was dodgy and the key wobbled a bit. She soldiered on with the thing for eight weeks, trying mightily (the way I am right now) to avoid typing that vowel. Eventually (like I just did), she succumbed.
RIP Toshiba laptop (2007-2008).
For a while, a couple of years back, we had two coffee makers in our kitchen sitting cheek by jowl: a black one for regular morning java and a white one for decaf. That was before we'd taken on enough coffee to understand there's no sane place in the world for de…

Political Ignorance Is Bliss

Much has been made of the recent survey (pdf) by Ipsos-Reid for the Dominion Institute, showing that many Canadians are appallingly ignorant of even the most basic Canadian political facts. The findings are damning: over half those polled believe we directly elect the Prime Minister (wrong) and a shocking three quarters of respondents said our head of state is either the Prime Minister (wrong) or the Governor-General (closer, but still wrong). Only six in ten knew that Canada is a constitutional monarchy (the other two-fifths described us as either a representative republic (which is what the U.S. is) or a co-operative assembly (a null term, politically, and it sure doesn't fit our current House of Commons!)

As anyone who has ever voted in, or indeed lived through, a federal election should be able to tell you, Canadians do NOT elect a Prime Minister directly; we vote for local Members of Parliament. Our head of state is in fact the reigning monarch in Britain, currently Her Majest…

Happy whatever-that-may-be.

I read somewhere recently that in America, 88% of Republicans prefer 'Merry Christmas' to 'Happy Holidays', compared to just 57% of Democrats. No shock there, given that much of the Republican base is ardently Christian. 
I don't understand the hullabaloo this raises every...single...year. Hey, atheists: the Flying Spaghetti Monster isn't itching to send you to the Salad Bar of Eternal Damnation because you dared to wish your Christian neighbour a Merry Christmas. Likewise, Christians: there are, gosh darn it, people of other faiths, or no faith, celebrating other holidays at this time of year. Heck, you do it yourself: it's called New Year's. So 'Happy Holidays', while including others, isn't excluding you.
Secular humanists: it's called a Christmas tree. Not a "holiday tree" or a "seasonal tree": a Christmastree. You don't call it a "holiday menorah", do you?
Christmas bemoaning the deChristification of t…

Letter To Me

I've been meaning to do this post for a long time, ever since I first heard Brad Paisley's "Letter To Me" last year. If I had to compile a list of my favourite songs of all time (and I wouldn't even want to try), this one would rank at, or near, the top.It starts off if I could write a letter to me and send it back in time to myself at seventeen...
Seventeen. 1989. Grade 11. I don't live in the past any more, my present is far too lovely for that...but when I did, 1989 was the year I flashed back on more than any other. Events that came much later are blurry or completely lost to memory, but much of that particular year I can recall vividly if I choose to.
I was in love, for one thing. I'd had little cases of puppy love before that dating all the way back to third grade (I never went through any kind of girls-are-icky stage)...but this was the whole kennel. I'd known this woman since she sauntered into my music class in September of 1987, wearing a denim…

Terms of endearment...

I've had a nickname since I was two years old...or perhaps even younger: Macaw. I was so christened by my father because, he said, "all I ever did was squawk and shit." Oddly, despite the ignominous origin, I don't mind being called Macaw. It beats being 'Kenny', anyway...I haven't been 'Kenny' since fourth grade and to be honest, that -y suffix makes me feel like a child every single time.I got thinking about this after Rocketstar mentioned how much he detests songs with 'Baby' in the title. This post sent me scurrying to my iTunes library, of course. A search on 'Baby' yielded five matches (out of almost 700):
"Shoo Shoo Baby"--The Andrews Sisters "So Not My Baby"--Josh Turner "My Baby Loves Me Just The Way That I Am"--Martina McBride "My Baby Loves A Bunch of Authors"--Moxy Fruvous "Baby I'm Home"--Trace Adkins
Three country tunes, an old '40s swingtime standard, and rollicking…

Political Zero-Tau

Better a prorogued Parliament than a Parliament of rogues.
(Am I the only person who thinks the lot of them should be standing in the corner for the next seven weeks?)
Surprised Jean decided on this course. I wonder what Harper said to her to get her to agree. It seems to me this sets a dangerous precedent. Any time a leader is facing a non-confidence motion (s)he can just hit the suspended animation button. 
Now it's a battle of wills. How coalitious is that coalition? Can it last seven weeks in stasis? (I'm betting yes.) Will Harper come back at all chastened? (I'm betting no.) Will we be reliving this come Groundhog Day? (Aside: isn't Harper a hell of a lot like Bill Murray's character in that movie? at least early on?)

I've changed my mind.

For now. Wait a few hours, it'll change again.
Watching the PM-for-now on TV last night, I was struck by how meek he sounded. Things have spiralled up and out of his control so quickly. This is a man, remember, who relishes control, who craves it, who can never have enough of it. Every moment of the last election campaign was elaborately scripted. Every statement by the least member of the CPC must meet with Harper's approval before it's allowed to be uttered.  But now--whodathunkit?--a Liberal Party that can't agree on anything meaningful, with a leader so spineless he makes amoebas look rigid, somehow cobbled together a coalition with a whole other party in the space of a week...and is making it stick. So what does Harper do? Back down? Hell, no! He's out there telling Dion, buddy, I can outpiss you without unzipping. Dion's saying dis way to the pissoir, ami. And a pair of grown leaders are engaging in a giant pissing match, when last I looked, there's gov…

Who says Canadian politics is boring?

So the coalition of the willing is ready to go.

Well, good for the Liberals and NDP for coming together. But is it good for Canada?

Progressives--the majority of Canadians, if you believe most polls--will dismiss the question: the answer is self-evident. I'm not so sure.
While I recognize that this is a legitimate way to proceed in our parliamentary democracy, I'm just not comfortable with a transfer of power without an election. There is a complete lack of transparency towards the Canadian electorate here. Anyone care to guess what Dion and Layton have cooked up as regards an economic stimulus package?  (Is "economic stimulus package" only a fancy term for "flushing money down the toilet"?)
Do we have the slightest idea what our foreign policy will look like once "Taliban Jack" has had a go at it? Given that Liberal supporters deserted Dion in droves six scant weeks ago, how it is he's suddenly poised to become Prime Minister?
And another thing. T…

Mumbai could be anywhere

Mark Steyn writes:

What’s relevant about the Mumbai model is that it would work in just about any second-tier city in any democratic state: Seize multiple soft targets and overwhelm the municipal infrastructure to the point where any emergency plan will simply be swamped by the sheer scale of events.

Islamic terrorism is evolving, becoming at once less and more lethal. It is exceptionally difficult to prevent relatively small-scale terrorist attacks; co-ordinate enough of them in a short period of time and you wreak total chaos completely out of proportion to your actions.
Back in 2005, I imagined multiple terrorist attacks in Toronto. I've linked back to that blog entry a couple of times, each time I hear somebody say "it can't happen here." It can. It probably will, in fact, sooner or later. Because, as Steyn writes,

The Islamic imperialist project is a totalitarian ideology: It is at war with Hindus, Jews, Americans, Britons, everything that is other.
We are other. I&#…

This page puts a few things into perspective

The World Clock
I'm not sure where these figures are coming from, but many are interesting...and some are terrifying. Note--
--about three times as many births as deaths --Earth's temperature trending up --about a thousand barrels of oil produced every second --war is not near the scourge I'd thought --"abortions"...boy, an awful lot. One presumes this does not include miscarriages. --three bicycles produced for every car. (Doubtless that ratio will increase, too.)

All the snooze that's fit to peruse

What I want to do is go to bed. I've had a brutal day, which you don't want to hear about because all the brutal days are pretty much the same in their brutality. Suffice it to say our store's too small, I don't have a crystal ball, and, well, fuck it all.But of course the news intrudes upon the snooze. I'm not amused. Are youse?
(Can you tell I'm tired?)
Mumbai first. Jesus, it's progressed a ways beyond a "terrorist attack" and into the realm of "war" now. The casualty rate may not be anywhere near 9/11's, but the organizational level is an order of magnitude higher. Several boatloads of terrorists, armed with all manner of guns, grenades, and explosives. Targets so far: a popular tourist cafe, the train station, a couple of luxury hotels, and (of course) a Jewish cultural center. The head of India's anti-terrorist squad is among those killed, which has got to count as a major coup if you're a terrorist.
I find it chilling tha…

Why I read science fiction

My reading background is atrocious for an English major--even a half-assed English major who dropped out after third year. When I attended high school the curriculum hadn't been standardized yet...which meant that somehow I ended up taking Heart of Darkness and "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock" fivetimes each. (Still like the latter, oddly; I hated the former the first time I read it and let's just say it wore on me afterwards.)The first order result of this is that I'm not near as well read as I should be. Even such stalwarts of the high school scene as Brave New World, Fahrenheit 451, The Catcher In The Rye, and Catch-22, anything by Hemingway--all have escaped my attention. As for the real heavies...I've dabbled in The Canterbury Tales, read exactly five of Shakespeare's plays, muddled through Paradise Lost, and tried to read the Iliad last year, giving up fairly quickly. As for monsters like War and Peace and A la recherche du temps perdu: you won…

Paradigm shift

Interesting essay here.


...[C]onsideration of the common interest - rather than self-interest - must be our focus, as it is literally our lifeline. Developing a global consciousness isn’t some New Age fancy term for advocating hugging trees. It means that me, you, he, and she, and all of us together must be conscious of the well being of everyone of us, and every person and every thing, while doing our business or even while living our daily lives, whether it’s vacuuming the floor, shopping, or having coffee with friends.
I have long believed that we are all one, even before having the message crystallize for me so clearly in Neale Donald Walsch's Conversations with God series. I think this is the central (and yet often forgotten or minimized) message of many of the world's great faiths and philosophies.  You can couch it in whatever terms you want. New Age-speak has a host of them that grate on my ear: for example, this from the Namaste Cafe:

What we call "God"…

I'm awake...

I'm currently suffering through a bout of insomnia the likes of which I haven't experienced for about a decade. It's not pleasant. Bouts of almost obscene exhaustion alternate with periods of lucidity and alertness. Unfortunately the clear periods tend to be between eleven and about four in the morning...I'm sure you can guess when the fatigue hits.
Anyway, I'm up for a while, I might as well get some thoughts out.
One--Ontario's passed a few new laws governing teenagers and their drivers' licenses. Drivers under twenty one years of age are now subject to zero tolerance for alcohol in their systems, and the first speeding offense will result in a thirty day suspension. Also, teenage drivers are only permitted one teenage passenger, not counting siblings.
I'm more than okay with the first two laws. The third, while well-intentioned, is not very well thought out.
Suppose you're a responsible teen driver. (They do exist: in fact, they're probably the m…

Silly questions

One I've had since grade school--
Why is it called "evaporated milk" when it's still a liquid?
They taught me that "evaporated" meant 'boiled away'. So when you open a can of evaporated milk, you should get a puff of milky gas. (That sounds lovely, doesn't it?)
One almost as old--
Why can girls have 'girlfriends'--which are, obviously enough, friends who are girls--but boys can't have 'boyfriends' without being flaming queers?
I wrote an essay on this in high school, and again in university, without coming any closer to an answer. 
Why is so many of the same people who call themselves 'pro-life' also for the death penalty?

That's just one of many vexing correlations I've noticed--the two issues seemingly have nothing to do with each other and are, at first blush, anyway, kind of contradictory. 
I've noticed, too, that  people who like cats tend to like books. Do cats like books? Let's turn to Bill Richardson, …


"IN CASE OF EMERGENCY, please remain calm, stay seated and wait for your federal bailout."
I get it.
Really, I do. The word "bailout" triggers an automatic vomit reflex in all and sundry. I'm not immune myself, not after I've seen how so much of the bailout money went to executive bonuses, and so much more went into funds to buy up other companies, rather than, oh, I don't know, restore liquidity to the market.  And if you dare suggest a bailout for the beleaguered auto industry, the vomit reflex will be aimed squarely in your face. What did they do with their billions in profit during the good years and silly unions, negotiating unsustainable contracts and why should we bail out companies that can't lead their way out of a paper bag are some of the milder comments I've seen.
(In the interests of disclosure, it must be noted my stepfather works for CAMI Automotive. I've tried not to let that colour my perspective on the foregoing. Probably faile…

Not this again.

About a week ago, I told off a collection of bigots on the Dan Simmons forum where I'm a semi-regular contributor and one of the resident odd ducks.  
Dan Simmons is, for my money, one of the most impressive authors working today. He's won awards in nearly every genre he's tackled and written superlative examples of space opera (Hyperion), horror (Song of Kali), hard-boiled detective fiction (the Joe Kurtz novels) and historical literature (The Terror).  A former teacher of  the 'talented and gifted', he's both. Intellectually, he can run circles around me.  He's one of the few authors I've run across (Charles Stross is another) who (a) has his own web forum; (b) posts regularly to it (c) engages his readers in conversation and debate on any topic that happens to catch his or their fancy. The forum members are almost uniformly of higher than average intelligence and their backgrounds are diverse enough to make life there very interesting. What really sets…

Going Moldy....

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