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Showing posts from October, 2008

The Screaming Memes

Okay, here it is Samhain, all Hallow's Eve. Most of the people at work were dressed for the occasion. I couldn't be bothered; I outgrew Hallowe'en at about eleven, which, not coincidentally, is the same year I murdered my inner child.
And I don't have any scary tales to tell. My life has been decidedly humdrum as far as spectres, spirits and apparitions go. The only long-leggedy beasties to interrupt my sleep invariably turn out to be canine and simply in search of an eye to lick.

Hell, I hardly even have nightmares any more. 
Despite this, or perhaps because of it, I've retained an interest in all things supernatural. I believe in ghosts, for instance, and I don't care who scoffs. There have been far too many sightings down the millennia--even if 99% of them are fakes and frauds, that still leaves entirely too many inexplicable mysteries. I do suspect that as science progresses ever further, we'll first pick up and then eventually understand the underlying en…

,,,And we take it for granted

Good read here.

Both sides of the Canada-U.S. border look at each other's health care systems and diagnose collective insanity. What we tend to forget is that health care is either a product of, or tends to shape, society as a whole. 
Misconceptions abound on either side. In the U.S., federal law mandates access to emergency services regardless of ability to pay, so theoretically at least, you don't die on account of being poor. In Canada, life-threatening cases take medical priority, so theoretically at least, you don't die on account of all those people with sniffles ahead of you in line. (In my experience at least, most of the sit-around-and-wait in hospital emergency rooms is precisely because of a constant stream of real emergencies flowing in. In Canada, being poor isn't the problem: having access to a family doctor is. I went without one myself for over a decade, and am lucky now to have one younger than I am.)
But half of all American bankrupts in 2001 cited "…

Wholehearted Endorsement

For reasons unknown, I keep doing these election endorsements. I mean, it's not as if one of my six readers is going to vote one way or another on my say-so. But what the hell. 
In 2004, I gave a lukewarm Kerry endorsement: more of a mutter-out than a shout-out. 
[English major aside--that word lukewarm is one of those neat little redundancies that abound in our kleptomaniac language: luke derives from OE lew and means "warm", so lukewarm is "warmwarm". Other examples include pizza pie ("pie pie"), Mt. Fuji ("Mount mountain"),  the hoi polloi ("the the commoners"), and my favourite, The La Brea Tar Pits ("the the tar tar pits").]
This year things are a wee bit different in that I can't be redundant enough in my enthusiastic cheerleading for Senator John McCa--
ZOT!!
Sorry, damn voting machine flipped. Here, let me recalibrate:

...in my enthusiastic cheerleading for Senator Barack McCain and the entire Republican ticket.

Hmmm…

Why do vacations have to end?

Okay, let me get the financial crap out of the way first.Take a snapshot, folks. Nobody knows where the bottom of the stock market is (at this point, the Dow at 5,000 by mid-2009 wouldn't shock me overmuch), but you can take this to the shuttered bank: the U.S. dollar will not stay strong much longer. Everywhere I'm scouring is suggesting this is a temporary side-effect of massive deleveraging and that "economic fundamentals" will return shortly. Which means: the C$ will rise again. I'm predicting dollar parity by March. Oil will hit its floor this week or next and by next summer will be back in the $90-110/bbl range. And if you've got any money hanging around, you might want to consider gold. (There is phenomenal value to be had in blue chip stocks, but I'm still leery. A friend of mine is "nibbling"--it's hard to resist the low prices--my concern is that the market isn't finished unravelling. We still have a monstrous thicket of hedge …

The Whole Sorry Mess In One Picture

...or graph, actually. Found this on wisebread, which is a pretty cool site. But this graph isn't all that cool.


I'm currently reading Margaret Atwood's Payback, which examines the entire concept of debt. It's a fascinating read. Debt has been with us as long as we've been human. Perhaps before; other primates seem to have an acutely developed sense of fairness. 
Debt, which can be defined as "unbalance", is ingrained in our very nature. It's not merely financial: there are moral debts, ecological debts, time-debts, and interpersonal debts.  Of course, the primary concern nowadays is monetary, but the credit (debt) crisis is only a symptom of a much more pervasive debt which is also coming due. At some point soon we will be in an oil debt. We're approaching an arable land-debt. Over two billion people on this planet have no access to clean drinking water: debt writ large, in neon lights we choose to ignore as we chase the next bauble and further in…

Excuse me...

...Mr. Flaherty, little question here from li'l old me...
Can you please tell me why the World Economic Forum rated our banking system the soundest on the planet two weeks ago?
Obviously they were in error, because you're "backstopping" them to make sure they aren't put at a "competitive disadvantage".  I know things are moving quickly, but have our banks somehow pissed away the hundreds of billions of dollars in profits they've made over the past decade in two short weeks? Is this program "temporary" like income tax, the GST, the fuel surtax, and so on? And "no charge to taxpayers?" How does that work, exactly? And while I'm at it, if I may be so bold, what are banks competing with, exactly? They take our money (charging us for the privilege), and invest it--and I must say they've done rather well at that--making lots and lots of money for themselves, granting their customers piddly to nonexistent interest rates, and then di…

Counterintuitive

I give up.Listen, folks: whenever I offer predictions about the economy, just pretend I'm talking out of my ass, okay? I mean, what the hell is going on? The U.S. dollar is soaring when any sane economist would have said it would crumble. (You can't just print money by the billions without devaluing the money you have, can you? Can you?) The greenback's stomping the almighty hell out of our currency, which is trading below 80 cents U.S. That last is supposedly due to commodity prices, primarily oil, plummeting--which is in turn supposed to due to a drop in demand.  Despite all my Peak Oil musings, the price of oil's down below US$70/bbl as I write this--less than half its record price set just three months ago. Has demand for oil been cut in half? I think not. 
Here's an attempt at an explanation from people I trust at TheOilDrum.com. One of the biggest factors seems to be this credit crisis we've found ourselves in. As with seemingly everywhere else in the econom…

Sad, sad, sad...

The following exchange took place on the Dan Simmons forum, to which I regularly post. I'm KenBreadbox; my respondent is "SlimIcy".

 Originally Posted By: KenBreadbox
I'm obviously WAY behind the times. Because although I fancy myself very well connected (I listen to an all-news radio station at least twice daily, watch the television news nightly, have a subscription to one newspaper and regularly buy two others, have a subscription to MACLEANS (Canada's NEWSWEEK) and THE ECONOMIST, and that doesn't even *count* my online meanderings that are apt to lead me anywhere)

Ken,

I have no idea how old you are, but if you think the above sources keep you well connected to anyone under the age of 30 you're way off base 

I'm 25, and consider myself on the "intellectual" side of all my friends and peers (and most of them would agree), and I'm lucky if I remember to look at CNN.com once a day. I don't know anyone that watches news on TV (Stewart/Col…

Why Men Cheat

...I always thought it was because they were immature idiots letting their dicks be their guides. Apparently I'm wrong. Seems it's really the woman's fault.
See, ladies, we men have, uh, needs. And not just the ones you think we have. We need to feel affirmed. Emotionally validated. Appreciated. If you don't fulfill these needs, we'll find somebody who will. And then we'll have sex with her.
Huh?
About half of male cheaters report "emotional dissatifaction" as the primary reason they cheated. Emotional dissatisfaction supposedly doesn't involve a lack of sex or even a lack of good sex...but the remedy for it is lots of presumably good sex? I'm confused.
Speaking as a man who has cheated on past girlfriends not once but twice, "emotional dissatisfaction" is just fancy guy-talk for "I'm not to blame for sticking my dick where it didn't belong." It's a pretty poor excuse to try and justify something that can have no ju…

Forget 'spiritual' warfare. When does the *real* war start?

Every now and again, I inadvertently click into something fecal. My first urge, after cleaning myself off, is to sound a warning about whatever breed of shit I've found online, so that others can steer clear.
Today's smelly pile is from a lovely site called InJesus.com. And it stinks to, ahem, high heaven. An evangelist named "Bree K."  who told Flo Elders, who told Dr. Norman D. Marvin, M.D., who (pause for breath) emailed the writer of this article, who prefaces the fourth-hand telling with "THIS IS EXTREMELY SERIOUS"...so you'd better listen up.
It seems that relatives of Barack Obama (perhaps even "B. Hussein Obama" himself!) have been casting voodoo curses against John McCain and Sarah Palin. Let's let Bree K. explain this:
The occultists are "weaving lazy 8's around McCain's mind to make him look confused and like an idiot."
Oh, so that's it. I figured it had to be something like that, didn't you?
We all learn fr…

"Get me the hell out of here..."

I don't like people.
Wait a minute, that's a little harsh. I like you fine. Depending on who you are, I might even love you. But strangers, particularly in crowds, drive me right 'round the bend.
We went to our first Kitchener Rangers game on Friday night. It was Eva's first live hockey game, period; I had all but ignored the major junior team in my hometown due to a persistent NHL snobbery.
The Rangers beat the Belleville Bulls, 5-4 in a shootout. The game itself was quite entertaining: fast-paced, with some highlight reel plays by both teams. It would have been a great game to watch...at home, on television.
In the Auditorium--
Well, okay. We were seated high in one corner, just in front of the only Belleville fans in the place. Their monot0nous chants of "BELLLLLLE-VILLLLLLLLE!" "BELLLLLLLLLLE-VILLLLLLLLLLLE!", repeated every couple of minutes, got mighty tiring, mighty fast. (One of the guys took to moaning, almost sexually, every time a Belleville p…

Election Fallout

I'm back from two thirds of a parental tour, to find to my utter and total shock that we Canadians have gone and elected a Conservative minority government this time around. This government, so dramatically different from the one that had gone before, has promised to work with the Opposition to serve the interests of blah blah blah. Hey, Stevie, d'ya think maybe you could have tried that last month?So--three hundred million bucks down the crapper. What have we learned?
--We have learned that Toronto the Self-Absorbed couldn't find its own self-interest with both hands and a CN Tower. I'm beyond puzzled with these people. It's increasingly obvious the Liberal leader could have been Paul Bernardo and it wouldn't have made a whit of difference: voting Liberal is an automatic Toronto reflex, like farting. Twenty two out of 24 ridings went for Dion...who promptly stepped down in shame. Now the Big Smoke finds itself without a seat at the table. Again. Mind you, since…

HNIC Anthem Challenge Finalists

Which song do you think is worthy of replacing our second national anthem?

"Canadian Gold"



or

"Sticks To The Ice"




Okay, these are the two selections I picked out of the five on offer. They're both very good pieces. Hard to believe that second one was written by a 13-year-old kid; it has a nifty, very unusual chord progression that nevertheless works very well.

My only issue with "Sticks To The Ice" is that it's more fanfare than anthem. There's a great beat to it, that aforementioned chord progression...but the melody's lacking somehow.

"Canadian Gold" has melody to burn, and the arrangement's phenomenal. The bagpipes add a nice touch, as do the strings. It sounds almost sacrilegious, but I think I like this anthem at least as much as the old one. It gets my vote.

What do you think?

Holding My Head Above Water

I get up in the morning and the Asian markets are plummeting. I come home from work and our markets have followed suit. Everywhere I go on the Internet, I read of various possible futures, absolutely none of them pretty, some of them appalling. I'm usually able to shove other people's crap into a compartment in my head, turn out the lights, and close and lock the door. Sometimes it takes a little (or a lot) of effort to do it, but I've always been successful at it in the past. I've long been the guy you go to for a friendly ear when you're having trouble--I can juggle multiple personal crises of friends with ease.
I don't do as well when the shit hits my own fan. My brain craves stability like a drug and reacts badly to anything that upsets it. Give me a few minutes to calm down and convince myself that this (whatever this is) is the 'new normal', and I'm fine. If I don't have that few minutes, I can appear shellshocked.
Not like Eva. She'll o…

Going Moldy....

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