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Showing posts from November, 2008

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.

Excerpt:

...[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, …

Help!

"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…

Taking the Fifth...and the rest of them, too

If you had told me even ten years ago that I would soon be able to fit my entire music collection in my pocket, I would have first checked to make sure both legs were still attached...and then rejoiced. If you had further told me that practically every song I've ever loved would be in one online store, available for less than a dollar, I would have lost my wee little mind. And then if you had told me that, while a great many people did frequent this online magical music store, a greater many shunned it like the plague, on account of them having the colossal nerve to charge anything at all, I'd have goggled at you like you'd lost your mind. Upon further reflection, I think I'd have realized that free is better than cheap, from the consumer's point of view, anyway...but when you're buying music (or books, or movies, for that matter), there's more than just your point of view involved. I'm a sometime musician and composer myself. I don't play as much as …

They could have just asked me...

Boy, I love it when science confirms something I've known all along. Bullies don't pick on you because they have deep-seated feelings of inferiority, or because they're seeking attention. They torment you because they LIKE IT. We've all heard it, those of us who've been bullied and dared to ask why. "Because I felt like it, asshat!" Adults, whether they be playground monitors, principals or parents, never accepted that no matter how clearly it was explained to them.
Corollary (which I've also long believed): anyone who derives pleasure from another's pain has a mental defect. (I'll except people engaged in BDSM scenarios--it's a scene I've never understood, but pain administered with enthusiastic consent can't really count as pain, can it?)
Meanwhile, I very much would like to call up the University of Chicago and open up a giant box of I-told-you-so.

Work rant

It may not compare to Catelli's, but I've had a couple of days that simply must be blogged lest I blow up. We've had Black Diamond cheese bars on sale this past week for $4.44. Last time they were on, I sold more cheese bars than any other store in the chain, despite being briefly out of stock one day. That particular sale had just ended when I was required to order for the next one, i.e. this one. So I ordered heavy. I had no way of knowing that every chain in the Tri-Cities area would have cheese on sale at roughly the same time, some of them cheaper than us. And so--ha-ha--I sold just a little more than half my stock, leaving me with enough cheese to constipate the world.  Not too bad a problem--it's still on sale at that same price, and will be until I'm down to some manageable level of stock.  I said all that to say this: a huge skid of Black Diamond cheese bars arrived our store yesterday, unordered, unexpected...and, as it turned out, unbilled. I got paged to re…

Hopefully the last of the Obama-thon

...at least until the man's inaugurated.
Long, fascinating article here.

So much of the press has focused on Barack's paint-by-words ability, and many critics have wondered what's going on underneath all the speechifying. I find I like Mr. Obama more and more when I read things like
So when Brian Williams is asking me about what's a personal thing that you've done [that's green], and I say, you know, 'Well, I planted a bunch of trees.' And he says, 'I'm talking about personal.' What I'm thinking in my head is, 'Well, the truth is, Brian, we can't solve global warming because I f–––ing changed light bulbs in my house. It's because of something collective'.
I do wonder about U.S.-Canada relations with an Obama administration in place. It's a truism that Canada gets along better with Democrats--but it was a truism for many years in Canada that "heil Harper" was the proper and correct greeting when facing the stern …

Stunning in so many ways

Watching Global National this evening. In covering the massive party that was Washington, D.C., last night, one sentence jumped out at me:
"There was a police presence, but it wasn't necessary."
Wow.
I hasten to mention that this has absolutely nothing to do with race. I've just come to expect little mini-riots and some amount of looting whenever more than a hundred people gather no matter the reason or how joyous the occasion. Your team lost a championship? Riot and loot! Your team won a championship? Loot and riot! 
That some 200,000 people can gather and remain peaceful says more about the appeal of Barack Obama than Barack Obama has managed to himself. That such peaceful celebrations can take place all over the United States is nothing short of incredible. And it gives me the first faint flickerings of hope for humanity in some fifteen years--ever since I observed university students, the leaders of tomorrow, stomping on cars and kicking in windshields because--wait …

One journey's over; another begins

Dear Rest Of The World: We didn't fuck it up.
Signed, America

Dear America: Congrats!
Regards, Rest Of The World

--from a comment thread on reddit

It's time.
--headline on the cover of THE ECONOMIST
I stayed up past 1:00 a.m. last night. I can't remember the last time I did that, and I've certainly never boycotted sleep in favour of something political. I'm glad I did this time. Looking at the coverage of the huge Obama rallies all over the United States and the world gives me chills, goosebumps....and something else I've never associated with anything political: hope.
Hope. Obama ran his entire campaign around hope and change. The "change" was an easy sell: even most Republicans are sick and tired of the current state of the union. "Hope" is a much more potent and potentially dangerous word, because it means whatever you want it to mean, and it's flat impossible to live up to everyone's expectations. 
Reality will set in, as reality so often in…

Going Moldy....

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