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Showing posts from April, 2009
I wonder if the folks at one national paper are gloating about the imminent collapse of the other one.I would be, were I them. The National Post doesn't deserve to live. It's lost money ever since it appeared on the scene, and why? Because it alienates most Canadians. It leans unrelentingly right, without the saving grace of Sun Media's inclusiveness. And it's undoubtedly aimed squarely at those few folks in this country whose biggest daily decision is which car they'll be chauffered to work in. Still, cancelling Monday editions? I guess it's my head that's on backwards, but...the Post, like most papers, doesn't publish Sundays. So what they're proposing is a Tuesday "news"paper with "news" in it from Saturday night. Any older and you'd call that an "archive".  Hey, it probably comes from the same marketing guru that told the Toronto SUN they'd increase their paid readership by doubling the price of their paper, re…

WHO says FLU

My dad's got a cold. In fine Ken Breadner Sr. form, he's telling everyone he just got back from Mexico.He didn't, of course. But we're about to be swine flu'd right out the wazoo.
You have to snicker at the two-faced media coverage. "NOTHING TO PANIC ABOUT...YET" said one headline this morning; immediately beneath that, "Swine flu pandemic could potentially kill thousands in Ontario". Nope, nothing to see here, move along, move along...
(To be fair, they're a wee bit touchy in Toronto. The SARS epidemic was only six years ago.)

The World Health Organization just raised its pandemic-o-meter to a Level 4, which sounds ominous until you look it up. Level 4, according to the World Health Organization, means "human-to-human transmission...able to sustain community-level outbreaks". So this is of some concern if there's a case in your community, but it's by no means time to run for the hills. Especially since the strains circulating…

Funny how books just show up

I'm currently experiencing a mild change of brain.
Went to the library yesterday. Couldn't find much worth taking out. I wanted Breaking Lorca by Giles Blunt: the computers said it was "being shelved", the librarian said it had been shelved, and if so it wasn't shelved where it was supposed to be. Eva picked up her customary eleventy-dozen novels, leaving entire sections of shelving experiencing a breeze they hadn't felt in years. One last gambol through the New Fiction rack yielded Infected, by Scott Sigler, which is supposed to be terrifying. The very last book I laid eyes on (and it looked funny, with a pair of eyes laying on it) was Little Brother, by Cory Doctorow. I seemed to recall hearing this was one of those "Ought To Read" books for people like me who like sf, and so I crammed it into the bag.
Boy, am I glad I did.
Little Brother is a Young Adult novel, but don't let that put you off...in fact, the "young adult" characters in t…

Summer today

Remember spring?If you're a teenager, a spring is the place you get all your water from (well, you get all your water from a bottle, but the bottled water probably comes from a spring.) A spring is also an old-school toy called a Slinky. Paired with "roll", it's an Asian appetizer. Or if you say "hand" first, it's a gymnastics move I couldn't perform without hurting myself. What it isn't, at least anymore, is a season.  We go from snow one weekend to blistering heat the next. Things used to be more gradual, at least insofar as temperature was concerned. Time was the high temperature in mid to late April would be in the low to mid teens Centigrade, the night time low the standard half of the daytime high, and all was right with the world. There would be a good solid month between the time you could dare to put your winter coat away and the day when total nudity wouldn't suffice to keep you cool. Perhaps as long as six weeks.  I'd like my chi…

Following up...

Perhaps...just perhaps...Coren has a point.
I've been debating his column on an online forum, and received this, from an enlisted man:
As it happens, last night was the annual ruckmarch, in full battle order (70+ pounds of kit, including a rucksack with full kit, tac vest, rifle, and full ammo load (blanks)) of 13 kilometers. 53 men started out, and 4 dropped out due to routine injuries. 11 women started out, and one finished. Now granted, the requirements we have are a little higher than standard (50 pounds), but not by all that much. That's an anecdote, to be sure, but you can consider it first-hand, and you can check it by emailing any CF recruiter. Dan is absolutely correct about the physical toll, and there is considerably more weight involved now than before, what with Gawd-awful body armour and the wireframe rucksack from hell. I can hardly move today.

In Afghanistan, the load is about the same (unless you're a section machine gunner, who are all built like Arny), but …

It's already been said better...

...here...and here...and here...and doubtless in a lot of other places. But I'll say it anyway. I'll add my voice to the din.

Michael Coren is an idiot.

I've long believed this: held it as an article of faith, you might say. But the depths of his idiocy keep shocking me, nevertheless. Just when I think he can't possibly rise any higher on the idiotometer, he goes redline.
I'd like to suggest that for once I'm not on Coren's case on account of his rigid Catholicism. After all, it's possible to be a blathering sexist ass and not be Catholic. But I just can't help holding his faith responsible for his antediluvian attitude on women, namely, that women can't possibly be front-line combat soldiers. Hey,if they're off fighting wars it means they aren't producing Catholic babies. And so Coren dismisses the sacrifice of Karine Blais, the latest Canadian casualty in Afghanistan, calling her a "young girl dressed as a soldier."
Name, rank and…

From one pirate to another

So Pirate Bay was found guilty.

I just don't know what to think about this whole issue. I recognize how utterly behind the times I am...I still watch my movies on a television, for instance, and despite what purports to be a high-speed connection, I can't even imagine how long it would take to download one. Music--I used to LimeWire some tracks, but I never plan to use that piece of software again, and wish I knew some way to eradicate it: there's entirely too much free stuff that comes liming down the wire with your free stuff. (Google "remove Limewire" and despair: it's by no means an easy process, and it looks to take about an afternoon to complete. Any software that can't be easily and quickly removed shouldn't be installed in the first place...Ken's Computer Rule #3. Ken wishes he'd derived this rule two years sooner.)
And as for torrents--I have a friend who has shown me three times how they work...how you can get virtually any album ever …

Somali Pirates

Piracy is wrong.Let's start with that assumption, and let's cast it in stone, because every time I tackle issues like this people start bleating that I'm defending the indefensible. So: Piracy is wrong. There are a lot of things that are just plain flat-out wrong. Picking a few entirely at random: Hijacking airliners and flying them into buildings--wrong. Occupying a country, bulldozing houses, killing innocents--wrong. Genocide, whether a "little" one like Serbia or the Big One that spread across Europe in the forties...wrong, wrong, wrong.
What do all these things have in common, besides the fact that they happen? Or to put it another way, if they're so wrong, why do they still happen?
Religious people answer such imponderables with phrases that sound suitably impressive..."it's a mystery", or "God works in mysterious ways His wonders to perform"...each one saying I dunno...
This "problem of evil" that has puzzled humanity for mill…

Toronto Maple Leafs Report Card 2008-2009

Overall grade: B
Given that the Leafs have failed to make the playoffs for a franchise-record fourth year running, the B is emphatically of the "B for effort" sort. In some respects, Toronto vastly exceeded expectations this season: many pre-season publications predicted a last place finish, or close to it. Instead they managed to play almost .500 hockey, nearly duplicating the record of last year's squad--which, on paper at least, was considerably more talented than this rag-tag collection of rookies, castoffs, and spare parts.
Coach Ron Wilson: A+
Don Cherry hates him, but I think he's the best Leafs coach since Pat Burns. A few more points would have secured a playoff berth and garnered Wilson serious consideration for the Jack Adams. Wilson is a man of strong opinions and he's not in the least afraid to air any of them. If you're not doing your job, you're going to hear about it. If you still won't listen, you'll ride the pine. But he'll rewar…

The Root of Twitter is Twit, not Tweet

"I therefore believe that the kind of oppression that threatens democratic peoples is unlike any the world has seen before. Our contemporaries will find no image of it in their memories. I search in vain for an expression that exactly reproduces my idea of it and captures it fully. The old words "despotism" and "tyranny" will not do. The thing is new, hence I must try to define it, since I cannot give it a name. 
I am trying to imagine what new features despotism might have in today's world: I see an innumerable host of men, all alike and equal, endlessly hastening after petty and vulgar pleasures with which they fill their souls. Each of them, withdrawn into himself, is virtually a stranger to the fate of all the others. For him, his children and personal friends comprise the entire human race. As for the remainder of his fellow citizens, he lives alongside them but does not see them. He touches them but does not feel them. He exists only in himself and fo…

Commandments (II)

Rocketstar took up my challenge thusly:
1.Question Everything!
2.Treat others as you would like to be treated
3.Do not blindly believe anything you hear or read and half of what you see. 
4.Understand that YOU are the driver of your life, not anybody or any supernatural mystery power.
5.Success will be created by your hard work and perseverance.
6.Respect every living creature.
7.Study, Teach and Trust Science, Reason and Logic in depth for your entire existence.
8.Do not waste your time on this planet because as far as we know, you only get one chance at life.
9.If something appears to be too good to be true, believe that it isn’t true because it most likely is not true.
10.Do not seek happiness from external means as happiness comes from within.

I like 'em.
Here's mine:
Empathize 
This is a one-word Golden Rule that has served me well. 
Question
Like Rocket, this is fundamental to me. Any faith that calls for unquestioned belief isn't worthy of the name, much less any god.
Understand 
Thi…

"Commandments"

There's nothing much to write about lately. Work has been particularly gruelling of late: Easter week plus a grocery inventory (and whoever it was that thought the former was a good time for the latter ought to be crucified, is my view.) This Easter week has seen one of the most challenging specials we've ever run: Tropicana 2.63L (2.78 quart)  orange juice jugs for $2.97 (regular price: $6.47). By the time I'd left yesterday, we'd sold something like 24 pallets of the stuff.  But the tortuous shifts are nicely balanced by days off. I've worked an extra day this week for the inventory, so I'll get next Saturday off in lieu. Plus the store's closed Friday for the stat holiday and Sunday for no reason I can understand.  Anyway, it's Easter week and my mind's turning to matters religious and pseudo-religious. And so, without further ado, a topic I've been considering for some time now: the Ten Commandments.
Two of my favourite books have sections devo…

Don't put that bearskin away just yet

Obama says we've turned the corner.Maybe he's right. The stock market certainly thinks so. The TSX Composite's above break-even for calendar year 2009, something I would have dismissed as highly improbable two months ago. Hong Kong's Hang Seng was up 1002 points yesterday: over seven percent. It, too, is now ahead of where it stood on January 1.  Relax, folks, we all had a nasty scare but it appears to be ov... ...what's that, you say?
Consumer credit deliquencies are at their highest level ever?
The corporate default rate is the worst Moody's has seen since at least the Second World War?

The trust that funds American Social Security is forecast to be bankrupt by the end of next year?

Chris Martensen has a rather trenchant commentary on this last point. "Oh, Social Security's fine," some analysts say, "so long as the Treasury repays its debts." Leaving aside what exactly the Treasury could pay those debts with (Monopoly money?)...the idea tha…

The beginning of the end for schools

I've recently finished Peter F. Hamilton's mammoth Night's Dawn trilogy. At 3563 pages in trade paperback, it's by far the longest story I've ever read. It's also one of the best.Hamilton creates an entire universe out of blank paper, peopling it with an interstellar human Confederation as well as numerous sentient alien species at various stages of evolution.  The main plotline can be boiled down to three words: satanists in space. But as with all decent sf, the plot is only a platform: a platform for ideas, for technologies, for ethical concerns. This epic space opera has all three. In spades. (What really elevates this work is Hamilton's uncanny ability to elicit sympathy for, well, almost everyone. There's one character in this book who is totally and unreservedly evil, and even with him you can't help noticing he was made, not born, that way. Everyone else is just doing the best they can with what they've got--sometimes their definition of &q…

Going Moldy....

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