Autonomous Source

November 13, 2007

A Funeral for Autonomous Source

Most blogs just fade away. The bloggers lose interest and post less frequently, and the readers drift away to find livelier destinations. Eventually their hosting is canceled, the URL is taken by squatters, and all that remains of a person's thoughts and their passions is some residue on the Wayback Machine.

Blogs are going to die. There's no avoiding that. People change, their responsibilities change, they want to move on. It happens all the time. But I don't think people should let their abandoned blogs live on as undead internet orphans. They should kill them; and show them no mercy. If they make it quick there's no pain. Then they can have a funeral for their blog, raise a glass to its memory, bury it and move on. That's what I'm going to do.

I've mostly enjoyed working on this blog, and I'm proud of the writing I did. When I look back at things I wrote in my 20's and early 30's, I frequently cringe. But nothing in the archives of this blog has that effect. I've never deleted a post and I stand proudly behind it all. There's some great stuff there that can still make me smile.

As I was staying home and looking after my children, the blog became an important outlet for my creative energies. It was a doorway into a community and was a place to air my frustrations. After a day of chaos, it was nice to have at least created something -- a post! -- that had a semblance of permanence and was the product of intelligence and inspiration. It was important to have something interesting to roll over in my mind as I wrestled with the many more mundane matters that required my attention.

As Captain Destructo and the Mistress of Chaos got older however, life became much less mundane and my intelligence and inspiration were now always in demand. Blogging became more difficult -- and more frustrating. Even with various schools and daycares taking them off my hands for very welcome breaks, there was less free time and more interruptions.

As well, I was trying to communicate more complex ideas and frequently I found myself unable say everything I wanted. Blogging can take a lot of work if you want to do it well. I'm a harsh critic of others, but I'm much harder on myself. I want to be able to back up my claims and not just throw out gut opinions. And that requires research.

Simply put, I've been wasting too much time and energy on this thing. Even when I try to ignore it, the blog still has a claim on my thoughts and distorts how I interact with the world. And if it isn't the blog, it's the blogosphere. I've spent far too much time monitoring the war of words about the war, or capitalism, or political strategies, or whatever. But no more. It's over. Hugo Chavez, Stephane Dion, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Jeffrey Simpson are not going to be in my thoughts. I'm not going to read long comment threads arguing about geo-political events.

I'm not abandoning what I believe in. I'll still browse the blogs and scan the papers. I'll still work with the local Conservative riding association. And I'll still continue to share my opinions and thoughts with acquaintances. But those things are not going to be a big part of my life.

I'm 42, my kids are moving into school full time next year, and I've got to move on. I'm going to concentrate on things I have influence over and that are important in my life: my home, my family, and my friends. And myself. The business idea I mentioned a while ago still has possibilities -- or maybe I'll just get a job. It would be so relaxing to be sipping coffee in a cube again...

So. Grab a shovel and toss some dirt on the grave. Or just spit on it, if you like. Raise a glass and make a toast, or roll your eyes and walk away. I'm done here, and though there's so much left unsaid, it still feels good.

Here's a goodbye song that is almost too apropos:

This blog will lie in state for a couple of months, to be eventually replaced by a valuable resource in aid of those suffering the heartbreak of erectile dysfunction.

UPDATE (two days later): Thanks for the kind words. There certainly is an element of attention seeking in blogging -- and in shutting it down -- so it's all very much appreciated.

The transition to the new lifestyle is not going as smoothly as I hoped. I'm still battling the urge to call "bullshit!" on stupid things I read, and still spending too much time reading unimportant stuff. But I'll get there.

I appreciate the offers to post on other blogs, and I may make use of them in the future. But for now I'm on the wagon.

Aaagh! I'm blogging! Now I gotta go do penance...

November 09, 2007

LCD Soundsystem - North American Scum

I've got a whole bunch of posts I want to write today, but absolutely no time. So here's another music video. Lame, I know.

This is a rare piece of modern pop that aims a playful kick at European snobbery. I have no idea what the video has to do with the song though...

November 07, 2007

Between a rock and a hard place in Pakistan

For the past couple of days I've been trying to work out what I feel about what's happening in Pakistan. Despite Musharraf's claims that the martial law he's declared is to fight Islamist extremists, it's pretty clear the ultimate goal is to hold on to power. The elections in January weren't looking good for him, so he's decided (or will decide, actually) to postpone them. He's a dictator. He should go.

Yeeeaaaahhhh... but...

Pakistan is a tinderbox. The democratic institutions there are pretty weak already, and they operate only because the military allows them to. The country has been invaded by Wahhabi massadras that have introduced large parts of the population to the pleasures of paranoia and fanaticism. The military is infested with Islamist sympathizers who -- so far, anyways -- have been held in check by Musharraf. If Benazir Bhutto got into power, the country would explode.

Maybe. Or maybe it's going to happen anyway. I dunno.

Most of the world's press has come down against Musharraf, so you've probably heard that side of the argument. But David Warren dares to argue for him, so have a listen to the other side.

A damn big problem in Iraq

Actually, a big dam problem:

Mosul Dam, formerly known as Saddam Dam (Arabic: "Sadd Saddam") is in danger of collapse. That's because the dam was built on unstable bedrock of gypsum that requires a constant infusion of grout to prevent the foundation from eroding and the giant earthen wall from collapsing. Over the years, engineers have pumped into the foundation more than 50,000 tons of a bentonite, cement, water and air mixture. As the Washington Post explains, "Twenty-four clanging machines churn 24 hours a day to pump grout deep into the dam's base. And sinkholes form periodically as the gypsum dissolves beneath the structure."

Despite these efforts, the dam's condition continues to deteriorate, raising the prospect of its complete collapse. Were this to happen with a reservoir full of water, predicts Engineering News-Record, "as much as 12.5 billion cubic metres of water pooled behind the 3.2-km-long earth-filled impoundment [would go] thundering down the Tigris River Valley toward Mosul, the second largest city in Iraq. The wave behind the 110-m high crest would take about two hours to reach the city of 1.7 million." In addition, parts of Baghdad (population seven million) would come under five metres of water.

The Army Corps estimates the flood would kill a half-million people immediately, while the aftershocks, such as power outage and drought, would kill many more. (Not coincidentally, Iraq was the site of Noah's Ark.) It would likely be the largest human-induced single loss of life in history.

Yipes. And then there's the secondary problem:
Yet, were a catastrophic failure to take place, who would be blamed for the unprecedented loss of life? Americans, of course. And understandably so, for the Bush administration took upon itself the overhauling of Iraqi life, including the Mosul Dam. Specifically, the U.S. taxpayer funded attempts to shore it up with improved grouting, at a cost of US$27-million. The Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction has, however, judged these efforts mismanaged and ineffective.

Massive Iraqi deaths would surely spawn conspiracy theories about American malevolence, inspiring epic rage against the U.S. government and creating a deep sense of guilt among Americans themselves. Yet this blame and remorse would be entirely misplaced.

Read on. And be glad it's not your job to keep this crumbling thing standing.

Pollster's revenge

It was dinner time (of course) when the pollster called. He spoke quickly at me in French and all I caught was 'CROP poll'. I interrupted him and said, "I'm sorry, I only speak English."

*click* HUMMMMMMM.....

Down goes the US dollar

Everyone in Canada is talking about the rapid rise of the Loonie (past US$1.10 today!), but the real story is the crashing of the US dollar. Over the past year the Buck has lost over 12% of its value compared to a trade-weighted basket of currencies:

When this change in the dollar value is taken in to account, the S&P 500 has actually lost 3.4% over the past year, and gold has only increased by 16%. Beyond that, the value of all the assets listed on all US balance sheets, both corporate and individual, have been reduced significantly over the last year. If you add in the hit to the foreign holders of US debt, this has probably been the largest destruction of wealth in history. And it's not over yet...


I remember telling myself a few months ago that I'd soon have to stop displaying my children on the internet for the amusement of others. They're getting older now, and they may find some photos embarrassing when they become aware of them. But I think for the most part I've been sensitive to this possibility, and have been considerate of their dignity. Until now, that is:

Max and Talia are dancing to Feist's Leisure Suite. Note how Max is into the music, and Talia is into the camera. Forgive me kids, I just couldn't resist...

November 06, 2007

More Doom and Gloom -- averted

News of the continuing credit crunch is again hitting front pages. For that reason, the hazy idea of writing another dreary post on my dim understanding of the problem arose in my mind.

I was going to take the position that an open feedback loop between currency-manipulating governments (mostly Asian) and the spineless US Federal Reserve has flooded the world with cash. I was going to display a graph of the US money supply to visually make the case, noting that the Fed had discontinued reporting M3 last year because it made inevitable disaster seem too obvious. Then I was going to argue that since this humongous paper wealth has to be held somewhere, it has surged into the stock markets, the real estate markets, the commodities markets, and the credit markets, creating bubbles in each and causing untold financial destruction. I was going to conclude that the final bubble is yet to burst, and that is the US dollar itself. I was going to put up some graphs generated by this cool US dollar valuation tool at the St Louis Fed to show how it was already happening, and then warn that since the entire world's economy is built on the foundation of the greenback, this is going to be real bad. In the post, I would probably have sprinkled a few links to old posts of mine smugly noting that I had anticipated what was happening a few years ago.

But I'm not going to write that post. I have leaves to rake, a snowblower to try to repair, laundry to do, bills to pay, dishes to wash, and a workshop to clean out. I really shouldn't spend one of the two days a week I have free from my children to write long, dull posts that no one will read. It would be a complete waste of time. And I never waste time. It's just not my way.

If you really do need to read some gloomy economic musings, check out Dollar Daze. I discovered it this morning as I was possessed by a troublesome hazy idea, and I can't say I've ever seen a more interesting economics blog. The archives have terrific primers on the history and the forces involved in the current economic mess.

November 05, 2007

Oscar Biscet

Anyone heard anything about this guy?

He is one of the bravest and most inspired of the Cuban political prisoners. He is a physician, an “Afro-Cuban,” a follower of Mohandas Gandhi and Martin Luther King. If he were a prisoner of anyone but Castro — a Communist dictator — he’d be world-famous. If he were a South African, under apartheid, he’d be on the stamps of virtually every country in the world.

Let me continue in this vein: If he were a prisoner under a right-wing dictatorship, he’d be featured on 60 Minutes every week. He’d be on the cover of Time magazine every week. College campuses would hold sit-ins. Biscet’s face would adorn posters and T-shirts. Etc., etc.

Unfortunately, his brave defiance is directed at Castro's Cuba. Castro's brave defiance towards the US trumps Biscet's, and so he will remain unknown.

More on Biscet's story here.

Waiting for the media

The story of the Conservative party removing Mark Warner as a candidate in Toronto has been going on for almost a week now. But I'm still waiting for a reporter at some newspaper in this country to find out why it happened. They seem more interested in keeping themselves in the dark, the better to reinforce their preferred perceptions of the Conservatives. Here's the Globe last Friday:

Mark Warner, an international-trade lawyer who was elected by the riding association in Toronto Centre, says the party took issue with his participation in a local forum on income and equality. He was eventually given the green light to participate, he said, but on the condition that he remain silent throughout.

Mr. Warner said he believes he should be able to discuss issues that are pertinent to an urban downtown riding. And he doesn't believe he should have been disqualified as a candidate for saying so.

"The riding association made a choice to elect me as a candidate; the riding association was happy for me to continue as a candidate," Mr. Warner said. "If the national party wants to officiate the judgments of a local riding association, I think there are some questions there that democrats will want to discuss."

Possibly the ousted candidate is not the best qualified to explain why he was fired. And I wouldn't expect the party to fill in all the ugly details, because they don't want to be seen kicking someone when he's down (unless they're a Liberal). But sometimes reporting involves more than just phone calls to the key people; it involves turning over a few rocks and asking around. That's too much to ask of today's press, though. They're having too much fun in a fevered fantasyland of their own creation. Today's Star:
If the anti-Rae votes are split in Toronto Centre between the two parties, Rae's chances of winning are increased. But now, with Warner removed, some of that Conservative vote could drift to the NDP candidate, El-Farouk Khaki, a local immigration lawyer.

Warner himself, however, doesn't believe the Conservatives want to help the NDP. In fact, Warner told the Star he believes the Conservatives actually would be happy to see Rae in the House of Commons.

"They deny it when they talk to me," Warner said about his suspicions. However, he remains convinced Rae plays into the central Conservative attack strategy against Liberal Leader Stéphane Dion.

"I think the whole campaign is Harper strong, Dion weak," Warner said. Rae in the Commons as a strong performer would make Dion look weaker, Warner argues.

Got that? Getting rid of Warner was all part of a deep, Karl Rovish plot to... make Stéphane Dion look slightly weaker than he already does! I'm starting to see why the Conservatives wanted to get rid of this guy. But I'm sure he'd be a better candidate if he took his medications...

I've been a part of a Conservative riding association for many years. Choosing the candidates is done at the riding level, but the party can veto the choice. This is good because riding associations -- especially in areas with few Tories -- can get hijacked easily by a well-organized special interest. Candidates are also scrutinized carefully for criminal records or past memberships in objectionable groups. The Conservatives are probably more thorough than other parties in their investigations, but at least they don't veto a candidate for being the wrong gender.

I'm guessing problems with Warner have been going on for some time. I have no idea what they are, but I would guess that he was making promises that he had no authority to make. Or maybe he was the source of the Conservative 'ethnic strategy' leak of last month. Who knows? Too bad I can't find out in the news.

UPDATE: I've been complaining over at the National Post blog about the press' lack of curiosity in this story.

UPDATE II: I have been advised that Mark Warner is a trade and competition lawyer, not an immigration lawyer. I stand corrected.


Bruce Gottfred is an involuntarily retired engineer turned Executive Family Manager. He lives in Chelsea, Québec.

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