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September 30, 2004

It's hard work... but we're getting the job done...

I'm watching the debates. I'm kind of drunk-blogging like Stephen Green, but working with scotch instead of martinis. The wife is out absorbing some culture with her mother.

I'm biased, sure, but John Kerry is turning me off like no one before. Neither is doing all that great, constantly repeating (and repeating and repeating) the same points, but Kerry's raising the hair on the back of my neck. His points seem cheap and petty and I still don't understand what he'd do differently. He's saying over and over that Bush did it wrong and didn't get enough allies for the war on Iraq, but damned if I can figure out how he could have done it all better. Not that that matters anymore, what is he going to do now? Kerry hasn't said -- I guess that's his strategy for the debate.

Bush is looking a little too petulent during his idle moments and I think that's going to hurt him a bit.

Oooh, nice softball question for Bush, "Are there any character issues about John Kerry that suggest he will not be a good president?" You can guess the answer.

Kerry, jutting out his chin: "I have no intention of wilting and I've never wilted in my life!" I'm laughing so hard I'm tearing up.

Kerry's using lots of little factoids, but they just look petty. Bush is dealing with the real world; it's easy to pick out little errors and say these mistakes wouldn't happen with him -- but not believable.

Kerry wants bilateral talks with North Korea. What ever happened to involving America's allies?

Kerry's closing statement: "I have a plan!" But what? What it is? I still don't know.

Bush's closing statement: "We must be steadfast and resolute and strong."

It's over. Now CNN has unleased their spin analysers. My head is lolling on my neck after only two minutes of listening to them. What a bore. My opinion? Draw. No one managed to draw any blood. So Bush won. I'm going to bed.

UPDATE: Roger Simon also liveblogged the debate. He was somewhat repulsed by Kerry too. Damian Penny also covered it at gave the win to Kerry.

UPDATE II: Allah has the mother of all roundups on the debate.

UPDATE III: Make sure you check the comments for this post. Alexa, the Canadian New York City Republican, tears JFK II a new one. It's so good she posted it twice.

What's Kerry going to say about this?

The was a horrific suicide bomb attack in Baghdad today that killed over 40 people, most of them children. Will John Kerry bring up these deaths in the debates tonight and try to lay them at George Bush's feet? Is he that desperate and depraved?

You would think he wouldn't be, but last week John Kerry gave a speech where he essentially painted the picture of Iraq being a hopeless disaster. And then there was this defeatist TV ad:

"Over 1,000 US soldiers dead, kidnappings, even beheadings of Americans," an announcer says as images of Iraqi explosions and street battles fill the screen. "Still Bush has no plan what to do in Iraq. How can you solve a problem when you can't see it?"
If it's fair game to blame these things on Bush, then certainly Kerry will jump at the chance to cash in on a bunch of dead kids, right? Well, no. I really don't think he will; he doesn't dare to seem to be that crass. But why are brutal kidnappings and murders okay to use as weapons against Bush while the mass slaughter of children isn't?

There was an editorial in the NY Times last weekend denying that there was anything wrong with a presidential candidate 'accentuating the negative' in the war on Iraq and stating that it was "despicable politics" to suggest "that Mr. Kerry's criticisms dispirit the Iraqi people and American soldiers". Well, it's not. It's the truth, and it's very simple to understand.

The goal of terrorism is to terrorize. They want their targets to feel fear, to feel helpless, and to give up hope. Anyone amplifying their negative message is doing their bidding, giving them a public victory and making them stronger. The media does this all the time; I call it the media-terrorist feedback loop. Can anyone doubt that these bastards feel very pleased with themselves when John Kerry uses their work to attack George Bush?

So do I think terrorism should be off limits as a subject for debate in the election? Mostly, yeah. Both candidates should be very clear that they are serious about terrorism and that there will be a democratic Iraq -- whoever wins. This a war -- there's a common enemy and it's important not to forget that in the heat of the campaign. Kerry should make it very clear that it is the terrorists that are responsible for the atrocities in Iraq, not Bush, and make his hay with objections to the rationale for the war, not the final result.

September 29, 2004

Congrats to the SpaceShipOne team

TV is good for something. I've been watching SpaceShipOne mission live on CNN this morning, and it's been a good show. Watching clips on the evening news just doesn't compare at all to watching it all happen live. There were a few moments on the ascent when it looked the craft was going to spin out of control. As it was making its final burn into space, it started rocking back and forth as the pilot tried to steady it. Then it started spinning uncontrolably and I feared for the worse. It spun over twenty times, but the pilot finally straightened it out. A tension-filled few minutes.

The ship completed its mission and landed perfectly, but to qualify for the X-prize They've got to do it again next Monday. I wonder if they'll cancel the attempt while they work to figure out how to avoid what went wrong from happening again.

Your ball, Mr. Pettigrew

44 North Korean refugees have managed to climb into the Canadian embassy compound in China. Just as West Germany did for East Germans during the cold war, South Korea considers all North Koreans full citizens. But China considers North Koreans in their territory to be illegal migrants and sends them back to to Kim's socialist utopia.

But what's Canada's position? Do we do the right thing -- and annoy China and encourage more asylum seekers in our embassies? Or do we do what China wants? C'mon Pierre, show us there's something more to you than your hair!

September 28, 2004

Mr. Wonka, one of your Oompa-Loompas is missing

Orange you going to vote for me?Poor John Kerry just can't seem to catch a break. Today he's got his new skin colouration to take away the oxygen from whatever policy position he's promoting lately. I'm assuming some consultant determined that Kerry was too pale and needed a bit of colour -- too bad those tanning pills can sometimes turn you orange. And just before the debates too, that's gotta hurt.

This is funny, but it also goes to the heart of what's wrong with Kerry. The moral of many after-school specials was, 'just be yourself'. It's still good advice. But for Kerry, after 20 years in the Senate doing the Zelig thing with every person he met, there's no self left to be. Bush is frequently considered by the clever people to be just the friendly front for those that manage him, but certainly gives the impression at least that there's someone in there. Kerry is the result of competing focus groups and consultancy reports. He does what he's told by the last 'expert' to see him -- which has resulted in the present chaotic mess of conflicting policies and postures. I'm interested to see what mode he'll be set to for the debates.

UPDATE: It didn't take too long for the photoshoppers to go to work.

Lost weekend

I haven't been able to find time to blog recently, but just wait 'til you hear the reasons...

It was at a reception at the Czech embassy on Friday evening that my wife and I met the Lithuanian basketball player and the CEO that started everything. I was wearing my silk mustard-coloured leisure suit with a crisp blue cufflinked shirt opened to mid-chest that implied I didn't care that the disco retro fad had died a few years ago. My wife was decked out in a sharp, short lime-green number trimmed with black lace. She was gorgeous.

The CEO was on his third scotch and explaining to me how his board of directors was taking away his private jet. It seems the corporate world had rediscovered restraint a few years ago and the new rules now applied even to him -- especially after his last disasterous quarter. In a month, he would once again be forced to fly with his inferiors in business class. I suggested that he should use this last month with his Gulfstream to take advantage of the freedom he had now and enjoy himself. In the the modern, hyper-connected world we live in, he should be able to conduct his business remotely from anywhere in the world. Life is for living!

I was just making conversation, of course, because it would not really be proper to use a plane owned by his company's shareholders to indulge in private adventure, but -- perhaps due to some invisible personal identity crisis -- he thought what I had suggested was a grand idea. He got the pilot on the phone and told him to warm up the jet. But where to go?

This is where the basketball player joined our conversation. He was sitting on a armchair facing away from us with a diminutive and beautiful asian woman sitting in his lap. He turned around and said that his girlfriend's brother's agent had told him about a fabulous fundraiser being held in a mansion on Long Island tonight. We would miss the dinner, but he could get us in for the late-evening drinks and schmoozing.

"What's the fundraiser for?", asked the CEO to the asian woman.

"She's not my girlfriend!", said the basketball player. "It's something to do with orphans. Hmmm, yeah, it was definitely orphans somewhere..."

For proposing the idea I was invited along. It sounded like fun -- it wasn't me that would be hauled before the SEC. I went to tell my wife, who was deeply involved in a wide-ranging discussion on the topic of the crisis in modern cinema with a world-famous ballerina. The ballerina was tall and beautiful and displayed a huge mouth full of perfect teeth when she laughed -- which she did frequently. With absolutely no permission to do so, I invited her along for the ride (and my wife too). We were to meet at the airport at 10:00. We didn't have time to get anything; the three of us jumped in a cab and were off.

The CEO was late. So late that we were starting to fear that he'd lost his nerve. In the meantime, we got to know the basketball player and his (not) girlfriend. She was a fashion designer from Hong Kong who had fled the steadily encroaching oppression of Communist China for the less steadily encroaching oppression of Canada. Her english was perfect.

Finally the CEO showed up. His wife had caused the delay by insisting that she needed a new outfit. We had seen this woman at the reception and had tittered a bit privately at her -- but now we would be crammed together for two hours on a flight to the States. She was at least six feet tall (six and a half with her heels), thin save for the large safety devices grafted to her chest, and had her skin toasted to a deep, rich brown. Her makeup was tastefully done, but still looked wrong because of her artificially enlarged lips.

On the plane (which was a little more cramped than I'd expected) we were forced to lift the armrest between two chairs to fit three people in. I spent the flight squeezed tightly between my wife and the ballerina, whose hips were larger than you might have expected. The CEO's wife was a splendid hostess, warm, funny, and down-to-earth. The seven of us had a wonderful time on the flight, and drank some excellent wine.

We landed at a small airport on Long Island. We were forced to cab it to the party, and the CEO's wife worried how it would look. It turned out that no one cared. No one but the basketball player's girlfriend's brother and his agent saw us arrive. The basketball player endured puzzled frowns from his sponsors at the number they would have to sneak in, but his sheepish look and repeated shrugs seemed eventually to satisfy them. We went in. It had been a long grueling cab ride. I went straight to the bar.

The house was quite magnificent. Spacious, but with furniture laid out in a such a way that small clusters could get a sense of intimacy for their discussions, but without disturbing the flow and movement of people. The only fault I could find was with the decor. Some people are frightened by intense colour but I think this is what would make this house more exciting. As it was, it was beige, black, and (ugh) powder blue that dominated. I assumed it was an older person that was the host of this party.

I could tell this was quite the high-power event. If the style of vehicles hadn't already tipped me off to this, a glance around the room would have. There were famous people here! Good thing the wife and I looked so incredible cool. At the bar, I stood beside a famous character actor as he described the complicated drink he wanted the bartender to make. When he was done, I asked for the bartender to make me one too.

"You can't have one", the character actor said, "this is my personal signature drink!"

I asked him what he called it. "It's a Monte Carlo Black." And he said to the bartender, "Don't make him one."

I said, "If you don't let me have one, the recipe and name of this drink will be featured in next Sunday's New York Times Style section." And to the bartender, "You can put it in a different style glass for me."

That seemed to satisfy the character actor, and we started to talk. (The drink was pretty good.) I made up an extraordinarily preposterous story of who I was and what I do. He bought it. And he knew just the person I should talk to -- and that's when things got really interesting...


Wait. Wait. That's not what really happened. I don't have a silk mustard-coloured leisure suit. I stayed home all weekend and successfully prevented my kids from killing themselves. That was fun too, I guess...

September 24, 2004

Holy Truck!

Japanese truckers worship their rigs.

Stuff & Things VIII

Photo used with permission of the owner.

September 23, 2004

From the What were they thinking? dept

By popular demand (well, probably not), MGM has re-released the Showgirls DVD in a Special Limited Edition, Run-Right-Out-And-Get-This-Now, V.I.P. Boxset. It includes not only the odious movie (which I only know is odious by reading the reviews, honest!), but Showgirls shot glasses, Showgirls playing cards, a Showgirls blindfold, and a pair of tassled Showgirls pasties.

How will you go on living without this?

Don't think that the pasties are intended to be attached to a real, you know, person of the female gender. The creators of this abomination have done some market research and have concluded that their potential buyers are almost certainly single. So they've included a life-size airbrushed poster of Showgirls actress Elizabeth Berkley and included instructions for the no-doubt hilarious drinking game called Pin the Pasties on the Showgirl. You see, that's what the shot glasses and blindfold are for! Invite some friends over for a game, I'm sure they'll never forgive you.

September 22, 2004

Time goes Goatse

Maybe you've never seen the 'Goatse'. You're lucky. I won't tell you about it, but you can go here (safe link -- really) to find out more if you're interested. The original image has had such an effect on the internet, there's even a site dedicated to homages to it.

The reason I mention this is that some graphic designers have created another homage to it, and put it on the cover of the latest Time Magazine. Bad news for Goatse fans, because it's common knowledge that as soon as a fad gets on the cover of Time Magazine, it's played out.

We probably won't hear about it, but somebody's gonna get, well -- reamed over this...

UPDATE: Google's fifth hit for 'goatse' is the Time cover.

Two more votes for Bush

Black Gay Republicans Break With Log Cabin Republicans, Endorse Bush.

(via Best of the Web)

Hatchet jobs

Here's some good reading if you're one of those people (like me) who enjoy seeing pompous public figures ruthlessly carved up by savage prose. There's 'The anchor as madman' by Bryan Curtis on Dan Rather (some more juicy background material on Gunga Dan can be found here), and 'The Kerryness of Kerry' featuring Mark Steyn with his cruelty setting turned up to 11.

Okay, the kids are up. I've got my chair and whip -- I'm going in...

Post cereal wants to know your kid's turn-ons

I'm having one of those short-attention span days. In a fog, I've actually just read the back of a box of cereal.

HONEYCOMB wants you to gEt whAt You wAnt!
We want to hear from you! Tell us about yourself. How do you like to spend your spare time? What sorts of things are cool with you and your friends (ie. tv shows, sports, movies, games, etc.)? Who do you admire? What do you like about HONEYCOMB cereal? We want to know!
And now you've just read the back of a box of cereal too. Don't you have anything better to do?

Seriously though, is this supposed to be market research? It seems pretty creepy. If you looked over your 13 year-old's shoulder and saw those questions addressed to him as he chatted on the internet, what would you think?

Waiting for a call from the Secret Service

I ran into John Kerry last night playing Unreal Tournament 2004. Actually it was JOHN_KERRY and he was armed with a flak cannon rather than his favourite M-16. And I really did run into him -- I drove over him with my hellbender...


Look what's been happening with the Presidential futures market.

September 21, 2004

Toddlers on crack!

Actually, I'm pretty sure they're not really on crack. We're responsible parents -- we keep our drug stash out of their reach.

But they have been acting pretty crazy the past few days. Last week, if you listened outside my door, you'd have heard cries like these, pretty much all day long:

"Max, no!"

"Max, stop it!"


"Max, I said no! Maaaaxxxx?!?"


You get the idea. He's a fast-moving, inquisitive little dynamo. He's tall, so he can reach things on tables and shelves pretty easily; and he's quite the little monkey, able to quickly climb anything that gives him access to where I've moved all the interesting stuff.

When I say these these things to him, of course, he just laughs. It's all part of the game. And when I'm finally forced to grab his arms, look him in the eyes, give him a mean look and say, "Stop it!", he cries. And he doesn't stop for some time.

But at least it was just him going crazy. But now Max must have told Talia where he's been scoring his drugs, because she's gone haywire too. When they've been inside for the past few days, they've both been just bouncing off the walls, running around, shrieking, and throwing everything down the stairs -- even the dog's basket. The pull out anything they can get their hands on and spread it out all over the floor. It takes so much energy to try to keep them under control. I can see why so many parents just turn on the TV to take the edge off them.

I also take them outside for a good part of their day. Talia's favourite word right now is 'owsie!' She always wants to go 'owsie', and when I take them into the yard things get even crazier. Max takes a small tub of water and pours it all over himself. Talia runs off into the neighbor's yard. Max crawls through the garden in his wet clothes. Talia giggles and squirms in my arms as I bring her home. Max puts some gravel in his mouth. Talia starts pestering me to get her a stick. I get her a stick. I take the gravel out of Max's mouth. Talia pokes one of the cats with her stick. I take the stick away from Talia. Max runs into the neighbor's yard...

One of my friends is also a stay-at-home father, and a few months ago he told me that kids always get easier as they get older. Each day you can reclaim more time for yourself as your children will require less care, he said. I'm sure he had a good laugh with his wife about that after I left.

They're exhausting. But they're very cute too.

Photo by Mama

It's really wonderful seeing them in the tub -- because I know they'll be in bed soon.

Quacks on the march

Do you want to make lots of money? Are you evil? Are you willing to tell outrageous lies to hopeful, desperate people? Then a career in the practice of the Neurolink complete health care system may be for you!

We received a letter last week that had 'Important message from local doctor' written on the outside. I kind of doubted that because 'local doctor' was in the kitchen making dinner. Inside was a pamphlet full of buzzwords and scientific-sounding gobbledy-gook from some quack setting up shop nearby. He claims to be one of only five in Canada that is practicing the miracle of Neurolink, an offshoot of the quack science of chiropractic medicine.

What is it? I'll let them explain:

When the body ‘breaks down’ – either physically, pathologically, chemically or emotionally, this means that there are tolerances that have been exceeded. When tolerances have been exceeded symptoms of pain and illness are manifested. There is activity that is now outside the parameters within which the brain controls. There is now function of some body's systems that the brain is no longer fully governing.

Having explained that, it means Neurolink looks at all complaints from the neurophysiological point of view. The Neurolink System of healthcare represents a systematic and prioritized set of protocols that assess the function of all the bodys systems, and all the factors that translate themselves to symptoms. These protocols will identify areas of physiology that the brain does not have full governance of and are not functioning to its optimum.

The Neurolink physician is a facilitator in the resetting of the neurological circuitry so the brain, will resume full governance of the respective area of dysfunction. In essence, with Neurolink the brain itself is correcting the problem. The doctor does not correct the problem - he/she facilitates only.

Clear? No? Well, you're not supposed to understand. Here's what happens if you're stupid enough to let yourself be examined by one of these crooks:
As a patient you will lie on a medical treatment bed face up or face down, fully dressed.

The practitioner will hold different points on your body to activate different ‘circuits’. Some of these points will be obvious. Some may not be so obvious to you. To determine if the various circuits are intact or not, the practitioner will use a muscle test (ie holding an arm strong) as an indicator. The muscle test could be thought of as the practitioner’s way of ‘talking’ to the brain. If the circuit is broken, the muscle will lose strength, and the patient will be unable to resist against the practitioner’s pressure.

In most cases, to correct the problem, the practitioner will make contact with points on the body. The patient may also be asked to hold certain points him/herself. The practitioner will tap a certain place on the cranium – which is the integration message centre to the brain.

The practitioner will check through various circuits correcting as necessary for the individual, based on the information that is fed back from the brain.

Remember... with a Neurolink treatment, it is tailor-made for you. The practitioner can only correct circuits your brain says need correcting. And... your brain doesn’t lie.

Sure. But these quacks will when they tell you what your brain said.

A few years ago, the Latin American Correspondent and myself were in Vegas and we somehow managed to sneak in to an alternative medicine trade show. We spent an enjoyable couple of hours going to the booths and letting these hucksters (some of whom were no doubt sincere) give us their wacky sales pitches. One I remember was selling an amulet that would ward off the evil strength-draining rays from cell-phones. He had us push against his flexed arm both when we were holding a phone, and then when it was hidden under a lead blanket. And you know, it seemed like I had more strength without the phone! I could push his arm easier! And then I tried holding the phone while wearing the amulet, and what do you know? No loss of strength! (Though I was amazed, I explained that I didn't use a cell-phone and couldn't afford the $300 he wanted. Maybe next time.)

This seems to be the same gimmick used by the wonderous new Neurolink system. It takes longer, and will be accompanied by furrowed brows on the face of the 'practitioner', but it's the same parlour trick. It's an old scam with a long history in medical quackery. The old-time medicine shows used it, and now it's been buffed up and given a scientific veneer by chiropractors. It's now called Applied Kinesiology, but is just as much of a stage trick as it always was:

Some people who undergo AK muscle-testing report that although they resisted as hard as they could, the practitioner was still able to pull down their arm. Differences from one test to another may be due to suggestibility; variations in the amount of force, leverage, or follow-through involved; and/or muscle fatigue. Distraction can also play a role. (Touching another part of the body just before pulling down the arm may cause the patient to focus less on resisting.) But trickery (deliberate or unconscious) may also be a factor. A sudden slight upward movement can cause a "set" muscle to relax so that it can be immediately pulled downward. I have found that when this is done quickly, the person being tested is unlikely to detect the upward motion. Try this on a friend.
In the old days, the medicine shows would have to keep moving to avoid the anger of the people once they figured out they'd been duped. Now they set up permanent operations and use lobbyists to ask to bill the government for their 'services'. That's progress for you.

Just how stupid are these guys?

I haven't been joining in on the blogworld's feeding frenzy over Dan 'investigative reporting without fear or favoritism' Rather's incredibly lame 'scoop' that blew up in his face, but I have been following it closely. (How could you read blogs and not?) Now that the documents have been proven bogus, hasty defences are being built to try to salvage some of CBS's reputation and prevent any of this mess from sticking to John Kerry. But I don't think they're going to hold. They are quite amusing though; check out Allah's comments on the latest developments.

I tell you, when they make the movie of this story, the whole soundtrack is going to be calliope.

September 20, 2004

Water on their brains

The Council of Canadians -- acting on their bizarre water obsession -- wants to prevent any new water withdrawals from the Great Lakes. There's been a new agreement signed between the eight US states and two provinces that border the lakes to allow new small scale diversions. This is obviously just the first step in an environmental apocalypse:

"In the business of water, once you say maybe, you say yes," Pentland said in an interview from Ottawa.

The Council of Canadians, which will present at Toronto hearings hosted by the Council of the Great Lakes Governors, also wants to make its "vehement" opposition to the proposal known.

"The eight U.S. states are forming an agreement where they're going to sell Great Lakes water," said Sara Ehrhardt, water campaigner for the group.

"It's going to open the door for the sale of water on a large scale."

Oh no! Not selling a natural resource for money! How un-Canadian!
The fear is that the combined effects of climate change, consumption and new diversions could eventually drain the lakes.

"It's not alarmist," Pentland says.

No, no, of course not.

Meanwhile, back in the real world, the Saint Lawrence Seaway corporation has raised the allowable draft of ships due to an greatly elevated water level, and homeowners along Lake Ontario are worried about flooding. The trend is clear. We've got to stop conserving water and start selling it as fast as we can. Otherwise in a few years Toronto could suffer the same fate as Atlantis.

September 19, 2004

Crash and burn

Before going to see Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow, I checked out the posters at IMDb, as I usually do. Most were loudly praising it, calling it a unique and beautiful Indiana Jones style adventure flick. That sounded good to me, but I couldn't help noticing there were a few reviewers who seemed to have a real intense loathing for the movie. One even said it was the worst movie he'd ever seen. I usually chuckle when I read stuff like that -- I mean, how could it be the worst movie he ever saw? But it turns out this guy might have been on to something. I doubt it's the worst movie I've ever seen -- but I haven't been able to think of a worse one since I got out of the theatre. It stunk pretty bad.

Maybe I'm being too rough on it. It looked great -- though the look got a little dull after the first half-hour. And the acting wasn't too bad -- given the lines the actors had to work with. But the story -- what a train wreck! I've never seen a more poorly written movie.

Some people have said that, yeah, the story is weak, but the strength of the movie is in the action and effects. But a weak story is 'we gotta get them before they get us' or 'unlikely competitor comes from behind and through perseverance overcomes obstacles to win the championship'. Nothing wrong with a poor story; some of the best movies of all time have them. But Sky Captain's story isn't weak -- it just doesn't make any sense. Really, it makes absolutely no sense at all.

Sure, lots of movies have parts of the plot that don't make any sense. But never has a movie been made has such a density of stupidity. The characters motivations are continually baffling. The 'bad guys' strategy makes no sense. Things just happen for no reason.

The movie reminds me of one of those bad computer adventure games from the early nineties. You'd have things in your 'inventory' that you would try to 'use' by clicking on everything in the few areas you had access to. And eventually you'd hit on the extremely unlikely combination the programmer chose, and you'd move on to the next part of the game. At least in Sky Captain you don't have to go through all the frustrating bits. The characters walk into a room they're exploring and find the files they need, open a cupboard and find the geiger counter they need, or right away find the scrap of the map with an 'X' on Nepal in the destroyed air base to tell them where they should fly off to next.

This movie was supposed to come out earlier this year. I'm guessing it was pulled back for emergency surgery by the studio to try to salvage something. There are little hints that the story had an 'Island of Dr. Moreau' plotline. But it looks like the patient died on the operating table.

For some reason though, this movie is getting generally good reviews. It just goes to show that you can't trust the lying, no-good media these days.

UPDATE: There's a thread on the movie at Vodkapundit. Some of the other detractors of the movie are starting to speak out. Thank goodness I'm not the only person to see this movie for what it is.

It's the New Style

Well, I'm back. It's good to take time off from blogging every now and then. After I go at it for a while it starts to become part of how I see the world. Everything I see, everything I read, and every little idea gets vetted to see if I should fit it in the blog. It all gets a bit tiresome sometimes. It's nice to put it out of my mind.

But at the same time I realized blogging is a useful way for me to release some creative energy that doesn't otherwise have an outlet. Most of the time I'm talking only to my little balls and chains and they don't really appreciate my wit and wisdom. Maybe no one else does either, but at least on the internet I can pretend.

I spiffed up the template for the blog over the past two days. I was really, really getting sick of the old look. The new style is a little simpler and a little classier, in my opinion. I've tested it on Netscape and IE at both 800X600 and 1024X768 and it seems to work fine. If you have any problems please let me know. The logo was done using a progam called The Gimp, which is a very powerful (and free!) graphics editor. I found it on the wonderful Pricelessware site. I'm just starting to figure out how to use it and will probably replace the logo with something cooler in a month or so.

Okay. Now I guess I should go write something...

September 13, 2004

Meanwhile, back at the ranch...

I've been busy, busy, busy since we got back. Mostly it's been social duties, but for the rest of this week there's lots of housework to be done. I'm also a little burnt out, so I'm going to take a week off from blogging.

I know some people that read this blog don't read too many others. Before I go, I'd like to suggest to those people to check out Mark Steyn's column on how Dan Rather's attempt to use fake documents to smear Bush was exposed by a bunch of guys sitting around in their pajamas. It's not getting enough press, IMO, and if you're just reading the paper or watching TV to get your news, you may not have heard about it. There's really too much to say about this -- if you want to find out more, hit almost any blog on the left and they'll have interesting comments and links on the subject.

I'll leave with a photo. You get three toddlers for the price of two this time. Caroline is almost the same age Talia and Max and was up this weekend from Noo Yawk city. It was quite a lot of fun having three tots running around here...

September 10, 2004

Home today

Well, our adventure to the North ends today. I hoped I would have some more interesting things to say about the place, but I spent more of my time chasing around a couple of toddlers than paying attention to where I was. Maybe next time.

September 09, 2004

Talia then and now

A year ago we were also in Iqaluit -- in this same apartment. I posted the first picture in my old blog and thought an update would be interesting.

Google game

Gnotalex at Blog Québécois has discovered a new internet game called Google talk. It works by taking an seed sequence of words and searching Google for where this string has been used and what the most likely next word is. Then it does it again. And again. What wisdom does this internet oracle hold? Here's what it said when fed 'Bruce Gottfred is':

Bruce Gottfred is an involuntarily and forcibly contracted muscle that does not have a TV in your home! May be a Hard- Wired Reward.
It's all true. I am a hard-wired reward.

Another anniversary

In a couple of days, we'll have the anniversary of 9/11. Three years ago something happened that changed the world forever. But al-Qaeda was also busy two days earlier than September 11th, 2001, when they murdered Ahmad Shah Massoud in Afghanistan.

Jeff at Beautiful Atrocities has a brief biography of this great man and credits him with helping to bring down the Soviet Union.

Carter's latest victims

An editorial in today's Wall Street Journal concludes that the Carter Center was 'Conned in Caracas'. They point out some of the statistical analysis I mentioned the other day, but also point the finger directly at the observers for being too trusting and unwilling to press for necessary access:

None of this would matter if the auditing process had been open to scrutiny by the Carter observers. But as the economists point out: "After an arduous negotiation, the Electoral Council allowed the OAS [Organization of American States] and the Carter Center to observe all aspects of the election process except for the central computer hub, a place where they also prohibited the presence of any witnesses from the opposition. At the time, this appeared to be an insignificant detail. Now it looks much more meaningful."
This is what really drives me up the wall. Carter refused to press Chavez to obtain the conditions for a fair election. He was more concerned with appearances, and wanted to have a hand in the process. The Eurpoeans had already refused to participate due to the unfair conditions Chavez had imposed. If Carter was prepared to walk away as well, the truth of the corruption of Chavez's regime would be common knowledge. Instead, he leant legitimacy to tyranny, and the Bush administration had no choice but to accept the results of the referendum. Well, that's pretty typical for Carter.

Carter's whole career is based on 'conflict avoidance'. In his enlightened view, there is no 'right' or 'wrong' side of a conflict, and everything can be worked out through negotiations. In practice, this has usually meant giving in when the other side digs in its heels, or secret bribery to get a public (usually symbolic) victory. The people who pay the price for this grandstanding are the people who didn't get a seat at the table -- in Venezuela's case: the citizens of a once free nation.

September 07, 2004

Stuff & Things VII

  • Someone at The New York Times put a deep dent in his expense account and paid a visit to Nunavut (registration required). He proceeds to call the Inuit 'Eskimos' and wave around a few tidbits of anecdotal info to try to convince you that mankind is doomed.
  • I can't believe I'm agreeing with something written by odious cartoonist Ted Rall over James Lileks. Rall rips apart the overrated Art Spiegelman and calls him a posturing, self-promoting phoney. Lileks said yesterday that Spiegelman is "brilliant" (though politically stupid -- which is true). Lileks is wrong; the only decent thing he's done is Maus, and that was only good because his father's story that it was based on was so powerful. But I've read much of his other work -- and it's pretentious, self obsessed drivel.
  • I didn't bring my dictionary up here so my spelling would probably be terrible if it wasn't for the presence of my wife watching bad TV as I write. She can spell anything -- and never makes mistakes. Thanks, Sweety.
  • I posted some photos of Iqaluit last week that showed it to be a terrible mess. This weekend there were a number of Inuit women out working to clean it up. It looks a lot better now, at least down on this side of town.
  • The last Economist had an article by a woman from the Carter Center justifying their endorsement of Chavez's win. Aside from some of the weasel-words used (the government "largely" agreed to their demands), she also claims that they statistically analysed the many coincidences in the voting patterns and found them to be within the expected range. However, the professor who she quotes on this now tells a different story. Many more questions on the validity of the election are raised at the Devil's Excrement. I can't understand why there's no real media scrutiny of this story.

Out on the land

That's what they call it up here: 'the land'. I got a chance the other day to go for a hike out on one tiny part of the huge empty expanse of arctic tundra that allows Canada to claim itself 'the second largest country in the world'. It was a beautiful day, warm and sunny, and even more beautiful because someone else was worrying about Max and Talia's lunch.

Most of my pictures turned out to be pretty dull, however. You're probably familiar with the effect: you travel through some mountains or a forest, or go see a famous waterfall, and take lots of photos. And when you look at them later, all you have are a bunch of pictures of rocks or trees or rushing water. Thats what I found when I looked at these photos: lots and lots of shots of grey rocks. The photos just don't capture what I saw. Oh well.

Here's some of them anyway. To speed up loading of this page, I'm putting them in the extended entry...

After walking a considerable way out of town, I was still able to see the products of civilization. There where some communication domes on a hill and some houses could be seen to the side. To get way out I had to cross a stream at the bottom of a valley and climb the other side. Here's the stream. Luckily there was a few rocks I could cross it on.

Here's a shot from the top of the other side of the valley. I thought I'd have a nice view, but it was just more of the same. In Fall, the small plants that somehow manage to survive up here change colours, just as the trees do in the south. The bright red plants actually grow a berry that many Inuit were picking on the hills closer to town.

A small puddle of water in a depression in the rock. I thought this was a particularly artistic photo. Perhaps you disagree. Perhaps you do not have an artistic soul like myself.

Hey look! More grey rocks! This time they're arranged in a interesting shape. It looks like there's a seasonal stream here.

Here's what the ground looks like close up.

After crossing the stream the first time, I walked the crest of the ridge for some distance. But to get back to town, I had to recross the water, which had widened somewhat. I managed to cross this river relatively dry, only dunking one foot in the water.

September 06, 2004

A reporter's thoughts on terrorism

My good friend Andres Vargas, the Latin American correspondent whose work last appeared here, has some thoughts on the reporter-terrorist feedback loop, appeasement, and Canada's limp response to the new state of the world.

Regrettably, these frightening scenes seem to be an all-too-common occurrence these days and no longer occupy the final pages of newspapers on the flip side of the globe. Even here, at the tip of the world, it’s difficult to feel removed from world events. Finger pointing Mr. Bush seems to be the knee-jerk reaction these days in our bid to explain why innocent children are gunned down indiscriminately. Terrorism wasn’t invented on Sept 11, but terrorism ceased to be something we could ignore on Sept. 11. The tearing down of the towers was largely plotted, financed and put in action before Bush was elected. There are two fundamental changes that have happened since we were born that are facilitating terrorism. The first is simple ease of travel. The sheer volume of world travel and accessibility of it means you can literally walk out of a cave in Afghanistan on Monday morning and likely tuck into a hotel bed before the day is over. The further back you go in history the larger the world was. The other is that the news of a school full of children being blown up used to make it’s way to North America in hours, days or weeks. Now, the carnage unfolds before our eyes. Terrorism lives on fear. Without reporting, the act doesn’t happen. By fearing them, by seeking to appease them, terrorists get what they want and get it on the cheap. We aren’t seeing more terrorism now than a few years ago. In fact, if you add Rwanda and Sudan you’ll get 10 times more deaths then in Middle East during the same time period. The difference simply being we didn’t have cameras to watch children being thrown alive onto a burning heap of bodies in Rwanda and they weren’t our children. We were wrong.

As Europe, the Americas and Asia race ahead economically, boosting education levels and standards of living, Africa and the Middle East are mired in the 20th century -- the 19th century in some cases. In the long-run the best way to defeat terrorism is to help bring simple freedoms to the Middle East: assist them achieve higher levels of education, foster civil liberties (especially for women), boost cultural exchanges, increase trade. In short, by promoting the economic welfare of the region, the people there will choose to cherish life and seek to advance through labour, rather than by walking onto a bus laden with explosives, which used to get your family a fat cheque from Saddam.

In the short-term, we have to fight the terrorists head on. They exist because they are allowed to, creating symbiotic alliances with rulers, filling each other’s coffers and extinguishing dissent. By taking them out we remove at least one obstacle to freedom in the region. There isn’t a pool of a million terrorists waiting to happen. All human beings cherish life if they are given sufficient civil liberties and opportunities to advance. Trade sanctions, resolutions are embargoes are nice, but at some point you need to take a stand.

I was sorry Canada didn’t accompany the U.S. into Iraq. I fail to see the humour when politicians back home take cheap shots are the U.S. to boost their popularity. We enjoy a comfortable existence largely because of them, sending 90 percent of exports south of the border and nestling in the comfort of their security blanket. We have far more in common with the U.S. freedom, rule of law and liberties than we do with repressive regimes scattered throughout the Middle East. I much prefer our politicians repress gut-reactions to lambaste the U.S. and instead converse and offer to help. When called upon in the past century Canadians have made sacrifices that few if any countries in the world can match, right through to Rwanda.

Now isn’t the time to stop.

September 05, 2004

Comments fixed

Once again, my comments have been screwed up for a few days. The problem with depending on external tools for your website is that if they go down, they take other things down with them. I've removed the Junkeater spam fighter, and now everything works again. Hooray.

September 04, 2004

The Roar

Okay. I can't resist. One more toddler picture.

No more excuses for terrorism

Oh wait. Maybe there are. Flea has found one of those clever people from the Guardian who is able to adopt a scholarly tone and coldly rationalize the horror of the school seige in Russia:

Beslan is an extreme example of what is rightly seen as a depraved military tactic. But the equally unpalatable truth is that hostage taking is also a rational tactic in the desperate context of asymmetrical warfare. Despite the likelihood of a bloody end to most hostage situations, they are likely to grow more, rather than less, frequent.
And then, after attributing the gift of sweet reason to those that could kill hundreds of children, she accuses those that would fight terror, the US and Israel, of being foolish:
To promise that security in such conflicts will result from the deployment of large military machines is a sham. To fight asymmetrical war with tanks makes as much sense as trying to shoot mosquitoes with a machine gun. The result is counter-productive.
Unfortunately, much of the civilized Western World holds similar views. CNN today had some truly heart-wrenching coverage of the aftermath in Beslan; but in the voice-over the reporter was talking about the "cause" that these "militants" died for -- as if there was a logical explanation for this kind of depraved behavior. And the more depraved the act, the more likely they believe there must be an important motivation -- because the "militants" are obviously so "desperate".

Let me advance another theory: the act is more important than the motivation. There is a sickness coursing through the Muslim -- and especially the Arabic -- parts of the world. Not everyone has succumbed to it, in fact it's a minority of the population, but a subculture has grown in these areas that is obsessed with violence and jihad.

It's mostly the young people, but there's a few older facilitators and the conspiracy theories of elders acting as catalysts. Young people -- especially young males -- are naturally rebelious, but in the Arab world there are few outlets for this energy. Arab states are all oppressive tyrannies that tolerate no dissent and offer nothing to those without connections. A stifling culture prevents any kind of casual mixing of the sexes, and prohibition of alcohol prevents the common youthful catharsis of binge-drinking. Mix this with a sense of hopelessness about the future inspired by high unemployment and the difficulty in finding a wife due to the practice of polygamy in some countries, and you've got a potent destructive force looking for an outlet.

This rage cannot be directed against the religious establishment or the government, because both are very watchful for opposition and would crush any dissent mercilessly. So instead, other targets have been agreed on: Israel and the United States. The infidels and crusaders. The Western World.

The fadish nature of the growing list of atrocities since 9/11 suggest that the principle 'root cause' of terrorism is nothing but misdirected adolescent energy. Daniel Pearle was beheaded on video and it created quite a stir. Then there was Nick Berg, and now for every would-be 'defender of the faith', beheading an infidel in cold blood is a cherished dream. Today we have numerous psychos dressing up in black costumes to videotape themselves slaughtering whichever unfortunate non-muslims they managed to kidnap. So what if they're Nepalese? They make up a rationalization to molify the tiny grain of decency they still have and justify themselves to the outside world. But in reality they just want to kill. Does anyone really believe that terrorists in Iraq really care whether France allows the hajib in schools? These guys just happened to nab Frenchmen, and the rationale came after.

That's why I support the liberation of Iraq and the 'march of liberty', as George W. Bush described it. Remove or change the constricting regimes that breed this kind of mindset and the problem will start to go away. To do that there must be firm resolve in pushing these countries towards change, as well as a denial of the self-righteous justifications and excuses for terrorism. Hopefully we'll have four more years of the Bush administration to handle the first part of the task -- but I think it will take a truly terrible strike to convince the many clever people in the media of the need for the second.

No one said it was going to be easy.

UPDATE: Mark Steyn has a few good points to add on this topic.

September 03, 2004

Northern tikes

I've pretty much given up on the playgrounds around here. Despite Polarman's efforts, they're quite the mess. Yesterday was the last straw for me though: all of the swings had the seats spit on and someone had urinated down the slide.

So our play places now are empty spaces off of the beaten path. Max and Talia can have fun playing with rocks, and I don't have to worry about what horrible thing they'll pull out of the sand next.

...which in Texas is called walking

I watched Bush's big speech last night. I'd like to write a thoughtful explanation of why I support Bush and why I enjoyed the speech, but my mind is foggy this morning. Go read Stephen Green's thoughts instead, I agree with all of them.

Cynicism is hard-wired into my brain (and I don't think I'll ever be able to overcome it), but I found myself believing Bush much more than I scoffed. He's attempting some big and needed changes to US government, and he impressed me by bringing these ideas forward. His goal of marching freedom forward also resonated with me, and I liked the big, big vision of making the 21st century a time for liberty to triumph.

I did scoff a few times though. The intro for him was a little over the top, I think. When he finally showed up I was surprised he wasn't descending from above, wreathed in smoke and dressed in a shining suit of armour. In his speech, he talked about reducing government regulation for businesses and simplifying the tax laws, but also talked about new business programs and new tax credits. And then there was lots of Clintonian fluff about providing community health clinics and new programs to get people into college. For some reason though, I don't think these 'mommy politics' issues will change the perceptions of those that think he's the new face of fascism. But he keeps trying...

Overall, I think the convention has put Bush neatly into the driver's seat. Kerry made a speech right after W wrapped up, and it sounded a little grasping. I mean, he's still talking about what Bush did during Vietnam? What does he think this will accomplish? (Read this for a very neat takedown of Kerry.) Bush is advancing new ideas and offering a clear vision for the future. Kerry is whining and throwing out conspiracy theories. Not that tough a choice for America.

September 02, 2004

Slumped on the couch with the kids

My connection up here is so tenuous that randomly strolling through the web has been replaced by watching bad TV. Most of the bad TV I'm watching is kids TV, because Max and Talia need to distracted or Papa will go crazy. Mama is working twelve hour days right now, so I've got these little guys to manage all day. Sticking them in front of the evil mind-control device all day for a couple of weeks won't irrepairably corrupt them, will it?

I'm learning the names of all the trains on Thomas the Tank Engine. For some reason my kids find this show fascinating.

Barney is as bad as I thought it would be. Worse actually. If you were to imagine a show that a totalitarian society would use to turn the next generation into good little worker drones, Barney would be it. It's ghastly, but I can't find the energy to get up and get the remote.

Boobah is absolutely wonderful. There's nothing like it. We're all completely entranced by it. I'm going to have to write a longer piece on the magic of this show sometime.

There's some really bad Can-con kids shows out there. Really, really bad. Ants in your pants comes immediately to mind, but there's others. Brrr! Your tax dollars at work. Timothy goes to school is pretty good though.

Sesame Street seems to have really gone downhill. The show seems to be more about celebrity cameos and in-jokes for the parents and has forgotten the kids. Mine pay little attention to it. And what happened to the street scenes?

The Berenstain Bears (wasn't it the Berenstein bears when I was a kid?) is not as bad as it looks. The stories are pretty good, but I really hate the animation.

Okay, Boohbah's on now, so I gotta go.