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October 31, 2004

Ooooh, scary!

The Little Boy with No Name and Talia Teddy-bear (wearing Max's costume from last year) get ready to visit the immediate neighbors.

More pictures...

Talia inspects her loot...

Max turns on the charm...

A gold star for Heart of Canada

I am consistently amazed by the quality of content that is available in the blogosphere. People devote enormous amounts of time and energy towards something that will only earn them a bit of recognition, if that. This is the mark of good art -- people doing things not for money or to pad a resumé but because they enjoy it and want to interest and amuse others.

I am even more impressed by those that do things that are unpleasant for themselves, again purely for the benefit of others. By plowing through Sheila Copps' new book and reviewing it, Theresa Zolner demonstrates her dedication to her readers. I mean, I can't get through a column by Sheila, but Theresa managed a whole book! If she hadn't, we wouldn't have this revealing insight into Copps (backed up by evidence):

Then it occurred to me what the real intent of the book probably is: the book is a campaign for Sheila's idea of Canada and, ultimately, a campaign for Sheila. Ultimately, the book is political show-and-tell, which helped me to sort out something puzzling about her passion for Canada. Sheila Copps is passionate about her vision for this country, I think, because I believe Sheila Copps is a Marxist. She never says that in her book, but, indirectly, she does, and that is what frightens me about Sheila's vision for Canada.

Did Theresa enjoy reading it? What does this line tell you?

I started writing "G's" in the margin every time I saw a statement that made me gag...
All in all, an interesting look into one of the most annoying minds Canada has ever created. Thanks Theresa. For your bravery, you've earned a coveted Autonomous Source Gold Star!

Election prediction

It might seem strange for a Canadian to get so worked up about an election in another country, but I have. This year's American Presidential election fascinates me. Every day I check both the national and swing-state polls and read numerous opinion pieces about what the issues and strategies are in different parts of the nation. But like everyone else, I don't know what's going to happen on Tuesday. Bush still seems to be the favourite, but many polls are showing real strength for Kerry. There are many scenarios in which either of them could win.

My feeling is that Bush is doing better than the polls suggest. This election has been dominated by a real bias from the mainstream media, and I think some of that bias has tainted the polls. Whether they have stacked the numbers of Democrats surveyed, or manipulated the definition of a 'likely voter', I believe there is some element of institutional fudging of the data so they see what they want to see.

I also think the reappearance of Osama bin Laden will help Bush. He stated how he would like the election to go, and I don't think Americans are inclined to accomodate him.

Using those assumptions to tranform the present poll data, my view of how the states will go looks like this (using the Opinion Journal Electoral College Calculator):

I'd actually give Bush Pennsylvania, Michigan, New Jersey and Hawaii, but I've been too optimistic before, so I've toned it down a bit. This is a reasonable outcome, and it gives Bush a solid victory, which he'll need in the next four years. Come on, America, don't let me down.

UPDATE: A huge roundup of predictions for the election can be found at Les Jones's Blog.

New! Blog Status Indicator

My urge to blog varies from day-to-day. Sometimes the stuff just pours out, but at others my material and motivation have dried up. And when my posting is weak, I feel the urge to apologize and explain myself. Which is kind of stupid.

But now, with my new Blog Status Indicator, visitors will be able to accurately gauge my mood and the chances for new posts. Here are the five levels:

Feel free to use these graphics for your own blog.

October 30, 2004

Just say no to thugs

It seems Osama's latest video is an offer for a truce.

It is important to notice what he has stopped saying in this speech. He has stopped talking about the restoration of the Global Caliphate. There is no more mention of the return of Andalusia. There is no more anticipation that Islam will sweep the world. He is no longer boasting that Americans run at the slightest wounds; that they are more cowardly than the Russians. He is not talking about future operations to swathe the world in fire but dwelling on past glories. He is basically saying if you leave us alone we will leave you alone. Though it is couched in his customary orbicular phraseology he is basically asking for time out.

The American answer to Osama's proposal will be given on Election Day. One response is to agree that the United States of America will henceforth act like Sweden, which is on track to become majority Islamic sometime after the middle of this century. The electorate best knows which candidate will serve this end; which candidate most promises to be European-like in attitude and they can choose that path with both eyes open. The electorate can strike that bargain and Osama may keep his word. The other course is to reject Osama's terms utterly; to recognize the pleading in his outwardly belligerent manner and reply that his fugitive existence; the loss of his sanctuaries; the annihilation of his men are but the merest foretaste of what is yet to come: to say that to enemies such as he, the initials 'US' will always mean Unconditional Surrender.

Osama has stated his terms. He awaits America's answer.

I'm sure everybody can guess what I hope that answer will be. If it isn't, we've been given a taste of the future by none other than Walter Cronkite on the Larry King show:
And the thing that in bringing this threat to us, there is almost, in the fact that he dressed well, that he looked well, he was clean shaven, nearly clean shaven as those folks get. It seemed almost, to me, that he wanted to enter into negotiations, that he was really up -- he wants to move into a leadership role in international affairs instead of the role of a brigand. And he spoke calmly about this thing.
He seems to be suggesting that Osama bin Laden can be persuaded into negotations, can be reasoned with, and can eventually become a statesman (just like Arafat). Maybe I'm reading a little to much into this and Cronkite is simply being facetious, but I am sure that there are those who listen to bin Laden's words and believe him and think he can be trusted. And that scares me.

Guess who's a Michael Moore fan?

Fresh hate from Osama:

Bin Laden suggested Bush was slow to react to the Sept. 11 attacks, giving the hijackers more time than they expected. At the time of the attacks, the president was listening to schoolchildren in Florida reading a book.

"It never occurred to us that the commander-in-chief of the American armed forces would leave 50,000 of his citizens in the two towers to face these horrors alone," he said, referring to the number of people who worked at the World Trade Center.

"It appeared to him (Bush) that a little girl's talk about her goat and its butting was more important than the planes and their butting of the skyscrapers. That gave us three times the required time to carry out the operations, thank God," he said.

Mark Steyn will have to eat his hat.

How long before the conspiracy theorists suggest that the Bush administration held back this tape and released it themselves to Al-Jazeera?

October 28, 2004

The fall collection

What's up in Iraq

Kerry wants America to think it's losing in Iraq. The press is helping, and so are the terrorists, who are attempting to ramp up the violence in hopes of preventing Bush's re-election. Ralph Peters has a good summary of what's really going on:

The terrorist stronghold of Fallujah is increasingly isolated. Night after night, precision weapons and raids by special-operations forces kill international terrorist leaders. Terrified, the local troublemakers are trying to play the negotiations card. They know the U.S. Marines are coming back. And this time the Leathernecks won't be stopped short. Allah's butchers are praying that they can bring down our president before terror's citadel falls.

Meanwhile, the Iraqi people have been revolted by the terrorists' barbarities. They may not want U.S. troops in their streets forever, but they do not want to be ruled by fanatical murderers. Kidnapping aid workers and lopping off heads on videotape horrifies decent Muslims. The slaughter of 50 unarmed Iraqi recruits did not win hearts and minds.

Every day, Iraqis are more engaged in defending their own country. Elections are still on track. The suicide bombings continue, but they haven't deterred Iraq's new government. Nor have they been able to stop the Coalition and Iraq's expanding forces from cleaning out one terrorist rat's nest after another.

Muqtada al-Sadr is quiet as a mouse. Najaf is being rebuilt. Two-thirds of Iraq's provinces are quiet. We never see any headlines about our Kurdish allies in northern Iraq — because they're building a successful modern society in the Middle East. Good-news stories aren't welcome in our undeniably pro-Democratic media.

Read the whole thing.

Krugman: nuts

Long time readers know I have little patience for Paul Krugman. But I've stopped reading him because all the head-shaking he inspired was making me seasick and my doctor warned me that if I kept rolling my eyes back so forcefully they might stay there.

This psychiatrist thinks Krugman has a few serious issues to deal with.

October 26, 2004

Sneer globally, act fitfully

Mark Steyn has a great column in the Telegraph on the reflexive passivity of most of the 'civilized world'.

If by the "civilised world" you mean Europe, Guardian editors, BBC political-discussion panellists, that nice bird from the New Zealand Green Party you met at a conference to demand something be done about something etc, this world is defined almost entirely by its passivity. Whether or not everything is an "ironic joke", hardly anything at all is a "call to action". Does the EU have a position on Darfur? And, if so, who cares?
The problem is, if Kerry squeaks through next week, all of the world will be 'civilized'.

October 24, 2004

Most Annoying Canadian update

Warren Kinsella still holds a slight edge over Sheila Copps in the poll. But she's been making up ground fast, and unless the enemies of Lord Voldemort start bringing in more voters, she'll take the lead. (Let's face it -- she's the favourite.) I'm surprised Svend and Jack Layton are so far down in the running. Svend usually does well in these types of things, and Layton makes people want to hit him with a shovel. I guess it's the stiff competition.

As I noted before, I missed a few names that definitely need to be in the race. So I've decided to make the current round the first qualifying round, which will be followed by another qualifying round, and the best five from each will meet for a final round. To be fair, there needs to be a schedule, so here it is: The first (current) round will end Friday, November 12. The next round will begin immediately and end Friday, December 3. Then the final will go until midnight on New Year's eve. Unless I forget or lose interest, which is probably the most likely result.

The names for the next round have not been decided yet. John Ralston Saul is definitely in. Chretien should also get one of the starting gates (though personally I'm not annoyed by him anymore). But who else? Tom Green? Jacques Parizeau? Mel Lastman? Avril Lavigne? Phil Fontaine? Buzz Hargrove? Lise Beaudoin? Dalton McGuinty? Rex Murphy? Please help me narrow down the choices in the comments section. There's an embarrassment of riches! (Or is it wretches?)

And please vote! I don't want to hear that the winner is not really the Most Annoying Canadian because of the lack of a strong mandate. You can vote once per day for each computer you own. Make it a part of your daily routine!

Even with hindsight, Kerry can't decide

Bob Woodward wrote a book that came out this year called Plan of Attack, the writing of which involved deep questioning of Bush on why he made the decisions he did. Bush was very candid and spoke with Woodward for more than three and a half hours.

Woodward requested to give the same questions to John Kerry, to allow him to explain how his diplomacy would have been different. Kerry would have the benefit of hindsight, of course, so it would not be a very fair comparison with the decisions Bush made. The Kerry team was initially receptive to the idea, but have now backed down. Perhaps this 'plan' Kerry keeps talking about doesn't really exist?

The questions are quite interesting. Getting things ready for war involves numerous difficult decisions. Those (like Kerry) who trot out one error or miscalculation to 'prove' that the 'plan' for the war was a disaster are attempting to mislead their audience. Here's a few of the things Bush dealt with and the questions Kerry refused to answer:

10. In November-December 2002, major U.S. force deployments began but were strung out to avoid telling the world that war was all but inevitable and that diplomacy was over. Rumsfeld told the president that the large U.S. divisions could be kept in top fighting shape for only two to three months without degrading the force.

Questions: How might a President Kerry have handled this? What is the role of momentum in such a decision-making process?

11. On Dec. 21, 2002, CIA deputy John McLaughlin gave a major presentation to the president on the intelligence evidence that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction. The president was not impressed and asked where the good, strong intelligence was. CIA Director George Tenet twice assured the president that the WMD case was a "slam dunk."

Questions: What might a President Kerry have done when he smelled weakness in an intelligence case?

12. On Jan. 9, 2003, the president asked Gen. Franks: What is my last decision point? Franks said it would be when Special Forces were put on the ground inside Iraq.

Question: Had the president already passed his last decision point when he ordered such a large military deployment and such extensive CIA covert action to support the military?

13. Around this time, in January 2003, Rumsfeld told the president that he was losing his options, and that after he asked U.S. allies to commit forces, it would not be feasible to back off. Rumsfeld asked to brief the Saudi ambassador, Prince Bandar bin Sultan. Vice President Cheney, Gen. Richard Myers and Rumsfeld briefed Bandar on Jan. 11, 2003, telling him "You can count on this" -- i.e., war.

Questions: Do you agree with Rumsfeld's assessment? Andy Card, the Bush White House chief of staff, thought the decision to go to war was not irrevocable, that Bush could pull back, though the consequences would be politically expensive. How does a president credibly threaten force without taking steps that make the use of force almost inevitable? Should foreign governments be briefed in this way?

Very interesting stuff. And unlike Kerry's pronouncements, it all takes place in the real world.

All hail the obsessive niche artists!

Can anyone doubt that we live in a wonderful world when people work months to recreate Escher works using Lego? Anyone?

try to figure out how they did this

(via Wizbang)

October 23, 2004

Terminal BDS

A member of the subtle, sophisticated European press may be the first person to perish from Bush Derangement Syndrome. This frothing, eyes-bugged-out tirade against Bush suggests that this reporter's head will probably explode from rage when Bush is re-elected:

Throughout the debate, John Kerry, for his part, looks and sounds a bit like a haunted tree. But at least he's not a lying, sniggering, drink-driving, selfish, reckless, ignorant, dangerous, backward, drooling, twitching, blinking, mouse-faced little cheat.
There's only one thing that will save this poor man:
On November 2, the entire civilised world will be praying, praying Bush loses. And Sod's law dictates he'll probably win, thereby disproving the existence of God once and for all. The world will endure four more years of idiocy, arrogance and unwarranted bloodshed, with no benevolent deity to watch over and save us. John Wilkes Booth, Lee Harvey Oswald, John Hinckley Jr - where are you now that we need you?
But maybe it's better to just let nature take its course.

Stuff & Things IX

  • Victor Davis Hanson, a great writer on military strategy, lays down what's wrong with Kerry's political strategy and why he can't win.
  • Another heavyweight, Thomas Sowell, savages Kerry on the issues.
  • Perhaps you saw the novelty story last week on a study that said Republicans have better sex lives than Democrats? Here's some additional facts from the study that didn't make the news.
  • Colby Cosh suggests all good Canadians who want to humiliate the CBC vote for Don Cherry as the Greatest Canadian. He's got my vote.
  • Lileks says parenting is a job. Who knew?
  • Opinion Journal has a great editorial on how well things are going in Iraq.
  • "We heard that Castro fell," State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said on Thursday. Asked whether the United States wished Mr. Castro, 78, a speedy recovery, he replied: "No."

A perfect fit

Some stories are made for certain blogs. The story of the renegade Karter roaring around Quebec City at night -- with the elements of the usage of the roads and civil disobediance -- is made for Jay Jardine's blog The Freeway to Serfdom. I expect Jay to keep on top of this story and to lead the protests for Kart Vader's release when he finally gets caught.

UPDATE: There must have been some major media story about Vader because I'm getting all kinds of hits off it. If you're here looking for more, go check Jay's blog -- he's got pictures.

Revelations from Sheila

Andrew Coyne has some excerpts from Sheila Copps' new book in his column in the National Post today (subscriber only). It's fascinating to find out what went on all those cabinet meetings back in the nineties...

By 1995, I was already experiencing the kind of resentment around the Cabinet table that a strong woman always encounters from men who feel threatened. But even I was not prepared for the blast of testosterone that greeted me as I entered the room.

"Oh hello, Sheila," Paul said. "We're just working up a plan to abolish old age pensions, the CBC and medicare. Also unemployment insurance, higher education and the Canadian Armed Forces. It's all to do with appeasing the demands of international capital, in deference to the increasing powerlessness of national governments to effect change in an age of globalization. Are you in?"

At first I thought he was joking. I hesitated: They were asking me to betray every principle for which I, as a Liberal, stood. "Goddammit, Sheila," he spat. "I said are you in or not?"

"That's for me to know and you to find out," I replied, in a way that said everything.

October 22, 2004

Who's the Most Annoying Canadian?

Apparently, the CBC is having some sort of contest to find a Canadian that is worthy of the devotion of the nation. I'd have a hard time finding someone to fit that category. I guess I must be one of those self-loathing Canadians. But the Most Annoying Canadian? So many choices! Pick the Canadian that makes you screw up your face in disgust from the list on the right. Vote early and vote often -- internet polls are not as much about preferences as they are dedication and persistence.

Because there have been so many annoying Canadians, I'm limiting the entries to only those still living. Perhaps you're annoyed most by Maude Barlow, or Justin Trudeau. The poll limits me to ten names, so I may have missed someone particularly annoying. Write his or her name in the comments and I'll see what I can do.

UPDATE: I can't believe I forgot Naomi Klein...

UPDATE II: And John Ralston Saul too. Oh I knew I should have thought about this a bit more. But there are so many choices...

UPDATE III: Other names have been missed: Jean, Peter Mansbridge, Bernie Landry, Gwynne Dyer, that helpful guy in the Canadian Tire ads... I'll have a second round in a week or two and then a final. This'll be fun.

Also I should note that there is an attempt to rock the vote. So far it's been quite successful...

I love eggs too

When one person links to 'something cool', I probably won't look. But if two do, it's probably worth it and I'll check it out. This egg video is definitely worth it.

(Thanks to Lileks and Tim Blair.)

A couple of things to deal with

No matter how crazy things get, they can always get crazier. A month ago I thought my kids were exhausting and infuriating and out of control. Well, they were; but now they're even more so.

They're still great fun to be around, of course, but I'd prefer if the doses were a little smaller. When I'm paying attention to them things are great. But if I focus on an interesting blog post for too long or try to engage in some food preparation, I get this:

The apperent size of my belly is an optical illusion.  You see, I had to lean back to take the photo.  I'm actually quite svelte.  Really.

"PapaPapaPapaPapa, upupup!!!"

Or even worse, they'll find something to occupy themselves with. Yesterday Max got in the bathroom and threw a roll of toilet paper in, climbed up on the back of the couch and twiddled the knobs on the stereo at least 72 times, and climbed up on the dining room table, pulled the flowers out of a vase and soaked his shirt trying to drink the water. And Talia did her part too, throwing anything that isn't nailed down down the stairs to the basement. Anything anywhere near the edge of the counter or table and it'll be on the floor and being inspected by my two scientists before you can blink. You may think this sounds funny, but hours (and days) of this is enough to drive anyone crazy.

There are compensations though. Talia has begun singing quite a bit, and is even composing her own songs. Here's one she sang during a car ride a couple of days ago:

Ahhh, Cookie

Ahhh, gookie! (lean head to left) Ahhh, gookie! (lean head to right)
Ahhh, gookie! (lean head to left) Ahhh, gookie! (lean head to right)
Ahhh, gookie! (lean head to left) Ahhh, gookie! (lean head to right)
Ahhh, gookie! (lean head to left) Ahhh, gookie! (lean head to right)
(repeat)

(lyrics copyright Talia Gottfred)

Max has a phrase he now uses when things go wrong -- and for him they go wrong quite frequently. It's "Oh no!" He says it with such an air of dramatic import -- like a dance choreographer when his star twists her ankle. It's hilarious. He drops his cookie: "Oooohhh nooo!"

The other parents I know estimate only another year and a half of this kind of craziness. Hey! Light at the end of the tunnel!

October 21, 2004

Is he being sarcastic?

Glenn Reynolds apologizes yesterday for light blogging. Only eighteen posts! Seems he spent twelve hours reviewing a manuscript. There must be two of him.

October 18, 2004

Yet another vote for Bush

There's a thoughtful article in yesterday's Sunday Times in the UK from an American ex-pat Democrat who wants Bush to win. Her reasons pretty much mirror my own:

I have always believed in a better, more hopeful world. I am optimistic that the elections in Iraq will ultimately have a transforming effect on the country. I have no doubt that most Iraqis would like democracy to take root. As in Afghanistan, many of them seem eager to have the chance to vote, despite the insurgency. Freedom has a persuasive momentum of its own.

As for Kerry, he has been sounding more and more cynical with each passing suicide and car bomb. He is giving Iraqi insurgents — who, true to their form under Saddam, relish killing their own people most of all — every reason to step up their attacks in the hope of sabotaging their own elections and replacing Bush in the White House. It is the behaviour of a politician with more ambition than conscience.

(from Roger L. Simon, again)

Amusing

This is funny.

(I realize this is a lame post. But if I didn't post it, I'd have posted nothing -- which is even lamer. And it is funny...)

Advice

If you're tired, burnt-out and in need of a recharge, going to a ski lodge with nine other (younger) guys and enough alcohol to fuel a fraternity for a week is not a good idea. And what the wine and beer and tequilla and scotch and appletine and Linie aquavit did to my head, the hours of street hockey did to my body. Now I need to recover from my retreat...

UPDATE: There was a request for photos...

Here's the photo taken when we were struggling with the camera timer:

Here's the official photo of the teams for the achives:

And here's an action shot of one of Team Quebec's captain's many rolling-on-the-ground, call-an-ambulance episodes.

October 15, 2004

Deep inside Sucking Central

Busy day with the Latin American Correspondent as we foraged for supplies for the weekend while I looked after the kids. He insisted we visit Parliament so he could talk to his reporter friends and he told me he'd show me where our tax dollars go. Unfortunately, the furnace room was closed, so he made it up by arranging a photo shoot in the Speaker's chair in the Senate.

And no, I don't know what's going on with my hair.

October 14, 2004

Burned out

Perceptive readers of this blog (if there are any left) may have noticed a distinct air of lameness has overcome this space. I've become uninterested in trying to capture any of the partially formed thoughts that have been flying through my mind lately and hammering them into something coherent. As well, the kids have been steadily increasing in craziness and any free time I have is better spent relieving stress rather than increasing it.

But fear not, my friend the Latin American correspondent is in town this weekend and we have arranged a men's retreat to restore our frayed spirits. About eight of us will be getting together in a cabin to burn incense, bang drums, and read poetry. There will also be the ritualistic consumption of alcohol and the telling of rude stories. There may even be some golf. I'll be back Monday.

UPDATE: There was a request for baby pictures. I can accommodate that. This is what happens to the kids when I leave them in their mother's care for over an hour.

October 13, 2004

Another debate

Despite my plans to ignore tonight's showdown, I somehow found myself muttering about what a phoney, condescensing, sanctimonious sack of pudding John Kerry is as I listened to him quote from an endless list of statistics. God, what a nightmare candidate that guy is. He can't win, please... he just can't...

Now there's a two minute review...

Another vote for Bush

A Jewish liberal in New York writes an essay on why she's voting for Bush. She prefers to remain anonymous, but I think there's many others who feel the same way.

...

“You can not escape the responsibility of tomorrow by evading it today,” said President Lincoln at another decisive moment in our nation’s history. The War on Islamic Terror must be waged fully, humanely, and successfully. This monumental battle is both our burden and our privilege, for as Thomas Paine said when our country was born, “If there must be trouble let it be in my day, that my child may have peace.”

(via Roger L. Simon)

October 11, 2004

Debbye's back

After a long, long absence, Debbye Stratigacos has resumed her blog. She was one of the first to link to my blog and she gave me some words of encouragement when I was starting out. I can't say I really understand her explanation for why she disappeared, but I'm glad she hadn't been taken away by white slavers.

Good to have you back. Don't let those Torontonians get you down. The rest of Canada doesn't like them that much either.

Kerry is all wet

There was a long, long piece on John Kerry in last week's New York Times Magazine. I never got around to reading the whole thing, but in many of the blogs I've browsed today people have taken little vignettes from it and analyzed them. The funniest clip was from today's Best of the Web:

On an evening in August, just after a campaign swing through the Southwest, Kerry and I met, for the second of three conversations about terrorism and national security, in a hotel room overlooking the Ferris wheel on the Santa Monica pier. A row of Evian water bottles had been thoughtfully placed on a nearby table. Kerry frowned.

"Can we get any of my water?" he asked Stephanie Cutter, his communications director, who dutifully scurried from the room. I asked Kerry, out of sheer curiosity, what he didn't like about Evian.

"I hate that stuff," Kerry explained to me. "They pack it full of minerals."

"What kind of water do you drink?" I asked, trying to make conversation.

"Plain old American water," he said.

"You mean tap water?"

"No," Kerry replied deliberately. He seemed now to sense some kind of trap. I was left to imagine what was going through his head. If I admit that I drink bottled water, then he might say I'm out of touch with ordinary voters. But doesn't demanding my own brand of water seem even more aristocratic? Then again, Evian is French--important to stay away from anything even remotely French.

"There are all kinds of waters," he said finally. Pause. "Saratoga Spring." This seemed to have exhausted his list. "Sometimes I drink tap water," he added.

I was just doubled over laughing after reading that. But it's also very revealing of the empty shell that Kerry's 20 years in the Senate have made of him. Not only can he not tell you what his 'plan' to fix Iraq is, he can't even be firm on what kind of water he prefers. He's been very shy of the press for the past two months, but finally allows a presumably sympathetic reporter from the Kerry-friendly Times to get close to him, but he's unable to uncurl himself from his defensive crouch.

Mark Steyn notes that Kerry has chosen to run as 'a cipher' -- a none-of-the-above candidate. Can 50% of the population of the United States fall for such a strategy? Unfortunately, he seems to be doing pretty well so far...

My name is Xenon...

Most arcade rats from the 80s have heard about MAME (Multiple Arcade Machine Emulator) already. It allows you to replay all those stupid games that gobbled up your allowance back when you were a teenager -- and for free! But I just learned about VPMAME -- Visual Pinball MAME. Some very clever people have combined a program that emulates the original ROMs from old pinball machines with a pinball CAD program and simulator. The result allows you to play many of those old machines on your computer -- and once again for free!

Actual screen shot!

You can go here to figure out how to do it. It takes a bit of playing around to get it to work, but it's worth it.

October 09, 2004

Good news in Afghanistan

Less than three years after the Taliban was routed, Afghanistan has held an democratic election. It hasn't been perfect -- Karzai's presidential opponents, sensing they were going to lose, have denounced the election over a technicality -- but turnout has been high and the feared violence has not occured.

Yahoo news photos of Afghan election

I'm concerned about this last-minute boycott, though. The clever tut-tutting people will latch onto this as justification to declare Afghanistan a failure, just as they have judged Iraq a failure. This defeatist, all-or-nothing thinking is too common amongst the opinion-setters of the media today, and if left unchallenged becomes the truth -- because hope gets abandoned. I hope for the sake of the people of Afghanistan that the mopes can put aside their despair and recognize and celebrate this achievement.

October 08, 2004

The debate: two minute review

I wasn't sure I was going to watch this thing tonight, but I did. I just went to check it out for a minute and it sucked me in. It was a much better format and I think it worked to make things much livelier and more interesting.

Bush was at the top of his game tonight, but I'll have to concede that Kerry was pretty quick and clever as well. I give the win to Bush though, he was knowledgable, quick, passionate and consistent. Kerry seemed a bit too bitter and cold. I say these things because I recognized from the first debate that what they say doesn't matter too much, it's how they say it. And in the first debate Bush was distracted and sour, and Kerry was quick and focused -- and that's pretty much all I remember about it. (Well okay, I also remember that most of what Kerry said was utter horseshit.)

I found most of the tonight's debate easy to watch, but there were a couple of moments when I cringed like I've never cringed before. And that was when Kerry had to disagree with a questioner (usually about abortion). He would be so extremely patronizing to them that I just couldn't watch it. He would prattle on and on about how much he respects their morals, and understands their concerns, and values their views... Aaargh! Just get to the point already dammit!

I think this guy has a serious difficulty with conflict. Make him the President, and in comparison Jimmy Carter will seem to have the will of Churchill.

Okay, that was fifteen minutes; time for bed.

October 07, 2004

Defending the blogosphere

I started writing a response to this narrow-minded article in the National Post the other day, but was too distracted, apathetic (and confused) to finish it.

The article is another manifestation of the big media 'blog backlash'. In the last few months the general public has become more aware of the blogosphere. During the US political conventions, bloggers were given reporter's credentials and the mainstream media (MSM) aired a number of, "Look! Bloggers! Aren't they cute?" stories. They could afford to look down on these 'pretend journalists' with their little web sites -- they still had control of the agenda. The National Post even created a 'Blogger's corner' where they reprinted some material from these unimportant hacks (without paying them, of course).

But then the CBS forged documents scandal was revealed by bloggers, and people started noticing the fast turn-around time and research capabilities of this new medium. Its distributed nature allows thousands of people working independently to chase down every different angle on a story faster and more accurately than a 'professional' news organization. Lots of useless information and dead-ends are created in this process, but the iterative connectivity of the blogosphere automatically brings the most important facts the greatest attention -- and all without an editor. More news junkies have started tuning in to the new medium and some in the news business are starting to feel a little threatened.

I meant to fisk the article properly, but Theresa Zolner of Heart of Canada beat me to it. I'd do it again anyways, but I'm too unmotivated, disconnected and overwhelmed to bother. Go read what she has to say. There's some good comments as well.

Filler

Swamped. Exhausted. Disconnected. Overwhelmed. Unmotivated. Apathetic. Confused. Distracted. That's why I have nothing to say.

But here's a nice photo of the kids.

They just LOOK peaceful and content.

October 04, 2004

American-style health care comes to Canada...

...but not in a good way.

George Smitherman, Ontario's crackpot health minister -- who recently said he would deputize citizens and organize a posse to run a private medical diagnostic company out of the province -- has now decided that doctors prescribe too many drugs and he wants them to cut down. And he'll offer the doctors cash-money for each pill they withhold from their patients. Laughably, he states that he's doing this for the patients own good, not because he's trying to cut costs:

"The real issue is that everybody in the province of Ontario knows that we have a problem with over-medicating seniors," he said, citing "plentiful" studies that show an over-reliance on drugs such as antibiotics.

"This is motivated by one clear and pressing reality, which is that there are too many people in the province of Ontario who are over-medicated."

Traditionally, Canadian governments have limited health care expenditures by restricting availablity. Back in the 80's, the class sizes for medical schools were reduced to control the spiraling costs of healthcare. The thinking was: fewer doctors, less billing, lower costs. And it worked -- too bad about all those waiting lists.

But now we're starting to experience what is supposedly one of the great shortcomings of the American HMO system: bureaucrats deciding what kind of treatment you can receive. As health care costs in this country become impossible to afford, be prepared for government workers to start using databases to track which doctors are costing too much money. Maybe they'e already doing this. And once they start compiling all this data, they're going to use it. They're going to overrule doctor's decisions -- and another argument that the Canadian heath care system is better will be put to rest.

October 03, 2004

You call that a barbeque?

This is a barbeque:

My Chilean buddy has built himself a parrilla in his yard and invited everyone he knew (all of whom had a few kids) for a fine feast today.

Pato's place is a kids fantasyland.

He's got everything a kid could want in his yard. Here you can see a standard play structure, and behind is a ride he created with a steel cable and an old sled.

And of course there's a trampoline -- which Max and Talia made good use of. I think they'll be spending a lot of happy days here in the next few years.

UPDATE: The barbecue fan at the Meatriarchy is linking to this post, so I thought his readers might be interested in a close-up of the grill. Custom iron-work, just like the doors to the oven. Real men use charcoal.

The Hitchhiker's Guide, cont'd

The BBC has created two new six episode series of the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy radio show. I missed the first episode, but each week they're going to enable listening of the most recent show from the website. The second episode was quite good: most of the original cast is there, and the story is based on the later books in the HHGTTG series. Now I've just got to remember it each week...

(indirectly via Dave Munger -- and yes, I am a nerd.)

October 02, 2004

Kerry assumes the position

The debate? I heard it proved Kerry can look Presidential. But he's finding it hard to maintain that image...

October 01, 2004

Found: the 'Global Test'

John Kerry said during the debates last night that he would only use military force if it passed a 'global test'. A reader of Instapundit named Randy Pickett managed to get a copy of the test from someone who took it last year, and here are the questions:

Global Test for Pre-emptive Military Action by the U.S.

1. Is the U.S. President a Republican?
2. Could this action possibly stabilize oil production?
3. Are France and Germany supplying the intended target with weapons or advice?
4. Would any small time thugocracy with a seat on the Security Council feel threatened?
5. Are family members of high ranking U.N. bureaucrats benefiting financially from the status quo?
6. Is this action likely to enhance America’s power in the world?
7. Would this action further the goals of free market/free trade advocates?
8. Would this action make the U.N. look weak and inconsistent?
9. Would this action divide the countries of the European Union?
10. Would this action be seen as offensive to a world religion (other than Christianity and Judaism)?

If the answer to any of these is yes, you can forget about it. Keep the tanks in the garage.

LA to NY

I hate music videos, but this one is really worth watching. Makes me want to get out on the road. But the song is, well... eh.

Allawi and the media-terrorist feedback loop

Iraqi prime minister Iyad Allawi understands how terrorists work and points out how the media help them:

Iyad Allawi, the Iraqi prime minister, demanded yesterday that Kenneth Bigley's kidnappers be starved of publicity.

He said the intense exposure given to the plight of the Liverpool engineer was only encouraging the taking of more hostages.

"Terrorists feed on the media," he said. "If you cut off this oxygen, they will die very quickly."

I don't know about "very quickly", but it sure couldn't hurt. I don't think the media should be censored, but they could exhibit some self-restraint.
"Let us not forget that this terrorism depends entirely on publicity. We therefore need to think long and hard about how this kidnapping has been covered by the media . . .

"Can we justify showing videos of hostages or groups of armed and hooded men? Is this not exactly the publicity the terrorists seek? Should we play their game?"

Unfortunately, I think he's wasting his breath.

(via NealeNews)

Cosh gets the axe

The National Post is apparently getting rid of Colby Cosh from its editorial page. A couple months ago one of his weekly columns was dropped to make room for Sheila Copps' drivel, and now they're taking away the other one too. Does that mean two Copps columns a week now?! I'm so excited! Or maybe some other unemployed Liberal hack will get the spot -- maybe Lloyd Axworthy! I'd love to hear his wise take on what's happening in the world. Or -- I know who it's gonna be! Svend Robinson!

Too bad about Cosh. He always came across as a bit too erudite, but he had some interesting ideas. Is he worth cancelling my subscription over? I'll think about it.

The most important subjects at hand

I haven't written a good update on what's happening with the kids lately. That's because while it's easy slapping a photo up every now and then, it's hard to really describe these guys right now. They're changing so much, so fast, that whatever I right about them is very superficial. But I'll try.

Talia has really taken off with her language. She uses small phrases and understands some abstract concepts. She tells me she wants to "stee owsie" when we come home from a walk. When Max is upset, she comes over to tell me "Tax cry" (yes, I can hear him, little girl). She is constantly trying to figure out what should be done in different situations and knows the procedures for all the days activities and will prompt me if I'm moving too slow. She listens and understands everything I say, and often repeats me if it's something interesting. ("Tax, stup eet!")

Max is not as good with language but is still developing very well. He talks a fair amount, but isn't quite as easy to understand. He has an entirely different way of mispronouncing things than Talia does. He's also talking mostly for his own benefit, he's not really talking to communicate. He doesn't listen too well either.

Max the weightlifter

Physically, they're both speedy and nimble. They're good at climbing, and like experimenting with movement, like walking backwards or sideways, or spinning round and around. Max is much bigger than Talia -- about eight centimeters taller. And he's much beefier too -- Talia will learn a lot about defending herself in the next few years.

They're both extremely affectionate, and it's really wonderful to see big smiles on their faces as they run across the room to greet you -- even if you've just been away for a half-an-hour. Max loves to give big bear hugs and Talia just wants to sit on my lap. One of the main causes of fights is them both wanting to cuddle me at the same time.

They're both very good children. They don't fuss all that much and do very well when they go out. We took the for a big dinner at Mama's uncle's place a couple of weeks ago and they sat in booster chairs at the table for almost three hours -- after their bedtime -- without one angry squawk. And they ate everything, just like they do at home. They're quite good at using a fork and a spoon now. I can usually just cut up their food and put it in a bowl and they'll find a way to get it inside them.

At the Carp fair

Okay, what else? Uh, Talia has made her first poopy in the potty today, if anyone's interested by that news. Like I said, she's very interested in doing what she feels she's supposed to do, so I don't think toilet training her is going to be too difficult. Dreamy boy Max will be much harder, but then boys usually are with this sort of thing.

Okay, they're waking up from their nap. That's enough for now...

Adventure is out there...