Autonomous Source

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March 31, 2005

You think you've got problems?

Compared to this woman, you lead a life of endless bliss. She just wants to feed her son! Listen to her sad story on her call to 911, or just read this transcript:

Dispatcher: Sheriff's department, how can I help you?

Caller: Yeah, I'm over here at Burger King, right here in San Clemente--

Dispatcher: Mm-hmm.

Caller: --um, no, not San Clemente, I'm sorry. Um, I live in San Clemente. I'm in Laguna Niguel, I think that's where I'm at.

Dispatcher: Uh-huh.

Caller: I'm at a drive-thru right now.

Dispatcher: Uh-huh.

Caller: I ordered my food three times. They're mopping the floor inside, and I understand they're busy. They're not even busy, OK, I've been the only car here. I asked them four different times to make me a Western Barbecue Burger. OK, they keep giving me a hamburger with lettuce, tomato and cheese, onions. And I said, I am not leaving.

Dispatcher: Uh-huh.

Caller: I want a Western Burger. Because I just got my kids from tae kwon do; they're hungry. I'm on my way home, and I live in San Clemente.

Dispatcher: Uh-huh.

Caller: OK, she gave me another hamburger. It's wrong. I said four times, I said, "I want it." She goes, "Can you go out and park in front?" I said, "No. I want my hamburger right." So then the lady came to the manager, or whoever she is--she came up and she said, um, "Did you want your money back?" And I said, "No. I want my hamburger. My kids are hungry, and I have to jump on the toll freeway [sic]." I said, "I am not leaving this spot," and I said I will call the police, because I want my Western Burger done right. Now is that so hard?

Dispatcher: OK, what exactly is it you want us to do for you?

Caller: Send an officer down here. I want them to make me the right--

Dispatcher: Ma'am, we're not going to go down there and enforce your Western Bacon Cheeseburger.

Caller: What am I supposed to do?

Dispatcher: This is between you and the manager. We're not going to go enforce how to make a hamburger. That's not a criminal issue. There's nothing criminal there.

Caller: So I just stand here--so I just sit here and block--

Dispatcher: You need to calmly and rationally speak to the manager and figure out what to do between you.

Caller: She did come up, and I said, "Can I please have my Western Burger?" She said, "I'm not dealing with it," and she walked away. Because they're mopping the floor and it's all full of suds, and they don't want to go through there, and--

Dispatcher: Ma'am, then I suggest you get your money back and go somewhere else. This is not a criminal issue. We can't go out there and make them make you a cheeseburger the way you want it.

Caller: Well, that is, that--you're supposed to be here to protect me.

Dispatcher: Well, what are we protecting you from, a wrong cheeseburger?

Caller: No. It's--

Dispatcher: Is this like, is this a harmful cheeseburger or something? I don't understand what you want us to do.

Caller: Well, just come down here! I'm not leaving!

Dispatcher: No, ma'am, I'm not sending the deputies down there over a cheeseburger! You need to go in there and act like an adult and either get your money back or go home.

Caller: I do not need to go. She is not acting like an adult herself. I'm sitting here in my car. I just want them to make my kid a Western Burger [unintelligible].

Dispatcher: Now this is what I suggest: I suggest you get your money back from the manager and you go on your way home.

Caller: OK.

Dispatcher: OK? Bye-bye.

Caller: No--


It's much funnier listening to the real thing; download the recording...

(ripped off wholesale from Best of the Web Today)


Time to add a few new blogs to the blogroll, and cut a few that I haven't been reading or have gone to that great 404 in the sky. This time the new blogs were plucked from the Canadian Red Ensign bloggers. I've contemplated joining them a few times, but I'm not a joiner by nature -- thus the name 'Autonomous Source' -- and have again decided not to. I'll remain unaffiliated for now and earn the right to call myself a Marauding Marsupial the hard way. But there are some interesting blogs on it and I've grabbed a baker's dozen to add to the Autonomous Collective. They are, in no particular order: The London Fog, The Last Amazon, Shiny Happy Gulag, Rempelia Prime, North Western Winds, The Files of the Phantom Observer, The Tiger in Winter, Nathan's Updates from Seoul, Turning 30 and a half, Tipperography, Myrick, Abraca-Pocus, and BumfOnline.

I'll be popping in on them from time to time and damn well expect to be entertained.

March 30, 2005

Zambonis? Seal casserole? No! Basketball! Superman!

A letter writer to the National Post gets indignant about the exquisite shredding of the Canadian identity done in a recent Weekly Standard:

In regards to the belief that some Canadians are dull, I hasten to point out that the game tiddly-winks was invented in the United States, while basketball, a fast-paced sport loved by millions of Americans, was invented by a Canadian. [...]

Blair Watson, Vancouver

Which makes Canadians interesting, um, how?

If Blair had bothered to read the article he was whining about, he would have noted that much of it made fun of the exaggerated self-regard Canadians are afflicted with -- especially concerning their southern neighbors -- and kept his mouth shut. It's pretty pathetic when you make your critic's point in your own defense. But maybe he wouldn't. That delicate Canadian sensitivity is pretty hard to keep in check. (long ago deceased) ran a piece tweaking Canada's nose back in the late nineties. The original piece was nothing special, but they ran a feature (still available!) on Canadians' indignant responses to it that was just devastating. Funniest was the claim that we 'discovered' basketball.

Mark Steyn has recently opined that Canada is doomed. If so, our tombstone will say:

Government roadkill

In an earlier post, I was lamenting that there was no organized opposition to the wacky daycare folly that Ken Dryden plans to inflict on the country. The unions and government backed special interest groups are pushing hard, and no one is pushing back. One commenter, Lisa, agreed:

I operate a licenced home daycare. I currently earn aproximately $13,000/year profit . I have my early childhood education certification and meet all licencing requirements. But the unions and the feds wish to keep us out of child care program because I am considered for profit. A salary of $13,000 year is not big money, this is what I live on. I don't have the big expensive child care centre and I don't have the lobbying power of the large daycare centres. What I do have is parents who are happy to bring their children to a loving home, with quality programming, healthy meals, and individualized attention that the centres don't have with a low adult to child ratio of 1 to 5, compared to 1 to 10 in a centre. The are thousands of people like myself across the country, without the voice that governments will listen to. I wrote letters months ago to my provincial and federal ministers. What can people like myself do to be heard?
You'd think that with the massive budget the feds will be devoting to this project, there'd be money enough for everyone that works in the industry. So far, the plan for this mother of all boondoggles is not set, but early indications are that it will arrive in the state-run, not-for-profit mold that the 'experts' who are drafting it are itching for. They don't want to just write checks; they want a big bureaucracy to drive, loaded with all the options. Private suppliers will probably not be shut down, but they'll face a new competitor that will undercut their prices and steal their customers -- which will result in them being forced out of business, just as if they were shut down.

We shouldn't feel too bad for Lisa though. With her early childhood education certification she should be able to get a job at Workers' Creche #347, which will be opening up soon in her town. That is, if the union lets her join.

March 29, 2005

We've been relocated... Mapquest. For some time now, I've had a link in my About section (on the right) to a map of my neighborhood. It put a little star right where my house is -- so random browsers could more easily locate me to rob my home. (I'd advise against it, we have a dangerous dog protecting the property.) But now Mapquest places us in the middle of Maniwaki, a hundred kilometers to the north.

That's Quebec hillbilly country. I wonder if we'll be able to adapt...

For anyone wishing to come and live here, let us assure you that Maniwaki has all the requirements to welcome you and your family to a way of life where you can find all the important infrastructures to an active life, like : airport, health and social services, schools, day-care, etc...
Wow! Make mine Maniwaki!

Quick! Call an authority figure!

Mark Steyn has an amusing column on Canadians' increasing reliance on government to solve our problems. (Registration required, or you can go here to borrow a login.)

In nanny-state Canada, the dominant culture tells us don’t act, don’t think, don’t make adult judgments. Leave it to the government, they’ll show up any minute, they’ll pass a new law. Not every story has a hero, but every story needs human impulses, and in the Canadian press most of our “human interest” stories are, in human terms, less and less interesting. If the benign theory of state power is that it obliges us to subordinate our selfish interest to the greater good of society as a whole, the reality on the ground seems to be precisely the opposite: a state in which the citizen’s response to everything is “the government oughta do somethin’ about it” is one in which he’s less and less inclined to do anything other than look out for Number One.
What we constantly hear from the media and government is that you, as an individual, are powerless. If confronted by racism, bullying, or unfair pricing, the solution is to abdicate responsibility to an authority figure.

I get the feeling that senior government ministers and bureaucrats (and the media leaders, who are the government's muse) feel their fellow citizens are dull-eyed simpletons who spend their days in tedious, meaningless work and do it only to shuffle through Wal-Mart looking for something shiny or fattening to buy. We cannot be expected to look after ourselves and probably should be subject to a licensing process before we're allowed to live in the real world. But as far-sighted and gifted altruists, they genuinely feel they can help these people with yet more targeted programs and new laws that cover any possible difficult situation. What they don't see is that all this hand-holding and infantilization of our population just makes their insulting funhouse-mirror view of the nation become more likely to occur...


Finally. Spring in some parts of the world means flowers and butterflies, but here it's when the ice has melted off the road and we can go outside without coats.

And it's still just as good.

March 28, 2005


It's not too often that you find something on the internet that really makes your jaw drop. This is a very evocative and melancholy little piece that really shows what can be done with web design. For those that work in an office, it's slightly pornographic (though very tasteful) and there is music. It really has to be seen: Grandfather's Girls.

And be careful turning those pages!

(via Beautiful Atrocities)

March 27, 2005

Business as usual

My friend the Latin American correspondent, who has become accustomed to the transparent honesty of the Argentine government, was shocked by the cynical choices made by Paul Martin for the Senate:

I just saw the list of new Senate appointments -- what an outrage! Didn't Martin promise not to stack it with his crony-dinosaur buddies? Eggleton! You must be kidding me, wasn't he a crook last time he made headlines? Wow. As usual, they slap one token "legit" in there, but I do think Mr. Dallaire could be a far greater influence outside the Senate that inside the machine. Reminds me of when Chretien loaded the senate with 7 buddies and a 78-year old nun... How long will people put up with this nonsense? I'm going outside to get some fresh air, this ruined my morning.
Here in Canada, of course, we feel no outrage. We're used to this kind of treatment by our government, and we expect it. A disgraced former cabinet minister that knows where the bodies are buried getting a tasty life-long free ride? No problem. A left-wing francophone-rights supporter chosen to represent Alberta? Whatever. Backroom hacks getting their promised pay-off? Shrug.

Look at the Gomery inquiry. It's unearthing a deep and complex operation to loot the public treasury and funnel the money (minus a service charge) back to the Liberal party. But is there any public outrage? Not really. A few opinion writers get a little frothy every now and then, but it's not being talked about on the 'Canadian Street'. Why?

Because we know. We've always known. It's not news and it's not shocking. The Liberals are a Machiavalian organization that uses their power primarily to hold onto power. We expect it and, for the most part, support it. After all, the only alternative is the Conservatives, and it's rumored that some of them have religious beliefs and -- even worse -- believe that government is not the solution to all problems. It's probably not true, but who wants to take the chance?

Happy Easter

(Shamelessly swiped from SondraK, who found it who knows where...)

Crashing the party

Well, the rally for Lebanon on Parliament Hill yesterday was a little smaller than I thought it would be.

It was all in Arabic and was almost exclusively attended by members of Ottawa's Lebanese community. I didn't feel unwelcome, but I did feel like I was trying to attach myself to something I wasn't a part of. I've always thought there was little more pathetic than a comfy, well-fed 'progressive' getting all starry-eyed and romantic about some foreign struggle, and here I was doing just the same.

I'm excited about the popular movements for democracy that are starting to flower around the world. But I'll just have to accept that they're pretty unlikely to find fertile ground here.

March 25, 2005

Free Lebanon rally in Ottawa tomorrow

Victor Davis Hanson describes the noose tightening around Syrian dictator Bashar Assad and how he plans to escape it:

Syria's worst nightmare is not an American invasion, but an Arab League that is dominated by nascent democracies.

Thugocracies and kleptocracies, however, die hard. So will that of Assad. His henchmen probably assassinated former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, in fear that the Westernized entrepreneur dreamed of an open Arab Singapore or Monaco on the border.

Now they are planning to unleash enough 1970s-style violence to terrify the Lebanese into preferring Syrian order to their own messy freedom.

This just might work if pressure from outside is allowed to wane. There's momentum towards a free Lebanon, but Syria still has a strong position. I doubt the US will act militarily against them, and, needless-to -say, whatever the UN says will be ignored. After some success by the pro-freedom forces, Syria's position is hardening and the pro-Syrian government that was forced to resign has been reinstated. Possibly the promises to end the occupation will be stalled until the world loses interest. The pressure has to be maintained for change.

There's a rally on Parliament Hill in Ottawa tomorrow at 1:00 (top right of page) to demand full Syrian withdrawal from Lebanon, and to urge the Canadian government to speak up on this issue. The last one had quite a healthy turnout, and this one should be bigger. I'll be there, and will post a few shots tomorrow.

March 24, 2005

Our car-buying odyssey ends...

...With a Honda Odyssey!

It's a pretty nice vehicle, and I got a surprisingly good deal on it. (Well, I think I did anyway. The dealer may have a different opinion.) But I'm pretty happy with it. 15 cup holders! Now we're living large!

Hopefully this will be the last big purchase of ours for a while. In the last couple of months we've also bought a new digital camera, a new TV, a DVD player, a new wireless router, a new laptop computer, Kindermusik lessons (not cheap!), airline tickets to a far-off destination, and a giant order of various media from Amazon. Funny thing about spending -- once you start, each purchase gets easier instead of harder.

But we're all through now. We've got everything we need. We're content. Really.

March 23, 2005

Comments fixed (I think)

One of those slippery spammers snuck a bogus URL into one of their spam posts that, after added to my blacklist, caused all attempts at writing comments to get a 'questionable content' error. Of course, no one informed me of this until today, so I had assumed all my posts were being met with nothing but yawns. I think it's been fixed, but if you get one of those errors and feel your post is completely inoccuous, send me the error message and I'll see if I can fix it. I apologize to all those whose comments were lost. I really hate it when that happens...

UPDATE: Of course, it wasn't just real comments that were being blocked, it was also the spam. Two minutes after I fixed the problem, more spam starts rolling in. Grrr...

But it could be worse... :)

That wacky God!

Arriving via email:

A man walking along a California beach was deep in prayer. Suddenly the sky clouded above his head and, in a booming voice, the Lord said, "Because you have tried to be faithful to me in all ways, I will grant you one wish."

The man said, "Build a bridge to Hawaii so I can drive over anytime I want."

The Lord said, "Your request is very materialistic. Think of the enormous challenges for that kind of undertaking. The supports required to reach the bottom of the Pacific! The concrete and steel it would take! It will nearly exhaust several natural resources. I can do it, but it is hard for me to justify your desire for worldly things. Take a little more time and think of something that would honor and glorify me."

The man thought about it for a long time. Finally he said, "Lord, I wish that I could understand my wife. I want to know how she feels inside, what she's thinking when she gives me the silent treatment, why she cries, what she means when she says 'nothing's wrong,' and how I can make a woman truly happy.

The Lord replied, "You want two lanes or four on that bridge?"

March 22, 2005

UN-real thinking

Wretchard at The Belmont Club picks apart Kofi Annan's latest attempt to save his job the world. His plan? More money for the UN, an enlarged Security Council, and more bureaucracy. Wretchard isn't impressed:

In my own opinion Kofi Annan's proposals are a recipe for disaster for two reasons. His entire security model is philosophically founded on a kind of blackmail which recognizes that the only thing dysfunctional states have to export is trouble. He then sets up the United Nations as a gendarmarie with 'a human face' delivering payoffs to quell disturbances. This is the "bargain whereby rich countries help the poor to develop, by promoting the Millennium Development Goals, while poor countries help alleviate rich countries' security concerns." Second, his model flies in the face of the recent experience in Afghanistan, Iraq and the entire democratizing upheaval in the Middle East. It is by making countries functional that terrorism is quelled and not by any regime of international aid, inspections, nonproliferation treaties, declarations, protocols, conferences; nor by appointing special rapptorteurs, plenipotentiary envoys; nor constituting councils, consultative bodies or anything else in Annan's threadbare cupboard.

Nor is this clanking monstrosity particularly efficient, even in contemplation. Neither new Security Council model solves the basic question: how can it compel nations with the muscle to act against their interests? Alliances, like political parties, are the building blocks of global politics. Forcing alliances to work within the artificial structure of the United Nations Security Council (A or B) adds nothing to the process. The sole value of the Security Council should be to rubber-stamp what global politics has already decided upon, as constitutional monarchs do in countries with Parliaments.

It was a dictum in Field Marshal Zhukov's Army that a good commander never reinforced failure only success. It is a maxim of the United Nations that progress is achieved by doing everything that never worked all over again. Probably nowhere is the bankruptcy of Annan's vision (and I use that word consciously) more evident than in Paragraph 29, where he lays out the UN vision for a better world. It is a laundry list of all the special interest 'development' goals the UN has acquired over the years where problems of different orders of magnitude and positions in the chain of causality are jumbled together; a bureaucrat's dream and a human being's nightmare.

Kofi's plan is more appeasement, but with a better marketing plan. Our Prime Minister of course has seen a role for himself in promoting this thing and is eager to push his way to the front of the parade:
In a phone conversation with the Secretary-General earlier this afternoon, I indicated Canada’s strong support for his report, which is a bold call to action and a blueprint to strengthen the capacity and effectiveness of the United Nations. It presents an integrated approach to fulfilling the objectives of the United Nations Charter and highlights the fact that security, development and human rights go hand in hand. It offers proposals that are achievable and that world leaders should endorse at their summit in September.
Grandstanding jerk.

UPDATE: Claudia Rosett, who has been at the forefront of the investigations into the oil-for-food fiasco, grinds up Kofi as well. And Tim Blair takes aim at his plan to punish suicide bombers:

"You blow youself up on my watch," warned the steely-eyed Ghanaian lawman, "and that’ll be the last thing you do, mark my words."

March 21, 2005

Swirling down the drain

Canada must be one of the most politically correct countries in the world. Our schools spend a quarter of their class time praising diversity and advocating the importance of tolerance while our government spreads incredible amounts of money promoting multicultural events and subsidizing ethnic organizations. But that isn't enough, because apparently something called 'racism' still exists. The Liberal government claims it can be countered with yet more money:

"Canada is a world leader in the development of policies and laws to fight racism, but many Canadians still experience racism and discrimination in their daily lives," said the Honourable Raymond Chan, Minister of State (Multiculturalism).

"The Government of Canada has for some time recognized that our fight against racism requires a horizontal, forward-looking approach. And we recognize that we have to collaborate more effectively with all sectors of society for these efforts to be successful. This is what we will achieve with this Action Plan," added Minister of State Chan.

The objectives of the Action Plan are to strengthen social cohesion, further Canada's human rights framework, and demonstrate federal leadership in the fight against racism and hate-motivated crime.

"The underlying message of this first ever Action Plan Against Racism is clear: we seek a Canada in which there will be no sanctuary for hate and no refuge for racism," said Minister of Justice Irwin Cotler.

Building on Canada's existing legal framework, and on the policies and programs currently in place, the Action Plan establishes a horizontal approach across federal departments and agencies, and outlines a significant number of new and continuing commitments to combat racism.

Yadda, yadda, yadda. The bottom line? $56 million for this 'plan'. Look, I know it's dangerous to come out against something that's labelled 'anti-racist' (obviously, I must be a racist!), but this is such a stoopid waste of money. The government cannot socially engineer a change in attitudes through TV commercials and even more indoctrination on 'tolerence' in our schools. People who advocate racist views do so now because they know it's the shortest route to attracting the attention they crave. The days are long gone when these attitudes were widely held, and were a polite topic for dinner conversation. Some people are assholes -- deal with it. Federal money isn't going to make them go away or change their natures. In fact, I think this money can only inflame racism -- not a lot, but a bit nonetheless. The incessant pandering to visible minorities gives racists leverage with a frustrated few.

The Gomery Inquiry is uncovering all kinds of evidence about how the Liberal Party uses these types of special programs for sleaze. This 'Action Plan Against Racism' has slush fund written all over it -- a big pot of money dedicated to a vague goal that no one dares speak against. And just as with the Sponsorship program, they'll probably get away with it too.

March 20, 2005

The cure for blogger's block

A new logo! I hope so, anyway. The theory is that just as a new school year with new school supplies creates the illusion of a fresh start where anything is possible, a new logo gives this tired old blog a fresh look that will inspire me to insightful commentary and witty prose.

But the new logo looks too small and empty. And it's kinda lame too, isn't it? I mean it's Krazy Kat -- didn't the intellectual obsession with it die in the seventies? Just what am I trying to say with this logo?

Oh well. I'll change it in a month or two. For now I (and my remaining readers) will have to suffer.

The CLONK CLONK CLONK of little feet

Talia has finally grown into the wooden shoes her relatives in Holland sent over. Now if she'll just let us take them off...

A bull in a talking shop

Colby Cosh caught a snippet of Condoleeza Rice defending Bush's nominee ambassador to the UN John Bolton on a news show the other day:

T.R. ...the appointment of Mr. Bolton has raised a lot of eyebrows in Europe and around the United States. Comments like these, an interview he gave with National Public Radio. Bolton: "If I were redoing the Security Council today, I'd have one permanent member because that's the real reflection of the distribution of power in the world." Question: "And that one member would be, John Bolton?" Bolton: "The United States."

And then this interview comment from Mr. Bolton... "There is no such thing as the United Nations. The secretariat building in New York has 38 stories. If you lost 10 stories today, it wouldn't make a bit of difference."

Why are we sending him to the United Nations?

C.R. Because John is a very good diplomat.

The UN is worth saving, but for that to happen it needs to be splashed in the face with the ice water of reality. Right now, its sole purpose seems to be to lend legitimacy to tyrannical regimes and try to expand its influence. It doesn't look at problems and try to bring together the resources to solve them, it only looks at how it can expand its power base and defend itself from threats. A perfect example is the current struggle in the Security Council on the dispatching of peacekeepers to Darfur. A genocide is going on, but some diplomats in the organization see only an opportunity to push the US into joining the International Criminal Court:
In January, a UN inquiry recommended that 51 suspected Sudanese war criminals be referred immediately to the International Criminal Court. European countries seized on the recommendation to try to get the United States to accept the role of the court. They have rebuffed U.S. efforts to send peacekeeping troops without an agreement on how to prosecute the criminals.

A senior U.S. official, speaking on condition of anonymity, described the European attempts to force the United States to accept the international court as blackmail.

"The Europeans are holding the peacekeeping resolution hostage," said one Washington-based U.S. official involved in the impasse. "They are turning the debate to make us look bad, but they are the ones preventing the peacekeepers from going in."

These games go on all the time, mostly underneath the radar. Someone senior that would relentlessly combat these cynical power games could help move the UN back to its initial purpose. John Bolton looks like he might be that man. Here's Mark Steyn:
That's what was so stunning about Bolton. In a roomful of Euro-grandees, he was perfectly relaxed, a genial fellow with a rather Mitteleuropean moustache, but he thwacked every ball they served back down their gullets with amazing precision. He was the absolute antithesis of Schmoozer Bill and Pandering Eason: he seemed to relish their hostility. At one event, a startled British cabinet minister said to me afterwards, 'He doesn't mean all that, does he?'

But he does. And that's why the Bolton flap is very revealing about conventional wisdom on transnationalism. Diplomats are supposed to be 'diplomatic'. Why is that? Well, as the late Canadian prime minister Lester B. Pearson used to say, diplomacy is the art of letting the other fellow have your way. In other words, you were polite, discreet, circumspect, etc., as a means to an end. Not any more. None of John Bolton's detractors is worried that his bluntness will jeopardise the administration's policy goals. Quite the contrary. They're concerned that the administration has policy goals that it isn't yet willing to subordinate its national interest to the polite transnational pieties. In that sense, our understanding of 'diplomacy' has become corrupted: it's no longer the language through which nation states treat with one another so much as the code-speak consensus of a global elite.

For much of the civilised world the transnational pabulum has become an end in itself, and one largely unmoored from anything so tiresome as reality. It doesn't matter whether there is any global warming or, if there is, whether Kyoto will do anything about it or, if you ratify Kyoto, whether you bother to comply with it: all that matters is that you sign on to the transnational articles of faith. The same thinking applies to the ICC, and Darfur, and the Oil-for-Fraud programme, and anything else involving the UN. It was at the heart of Clare Short's freaky objection to the Aussie American post-tsunami relief effort. 'I think this initiative from America to set up four countries claiming to co-ordinate sounds like yet another attempt to undermine the UN,' she told the BBC. 'Only really the UN can do that job. It is the only body that has the moral authority.'

There 's a large number of people that feel the UN is the genesis of a future global government. They'll deny it if questioned on it, but their actions and beliefs speak otherwise. More power and influence for the UN seems to be an key condition in dealing with any international crisis. Given the UN's track record in the past 20 years, I can't think of a worse thing for the world than letting that happen. Hopefully the appointment of John Bolton will start to roll back back this idea.

March 18, 2005

They noticed us!

The Weekly Standard has a cover story on Canada in this week's issue. Americans writing about Canada! The story is sure to create a wave of commentary across our country's editoral pages. The story isn't very kind though, so expect an angry wave of commentary. Then again, maybe the story will be studiously ignored; it cuts a little close to the bone:

If we have bothered forming opinions at all about Canadians, they've tended toward easy-pickings: that they are a docile, Zamboni-driving people who subsist on seal casserole and Molson. Their hobbies include wearing flannel, obsessing over American hegemony, exporting deadly Mad Cow disease and even deadlier Gordon Lightfoot and Nickelback albums. You can tell a lot about a nation's mediocrity index by learning that they invented synchronized swimming. Even more, by the fact that they're proud of it.
There's things in the story that I can find fault with -- the idea that Canadian's don't exhibit road rage, for example. The reason the writer didn't find any is that for his research on Canada he visited BC, home of the world's most somnambulant divers. But most of the rest is spot on:
This unscientific research quickly confirmed that Canadians are bizarrely obsessed with us, binge-eating out of our cultural trough, then pretending it tastes bad. Plainly the two things Canada needs most are a mirror and a good psychiatrist.
All Canadians should read this article for its powerful smugness-penetrating qualities.

March 12, 2005

A Day in the Life, part VI

It's been four months since I wrote a Day in the Life, so here's a new one. I write these mostly for myself to help me remember what things were like raising two toddlers. They're pretty narcissistic, so be forewarned. This is what happened yesterday. Previous days in the life can be found here: part I, part II, part III, part IV, and part V. (Use those links, and not the links from the links, if you know what I mean.)

6:30 I wake up. Mama has been up for 15 minutes already doing her yoga. Then she starts making breakfast. I better get moving or I risk getting a serious case of the guilts.

6:45 The kids are up, and Mama changes and dresses them while I have my shower. Funny how things work out sometimes.

7:15 We're eating breakfast. Mama made very nice biscuits, which we cut in two and lather with jam -- so Max and Talia have a nice soft surface from which to lick off the jam. They eventually get around to eating the biscuits.

7:40 Mama leaves to do some errands. The kids are still eating, and making quite a mess.

8:00 I put on Sway by the Blue Hawaiians for the breakfast clean-up period. It's nice, mellow surf music that fits the mood perfectly.

8:10 Well, it did, until the kids start fighting. Talia starts playing with the digger. But it's Max's digger (according to Max). Hell threatens to break loose. I pull out the top and start spinning it, and Talia forgets all about the digger and grabs the top, giggling.

8:15 Max is unhappy again, whining in that way toddlers seem to be programmed for. I give him the cloth to wipe the dinner table. Talia flips out and demands to wipe too.

8:20 The wiping has lost it's appeal. Max resumes whining. I think he's still a little sick from his cold, but his endless poor, poor me routine is getting pretty draining. To distract him (again) we give Musette her arthritis pill. She's getting pretty creaky in the legs so she's getting glucosamine sulfate pills twice a day. When she gets a pill, the kids get to give her a cookie, which is a brief break from the unbearable tedium and frustration that apparently makes up the rest of their lives.

8:30 Now Max is going absolutely bananas, walking backwards while crying, pushing Talia whenever she comes into range. Time to take them upstairs to brush their teeth, and perform one of their favourite shows, shaving and trimming my beard.

8:50 I get them in their coats in preparation for an exciting excursion in the car.

9:30 It's Kindermusik time! Mama has enrolled them in a music class held at a Loblaws in Aylmer. She usually takes them, but it falls to me to do it today, because of Mama's tasks. Funny how things work out sometimes. It's supposedly to help young children develop an appreciation for music, but it seems to me to be just a cruel torture for parents. Music is played, and the parents (well, mothers actually -- I'm the only father foolish enough to be tricked into attending) attempt to get their dependents to sing, dance or clap along. The kids pay little attention, of course, so you have the absurd spectacle of seven mothers sitting in a circle slowly standing up and stretching out like a tree -- each while holding their kid's hand to prevent him/her from running around and playing with the other kids. I have a powerful aversion to these types of organized activities -- I remain seated with my arms crossed if a 'wave' washes across the stands where I'm sitting -- so naturally this class makes me uncomfortable. Luckily I have two kids to manage, so I can arrange to have one that needs corraling during these episodes and don't have to participate too much.

10:30 It's over. Whew. We're at Loblaws, so I decide to do a bit of grocery shopping. It starts badly. They need a snack and I'm very thirsty for some reason (all that mumbly singing I did, I guess), so I buy an 'all-natural' root beer and some Smarties for the kids (don't tell Mama). Right away, I spill half the box of Smarties on the floor, then, minutes later, half the root beer spills after falling over in the shopping cart. (Why don't they come with drink holders?) But after that, I get my groove back and execute an efficient campaign to load up my cart with healthy food -- plus two Winnie-the-Pooh toothbrushes (C$3.69 each! Aargh!) and a box of generic Corn Pops.

I told them to smile.

It's just water in those cups, honest!Efficiency ends at the checkout, however. Only two cashiers are open, and they both have four absolutely loaded carts lined up in front of them. After cursing for a moment (under my breath, of course), I make a tactical error. I decide to use one of their 'self-serve' checkouts. Big mistake!

I mentioned my aversion to joining in to group activities. Accompanying this is a dislike of being told what to do -- especially if what I'm told is senseless and arbitrary. "Please place the item in the bag", the friendly woman's voice intones. "Please take the last item out of the bag." "Please enter the produce code." "Please select the type of produce." "Please scan the item again." "Please stand on one foot and pretend you're a tree." Slowly but surely, I become irritated. The produce help menus lack the codes for basic fruits. Green grapes? Clementines? "Please wait for the cashier." Oh, the one who's gabbing with her friend and aggressively ignoring me? Grrr.

11:40 We finally leave Loblaws, me in a grumpy mood and the kids kind of squirrely. More than an hour in there, fifteen minutes of it at the checkout. I play Audio by the Blue Man Group for the ride home. And now some old lady moving extremely slowly drives in front of me just as I'm leaving the parking lot. I need to make a left turn and the traffic light ahead is favourable -- but at her pace we'll never make it. I turn right instead, cursing (mostly under my breath), intending to take a shortcut I know of. Another mistake. Ahead some city workers have blocked the turn-off I need to take and narrowed Aylmer road to one lane. There's traffic; I have to make what I call an 'idiot or asshole' decision. (Excuse the language, but no other word works.) Am I an idiot (get into the lane that's not blocked and slowly move past the congestion point) or an asshole (go into the blocked lane that's mostly clear and cut off one of the idiots at the congestion point)? Well, I decided to be an idiot. But I wasn't as much of one as the guy in front of me, who kindly let numerous assholes cut him off while I fumed behind him. What is it with people who drive outside rush-hour?

11:55 Finally free, and after much backtracking we're on our way home. The kids conk out in the car. Not even the polyrhythmic sound of the Blue Man Group could keep them awake.

12:20 We're finally home. We need a quick lunch and then some nap time. I heat up a can of beans. Max takes the spoons to the table and hands one to Talia, who's already in her booster seat. She says, "Thank you, Max!"

12:30 They're eating their beans. Max eats well, but Talia uses her hands to put beans on the spoon. Mama calls with the message that she's going to be late. She's had to take her Father to the hospital for some tests and is now waiting in the emergency room.

12:50 Lunch is finished. Talia says, "I get down by self. I big, big girl!"

1:10 I stuff them into bed and heat up leftovers from supper yesterday for my lunch. Then some light cleaning, mild web surfing, and a cup of coffee. The kids aren't going to sleep, but they're not screaming either. They're just chatting away to each other, which is fine.

2:30 The chatting turns to demands for me. "Papa, wheh ah you? Paaaapaaaa!" I better go get them. I'm shocked to see that they're both naked from the waist down and have removed their (now poopy) diapers. Oh, I hope they haven't got poop all over everything...

Funny how things work out sometimes.

3:00 All cleaned up. After much sniffing of everything in their cribs, I determine that poop did not escape their diapers. They just took them off and put them aside. They've already done the 'just what is this poop stuff, anyways?' explorations months ago; I'm glad they didn't feel the need to repeat their research.

3:20 We head to the basement for some kidvid. I give them some generic Corn Pops in bowls as a snack. Mama calls from the hospital. They're still waiting and she's bored. I suggest the waiting rooms should have entertainment that could be an extra source of revenue. Maybe some pinball machines. Or how about a Dance Dance Revolution Machine? While I'm talking to her, the sounds of fighting are heard from the other room. I break it up by letting them speak to their mother on the phone. Max tells her, "Ta-ya pushed me!"

Later, Max plays a round of Lie on the cat with Samba. The old favourites never go out of style.

3:30 Blue's Clues is on! Unfortunately it's one with Joe. The show really jumped the shark when he replaced Steve. But I let them watch it anyway, I've got to start dinner. I set up my new toy in the kitchen so I can watch a video while I cook. I crave constant stimulation, just like some other people I know, so this will help keep me content while I perform the menial tasks. I'm still in a Blue Man mood, so I play their concert show The Complex.

Bruce's improvised Curried Chicken

6 trimmed and deboned chicken thighs
1 can tomatoes
1 onion, chopped fine
4 cloves minced garlic
3 tbsp Patak's Mild Curry Paste
Vegetables (I used carrots and sweet potato)
1 can black beans
1/2 cup thick yogurt

Sauté the onions in the ghee until soft. Add the garlic, the curry paste, then the chicken. Brown the outsides of the chicken at medium heat then add the can of tomatos. Mash up the tomatoes with a potato masher (or a tomato masher if you have one). Lower temperature and simmer for ten minutes. Add the vegetables, chopped into pieces sized for toddlers. Simmer for 40 minutes to an hour, stirring occasionaly. Add the beans in the last 10 minutes and mix in the yogurt right before serving. Serve over rice.

During this process I take a few trips to the basement to check on them, and they make a couple trips upstairs to check on me. But the hour is free of conflict and we all get to watch our shows. Mama calls and says she can't make dinner becuase she's got to take her father home.

5:00 Suppertime. They like it, but don't eat too much. They possibly had too many generic Corn Pops. I think it turned out great and have seconds. I wash it down with a St. Ambroise Oatmeal Stout.

5:30 Dinner's done and I start to clean up. They're always much calmer after they've eaten, and are happily playing with each other. Talia starts making a train, and Max joins in.

6:00 I take them upstairs in preparation for bed. It's about this time of day that they get totally wound-up and commence running from room to room, turning lights on and off. Today is no exception.

6:30 Bathtime. Squeak is really taking a chance here. But somehow he manages to avoid being pulled into the tub.

7:00 Bedtime. I manage to use my camera's timer to stage a photo of us reading together happily before I put them in their cribs. But Talia still feels she has some running around that she wanted to finish today, so I let her go. Once she winds down (about ten minutes) it's time for bed. Goodnight Max! Goodnight Talia!

8:00 Mama gets home. I'm too tired to write, and Mama is pretty exhausted too, so we settle in and watch a couple of episodes of Buffy. We're on the 5th season now, and things are pretty interesting. How are they ever going to defeat Glory?

10:30 Bedtime. I have a lot of stuff to write up tomorrow.

March 10, 2005

To blog, or not to blog?

It's March, but outside it feels like January. We should have puddles, birds, and that fresh, organic smell (which is probably thawing dog poop) that says Spring is on the way. But instead we have a deep freeze outside, cutting wind, and way too much crunchy, squeaky snow. There's no way I'm going anywhere without warming the car first for 10 minutes. Rick Mercer can bite me.

Blogging has been sporadic lately. This has mostly been due to household logistics. I had no laptop, so to plug into the blogosphere -- either to read or write -- I had to isolate myself in the messy room, otherwise know as the 'den', where I could interface with the Frankenstein's monster of spare parts that functions as my other computer. It's been pretty difficult to arrange, so the world has been deprived of my wit and wisdom for the past couple of weeks. But now that I've finally got my hands on my new toy, hopefully that will all change.

But there's another reason things have been slow lately. (And there's another another reason too, but I won't get into that right now.) I've been wondering whether to keep this blog going. Two great Canadian blogs, The Smug Canadian and Trudeaupia, have shut down in the past couple of weeks, and I'm wondering whether I should join them.

Blogging can really take a significant part of my free time away. Writing takes effort, and effort takes time. Perhaps even more distracting is that it alters the focus of my life. After blogging for some time, a filter has been built into my perceptions of the world. When seeing something new, reading a news story, or just thinking about something familiar in a fresh and interesting way, I immediately try to fit this information into fodder for the blog. I can't help it. The problem is, this process cuts off the further explorations I might have made had I not immediately started planning how to distill what I'm thinking into prose.

But blogging has its benefits too. I get a feeling of accomplishment when I've written something I'm proud of. It gives me an outlet when I feel powerless and isolated. And it plugs me into a community of interesting people.

For now, I've decided to keep it going. I've been pretty happy with the readership I've built up, and enjoy participating in my insignificant way to the weird synergy of the blogosphere. Besides, I'm already paid up for a year and half for this domain name. Quitting would be throwing that money away! But I will be taking breaks every now and then where I won't even think about blogging. It's good for the soul.

March 05, 2005

It's crime story, not a drugs story

The Meatriarchy has a round-up of bloggish reactions to the murder of four Mounties in Alberta. But he missed Colby Cosh, who I think has the most relevant observation to the nature of the psycho who did it and the backwards way this story is being spun:

Roszko was running a chop-shop for stolen cars, but this has been completely forgotten in less than 24 hours; our Minister of Public Safety certainly isn't making a spectacle of herself yapping about how "dangerous" property crimes are and how the judiciary should be cracking down. (Maybe someone should ask the former Justice Minister just who picks these goddamn lenient judges?)

In fact, Roszko seems to have committed a nearly endless list of actual violent crimes against the person; a Globe report yesterday that he was convicted of sexual assault in 2000 seems to have been misplaced in the wash. Maybe if we had a seven-year minimum for sex crimes, Roszko wouldn't have been at home on Wednesday.

He also quotes Stephen Harper, who seems to have too much sense to belong to our Parliament:
"Yesterday's deaths are, of course, a painful reminder that law enforcement is a dangerous business, that these people put their lives on the line every single day so that Canadians can live in a high degree of security and safety," Mr. Harper told a press conference in Ottawa on Friday...

The truth is, he said, there is no real way to protect people from every possible situation if a dangerous or disturbed individual lashes out. "We can't just run out on the basis of a single tragedy and make up a bunch of laws."

I was certain as soon as I heard that the killer was running a grow-op that people would use this tragedy to press for the legalization of marijuana (which I have no serious objections to.) But if marijuana was legal, this guy would have a crystal meth lab. He was a violent criminal -- a different legal environment for one of his chosen trades wouldn't have changed that.

Everybody's got a little light under the sun

Sure you don't want some orange?

Canada's Ted Kennedy

Lloyd Axworthy, who surely ranks as one of the dopiest former Liberal cabinet ministers, has written a hilarious 'open letter' to Condoleeza Rice in the Winnipeg Free Press. In it, he obnoxiously berates the Americans for their supposed crudeness and boasts of Canada's much more responsive form of government. It's so over the top, I could believe it's a parody -- but no, it's the real thing:

Coming to Ottawa might also expose you to a parliamentary system that has a thing called question period every day, where those in the executive are held accountable by an opposition for their actions, and where demands for public debate on important topics such as missile defence can be made openly.

You might also notice that it's a system in which the governing party's caucus members are not afraid to tell their leader that their constituents don't want to follow the ideological, perhaps teleological, fantasies of Canada's continental co-inhabitant. And that this leader actually listens to such representations.

Your boss did not avail himself of a similar opportunity to visit our House of Commons during his visit, fearing, it seems, that there might be some signs of dissent. He preferred to issue his diktat on missile defence in front of a highly controlled, pre-selected audience.

Such control-freak antics may work in the virtual one-party state that now prevails in Washington. But in Canada we have a residual belief that politicians should be subject to a few checks and balances, an idea that your country once espoused before the days of empire.

Bob Tarantino takes him apart.

March 03, 2005

That was quick

I was wondering how long it would take for Paul Martin's latest childish and clumsy snub of the US to blow up in his face. Well, it turns out to be not very long, actually. First there was the temporary injunction to prevent the reopening of the border to Canadian beef (which was probably not due to the Missile Defence blowoff, but it will make it more difficult to reverse.) And now the US Senate has voted to overturn the Bush administration's plan to allow our beef back in. The White House has hinted Bush would veto the bill if it passes the House of Representatives, but I wouldn't count on it. Bush has been quite reluctant to use the veto during his years as president, and our government hasn't really given him much motivation to change that policy.

I really don't know what Martin was thinking. As Andrew Coyne says:

We weren’t asked to do anything, the system doesn’t depend on us doing anything, and we’ve already done whatever it was the Americans needed us to do. They weren’t asking us to participate, they were offering to let us: for with participation comes consultation, and a role in our own defence. Yet having rejected the offer of consultation, in the name of our sovereignty, we now demand to be consulted, on grounds of sovereignty. And the result of these affirmations of our independence is to make us utterly dependent on another country for our defence.
It seems Martin was more afraid of the wrath of the 'Young Liberals' than he was of President Bush. But I think he picked the wrong side to tick off. Bush has ways of making those who use anti-Americanism to score cheap points at home squirm. Here's what happened to Spain's Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero in Europe last week:
Ever since his election, Zapatero has spent much of his time shadowing Bush and attempting to shake his hand. On Wednesday, he was waiting in the shadows, and made his move when Bush was talking to Tony Blair. Bush, who I suspect didn't really know who Zapatero was said "hola amigo" and continued talking to Blair. Meanwhile, Zapatero walked off smiling away like a child with a new pair of shoes. The exchange was so brief Spanish newspapers had a nightmare trying to find a photograph of the "great meeting." To make matters worse a Spanish government spokesperson said that Bush and Zapatero had a "cordial exchange." (They forget to mention it lasted about two seconds.)

Stuff & Things XVII

  • To get out of a period of blogger's block, it's often hard to pick what to write about. You feel you've got to lead with something important or original to justify breaking the silence. But I've got nothing important or original to say -- just more typical blogger crapola. Here goes...
  • My grand dreams of converting my creaky old laptop to Linux were dealt a fatal blow by reality. After numerous frustrating hours, I was unable to get either the X-Windows system or the network to function. But my wife took notice of my suffering and agreed to let me purchase a new machine. I hope my new Acer TravelMate 2200 (only C$939!) will be in tomorrow. Unfortunately, I'll still be saddled with that hell-forged piece of software known as Windows XP.
  • I really hope there's a special place in hell for the sleazy dirtbags that litter the internet with their disgusting spam. My site has been under attack for the last couple of days by some of the vilest comment and trackback spam I've ever seen. I'm an open-minded guy, but -- yuck! I'm accessing my mail through a browser until I get my new computer, and I get an email everytime I get a comment -- and right now I have over 300 emails stacked up unread. The clean-up will have to wait until I can download them and sort through them properly, so if you've sent me a mail, I probably won't see it for a day or two.
  • Still no car yet, but it looks like we're either going to get a new Camry or Accord. Boring, I know, but they suit our needs, are reliable, and aren't too expensive.