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June 30, 2005

It could be worse - a lot worse

Griping about this country is an enjoyable pastime for me, and I can easily see myself still enjoying the pleasure of it well into my old age. But on the eve of Dominion Day -- or Canada Day, as the disciples of Sheila Copps would have it -- it's important to realize we still have things pretty good here. Our one-party government is corrupt and incompetent, but things aren't as bad as, say, Norway. Chris Petrie writes to Mark Steyn to complain:

The royalties on North Sea oil are truly staggering, making the Norwegian government (note: not the people) shamelessly rich. There is now so much money in the Oil Fund (officially, to be used for everyone’s pensions) that they don’t know what to do with it all. God forbid they use some of it to reduce the taxes around here – oh no, instead the government has decided to increase the VAT from 24% to 25%!!

So – come on over and do a piece on Norway. Basically the richest (real) government in the world where the citizens none the less:
1. pay an extra 25% tax on everything they buy and all the services they require,
2. pay a fee to the government to own a TV,
3. pay a fee to the government to own a car,
4. pay 50% income tax, (what good is 5 weeks of paid holiday a year when you have no disposable income to do anything?),
5. pay tolls on the highways for the worst roads in Northern Europe
6. send their kids to schools ranked the second worst education system in Europe, just above Greece,
7. pay upwards of 100% tax on new cars because they are considered luxury items,
8. pay USD 1.70 per liter for gas at the pump (that’s USD 6.45 per US gallon – for your American readers), despite the fact that Norway is the third largest exporter of oil in the world after Saudi and Russia,
9. pay USD 10.00 for a pint of beer at the pub,
10. pay USD 5.00 for a box of Kellogg’s Corn Flakes,
11. pay a tax for traveling abroad (on work or on holiday) because it is considered a “benefit” to not live on your own house for a period of time,
12. pay a tax on “air-miles” earned while flying (work or holiday),
13. pay an enormous estate when you die (despite the fact that whatever assets you have managed to acquire while alive were paid for in after-tax “dollars”),

And my favourite:
14. pay a VAT tax (25%) on the tax we pay for municipal services (garbage collection, etc…)

Just remember this the next time some progressive idealist waxes lyrical about the tremendously advanced social democracies of Scandinavia...

June 27, 2005

Comrades! Cease your counter-revolutionary activities!

The Canadian Medical Association has decided (subscriber only link) to examine the issues involved in allowing more private health care in Canada:

As a key part of its annual meeting in mid-August, the doctors have organized a session titled ''Charting the Future -- Public: Private Interface in Health Care.'' Physicians from across the country will debate resolutions -- some of which are likely to propose various types of health care privatization.

In an interview, Dr. Schumacher stressed the CMA strongly supports the publicly funded system, but said it also has a responsibility to examine all options -- including privatization -- to strengthen the entire health system for patients.

He said the recent Supreme Court of Canada ruling that allows patients to purchase private insurance so they can get speedier private medical care has increased the need for such a debate.

''Doctors have a role in this debate. They maybe even have a leadership role because we're probably going to be out first in an organized fashion to talk about it."

"But it has to be a societal debate. It's just not us. We're going to have to engage the public,'' Dr. Schumacher said.

The CMA president said he is hoping for a more ''mature'' debate than the one that has dominated political discourse in the past decade, when any time anyone mentioned privatization, it was immediately equated with the U.S. health system.

''The public system is not being blown up,'' Dr. Schumacher said. ''We're not going to American health care. You're still going to have 95% of the services of the country delivered by our universal insurance. It's that other 5% -- just like in Europe. That's likely where it's going.''

Dr. Schumacher urged politicians to ''set aside dogma'' and stop treating private health care like some ''bogeyman to be trotted out during an election campaign.''

"The important thing is we need to talk about the terms without the inflammatory, incendiary words. We need to sort out the language. Because every time the politicians speak about this, it's Darth Vader.

"As soon as you say private, they add words to that. It becomes 'private-for-profit, from-the-United States,' etc., etc."

But Health Commissar Ujjal Dosanjh rejected the CMA's calls for a mature and dogma-free debate, and responded by summoning one of the Party's pet bogeymen:
But Mr. Dosanjh said it would lead to the destruction of medicare, and he urged doctors to exercise caution in reviewing such options.

''I don't see a great rush to set up private health care, because we have a very recent experience," he said of the Canadian public. "Forty-five years is not a long time in the life of a nation. There are people who still remember the dark days of private health care, where people had to sell their farms and sell their homes to care for their loved ones.''

Is anybody else somewhat worried that our government is advising its citizens against talking about the greatest crisis facing our country today? That they continually lie about the complimentary mix of public and private care that manages to exist in every other developed country of the world? The health system as it stands in this country is getting worse, and another five-year-plan by the Party isn't going to fix it. We have to start looking at alternatives or the system will eventually collapse.

June 26, 2005

Busy with life

It's been a beautiful long weekend. Is there anything more pathetic than sitting indoors while the sun is shining and blogging? Well, yes, but I won't get into that.

June 23, 2005

Steyn on the poverty poseurs

Mark Steyn does his thing (use Bugmenot to get a password) in a wide-ranging essay on the various forms of foreign aid posturing. Some of the stories we've heard before, but there are a few new ones, like this progress report on Jean Chretien's great meaningless gesture at the 2002 G8 summit in Alberta:

A bunch of friendly dictators were flown over for photo-ops with the G8 bigshots, and the papers were full of cooing reports about the Canadian prime minister’s breakthrough Africa initiative. Well, the Calgary papers were. The Fleet Street papers were full of cooing reports about the British Prime Minister’s breakthrough Africa initiative. But the point is, whoever’s initiative it was, plenty of Western leaders were eager to take credit for it. Except for Bush, who, as with the tsunami, was roundly criticised for embarking on his own direct initiative with Africa.

Anyway, the 2002 initiative was called ‘NEPAD’, pronounced ‘kneepad’. And not having heard a thing about it in the three years since a Canadian G8 official triumphantly handed me the press release, I wondered how it was getting on. Well, there’s an official report on ‘NEPAD’s Achievements In The First Three Years’, but even on a close reading it’s kind of hard figuring out what’s actually happening:

‘On the development front, the African leaders launched comprehensive studies covering conflict resolution, political, economic and corporate governance, education, health, science ...Official Direct Assistance (ODA) reforms ...debt cancellation ...foreign direct investment....’

Gotcha. They launched ‘comprehensive studies’ of a lot of things. And why did they do that? ‘The primary objective was to develop a comprehensive development framework based on a thorough understanding of the most up-to-date information and trends in each area.’

Terrific. So they launched comprehensive studies to develop a comprehensive development study for holding meetings on developing more comprehensively a framework for studying the development of further meetings. So comprehensively did they do this that in 2004 the NEPAD secretariat overspent its seven-and-a-half million-dollar budget by more than two million dollars. Still, I’m sure the taxpayers of Finland, who chipped in half a million bucks to NEPAD’s ‘communications and conferences’ bill, ‘travelling costs’, ‘corporate services’ and other expenses, enjoyed the delicious frisson of ‘doing something for Africa’.

There's plenty more. Read the whole thing.

Finally! Now I can see clearly!

Turning forty inspires a man to stop and take a hard look at his life so far. This sort of critical introspection isn't easy, but it's necessary in order to gain a deeper knowledge into one's character, learn how to be a better person and make the best of the second half of one's life.

I turned to the Hello Kitty psychology test to guide me on my personal journey of discovery:

It's true. I'm always over-expressing and causing others unhappy. And I'm stressful easily. Admitting a problem is the first step to resolving it...

(via Beautiful Atrocities)

June 22, 2005

Fear this

One of the side-effects of the various international trade imbalances has been the huge pots of foreign reserve cash held by various governments. This money has been sent out to look for work, and has found it providing financing for real estate deals. This has resulted in rapid increases in property values all over the world that make the dot-com crash look mild by comparison. The Economist explores where things stand and what might (will) go wrong:

Never before have real house prices risen so fast, for so long, in so many countries. Property markets have been frothing from America, Britain and Australia to France, Spain and China. Rising property prices helped to prop up the world economy after the stockmarket bubble burst in 2000. What if the housing boom now turns to bust?

According to estimates by The Economist, the total value of residential property in developed economies rose by more than $30 trillion over the past five years, to over $70 trillion, an increase equivalent to 100% of those countries' combined GDPs. Not only does this dwarf any previous house-price boom, it is larger than the global stockmarket bubble in the late 1990s (an increase over five years of 80% of GDP) or America's stockmarket bubble in the late 1920s (55% of GDP). In other words, it looks like the biggest bubble in history.

RTWT.

UPDATE: Bill Fleckenstein blames Greenspan. I don't think he's to blame for the root causes, but he ignored the problem (and even cheered it on!) so if someone is to be blamed, he's the best candidate.

Critiquing St. Bob

Live 8 will be coming to Canada on the Dominion Day weekend with the goal of raising awareness of the suffering in Africa. To do this, Bob Geldof has enlisted Bryan Adams, Bruce Cockburn, Gordon Lightfoot, the Tragically Hip, the Barenaked Ladies and many other tired beneficiaries of the CRTC to perform at a concert outside Toronto. And if all these acts fail to get the crowd to understand suffering, Céline Dion will also make a live via-satellite appearance.

Bob's not after money from the concert-goers this time, instead his goal is a shake-down of the governments of developed nations. He wants them to increase their foreign aid budgets and relieve debts, and is using the Live 8 shows, followed by a planned march (which will no doubt turn into a riot) at the G8 summit in Edinburgh as media stunts to attract attention to his ideas. While I have no doubts that Geldof is sincere in his desire to help Africa, I can't help thinking that this isn't the right way to do it. His confrontational rhetoric is aimed at shaming the affluent and he suggests that money is all that's needed to end poverty.

The real problem with Africa is that it's as conducive to economic activity as the planet Venus is to life. Anything of value that is not protected by a life-support system of private security is quickly destroyed by corrosive corruption and lawlessness. A correspondent from the Economist describes life in the Congo:

That's the Congo. Private cellphone networks work and private airlines work because the landlines do not and the bush has eaten the roads. Public servants serve mostly to make life difficult for the public, in the hope of squeezing some cash out of them. Congo is a police state, but without the benefits. The police have unchecked powers, but provide little security. Your correspondent needed three separate permits to visit the railway station in Kinshasa, where he was stopped and questioned six times in 45 minutes. Yet he found that all the seats, windows and light fixtures has been stolen from the trains.
Via Samizdata, I found a good series of articles by Richard D. North that neatly demolish St. Bob and his followers using reason and facts. They're short, and give a good background on the enormous challenge Africa faces. They're a good vaccine against the media barrage we're all going to be exposed to in the coming few weeks. It must be noted that the author is somewhat biased in his opinions, but he's not afraid to spell them out very clearly:
I have several prejudices against the Make Poverty History and the Live Aid and Live 8 campaigns. They revolve around vulgarity, grandstanding and sentimentality. I do not believe in the strength of feeling of many of the protesters. More particularly, I don’t believe that they are thinking usefully about the suffering in Africa. Theirs is an unattractive mix of misplaced guilt, pseudo-dissidence, political grandstanding, wilful ignorance, misplaced blame, and radical chic.

These campaigns are also infantilist: they believe or affect to believe that the grown-ups are to blame for everything and can fix anything; that youth owns virtue, and that impetuosity is its own virtue. Of course, I dislike the vulgarity of the left’s view of the world: the dislike of elites, whether good or bad; the assumption of the cold-heartedness of firms, governments and leaders.

Even many of the best Africans are to blame too. They are brilliant at blaming their problems on colonialism. Doing so cultivates a resentment culture and politics which are a perfect recipe for failure. Those Africans who renounce post colonial blues will be those who lead their countries out of darkness.

In the mail

(I've always wanted to write that!) This week I received a copy of a psych text titled, simply enough, Children, which was co-authored by Heart of Canada's Theresa Zolner. She included an old blog post of mine in the book to illustrate a 'father's attachment' and sent me one of her author's copies in appreciation.

I'm guessing the book is for undergrads because of its accessible and easy to read style. It starts at the beginning, explaining what children are and where they come from, before moving on to the things that you really need to know, such as why toddlers need to throw everything in the toilet, and how to get them to stop shreiking after their sibling pinched them. This book has saved my life and deserves to be on the shelf of every parent.

Thanks Theresa!

June 21, 2005

More advice for the Conservatives

Stop walking into traps! As I mentioned before, the Liberals promotion of gay marriage was solely chosen to throw the Conservative caucus into turmoil and draw out extreme statements from backbenchers. They couldn't give a damn about this issue, which should be a provincial responsibility anyway. But it's a slow-acting poison that works only on conservatives, with damage that increases with exposure, so the Liberals found it useful to uncork. And now we're going to get plenty of exposure:

After putting C-38 on the back burner only two weeks ago, Paul Martin's government once again labelled it a bill of national importance and vowed to tackle it in the coming days.

Government House Leader Tony Valeri will move today to postpone summer vacation slated to begin for MPs Thursday and keep them working until midnight every weekday until they exhaust debate and vote on whether to legalize same-sex marriage.

Valeri said the extension will ensure MPs approve the $4.6-billion amendment to the budget and take a final vote on the Civil Marriage Act, which legalizes same-sex marriage.

Which means -- what? -- months of coverage of heated rhetoric coming out of the Commons? How's that going to look? The average Ontario voter sees this issue -- unfairly, in my opinion -- as the litmus test as to whether the so-cons rule the Conservative party. And if it's seen that they do, vote-rich Ontario will hold their nose and vote for the Liberals. Again. To me it looks like the Tories have nowhere to go but down.

But they have a chance. They have to neutralize this issue. The only way I can see it is if they announce that the party has no position on gay marriage, and that Conservative MPs will have a free vote when the time comes. They can debate the issue, but must try to refrain from demonizing those on the other side. Sure, most will probably vote against it, but a significant number will vote for it. And if that minority gets a bit of coverage, maybe the timid and twitchy Ontario voters will be mollified.

Okay, I'm a dreamer. The Conservatives are Daffy Duck to the Liberals' Bugs Bunny. They haven't got a chance.

Tuesday tot shots

There haven't been any pictures of the kids posted for more than three weeks! I will rectify that:

June 20, 2005

Music tag

Shannon at Shenanigans arranged a Ottawa bloggers get-together last weekend (captured by intrepid reporter the Phanton Observer), the least I can do to repay her organizational abilities is to respond to her music tag. The person who created it has no originality, however, it's almost exactly the same as the book tag that went around earlier. Oh well, let's see...

1) How many music files are there on your computer?

According to that little Windows puppy, 3953. That's rather a lot, I think.

2) What was the last CD you bought?

Get Behind Me Satan, by the White Stripes. For 29 Argentine Pesos. It's pretty good. (How's that for a detailed review?) I'm rediscovering rock music again after spending a couple of years lost in the electronic/trip-hop/lounge/jazz ghetto. Thievery Corporation's ponderous and preachy The Cosmic Game made me realize how sick of that stuff I was.

3) What song do you have playing in ITunes?

ITunes? What the heck? Like all real men, I use Winamp for all my digital music needs. Playing right now is Doo Rag by neo-boogaloo jazz band Galactic. Previously was 4 Dead Monks by alien trip-hoppers Red Snapper and on deck is Ain't Gonna Work Today by relatively unknown country superstar Junior Brown. I have a bit of a strange mix going tonight.

4) Which five songs mean a lot to you?

Come on. This question should be, 'Which are your favourite five albums?', which would give far more insight into whether the blogger was a person who's opinion you could trust, or just some bozo you'd prefer having nothing to do with. Who listens to songs, anyway? But I'll try to answer the question...

  • On The Outside by Oingo Boingo. The ultimate song about not fitting in. Which is how I felt in my early twenties. (And still do, to a certain extent...)
  • Musical Key by Cowboy Junkies. A beautiful little portrait of a happy home life. And it fufills my manditory Canadian content requirements for this list.
  • Monday by The Jam. My wife made a mixed tape for my when we were first dating, and this was the first song. It never fails to remind me of those days.
  • La Habanera by Yello. This is the first song off the album One Second, which was played way too often during the two months of summer a friend and I shared an apartment in downtown Winnipeg. Good times...
  • I Will Survive by Cake. This song is one I associate with the group of friends that turned up at the wedding in Buenos Aires. I dunno why -- I just do. And it's a good song (yes, I know it's a cover).
Okay, that was exhausting. I'm going to skip handing out this punishment to five others. This virus deserves to be eradicated. But if a good music quiz comes along, I'm in.

At least they weren't spawn camping...

Good advice from Warren

One of the shocks I had to get used to after returning home from Argentina was the erosion of support the Tories experienced. I leave the country for two weeks and look what happens! All is not lost, however, they still have time to slap themselves in the face, dunk their head in some ice water, and get ready for the next round. Warren Kinsella, of all people, has some good advice on what Stephen Harper and the Conservatives should be doing:

- One, you don't have to be an expert in public opinion to know that voters strongly suspect Conservatives don't like Canada, or Canadians, or anything that makes modern Canada so great -- i.e., the Charter of Rights, public health care, diversity, an independent foreign policy. Here's one Liberal's free advice: Start talking, and looking, like you like the place. Then the voters will let you run it. Canada is the greatest country in the world. Start saying so.

- Two, whenever a political party dips in the polls, the media will call up anonymous nervous nellies to get a quote about the need for an immediate leadership convention. The media do that all the time -- and, all the time, it is generally only the Conservative party's nervous nellies who rise to the bait. My advice: Stop the nervous nellyism. Focus on the long game. You Tories brought the most successful political machine in Western democracy to within one vote -- a single vote! -- of a humiliating defeat in the House of Commons. You forced the Martin Liberals into all sorts of tawdry, backroom deal-making to avoid an election. And, now -- a few short weeks later -- you are all inexplicably committing ritual political suicide in public. My advice: Fire the nellies, strap on a set of gonads and fight like your lives depended on it. And quit the kvetching in public.

- Three, Conservatives should stop talking about scandal so much. The media can always be counted upon to go on and on about scandals, real and perceived. They love that stuff. But voters don't believe that a Conservative politician is more ethical than a Liberal politician. Voters think all of us involved in politics are morally deficient, even when we're not. So, instead, Tories should talk up ideas -- the things Conservatives are for, and not just the things they are against (e.g., gay marriage). In particular, Stephen Harper should promote the fact that his caucus -- which is younger, and more ethnically diverse than the governing party's -- has come up with a platform that is moderate, centrist and packed with great ideas about how to make a great country even greater.

To this, I'd add a couple of other points. First, stop acting like losers. Offering to support the Liberals on their Santa Claus budget in exchange for putting the same-sex marriage issue on the back-burner is what a party that has no self-confidence would do. So what if some polls say you're being too obstructionist in Parliament -- that's your job. Leadership and confidence in your decisions is important too.

Second, don't be afraid to touch the third rail. Canadians know somethings got to be done with health care in this country and know a Conservative government would have to act. By not saying how you will act, Canadians are apprehensive about what you might do. It's a tough issue, but avoiding it makes things worse. But the recent Supreme Court decision might give you an opening -- by allowing you to claim to be for 'choice' in health care.

Okay, now I know you can take this guy. Get in there and take him down. We're all counting on you.

June 17, 2005

Economic speculative fiction

This month's Atlantic has an good article on the financial house of cards the US has become. The trade deficit, lack of savings, federal budget deficit, and the housing bubble all have consequences that so far have been delayed but one day will cause an economic earthquake. (I've written a brief summary of the problem here.) But instead of writing a dreary litany of statistics to make his case, James Fallows writes his piece as a briefing for the likely winner of the 2016 Presidential election and summarizes the events of the past ten years.

One of the problems in discussing this situation is that while it's easy to show that something is wrong, it's hard to imagine how the collapse will come, because no one wants it. It's in no one's best interest to push over the first domino that will start the process rolling. Fallows article is interesting because he creates a plausable scenario and traces the consequences. As a result, he makes the current problems in the US economy seem very immediate.

It all starts in 2008, when Castro dies. In the chaos following the political transition in Cuba, a revolt is started in Venezuela against Chavez, which fails. Chavez blames the US, declares 'economic war', and halts oil sales to America. He also makes a secret deal with China that has the Chinese dismantling its support for the US dollar in exchange for favourable oil deals. After that, everything begins to go pear-shaped. A run on the dollar, oil price spikes, rising interest rates, housing market collapse, foreclosures. Fallows paints a believable picture of another Great Depression.

There's plenty in the article that I would argue against. For example, a US decline in wealth doesn't mean an ascendence of China. In fact, since most economic activity in China is driven by exports to the US, China would suffer enormously by an economic collapse in America. Others have more nitpicks. But it's still a useful read for it's ability to show how high the stakes are on this issue.

June 16, 2005

There was a request for photos?

At the risk of turning this blog into the Buenos Aires society page, I offer you this account of the wedding of Jimena DeLeon and Andrew Barden last weekend. Regular whinging about the obtuseness of the Canadian government will resume shortly.

Andrew is Canadian and Jimena is Argentine, and they met in Mexico City a few years ago. The difficulties of a long distance relationship drove Andrew to get a transfer to B.A., and after a couple of years they've finally gotten hitched. And in such great style! Continue for way too many photos...

The wedding was held at the Iglesia del Pilar in Recoleta, a famous church that sits right next to the Recoleta Cemetary. Here's the bride coming down the aisle with her father, who I believe is a retired naval officer.

The big moment. Andrew is Anglican and Jimena is Catholic, so it was arranged to have Andrew's priest from Quebec City co-officiate in English. When the history of the reconciliation between these two churches is written in the future, surely this wedding will be seen as one of the turning points.

Back to the swanky Marriot for Argentine champagne (very good), hors d'ouvres, and dinner. Here's the swingingest, dancingest table of all: table 2! Top to bottom, right to left: Michelle, Anne-Marie, Giz, Jen, Sarah, Rene, and me. Missing: Carole and Eric. The triffid that the hotel planted at the center of the table was trying to take a nibble out of me, but I escaped.

At 11:00, dinner was served. The food was great and these pictures just don't do it justice. You'll have to take my word for it.

Here's the bride and groom. Look at that smile! You'd think he'd never been married before...

Dancing commenced after dinner. Here's the groom and my wife attempting to Salsa. You may notice he's wearing the same grin as he had in the last photo. It didn't leave him very often that night.

At 3:00, dessert was served. Again. Enough cream, sugar, and pastry was laid out on that table to destroy a thousand diets. I gained about five pounds on my two weeks in South America -- all of it between 3 and 3:30 in the morning of June 12th.

After everyone's bellies were full, there was another surprise. Three drummers, two dancers, and a couple of giant puppets came into the hall and led everyone back out to the dance floor.

There used no words, but only gestures, but these two women moved the party into another dimension. Soon everyone was following their leads and participating in an exciting tribal carnival. It was an out-of-this-world experience. Here's a bunch more photos. Try to image the most irresistible latin dance music you've ever heard while you look at them.

Eventually all good things have to come to an end. At sometime around 4:15 the troupe worked up to a finale and headed out. I heartily recommend this kind of entertainment for your next wedding. I know they'll be there for mine.

After that, the funny hats came out, and the music changed to an 80s/house mix. Michelle and I left just before 6:00 and there was still a large crowd out on the dance floor. Giz and Jen really have their work cut out to best this for their wedding...

June 14, 2005

Jiggity-jig

Home again finally after an exhausting flight. The plane was like an icebox and I got no sleep. Unpacking, catching up on sleep, and returning to the home routine will prevent blogging for a couple of days. But it's very wonderful to see Max and Talia again.

June 13, 2005

Too busy to blog

The wedding was amazing, and I don't have time to write about it right now. We leave today, and still have a zillion things to do. I was pretty foolish thinking I'd be able to blog coherently while here with all that was going on. Maybe when I'm home in the quiet presence of my children I'll be able to make the clever observations and photo montages I'd planned -- but maybe not.

Anyways, here's one shot from the wedding party. More to come.

June 09, 2005

Briefing

Things are a whirlwind here. The Coles Notes summary:

Yesterday: Over to Palermo Viejo for some shoe shopping and just to look around. It was pretty dead -- turns out it doesn't wake up 'til later in the afternoon. Funky little neighborhood though. Boutiques, cool restos and bars abound. Michelle bought two jackets and a spiffy pair of pants. But not the elusive shoes she needed for the wedding...

Yesterday evening: The big football match between Argentina and Brazil. It was a World Cup qualifying game that didn't really mean anything (because both teams are sure to qualify), but determined who would be 1st place in the South American standings. So national pride was at stake, and the whole country stopped everything to watch the game. Someone in our crowd figured we would be able to stroll into a sports bar two minutes before the game and get a table for fifteen. After that brilliant plan failed, we wandered Recoleta for twenty minutes until we found a bar that would let us in. We only missed the first Argentine goal. Argentina won, 3 - 1.

This morning: Last minute shopping for shoes, stockings and a tie.

This afternoon: Andrew and Jimena's Wedding! Well, the civil wedding. In Argentina you have to get married by a judge before you can get married by a priest. But hey! It's a wedding! Let's throw rice at the happy couple!

Congratulations, you two! All the best for the future!

Afterwards, we headed to Jimena's parents' place for a reception. Seven hours of eating, drinking and talking later, we left. I must have drank at least a bottle of wine all by myself, but because of the steady stream of hors d'ouvres that poured out of the kitchen, I barely felt it. Quite a wonderful party.

Tonight: We need to start get used to staying up late (to get ready for the real wedding), so we're going to try to hit some of Buenos Aires' famous nightclubs. We're meeting at Mundo Bizarro at midnight, and from there, who knows...

June 08, 2005

Quick update

My wife has arrived to share the splendors of Argentina with me. We were at an estancia in the Pampas for a couple of days where we added riding horses to our regular eating beef and drinking wine activities.

Today we have major, major shopping to do, and the next few days look even busier, so there may not be an update for a while. But I'll try.

June 05, 2005

Meat me in Buenos Aires

The night of my birthday we went to a real Argentine parrilla for some real meat. Apparently all the other meat we'd been eating had just been for practice. Continue to the extended entry only if you are not shocked by the sight of hardcore meat-p0rn.

The restaurant is called Siga la Vaca, which means 'Follow the Cow'. It's an all-you-can-eat place that'll set you back all of 30 pesos (about C$12). For that, you get a well-stocked salad bar, dessert, fries, and more meat than you can imagine. AND your choice of a bottle of wine or a litre of beer. For each person.

What'll you have?

That's a good start. Want some more? It's unbelievably tender, isn't it?

Those braided things are called chinchulines and are made from the small intestine. Kinda chewy. But the chorizo (sausage) is amazing. You have to try it.

There's plenty of chinchulines for everyone. No need to push. Those things on the bottom right are called molleja, I think. Thyroid glands. I passed.

Isn't that chicken? How'd that get on the grill?

The rest of the evening was a blur. We went to a lounge in Recoleta for cocktails and I finally staggered to bed at 3:00. I'd write more but today is a beautiful day and I'm going to go do something...

June 04, 2005

Finally connected

I've finally located an internet café with free wireless access. My laptop has reconnected with the world (and downloaded 130 emails, mostly spam posts to the blog.) Unfortunately, it seems that Argentina has more than one type of power socket, and I have an adapter for the other one. So I'm running on batteries and will have to post the meat-porn pictures later today.

June 03, 2005

Birthday Walk

Today I turned -- hmmm, lemme figure this out -- forty! Man, time flies. I think I'm doing pretty well for my age: all my original hair in the original colour, no glasses, still thin, limbs intact, no chronic illnesses. I can't complain about the hand I've been dealt. But is there a mid-life brewing? Oh maybe, but who cares. Here's some shots of my lone walk to San Telmo this morning.

This is a detail from a monument to the Battle of Maipú in 1817 that broke Spanish rule in the Southern half of South America. An angel picking placing her hands on a soldier is a way of relating how bloody the battle was.

Here's an interesting fact you won't learn on other blogs. The Casa Rosada, official residence of Argentina's president, is only pink on the front. I'm not sure, but I think the white house is white all the way around.

Hey! You're doing a great job guys!

Just to prove I'm really in Argentina

The Ministry of Defence has various antique milirary equipment strewn around its grounds, as well as a number of statues that look just like those plastic soldiers you had when you were ten... 'til you melted them.

This is San Telmo. I really liked this barrio, lots of atmosphere here.

Antique shops were everywhere. Here's a photo of some tourist taking a picture of one.

Another antique shop. Many of them had a good selection of retro toys.

You are now leaving San Telmo.

I headed for the monster avenue Nueve de Julio to head home quickly. Along the way it started to pour and I ducked into a shop and bought the new Gorrilaz CD (29 pesos, about C$11), perhaps to prove to myself I'm still a young, hip guy. And it's not bad. Okay, now I have to find some food.

June 02, 2005

Recoleta Cemetary

A friend and I went on an epic hike today from Retiro to Recoleta to Palermo Chico and almost all the way to Palermo Viejo. I say almost because around 4:30 our legs gave out and we grabbed a cab home. And today was not a pleasantly cool Argentine winter day, either, it was brutally hot and humid. The weather has been coming from Brazil in the North rather than from Antartica as usual. Things should be back to normal by next week.

Aside from the Recoleta cemetery and the MALBA art museum, I didn't see too much worth reporting on, so I won't. It's late, so I'll just slap some pictures up of the cemetery (now that I've figured out how) and get into bed and let my digestive system work.

(Click on the extended entry for more photos...)

This one was quite interesting. Buenos Aires has long had a large Jewish population, but I assume there must be a Jewish cemetery located somewhere else. But this grave had both a cross and a menorah.

Evita is buried somewhere in here. We never found her nor went looking for her.

Google is a wonderful thing. Who is this guy and why is he in his bathrobe? Turns out Luis Angel Firpo is Argenetina's most famous boxer.

How's that for a dramatic shot? Beauty, eh?

It's a big cemetery, but I read somewhere that the city government estimates some 350,000 people are buried here. That seems almost impossibly large, but if you look into some of the crypts, you can see staircases that go underground...

Been politely requested to contribute

There's a funny new blog-based internet virus going around. I caught it from Publius at Gods of the Copybook Headings, but it seems to have been spreading itself for awhile. I tried to follow the chain of blogs back to its source, but after about 15 blogs my only link was to the blog Minivan Mom, but without the direct archive link. Any other internet researchers are welcome to continue the trail from there, but I'm working on a dial-up connection right now and have had enough. I think it's pretty fascinating how the idea has propagated itself. It's very synaptic.

Anyways, the virus is a 'book tag', requiring the blogger to answer questions on their reading habits before 'tagging' five other bloggers to do the same. Publius, who tagged me, and many of the other bloggers whose lists I've read are serious reading people, with big serious books on their lists. But I have a confession to make. I just don't read books anymore.

I often start books but I rarely finish them. At one point about a month ago I had a dozen books on my bedside table that I knew I'd never get around to finishing, so I just cleared them off. It's not that I didn't want to read them. I love and crave information of all sorts, but I just haven't got the attention span I used to. It's not just because of the kids either, this started before they came around (though they haven't helped.) A medical friend even suggested I might benefit from Ritalin. (No thanks.)

But I'll take up the challenge anyway:

Number of Books That You Own: Dunno. I read a lot when I was younger and still have the books in boxes in the basement. I'll never sell them, but bad 70's sci-fi in paperbacks is not something you want on your bookshelf either. Five hundred?

Last Book Bought: Time Out Buenos Aires. Barely had time to flip through it.

Last Book I Read: Hey! I read a book recently! It was Flashman and the Tiger by George MacDonald Fraser. I read it on the interminable flight down here to Buenos Aires. You can't go wrong with Flashman.

Five Books that mean a lot to me: I don't have my bookcase handy so there may be something I've forgotten, but off the top of my head (and in no particular order):

The Cyberiad by Stanislaw Lem. This is a very unique collection of stories featuring two 'constructor robots' who are friends and jealous competitors. The stories are wacky science fiction fables with a deep philosophical foundation. It's a madly experimental book with some truly dazzling writing, I can't recommend it enough. It's my opinion that Douglas Adams pillaged this book for ideas in his works, but he's bread and water compared to Lem's eight-course meal.

The Importance of Living by Lin Yutang. A great book telling why you should take things easy and concentrate on enjoying life. Sounds pretty boring or obvious, I know, but Lin Yutang writes with a lot of wit and wisdom and is a pleasure to read. And he's funny.

Economics in One Lesson by Henry Hazlitt. This book is not about 'economics' as it's usually studied, but neatly summarizes the basis of what's called the Austrian School of economics. It looks more at why people do things, and looks at all the consequences of an economic exchange. And the conclusion is that government almost always (or is it always?) messes things up. I used to write posts called 'The Lesson not Learned' on my old blog, dealing with applications of the book. Here's one dealing with what happened in Argentina of all places...

Master and Commander by Patrick O'Brian. Great adventure. Great characters. Read all 21 books in the series.

The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich by William L. Shirer. A lot of people have pointed to Hayek's Road to Serfdom as a book that shows how socialism leads to fascism, but I learned that lesson from this book. I know I wouldn't have the patience to read it now, but I read this when I was about twenty and it killed any lingering left-wing ideals the education system had instilled in me. The book was written in 1960, and since then I think the general understanding of what the Second World War was about has drifted. Read this and find out the dangers of the great technocratic state.

Now I will politely ask some other bloggers to answer the same questions. Hmm, gotta find some that haven't already been tagged...

Blair at Italics Mine,
Shannon at Shenanigans,
Theresa at Heart of Canada,
Debbye at Being American in T.O., and
Essay at Stupid Angry Canajun.

Look at that, all female bloggers except for one token male. I've still got no email right now, so I can't notify them about my polite request. But everyone reads my blog everyday, right?

Okay, I've spent way too much time on this -- time to go eat some more beef...

Dispatch

I have just a few minutes to write before I head out for an epic hike around town. My laptop is still isolated from the internet, but I have my buddy's computer, so at least I don't have to enter a grubby locotario. But I can't post pictures because I forgot to write down the password for my internet server. Grr.

Blogging is likely to be light for a time as things are pretty busy around here. There's always somewhere to go, people to see, and people to go somewhere with. Today we're hitting the Recoleta. Maybe I'll have a bit of time tonight...

June 01, 2005

Welcome to Argentina

So this isn�t starting as well as well as I thought it would. I figured my two weeks here would feature exciting photos and stories from the streets of Buenos Aires, written from a wireless internet café or the wireless connection at my hotel. But I haven�t found any internet cafés yet and since I�m staying at my friends for a few days before hitting the hotel, I�m writing this from a hot, humid internet �locotario� tucked into a shopfront. The computer I�m working on has a wonky Spanish keyboard and a crappy 800X600 monitor that warps on the edges. And I think they�d frown on me crawling around the back of the desk to attach my camera to the USB port, so there�s no pictures for now. I really gotta get out of this place, they�re blaring this horrible, horrible pop music and I�m getting a headache. I think it�s U2. Perhaps things will turn around tomorrow.

I�m down here to attend the wedding of my buddy the Latin American Correspondent and his beautiful fianceé Jimena on June 11th. My wife Michelle isn�t here yet, but will be joining me on Monday. Max and Talia -- very, very unfortunately -- will not be coming down but will be cared for by their very brave Aunt Cléo. Two weeks holiday! Wine and beef and shopping! I�m looking forward to it.

Okay, that�s it, I�m bugging out. Hopefully I�ll be able to update this tonight.