Autonomous Source

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June 28, 2006

A forgotten photographic style

In the distant past, war photographers would take pictures of troops going about their daily routine, having a laugh, or interacting with civilians. Magazines like Life would carry dozens of them every week. They would remind the people back home of the sacrifices soldiers made, and help them appreciate the difficulties they faced. Today of course, such humanizing photos would be considered propaganda and no media outlet will have anything to do with them. But it's nice that someone gathered together a few for a moving slideshow so we can see the types of photos magazines might run if they actually wanted the US to win in Iraq.

(via Wizbang.)

June 23, 2006

Net Neutrality: dangerous nonsense

Few things annoy me as much as preachy celebrities working for a cause. Whether it's Paul McCartney looking weepy over a baby seal, Pamela Anderson fretting about chickens, or George Clooney shilling for poor John Kerry, I'm much less likely to support a cause if some overpaid nitwit endorses it than if they stuck to what they're good at. I mean, why should I listen to them for advice?

So when I saw the picture of Moby on the front of this week's Ottawa Citizen 'Tech' section -- photographed from below, looking defiant and staring into the distance -- I knew what he was advocating would be complete horseshit. And it is -- it's 'net neutrality'.

The central premise behind this new cause célèbre is: Boy, isn't the internet getting busy? Seems like everyone is downloading videos and game demos and music. Maybe we could run out of bandwidth! And then what would happen? Maybe the ISPs could start charging the big content providers to give them priority! They have that technology! And that would destroy all the little content providers, leaving the world at the mercy of... (No! Say it's not true!)... Big Business.

Think I'm exaggerating? Check out this terrible vision of the internet to come from an article in the New Republic titled (very neutrally) 'The Bush administration prepares to wreck the Internet':

Imagine you were choosing whether to buy a book from or Barnes and Noble's website, and you knew that Amazon's site would load much faster, allowing you to scan books and sample their content much more easily. Or imagine that's streaming video came up instantly and's balked. Or that loaded quickly while the site of a contentious political magazine was plagued by delays. That is what your Internet experience could be like if Congress doesn't require the big cable and telephone companies that control access to the Web to observe what is called "net neutrality."
Reality check. There is no bandwidth shortage. So much fibre was laid down by the (now bankrupt) telco startups during the dot-com boom that there is still a glut of long distance transport. And new WDM (wave division multiplexing) technologies allow more traffic on a single piece of fibre than was ever imagined before. And on the routing side, routers are cheaper, more powerful, and more reliable than ever. Because of the way internet traffic is distributed, if there are any areas of congestion they can be quickly relieved by added new hardware.

Secondly, no one is doing this now -- or at least no one is doing it in the way the fantasists in the above article are suggesting. They want to legislate against an abuse that is only hypothetical! But in so doing, they will destroy many benefits that tiered internet traffic might bring.

Internet providers are being squeezed by competition. Most markets in the US and Canada are served by many ISPs, so consumers have a choice in where to invest their high-speed dollars. It would be foolish if the ISPs didn't look at both sides of their traffic to try to generate revenue. Who might pay for a guaranteed speed on the delivery of their data? Companies providing subscription financial information would. For example, Bloomberg receives a great deal of money from financial services companies for their data. In delivering this data, milliseconds count. As well, a company that provides video conferencing services needs a guaranteed level of service to keep their customers happy. They don't want to lose connections when the newest Paris Hilton video becomes available. New business oportunities become possible with tiered service. A multinational company might exchange their global telephone network with a Voice over IP (VoIP) system -- but only if they could count on their IP service remaining consistent.

The net neutrality people want all bits to be the same. Seriously, that's the legislative goal of these deluded folks. They want it to be against the law for an ISP to prioritize data. But all bits aren't the same. Some are more important than others and people are willing to pay to ensure that they get there on time. And you know what? The big spenders will wind up subsidizing the regular users. Internet access will be cheaper because of the premiums paid by these 'elite' data streams. Imagine the effect of a law that made first class airline travel illegal -- say, because it's 'not fair' and the airlines might fill the planes with first class seats only. Would it improve prices and service? I doubt it.

The internet has grown to be the absurdly wonderful thing it is because of competition and the minimal intrusion of government. Strangling the companies that provide this service (and very cheaply, I might add) to ration an unlimited and man-made resource to prevent a hypothetical abuse is ridiculous. Even worse though, is that it will prevent IP services we can't even imagine yet from being developed. Equal rights for bits is possibly the dumbest cause the left has come up with yet.

UPDATE: Reason has more on the silliness of this cause.

June 19, 2006

Canadian Blogfest '06

Well, Darcey, Ian, Les, the Zerb, and Right Girl have already offered their accounts of what happened that night, but I think they all may have been drinking heavily and got a few things wrong. So it's up to me to offer the definitive account, so that when the Post Office gets around to making a Heritage Minute spot on the event, it'll be accurate.

We met at Fiddler's Green, a Irish-ish Pub in the center of Boystown, Toronto's answer to Castro Street in San Francisco. For some reason, I had the address wrong and wound up wandering Church street looking confused for some time. Now I'm generally a flashy dresser (see the photo below to find out just how radiantly cool I was that evening) so I caught quite a few deep searching glances being directed my way. As a man, I wasn't used to it. Now I can understand the uncomfortable feeling of vulnerability that women in wet T-shirt competitions must bear.

I arrived fashionably late, and was introduced to about twelve people, only remembering the name of Right Girl because she was introduced to me last. Her -- husband? boyfriend? -- who goes by the name of Must-Control-Fist-of-Death and some of their groupies were also there. Others present were Mike, Lisa, and Mapmaster from the London Fog, some guy with a mustache that I unfortunately forgot the name of (it may have been this guy), Kate from the Last Amazon, Darcey of course, and Publius from Gods of the Copybook Headings.

Arriving even later than I were Ian Scott, Bob Tarantino of the defunct Let It Bleed, Les from Spiderman's Web, Chris Taylor and his girlfriend (whose name I also forgot), Fenris Badwulf and the Mayor from Mitchieville, a few frequent commenters that I didn't know, a deranged electrician, and the Zerb!

For those of you unfamiliar with my blog, I must mention that Antonia Zerbisias won my prestigious Most Annoying Canadian competition for 2004, beating out the highly annoying Canadian Tire Guy and even Sheila Copps. Had I known she was coming I would have had a trophy made to present to her. But at least I got this photo of us together:

Photo by Right Girl, who will never be another Annie Leibovitz.

Conversation never stopped, though I have few strong recollections of topics. Fenris and the electrician told some stories of what goes on in Big Box stores that are definitely not Wal-Mart in the middle of the night. A secret society was formed. (Whoops! No it wasn't.) Sweeping generalizations were made. Autobiographies were told.

Alcohol was consumed. This I'm pretty sure of. I myself drank plenty of beer, a couple of Rusty Nails, several single-malt scotches, a Johnny Walker Red (this after Chris Taylor spoke of his contempt for it), more beer, and later some red wine. All this over the course of ten hours. I may have been a little tipsy at moments in the evening, but I couldn't catch Darcey:

With Darcey is Kelly, our tireless server. I have similar photos of Darcey groping many other women that evening, but I'll keep them private if I'm well compensated.

We left sometime around midnight. I must respond to this comment by Ian:

It was finally time to end the gathering - and after another whisker rub from Darcey, we all walked off to wherever we were going - not sure where Bruce ended up… not sure I should even ask.. but - isn’t it ironic that it was the libertarians who were helping the "law and order" conservatives be personally responsible for their actions??
I think he's referring to Darcey's and my plan to walk the streets... with open bottles of beer in our hands!! Mapmaster and Lisa were the libertarians who tried to dissuade us. I couldn't believe that Toronto was that much of a police state. I figured that if we walked down Church Street amongst all the colourful folk there, no cop would dare stop us -- especially with me wearing such a fabulous shirt. But they were very adamant and we relented. (And who is Ian calling a "law and order" conservative?)

I also have to respond to this from him:

And Bruce is a funny and interesting guy! But, his wife might want to give me a call so we can discuss some weird fascinations he seems to have with certain parts of Toronto.
I really don't think being interested in going to a gay karaoke bar for drinks at midnight on a Saturday is a 'weird fascination'. It's perfectly normal curiousity.

Lisa, Mapmaster, Darcey and I joined Kate at her home, where we continued to converse on many different topics. Until 3:00 that is, when I realized I was the last one talking and everyone else was nodding off. I excused myself and made my way to my hotel, which was thankfully right around the corner.

Thanks to everyone for a great evening, and I will definitely try to make it again should another one get planned. Give me a little time to recover, though.

Autonomous Source version 3.0!

Okay, that's enough mucking around with templates. My upgrade of Movable Type is complete. Comments and trackbacks have resumed!

Actually, everything isn't done yet, but most of what is left is just fine tuning and a major blogroll update, and I'll get to that soon. It's good enough for now.

It doesn't look like much has changed, but since the style sheet has changed drastically between MT 2.8 and MT 3.2, I had to do everything all over again. Underneath the hood, the database has changed to MySQL (which will be handy if I ever finish that PHP book I'm reading), and spiffy new spam protection has been added. The spam was the reason I upgraded -- I was getting over a 100 a day. Let's see how long it takes them to bust through now.

Okay, I gotta take the kids out shopping. Blogging will resume this evening.

June 18, 2006

This makes me nostalgic for Vegas...

(via Samizdata)

Yes, it was a hoot

I think. I'm really hope so at least, because I'd hate to think that I didn't have fun and still have to bear this extrordinary hangover. Wow.

I'm just checking out now and heading for the train station, so I don't have time for a complete recap. I'll try to slap a couple of photos up soon. It was great to meet some of the people I read each day, especially as we hit it off so well.

Okay, I gotta go catch a train.

June 16, 2006

100 punk songs

Wow! 100 of the best punk songs of all time! No wait, the 100 best punk songs of all time. And all available for download! I've been downloading a few and reliving some old memories. I particularly recommend Institutionalized by Suicidal Tendencies and Big Dick by NoMeansNo. They both got a lot of play in my younger days. Unfortunately, a few of the links have errors and Institutionalized is one of them. Here's the corrected link -- you really must hear this song!

(via Wizbang)

Heading for the front line

Today, I'm heading for the violent center of the terrible insurgency that threatens our nation: Toronto, also known as the center of the universe. It will be a little risky, but I want to see for myself what is happening rather than listen to the words of the lying media. Is our cause there hopeless? Or is there chance that someone from a party other than the NDP or Liberals will win a seat there one day?

I'll also be attending the 'Blogfest' happening there Saturday night. Guest of honour is Darcy of Dust my Broom, who will be joined by the best bloggers in the Canadian blogosphere -- plus me and Ian Scott. There is the possibility of it being a hoot.

June 15, 2006

Guilt of the media II

Terrorism is an information war disguised as a military operation. The press plays a symbiotic role, and isn't willing to address that.
Glenn Reynolds has a longish post (for him) on this subject, with lots of links.

Vignette III

So I was in the kitchen doing nothing productive when Max came inside, calling, "Papa! Papa!" He was very excited about something, and grabbed my hand and pulled me outside. Mama was working in the garden, so I wondered why he needed me, but I decided to just go along for now. He's become much more talkative in the past two months, but when he's excited it's hard to understand him sometimes. He was talking a mile a minute and I caught this snippet, "...and I was looking around, but I didn't see Ta-ya! So I went, 'Hmmm, I wonder where Talia went!' But I didn't see her so..."

I was being pulled down the road. The houses here are not closely spaced so we had gone a fair way (for a toddler) when Max pointed to a neighbor who was outside and proudly announced that he had lent his shovel to him. Max's snow shovel is one of his prized possessions, and there it was lying in my neighbor's driveway. I indicated I would pick it up on the way back.

Eventually, we came to another neighbor's house even further up the road. This must be where we were going. He charged up to the front door, walked in and sat on the floor. Then he looked up at me and said, "Ta-ya's gone upstairs with Bianca. I hass to take oss my shoes to go in. Could you untie my laces?"

June 14, 2006

Science meets junk science

We're all doomed. Everyone knows it. Or actually they don't know it. All those tubby sheeple trundling through the Wal-Mart to fill their SUVs with stuff they don't need sure don't seem to be aware. If they knew that our planet is going to overheat and cause massive devastation due to the use of those fossil fuels which will cause a apocalyptic economic implosion when they soon run out and we can't use them anymore, would they live the way they do?

This is the way the clever people in our world think. And it's not surprising considering the way the media promotes these doomsday scenarios. They also think that the only way to solve these potential catastrophes is to hand over some of their (and of course those blind sheeple's) dwindling supply of autonomy to the even wiser men than they that promise a solution. That those wise men are almost always the same as the prophets of doom doesn't seem to bother them.

The Financial Post is running a series of stories this week dealing with most of the big sources of potential global annihilation. They've asked scientists with in-depth knowledge of these subjects -- but whose views are not bleak enough for the media to quote -- to rebut some of the hysteria. Unfortunately, yesterday's article on Toxic Chemical Hysteria is not online (though Terence Corcoran's editorial on the subject still is), but today's piece on the Peak Oil Panic is very much worth reading:

Proponents of the imminent peak of global oil extraction -- led by Colin Campbell, Jean Laherrere, L.F. Ivanhoe, Richard Duncan and Kenneth Deffeyes -- resort to deliberately alarmist arguments as they mix incontestable facts with caricatures of complex realities, ignoring anything that does not fit their preconceived conclusions about the demise of modern civilization. Ivanhoe sees an early end of the oil era as "the inevitable doomsday," followed by "economic implosion" that will make "many of the world's developed societies look more like today's Russia than the U.S." Duncan's future brings massive unemployment, breadlines, homelessness and a catastrophic end of industrial civilization.

These conclusions are based on interpretations that lack any nuanced understanding of the human quest for energy, disregard the role of prices, ignore any historical perspectives and pre-suppose the end of human inventiveness and adaptability.

I will raise just three key points aimed at dismantling the foundations of this new catastrophist cult. First, these preachings are just the latest installments in a long history of failed peak forecasts. Second, the Peak Oil advocates argue that this time the circumstances are really different and that their forecasts will not fail -- but in order to believe that, one has to ignore a multitude of facts and possibilities that readily counteract their claims. Third, and most importantly, there is no reason why even an early peak of global oil production should trigger any catastrophic events.

As the say in the blogosphere: RTHT.

I can't help but think that there's some intrinsic religious aspect to these type of fears -- that there's something in humanity that is uncomfortable with an easy life. There's the idea that there's a cost for everything we enjoy -- that we must make sacrifices to balance our blessings. Even though religion is so passé to the clever people, this belief has not died, it has simply morphed into the new junk science cult.

June 13, 2006

The guilt of the media

David Warren has a great column on the synergy between the media and the terrorists that are trying to destabilize Iraq. And from that, he makes a strong case that Zarqawi's death is a great victory:

So much of the credit for his murderous successes, and those of other terrorists like him, must be given to the mainstream media -- both East and West. Journalists assiduously advance the terrorist cause, by reporting almost exclusively on allied setbacks and mistakes, and by their ceaseless improvisation of destructive criticism against "Bush" and other Western leaders and allies. Heroic, and largely successful reconstruction efforts in Iraq have been ignored; instead we have an endless spool of meticulously-reported terror hits. The Western media attention to, and celebration of, such unstable characters as Cindy Sheehan and Michael Berg, make their alliances obvious. The New York Times has been the bellwether for this. Almost every news item touching Iraq is spun to maximize its demoralizing effect on the allied war effort. And across America itself, editors look to the Times nightly front-page line-up for clues on how to slant their own coverage.

To an enemy who depends utterly on morale, in the absence of significant military abilities -- who has only such weaponry as he can rig or steal, and only such soldiers as he can recruit in secret; who has no secure territory to which he can retreat and regroup -- this constant and reliable support from the media is indispensable. Without it, the "resistance" in Iraq would have collapsed quickly, saving ten-thousands of lives; and the Afghan "resistance" would be in greater disarray (though it has the benefit of secure pasturage in remote tribal mountain fastnesses).

But Zarqawi's death goes beyond spinning. The very fact touched off huge celebrations across Iraq this week, as did the capture of Saddam Hussein before it. While our Western media are loath to cover these demonstrations -- lest they enhance President Bush's position in U.S. domestic politics -- their effect on the enemy in Iraq is profound. An enemy whose morale depended on Zarqawi's reputation for ruthlessness, against the hard fact of popular detestation, is left staring at a wall. He needs another Zarqawi to emerge, quickly.

I've pointed out this terrorist-media feedback loop before, and it sickens me. To terrorize (or demoralize) a population requires not just violent acts, but the delivery of threats and intimidation. Most of the world's media have been too eager to fill the role.

June 10, 2006

A distinct society

The rest of Canada has Slurpees; Quebec has Sloche. Which is tastier and more refreshing? I think this video has the answer.

June 09, 2006

Putting the parodists out of business

The Ontario government seems intent on creating the goofiest and most extreme nanny-state the world has yet seen. Today I spotted an ad campaign that admonishes citizens to wash their hands.

What's next? Telling us to change our underwear regularly because you never know when you'll get hit by a bus?

June 07, 2006

Al Gore: the false messiah

I'm briefly coming out of hibernation to note a strong rebuttal to Al Gore's apocalyptic propaganda movie, An Inconvenient Truth. Today's Financial Post has a piece by Tom Harris that cuts through Gore's one-sided perspective and backs it up with quotes from climate experts. But it appears facts will always lose a battle with ominous music, flashy visuals, and a persuasive voice.

Peter Foster has an accompanying piece that looks at the impact this movie is having and the abandonment of reason Gore's followers have taken:

Mr. Gore claims that climate change is, above all, a moral problem, but any search for scientific truth that starts with a moral conviction is severely hampered, if not fatally flawed.

Part of Mr. Gore's rhetoric is to compare his own moral crusade with others, such as the fight against fascism, or the struggles to end slavery or give women the vote. He regards himself as the environment's Ghandi, Mandela or Martin Luther King. In fact, beneath its glib exterior, Mr. Gore's message contains a great threat to personal freedom and prosperity.

In many ways Mr. Gore's crusade is reminiscent of that launched by Marx and Engels in the middle of the 19th century. As they trekked the grim streets of the cotton towns and pored through statistics in the British Museum, they were looking for proof of what they already knew: that capitalism was an evil system based on exploitation and impoverishment, and that the solution was revolution and collectivization. They died before their revolutions came to pass. Students of history can see the results.

Al Gore's crusade is basically against the same enemy. Like Marx, he is driven by a messianic self-image. Like Marx, he is potentially a dangerous man, particularly if he should run again in 2008. Meanwhile, perhaps the most frightening reaction to his film is that it has drawn little but praise.

Okay. Back to sleep... (Comments are still disabled.)

June 01, 2006


As you may have noticed (if anyone is still checking in), the blog has been pretty quiet lately. It's not because I have nothing to say, but because I have little time in which to say it. There's been plenty of work around here, the kids are extremely demanding, and I'm spending my time on some other priorities. As well, there are some other things going on in the family that I don't feel like getting into right now.

I am not going to shut down however, as I've enjoyed the work I've done on the blog when the juices were flowing and would like to get into that groove again. Hopefully in a month or so I'll relaunch the site, refreshed and energized.

For now, comments and trackbacks will be shut off to stem the incredible flow of spam onto my old posts.

I'll leave with a photo of the kids as they work to prevent me from building their ultra-cool play structure. See you soon.