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October 31, 2006

Just... terrifying...

I was invited to my children's Halloween party yesterday so I could cast a distainful eye on the other kid's parent's costuming ability. They in turn had the opportunity to draw hasty conclusions on my own worth as a parent.

I counted two firemen, two vampires, a spiderman, a sadly-deflated superman, a batman, a couple other licensed cartoon characters, and about a hundred fairy princesses. Luckily, Talia is precocious, and went through the whole magic wands and pointy hats phase about a year ago, so she had an original costume. Some sort of ghost. A garden ghost, I think. Or something. Max went in this year's most popular costume, as a pirate. He managed to get the no-dental-plan teeth look in this photo by messily masticating a lump of chocolate.

Related: Last year's Halloween. The year before that (too cute).

An aggressive 'peace' protester

Mike at the London Fog has a run-in with a comically paranoid protester at one of the sparsely attended protests against Canadian Troops in Afghanistan this weekend. He was bullied and intimidated just because he wore a poppy on his jacket. Now it turns out the thug in question is the vice-president of an NDP riding association. Charming.

No big deal? Imagine if it were a Conservative riding association executive similarly harrassing a counter-protester (which Mike was not acting as) at a 'Support the Troops' rally. The headlines in the Toronto Star couldn't be larger.

October 30, 2006

Crime Story

One of the uglier effects of the insane housing markets of the past few years has been an increase in all kinds of real estate fraud. CNN Money has the detailed story of a con-man by the name of Matthew Cox who roams the US under multiple aliases taking advantage of desperate sellers with his crooked schemes. It's obvious the guy is total scum, but you can be sure there's a movie waiting to be made after they finally catch him.

Near death experience

It was all very odd. I felt at peace. I felt a depth of comfort and contentment I've never before experienced. It was a warm, relaxing sensation that pulsed through me. There was a delicious bubbling sensation in my brain that made me smile broadly, verging on the precipice of an intense bout of laughter.

All around me was black, except for a bright spot off in the distance. It called to me, inviting me to even greater levels of pleasure -- pleasure I could not imagine! I moved towards it. The anticipation was intoxicating. I was moving faster and faster and the light was getting brighter and brighter! But just as I was about to merge with the light, something happened -- something terrible! It started receding! I stretched out my arms, but it was too late. I was crashing, coming back to reality. My surroundings changed and I experienced a sense of devastating loss. True freedom, pure freedom, was snatched away from me, and I was once again mired in this earthly, hostile place.

This blog is not dead. Unfortunately for me.

October 24, 2006

News from Fwance

I have to give thanks to those crazy kids over at ¡No Pasarán! for keeping me up to date on the death spiral of modern France in such amusing style:

Looks like this year's riots will be in broad daylight. On Sunday at 2PM, French youths boarded a city bus in Grigny (shithole Paris suburb), forced the passengers to get out, and torched it. At 6:30PM, police were still at the scene in an attempt to "secure the area". French cop and evident super-sleuth Jean-François Papineau (you can't make up a name like that) declared that the attack "was deliberate". Firemen arriving at the scene were pelted with rocks and other objects.

CNN gets busted

One of the things I hate most about today's media is their willingness -- their eagerness, really -- to do the propaganda work for the worst scumbags on the planet. The airing by CNN of a video of a terrorist sniper training his rifle on an American soldier (though 'tastefully' fading to black before the shot is fired) is just the latest example. But this story seems to have crossed a line, and there has been a strong backlash.

Wolf Blitzer tried to do a bit of damage control yesterday, but it blew up in his face. CNN's 'military analyst', Gen David Grange, wound up agreeing with the Congressman that was pointing the finger at them. He couldn't deny that his employer was doing the 'promo' work for terrorists:

Grange agreed with Hunter: "Well, as a platoon leader in Vietnam, I would have said the same thing. I agree with you on that -- or even in Iraq today. My -- my concern is the power of information warfare, and how they use it. And I -- and I look at opportunities that we can turn around on the enemy, because they are winning the information warfare front. You can argue that our -- our -- the media in the United States supports that somewhat."
The most interesting part of the exchange for my part was Congressman Hunter's remark on why such a video is so dangerous -- which the media just cannot understand:
Hunter returned to his argument that the insurgents are getting their wishes granted by CNN, and might encourage further terrorism: "General, I look at it just the opposite. I think showing Americans being killed by terrorists, with -- apparently, with impunity, because the film doesn't show the terrorists then being pursued and killed. And lots of terrorists who have shot at Americans took their last shot at the Americans, because they themselves were killed in turn. But showing the world a film, and lots of terrorists out there watching their TV sets, a picture of an American being killed in a crowd by a terrorist who operates, apparently, with impunity, and gets away, is highly suggestive, I think, and highly instructive to them. And I think it's dangerous to Americans, not only uniformed Americans, but also tourists, Americans who might go abroad and be in one of those crowds one day, when somebody who saw that film, how you just walk up and kill them while they are in a crowd, decides to replicate that action."

October 17, 2006

Filler

The 1K project involved 1000 people racing a car solo over an insane track on some racing game, each saving a record of their race, then using software wizardry to superimpose the cars over each other. You get a very nifty-looking result. But the real artistry of this video is the camera-work that captures the chaos.

A more hi-rez version of the video is available here (select the full screen option).

Population explosion

Tim Blair has compiled a photographic exposé to mark the grim milestone of the three hundred millionth American being born.

October 14, 2006

MAC 2006 Update

First an apology. Due to a clerical error here in Autonomous Source headquarters, the ability to vote once per day had been disabled for much of this week. If you have been trying to vote since Wednesday only to be told that you have already voted, you will now be able to vote again. We apologize for the error, and assure you the person responsible has been properly chastised and is feeling very guilty.

But there have not been to many people trying to vote as the race has turned into a rout, with Jack Layton firmly in the lead. He currently has the support of 39% of respondents, a huge lead over second place Belinda Stronach and third place David Suzuki, who each have only 8%. It's hard to imagine anyone catching Jack at this point, so the race is pretty much over.

Which is why I've decided to change the rules a bit. The current vote will continue until November 15, at which time the top five will compete to win the ultimate championship. If current trends hold up, those five will be Jack, Belinda, Dr. Suzuki, George Stroumboulopoulos and Ben Mulroney. But that's only if current trends continue -- the race is much closer for second, third, fourth, and fifth places. And in the final poll -- which will end December 31 -- who knows what will happen?

Is this change of rules a transparent attempt to make the competition more competitive, thus generating more interest and hits? Yes. Yes, it is.

October 10, 2006

Talia to the rescue!

[Warning! Story below was elements that may make you say, "Ewww, gross!" If you're that type of person read at your own risk.]

One of the joys of life is its unpredictibility; that no matter how much of a rut you might think your life has fallen into, something unique might be just around the corner. I had no idea at all when I woke up yesterday that by 11:00 I would have my arm sunk deep into disgusting brown water feeling hopelessly for whatever was blocking the toilet. Or that I would spend a significant part of the day dealing with this problem. But that's the joys of life for you.

The story begins -- as so many stories do -- at Costco, where I foolishly bought some Charmin' bathroom tissue because it was cheap. I had never bought this brand before and was looking forward to enjoying its many wonderful qualities. Charmin' is absorbent; which may be a good thing in some circumstances but when there are children about that have a tendency to overuse the tissue, it is not a good thing. In fact it is a very bad thing.

Normally, when I have a blocked toilet, a few pumps from the plunger is enough to clear it. But not this time. Soon I was to discover that this block would defy all my regular solutions and require a unique, outside-of-the-box solution. The waste hole on this toilet (which I installed myself a couple of years ago) for some reason had a rectangular shape. This prevented the plunger from getting any good suction. My first thought was to aquire a better plunger, so I phoned a friend that was knowledgable about such matters. He promised me that this plunger he had would clear any plug. One half-hour car trip later, I discovered he was lying. It had the same problem: it couldn't make a seal on the bottom of the bowl. I went to a hardware store to hopefully find a better plunger, but it didn't work either. Time to move to the chemicals.

All the 'drain cleaner' chemicals state that they are for sinks. None of them talk about toilets. I couldn't imagine why; the principle should be the same. But the chemicals (and hot water and an hour of plunging) did nothing. Now what?

I manually searched for the plug, thinking it might be a toy or something that the kids might have decided to get rid of, but nothing was there. Then I got the idea of making a seal for the plunger. Duct tape! That would solve everything. So I bailed filth in the toilet down to a manageable level, and tried to duct tape the plunger over the hole at the bottom. But the duct tape was inadequately sticky. So I tried packing tape. Nope. Electrical tape. Yes! A seal! But... because now I was plunging air, it was impossible to create enough pressure to do anything. Argghh!

Last resort. Take the toilet off and try to clean it from the other end. Ugh. So, I turned off the water to the toilet, emptied the tank, bailed and got rid of the last of the water in the bowl using old towels to soak it up. I took off the tank, unscrewed the bowl and -- with great effort -- pried the bowl from the floor. I took it outside and rested it on a stair with the drain hole over the edge.

I shot pressurized water up both ends and had no luck. A coat hanger? Nothing. I knew the block was in this piece because the water didn't flow through, but I just couldn't reach it. I was at wits end.

My daughter had been watching my last trials with interest. (My son had some kind of illness that made him indifferent, apathetic and surprisingly agreeable. He didn't bug me.) She was asking questions, trying to 'help', and just generally getting in the way. I wasn't in the mood for her. Then she chirped, "Maybe the noodle can help."

Those of you who have pools are no doubt familiar with these 'noodles'. They're six foot long extruded foam tubes used as swimming toys. We have no pool but we have a couple of them anyway. I've been long amazed at all the games Max and Talia have come up with using these things. At $1.50 each, they're probably the most cost-effective toys imaginable. The two noodles we had have been with my kids half their lives.

Instantly I got an idea. I told Talia that if I used her noodle, I would have to throw it out (it was already filthy and pretty messed up -- but it was still pretty dear to her). She agreed. I turned the bowl upside down and stuffed one end of the noodle in the bottom hole. Because of the pliability of the foam, it made a perfect seal. Then I blew in the hole at the other end of the noodle. Bingo! The blockage came right out. The toilet was saved! Papa's sanity was saved! It was all over but the cleaning up. And it only took five hours!

So. How'd your Thanksgiving go?

October 08, 2006

Sunday Music: The Backyardigans

In the last three years or so I've been immersed in toddler culture. I've been exposed to Bob, Dora, Elmo, Thomas, Diego, Blue, Franklin, Timothy and all their friends and hangers-on. Most of this stuff is surprisingly good; much better than the condescending crap I remember from my early days. Remember the Care Bears? Most of the other shows you can't remember from that time were just as saccarine and phoney as that.

But in the last year the Backyardigans has been my favourite kids show. And luckily Max and Talia like it too. The premise is very simple. Tyrone, Austin, Tasha, Pablo, and Uniqua are kids whose houses back onto each other. They get together and they play, and their yards are transformed into the jungles of Borneo, or the arctic, or a space ship. The adventures are witty, and not at all preachy. But not in that winking-at-the-parents witty that Sesame Street has degenerated into. And as a bonus there's no pattern recognition sequences, counting drills, or learning the names of colours in Spanish -- just an entertaining story.

And music and dance. The other great thing about the show is the care they put into creating songs. Each show is done in the style of one musical genre. There's been a reggae show, a bossa nova show, a broadway musical show and a zydeco show. I've included five songs here so you can see how well they do it, in the styles of 1920's jazz, big band, roadhouse rock, funk, and old school hip hop. Enjoy, and remember to tune into Treehouse TV to catch the antics of The Backyardigans every day...


October 06, 2006

Last nice day of Fall?

Actually, it's probably the first nice day of Fall. It's been pretty miserable so far. But it's just going to get worse...

Free speech doesn't include a free megaphone

Over at the Progressive Bloggers site, there is great sadness that funding has been drastically scaled back for Status Of Women Canada (SWC). They are especially dismayed that no longer will the government fund advocacy or lobbying activities by SWC. 'Skdadl' at POGGE sums up the indignation in a post entitled the CPC sniggers at liberty and democracy:

Just before I launch into my usual rant about democracy and the anti-democratic tendencies of our New Government of Canada, I will make one historical observation that may complicate things a bit. Certain especially elevated notables of our federal civil service, most famously the grey men/persons of the Finance Department and RevCan (or whatever the hell we call it these days), have been committed neo-lib slashers of social programs for generations. Their encroachments on our social consensus are what pamused is referring to when she mentions the difficulties that Canadian charitable organizations already have in obeying "the rules." Whoever the first movers were of the recent CPC government assault on funding for women's programs, aboriginals, museums, the Court Challenges program, and so on, their socially conservative ideology would have dovetailed very neatly with the ideological pathologies of the most powerful (often Liberal) members of the mandarinate in Ottawa, who have had many earlier successes in denying creative housing programs in Canada, eg, or in making sure that you never get a disability pension or even a disability tax deduction unless you are at death's door. Charming people. They probably feel bad about the museums, though.

Back to democracy. We all remember John Baird's rationale for cutting the Court Challenges program, the rationale that presumably also pretends to justify any refusal of federal funding to groups that "advocate" on behalf of women still facing legal structural disadvantage:

I just don't think it made sense for the government to subsidize lawyers to challenge the government's own laws in court.
Now, there is a man who has not grasped the difference between a particular elected representative government and the state -- ie, the people, all the people, all the time, their protective symbol in Canada being the Crown, but never doubt: the Crown are us, all of us -- and the responsibility that the one owes the other.

A democratic government always owes all the people free access to study, to criticize, to organize against, and to resist laws or institutional structures that can be shown to discriminate against citizens in ways that violate our constitution. It is a frightening state, certainly not a democracy, that would suddenly declare that no better law is possible than the ones it has conceived of. [bold in original]

Well. Excuse me if I just don't understand where the assault on democracy is here. How are people prevented from studying, criticizing, or organizing against laws? Who in government is saying that there are no laws better than the ones it has conceived of? Is she saying that no dissent is possible unless the government first cuts the dissenters a check? That doesn't say much about the dedication to the cause.

Politics is about organizing, fundraising, and spreading a message. If you want to change something, you have to work. You have to be dedicated. You have to make sacrifices. 'Skdadl' thinks it's all about money:

No one advocates through our courts or to our elected representatives without money. A tiny but powerful minority in our society have always had that money privately, but it has been our civil consensus until now that we will support other groups fighting for liberties that our laws do not yet protect effectively. It seems to me little short of an attempt at a coup that the current CPC government would declare an end to all advocacy and lobbying except by those who are rich.
Which is a bogus argument. The opponents of gay marriage have gotten their message out very effectively without being 'rich' or getting government handouts. I don't agree with them, but at least they're not taking my tax dollars to do their lobbying.

Politics is also about listening. If you want to get people to donate their money or time to your cause, you have to listen to them. And sometimes they're not going to agree with you. Being so long on the government teat, I think this is something that SWC has forgotten how to do.

UPDATE: Befogged Londoner Lisa has a few more choice words.

Oh, for a real opposition

Annoying Canadian candidate Rona Ambrose has been working with her department to develop a new 'green plan' to address the absolutely catastrophic environmental destruction Canada is experiencing. It's going to be announced in the next couple of weeks, but that's not soon enough for the Liberals:

Environment Minister Rona Ambrose was accused of blatant political posturing — rather than real action — on an urgent international crisis after she refused to tell MPs how or when the Conservatives will follow through on their promises to tackle global warming and clean up the environment.

[...]

Angered by the lack of information, opposition MPs said the Tories are undermining the Kyoto Protocol on global warming and stalling on their pledge to replace it with an improved environmental program.

"I'm not sure why you came today. You don't have a plan, no targets, no timeline," said Liberal MP Pablo Rodriguez.

Would the opposition make similar claims if the government refused to give details of a budget before it was released? These days, maybe. But Rodriguez obviously has the high ground: he does have a plan:
He noted that Ambrose had opposed his private member's bill that passed second reading in the Commons on Wednesday. It would require Canada to take steps to "meet its obligations" under the Kyoto Protocol.

"Yesterday evening you voted against Kyoto while the Prime Minister (Stephen Harper) was in Toronto watching a hockey game. I guess that was more important to him than voting on the environment," added Rodriguez (Honoré-Mercier).

And what a plan it is! Canada must 'take steps' to 'meet its obligations'. That sounds like a reasonable policy. Next week maybe he can end poverty and cure cancer.

Okay, maybe I shouldn't be so sarcastic. But these guys are not taking this issue seriously. This is a complex issue involving billions of dollars and potential changes to our way of life. That the Liberals can claim the Conservative are 'posturing' on the environment before they've even announced their plan is astounding, considering that the Liberals spent thirteen years in power doing nothing but posturing.

But there are no signs of the opposition parties getting serious anytime soon:

Afterwards, opposition MPs and environmental activists said the Conservatives appeared to be dragging out action on the environment to avoid political repercussions, a strategy they said the Harper government has copied from U.S. President George W. Bush.
[Roll eyes]

October 05, 2006

Compare and contrast

Colby Cosh compares two reviews of a free concert held in Toronto: one by an enlightened critic in the Toronto Star, and the other by an attendee tapping out his her thoughts on his her cellphone. Guess which one gives a better picture of what the event was really like?

Media onslaught continues

I'll be on John Gormley's show on News Talk 650 in Saskatchewan today. I'll be on at just past noon Eastern time, 10:00 Mountain. If I keep doing these shows, maybe one day I'll be good at them.

UPDATE: Yeah, that went really well, I think. And this one was fun too. It's fun to think of some guy driving a pickup across the prairies listening to me.

UPDATE II: I also did an interview with my local weekly paper. Now I'm going to be outed as a blogger and Conservative to my neighbors. I'm a little nervous about that, actually...

October 04, 2006

Giving up the fight

One of the things that astounds me these days is the willingness of so many people to concede defeat and give the moral high ground to Islamist forces in Iraq and Afghanistan. I mean, these guys are the most vile enemies imaginable. They are willing the kill civilians without remorse, and the regimes they would set up were they to be victorious would make Nazi Germany look progressive. And they're weak! They're own leaders admit this. They're completely unable to win an engagement toe-to-toe against the good guys, and have very few safe havens where they can regroup and organize. But their motives are rationalized by the defeatist press, and every unarmed civilian they kill is trumpeted as another milestone on their path to victory. It's madness, as far as I'm concerned.

Mark Steyn is also perplexed by this. I don't think anyone would call him a supporter of the default positions of the MSM, but even he is shocked by the bizarre moral inversion that's happened.

Do you remember the summer of 2001? Shark attacks. Swimming off the Florida coast, a kid called Jessie Arbogast had his arm ripped off. His uncle retrieved the severed limb from the jaws of the predator and killed it. In its editorial on the subject, The New York Times came down on the side of the shark. I thought those days were over. “September 11th was a call to moral seriousness. You cannot compromise with a shark, you cannot negotiate with a suicide bomber,” I wrote. “The next shark to chew up a Florida moppet will get a tougher press, even from The New York Times.”

I must have been drunk. The Times is back to siding with the sharks. Every other week, it leaks details of the government’s new shark-tracking program or demands full Geneva Convention protection for them. On Labor Day, a terrorist opened fire on a group of western tourists in Amman, killing a British subject. Rana Sabbagh-Gargour, correspondent for The Times of London, also came down on the side of the shark, attributing the attack to “mounting frustration on the streets of the Arab world” over the west’s “perceived bias” on Iraq and Lebanon.

Lebanon? Hey, why not? Reuters laid the August Heathrow bomb plot at the feet of Tony Blair for “refusing to call for an immediate ceasefire” in Lebanon. That’s right, folks. You don’t have to invade anyone, you don’t have to be supporting one side or the other even rhetorically, you don’t have to say a word on the subject. Simply being tardy in issuing a press release demanding a ceasefire is a sufficient “root cause”.

Read the whole thing. Perhaps someone can explain this to me.

October 03, 2006

So much for my future in radio

I can't say my first interview went very well. I missed part of some of Roy Green's questions and detected a strange quaver in my voice. But just as I was starting to warm up they pulled the plug on me for my insufferable lameness. Oh well. But I was surprised by how I was trashed by him and Charles Adler after I was on. I missed part of it, but I heard a comment comparing the list to something a 'seven-year-old' would create. They disputed many of the nominees and accused me of being an attention-seeking nobody. Whoa! That hurts!

Hey, this is just a small blog for me to goof around on. I spend very little time on it or even thinking about it. I've got no aspirations and generally avoid the various tools available for promoting blogs. The nominations for the list were mostly picked my readers, if there's a problem with them, blame them. It's fun that I have a momentary moment of (very minor) fame, but a little frightening too.

This is the internet. Content is ephemeral. Getting offended by a name on the list, or by an omission, is silly. Radio is ephemeral too. I shouldn't let this bug me.

UPDATE: I did much better on AM640. The vodka shots helped, I think.

October 02, 2006

Blast off!

The voting for the Most Annoying Canadian got off to a huge start today, thanks to an early couple of links from Darcey at Dust My Broom and The Shotgun. Daimnation! and Small Dead Animals soon followed, and the traffic through this normally quiet site became immense. I don't think the carpets in the foyer can ever be repaired.

But it doesn't end there. Tomorrow I'll be appearing on Craig Bromell's show on Toronto radio station AM640. No doubt they're shocked that Charles Adler has been accused of being annoying and will try to intimidate me to get me to remove his name. If you want to listen to me try to avoid being tongue-tied in front of an audience of thousands, tune in tomorrow just after the 11:00 news.

UPDATE: I'm also going to be on Roy Green's show on CHML AM900 in Hamilton just past 10:00 this morning. Oh, what am I gonna wear?

Progress in Afghanistan

A new poll suggests that a majority of Canadians now feel Afghanistan is a lost cause. Based on the way conditions there are reported in the news, I'm not surprised. But huge progress has been made in the country over the past five years, and it's worth protecting. Shere Khan at Dust My Broom has collected some information about the changes and a few stories from the Afghans that have benefited. It's useful stuff to remember as the Canadian media starts to drift into the default defeatist mode of their American and British counterparts.

October 01, 2006

Most Annoying Canadian 2006

As promised, the end of September closed the nomination period for the 2006 Most Annoying Canadian competition. Now the voting can begin. Autonomous Source headquarters has worked very hard to choose the twenty-four candidates listed below. They, and the also-rans, were carefully categorized according to a complex process that gave them each ratings on various 'annoying' metrics. Then I picked the ones I liked.

Ben MulroneyDon CherryDavid SuzukiGeorge Stroumboulopoulos
Alexa McDonoughJason KenneyJack LaytonStephen Lewis
Maude BarlowKate McMillanSacha TrudeauBob Rae
Ken DrydenCharles AdlerPhil FontaineBuzz Hargrove
Margaret AtwoodDalton McGuintyHedy FryTed Simonett
Colleen JonesRona AmbroseJoe VolpeBelinda Stronach

Vote for your choice on the sidebar (on the home page). You will be able to vote once per day, and voting will end on December 31st of this year. Please do not make your choices lightly, as the winner will move on to the Worlds, where we have a chance to stage an upset victory over the Americans. We know Canadians are annoying, now is the chance to assert our international dominance.

Smoke gets in your brain

According to Drudge, Al Gore has claimed that smoking is a 'significant' contributor to global warming. It makes perfect sense when you think about it. Umpty-dum people smoke, umm, a bunch of cigarettes every day, and uh, each cigarette releases, umm, a whole bunch of CO2, and uh, you multiply it all together and get... whoa! That's a lot of deadly greenhouse gases!

Problem is, the CO2 being released from those cigarettes was taken out of the atmosphere as the tobacco plants they were made from grew. The net effect on the CO2 concentration in the atmosphere is zero.

This reminds me of the press release Greenpeace made accusing a corporation (of course) of creating a 'carbon time bomb' by... planting trees! Because according to Greenpeace logic, those trees would eventually rot or burn, releasing their poisons to roast us all.

Is it scientific ignorance or an eagerness to exaggerate that creates these stories? I imagine it's a combination of both.