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Home December 2011
December 2011

Who is/was Cheetah?

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The skepticism mounts:

News of his death captured the fancy of a nation during the slow news cycle of the holidays. Tarzan fans grieved. So did primate fans.

His death also gained the attention of people who think they know an old carnival ruse when they see it.

Certainly, the odds that this was the real Cheetah — or at least one of the dozen or more chimps that appeared in the movies — weren’t good.


Dueling Church Signs

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This is a great battle.

It opens with this:


Follow the link to see the battle unfold. This atheist also gives the win to Our Lady of Martyrs.

h/t vX

Last Updated on Sunday, 01 January 2012 04:19

Interview with Wallis Giunta

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I raved about her somewhat in an OA production of Figaro in which she played Cherubino, so I jumped at the chance to watch this interview. The interview is delightful (she sang after hours at Roy Thomson Hall whe she worked there in the music store!), I really look forward to see her perform again.

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Wacky Brilliance

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OK I got drawn in!

h/t Jose M. Guardia, you can see if it draws you in here.


Those Damned Xenophobic Jingoist Americans

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...are erecting a War of 1812 monument which will honor the enemy soldiers!

Sackets Harbor Battlefield Alliance, a historical preservation society, and the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation plan to erect a monument commemorating Crown soldiers who died on U.S. soil during an attempt to destroy ships and supplies at the military base across Lake Ontario from Kingston, where the British naval fleet was stationed.

In the Battle of Sackets Harbor, which took place May 29 1813, nearly 45 British and Canadian soldiers were among the dead. It’s believed they were hastily buried by American troops in an unknown location.

“Much of the war is forgotten, including the troops buried there,” said Schofield, a volunteer trustee of the Sackets Harbor Battlefield Alliance who has been helping to plan the memorial.

Schofield said it’s important for Americans to remember Canadian troops during the bicentennial celebrations.


A Prospective Juror's Rant

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A recent jury panelist (not selected as a juror) has some comments; he has noted that efficiency of the process of juror selection appears not to be a high priority.

This, in the 21st century, is one of the rituals of picking a jury in Canada. Critics charge antiquated jury processes are costing the GTA economy millions of dollars in lost production, but that there is no financial incentive for the provincial government to fix the system.

Gordon Wolfe, 40, experienced the frustrations first-hand, sitting around for six hours as court staff drew cards to randomly divide members of his jury panel into groups of 25 — “a very simple task that could have been done by a computer in less than a second.”

I underwent this exact process as part of my selection to a jury, and though I come from the computer industry, this thought of having a computer do the selection never crossed my mind. For one thing, I know enough about software to have no great faith in random number generators, but the real point is that computer selection would undermine much of what appeared to me the value of the process.

As this selection of sub-panels proceeds, each juror called walks to the front of the court, and it was clear both lawyers pay a lot of attention to that simple walk. Typically there is a short interchange with the judge about the candidate's career, also closely observed by the lawyers. And the panelists  all stand waiting at the front of the court, offering further study by the lawyers. This all seemed to me a potentially valuable contribution to fairness.

Judges tell friends summoned for jury duty to bring a good book and say there are many reasons for delays.

On long trials, at least half the jury panel is likely to ask to be excused on grounds of hardship, usually because they have medical conditions, sick relatives to care for or they stand to be ruined financially because their employers won’t pay them during the trial.

The prosecution and defence can also challenge and reject jurors, notes Brendan Crawley, a spokesperson for the Ministry of the Attorney General.

That adds to the time needed to pick a jury, but it’s entrenched in the trial process by law, much like shaking cards around in a box and drawing names — a process that grew out of a belief that an accused person will be better equipped to assess prospective jurors in smaller groups.

The thing that stood out to me in my recent experience this time, compared to a previous time on a panel. was the very large number of people excused right up front. There does seem quite an effort to accommodate those confronting a serious hardship.


RIP Cheetah

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Oddly, Cheetah came up in discussions on the weekend. Hardly seems to fit the Christmas theme.
h/t @iowahawkblog on Twitter.
Last Updated on Saturday, 31 December 2011 17:28

Ashbridge's Bay, December 27, 2011

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A new mammalian sighting! Well, not totally new, as a few weeks ago, I was sure a saw a little canine head pop up over the crest of one of the small hills in the park, only to vanish out of sight as I looked over at it. This is not the behavior of one of the standard dogs getting a morning walk, and it was clear to me I had seen a fox. My walking companion scoffed.

This morning I was vindicated! As we drove in to the parking lot, there was a little fox lying in the grass, quite oblivious to me as I stopped the car and took some pictures.

The rest of the fauna was the standard winter fare - lots of oldsquaws, though I saw no buffleheads, nor the mergansers we saw last week.

Construction on the mooring dock continues, though I have not managed to observe any progress in the last weeks.


O Tanenbaum

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This one's a bit of a hybrid. Check out the pinnacle.


We're Not in Toronto Anymore, Toto

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The view from teh window on Christmas morning. No, this is decidedly not Toronto 2011.


An African Coments on Band-Aid

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h/t Tim Worstall

Gundane said he hoped that his involvement with the song would turn him into an expert on British politics and economics in the same way ‘Do they know it’s Christmas’ had turned Geldof and Bono into the world’s leading experts on Africa.

Now that IS an excellent Christmas message.



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Unfortunately, I cannot think of a Christmas connection.

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James Garner - Memoirs and Tribute Site

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I posted recently on The Rockford Files, having learned they are on NetFlix. I find now that there here are some nice reminiscences of James Garner and with that The Rockford Files on The Volokh Conspiracy and Big Hollywood..

All nice memories, but the key things are a) his book The Garner Files, and b) his daughter Gig's tribute site.
Last Updated on Friday, 23 December 2011 13:11

Occupy the Tire Tracks!

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From a few days ago - some ice in the construction tire tracks at Ashbridge's Bay.

This is the closest we have seen in a while to a White Christmas, without much more likelihood.


Michael Ramirez on the Self-Styled Fourth-Greatest

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h/t IBD


xkcd Marks the Season

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Opening the doors fast enough would become difficult! The author himself is concerned about how fast one can eat the chocloates.


One Communist's New Year's Resolutions

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Nicely pointed out by Lee Stanahan.

Keep clean. Save money. Work hard. Take care of your kids. Love your parents. Help the country win the war.

As Lee points out this does not sound much like an Occupy protestor.

Last Updated on Thursday, 22 December 2011 14:01

One Atheist's Christmas

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It's Pat Condell's, and I must say he expresses exactly how I feel about the issues he addresses.

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I'd even agree with him about the deadweight loss of social psychologists.


Another Enemy of Totalitarianism Leaves Us - Vaclav Havel

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Reports the BBC,

It was a bit of a thrill when in Prague on an organized tour to be taken to the balcony from which he and Dubcek addressed the crowd gathered in Wenceslas Square; truly a great moment in history.


Dammit - I Do Not Think We Will Replace This

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What a sad dqy.

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Christopher at his Stunning Best

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h/t !InklessPW

What a great essay on Lincoln! Where did this guy come from? We will SO miss him.

It has lately become fashionable to say that Lincoln was not, or was not “really,” a believer in black-white equality. A thread that runs consistently through Burlingame’s narrative is that of self-education on this question, to the eventual point where Lincoln came as close to an egalitarian position as made almost no difference. Even the infamous discussion about the postwar expatriation of black Americans to “colonies” in Africa or on the American isthmus was conducted, by Burlingame’s account, with very strict regard on Lincoln’s side for the dignity and stature of those whose fate he was discussing. And it goes almost without saying that he had already had every opportunity to see that there was nothing very “superior” about the color white. By the end, Frederick Douglass—who had often criticized him—was able to say that Lincoln was “emphatically the black man’s President.” And Burlingame’s survey of the life and opinions of the “mad racist” John Wilkes Booth makes it equally plain that the white supremacists felt the same way. Still, even this is to understate the universalist intransigence with which Lincoln never conceded an inch of American ground, and with which he quarreled with his generals, including McClellan, for referring to the North as “our soil,” when every state was still, always, and invariably to be considered a part of the Union.

I am not sure about how 'lately' this is. My high school teacher (who back in the days actually tried to teach history, not politically correct slop) was of the Lincoln skeptics. I wonder if Lincoln even comes up in so-called history class today.



Peter on his Brother

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Just an utterly great little essay, as I expect of Englishmen.

He would always rather fight than give way, not for its own sake but because it came naturally to him. Like me, he was small for his age during his entire childhood and I have another memory of him, white-faced, slight and thin as we all were in those more austere times, furious, standing up to some bully or other in the playground of a school we attended at the same time.

This explains plenty. I offer it because the word ‘courage’ is often misused today. People sometimes tell me that I have been ‘courageous’ to say something moderately controversial in a public place. Not a bit of it. This is not courage. Courage is deliberately taking a known risk, sometimes physical, sometimes to your livelihood, because you think it is too important not to.

My brother possessed this virtue to the very end, and if I often disagreed with the purposes for which he used it, I never doubted the quality or ceased to admire it. I’ve mentioned here before C.S.Lewis’s statement that courage is the supreme virtue, making all the others possible. It should be praised and celebrated, and is the thing I‘d most wish to remember.

We have lost so much.


Great Hitchens Moments

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The self-celebrating fans of the hideous Bill Maher (of anti-vaccination fame) took this one, which I love:

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The joke that stupid people laugh at. Too good. How can he be replaced?


Wonderfully wacky!

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And this is a surprise!? I am amazed over 40% of Canadians have a positive view of Islam.

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How could anyone have a positive view of Islam? By the way, Islam is not a race, nor an ethnicity. It is one of the many world stupid religions. It is just a lot more stupid in its current extreme practice than many others, in my view. Give it a few hundred more years and it may become as toothless and therefore attractive as Christianity. But it ain't there yet.

Note by the way that this report shows Canadians are pretty open to 'diversity' but that they expect the reciprocal from the diverse,which is precisely what essentially all the non-Islamic immigrant groups have played by.

Last Updated on Friday, 16 December 2011 06:52


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I will surely miss him, his essays, and his presence. The world became a little bit smaller all at once.

By far the best obituary I have seen is Christopher Buckley's.

David Frum's is also quite good.

Last Updated on Friday, 16 December 2011 09:08

Some Sequels Sure Look Promising

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I fear this may come down for copyright violation (it seems to me it is likely one) but it sure is fun:

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The actual movie in play here ("Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy" looks promising - LeCarre before he became an utter crank in my view).


What an Amazing Shakedown!

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An almost incredible story.

What an ugly bunch (a combination of a so-called scientist, what looks to me like a crooked (and stupidly arrogant) lawyer, and an ugly Latin American national judicial system). And how did Anne Maest ever get re-appointed to the National Academy of Sciences? Well, as Feynman said on his refusal to be part of NAS, it's just a bunch of people appointing themselves to be in the club.

Chevron also has a nice summary of all this on its web site.

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THese guys sem to have the ethics of the consensus climate scientists.


An Entertaining Discussion of Europe

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Daniel Hannan finds a cute initialism (the best since Palin noted the initials of Winning the Future) in Europe's flailing last week.

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He also explains succinctly why Cameron made the sensible decision he made.

h/t John Roskam's newsletter


National Pride - First Country Honestly Out of Kyoto!

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It is great to stop being an utter hypocrite; and Canada did that yesterday on one front when it announced it had no further interest in the Kyoto Protocol, one of the great jokes of our time. Reports are that we are the first to leave - how does this square with the US Senate utter rejection of the agreement - I guess they were never in, despite St. Al Gore.

Walter Russell Mead dissects the fundamental stupidity of the agreement, encapsulated nicely in one small point.

The left leaning Guardian newspaper in Britain let the cat out of the bag yesterday, reporting that while the EU’s emission of CO2 declined by 17% between 1990 and 2010, this apparent progress was bogus.  If you add up the CO2 released by the goods and services Europeans consumed, as opposed to the CO2 thrown off by the goods and services they produced, the EU was responsible for 40% more CO2 in 2010 than in 1990. The EU, as the Guardian puts it, has been outsourcing pollution — and jobs — rather than cutting back on greenhouse gasses.

Only a dimwit or utter hypocrite would cleave to a treaty with such incentives. But good heavens we have a lot of dimwits and hypocrites around wanting to bathe themselves in moral glory, despite the utter fecklessness of it all.

It i nice to have a government finally in this country that can shed one by one the most disgraceful shibboleths of our time, of which Kyoto was a significant one. A useless burden is gone and now we can get serious about climate change, such as it is.

h/t Donna LaFramboise

Maybe it is time to approach this like adults and not Occupy protesters.

Last Updated on Thursday, 15 December 2011 11:03

The Magnificent Stupidity of Governments

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I almost laughed almost all the way through this blog post.

One small lesson:

Don’t forget, this is what all of those locavores want us all to be doing. Making sure that we only eat food produced locally, none of this buying stuff on the international markets. And this is also what happens when such policies are followed, food is gargantually expensive and we get shortages. Actual real physical shortages.

But my reluctance to laugh is that we are actually having some difficulties dissolving the stupidity of the Canadian Wheat Board, which monopolizes Western Canadian grain sales at the moment. and our government appears to tremble before the idea of getting rid of the ridiculous supply management systems in place for milk and eggs. These are profound and idiotic distortions of what might have been a market for milk, eggs, and grain.

There was a market failure once, maybe. What we have now is a perpetual guaranteed government failure.

That's way worse.

Somehow my own image of Norway (despite having been there) features dairy farmers in the mountains and hence no chance of shortage. But they too have a government so a shortage can surely be created. Hey! Look at Venezuela!

Last Updated on Thursday, 15 December 2011 11:03

The War of 1812

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I guess with 2012 approaching I should expect the Canadian twitterverse to start War-of-1812-ing, and they are!

Much as I am an Americophile, I am pleased that the British at that time were able to turn back the American invasions; I do not particularly regard the British as winning, as the killing of Tecumseh (not far from my wife's home) pretty much wrapped up the fate of the Ohio Valley and Michigan, but the British at least achieved the preservation of Ontario and Quebec. And I am today a delighted resident of Ontario, despite its current idiot premier and his asinine greenness.

When one drives down to Niagara (which I do only with foreign visitors in need of tourism) it is almost impossible to miss the Brock monument.

All of which leads me to the great Stan Rogers and his wonderful song about the seconds-in-command who might have to win the battle without recognition. This is not meant in any way to diminish Isaac Brock, who undoubtedly was key to saving the dependence of Ontario on the Brits way back then.

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Last Updated on Thursday, 15 December 2011 11:02

Dan Gardner on the Veil

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As Dan so often is, he is very sensible here.

A woman who consistently wears a veil in public is cut off from the people around her. She has no identity. Her ability to communicate and emotionally connect with others is severely restricted. Instinctively, people feel distant from her, and won’t trust her, not because they are bigots but because their automatic face-seeking and face-reading is stymied. How can they fully connect with a person who is present but they cannot see?

That is the purpose of veils, after all. They are barriers. They are intended to separate the person behind from those in front. Whether a woman wears a veil voluntarily or not, the effect is the same.

I am still seeing many things through the recent experience of serving as a juror. It DID in fact make a difference to be able to look at the witnesses and lawyers, at their faces, and masked witnesses would truly have compromised the whole effort.


A Very Nice Harper Reminiscence

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In this short article about one of his childhood influences.

"He was very bright. He didn't get along terribly well with the other staff because he had sort of an eastern attitude. He gradually used to come home for a meal to the house and argue with Mary about everything, such as Lennon and McCartney and the Beatles."

"Because he liked Lennon best and I liked McCartney," Mary said.

Mary also could see Harper was dealing with family issues. "He was very self-absorbed," she said. "I would say he's absorbed by two things. One is himself and the other is: Am I doing the right thing? Am I doing the thing that I should be doing?"

Harper's doubts were about his path, but not about his ability to get things done. He always had self-belief. "Because he sincerely believes he has something to contribute to people, to the country," Frank said. "He wanted to do the right thing, and I think he still wants to do the right thing."

He was too Eastern!

h/t @TondaMacC on Twitter


Can Men and Women Be Just Friends?

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Hilarious. h/t Norm

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Comments on Jury Duty

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Well, it's over. Canadan law forbids revealing anything about the deliberations (rather the opposite of the content of Sunday night's episode of 'The Good Wife')

But nobody said I cannot say what I will say.

Retired now, I minded a lot less than last time it happened I was called for jury duty. Still, my initial reaction was generally negative. I was astonished when I was selected for the jury I was initially called for; at best one in four were being selected.

In the end I am utterly delighted to have had the experience, in a lot of ways. One of the simplest is that I live mostly alone, and often spend a day without seeing anyone else. Through the period of this trial I was guaranteed of spending most of my day with about a dozen other people, all delightful and entertaining. Obviously we were all also under a common pressure. So we did wind up being closer than a dozen strangers would be normally, though names were only occasionally exchanged, and I in fact knew most of the jurors as Juror #X. X=11 for me!

I came out of this utterly impressed at our justice system.

The care to make sure the process of our selection was fair amazed me. Random draws, ample opportunities for lawyers to reject us, etc. The care to make sure there was no jury contamination - the constable assigned to us made sure we were not exposed to participants in the trial during the trial, and the small army of constables who guarded us in our deliberations were amazing. Actually, the constable job looks like a hell of a nice retirement job - interesting, social, and important.

In our case, the jury was treated really well by staff and by the judge and by the advocates. This seemed to me utterly right.

A couple of days ago I talked to my wife on the phone and I said that it would not matter what verdict we produced - I would be heartsick at the end. And I am. And I am pretty sure from the discussion we kept having even after essentially making our decisions that every member of the jury had the same struggle. We found it hard to let go.

It's what I said before. I will never laugh at or have contempt for the OJ jury or its like again.

If you get called - don't duck it, do it. It is one hell of an education.


Last Updated on Tuesday, 13 December 2011 19:31

Holy Cow!

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I have cavilled recently whether Michael Buble did this song well. My view is NO.

He was OK if not getting it at all.

But man does Parton (one of the few Nashville geniuses) get it!

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