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silly little country

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Home June 2012
June 2012

Go Girl!

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Toronto Parks Dept enforcers go to war annually with prospective Mallard and Canada Goose parents.

And this is why I loved seeing this this morning.

And yes, I do think this is two families; there was another female mallard paddling around nearby. No sign of any male mallards. In the old days, maybe more than about ten years ago, when the city parks people did not make panzer attacks on bird nests, the males seemed a bit more responsible.

I have deeply mixed feelings about the assault on Mallard motherhood that goes on, and even about that on Canada Geese. I understand the problem; waterfront parks just create an insanely happy environment for Canada Geese, who do not return the favor. But are Mallards as bad as the geese?


What the F*() is Wrong with Muslims?

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About an hour ago I went up to assemble laundry in preparation for picking up my wife at the airport in a couple of days.

I noted a couple of women walking dogs, and one pushing a stroller, all attired what I would consider appropriately for the weather, which has me running my air conditioning, which usually gets a day or so a summer, now into its fourth day this year. Which means they are about as close to naked as they are willing to be and they are pretty willing.

Now I imagine if I went down to the main street I would find a few of the Somali immigrants totally covered in black. What is wrong with these people? At least they could be allowed reflective burqas! Why black?!

There is something deeply broken in Islam if people think they have to dress like this on a hot summer day; and worse, back home, they have more of these than we do.

This is a busted philosophy, with no interest in humans, and a weird weird notion of males. The west has done a pretty good job overall of emasculating insane male aggressiveness without requiring women to cover themselves up to the point of a) ludicrous discomfort, and b) total suppression of self-expression.

I have NO sympathy for the stupid religious or cultural rules that ask women to behave in what I consider a stupid way; I still think they should be allowed to do this except for situations like entering a bank or the like. But those are different issues.

But it all makes me wonder. Why are Muslims so stupid?

(yeah yeah I know there have been past strictures on dress from other religions in the past. Show me one other religion that has not become adult.)

Last Updated on Friday, 29 June 2012 15:20

Happy Canada Day, NYC

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One thing my silly little country loves is documenting to citizens of the USA how many of the people lurking among them are actual Canadians, or people born in Canada, or people who think Canada is cute, or something like that. It's an amusing aspect of an inferiority complex small countries culturally dominated by a large neighbor (e.g. my in-law country, Austria) seem to share.

OTOH this can also be fun, and @SusanDelacourt pointed me (well, I would like to consider it so personal, but really all her followers) via Twitter to this:

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I suspect there are some USAian surprises in there and I like the tone. I loved the 'repatriatred Winnipeg Jets'.

I just hope this generates some revenue as my little cash register was counting expenses fast from our Dept. of Foreign Affairs as I watched this. My guess is my personal cost was $0.17, so that's fine for me, but I am not sure about the other 30-odd million Canadians.


Tennis-Oriented Pronunciation Observation about Italian Sports Coverage

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I did watch the French Open women's final on RAI (a fine way to spend an afternoon after an exhausting overseas trip with a connection and a rather weird taxi trip to the hotel.

What astonished me is that the Italian reporters were pronouncing Sharapova's name the way I would expect, with the emphasis on the second syllable. After years by being tortured by anglophone emphasis on the third syllable, I found it incredibly soothing. I suspect the Italians may just have more respect for how her name would be pronounced in her native language.

Last Updated on Friday, 29 June 2012 09:43

The YouTube Cat Suffering from Ennui

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Play it on YouTube and it comes with links to parts 2 and 3. I think part 2 is the best. Huis clos! h/t vX

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My Favorite Take on SCOTUS' Obamacare Ruling

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Well, my favorite so far; I am sure I will keep reading more of them. It's from The Grumpy Economist.

They upheld the mandate as a tax. Swallow hard, free-market friends.

If the Federal government has the power to adjust your taxes based on whether you buy an electric car, cover your roof with solar panels, use 1 btu of petroleum to create 1 btu of corn ethanol, take out a mortgage on your mansion, hire a nanny to take care of your kids, and all the other silly things it does in the tax code, it surely has the power to adjust your taxes based on whether you buy health insurance.

Roberts: "The Constitution permits such a tax, it is not our role to forbid it, or to pass upon its wisdom or fairness."

Yes, the administration didn't call it a tax. But for the court to overturn this whole law,  one of the Administration's proudest accomplishments, based on that technicality would have been petty and political. They did the right thing to look at the big picture.

Cochrane does comment on the economic implications:

As I said before, the mandate was never the weakest part of this law as a matter of economics.  It's the rest of the perfectly constitutional thousands of pages, and the perfectly constitutional thousands more arbitrary regulatory decisions that are the problem. Relying on the court to throw out the bathwater on the basis of the mandate was always a stretch.

We should not rely on the court to determine economic policy or write laws. That's what Congress and Administration are for. If you don't like the health care law, try to find someone of either party with the courage to say just how he or she will repeal and replace, and vote.

This will be healthy for both parties. Defenders can't say how wonderful it would all have been except that the nasty polticized court threw it out. They will have to own Obamacare as it falls apart at the seams. Opponents will have to work to repeal, and explain what they will replace with.

One thing he does not comment on is the Medicaid extension limitation, which may be because  he based his post on news reports only, and it has taken some time for the implications of that part of the ruling to become clearer, and it seems they are very significant. Virginia's A-G has already said that this part of the decision satisfies him, as a major burden on state funding is thereby removed, and shifted to the federal government in the form of exchange subsidies.  These are apparently greater than the costs of Medicaid, so the CBO will have to score the implications of this for increasing the federal deficit (even more!.

Last Updated on Friday, 29 June 2012 09:30

I Wish I were Back in Pavia

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--- in my hotel with TV with NO languages I speak.

But wow would that woman with cleavage be happy and so would all the Italians. And rightly, so far as I can see. There would be hours of discussion and hours of her cleavage.

I quite came to like RAI without even without the hope of subtitles.

Last Updated on Friday, 29 June 2012 08:33

Euro2012 Soccer - Wow - Italy

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I was in Italy when the round-robin started. I have described some of the emotions after first matches draw and then the second (elation and then near-depression).

It is pretty clear Italy has figured out how to score goals (something I think nobody figured they cared about), and to add to that they have no obvious problems figuring out how to defend.

OK - look - if they cannot now beat Spain, well, I conclude nothing; this sport is ludicrous and barely worth watching except for all the emotion, which is why it is worth watching in Italy and now in Toronto.

Last Updated on Thursday, 28 June 2012 16:15

Das Deutschlandlied

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Rondi reviews some national anthems in this entertaining article.

As she points out, the Deutschandlied has an interesting history, and it will still smart to hear it, because of its very triumphant use by Nazi Germany.

But its history is even more interesting, in that it originated in post-Napoleonic Europe, and was more an expression of what might then have been considered revolutionary and liberal aspirations to unite the various German-speaking fiefdoms in one new 'liberal' German state. (Wikipedia is currently pretty good on this; might not be tomorrow.)

von Fallersleben's first verse lyrics were built in a fairly natural way:

In 1841, when the text was written, the German Confederation was not a unified state in the modern sense. It also included a few regions inhabited largely by non-German speakers, but excluded large areas inhabited primarily by German-speakers, like parts of Eastern Prussia. Hoffmann, who in his research had collected German writings and tales, based his definition of Germany on linguistic criteria: he described the approximate area where a majority of German speakers lived at the time, as encountered in his studies. 19th century nationalists generally relied on such linguistic criteria to determine the borders of the nation-states they desired. Thus, the borders mentioned in the first stanza loosely reflected the breadth of territory across which German speakers were spread at the time.

The infamous first verse embodies those borders, and man did the Nazis exploit that, in ways possibly unanticipated by people living almost one hundred years before, in a Europe where wanderings of tribes were still going on.

One of the obstacles to the song's use as the German anthem (once there was a Germany) amuses me as an Austrian-in-law:

The Deutschlandlied could not be adopted as an official national anthem, as its melody was in use as an anthem (Kaiserhymne) by the Austrian Empire until its demise in 1918. On 11 August 1922 President Friedrich Ebert made the Deutschlandlied the official German national anthem, as one element of a complex political negotiation. In essence, the political right was granted the very nationalistic anthem, while the left had its way in the selection of the national colors (the right wanted red, black, and white, the colors of the Bismarckian empire; the left wanted red, black, and gold, the colors of the 19th century liberal revolutionaries). Considering the post-World War II history of the anthem, it is worthwhile noting that Ebert already advocated using only the anthem's third stanza.[5]

Yes skip that border stuff - that will only bug the Woodrow Wilson types!

Mind you the Nazis really liked the first verse! (What 'ueber alles' meant to von Fallersleben is not what I guess we hear now).

Even when re-adopted after WWII there was much controversy about the lyrics, and am impressive tribute to the Verfassungsgericht:

On 7 March 1990, months before reunification, the Constitutional Court declared only the third stanza of Hoffmann von Fallersleben's poem to be protected as a national anthem under criminal law; Section 90a of the Criminal Code (Strafgesetzbuch) makes defamation of the national anthem a crime, but does not specify what the national anthem is.

After reunification:

In November 1991, President Richard von Weizsäcker and Chancellor Helmut Kohl agreed in an exchange of letters to declare the third stanza alone the national anthem of the enlarged republic. On official occasions, Haydn's music is used, and only the third stanza is supposed to be sung. For other uses, all stanzas may be performed. The opening line of the third stanza, Einigkeit und Recht und Freiheit, ("Unity and justice and freedom") is widely considered to be the national motto of Germany, although it was never officially proclaimed as such. It appears on soldiers' belts (replacing the earlier Gott mit uns of the Imperial German Army and the Wehrmacht), was engraved into the rim of former 5-Deutsche Mark coins, and is present on 2-Euro coins minted in Germany.

Of course nobody can stop anyone from singing any verses they want! But for an official anthem it is clear. The ambiguity (to me) of 'ueber alles', and the borderlines embodied in the first verse are gone. BTW Nietzche's great line, mentioned in Wikipedia, works for any interpretation I know of 'ueber alles':

"die blödsinnigste Parole der Welt" ("the stupidest phrase in the world")

I also dislike in a national anthem any suggestion I am supposed to give my life for the country.

The history of the Deutschlandlied and its uses is an interesting mirror of the very troubled history of Germany from the nineteenth century to the present. I wonder how the remaining lyrics inform Germany's difficult decision whether the Euro is worth saving, by some heroic subsidization of weaker economies. In the end it is pretty much my favorite country to visit.

In the end. in a couple of hours, I look forward to hearing the anthems of Germany and Italy.

UPDATE: It is amusing to listen to what Austria ended up with. Some music by Mozart and lyrics that start with:

Land der Berge, Land am Strome (Land of the mountains, lad on the river).

I note in the Wikipedia entry on this song there is a good parody but my favorite starts with 'Land der Zwerge' (Land ofo Dwarves) (my in-laws are all a lot shorter than I am and I still have a Norwegian-heritage thing about elves and trolls). I htink the next line was 'Land am Dome' (Land by the cathedral) which also makes a lot of sense.

Heino sings the whole Deutschlandlied (I love the choice of pictures, especially at the start of the second verse (!!), and I have always loved Heino's voice), especially for the stirring.  THe pictures I find very moving and a great measure of what a great country today's Germany is.

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UPDATE II: This is a Genius video! After Claudia Schiffer as German Womanhod, I love German Loyalty!

Austria's song, not so stirring:

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And a freebie : that great Heino voice on a great German march, Alte Kameraden:

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Last Updated on Thursday, 28 June 2012 11:51

Get Ready for That Broccoli Diet

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Today's US Supreme Court decision characterizing the individual mandate of the 'Affordable' Care Act as a tax, and so upholding it, does seem to me to allow Congress pretty much mandating the consumption of broccoli.

Modify the tax code to impose a, say, $10K tax, with the waiving of that tax if sufficient evidence is provided of the consumption of sufficient broccoli. (I hesitate to contemplate what form that evidence might have to take.)

That is my naive reading of the decision; I will be reading many of the experts to understand this better.

I would not mind being forced by the government to eat broccoli other than on philosophical grounds. I love broccoli (with enough butter and salt).

And as a Canadian, I imagine Parliament could in fact pass just such a law; the Charter of Rights is probably no defence.


TV And Adding Pounds

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I am watching Kim Clijsters on TSN right now (well, they just kicked me over to TSN2, at least until the football actually starts - no need to hear the talking heads). She looks on TV to me to be somewhat beefy (not compared to me).

I had the privilege of walking behind her at one of the Rogers Cup events not so long ago, wondering who that tall slim blonde was, and it was she!

This makes me wonder whether her opponent is an anorexic.

Clijsters was just stunning.

UPDATE: Cliff Drysdale and Chris Evert say she is also the nicest player on the tour. That seems believable to me - I still recall seeing pictures of her playing (no, not playing tennis, just happily jumping around in the several inches of water) in a flood at the Rogers Cup that put a few inches of water onto the court for a while and she seemed so natural. OTOH whether she was nice was not the first thing on my mind when I actually saw her close-up.

Last Updated on Thursday, 28 June 2012 06:48

The Invisible Hand - CBC Surprise

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Today I listened to the first episode of the new CBC Radio show The Invisible Hand. I initially assumed it would be just another formulaic piece of CBC nonsense, but tweets from some of the Worthwhile Canadian Initiative guys suggested it might be OK.

So I listened. And it was more than OK.

Show number 1 was on price gouging, and I think fairly portrayed most aspects of the discussion; particularly it showed that price gouging is one important way to allocate resources to where they are most needed.

Nice job, Invisible Hand guys! I plan to keep trying to listen.


OK I Know Dogs Did Not Evolve in an Environment

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... that made an advantage of recognizing national flags.

But I still laughed.


Nora Ephron, RIP

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Nora Ephron has given me a lot of pleasure in my life, and now that she has left hers, she is still giving me some. One of the short blog obits I read this morning (I apologize for forgetting which) pointed me to her wonderful New Yorker send-up of Stieg Larsson.

This passage was not the only one to make laugh out loud:

But where in Sweden were they? There was no way to know, especially if you’d never been to Sweden. A few chapters ago, for example, an unscrupulous agent from Swedish Intelligence had tailed Blomkvist by taking Stora Essingen and Gröndal into Södermalm, and then driving down Hornsgatan and across Bellmansgatan via Brännkyrkagatan, with a final left onto Tavastgatan. Who cared, but there it was, in black-and-white, taking up space. And now Blomkvist was standing in her doorway. Someone might still be following him—but who? There was no real way to be sure even when you found out, because people’s names were so confusingly similar—Gullberg, Sandberg, and Holmberg; Nieminen and Niedermann; and, worst of all, Jonasson, Mårtensson, Torkelsson, Fredriksson, Svensson, Johansson, Svantesson, Fransson, and Paulsson. 


Canadian Sillyisms

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There is a wonderfully typical and so ludicrous discussion of the role of Toronto in movie history.

Much of it is quite good.

But the deep problem is that at its heart it is an attempt to say that Sarah Polley's "Take This Waltz" is a great tribute to Toronto.

Well, it is about as boring a movie as one could possibly condemn oneself to. It is revealing that as Wente talks about neighborhoods it is the pathetic lefty centre of Toronto he is so impressed by.

He is also really impressed by a totally naked shower scene. I was too. But I will admit that the reason was not that I thought it was somehow a sign of Toronto. What you have is three movie stars and three older extras. They all look great naked. But really, the damned camera lingers on Michelle Williams (she seems to me pretty plain, but effective as an actress, and not from Toronto), Sarah Silverman (to be honest, I find her gorgeous, while an idiot, and not from Toronto), and Jennifer Podemski (who appeared in the best episode of the Telefilm-sponsored soft-porn series 'Bliss', where she was gorgeous and utterly believable as the lust object of the two guys she had sex with, and also not from Toronto). (If you wonder tune in to TeleLatino for likely as few as three nights and you will understand).

So Wente says this was his central Toronto scene. What universe does this guy inhabit? It's the CBC! Certainly no locker room I have been in, even as an active exerciser.

Well, I have never seen that in Toronto! I loved the scene. But ... What makes him think it represents any real part of Toronto not inhabited by filmmakers?

I am re-watching the movie. I think the movie, like Sarah Polley, and likely like all the CBCers, is from the central portion of our city where the lefties suck up the property tax from the outlying parts and justifying spending on their people on Richard Florida grounds. Sick in my view.

I do not have much respect for Polley. She was a good actress (and clearly not good enough to carry a career as such), but 'Away from Her' showed she could not read an Alice Munro story, or maybe just not convince me she had got it right . That movie seemed totally boring,(and utterly how off Munro's great mischief was) and this one just seems useless. Getting mischief right is REALLY hard. Polley strikes out again.

That surname Wente troubles me. Can he be such an idiot? He clearly is. Of course those CBC $ likely help.

UPDATE: I just heard Jian Ghomeishi's interview with Sarah Polley (Got to CBC Radio on and look for 'Q'), and she seems very likeable to me. But almost ten years older than Lena Dunham, she seems a lot younger (perhaps in good AND bad ways - see later post on 'Girls'), though maybe it is just a matter of who is smarter and more reflective. The funniest line was when she described the problem of the characters in 'Take This Waltz' as the problems of a 'long-term relationship'; later it is mentioned these characters have been together all of five (!!!!?) years. Give me a break.  Of course that is how long IMDB says Polley's first marriage lasted.

Last Updated on Wednesday, 27 June 2012 10:00


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LOL! I would never have been able to observe this as I just haven't seen enough of his stuff.

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Now That Turns It Around Nicely

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I barely read the Globe and Mail anymore but Sarah Nicole Prickett almost has me interested again.

I am sure her piece is unfair, but it is not as if Sorkin does not also create unfairness. The Social Contract seemed to reflect a weirdness about Asian girls that has to have been more Sorkin's than Zuckerberg's, who appears to be pretty uxorious with his Asian mate. What is Sorkin's background story? Did some Asian girl suggest he was somehow lacking?

Look. I think Aaron Sorkin is a deeply distasteful human being with a great talent.

OTOH even the talent I wonder about at times. I could never watch 'The West Wing' - just seemed dumb. Lots of people in my social circle thought it was great but that's because they are, like Sorkin, self-congratulating lefties.

I enjoyed both 'The Social Network' and 'Moneyball'. But the former was clearly very misleading about MarkZ and who knows about the latter.

Sorkin writes good set pieces. But he can lose it.

And to be honest it astonishes me the G&M would employ someone who sees his character flaws so clearly.

UPDATE: And it delights me too. Makes me wonder who this Sarah Nicole woman is!

Last Updated on Tuesday, 26 June 2012 15:30

Facebook Wisdom

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What an Excellent Read - A Nay to Richard Florida

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This article just made me giggle so much. My readers know I am no Richard Florida fan (in fact pretty much the opposite).

The University of Toronto has afflicted Toronto with Richard Florida, but I doubt the effects on such a big city will be quite what Madison appears to have suffered.

After all, we have the ultimate in non-creative-class mayor in Rob Ford (good God he is a successful capitalist!) And that is somehow AFTER Florida moved here! His predecessor seemed a perfect Florida acolyte. Let's please never invite him back!

Per­haps one of the most damn­ing stud­ies was in some ways the sim­plest. In 2009 Michele Hoy­man and Chris Far­icy pub­lished a study using Florida’s own data from 1990 to 2004, in which they tried to find a link between the pres­ence of the cre­ative class work­ers and any kind of eco­nomic  growth. “The results were pretty strik­ing,” said Far­icy, who now teaches polit­i­cal sci­ence at Wash­ing­ton State Uni­ver­sity. “The mea­sure­ment of the cre­ative class that Florida uses in his book does not cor­re­late with any known mea­sure of eco­nomic growth and devel­op­ment. Basi­cally, we were able to show that the emperor has no clothes.” Their study also ques­tioned whether the migra­tion of the cre­ative class was hap­pen­ing. “Florida said that cre­ative class presence—bohemians, gays, artists—will draw what we used to call yup­pies in,” says Hoy­man. “We did not find that.”

Snake oil is snake oil and hucksters are hucksters. Even when the University of Toronto blesses them.

And of course simpler theories were always there:

This is partly because much of what Florida was describ­ing was already accounted for by a the­ory that had been well-known in eco­nomic cir­cles for decades, which says that the amount of college-educated peo­ple you have in an area is what dri­ves eco­nomic growth, not the num­ber of artists or immi­grants or gays, most of whom also hap­pen to be col­lege edu­cated. This is known as Human Cap­i­tal the­ory, men­tioned briefly above, and in Hoy­man and Faricy’s analy­sis, it cor­re­lated much more highly with eco­nomic growth than the num­ber of cre­ative class work­ers. “Human cap­i­tal beat the pants off cre­ative cap­i­tal,” Hoy­man said. “So it looks like growth is a human cap­i­tal phenomenon—if you’ve got a lot of edu­cated peo­ple. We’re in a knowl­edge econ­omy, where human cap­i­tal is worth a lot more than just show­ing up for work every day.” In other words, if there was any­thing to the the­ory of the Cre­ative Class, it was the pack­age it came in. Florida just told us we were cre­ative and valu­able, and we wanted to believe it. He sold us to ourselves.

Toronto is surrounded by great universities; I worked in the computer industry in Toronto and it was REALLY easy to hire great talent. No need for creative class nonsense; we got good coders and software designers. And so did many other companies. The creative class guys were hangers-on, contributing not much but making life more diverting. At best. Many of us preferred to stay home and watch TV.

Last Updated on Sunday, 24 June 2012 12:58

More on Meghan Vogel

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I posted on this earlier but it is nice to see further elaboration.

When McMath hit the ground, Vogel decided against running past her and avoiding a last-place finish. She stopped, picked McMath up, put McMath’s arm around her shoulders and half-carried, half-dragged her the last 20 meters.

The stadium erupted at the display of sportsmanship.

“I just told her, ‘Thank you,’ ” McMath said. “I just couldn’t believe she’d done that for me. We’re all in it together as distance runners. Everyone is trying to do their best. It’s a lot harder on your body than a lot of the other races. We just try to help each other.”


This is Totally Insane

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My new camera has SEPARATE settings for taking pictures of a cat and a dog.

Well, of course, shooting me is also different, though I have not got it working.

I recommend not reading this blog and instead adding traffic to Matt Harding's wonderful pages.

Last Updated on Friday, 22 June 2012 15:47

Brian Mulroney on the Parliamentary Channel

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It is SO nice to see that smile again! Was he not at death's door a couple of years ago?

In my view, there have been rather little useful public policy initiatives in Canada in my lifetime. Mulroney was the PM for two of the best ones. He introduced the GST as a replacement for the godawful Manufacturing Sales Tax; this was such a good move that the Liberals never dared retract it despite promises.

And Mulroney shepherded in NAFTA.

Enduring public policy moves are few and far between, and he owns a couple of the biggest. Thanks, Brian!

(Chretien-Martin deserve great credit as well for taming the deficit.)

Last Updated on Thursday, 21 June 2012 17:14

I Am Going to Miss Bob Rae

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He always has seemed to me to be decent, intelligent, and very judicious in his behavior. He was a very unlucky Premier, though he created a lot of that lack of luck by leading the provincial NDP.

I find it hard to disagree with much of what he says in the press conference at the end of this Parliamentary session.

I find it sad to think that he has decided to leave public life (well, at least not run for leadership of the Liberal party).

Well, I still have hopes for the Liberals. Martha Hall Findlay has some guts.


Carolyn Bennett Wants a Memorial to Tecumseh

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Well, given my most recent post, I can only regard that idea as utterly cool!

He definitely freaked out the US Forces way back when. (Though maybe some predator got him.)

Last Updated on Wednesday, 20 June 2012 14:08

200 Years Ago

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 ... North America took its current shape.

My own view is that the War of 1812-1814 was somewhat of a draw. The USA did not remove Britain from North America, but they did gain control of the Ohio Valley and killed off the Indian Confederacy.

I am glad that we have British institutions. I do not think the US ones are so bad, but I rather like my silly little country, in general.

And there is no question that ONE man is more to be credited with this somewhat historical outcome than any other.

Brock used his personal magnetism, active leadership and deft political touch to bring the entire population around to believing a successful defence of Upper Canada was possible. “Most of the people have lost all confidence — I however speak loud and act big,” Brock wrote early in the war.

I am always moved when I drive by the Brock monument on my way to Niagara Falls (a trip I make basically when relatives and friends visit from elsewhere). They will never know what that monument means, but the fact that Barack Obama is not MY President is thanks to Isaac Brock, and I thank him mightily!

The contingencies of history are amazing, and few more than in the crazy war of 1812.

I think this song slightly belittles Brock (I mean, Brock was dead!), but it is quite lovely, and is a wonderful tribute to the team that Brock assembled. And damn, it is so sad that Air Canada killed Stan Rogers.

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I love Rogers' "with your courage and your luck"; luck is SO much of what makes Canada such a delightful silly little country.

Last Updated on Wednesday, 20 June 2012 12:01

Midwesterners Can be SO Cool

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This is a great wedding story, accompanied by an entertaining YouTube video.

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Caleb Pence recalled seeing the wall cloud forming as the service was about to begin. But with tornadoes a routine occurrence, the storm was the least of his worries.

"I had my mind on marrying my now wife," said Caleb Pence.

The spirit of John Wayne lives on!

I love the bride's approach as well:

His bride, a native of northeast Nebraska who had never seen a tornado before, was much less at ease. He said that when he told her what was happening, she responded, "I don't want to hear it right now."'

h/t Voluntary Exchange

Last Updated on Wednesday, 20 June 2012 05:15

Milan Cathedral

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Really it is just insanely beautiful. I am SO happy I decided to be a silly tourist and go to the Piazza del Duomo.

It is not just that the cathedral is beautiful; it is also the case that beautiful people find it so.

Last Updated on Tuesday, 19 June 2012 16:33

McDonald's Breakfast at Linate

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... airport in Milan.

That's a salami-based Panino.  McDonald's knows how to make what you want. They are not as stupid as you are.


Now That's a Caprese Salad!

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In Pavia on Friday I stopped near the beautiful covered bridge for lunch and ordered a Caprese Salad. I am accustomed to getting sliced tomatoes and sliced mozzarella, so was slightly astonished when I got this instead:

That was one serious piece of mozzarella!

And I loved this, as one could see one had a pretty good supply of cheese as part of the salad (when they slice it up they can hide the actual size).

This was a very soft white mozzarella; I loved it. Best Caprese Salad I can recall!

Last Updated on Monday, 18 June 2012 21:17

What I Love When I am in Europe

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So I was sitting finally eating a risotto on the Via Dante in Milan. And a major disturbance erupts; it turns out to be a bunch of Spanish (well, at least claiming to be Spanish) girls wandering down the street and performing. I suspected this might be related to Euro 2012 but never found out.

Later I caught up with them doing a major performance just before entering the Piazza del Duomo. It is not clear from the picture, but what amused me most was the background music, a Spanish translation of 'Achy Breaky Heart'. They did dance nicely to it.

Last Updated on Sunday, 17 June 2012 20:20

Career Opportunities

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I laughed when I saw this guy operating in Milan's Cathedral Square.

He has pigeon employees, who are well paid, and gives his customers utter satisfaction. I was awash in admiration. This actually is innovation in its best sense; he had to invent nothing, merely organize a whole bunch of existing items in a new way.

If you know the Piazza del Duomo, you know the kneeling guy, the entrepreneur, has the magnificent (and oh my is it ever magnificently beautiful) cathedral perfectly in the background.

Some days he probably makes no money (I saw no money change hands but I sure hope it did; the couple had just finished a picture as a couple and she was getting her moment in the limelight on orders from the boyfriend) - there was much customer satisfaction so I hope there was pay. Controlling those pigeons is no mean feat. And controlling the people feeling nervous with pigeons on their hands is also interesting. Today was amazing - beautiful, warm, sunny, so I imagine he and his pigeons did well. I hope so.

But it did get to me in an interesting way. I recall being a big Clash fan. Having watched this, I doubt I will ever regard their song 'Career Opportunities', which I once thought quite smart, as other than an entitled whine, and actually, one that it is astonishing to think these guys could spew without utter cynicism, as they evidently did find career opportunities in perhaps unexpected places.

Well of course their opportunity was to suggest nobody had any - great market for that.

I prefer the pigeon-bringing photographer.

But still here's the Clash, full of entitlement and 70s-80s dimwittedness (I shared it with them at the time, not having bothered to think it through - maybe they have now too):

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Last Updated on Saturday, 16 June 2012 13:28

The Guidos!

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The shuttle bus driver at the hotel I have been at, Fabio, is a very conscientious and careful defensive driver, and extremely responsible .

But he can get frustrated. On Friday he was driving me and a few others into Pavia from our hotel, and kept encountering appallingly bad and stupid behavior from other drivers. I had a few trips during the week and had not seen anything quite like it. In fact, in general, it struck me that drivers were quite good (one should, I suppose, consult accident rate data), though this morning someone had let a few of the exceptions out of their cages.

As we drove from the Castello to the Rail Station, Fabio encountered at least three more cases where he had to yield to idiocy (and this is roughly a mile or so).

In one of the best moments of the week, he finally erupted as we were driving into the Rail Station Parking Lot, "Guido! Italia! Italia!"

I know I'm not supposed to say that but it was fun watching Fabio do it.


The View From My Hotel Window This Morning

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This is what it looked like. That green stuff in the back is rice.

In fact the hotel is an island in a near sea of rice. I have not seen so much rice since 1997 in China. And for all that all I had this week was a spoonful of risotto, until I ordered a Risotto alla Milanese in Milan today.

I really enjoyed it. I suspect my next cooking project is trying to figure out how to make a risotto with just that nice texture.

My apparent enjoyment of the meal was so great that four French people at the next table ordered a plate to share (the right thing to do given the portions, as they had already split some other good-looking dish).

I cannot recall eating so well over a week on any previous trip. Lombardy is amazing.

Last Updated on Sunday, 17 June 2012 00:56

Watching Euro 2012 on RAI - When is a Draw not a Draw?

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I`ve been in Italy since the second day of Euro 2012, and the hotel TV offers only Italian stations. This offers some great entertainment (I have seen episodes of `Police Woman`and `Nash Bridges`), but little greater than the coverage of Euro 2012. Many participants in the meetings have been unhappy that the hotel is in the middle of nowhere, but the fact that the evening television is filled with Euro 2012 mitigates that for me.

Coverage of soccer in Canada is rather dispassionate in general, so it is interesting seeing it in a country that takes outcomes to heart. I was particularly amused by the obvious reactions (though I understand almost nothing of the words, the emotions are pretty clear).

After the draw with Spain, the nation was ecstatic. I was initially a bit baffled - after all, the President of the country visited the locker room to congratulate the team. I cannot imagine the President of the United States visiting the locker room of a team that just managedd a tie. I learned in due course that the expectations for the team were very low going into the tournament. And I did know that Spain is regarded perhaps as the best national team in the world right now. But still, a draw.

Then Italy draws with Croatia, a rather different matter, and the nation is in near mourning. No Presidential visit! The great fear is a Spain-Croatia draw in the next round, which would make it difficult for Italy to advance to the playoffs. They`d have to win by a lot of goals, and their style has never been other than mostly defensive; on the other hand, the opponents are Ireland, so maybe ...

My favorite parts of the coverage are the discussions with the panel of experts, presided over by a bottle-blonde buxom woman. Our sports channels also feature attractive young women, but they tend to the demure. No need for that in Italy!

Last Updated on Thursday, 21 June 2012 19:33

He Could Be President

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h/t PowerLine

Like Hinderaker, I am no general fan of Peggy Noonan, but sometimes she just puts it so perfectly, as she does here, describing Obama, and his furious campaigning and apparent non-governing.

And where is the president in all this? On his way to Anna Wintour's house. He's busy. He's running for president.

But why? He could be president now if he wanted to be.

Yeah, if he wanted to be.

I love her following reflection on Clinton, a guy who really was a good politician, and whose contributions to the Obama campaign are at best odd now:

It just all increasingly looks like a house of cards. Bill Clinton—that ol' hound dog, that gifted pol who truly loves politics, who always loved figuring out exactly where the people were and then going to exactly that spot and claiming it—Bill Clinton is showing all the signs of someone who is, let us say, essentially unimpressed by the incumbent. He defended Mitt Romney as a businessman—"a sterling record"—said he doesn't like personal attacks in politics, then fulsomely supported the president, and then said that the Bush tax cuts should be extended.

His friends say he can't help himself, that he's getting old and a little more compulsively loquacious. Maybe. But maybe Bubba's looking at the president and seeing what far more than half of Washington sees: a man who is limited, who thinks himself clever, and who doesn't know that clever right now won't cut it.

Because Bill Clinton loves politics, he hates losers. Maybe he just can't resist sticking it to them a little, when he gets a chance.

I suspect Noonan may actually have been using 'fulsomely' correctly above. Let's have a Mitt-Hillary race!

Oh and as for clever, thinking yourself clever is not being clever.


I Love the Internets

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A great part of it is small pets being cute.

This little pig is amazing, especially on its last, not so tentative, step, the leap into the food bowl.

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