April 26, 2006

Other: Sporadic Absence

Off to Scotland tomorrow for a month, so updates are going to be occasional and superficial for that time. Amuse yourselves as needs be. If your needs need help being, try these:

Discards on the Information Highway;

The Whirling Dervishes of the Skeptics' Circle are back at it with number 33(!) here;

And would someone PLEASE tell Prime Minister Plastic Man to stop reading the White Houses cue cards? Get some sound bites of your own, Steve!

And if all else fails, and you just HAVE to kill a months worth of spare time, this will do it.

(I'll try to put in a more direct link to the Circle later in the week, if I'm near a computer. You can always use the button on your right and get the schedule.)

***

One last note: As I worked my last day, one lovely co-worker presented me with an apron with the words

HONORABLE
DISH-PIG


written on it. She made it herself last night, and I am so totally chuffed about it that my Peter Pan Syndrome seems to be coming back. (Dude! "Totally chuffed"? How old am I again?)

The vacation's coming at the right time, I see.

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posted by Thursday at 12:46 am 3 comments

April 25, 2006

Other: My Favorite Racist Joke

In the spirit of math, philosophy and science jokes, I present my current favorite racist joke!

Q: How many WASPs does it take to change a light bulb?
A: One.

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posted by Thursday at 12:53 am 0 comments

April 22, 2006

Religion: The Evolutionists Greatest Nightmare Is...

Potassium?

According to this very, very important video, bananas are the crippling arguement against evolution. Kirk Cameron and his lovely assistant explain just how anti-intellectual evolution is.

It's a fantasticly inaccurate rendition of what science is, what evolution is, and a rewording of the incredibly tired "watchmaker" arguement. Here's the crux of their banana "proof":

Bananas fit a human hand perfectly. The peel is an easy-to-grip surface, there is an outward indicator of its preparedness to eat (green, yellow, or brown), it has a handy "tab" on top for opening, and (here's the kicker) "it's pointed at the tip for ease of entry; just the right shape for the human mouth ... and curved toward the face to make the whole process so much easier."

Hallelujah! Can I get an A-MEN?

Even beyond that, they use the usual "what about the eye, then?" arguement, but then things get really silly: they point out that (for instance) a building is proof of a builder, so everything else must be as well.

No, really.

You can watch the rest of the video for a bit of a chuckle if you want, but the legalese "debate" with a self-professed athiest on the street is painful - the person they chose clearly hadn't bothered considering his spirituality at all, and a bit of spurious logic ("You don't know everything, so how can you know there is no God? Ha ha!") is too much for his mind to handle.

Allow me to perform three simple rebuts:

Point 1) The banana is shaped perfectly for human consumption.

Reply: Which is why humans consume them. The sample banana he uses has been specially selected (Intelligently Chosen?) as the kind that has the best market appeal in shape and colour, so that's what ends up on our market shelves. There are other types of banana which do NOT have the design, colour or flavour of the ones he has in hand. Why does he not discuss those? Also, can this statement be used when describing, say, a kumquat? Or pistachios? Or edible grubs? Or nori? And it does make me wonder why they didn't mention the first creature people think of when they think of bananas. You'd almost think they were afraid of something...

Point 2) Eyeballs are astoundingly complex.

Reply: SO IS EVERYTHING ELSE! The existence of an eye is no more amazing than the existence of a fingernail, and frankly isn't as imressive as wheat seeds that can be sealed away in clay jars, lost for 500 years, and still be viable when planted. Within that simple seed is the mechanism to create a full grown plant, and from there more plants that will grow whether humans notice or not. There are bacteria that can actually borrow traits from other nearby bacteria, and do it so quickly that within hours there will have evolved completely new and different strains whether humans notice or not. There are spiders whose toxin is so astoundingly poisonous that they could kill a human, but whose jaws are so tiny, they could never bite one.

Life, all life, goes with what works - period. There is no need for a tiny spider to have such potent venom, but it works, so the spider continues. Humans would be better off with night vision as good as the average house cat, or a sense of smell as good as my dog, but we haven't needed those traits, so they didn't develop.

Point 3) A building has to be built by "an intelligence", so everything else must, too.

Reply: I'll type slowly so you can follow along: there is a difference between organic and inorganic things, okay? Bricks, cement and I-beams are inorganic, and not alive; humans, sunflowers and finches are organic and thus alive. [Correction - see below] Organic things will develop traits over time that help them survive whatever factors are acting upon them in their enviroment; inorganic things don't. That there are Innuit in the arctic does not mean that the arctic was built for them, but rather they evolved to match their enviroment. Just ask the penguins living (and thriving) at Wayne Newton's mansion in Las Vegas if they would rather be there or back by the south pole.

Added Bonus Point) You don't know everything in the universe, so you don't know there isn't a God, ergo there is a God (and He's Christian).

Reply: You must be frikin' joking me. That also "proves" that purple dragons are at the centre of black holes (since I don't know everything about black holes), a giant pickle rules the seas (since I don't know everything about either pickles or seas), and if anyone ever manages to count all the stars the universe will come to an end (since I don't know everything about the end of the universe).

Maybe you all should get back to me once you've figured out what burden of proof means, okay?

I'll be waiting.

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posted by Thursday at 4:39 pm 19 comments

April 20, 2006

Hockey: The Wars Out West

Where’s the Wild West going to go? Best guesses:


DETROIT vs EDMONTON

These are two teams who were massively affected by the new CBA, with Detroit having to cut their budget in half and Edmonton actually making noise with free agents.
Offense: The league has done what the coaches and GMs have been hesitant to do: give the youth they have more ice time. It’s worked, though you have a “dead space” in player ages in their scoring, with scorers being 28 or younger or 35+. They have 7 forwards with 20 or more goals, and two of the best shut-down men in the league. Edmonton, on the other hand, is relying on a young, high-energy crop of forwards with all the swings inexperience brings. They have a solid shut-down guy themselves in Peca. Detroit has more scoring and more experience.
Defense: Detroit has had lots of scoring from their defense for years, and it’s showing. Lidstrom led the league again in points while remaining rock-solid defensively, and Schneider had his second 20-goal season, his last one coming 11 years ago. Edmonton has the perhaps the off season’s biggest free agent signing anchoring their blue line (Pronger), and also has a fantastic young D Bergeron. Detroit wins this match up.
Goaltending: The supposed weak point on both teams, Roloson has the best numbers for Edmonton, and Legace will start for Detroit. Legace never faces that many shots, but he’s there when required as his 7 shut outs and .915 save percentage show. Detroit.
Injuries: Detroit has adjusted to the loss of their fine defenseman Fischer, and will have Datsyuk sitting for the first game. Edmonton, of course, has never had any injuries… EVER! Now stop asking!
Special Teams: Detroit has a league-best 22.1% power play and 85.5% penalty kill. Edmonton has a 18.1% power play and 84.1% kill. Detroit wins here.
Anything Else: The biggest wild card is Yzerman. He is warming up at just the right time, and the man is made of iron come the playoffs. The wrong Red Wing got the Conn Smythe award in 2002 – without Yzerman, Detroit wouldn’t have gotten out of the first round. Smyth has that role for Edmonton, and he’s earned it.
Verdict: The Wings are a favorite to take the Cup this year, and this match up isn’t going to change that. Edmonton may get to where Detroit is right now, but not yet.

DALLAS vs COLORADO

Dallas is yet another team that was supposed to take a hit with the new CBA, losing a massive amount of experience to unprepared youth. Didn’t work out that way…
Offense: Stop me if you’ve heard this before: Modano led the Stars in scoring this year. It was a nice return to form after the horrible aberration that was last season. Arnott finally lived up to his rookie season promise, and secondary scoring filled out nicely. Guerin had an awful year, and will try to make up for it now. Colorado is following the immortal Joe Sakic, and got great seasons out of supposed spare parts Brunette, Laperriere, and Turgeon. They will miss Svatos’ 32 goals and Konowalchuk’s playoff grit. Missing Svatos, the Avs lose to Dallas here.
Defense: Zubov had the second best year of his 13 year career, and Boucher doubled his previous best in goals to 16 this season. Most of the rest are shut-down men, and solid ones at that. With the Avalanche, Blake is once again going to get the first call in every situation, but he can be spelled offensively by the speedy and accurate Liles. Dallas wins the match up.
Goaltending: The “We Have Faith In Aebischer” line held until March, when he got shipped off for the injured Theodore. Budaj was… okay in relief until Theodore got healthy, but they don’t see him a anything more than a back up. Turco had his stats inflated with shaky months in October and February, but otherwise has been solid. He is having the worst season of his career, but that means a 2.55 goals against average and 41 wins. Advantage Dallas.
Injuries: Dallas had two important defensemen sit out the last game of the season (Boucher and Mitchell), but they will be in the line up on Saturday. Colorado is missing three major players in Konowalchuk, Vaananen and Svatos.
Special Teams: The Avs went 18.8% on the power play and 84.6% PK, while the Stars rated a 17.7% power play and 83.7 penalty kill. What was a clear advantage to Colorado becomes a lot closer without Svatos’ 22 power play points.
Anything Else: Special teams could tell the tale here, and Colorado is hoping they do. This is the first time in a while that they’re starting a playoff series as clear underdogs.
Verdict: Dallas.

CALGARY vs ANAHEIM

Anaheim has one of the best minds in the business with Brian Burke as GM, and it shows. On the other side, no one makes a team work harder than coach/GM Darryl Sutter.
Offense: The Flames’ leading scorer finished 51st in the league, and they only managed to get six forwards to 10 or more goals, and only three managed 20. They are fast and tough, but the finish just isn’t there. A reborn Selanne, skating without pain for the first time in years, leads a surprising Ducks offense with 40 goals, followed by McDonald’s 34 which is four more than his previous best season points total. Youth and speed make up the bulk of the team, but the anchors are still the veterans. Anaheim in a walk.
Defense: The other biggest off season signing was by the Ducks, getting Scott Niedermayer. Burke believes in building his teams around a stud defenseman, and Niedermayer is it. After him comes the trade for Fedorov, Beauchemin, and it looks more and more like Burke knows what he’s doing. O’Donnell is a rock solid shut down man. The Flames defensive corps is in the top three of the league, and their best is the amazing rookie Phaneuf, whose 20 goals are the third highest of any rookie defenseman in NHL history. A slew of current and former Olympians follow, including point man Hamrlik. Calgary.
Goaltending: There is a reason why Calgary can have a horrendous goals for and still be their division champions, and his name is Kiprusoff. He steals games with alarming regularity for the Flames, and his 10 shutouts tops the league. Actual quote: “I’m disappointed. Any time your team scores two goals, you should win.” Giguere has been solid all year long, and doesn’t have the pressure to be perfect that his opponent does. If only Kiprusoff would notice… Calgary.
Injuries: Anaheim is only missing defensive forward Fedoruk, and then only temporarily. Calgary has Warrener missing from their defense, but he’ll also be back soon.
Special Teams: Calgary had an 18.2% power play and 84.3% penalty kill, while Anaheim managed 18.1% on the power play with an 83.5% penalty kill. Even.
Anything Else: Calgary hits first, and asks questions (“Which way to the goal?”) later. They grind teams down with a fast, relentless fore check and mean defense. The longer a series goes on, the worse off their opponents will feel. For days.
Verdict: If anyone can get more than two goals against Calgary, they win. The question is, can they? Anaheim’s youth can make them frustrated, so I’ll choose Calgary to win.

NASHVILLE vs SAN JOSE

In what may be the worst trade in the Bruins 80 year history, Joe Thornton came to San Jose and pulled them from an 8-12-4 record to 36-14-7.
Offense: Three players are the Sharks’ offense: Cheechoo, Marleau, and Thornton, and Marleau’s only here because he plays the power play with Cheechoo and Thornton. Ekman has been blessed with being the left wing on the top line, but anyone could be. The Predators don’t have anyone to match those numbers, but the scoring they have is much better distributed throughout the line up with 5 20+ goal scorers. They also have two of the best face-off men in the league in Perreault and Sillinger, and they love to grind at teams. Even so, having the Richard and Ross trophy winners means San Jose has the scarier offense.
Defense: Not San Jose’s forte. The big name veterans they have (Hannan and McLaren) are shut down guys, not point producers. The scoring they have will come from youth (Erhoff and Preissing). Nashville brings 150+ points from the blue line, led by Timonen, Zidlicky and Hamhuis. Adding Witt makes the front of Nashville’s net a frightening place to be. Nashville.
Goaltending: Vokoun is lost to the Predators for (at least) the playoffs due to a blood disorder, and new starter Mason has been good, but has never seen an NHL playoff game from the ice. Toskala is also a playoff virgin, but has far outplayed Nabokov during the season and should get the start. A draw.
Injuries: The Predators are hoping Legwand comes back in time for Friday, but their big loss is Vokoun. The Sharks are tickety-boo.
Special Teams: Nashville finished with a 18.4% power play and 84.6% penalty kill, while San Jose went 18.2% on the power play and 80.7% penalty kill. Ths Sharks aren’t short handed very often, but that can kill them this year.
Anything Else: Frightening note of the year: San Jose’s 3rd year man Cheechoo managed 93 points – three fewer than Thornton had assists.
Verdict: Missing Vokoun will weigh heavily on the Preds. They allow six more shots per game than the Sharks, and the Thornton-Cheechoo combination can bury them. San Jose.

Now let’s wind ‘em up and set ‘em loose!

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posted by Thursday at 11:38 pm 0 comments

Hockey: Playing With Matches

Sixteen teams looking for sixteen wins to get the toughest trophy in team sports. Starting in the East:

OTTAWA vs TAMPA BAY

Two years ago, if you were asked which of these teams was trying to repeat as champion, who would you have said?
Offense: Ottawa is simply awesome. Heatley finished with 50 goals (a team record), Spezza ended up second in the league in assists, Alfredsson got 103 points, and they have seven other players with 15 or more goals. That’s what happerns when you lead the league in scoring. Tampa’s had an up and down year, and actually ended up -8 in goal differential. Still, there are three thirty goal scorers and five more with 15+. Offence from the back is a strength with both of these teams, though several of Chara’s have been tip ins in front of the net on the power play. The guy’s six-nine; where would you put him? Add in Havlat coming back from injury, and Ottawa’s got it here.
Defense: Ottawa has arguably the best defensive corps in the league, with great size, loads of scoring, and a team +/- of +358. Tampa has a fine #1 in Dan Boyle, but he’d be strictly a second pairing in Ottawa.
Goaltending: Both Grahame and Burke can go on hot streaks and can steal games, with seven shutouts between them. Hasek, however, is a top-three goalie, and if he can’t play, Emery has a very respectable .902 save percentage. Ottawa wins again.
Injuries: Tampa sat Kubina and Prospal for their last game, but they’ll start the playoffs. For Ottawa, it’s the only one that matters: Hasek. No one knows if he’s healthy or not. Call it even.
Special Teams: Ottawa has a 20.8% power play, 84.7% penalty kill; Tampa has a 16.8% power play, 81.7% penalty kill. Big edge to Ottawa, especially when you add in an amazing 25 short handed goals!
Anything Else: Tampa’s built for offense, but Ottawa can play any game you like. Watch for Havlat.
Verdict: Tampa Bay may get hot, but unless they do they’re just a flash in the pan.

CAROLINA vs MONTREAL

Neither of these teams was supposed to be here, with a lot of people predicting Carolina to be at or near the bottom of the league.
Offense: Is a sophomore supposed to improve by 70 points in one year? Eric Staal did, and he’s got substantial back up with Williams, Stillman, Cole, Whitney, and the possibly the best defensive forward in the game in Brind’Amour (who should have been in the Olympics, damnit! Not that I’m bitter…). Kaberle is the only defenseman that contributes offensively, though. Montreal isn’t going to match up goal-for-goal, but they’ve got an interested Kovalev, a healthy Koivu, energetic Riberio and Ryder, and a surprising Higgins. But the team revolves around defenseman Markov. Point(s) to Carolina.
Defense: It’s easiest to defend when the other team never touches the puck, Carolina has discovered. It’s defense by committee here, and it works well enough to win games. Markov is the Canadiens’ bread and butter; Souray and Rivet can get their points, but Markov can control the play. Montreal just edges out Carolina, but it’s close.
Goaltending: Gerber can shut down games in the third period, relying on stopping one more shot than his opponent can; Montreal has yet to decide who is going to lead the way in the playoffs, but money says Huet, who has picked up an amazing 7 shutouts in just 33 games! Curiously, the Habs have two francophone goalies, neither of which is actually from Quebec. Close again, but as I’m not that familiar with Huet, I’m going with experience. Carolina.
Injuries: Injuries? What injuries? No one’s ever injured for the playoffs…
Special Teams: Carolina went 17.9% on the Power Play with an 81.8% penalty kill. Montreal has a 19.2% power play and 81.1% penalty kill. A little deceptive, as Carolina’s speed gets them on the power play more often, but that won’t make as much of a difference in a best-of-seven series. Montreal.
Anything Else: Neither team finished very well, but Carolina’s last game cost them the Eastern title, while Montreal is just happy to be here.
Verdict: Carolina’s biggest risk is overconfidence, but they have a massive amount of experience to temper the excitement. Carolina takes the series.

NEW JERSEY vs MANHATTAN

The very surprising Rangers are actually being led by Jaromir Jagr, while the Devils waited sixty games before reverting to form with an 11 game win streak to close the season.
Offense: It’s a time of small men, I suppose. Last year, Tampa was led by 5’8” Martin St. Louis; this year, the Devils have 5’7” Brian Gionta bringing 48 goals into the playoffs. New Jersey doesn’t bring a lot of goals, but they did end the season averaging four per game. The Rangers figured out how to get Jagr going – bring in people who speak his language. No, not figuratively: there are seven Czechs on the team besides Jagr, and they bring more than half the team’s goals, led by Jagr’s 54. Manhattan.
Defense: Manhattan doesn’t get much help from the blue line (only one player with 30 points), but they seem to score just fine anyways. And, of course, Malik has that deadly breakaway move… Rafalski is the Devil’s most active defenseman on the attack, but, like the Rangers, the team lacks a shot from the point. What the Devils can do is defend. New Jersey.
Goaltending: Lundqvist is competing with Calgary Defenseman Dion Phaneuf for third place in Calder voting this year, and he is the reigning Olympic Champion. But Brodeur has three rings and wants more. New Jersey… this year.
Injuries: Everyone’s back, everything’s fine. Really! Just ask them!
Special Teams: New Jersey was 17.7% on the power play, and 81.9% on the kill. Manhattan matches up with 18.8% on the power play and a 83.7% penalty kill. Coordination makes Manhattan better.
Anything Else: Elias missed more than half the season with a debilitating illness, and ended up fifth in Devil’s scoring. The Rangers slept their way into the playoffs, losing their last five games.
Verdict: I never bet against Brodeur in the playoffs.

BUFFALO vs PHILADELPHIA

Like Carolina, Buffalo wasn’t supposed to be anywhere near the playoffs. Instead, they have a franchise best 52 win season.
Offense: Buffalo, being unable to afford big-name stars, has long been built on speed and team play. This suits the new NHL just fine, thank you very much! Forsberg, Philadelphia’s second leading scorer, finished 40th in the league: no one on Buffalo even managed that. They do, however, have 10 forwards with 16 or more goals, using a constant wave of attackers that can break teams trying to match lines. The Flyers use a more traditional “two scoring lines, checking line and *ahem* ‘energy’ line” approach, but that first line is a combined +77, and 100 goals. People have tried stopping Forsberg since he was in Pee Wee – no one’s managed it yet. Edge to Philly.
Defense: The Sabres will be leaning heavily on a young Campbell for points in the playoffs. I was a little disappointed to see the perpetually underrated Numminen got two goals to go with his 38 assists, but I have this thing for odd statistics… The Flyers are led by the very fast and skilled Pitkanen’s 13 goals and 46 points, but the rest of the defense, while big, is still awfully slow and may end up taking a slew of penalties against Buffalo’s “water bug” forwards. If they can avoid the obstruction fouls, Philadelphia has the size; Buffalo doesn’t.
Goaltending: Esche is getting the start for Philly, who are opting to go with experience between their two very closely matched net minders. Buffalo is starting their phenom Miller, who Team USA fans will recognize as “that goalie they wish they brought to the Olympics”. He’ll be there in 2010, and with good reason. Buffalo wins here.
Injuries: Philly is missing some big names: their captain (Primeau), their best defenseman (Johnsson), and one of their twin towers of defense (6’5” Therien). Buffalo admits to nothing.
Special Teams: Buffalo has a 21.2% power play success and 86.6% on the kill with 10 short handed goals, while the Flyers are at 18% power play and 79.1% penalty killing, but with 19 short handed markers. Edge to the everyone-does-everything Sabres.
Anything Else: This is going to be a coaching duel. How Hitchcock counters the constant press of Sabres will be as vital as what Ruff tries against the Forsberg/Gagne/Knuble line. Tie, until the games start.
Verdict: These two teams are polar opposites. They each have a game breaker, a playoff warhorse, and exciting rookies, and I think it’s all going to come down to the coaching. I expect a short series, but I can’t tell you which direction. On a coin flip, I’ll say the Flyers.

Hoo! That was tougher than I thought! Into the West tomorrow.

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posted by Thursday at 12:56 am 0 comments

April 19, 2006

Sex: Perversity Comes Home

Now, I remember those "Promise Clubs" that some of the media made a minor kerfuffle about a few years back: you know, the high school kids who wore a braclet or sign a card to prove that they were going to stay virgins until marriage. It was called "True Love Waits", and I was mildly impressed for a moment or two. Then I had myself a good little chuckle when I found out that they were Christian.

Uh, folks? Any sex outside of marriage is a sin for a Christian. Repeat: ANY sex outside of marriage. Which means that a 3x5 index card is more effective that the concept of eternal damnation...? Crazy kids these days, I thought to myself.

Then I encountered this:

I, (daughter’s name)’s father, choose before God to cover my daughter as her authority and protection in the area of purity.

This is from, I shit you not, something called "Purity Balls". This is kind of like a debtante ball, except it's a family-only affair: the fathers take their daughters dancing, and, staring into their eyes, vow responsibility for their chastity.

You have no idea just how difficult it was typing that last sentence. Excuse me a moment while I sanitize my keyboard.

***

Okay, we're back. The first thing you may notice is that there are only Father-Daughter, er, "pledges" here. Even if you take into account that according to these folks, the father is the head (and high priest) of the household, there are no Father-Son vows going on. In typical fashion, young men are supposed to know all about sex instinctively, and are given tacit encouragement to fuck anything with a hole to prove their manliness. Just so long as they don't have to talk about it.

This is what passes for sex education among the Fundies. Ownership precludes responsibility - what is the Man of the household supposed to do when He finds out that His daughter actually had sex? She will have dishonoured Him, and brought shame upon His house! So he does... what? Beat her, or throw acid in her face? Banish her to life on the streets with the other harlots? Kill her?

The laughter is getting a little strained, kids. End this joke already, would you?
posted by Thursday at 9:54 pm 3 comments

April 17, 2006

Other: Weird Quiziness

Right.
Knew it would come to this, didn't you?







What Disease Are You?






You Are HIV!

Also known as Human Immunodeficiency Virus, you are good-looking and know what you want from life. Some may say that you are high maintenance, but you know that they are just jealous of your svelte figure due to unexplained weight loss and swollen lymph nodes in the neck, armpits, and groin.
Take this quiz!








Quizilla |
Join

| Make A Quiz | More Quizzes | Grab Code
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The only question left is, why am I advertising this?

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posted by Thursday at 10:14 pm 1 comments

Hockey: Where's the Golf Course?

A look at who’s watching instead of working in the Second Season in the East.


ATLANTA

Place: Bubble Boys (9th)
Pre-Season Prediction: 5th – 8th
What Went Wrong: Two words: Garnett and Berkhoel. With both Lehtonen and Dunham getting injured at the same time, the two AHL goalies were relied on more than thirty times, and they just weren’t ready for it yet. A couple more shots stopped, and Atlanta makes the playoffs.
What Went Right: Goals. Goals, goals, goals, goals, goals. Goals. Savard, Kovalchuk and Hossa all had career years, and Kozlov had another up year, fitting his up and down career perfectly.
Money Problems: A problem with players having career years, this. $25 million is already committed, and Savard, Lehtonen, Kozlov and Havelid all have to get signed, with Kozlov and Havelid both being unrestricted.
If I Were Boss: Who will stay and who will go? Dunham played great - when he wasn’t injured… Savard and Lehtonen must be re-signed, then an offensive defenseman, then Havelid and Kozlov, if they fit in the budget.


TORONTO

Place: 10th
Pre-season Prediction: 5th – 8th
What Went Wrong: Someone told the players how old and brittle they were. Four players managed 80 games, three more over 75. The new CBA didn’t help this team much (spending money was never a problem), and many of their free agents are injury prone. And who the hell thinks bringing in Luke Richardson will help?
What Went Right: McCabe and Kaberle are two of the highest scoring defensemen in the league this year. Stajan didn’t take a step backward in his development. Aubin’s only two losses were in overtime… Okay, it’s not much, but it’s what they got.
Money Problems: The strange, strange decision to sign Belfour just before the lockout will cost them $1.5 million if they buy him out, $4.8 million if they don’t. Toronto’s penchant for big names hit them against the salary cap hard, and they’re waiting for contracts to expire now.
If I Were Boss: Find a coach who works with younger players (think Dave King would be interested?) and tell the fans that the team is actively rebuilding. Tellqvist will do as the #1 until either Pogge or Rask are ready. Trade away McCabe, who will be looking for a big raise.


FLORIDA

Place: 11th
Pre-Season Prediction: 9th – 15th
What Went Wrong: Luongo started 72 games and replaced his back-up in two others. This is way too many, especially given the number of shots they give up, but there was no trust in McLennan despite his .906 save percentage. The old guys tended to break, too, but that wasn’t unexpected.
What Went Right: Jokinen has re-signed after a career year, and the youth is doing fine (Luongo, Weiss, Horton, Olesz, Bouwmeester).
Money Problems: Florida has always been a money-loser for the owners, but the new CBA gives reason for hope. The payroll was a low $28 million this season, and Alan Cohen has promised another $10 million for the next, but they’ve got quite a number of RFAs coming up, too, with Luongo at the head of the list.
If I Were Boss: Get Luongo into a long-term deal if possible, see if I could get Roberts and Nieuwendyk to re-sign for a bit less, given their injury trouble. Keep Gelinas, and try to find a scoring winger or two. And get McLennan into another 5 – 10 games.


LONG ISLAND

Place: 12th
Pre-Season Prediction: 9th – 15th
What Went Wrong: Signing Yashin to a 12-year contract was a little over optimistic, but expecting him to be an effective captain is insane. Playing at Nassau Coliseum makes being a fan an adventure in all the wrong ways. They also couldn’t recover from losing an awesome defensive corps, though there is hope with rookies coming up (Campoli and Gervais). They have been hard pressed to score. Firing coach Sterling and replacing him with Brad Shaw was an odd choice.
What Went Right: GM Milbury finally got fired, though he did have the right idea (sort of) when he tried to sign DiPietro to a fifteen year contract. And no one actually got killed by Nassau Coliseum, so that’s a good thing.
Money Problems: Surprisingly few, even given Yashin’s contract. Eleven regulars are signed up, though DiPietro, York, and Hunter are looking for new deals. Biggest decision is whether to buy out Yashin, which would count as $2.5 million against the cap for the next ten years; or keep him on, which would cost about $7.5 million for the same ten years. The question is whether Yashin is worth $5 million.
If I Were Boss: Tough call on Yashin, but I’d keep him for the next season at least. He is incredibly talented; the tough part is challenging him to live up to it. Move the team if there isn’t talk of a new stadium, or at the very least massive improvements to Nassau.

BOSTON

Place: 13th
Pre-Season Prediction: 1st – 4th
What Went Wrong: Let’s see… Their free agent signings had disastrous seasons; there was a running battle with their biggest star (Thornton) which resulted in his bizarre trade; their other scoring star (Samsonov) was also traded away; their #1 goaltender played poorly enough to be replaced by career minor-leaguer Tim Thomas.
What Went Right: Boyes and Toivonen would be Calder trophy candidates in any other year, and Bergeron had a brilliant sophomore season. The folks they got back for Thornton (Brad Stuart, Sturm, and Primeau) have done all that was desired of them, but that trade still cost GM O’Connell his job.
Money Problems: There are 12 players signed through next season, with less than $20 million committed, so signing forwards Boyes and Bergeron and defensemen Jurcina and Alberts shouldn’t be a problem.
If I Were Boss: Stop the hate whenever a player asks for a raise! Force my GM to take a valium before contract negotiations so no one else leaves with bitter recriminations (hello, Kyle McLaren). How do you end up with a team that has the tradition and history of the Bruins, and few free agents want to go there?


WASHINGTON

Place: 14th
Pre-Season Prediction: 9th – 15th
What Went Wrong: Considering the expectations, not as much as could have. This is, as everyone was told, a rebuilding team. Johnson finished the season on a high, but there is a lot of doubt in their back-up position. Their best defenseman had been asking for a trade out all season long, and first line centre Cassels realized that the game had passed him by.
What Went Right: Ovechkin was even better than expected, both on and off the ice, and FINALLY Semin is confirmed to be playing the next two seasons in Washington. Leonsis got over his big name fetish, and ended up with one of the biggest in the league.
Money Problems: As mentioned, everyone knows this is a rebuilding team, so there are several young RFAs looking to sign up. But with a payroll of $25.5 million, that won’t be a stretch. The chance to play with Ovechkin is going to be a draw for any free agent forwards out there.
If I Were Boss: Johnson finished so well, I’d consider keeping him another year. His attitude is now excellent for the back-up job. The fans have been understanding (honesty counts), so most of the positions are going to be filled from within the system, but I’d target two veteran defensemen and a top line centre.


PITTSBURGH

Place: 15th
Pre-Season Prediction: 5th – 8th
What Went Wrong: Lemieux’s leaving again because of health problems, and big free agent signees LeClair and Thibault having awful seasons, Gonchar not finding his game until February, Tarnstrom not finding his game at all, and the totally unexpected Pallfy retirement in January (all I can guess is he didn’t want to go to the Olympics and get caught using).
What Went Right: The youngest player to ever get 100 NHL points, Crosby is a reason to buy ticket all on his own. Lots and lots of young talent coming up (Malkin, Malone, Armstrong, Ouellett, Orpik, Whitney, whoever is drafted this year…) give hope for the future.
Money Problems: A whole lot is riding on a judgment by the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board on the 18th on whether gambling could be used to fund a new arena. Without it, the Penguins are probably gone from Pittsburgh. (May I suggest Winnipeg or Quebec City, gentlemen?) Otherwise, the payroll is going okay with $15 million wrapped up in 13 players, including Gonchar’s crazy $5 million per season for another five years. But once these young players are out of their entry-level contracts…
If I Were Boss: I’d move the team to Winnipeg. What can I say? I like Winnipeg! Though Quebec City would work for me, too.


Once the regular season’s finished, awards can be predicted, and then it’s showtime! I’ll be in Scotland by then, but at least the Canucks did me the favour of not making the playoffs. That way, I won’t be missing their series… *sigh*

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posted by Thursday at 9:57 pm 0 comments

April 16, 2006

Hockey: Missed It By That Much

Turn out the lights, the party’s over. Since we know who’s out in the West (and where they’ll finish), let’s pick at the corpses to see what went horribly, horribly wrong, shall we?

C’mon! It’ll be fun!

VANCOUVER

Place: Bubble boys (9th)
Pre-Season Prediction: 5th – 8th.
What Went Wrong: Injuries, and lots of them. Two of their top three defensemen had long-term injuries, the #1 goalie likewise, and Naslund dealt with his usual nagging injuries most of the season. Finally healthy after the Olympics, but too little, too late.
What Went Right: The “Three Brothers” line (Carter and the Sedins) are now a force. Auld proved himself capable as a #1, and Baumgartner finally established himself as an NHLer 12 years after he was drafted 10th by Washington.
Money Troubles: Jovonovski and Carter are free agents, and the Sedins are restricted.
If I Were Boss: I’ve harped on this before, but Crawford simply isn’t that good a coach. I like the talent here (yes, even Cloutier) and I’d like them to return next year. Most of the core is signed, so they should be back next year. Auld and Cloutier play tandem next season, which Crawford hates doing.

LOS ANGELES

Place: 10th
Pre-Season Prediction: 5th – 8th.
What Went Wrong: They knew Bure was a risk picking him up, and they got bit when he didn’t play a game for them. Demitra missed a third of the season as the usual injury plague swept through LA. Roenick had the worst season of his career, Robitaille couldn’t match last year’s numbers.
What Went Right: Goaltending was surprisingly solid, lots and lots of scoring from a young defense.
Money Troubles: Corvo is a free agent, as is Mark Parrish. Otherwise they’re in good shape financially, so maybe they can afford a triage ward for the locker room!
If I Were Boss: Lock up Cammalleri and the goalies; re-sign Corvo and Parrish; track down free agent scoring on the wings.

MINNESOTA

Place: 11th
Pre-Season Prediction: 9th – 15th
What Went Wrong: Lots of players missed 20 or more games (White, Gaborik, Kuba, Koivu, Zyuzin, Tjarnqvist), Daigle busted again, and their best defenseman (Mitchell) wanted out.
What Went Right: Rolston had a career year, and the youth is coming along nicely, especially Foster and Bouchard.
Money Troubles: None. They offered Mitchell $12 million for four years, and he said no, so that money is getting plowed back into the system. Gaborik and Bouchard are RFAs, Kuba and Zyuzin are unrestricted. Oddly, Zyuzin is actually from the town of Ufa.
If I Were Boss: Foster is in training as a point man, but they need a defensive stopper on the blue line. Re-up the free agents listed above, then look for a hammer to keep the front of the net clear.

PHOENIX

Place: 12th
Pre-Season Prediction: 9th – 15th
What Went Wrong: Most of the “faults” aren’t in town any more, either through trades (Tanabe, Nedved, Kolanos, Leclerc, Boucher) or retirement (Hull), but the huge turnover hasn’t helped coordination. They were hoping not to rely on Joseph so heavily, but Boucher wasn’t up to the task. Long term injuries to Nagy and Morris didn’t help, nor coach Gretzky having his mother pass away.
What Went Right: This year was going to be a write-off anyways to allow Gretzky and GM Barnett build the team they wanted, and that’s what they did. Joseph played great for the cost, and whoever trades away Nedved wins the trade by default. Comrie stayed healthy for a full season. All the players who survived the purges have said they want to stay – a great sign.
Money Troubles: They were gearing up for next season, and are in good shape for it. Nagy, Mara and Michalek are RFAs, and Joseph and Sanderson are UFAs, and all are worth keeping.
If I Were Boss: Joseph gets re-signed. He played for minimum wage, hoping to convince a team to make him #1 next season. He didn’t probably play that well, but Sauve and LeNeveu could use a mentor, and Joseph’s at that age…

COLUMBUS

Place: 13th
Pre-Season Prediction: 9th – 15th
What Went Wrong: Nash, Berard, Malhotra, Foote and Klesla all missed extended amounts of ice time. Three veteran defensemen down made life tough for the goalies (though Berard could never be considered a stopper…). Neither Fedorov nor Delmore did anything to help the power play, and Brule got injured before going back to juniors.
What Went Right: Youth has progressed nicely: Zherdev, Vyborny, Hainsey, Westcott, Brule, Chimera, Balastik and Leclaire will be better next year, assuming they all stay healthy. Fedorov, one hopes, will be better acclimatized.
Money Troubles: Only seven players are under contract for next season, and they’re costing $20 million. Vyborny is unrestricted, and they want him back most.
If I Were Boss: This is a pretty good mix, but I’d move Denis (RFA) out and Prusek up to the big team. I’m also not impressed with Gallant’s coaching, so he’s gone.

CHICAGO

Place: 14th
Pre-Season Prediction: 9th – 15th
What Went Wrong: Where to start? How about the free agents: Khabibulin, Aucoin, Dowd, Spacek, Lapointe, Cullimore, Barnaby, and (Curtis) Brown. Barnaby and Lapointe are the only ones that could not be considered disappointments this year, between injuries and sub-par seasons. Having Bill Wirtz own the team doesn’t help much either.
What Went Right: Hmm. Fun off-season, wasn’t it? In other news, Daze got another year to heal, and there is a lot of young talent here that’s on the way. Not next year, but perhaps the one after. And they aren’t St. Louis.
Money Troubles: Wirtz hates spending money, and he’ll be no more convinced to do so after seeing what happened this year. That being said, there may be a bunch of contract buy-outs and replacing with a bunch more free agents in support of the young guns coming up (Seabrook, Borque, Ruutu, Babchuk, Barber).
If I Were Boss: Some buy outs, but not many: the players had one season, now they have to suck it up and play much better. Khabibulin stays, for instance.


ST. LOUIS

Place: 15th
Pre-Season Prediction: 9th – 15th
What Went Wrong: Having owners openly shopping the team all season long isn’t going to be good. Why they sold the team the same season the new CBA comes into effect, I’m not sure; but then, I’m not worth almost $3 billion, so who am I to criticize? Otherwise, their starting two goaltenders tanked, injuries happened all up and down the lines, and most of their best players were gone before the season started.
What Went Right: Good shot at Kessel or Frolik this draft. Sanford has been a revelation, going 7-2-1 to end the season. And the depth at defense is still there.
Money Troubles: Only four players are under contract next season, unincluding Tkachuk’s option for $3.8 million, which they will pick up. The new owners can remake this team however they like.
If I Were Boss: See if I could trade down in the draft for veteran help, as this looks like a fairly shallow draft (making the highest picks more valuable), and St. Louis needs vets badly. And get Cajanek, Backman and Sanford under contract, though not for too much until Sanford proves himself for a full season.

Off to the East when the losers there are set.
Go Atlanta!

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posted by Thursday at 6:10 pm 0 comments

April 15, 2006

Other: No God Among The Finns

I've provided proof that there is no god already, and Orac confirms it.

Which video is worse? Well, I still believe in my find, but it's close...

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posted by Thursday at 11:18 am 0 comments

Religion: Clearing Up Easter

This is a weekend that has always confused me. Why, for instance, fould you schedule Friday and Monday off, but work on Saturday? Not smart.

The random seeming amalgam of symbols has been a bit of a puzzle, too, but after careful consideration, I think I've finally "got it":

***

On Good Friday, the Son of God gets nailed up to a cross by lots of marauding, irreligious chickens (Roman ones). A little later, he's pulled down by a giant hare and stuck in a cave, which it probably thought was it's warren or something. Realising its mistake, the hare abandons the cave; but since it was a nice cave and the hare doesn't want any super weasels moving in, it rolls a huge boulder across the mouth, sealing the cave shut.

In the meantime, some Wandering Jews happen by, looking for their Theoretical Messiah, but they pass right over the boulder, not giving it a second glance. "That boulder's huge," they think to themselves, "no way would one dead guy be able to roll that sucker on his own! That would take, like, a giant rabbit. Or maybe a super weasel."

Three days later, the Son of God (formerly known as Dead) pushes the boulder aside with a mighty heave, and emerges to wreak his terrible vengance upon chickenkind forever more.

***

Granted, this is just a hypothesis based on conflicting interpretations, but I think it holds together: there's a bunny hiding things, a wide ranging hunt for eggs, and Jews calling this time Passover. And, as we all know, going "down the rabbit hole" is a famous metaphor for things getting psychedelic, as taken from Alice in Wonderland; hence the odd colours the eggs happen to be.

Well it makes sense to me!

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posted by Thursday at 12:30 am 0 comments

April 13, 2006

Other: Circles... Of The FUTURE!

The latest Skeptics' Circle is now up and running at Pooflingers Anonymous, and it's a big'un! Do yourself a favour and click the link to your right there and bookmark the result: there are massive amounts of information, wisdom, and plain old goofiness just waiting for you. Who knows? You may find a seed or two of doubt for yourself...

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posted by Thursday at 1:36 am 0 comments

April 11, 2006

Politics: Are These People MAD?

Answer: probably.

The real question is: are these people mad enough?
Answer: possibly.

Any proposed direct military attack on Iran is utter insanity, and there are several reasons:

1) Iran is a tactical nightmare to move through;
2) the mountainous regions are heavily armed and armoured;
3) Iran uses Sunburst missiles on their coast which move at faster than Mach 2 and are designed to spoof the AEGIS defended warships in the US navy;
4) the Shi'ites around the world would go insane (that would include the majority population in Iraq);
5) Syria has signed a mutual defense pact with Iran, and actually has WMD capabilities, both chemical and biological;
6) China is getting an awful lot of oil from Iran right now.

Even whispers of using nuclear "bunker buster" missiles to attack underground weapons sites is folly, because much like the vaunted missile defense system, it won't work.

So: Are these people crazy enough to do this?

Heck, reality has never stopped them before!

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posted by Thursday at 9:40 pm 0 comments

Other: Dead Folks 'R' Us

As promised, a review of a psychic reading. Sorry about the time this took: it was quite a wide ranging show, and trying to narrow down the generalizations into short coherent specifics was quite difficult. And it still ended up five pages long. Yeesh!

It has been argued at me (yes, at: there wasn’t much of an ideas exchange going on at the time) that the one major flaw in my argument against spiritualism is my lack of experience with it. I had never seen first hand the awesome power of the spiritual and supernatural worlds, so what would I know? Huh? Huh?

Actually, I know a fair amount about spiritualism and spirituality (different things); but that doesn’t take away the basic premise of the claim. No, I had never seen a medium or psychic in action, live and in colour. Mostly, this has been due to a lack of funds. That is to say I could afford to go see one, but I didn’t want to throw $165 into an open sewer to watch Sylvia Browne in Victoria.

It is a situation that has now been remedied.

Fortunately for me, a “World Famous Psychic” came to my home town recently (all the way from Aberdeen!), and it would only cost me $15 to see “proof of life after death!” Of course, if I should happen to be interested in learning how to speak to the dead myself, the cost would be slightly higher… Somehow, I managed to resist the temptation, only signing on for the Friday night show.

We all file in at 7:00 for the 7:30 show time, as we had been warned to do. If the psychic was a fraud, this would be an excellent time to overhear anyone talking about why they were in the audience, and who they may want to contact, and that sort of thing. Hypothetically speaking, of course.

At the front of the little hall is a table with a very nice little doily with two lit candles on it and a ghetto blaster. There are conversations around me about what people are about to see, what they’ve been told previously by other psychics, and a surprising (to me) amount of open skepticism. The half hour passes fairly quickly, and our host appears, introducing herself and the “wonderful, amazing” psychic who has come all the way from Aberdeen. I count about 70 people, meaning some portion of $1,050 was going to our guest. Not really enough to make the trip worth it, I shouldn’t think. The lessons tomorrow are $65 a shot, so maybe she’s got a number of people for that… Ah, well: I’m not her accountant.

The psychic stands up, getting polite applause, and sets the scene for us by playing a song that has didgeridoos, pan pipes, and a gentle sounding fellow singing about how wonderful it is to be “not dead”. Lovely thing apparently, not being dead. In fact, “dead” is a word the psychic never uses for the next hour and a half, and she goes through quite a semantic workout to avoid it: people are on the other side, in that other place, with the spirits, passed over… all sorts of things other than dead. This is simply knowing the audience, most of whom are True Believers who need to believe that life continues after death, at least for their friends and relatives.

[About the audience: I’m going to make some generalizations here, since the psychic would be talking about people from several generations. There is quite a sociological difference between a 30-year olds grandfather and an 80-year olds grandfather. There were three generations present in the hall, so I’m going to label them every twenty years from 1 (up to, say, 30 years old) to 6 (110 to 130 years old, if they were still alive).]

She continues by explaining any failure. Not hers, of course, but the audience’s. The medium is just a telephone, right? Someone here has to answer, all right? So if she says something that makes sense to anyone here, they have to speak up, do you understand? This opening paragraph keys the audience into responding, a necessity for any psychic reading.

[A little side note here about the famed Canadian interrogative “eh?”. What “eh?” does is turn any statement into a question, inviting a response from whoever you’re speaking to. It makes the other person feel like a part of the conversation, and imply a friendlier mood, even with what would otherwise be outright threats: “Put down those keys or I’ll break your fingers, eh?” See? You can still have a drink with this guy.]

She also notes that relatives that she contacts can be direct or distant, so a name you may not understand in conjunction with yourself must be from several generations ago. Which leads into her complaint against mentalists who claim they can do what she does: she tells people things they have to go look up before it makes sense to them, and let’s see a mentalist do that!

[Another side note about something humans do very, very well: making connections. A friend of mine and I used to play a game we made up called “jump”, where one of us would come up with two words, and the other would try to connect them with the fewest “jumps” possible; kind of a “Six Degrees (or less) of Anything”. Give it a try.]

What follows is pretty much a straight forward cold reading, but with one additional hook that hadn’t occurred to me to use: maps. For those of you who don’t live in a rural community, roads in low population areas didn’t have to have names until much later than in cities did. People knew where certain families lived, and you went to their house, not to their street number. So here is how she would start looking for hits:

“Shaunessy? Does the name Shaunessy mean anything to people here? Person or road… Is there a Shaunessy road or lane or some such? I’m getting Gordon… Road, or last name… Gord? Do you use Gord here?”

Using this technique, she went through:

Shaunessy;
Wilson;
Gordon;
Darcy;
Patterson;
David;

Harrison;
Skinner;

Moore;
Bridey;
White (corrected by an audience member to “Wright”;
Ambleside;
Hudson (then Hudson’s Bay, one of the biggest and oldest retailers in Canada);
Coronation (also a massively popular, long LONG lived TV show of course).

Now, every time she got a hit (confirmation of some kind), our psychic would reconfirm: “Yes, because I’m just being told that…” or “Yes, because I’m seeing…” And every time she made a statement while “reading” someone and missed it, there were four outs she would use:

1) Stretch the guess;

2) They are (or it is) in your future;

3) It’s there, you have to look for it yourself;

4) Ignore it until later.

A stretch guess would be: “I see an older woman who suffered a stroke of some kind… (no response) With mobility problems… (response) Yes, because she’s telling me that she hated to be a bother…” The audience member was generation 3 (50-70), and almost certainly had a woman in generation 4 (70-90) die. Few women of that generation who reached old age did not have mobility problems, and a stroke is a reasonable guess for any generation, BUT “a stroke” and “mobility problems” are two radically different things. A can cause B, but then so can a whole lot of other things.

Placing something into the audience member’s future is a great cop-out. She only used this twice, as too great a reliance on it would be noticeable. She asked if the person was “looking into family history, or if someone else was looking into family history at all” because there was something about the street she just mentioned. She got one positive and one negative response, but her reply was the same: “Would you remember I said that, please? And look into it?” A bit of confirmation to the audience the she wasn’t wrong; it’s just that the information hadn’t been discovered yet.

Likewise, she got a miss when she saw an older man (generation 4) who “passed over” while gardening. When the woman she was reading said no, the psychic asked about the woman’s father: “Does your father ignore anything wrong with his health?” I know mine does, and by sheer coincidence (heh) hers does, too. The psychic then recommended that she get a doctor to check his blood pressure, because there was definitely something there, but she’d have to find it herself.

Ignoring information that gets a negative response (or no response) until later on was always accompanied by a reminder that the audience had to be pro-active with their responses, because she didn’t know what she was hearing or looking at, only they did. And if she has the chance to double back and clean up loose ends, then apparent misses look like apparent hits. For instance, as she was reading one woman, she guessed something wrong with the spirit’s hearing, but that got no response. Later on she prompted “Perhaps you didn’t know she was going deaf?” Tough to confirm what you never knew, but that’s okay! The psychic confirmed it for her, turning it into a hit.

For the most part, the show was about platitudes and generalizations. If anyone here has read a quickie biography (commissioned and published three days after a celebrity’s death), then you know what kind of generalizations I mean. More specifically:

When talking about a dead man of generation 4 or later, the psychic always asked if he was good with his hands, or liked to tinker with machines;

When talking about a dead woman, she always said “She didn’t like to be a bother, did she? Didn’t want a fuss made over her?”

One of her guesses was about a generation 1 man killed in a car crash of some kind”, which is the leading cause of death in men younger than 44 years.

When talking to a generation 2 or 3 woman (who attended alone), she would comment that the woman hasn’t “had an easy life, have you? Not that you’re complaining, lots of people have had worse lives, but sometimes it’s been a little hard, hasn’t it?”

Bear in mind that the psychic was a very pleasant woman to talk to: she could (and did) laugh at herself, kept a sympathetic voice, and had a gentle demeanor. Also bear in mind that the doctors who get sued aren’t the incompetent ones; they’re the frigid or mean ones. The patients who liked their doctors tended to be far more forgiving of mistakes and other failures.

The last thing I’m going to mention about the reading is that she often repeated that there was more than one spirit trying to talk to her at the same time (sometimes three at once) which explained why she would sometimes make wrong guesses while talking about one spirit – it was another getting in the way!

There were a couple of guesses she made which did impress me somewhat: she mentioned that one woman’s (deceased) father worked in mining (and had respiratory problems – not a long shot, that) and that another was in teaching. However, when the 90 minutes were up, I saw that she had met, and spoken to, both women before, and that they were members of the spiritualist church that sponsored the event.

All in all, it was at best a mildly entertaining way to pass an hour and a half, but I don’t know if it was worth the $15. And I can’t say it converted me into believing in “PROOF of LIFE after DEATH!” as advertised.

Maybe I need to talk to more Jehovah’s Witnesses…

***

By the way, if I hear that someone is using this as a guide to sucker the vulnerable and bereaved into handing over their money, I fully expect my 10%... then I’ll break your legs.

No, no, I’m kidding! I’ll just break your legs.


Hope you found this informative. Or at least amusing enough that my $15 expense will not have been in vain. I'm not only egotistical, but a cheap bastard, too.

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posted by Thursday at 12:44 am 4 comments

April 08, 2006

Politics: A Side You Might Not Hear

This is on the BBC. It's over 20 minutes long, but an interesting watch. You simply aren't going to see this broadcast in the United States, I don't think. Not this year, anyways.

US soldiers turn against the war.

Bear in mind that Pat Tillman - the theoretical GOP war hero - was going to be speaking against the war in Iraq and meeting Noam Chomsky when he got home. He never made it, and there is an investigation into why he was killed by friendly fire...

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posted by Thursday at 10:55 pm 0 comments

Politics: The Slogan That Should Have Been

I know, I know: there's been a bunch of activity in Canadian politics of late, but I'm a little distracted by reportd from Down South just now, okay? You really want a bit? Try Declan's post on someone else's coverage of the throne speech, or take a frikkin' Valium (tm).

So:

Many people may remember the slogan that got Reagan elected president for the first time. It was a time to be scared of just about everything: Russians, terrorists, nuclear meltdown, pesticides, oil embargos... (Let me know if any of this sounds familiar) So Reagan, being an experienced if mediocre actor, used that to fuel panic among the population with his slogan.

"Are you better off now than you were four years ago?"

Worked like a charm, leaving Carter's White House to scramble for explanations and the Republicans to bask in the reflected halcyon days that current frustration and bad memory provides.

A bit later, Clinton became president over Poppy Bush with another, more specific slogan:

"It's the economy, stupid!"

Simplistic enough to appeal to Republicans, but still requiring some thought ("What's he mean by that?") to appeal to Democrats. It was a winner.

In this last election, the Democrats went simplistic again, but also to a war-time sound, which the Republicans already had wrapped up:

"Bring it on!"

As we all know, Kerry folded like a house of cards the instant the election was stolen. (Don't think it was stolen? Go look up why exit polls are the first place a junior statician gets their start.) It was a slogan that lacked even the inspiration to motivate the erstwhile leader in the biggest challenge of his life. It also didn't require any thought at all, making otherwise solid voters vote against, rather than for. Always a risky prospect.

The slogan that should have been used, and should be used in these mid-terms, harkens back to the previous two, successful slogans:

"Do you feel safe?"

It provides a reminder to the voters of what was promised, as compared to what has been provided by the folks in charge. Much of the right-wing base is in a perpetual state of pants-wetting panic over, well, pretty much everything. There's a reason for this: the folks they listen to are trying their damndest to keep them under their beds and shaking with fear. When, for instance, is the last time you heard of a new "Terror Alert"? Here's a hint: when was the last election? Former Security czar Tom Ridge even admitted that they were manipulated for political reasons. As for those folks who need a bit of thought in their slogans, when they ask "What do they mean by that?", there's an answer. Actually, several of them:

Do you feel safer with the war on drugs? I wouldn't.

Do you feel safe about the condition of the enviroment? Not in this lifetime!

Do you feel safe about your job? Can't imagine why.

Do you feel safe that the rule of law prevails? Are you kidding me?

Do you feel safer about catching terrorists? Not yet.

Do you feel safe about your health? In another country, maybe.

Do you feel safe that, with the war in Iraq, this will be the end of it? Not on your life. Or your family member's lives. Or any one else's lives.

Heck, when it comes down to it, even Bush should be afraid: his most devoted supporters are criticizing him over his incompetence... at prayer.

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posted by Thursday at 6:04 pm 0 comments

April 07, 2006

Other: We're Off To See The Wizard!

...Or psychic, anyways. I'll be attending a psychic performance tonight, who promises to reveal "proof of life after death".

Should be interesting!

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posted by Thursday at 12:23 pm 3 comments

April 05, 2006

Politics: How Invading Iraq Helped... Venezuela

You think the United States has had some fun with Hugo Chavez so far? What with One nutbag calling for his assassination, and another comparing him to Hitler, he's clearly not their favorite guy. And he's certainly no angel himself: he's been buisily stripping oil fields from private companies and moving them to either majority government owned or government controlled companies. As of January this year, 32 fields had been transferred to governemnt control, with the companies formerly mining them given the opportunity to purchase interest in the fields only. There's a reason the US wasn't unhappy with the attempted coup in 2002.

Chavez has made his reputation attacking American policies, both in Latin America and around the world; it's a policy that has only been made easier by the invasion and chaotic occupation of Iraq and the US funding of opposition leaders in Venezuela's 2004 referendum won by Chavez with 58% of the vote. In November of 2005, he sent 12 million gallons of heating oil to the US, to be sold at 40% below market value, distributed by charities to low income families in Boston and New York, publicly embarassing the White House. Chavez is seen as the figurehead for many leftist political figures in Central and South America, and with a rise in socialist politics, opposition to America increases. Chavez has recently said he was training his a million of his citizens as soldiers to repel an American invasion; more likely a means to provide income for the poorest people with it's small stipend and free clothes and shoes, it's been backed up by the purchase of 100,000 AK-47s, Russian helicopters and other military hardware.

But wait! There's more!

In a serious bout of irony, the US-led invasion of Iraq has just made Venezuela the nation with the world's largest oil reserves - larger, in fact, than the rest of the oil producing countries combined. How'd that happen? Well, here's a hint: it's the same reason that Canada is also becoming an oil superpower, though with fewer headaches for Uncle Sam.

The secret ingredient is so-called "sour oil". This is heavy, low-quality oil that takes a great deal of refining before it is usable. At $20/barrel, it's not really worth refining; but at $50/barrel, it's very much so! Hence the oil sands in Canada suddenly becoming a viable source, and a boom in Fort McMoney, Alberta. Venezuela has the same thing happening in their Orinoco fields, only much, much more of it - to the tune of 1.3 trillion barrels.

Which means what, exactly?

Which means that Venezuela will be the big name at OPEC, not the relatively US-friendly Saudi Arabia. Which means the price of oil is going to be at $50/barrel for the forseeable future. Even if other nations wanted to sell oil at a cheaper rate, the larger producers keep very close tabs on various rates of production and adjust their own accordingly. Oil is a fungible commodity: the total amount is what matters, not where it came from (unless you only purchase it from a single source). In short, Venezuela is going to become an economic powerhouse, and not too far into the future.

What is particularly galling to the US is that Chavez is an unabashed socialist, who has declared that US involvement in Central and South America has done nothing but harm, and has made it his mission to free Latin America from US dependence. Theoretically, the biggest hindrance to his plans would be that the US is his Venezuela's biggest customer; but in 2004, he signed a deal with Columbia to build a pipeline to that country's Pacific ports. This means that oil could be shipped to anywhere in the Pacific without use of the Panama Canal, including China, who coincidentally happens to be another economic power disinclined to be friendly to US interests.

Chavez has also made a point in opposing both International Monetary Fund and World Bank interests in Latin America (the Bank is 51% owned by the US Treasury). Fair enough - both groups enforce nightmare policies upon any country unlucky enough to turn to them for aid (follow the links above and see for yourself). Specifically, he's been sending 150,000 barrels of diesel to Bolivia in exchange for agricultural products, rather than cash. In January, Bolivian President Evo Morales (who the White House has also been bad mouthing of late) has declared that Bolivia will be seizing control of their oil fields from international companies, though leaving refineries and pipelines in private hands. Venezuela has also purchased over $1 billion worth of Argentinian bonds, and is buying more. This income has allowed Argentina to finally pay off its nearly $10 billion debt to the IMF. Approximately 200,000 barrels of oil per day are sent to 13 nations in Central America and the Carribbean (including Cuba) at heavily subsidized prices.

If Chavez manages to buy out the IMF/World Bank loans from other Latin American countries, there are a whole lot of people who will be paying far more attention to his suggestions than any coming from the United States. What he dreams of is all of Latin America becoming a unified economic bloc, like the EEC or NAFTA. Should Chavez survive, the shifts in world power could lead to an interesting couple of decades.

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posted by Thursday at 9:15 pm 2 comments