November 27, 2007

NHL at the Quarter (And a Bit)

You did know that wen I said "tomorrow", I actually meant "Next week", right? Anyhow:

To continue with this year’s NHL so far, off to the East:


The Good: Going 12-4 after a 0-6 start.
The Bad: Aforementioned 0-6 start.
The Weird: Kozlov having another “down” year, on target for about 55 points. His point totals for the past five seasons: 22, 70, 52, 71, 80. Wasn’t last year supposed to be the bad one?
The Future: No offence to Hedberg, but these guys need Lehtonen back. But what shape will he be in? Notorious for not training hard in the off season, another groin strain has him out now, and he’s balking at rehab in the minors.
Note: GM Waddell is staying behind the bench for now, calling off the search for a new head coach. No surprise: the guy’s 12-4. Sounds like a keeper to me!


The Good: Veterans Sturm and Kobasew having career starts.
The Bad: Bergeron and Fernandez out for extended periods.
The Weird: Someone tell Chara he can’t play defence from the penalty box.
The Future: Thomas has regained his confidence. He’s the same age as Fernandez, a fan favorite, and half the price… Gosh, WHAT goaltender controversy?
Note: Boston has got to cut down the number of shots they allow. Either that, or keep three goaltenders with the club.


The Good: Miller is holding the fort until the offense gets going.
The Bad: They were hoping Drury and Briere leaving wouldn’t hurt too much. They were wrong. Losing two of their top defensemen for extended periods isn’t helping either.
The Weird: Is a campaign looking at last season called “Better Days” really a good thing for a struggling team?
The Future: The best team in the league this time last year; not so much now. Too much leadership went missing before the team was ready, raising the spectre of a trade.
Note: The Adams award has been nicknamed the “Kiss of Death” award, for the number of coaches who have been fired soon after winning it: is Lindy Ruff’s turn?


The Good: They have six players at a point-a-game (or better) pace.
The Bad: Adding the total points their defenseman have earned this season would still only place them third in team scoring.
The Weird: Walker, in his 12th full season, has never played 82 games in any of them.
The Future: They can’t wait for the underrated Cole to return, but were off to a good enough start to be patient.
Note: Ward continues to improve in his third year.


The Good: After stumbling early, Vokoun seems to have recovered nicely.
The Bad: Ever-reliable Jokinen is the only player at or even near a point-a-game pace.
The Weird: Ever-reliable Jokinen the subject of trade rumors AGAIN.
The Future: Few players leading their team in scoring while under contract for another three seasons get moved.
Note: Apparently, it’s possible for Weiss to be having a great season (on a career high 65-70 point pace) and lousy one (also on a 10-12 goal pace) at the same time.


The Good: DiPietro having his best season ever.
The Bad: The rest of the team has been standing around watching him.
The Weird: Leading scorer Comrie (all 5’10” and 185 pounds of him) is 3 minutes from being the penalty leader for the team.
The Future: Until some more scoring shows up, there’s only so much even Coach Nolan can do.
Note: Okay, I concede! Maybe GM Snow (and, by implication, owner Charles Wang) actually knows what he’s doing. I still think his best move was picking up Nolan.


The Good: Lindqvist proving his worth.
The Bad: Nowhere near last year’s scoring pace.
The Weird: Talk of Lundqvist being the best goalie in the league. He’s not even the best in his division!
The Future: Yes, Jagr is leading them on the scoreboard; but is he pouting over the loss of Nylander in the off season?
Note: The team seems moody, and again I think it’s because the wrong person is wearing the “C”.


The Good: The best power play in the league, with some of the best goaltending.
The Bad: Lousy five-on-five play, on the other hand, is why a team like that can still be -20.
The Weird: Astoundingly (for this team) healthy so far.
The Future: Aebischer remains available as trade bait if needed, but few teams are having goaltending issues yet.
Note: Ryder is taking a long time to get going – he’ll be in the press box soon if he doesn’t pick it up.


The Good: Parise bettering last year’s pace.
The Bad: Looks like Gionta’s 48-goal season is a distant memory.
The Weird: Hey – didn’t you used to be Patrik Elias?
The Future: It was a rocky start for a new coach, but Sutter seems to have settled in now.
Note: I feel bad for Kevin Weekes – he’s one of the best back-up goalies in the league, but behind Brodeur no one’s ever going to know.


The Good: Gerber back in form.
The Bad: Emery not. A reaction goaltender, he’s got to keep his mind on the game.
The Weird: Alfredsson has more short handed goals (3) than power play ones (2).
The Future: Not looking as indestructible as usual lately, they may trade Emery if he proves too distracting.
Note: It’s tough to imagine these guys looking at the regular season as anything other than a warm-up – their only goal is to win their last game of the season.


The Good: Richards has officially arrived to the NHL.
The Bad: Compared to last year? NOTHING!
The Weird: The most penalized team in the league is led by a player who’s 180 pounds - but only if he’s left in the rain too long.
The Future: So, the team is doing far better after losing two of their giant, immobile defensemen. Think there’s a message here, guys…?
Note: To the Rangers – this is how you sign free agents.


The Good: Gonchar avoided the slow start he had last year.
The Bad: Fleury less reliable than his back-up, Sabourin.
The Weird: Ruutu being used in a shoot out – and getting the winning goal.
The Future: The team seems to be believing their own press. Unless they realize (and soon) that no one is going to hand them a ticket to the playoffs, there will be some changes here.
Note: Staal must be going through three sticks a day – only two goals so far, after 29 as a rookie.


The Good: Lecavalier is building on last year’s breakthrough season.
The Bad: 20 goal defenseman Boyle only managed 4 games before surgery.
The Weird: The former Panthers coach is trying to buy the team? What kind of pathetic rivalry is this, anyways?
The Future: I’ll just copy last year’s comment: “unless Holmqvist is another Lundqvist, .500 may be as good as it gets this season.”
Note: Scoring depth is needed here, but there’s not much they can give for it.


The Good: Finally avoiding a goaltender controversy…
The Bad: …by virtue of neither one playing well.
The Weird: That the amazingly reliable Sundin hasn’t gone postal and started throwing lockers around after 13 seasons. Perhaps that’s what the team needs.
The Future: One day after the GM publicly defends his coach, the owner says hiring the GM was a mistake? This can’t end well.
Note: Colaiacovo would be their most promising young player… if he was ever on the ice.


The Good: Ovechkin, of course. Looking to break 50 goals again.
The Bad: Semin has got to get back into the game: two points in seven games isn’t helping.
The Weird: Ovechkin has had a hand in 50% of his team’s goals. Good for him, not so great for the team.
The Future: On the plus side, no one is out of the game this early in the season; that being said, you have to wonder how much help Ovechkin’s getting.
Note: New coach Boudreau is preaching a more aggressive style – poolies take note!

We’ll see what happens in the next twenty.


posted by Thursday at 7:59 pm 0 comments

November 21, 2007

What a Bunch of Turkey!

This week's Skeptics' Circle host resides in the United States, so we're all gathering at his place for the (Thanksgiving Day) excuse to party!

Well, actually, it's supposed to be a lecture; but whenever you tell this mob a story, be ready for interruptions...


posted by Thursday at 6:51 pm 0 comments

November 20, 2007

Lazily Helping

Q: I'm astoundingly lazy, but I want to help people. So... Any ideas?

A: How about playing a game to end world hunger?


posted by Thursday at 11:16 am 0 comments

November 19, 2007

NHL at the Quarter

It's been 20 games (well, approximately), so where do teams stand so far?

Western Conference:


The Good: They kept the right two-thirds of their astounding young forward line of Perry-Getzlaf-Penner.
The Bad: Schneider has only managed six games so far; eight points, which is great, but only six games.
The Weird: They just waived uber-competent goalie Bryzgalov. Can everyone say “Cap Space”?
The Future: Why would they need cap space? Because they might, just might be picking up a forward and defenseman…
Note: Bertuzzi has played the same number of games this year as he managed last one, which was one fewer than the year before.


The Good: Langkow is keeping his newly-discovered offense from last year.
The Bad: Conroy, being relied upon for secondary offence, is being outscored by defenseman Aucoin.
The Weird: A change of backup goalies (Keetly down, McElhinney up) means nothing: combined, they’ve played 33 minutes this year.
The Future: Good speed, lousy finish (See also: Edmonton Oilers). They need more offense if they want playoffs.
Note: Slow starts are endemic to this team, but the fact that Kiprusoff’s not bailing them out is worrisome.


The Good: Lots! Rookies Kane and Towes are the real deal; games are appearing on local television; Lang has been providing exemplary leadership; 4-0 this year against the hated Red Wings.
The Bad: Lots! Young team exciting, but also prone to mistakes; Khabibulin still over 3.00 goals against; supremely talented Havlat managed two shots before injury; not much offense from the blue line.
The Weird: How long before Samsomov returns to Russia? He’s finished with whatever potential he had.
The Future: Suddenly, playoffs are a possibility.
Note: It’s horrible to say, but good timing on the old owner’s death. The new young players should be on television, and that’s now happening. Now it’s up to marketing to restore this diminished Original Six team.


The Good: Stastny. No sophomore slump here.
The Bad: With 7 points, Liles is the top scoring defenseman.
The Weird: Someone other than Sakic leading this team in points.
The Future: A goaltender trade. Budaj isn’t a star, and Theodore is regaining confidence while being almost impossible to move.
Note: Will Leopold ever give his money’s worth for Colorado? He’s played 22 games for them in two years.


The Good: Did anyone get helped more by a coaching change than Leclaire? Five shutouts in 14 games so far.
The Bad: Nash has 14 goals; eight more than anyone else.
The Weird: Zherdev may – finally – be ready for a break-out year. But where’d Vyborny go?
The Future: If they make the playoffs, Hitchcock may be tapped for Coach of the Year.
Note: Back to Earth after a startling 7-3-1 start, but for the first time, the Blue Jackets may be creating an identity.


The Good: increased their offensive output (14 goals in 3 games) since firing their… GM? How often is that the problem?
The Bad: Modano’s lost a step, and it shows defensively: his -9 is worst on the team.
The Weird: Shootout specialist Jokinen has 7 goals this season – 4 in one game.
The Future: Scoring from multiple sources with no real “game breaker” can work – but Turco is going to need to do better than a .900 save percentage.
Note: Modano being the new American Top Gun is always a nice story, and having Roenick close by kept it in the news for a good week.


The Good: Zetterberg on pace for 120 points; 14 wins in 20 games; the supposed backup has a .926 save percentage and 1.80 goals against average and 9 wins in 10 games; leading the Western Conference in points and wins; no long term injuries yet.
The Bad: Supposed starting goalie with an .859 save percentage
The Weird: Four losses to Chicago? When’s the last time that happened?
The Future: More people leaning this way in their cup predictions. I’m not convinced.
Note: With Zetterberg, Holmstrom, Lidstrom, and Samuelsson, Vancouver may be the only team to rely on Sweden more.


The Good: Garon better than expected, outdueling Luongo in a 0-0 shootout win.
The Bad: Team speed not translating into goals: they have only 40 in 20 games so far.
The Weird: So, how’s that Ryan Smith trade working out for you fellas?
The Future: When you average two goals a game, you can only ask “what future?”
Note: Souray and Pitkanen were supposed to carry the offensive load on the blue line, but both were knocked out in October.


The Good: Lots of youth maturing into scorers.
The Bad: Lots of youth means defensive play not keeping pace.
The Weird: Already used three goalies this season – that makes eight in 100 games. How long before Fukufuji comes back?
The Future: Thirteen of first 19 games at home, but only six wins. That will have to improve if they want the playoffs this year.
Note: Defensive mistakes are what make for an exciting game. Kings games are very exciting this season.


The Good: Getting through injuries to major players by secondaries stepping up.
The Bad: Injuries to Gaborik (of course), Demitra, Walz and now Koivu.
The Weird: Even without Bertuzzi, Vancouver just seems to bring out the worst in the Wild.
The Future: Leading division for now, but that will last only if Gaborik can manage more than 70 games, a rare feat for him.
Note: Where do they find these guys? The backup to last years backup has a .921 save percentage.


The Good: Holding their ground in what is – by far – the leagues most improved division despite the heavy losses in the off season.
The Bad: Not just in the off season: Sullivan, who’s been over a point a game for the Predators, has yet to play a game this season.
The Weird: The ongoing circus involving ownership.
The Future: Get the ownership issues resolved and back to hockey! This is still a rock solid team, well worth watching; but the fans need to hear about their play, not about their finances.
Note: The goaltending is solid (Mason’s numbers are a temporary aberration), and the offence is in reasonable shape as well, especially when/if Sullivan gets back. Now if defenseman Weber can find last year’s touch, this team is dangerous once again.


The Good: A road record of 6-3 so far.
The Bad: A home record of 2-7. And, oh yeah: no one has more than 5 goals.
The Weird: All four of their goaltenders have a better – far better – record on the road than at home.
The Future: Well, anything could happen… but not likely in time to reach the playoffs. There is some faint hope in rookies Mueller and Carcillo.
Note: They seem to have added a fifth backup goaltender to their stable in Bryzgalov. Hopefully, he will find the ability to play in front of a home crowd.


The Good: Another tremendously improved team, it can be argued they got better when coaches changed last season.
The Bad: Tell me again why Jay McKee is worth $4 million?
The Weird: On a team with Rucinsky, Tkachuk, Kariya, Weight, and the surprising Stempniak, their leading goal scorer (by five) is… Brad Boyes? Uh oh.
The Future: Still rolling from last season, the goaltending is solid and the scoring has been good enough to get by. Now, about that defense…
Note: This defense should be racking up points, and Erik Johnson may be the answer to that in two years.


The Good: Nabokov has taken the number one position with both hands.
The Bad: The second highest scorer has 13 points, 11 fewer than Thornton.
The Weird: Where’d Cheechoo go?
The Future: What youth the team has in on the club; if it’s not what they’re looking for, then they had better start working those phones.
Note: Their top six scorers are four centres and two defensemen. Even their leading scorer in Worchester is a centre. A little balance would be nice.


The Good: A 6-2 road record, and 8-0-1 inside their division.
The Bad: Missing three of their top four defensemen for ten games, and 2 top of the top four until January.
The Weird: Ohlund is hardly an angel, but he’s on pace for 180 penalty minutes, twice his highest previous amount.
The Future: With a chance to look at young defensemen, Edler plays like a young Ohlund (steady, unflappable), and Bourdon is far more confident than his last visit.
Note: I was confused when the only “big” signing in the off season was Miller, a 36 year old defenseman. Now, I see they were being prescient.

That’s it for this quarter – to the East tomorrow!


posted by Thursday at 8:48 pm 0 comments

The Blind Suing The Blind

When you're running a fraud and you encounter someone else running a scam, there's an unspoken rule: you don't blow it for me, I won't blow it for you. If you're a long-termer you like to keep things quiet, draw as little attention as possible. An investigation of one may draw too much attention to yourself: a classic example is someone who pretends to talk to angels won't point out that crystals from Atlantis are impossible.

After all, you may have the same customers.

Which is why it's so interesting that the Council of Natural Medicine College of Canada is being sued for giving out degrees in acupuncture - by the College of Traditional Chinese Medicine Practitioners and Acupuncturists of B.C.

Looks like they've gone from the "Tradition Means It Works" fallacy to "Protecting Our Turf" mode. This should be an interesting challenge - I wonder how exactly one school is going to prove that the other doesn't know what it's doing, and is thus illegitimate?


posted by Thursday at 10:19 am 32 comments

Note From A Small Country

When Bill Bryson wrote Notes From A Small Island, he was speaking about the English habit of thinking of their country as being very large: people in London (or points further south) imagine traveling to Scotland as being a vast trek, whereas in Canada the same distance wouldn't get you from where I live to the next province.

But Canada is a small country. Our population is a scant 30 million people, and we string ourselves along a narrow strip along the southern border. But in many ways we, like everyone else, form smaller villages within our communities or knowledge groups: like goes to like. But now and then, we will experience an event that links the entire country together, and we become part of the nation. We stretch ourselves beyond our homes to be with others who think as we do, even if it's just for a short while. Quoting Ken Dryden: "Hockey is Canada's national theatre."

But sometimes the world that makes us feel big and the world that reminds us it's small collide.

Bob McKenzie has details.


posted by Thursday at 9:23 am 0 comments

November 13, 2007

Now, For Your Daily Dose Of Perspective

The Significant Other had recently expressed dismay at the violent killings happening on Vancouver streets - 18 murders so far in the city, and most of them drug related. The killing has moved from indoors to out, with public shootings in daylight showing up here and there.

Bear in mind this is a harbour city with a population of 2 million people.

For comparison: Monterrey, Mexico, a city half the size of Vancouver, just experienced a shootout between naval officers and "about a dozen suspected drug hitmen" outside a shopping centre. Well over 2,000 people have been killed in Mexico in drug-war related homicides.

Stockholm (which is around the same size as Vancouver) in violence-filled Sweden, had 60.

Even Seattle, a peaceful city about a third the size of Vancouver and only 150 kilometers away, had 29 homicides.

Canada had 605 total homicides last year. That's death caused by another person, not just murders; so drunken idiots getting stabbed by other drunken idiots outside a bar is in that count, too.

Not really enough to panic about just yet, I don't think.


posted by Thursday at 10:52 pm 0 comments

November 11, 2007

Hard Memories

Today is a day of remembrance - expressly for soldiers who are fighting, had fought, are fallen. But just remembering the soldiers who partake of the most difficult task a nation can ask of them is to only give them a partial justice: we must remember the history of our soldiers, the battles they waged, the events around them. Not only who they were and are, but why as well.

Perhaps most difficult is to remember unflinchingly.

With our men and women in Afghanistan, my thoughts are turning to one of the worst chapters in our history. Not in terms of lives lost, but in the cost of something far more nebulous; something, oddly, more precious.


It is a strange thing to say: something more valuable than life. In Jewish tradition, there isn't a rabbi in the world who would tell one of the faithful to starve to death before they could eat pork: first, survive. Everything else, even worship, comes later.

Soldiers are told a different story. They are told that the survival they fight for isn't their own, but that of their nation, their people, their ideals.

This third is where Canada stands. We have, by good fortune and careful labour, been able to select our battles. And we've chosen what I feel is the hardest path: Peacekeeper.

Wars cannot be won by playing defense; and so we have deliberately chosen never to win. We toil for peace; for compromise; for negotiation. We know that even the loudest voices are drowned out by a hurricane. Our duty is to enforce calm, so that communication without conflict may happen.

There is no glory in the role, but there is honour.

There are many who feel our war in Afghanistan is an invasion, a war of conquest: it is not. Canada has no interest in controlling the land, commanding its people, or owning their resources. But we also could not allow such a safe haven for those who attacked our allies.

Even as battles there are being fought, we are looking for ways harm as few as possible, and to build an infrastructure for a lasting peace. Even to negotiate with our current enemies.

But all negotiations are a trade of some kind, and what do we have to barter? The threat of continued violence will only result in its return. So we offer calm in the storm: we offer peace, and compromise, and negotiation. We are encouraging not only the Taliban, but those warlords ringing Kabul, to rest their arms and let their people know peace; but to give up a large measure of their their independence as a trade. But why should we be listened to? Trust is needed before talk, and thus far our only contact with our current enemies has been war. What else can we offer?


It is an expensive coin: you can fight for it, but never claim it for yourself. It is only yours as long as others believe it should be. And if it is ever lost, it is nearly impossible to reclaim.

We learned this to our cost in Somalia.

In 1992, the Canadian Airborne was sent into a war zone, with either bad information or ill applied or abruptly changed plans. For whatever reason, instead of supplied being on board ship, the troops were ordered to establish a base on land, at Belet Huen. Now surrounded in a strange land by rival factions, mercenary forces, and desperate civilians instead of safely at sea, they were unprepared and ill-equipped for what was a radically different circumstance.

Thieves were nightly visitors, trying to steal what supplies they could grab for black market sales or personal use.

But there was another problem - one that wasn't revealed until much later: this supposedly elite unit of the armed forces had been raising red flags, as shown by at least two internal memos warning of arrogance and failed readiness tests before the mission even began. Reports of a rebel group within the Airborne, one whose symbol was the Confederate flag, who had former white supremacist members, and who Airborne commander Lt-Col Paul Morneau was so concerned about that he recommended they be left out of the Somalia mission: the 2 Commando.

Lt-Col Morneau was replaced shortly before the mission began.

Three months after Canada's arrival, a reporter noticed one soldier being taken from a holding cell, unconscious. It was an apparent attempted suicide by on member of 2 Commando, and it was the first crack in the facade of what we thought we were.

Soon after the reporter's story, it was discovered that two apparent thieves were killed on the Canadian compound. That in itself would not be too exceptional: that they were shot in the back was, and an inquiry was launched.

What came from the one incident, after years of silence, evasion, altered documents, re-named papers that "couldn't be found", and the resignation of Canada's top general, were stories of racism, willful ignorance from supposed leaders, and the photographed beating and murder of a 16 year old Somali civilian, Shidane Arone. This was a devastating blow not only to our international reputation, but to our national psyche.

At the cost of two Somali lives, with the evasiveness of trembling leaders, and because of the failed excision of a cancerous few, our honour demanded the elimination of the entire Airborne Regiment. It is the first, and thus far only, Canadian military unit to be broken in disgrace.

Was it worth it?

Consider now: with that history, in this time, in careful negotiations and cautious hope in Afghanistan, what else could we reply? What result if the 2 Commando were in that nation now?

Honour is an expensive coin, one that is always being paid for. We cannot afford to waste it.


posted by Thursday at 8:43 pm 0 comments

November 08, 2007

Games and Surprises

This post at Nellioness reminded me of quite some time back when the Significant Other and I tried using some weighted hand-exercising balls as ben-wah balls instead.

A lovely experiment, with one slight mishap:

After inserting them we engaged in coitus, which added quite the dimension to her sensation and mine. Lots of fun, but when she went to give me a blow job the next day, my penis had turned all sorts of fascinating new colours...

I suppose the moral of the story is that steel is harder than flesh!


posted by Thursday at 2:08 pm 0 comments

Odd Quotes We Have Heard

A quick step into a very strange world: the world of Islamofascism. There is a very strange man bouncing around making speeches how horrible Islamofascism is, despite the utter contradiction that the neologism is, but he can never seem to stay on track during his speeches.

In this instance, he ends up talking instead about how horrible it is to support... Well, here's a quote (sound on):

"The left has a vision of creating a Kingdom of Heaven on Earth where there's no racism, no sexism, no homophobia, no poverty, and no war. A complete fantasy. There will never be 'social justice', people, because the only people who can enforce it are people like you and me and Ahmadinejad. And Jerry Falwell. And Jerry Springer and all his guests.

"Who do you think is going to bring about 'social justice'? They will do it at the point of a gun because when they get their revolutionary power [points to image of woman getting shot] that's who they are."


Just to be clear: Ahmadinejad, Reverend Falwell, and Jerry Springer are the forces of social justice? And they're just like "you and me"? Opposing homophobia, racism, poverty et al is a bad thing?

Oddly, this strange man is considered a representative of the social and political right wing in the United States, and often invited on television as exactly that.


posted by Thursday at 11:06 am 0 comments

Boxing Ring

The Skeptics' Circle is up and running once again, but this time, we've gotten lazy. There are just so many people who believe such stupid things that it's tough to deal with them all; so for this edition, we ask that you complete the appropriate form yourselves, and send it to whomever you think really, really needs the help!

Thanks. In the mean time, I'm going to see if I won the lottery yet.

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posted by Thursday at 10:13 am 0 comments

Runner Up, "World's Worst Day"

This doesn't beat last years champion, but it comes close in sheer surreality.

Picture this:

It's your first wedding anniversary. You're happily driving along, having traveled hundreds of miles to celebrate; and you're cruising at the base of a two hundred foot high cliff when a cow crashes onto the hood of your minivan.

Whoever says "X will happen when cows fly" has a little longer to wait yet.


posted by Thursday at 10:05 am 0 comments

November 06, 2007

Watch For Flying Balls!

I've led you to this fellow's site before, and specifically on this subject; but here's a question: how does a government get out of a patently ludicrous situation of "rallying" to save an exclusive golf course from the fiendish clutches for native land claims? Especially when the proposal that the very politically connected golf club members are rallying around is to hand over park land instead.

By announcing that the idea is laughably ridiculous... then saying the his final decision will come in six months.


posted by Thursday at 3:02 pm 0 comments


From November 5, 2007:

Q: Is it ever reasonable to restrict constitutional freedoms in the name of fighting terrorism?

Press Secretary for the President of the United States of America: In our opinion, no.

The follow up question was from "Mark", who ignored the obvious. Like: "Which country are you talking about?"

Damn that liberal media!


posted by Thursday at 8:56 am 0 comments

November 05, 2007

Of Brains and Balls

Perhaps you have, or perhaps you have not, heard of the television show called Phenomenon. I had avoided watching it, as it was, by all appearances, a showcase of woo-woo puffery combined with all the suspense of Americas Next Top Model. One of the judges is the incredibly irritating Uri Geller, just to complete the picture.

Not really my thing, in other words.

But my attention had been drawn by the fact that Criss Angel had been invited to be the other judge - and he often uses disclaimers in his own show that he's NOT magical, just a magician. One that happens to be very good at it, but that comes with practice.

One of my favorite episodes of his own show was the standard "Haunted House", where he brought in a slew of b-level entertainers and proceeded to scare the heck out of them. If you've ever (accidentally, of course) caught an episode of any of the dozen "Unexplained Spooky Stuff" shows, you know how easy that is.

In any case, at the very end, he's got a flashlight under his chin in the best "campfire stories" tradition, and asks: "Do you believe in ghosts?" Then a wink: "I don't."

Have to like that!

In any case, here's what happened when Angel was particularly unimpressed with one performer: a bit of Jerry Springer, as James Randi called it.

I still won't watch the show, but I may well check out the highlights!

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posted by Thursday at 5:59 pm 0 comments

And the Rich Get... Er... $89,000?

There are some recently released statistics from 2004 (compiling is apparently not the quickest thing to do) that show to be in the top 5% of income earners in Canada, you only have to be bringing in $89,000. That's not even net earnings, but gross.

Considering I live in a place that, even in this rural community, you can't find a house in any kind of decent shape for less than $200,000, this number comes as a bit of a shock.

Which gets me wondering: how much does debt count as wealth?

How far into debt are people going to get homes that are a quarter of a million dollars; or cars that are half a year's income after taxes; or a four year degree, usually earned without any income at all? Those are all quite moderate expenses, I think we can agree: but they don't take any other costs into consideration, and I'm sure you can think of another dozen without even looking around your home. posted a question on their discussion board which was interesting in the responses it brought out: how rich do you feel? A considerably different question than "how rich are you?"

A large number of responders talked about their quality of home life, and kept the perspective of the world at large compared to life in Canada. This is a good sign.

I was born poor, and I still am; but my homes have always had glass in the windows. We ate, sometimes monotonously; but food was always there. And I currently live in what could only be considered a small home: 600 square feet, with a back half that needs a serious rebuild.

But I also get to confuse telemarketers who call. My last such conversation, for instance:

*ring ring*

Me: Hello?

Solicitor: Hellooo, I'm calling from [bank XXY] to tell you you have qualified for the Master Card Platinum Card -

Me: Why do I want one?

Solicitor: Well... You have qualified for a Platinum Card Master Card -

Me: Why do I want one?

Solicitor: I'm sorry? Why do you... *trails off into silence, while banks of more fortunate shills proceed with their sales pitches in the background*

Me: What would I use it for?

Solicitor: It's a credit card -

Me: Ah. I don't use credit cards.

Solicitor: You... You have qualified for a Master Card Platinum Card -

Me: I don't use credit cards.

Solicitor: But you have qualified for one.

Me: No, thanks.

The best part of playing this game is waiting until they decide I'm a lost cause and hang up. Some of these folks are disturbingly tenacious, but the real fun is when they just can't understand why you'd turn down something as wonderful as a Master Card Platinum Card.

We have just gotten into our first debt in the past five years: we bought a second-hand truck and had it converted to propane. Otherwise, that's the sum of it: we own our house outright, have no cards, and aren't willing to engage in deficit spending to go on vacation.

This contributed to the conversation I had at work yesterday, where the other desk employee insisted that she could tell me what to do.

My reply is that no, she can't.

She can tell me what work needs to be done, and what my share of it is, and even how to do it - but that's it. My debt load is so small that I can walk away from this job at any time. If I think my employer is overstepping his or her boundaries, I have the ability and the freedom to tell them so. If I think their behaviour is insulting or unsuited to the workplace, I can say so. If I have an issue with what is being done by the company I'm working for, I can ask to do something about it.

In short, I can walk before they can fire me.

And just how rich does that make me feel?


posted by Thursday at 10:22 am 0 comments

November 02, 2007

Let It Snow!

So, if memos from Donald Rumsfeld were called "snowflakes", does that mean they are embryonic ideas, frozen in time and best for usable photo-ops?

Thank you, thank you! I'll be here all week!


posted by Thursday at 11:23 pm 0 comments

November 01, 2007

"It's Not Because She's Black..."

"...It's because we use the word nigger sometimes here."

-Dog the Bounty Hunter

Use of "N-word" May End Porn Star's Career

-The Onion


Whoops! Allow me to include: the Onion video clip is NOT safe for work!


posted by Thursday at 9:47 am 0 comments