March 28, 2008

Hoisting A Stein For Reason

A Ben Stein, that is.

The latest edition of the Skeptics' Circle is up and running, and it's got a special guest star!

Go have fun, kids.


posted by Thursday at 4:03 pm 0 comments

Can't Win For Losing

Several years ago, we had a tenant with a child in our house. The young boy was helping me get some fire wood, and I mentioned for him to be careful of spiders in the pile - brush them off so you don't bring them into the house. Spiders LOVE woodpiles, as there are lot of gaps for them to hide out of the rain in, and lots of delicious bugs thinking the same thing, highlighting the joys of being at the top of the food chain for your weight class.

"Don't have to," he replied, "Dad says the spiders all die in the winter." His dad was wrong, but only because the circumstances changed between when he gave the advice and the day in question: he moved from Toronto to the Gulf Islands in British Columbia. It's far warmer here in winter, so the spiders don't all die, and in fact frequently live 18 months or so.

The point being that advice is only useful if you understand the circumstances in which it was given. Not only locations may change, but so may the surroundings in a single place. Your experience has to be considered and compared not only to those of the person who gave the advice, but also the physical and emotional conditions in which they gave it to you. Your parents may have told you to always be good; then as you aged and they grew to trust your judgement, amended it to "Don't get caught" and then "Only do one illegal thing at a time".

In short: time counts.

Revisiting old beliefs is never a bad idea, either; but few people bother to do this unless they get shocked into such a re-examination by something occurring that jars their lives.

This comes to mind because of a bumper sticker (yeah, I'm the guy you see contorting his body to read them all in the parking lot without getting suspiciously close to any vehicle) on a local truck:

"Are you an environmentalist, or do you work for a living?"

Hyuk, hyuk.

On the plus side, whatever idiot wrote that knew enough to use "an" instead of "a"; but other than that there are serious problems with the note. I live in a logging town in British Columbia: by now you should damn well know that if you're NOT an environmentalist, then you don't want the loggers working for a living.

Dennis Miller:

"There's a lot of differing data [about global warming], but as far as I can gather, over the last hundred years the temperature on this planet has gone up 1.8 degrees. Am I the only one who finds that amazingly stable? I could go back to my hotel room tonight and futz with the thermostat for three to four hours. I could not detect that difference."

What difference could a tiny thing like that make in the lives of human beings after all, right? So winter is a little warmer: how could that possibly be bad news?

West coast spiders, meet the pine beetle:

"The latest estimates suggest the beetle has infected about 710 million cubic metres of pine — mostly of the lodgepole variety — which is more than half of the 1.35 billion cubic metres of saleable pine in the province."

If the winters are too warm, the beetle doesn't die off like it should. If you don't listen to the environmentalists who have been pushing improvements to logging practices that include avoiding monoculturing, (like, say, only replanting a profitable tree breed) then a single variety of insect, fungus or parasite can wipe out your entire crop.

Well, gosh; I guess if loggers run out of work we know who to blame, don't we? Especially if we don't bother thinking about it.


posted by Thursday at 2:32 pm 0 comments

March 24, 2008

One More Addition

Under "Time Killers" for $100...

What is Hot Chicks With Douchebags?

Way, way too much fun. And you know you recognize at least half of these people.


posted by Thursday at 4:32 pm 0 comments

March 23, 2008

About That "Seperation" Thing...

Given the blind panic that a whole lot of (white) folks have been applying to the statements made by Barrack Obama's former preacher, and the utter terror they have for any thought that this means Obama, under the influence of his Preacher Man, is going to eat their innocent white daughters (or something - they're none too coherent on this), you'd hope they just might re-think the amount of influence religious thought has on their political leaders.

Just thinkin'.

Oh, and wasn't Obama supposed to be a secret Muslim? *sigh* I guess I'll just never quite figure out which paranoid rantings to believe.

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posted by Thursday at 12:57 am 2 comments

March 22, 2008

Pretty Good Deal

Picture this:

You are offered a chunk of Manhattan real estate, complete with building, for $240 million. In fact, you get all sorts of property valued at well over $600 million.

Without going into any more detail than that, would you do it? Lordy, yes!

The down side is that you also get Bear Stearns, with the caveat that you must honour the debt load it has acquired: over $380 billion, as of December of last year.

But you'll also get a company that had net tangible assets (not profit, exactly, but what you'd get if you sold everything off) of $11 billion for 2007.

Down side is that that's for the end of 2007; and gains in other areas helped offset the write-down of $1.9 billion in mortgage-related equity. Then things kinda went downhill after that.

Up side - the U.S. Fed really, really wants you to do this, so is giving you $30 billion to tide those debts over until those shares you paid $2 apiece for came back up to a point where they can draw investors again. (Current Price: almost six bucks. Not a bad little profit!) Heck, the city of New Orleans only got a third of that, until they figured out how little in a city actually floats. And there were/still are a few million people affected by the end results of Hurricane Katrina. Not to say that the money was well spent, but that's not important now: those, after all, were just people. What's really important are marketing and investment firms. Oh, and banks.

So the money and political will to help is there (somehow). Why not take advantage of it?

(H/T to Declan)


posted by Thursday at 11:39 pm 0 comments

Moderate Jihadists, Killing Hitler (Again) and The Apocalypse

Well, an apocalypse, anyways. So long as we all stay calm about it, we'll be fine.

Threatening letters don't just come from fanatics.


What happens when rookies graduate from Time Travel School.


posted by Thursday at 11:28 pm 0 comments

Pleasant Conversations

I thought one of my cats (Edward the Black Prince, to be precise) was doing much better after a wound he had sustained the week before cleared up and healed over. The hair had grown back, and he was moving much better and eating well.

Then part of his leg fell off.

So off we went to the vet for stitches, antibiotics, and a $500 bill. On the plus side, I had a couple lovely conversations in utterly stereotypical locations:

The first was at the coffee shop/organic bakery that the Significant Other works at: it was with someone I had never met before, and mostly we talked about her and her partner finishing their house (which looks fantastic), and how the valley is a marvelous place, and various ways in which people could reduce our environmental footprint. The three Rs were a large part of it, but so was reducing water use, buying local goods and produce, and (eventually) the crop circle that formed beside her house one night and how amazing this writer is. Which goes to show agreeing on many things does not mean agreeing on all of them. My last email to her, after I checked out the web site, ended with this:

"I'll take a more thorough look at Mr. Silva's web site (and get his book from the library), but I do have to tell you that what I've seen so far isn't impressing me. Much of what he's mentioning covers standard New Age territory, with very little that's actually new. He covers faith healing; charged water (relying on the infamous Marsaro Emoto experiments); a variety of deisms (for the same reason Sylvia Browne does - so he's not seen as a threat to anyone's beliefs); Natural Law ("those who died on 9/11 chose to die"); angels; dowsing; and even orgone (!), of all things. And he wraps it up with the bog-standard "If this doesn't work for you, it's your fault" caveat. I've encountered all of these before, either on their own or in various combinations, and I can't say the encounters left a good impression. He does seem to leave aliens out of the picture, which is a little surprising, but he goes on about "benevolent intelligence" guiding various people and things, so I suppose that's vague enough to include them as a possibility.

I don't actually mind if you believe in these things, so long as you don't mind that I think they are, well, silly."

Which is pretty much leaving things in her court. But I do value honesty, and if that's a breaking point for her, best she know now.

So after dropping off Edward, I had a few hours to kill so I spent it in my favorite book store (Watermark Books on Salt Spring Island). I was talking with Sherri about various forms of belief and what inspires people to them (Pleasant Conversation #2), when another gentleman came into the shop and joined in (creating Pleasant Conversation the third). It was a conversation in free-flow, eventually ending up at the idea of gods, where I mentioned on of the few things I agreed with Christopher Hitchens about: that religion was humanity's first effort to understand the world around itself. Notably, that religion was our first science, our first morality, our first mathematics, our first politics, et cetera.

Ends up the gentleman in question was a philosopher, and he strongly disagreed with the premise I mentioned on two grounds: the first, that to extrapolate what was intended by the remnants of ancient civilizations we've discovered is nearly impossible, and to project farther back into what first societies were like was an hypothetical exercise only; and secondly that without a method or exploration, it could not be considered ant type of science.

Both of these are certainly valid points, and the three of us had a lively talk about what societies may have been like, why religion may have formed, was this drive toward belief an innate feature of humans in general (even if not in us three specifically), and how could we tell anyways?

All told, despite a three day hospital stay for Edward, I can only recommend getting your cat sick to spur the mind. Or I suppose you could visit more coffee shops and book stores - I don't care how much you like espressos, that's got to be the cheaper option.


posted by Thursday at 4:10 pm 2 comments

One Nation Under (My) God

That special weekend is upon us once again! Yes, the time where we go hunting for Easter Eggs, uncovering delightful surprises and delicious treats.

Yep, Blog against Theocracy Time is here! Go, and enjoy.


posted by Thursday at 4:02 pm 0 comments

March 17, 2008

Us Fogies May Remember...

One of the best versions of Oh, Danny Boy ever to be broadcast, from one of the best shows ever to be written.

Have a handkerchief ready!


posted by Thursday at 10:13 pm 0 comments

March 14, 2008

Two Professional Views

Sick of hearing about Eliot Spitzer yet? Don't be.

There's two interesting views to read - the first from a professional sex trade worker; the other from an investigative journalist who used to work uncovering racketeering for the U.S. Government, among many, many other things.

If you think there's no connection between those two, you may be surprised. Some questions:

An interesting point that I haven't heard asked (but half-answered by Rex Murphy): why is Spitzer alone? According to Murphy, it's because he was a schmuck. But come on:

Vitter had defenders.

Foley had defenders.

Gingrich had defenders.

You get the idea.

Why not Spitzer? And why is this a Federal prosecution and wiretapping - exceedingly rare events in prostitution cases? Why the activation of the Mann Act - an 85-year old law that is almost never used? Why did a bank go to the IRS involving Spitzers "suspicious" payments? And why did the Department of Justice concoct an elaborate sting operation for what is, in most districts of the U.S., a misdemeanor?

Part of the reason for the abandonment is because he is a Democrat - and the political left does have a habit of eating their own. Cries of "We're supposed to be better than that!" ring out on the sinister side; while the dexters gather around their fallen in a protective circle, pointing fingers outward at those who notice clay feet. It's the standard Republican tactic: demand to know why the media thinks it has a right to ask such personal questions until they get embarrassed and go away.

Don't laugh, it works.

Last question: for cryin' out loud, why isn't prostitution legal in the U.S., already (Rhode Island and Nevada excepted, of course)?

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posted by Thursday at 11:15 pm 3 comments

The Other Captain

Dear Coach Vigneault:

Now that you have tried a few games without Linden, and watched the Canucks play rather badly in all three, could you please stop trying Rypien, Isbister, and Jaffray where Linden should be? There is no one on the team will work harder to get you to the playoffs, and that determination is needed RIGHT NOW. Veterans are wily for a reason.



posted by Thursday at 2:32 pm 0 comments

Funny Story

*Ring ring*

"Hello, RECycle."

"Hi, it's me. Any bites on my bike and sidecar?"


"Great! What did -"

"We sold it."


"So if you want to come in and we'll settle up -"

"When did that happen?"

"Oh, a couple of weeks back. So when you want to come in we'll settle up."


I have no idea when they were planning on telling me, but at least this rather horrible experience is ended. Now I can afford to get my Goose on the road!


posted by Thursday at 2:25 pm 0 comments

March 13, 2008

The Perpetual Party...

...Somewhat pathetic or utterly pathetic?

Just in case there was more proof needed that the Liberal party has only done what the polls have told them to do, here's their excuse for not bringing down the Conservative government over legislation negating the Liberal bill (that has already passed) making Registered Education Savings Plan contributions tax-exempt:

It's Easter.

That's it - the sum total of their excuse.

Just to clarify: Team Blue, the currently ruling Conservative Party, is introducing legislation that stops education savings plan donations from being tax-exempt, the excuse being that it would cost the government too much in lost revenue. That's the same Conservative Party who has already made major tax cuts before realizing their mistake ("Gee, we're running out of money! How'd that happen?") and deciding to pretty much ignore our debt load to get things to balance out better.

That's the Conservatives voting against a reasonable and logical tax exemption (the better educated the population is etc etc. You know the rest.) and the Liberals abstaining from voting against it yet again because there's a holiday coming up.

As an added bonus, you have a member of the Perpetual Party blaming the House of Orange for the Conservatives being in power because they had the temerity to do their job. Just like we heard two years back. Simply amazing.

Who says Team Blue has a minority?


posted by Thursday at 2:17 pm 2 comments

March 12, 2008

The Nature of Causality

Every now and again, I'll see some chowderhead gibbering on about how evil Teh Gayz are; and they'll babble about the spread of diseases (ignoring how rare it is for lesbians to transmit certain ones...); and they'll quote statistics of one sort or another about how homosexuals have a higher incidence of suicide and depression.

Well, I can't imagine why that might be. Can you?


posted by Thursday at 11:34 pm 0 comments

Normally, This Goes

When one receives a mass email from the rather intimidatingly named "Lance Goodthrust", the usual receptacle is the Trash. It's a good thing I fetched it out, as this is actually the latest missive of the Skeptics' Circle - hosted by the good folks at Happy Jihad's House of Pancakes. And it covers... EVERYTHING!

Mind your eyes when you go.


posted by Thursday at 9:10 pm 0 comments

March 09, 2008

It's a FACT!

Did you know that The Netherlands, Belgium, Spain, Canada, and South Africa are only going to last another twenty or thirty years before they are destroyed? Not really sure how that's going to come about, but I'm assured that it will happen:

"Studies show that no society that has totally embraced homosexuality has lasted more than, you know, a few decades."

I didn't either! But since State Rep. Sally Kern (R - Oklahoma) brought it up, it must be true. After all, what kind of people would put a ranting, paranoid, religious fanatic in power over them?

That would just be crazy.

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posted by Thursday at 11:55 pm 2 comments

March 08, 2008


lolcat - fail

Some lines from a story about the great big Climate Change Denier conference in New York this past Tuesday:

"On Sunday night, the dinner speaker was Patrick J. Michaels, a climatologist with a paid position at the antiregulatory Cato Institute[...]"

The Cato Institute? Here? I'm shocked! Shocked, I tell you!

"Its main conclusion was this: “Our findings, if sustained, point to natural causes and a moderate warming trend with beneficial effects for humanity and wildlife.”"

Everyone benefits when it's warmer? Right on! No worries there, then!

"The meeting was largely framed around science, but after the luncheon, when an organizer made an announcement asking all of the scientists in the large hall to move to the front for a group picture, 19 men did so."

Huge support. Huge!

Your sponsor for this event: the Heartland Institute, a non-profit organization that made over $2 million (net) in 2005.

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posted by Thursday at 11:21 am 0 comments

March 06, 2008

A Reminder of Civilization

It's a start:

"The Canadian government is no longer using evidence gained from CIA interrogations of a top Al Qaeda detainee who was waterboarded."

Not using information obtained through torture is a step in the right direction, don't you think?


Anyone not see this coming?

"The report is a follow-up to an audit by the inspector general a year ago that found the FBI demanded personal data on people from banks, telephone and Internet providers and credit bureaus without official authorization and in non-emergency circumstances between 2003 and 2005."


posted by Thursday at 6:59 pm 0 comments

March 04, 2008

Instant Geek Test

Quick! Roll a d12:

A) Huh?

B) That takes me back...

C) Just a sec... Okay, I got a 9.

D) I didn't even have to stand up.

These are listed in order of Geekdom, and I'm sure you can figure out which means what. Anything but A, and today's a day for black paint on the dinner table.


posted by Thursday at 12:51 pm 0 comments

March 03, 2008

Is Sadness

Jeff Healey passed away today of cancer at age 41.

One of the best blues/jazz guitarists ever, cancer took his eyesight when he was one year old, and now another version of the same disease killed him off. Hearing him and Stevie Ray Vaughn

Great to hear, great to remember.

While my Guitar Gently Weeps
See the Light
Confidence Man


posted by Thursday at 3:00 pm 0 comments

Almost Sounds Like Saskatchewan

One of the recurring themes doctors noted upon the forced adoption of universal medial care in Saskatchewan, other than getting paid regularly, was the sheer number of patients who they had never seen before coming into their offices.

Most of these doctors were good men, and many had offered free clinics one day a month before the government changed the rules. They couldn't understand why these new clients, who clearly needed medical assistance, were coming in now when they hadn't appeared for the free clinic.

The answer was: pride.

These were people who refused to take anything for free, because they understood perfectly well that to take something from one person, you had to give something back - and they had nothing to give. They may have had land, and homes, and farms; but they didn't have cash. Their wealth was tied to where and how they lived, so they made do with what was there.

But they did understand taxes.

They understood perfectly well that provincial and federal revenues were collected from everyone - this was how infrastructure (which everyone used) was created. When everyone pays for something, everyone can use it. Only the most desperate of people begged, and gosh darned it, they weren't that hard up just yet. The popular phrase in England is "too poor to paint, too proud to whitewash".

Meet some people who are.


posted by Thursday at 12:20 pm 0 comments

Economics Made Legible

Among the links in the lower right corner (man, that feel good to have DONE) is what I called the Saner CAtO. If you're not familiar with the strange world of the U.S. think-tank called the CATO Institute, don't worry - it's no great loss. Essentially, it's the Fraser Institute (South), meaning they try to influence their respective governments and populations that the only thing a government can do is recreate the best of the robber baron era, since that worked so well for so many people.

You know: no unions, personal militias enforcing regional monopolies, an ignored working class kept in destitution and ignored unless they rioted - then they were beaten and killed. All that good stuff. (This looks familiar...)

Anyhow, two (more) pieces emerged there that are worth looking at: the first talks about British Columbia's budget applying the first carbon tax in North America and what it might actually do; the second is about Canada's latest budget, and what happens when a conservative government realizes that the tax cuts they instituted to grand acclaim can only go so far...

"Where it gets more interesting is once the Ideological Right Wing Government has been in power for a couple of years and has cut taxes on the wealthy so much that they risk running a deficit."



posted by Thursday at 9:36 am 0 comments

March 02, 2008

Glaring Gaps!

Two(!) new Skeptics' Circles have come and gone in my absence - and why I missed them is one of life's mysteries (laziness + vast amounts of scotch = none of your damn business).

Here they are:

From two+ weeks ago is the sweet romance that is the Valentine's Day edition over at Bug Girl's Blog! I think I'm in love...

And more recently, the Inherent EEEEE-vil of February 29th is exposed by the Conspiracy Factory. I don't think I'm in love any more.


posted by Thursday at 4:37 pm 0 comments

Dead Dog Days

As one native comic pointed out recently, there is a humour that is part of the vernacular that the majority of other people don't quite understand unless they live with natives day-to-day. For instance, canoe-bum jokes, or talking about dead dog days.

Dead Dog Day isn't everywhere across Canada (and shouldn't be confused with the very funny radio programme Dead Dog Cafe), but is common enough that most natives have at least heard of it. What happens is this:

Everyone who has a pet dog (or dogs) is told when the day is coming, and to get them indoors for the day. Any other dog seen outside is considered wild and then is shot.

Harsh, yes; but there frequently are no vets within one (or more) day's drive of the reserve, and little money to have their pets spayed or neutered if there were. There are, however, wild dogs, and those cause real problems for the people living there. Some of these dogs become adopted, of course; and when they are, they get looked after and their owners become responsible for their pet's actions. The wild ones are still going t0 be wandering around causing trouble, however, and anyone who feeds them but refuses to be responsible for their actions is considered at best a fool and at worst a sociopath damaging the reserve.

Given this, I think we may have a parallel in the world of politics.

Those folks who are so stupid that they think Barack HUSSEIN Obama is a Muslim Manchurian Candidate, and thus insist that pointing out his middle name (HUSSEIN! HUSSEIN!!!) is vitally important for national defence shall immediately be put up for intellectual adoption. The same can be done for people who immediately associate Hillary Clinton with the testicle-crushing dominatrix of the fevered dreams they never admit to themselves, or who think John McCain is a coward because he thinks torture is wrong or whether he had an affair or not is even important to governing a nation.

These few idiots who do find homes after exhibiting such stupidity are to be considered safe and sound. (This is sheer coincidence, I swear!) But for those unfortunates who are abandoned and left to wander the streets, unloved and unwanted, growling their insanity to closed doors; they will then be known - and removed. No one will mourn their passing, and the reserve will be all the safer for it.


posted by Thursday at 2:23 pm 0 comments