Sunday, May 28, 2006

Two Places At Once

Whose brilliant idea was it to schedule one thing I don't want to miss right on top of the other thing I don't want to miss on the same weekend?

Sometimes, I really, really need to be twins.

At least they're in the same city...

Thursday, May 25, 2006

How Come...

...when a man wears a nice dress with pearls and heels, with or without makeup, it's called cross dressing...

...but if a woman wears a three-piece suit with a tie and/or a fedora, it's called The Corporate Look?

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Pop Goes The Pop

Thanks to this post by JeanC for the memories, and the inspiration...

When I was a kid (pre-teen), my parents decided to make our own root beer -- for some reason, everyone in the family loved the stuff. The recipe was printed on the label of the bottles of Hires' Extract.

My sibs and I were over the moon -- our own pop factory, right there at home! We couldn't wait. We volunteered to help (try getting a kid to do that these days, eh?) -- wash bottles, do the sugaring, even capping the bottles (a job my dad expropriated -- too much leverage needed on the capping machine for a kid).

As the oldest, I already had some experience with the process. My parents had been making their own beer for a couple of years, and I had previously been drafted as bottle-washer and sugarer (sugaring is measuring and inserting a small amount of sugar directly into each scrupulously clean bottle before the raw brew is siphoned into it -- the extra sugar helps the brew "work" a second time).


Everything went just fine up to, and for a few days after, the bottling. Directions said to store the capped bottles on their sides in an out-of-the-way place for a couple of weeks to let the brew "work." Being a non-alcoholic brew, there was no yeast, but there was carbonation happening.

Now, seeing how excited we kids were, my parents knew they had to store the stuff out of the way. I mean, really out of the way. Because we, as a family, were no longer the only ones anticipating the first successful batch. We had, by kid grapevine, alerted the entire military base that my parents were making their own root beer. So naturally, every kid on the base wanted to be there for the first unveiling-and-tasting, if only they knew when that was. Consequently, our house was almost under seige all day, every day, by kids who wanted to look, and touch, the magic bottles.

Being grown-ups, my parents knew that the only place they could store the root beer was where no kid could reach it. In fact, they supposed that if it was difficult for an adult to reach it, it would be impossible for a kid to reach it.

So they stored the newly-capped, long-necked beer bottles in their cases on top of the kitchen cabinets. With the caps facing out. In the middle of summer. A long, hot summer.

You know where this is going by now, don't you?

It was a U-shaped kitchen, with cabinets on three sides, on top of which were ten dozen bombs waiting to go off.

And go off they did. Beginning in the kitchen at about two o'clock one hot summer morning. And not ending until after eight o'clock that same morning in the middle of the driveway, where we (and somehow, most of the neighboring kids) all gathered in a mournful circle as the last intact beer bottle gave up its struggle and simply popped its cap just like the previous 119 bottles.

My dad dusted off his hands and started throwing bottles and brew-soaked cardboard boxes into the trash. We kids were willing to pitch in, but my dad was concerned about our being cut on some of the bottles that actually broke rather than just blew their caps. So we gave moral support instead. And heaved a collective, sad sigh as the last bottle crashed into the garbage.

The pop machine was broken. No home-made root beer. What wasn't coating the kitchen ceiling, cabinets and floor was trickling in little streamlets down the driveway and soaking into the grass -- where I have no doubt that the ants were throwing an orgy at all the sugar.

My dad, though, was no quitter. He just looked at all us kids and said, "We're going to need twelve dozen more beer bottles." All those faces lit up like beacons in a fog. "I'll pay a penny a bottle. No cracks or lip damage. Fifteen cents for a dozen if you bring 'em in the box. Twenty cents if they're all washed and clean."

You want to clean up the neighborhood of empties? Try out-bidding the bottle-return depot and turn the kids loose.

The next batch of root beer was wonderful. I can still taste it more than forty years later. Maybe one of these days, I'll go buy a bottle of Hires Extract and see if that recipe is still on the label.

Monday, May 15, 2006


Canadians don't want gun registry scrapped: poll

Well, there's a reason the headline -- bullshit that it is -- reads the way it does. Look who commissioned it:

"The Ipsos Reid survey, conducted for CanWest News Service and Global National..."

By now, everyone is familiar with how polls work, right?

You figure out what constituencies are likely to come back with the answers you prefer, and you do your polling there. F'rinstance, you'd never conduct a poll on the liberalization of marijuana laws in an area where the most basic cottage is worth three million dollars. Not if you want the majority polled to be in favor of liberalization. You'd go to the Downtown East Side of Vancouver for that.

When you're looking at the results of a poll, always look first to see who paid for it -- in this case, CanWest, the best friend a Liberal ever had. I guarantee you that the Asper family, who own CanWest, told Ipsos Reid, "Do not come back with bad news."

Polling companies only get paid for results. That is, they only get paid for the results the commissioner has stated that he wants. In this case, CanWest seems to have a monetary interest in keeping the Gun Registry going (maybe someone in the Asper family is benefitting from it?), so they tell Ipsos Reid how they want the results to look.

Nobody is going to be stupid enough to buy a sweep, though, so the polls are kind-of "distributed" among "friendly" and "non-friendly" neighborhoods. But the majority of questions are asked in the friendly areas.

And the questions are very carefully worded so as to be as directional as possible. If a pollster asks you whether you prefer French Roast or Columbian, he does not want to hear that you actually prefer tea. Tea is not an option. Even if it's your only option, it is not his, and he does not get paid if you don't choose one of the two options to which he is leading you -- he will insist on your choosing either French Roast or Columbian.

If you relent and choose one of the two options he has presented, he wins, and you go down on the polling books as a coffee drinker, even if you loathe the stuff.

But if you persist on your stand as a tea-drinker, he will eventually give up, thank you for your time, and wish you a nice day. Your answers go in the trash. Your opinion is not counted on the poll.

That's how polls work.

This poll was commissioned by a Liberal supporter.

The Gun Registry is a Liberal make-work project, costing billions of taxpayer dollars that have, to date, been utterly wasted.

Any questions?

Sunday, May 14, 2006

Pandemic Panic

Ian has found an interesting article with a rather heretical take on the dispensing of protective medicines (which are apparently in sort supply, and will stay in short supply, if the article is to be believed). The article first supposes that we are on the verge of a pandemic – which is a lie! Please pay attention – the forecast of a pandemic is a lie!

However, like the old game of “Lifeboat,” the article extrapolates that, if a pandemic were to hit, and given the sort supply of vaccine, the dispensing of medicines would have to take a route quite different from that to which we as a socialist society have become accustomed.

Any disease will first attack those most susceptible; and usually, those are the very young (whose immune systems are not yet built up) and the very old (whose immune systems have been used up through the decades). Common socialist sense tells us that we must first protect these targets-for-disease before we attend to our supposedly more healthy middle-aged (teens through fifties, I think) citizens.

And there we run into the brick wall of societal practicality: the middle-aged are the ones who are working, producing and selling, and purchasing -- stimulating the economy. It is these middle-agers who are keeping society alive with their labors and consumerism. The very young have not yet learned to become useful, and are actually a societal expense. The very old have outlived their useful time, and are also a societal expense.

Practicality, in times of shortage, tells us that we should protect those who have value, and are contributing to the welfare of society as a whole; we should allow the weaker, more vulnerable, less productive drains on available resources die off. If we can't protect all, then protect the strongest first.

A pandemic can be compared to a starvation winter for a cattle rancher who is short on feed. He knows that if he tries to save and feed the entire herd, he will lose them all and end up with nothing. So, in order to save a “seed base” upon which to build another herd, he will cull the weak, the very young, the very old – kill them off to save the food for the one who are strong enough to make it through a long, cold winter with very little food. The ones who live through the winter will then grow strong on new growth; and when they breed, they will pass that strength on through their genes, and the entire herd ends up benefiting in the long run.

But, you protest, we are not cattle! We are a civilized society! We do not kill off our young, our old, our weak! We take care of them! That’s what our taxes are for, and our health system. That’s what our Government is for! Our Government is not a cattle rancher!

Oh, really?

Saturday, May 13, 2006

Interspecies Love

They are different sizes, different colors, have different cultures and different languages, and they love one another anyway.

Could we learn from this?

Methane: Not Just Bad For Global Warming!

Looks like there might have to be an addition of intravenous Beano to the anaesthetic for some types of surgery...

(H/T NealeNews)

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Watch As Compass

I watched Gallipoli recently. Pretty good movie (with a then-almost-unknown Mel Gibson in the second lead) about a horrific time and place during WWI. Actually, "horrific" doesn't begin to describe it, and neither does the movie, really. If you ever had the idea that war can be romantic and glamorous (some people do), watch this movie to get that notion out of your head. And then realize that it was cleaned up a lot because it was only a movie.

Toward the beginning of the movie, though, there was a bit where the two young mates (Archy and Frank) were crossing the Great Desert (an insane proposition at the best of times) as a short cut to get to Perth. It's no spoiler to say they made it (otherwise they wouldn't have made it to Turkey, right?) -- but it's how they made it that had me fascinated.

In the Great Desert (Aussies call it The Lake), there are no landmarks, no roads -- no way to tell where you are or where you're going. If you get turned around, you're done for. But Archy kept looking at his watch every once in awhile, and would then shift his direction of travel. Frank's curiosity finally got the better of him, and he asked what was going on (and thank you, Frank, I was wondering the same thing, myself).

Archy was using his watch as a compass.

In the movie, at one point, the sun is hidden by clouds, and they get lost (until they find -- ah, you gotta see that for yourself). But if you can create a shadow of some kind, you can even do this on a cloudy day.

Don't forget to adjust for Daylight Saving Time.

Additional note of possible interest: Singer/songwriter Eric Bogle wrote a song called "And The Band Played Waltzing Matilda" several years ago, after watching a parade of ANZAC veterans. Listen to him singing it here (mp3 -- click on the audio link at the bottom of the page, under External Links); lyrics here.

Saturday, May 06, 2006

Bloody Census!

First, I don't -- and haven't ever -- seen the point of filling one of these stupid things out and sending it back with all the information they "require." My personal opinion is that it's a make-work project some government hack dreamed up in lean times, and then it got unionized and bureaucratized to the point where they can't get rid of it.

Then they "require" my name. Why? I once sent one of these things in without a name, just to see what would happen. Two days later, someone knocked on my door, called me by name, and told me I had missed filling in some information. I told her I had not missed anything -- I had deliberately left it out. She nodded thoughtfully, and asked for my phone number. I said no, and shut the door. She didn't come back.

Who cares how many bathrooms there are in my house? None of your goddamned business! That's how many!

It's an "offense" (and if it's federal, that automatically makes it a crime) to lie on a census form? "None of your business" isn't a lie -- it's the honest truth. Deal with it.

Canadian Cynic has his own issues with the on-line form, starting here, continuing here, and smirking smugly here. None of this actually fixes the problem, but it's good to be able to vent once in awhile.

One of the Cynic's commenters left a link to Egale's protest page. Egale is being polite by calling this omission an error. I think it's quite deliberate. So, being the cranky shit-disturber that I am, I filled out the form and sent it in with a personal note attached. This is the substance of the e-mail that will get sent to Stephen Harper from Egale's site:

Dear Prime Minister,

I’m writing because the 2006 Census form instructs same-sex couples who are married to check the ‘Other’ category at the bottom of the list of relationships, rather than checking the top box marked ‘Husband or wife.’

I’m writing to ask you to do everything in your power so that Statistics Canada respects the principles of the Civil Marriage Act, 2005 and the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Specifically, I am asking you to direct StatsCan to advertise that married same-sex couples should, in fact, check the box marked ‘Husband or wife’. This will send a clear message that same-sex married couples are respected.

Thank you for your time, and I look forward to hearing from you.

And this is the personal note I attached to the end of it (yes, you get to add your own personal touch):

I have no e-mail address, and I have no intention of getting one, so you cannot reply directly to me. However, as I have observed in the past, direct replies to petitioners tend to take the form of excuses, rather than solutions; so I really don't want a direct reply -- I want you to fix this situation by re-issuing all government forms with the correct information.

And I personally don't care whether or not you agree with same-sex marriage. Marriage is a provincial jurisdiction, not a federal one. My province passed same-sex marriage legislation before the federal case went to court; so even if the federal court had made a different decision, in my province, same-sex marriage is legal. Not including it on federal forms is discrimination.

I will be watching the news for further developments.

That bit about having no e-mail address is important to me. First, Egale requires it, and I had to put something in there (yes, I'm sympathetic to the "cause" but no, I don't want contact with you except at my convenience, okay?), so I dummied an address. It's required because it is forwarded to the government, and I very specifically want as little contact with them as possible!

I did my paper form and mailed it back. With relish. And a coffee stain. Staples (that will guarantee personal handling). Folded the wrong way. Without a phone number. And with a snarly little personal note on the back page.

Come and get me.

Thursday, May 04, 2006

Trading Places?

Maybe the Hobsbaums and the Kafka-Browns ought to swap apartments. Then everyone can be happy.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Mexico -- The Next Cuba?

I love it. Vincente Fox is thumbing his nose at Bush's "war on drugs" tactics, and is conducting his own war in his own way.

"On Friday, Mayor Jerry Sanders of San Diego, said he was "appalled" by the bill."

Aw...too bad, Jerry. You don't get a vote on this one.

"'We need to register every protest the American government can muster.'" don't get a voice, either.

On the face of it, with the information available so far, this actually looks to be a really good piece of legislation. Recreational use of drugs becomes no more unacceptable than alcohol. Addicts have a registry that keeps them from being endlessly hassled by too-busy and/or too-lazy cops. And the police agencies who really want to have a better grip on law enforcement are now going to be much more free to go after the real criminals -- the major suppliers and the pushers.

However, look to the Bush Administration to slap sactions on Mexico like Kennedy did with Cuba. Can't have the citizens crossing the border just to have a little hassle-free smoke, now, can we?

Wait for it.

UPDATE (Thursday ayem): ...with excuses...