December 31, 2010

Hidden agendas come to light in “Little Ethiopia” debate

Filed under: Bureaucracy, Cancon, Politics — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 11:11

An article at the Globe and Mail pushes the idea of designating part of Danforth Avenue in Toronto as “Little Ethiopia”. The comments were far more interesting than the original article, especially some rather inflammatory comments from “Gus66” (some of these comments have already been removed by the G&M moderators):

Canadian Centralist: “People don’t want to live in a foreign community. That is why immigrants what to live with people from their own race, that is why they want “little” communities from home. If home was so great, why did they leave in the first place?”

Gus66: “C.C. Go back to Pickering and live in your nanas basement…..!”

[. . .]

sore throat: “The statement was made that there would be no tax implications.

“We heard that before, in another ethnic situtation, and when the dust settled it was proven to indeed require tax dollars.

“Just saying blanket statments such as you made will come back to bite your butt. And you can keep your modern multicultural and pluralistic society — give me a totally integrated societly with no enclaves for any ethnic group anytime.”

Canadian Centralist: “Special interest groups always require taxpayer funds.”

Gus66: “Deepest throat I saw your name on Kyle Rae’s contribution list…When it’s rainbow flags it’s okay but when people want to spend their own money we call them freeloaders. Which gay couple are you?”

[. . .]

Nick Barlas: “Since the time DECA [Danforth East Community Association] started our neighbourhood has become bullied. No class, no honesty from your residents who only care about ramming their interests down everybody’s throats. I loathe the days people like you migrated back into the cities. You came back into the “ethnic” neighbourhoods and now you are bossing immigrants around? You guys are shameless and deserve to be sued. I hope your names get published and you are expressing your views as DECA because you deserve to be sued.”

[. . .]

Gus66: “landed immigrant in East York, home of the European people who’ve been living there and owning the area. All of sudden we have a bunch of snot faced yoyos telling us what to do?

“First of all, go pay your mortgage. Not a member = no rights, so shut your pie hole!

“Second, get off your little ponies… You own squat on another street and have no business telling businesses what to do with their money or how to manage their affairs. That is up to the businesses.

“Why don’t you stroll down the street with your nuncycles to some other hoods and try to pull this stunt on those BIAs? Hate mongerers. Because you think you’re smarter than the landlords and businesses in the area? Whose respect do you command? Own nothing, sitting on your well-fed behinds. You’re talking about tax payer respect with Rob Ford, newsflash geniuses, business people support Rob Ford, snot nosed DECA geeks do not and are a bunch of flaky NDPers and NOTHING MORE.

“You’re worse than maggots and parasite…sucking up someone else’s blood for yourselves. Bunch of cheap bimbos who pretend they care but really a bunch of spineless buffoons.”

[. . .]

Gus66: “Who are you weasels? I suggest you send a registered mail of yourselves to that BIA. I have four buildings just on that street and I will not put up with your antics. I have buildings all over the city, paid off, yes my grease haired g-parents came to this country like these immigrants do every day to make a living. Got a problem with that? No landmass belongs to anyone people. We all have rights, stuff it.

“Greeks started off in the back of the kitchen. Now the Sri Lankans who were in the back are buying stores. Are you going to go to their stores and tell them you don’t want them to have a chance before they started?

“TRY DEMOCRACY, not HARASSING stores. I’ve got dozens of stores all around the city and you people are the biggest goof balls. If you want your hood to improve, shove your winy twats over and let the real business people make decisions for themselves.

“I’ll rent all my stores to these people. They pay their rent, they’re clean and they RESPECT. One way or another, all your kind does is look for freebies and drink beer at your houses….”

Mark Craig: Frazier and Webb are both keepers

Filed under: Football — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 00:01

Star Tribune columnist Mark Craig thinks the biggest benefit to the Vikings from Tuesday’s game wasn’t the win, but the harbingers of the future:

Frazier is 3-2 with two road wins, the latter over a team that needed to win to secure a first-round bye. He also outcoached Andy Reid, one of the league’s best coaches, while holding the Vikings together through the most ridiculous of circumstances over the past three weeks.

Not knowing who the Wilfs have spoken to or feel they can get to coach the team full-time after this season makes it difficult to declare Frazier the man for the job. But I do not believe they will have a better candidate than the guy they have in place now.

The players respect him as a former player and an even-tempered professional. And obviously they’re willing to follow his lead. Otherwise, last night’s game never would have turned out the way it did.

And on the quarterback position:

As for Joe Webb, all I can say is Brett Favre’s streak of starts coming to an end was beneficial to the future of the franchise. It has allowed everyone to realize: A, Tarvaris Jackson is not the answer, nor will he ever be; and B, Joe Webb has what it takes to play quarterback in the NFL.

First of all, he has the size, athleticism, speed and arm strength. That allows him to be competent while learning how to play the position. Philly’s poor left end spent the whole game watching Webb dodge his pass rush and turn sacks into positive yardage. Secondly, he showed something in his first start that T-Jack never really showed in five seasons: He’s got a feel for the position and he won’t get hurt every time he’s touched.

Webb’s read and throw on the third-and-11 pass to Percy Harvin late in the game was beautiful. If converted a third down and buried the Eagles.

December 30, 2010

Font geek humour

Filed under: Humour, Technology — Tags: — Nicholas @ 00:33

How geeky do you have to be to find this sort of thing funny as hell?

H/T to Eric S. Raymond for the link.

Cartographic explanation for the order of secession

Filed under: History, USA — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 00:20

A fascinating NYT post looks at one of the most influential maps of the US Civil War period:

The 1860 Census was the last time the federal government took a count of the South’s vast slave population. Several months later, the United States Coast Survey — arguably the most important scientific agency in the nation at the time — issued two maps of slavery that drew on the Census data, the first of Virginia and the second of Southern states as a whole. Though many Americans knew that dependence on slave labor varied throughout the South, these maps uniquely captured the complexity of the institution and struck a chord with a public hungry for information about the rebellion.

The map uses what was then a new technique in statistical cartography: Each county not only displays its slave population numerically, but is shaded (the darker the shading, the higher the number of slaves) to visualize the concentration of slavery across the region. The counties along the Mississippi River and in coastal South Carolina are almost black, while Kentucky and the Appalachians are nearly white.

H/T to Walter Olson for the link.

December 29, 2010

Vikings surprise Eagles in rare Tuesday game

Filed under: Football — Tags: , , , , , — Nicholas @ 12:56

The Minnesota Vikings were two-touchdown underdogs to the Philadelphia Eagles, and some said even that overstated how much of a mismatch this game was going to be. It was such a foregone conclusion that the game wasn’t even broadcast in my area.

As they say, however, the predictions are just guesses. The game certainly didn’t go the way it was expected to:

The victory was sparked by Adrian Peterson’s 118-yard rushing performance and an astute defensive game plan that put consistent pressure on Eagles quarterback Michael Vick. But it also was the result of a performance by a Philadelphia team that looked as if it had spent far too much time celebrating clinching the NFC East on Sunday, when the Packers beat the Giants.

The Eagles were called for 12 penalties as they lost to the Vikings for the first time since the 1997 season, ending a five-game winning streak. The Vikings had not won at Philadelphia since 1985. Philadelphia’s performance was reminiscent of the Arizona Cardinals’ effort in 2008 after they clinched the NFC West and then lost to the Vikings 35-14.

“It was an absolutely pathetic job on my part of getting my team ready to play,” Eagles coach Andy Reid said. “We didn’t coach well and we didn’t play well. It was a complete tail-whipping right there.”

Normally, as Gregg Easterbrook constantly points out, the team that blitzes too much gets burned by the quarterback throwing to his “hot read” (who is uncovered because the defender is blitzing). That wasn’t the case last night:

A game plan designed by Frazier, who had been defensive coordinator before taking over for the fired Brad Childress on Nov. 22, and interim defensive coordinator Fred Pagac made sure Vick was never was able to get comfortable because he faced a variety of looks and was consistently pursued by Antoine Winfield, who blitzed both from the corner and inside.

Vick was sacked six times and finished with an interception and two lost fumbles, including a crucial one late in the second quarter when Winfield stripped the ball from him on a sack, then picked it up and raced 45 yards for a touchdown that tied the score 7-7. Winfield finished with two sacks.

I had been looking forward to watching the game particularly to see how Joe Webb handled his first NFL start at quarterback. He seems to have done well enough:

Webb, meanwhile, got better as the game went along in his first career start, completing eight of 11 passes for 124 yards in the second half. He led the Vikings on scoring drives in their first two series of the third quarter, the first ending with a 30-yard field goal by Ryan Longwell and the second with a 9-yard touchdown run by the raw quarterback, who didn’t see open tight end Visanthe Shiancoe on the play.

Brett Favre is still the starter, if he’s healthy, so there isn’t a quarterback controversy. Whether he’ll be healthy for the final game at Detroit’s Ford Field on Sunday is still unknown.

Dizzy yet?

Filed under: Randomness — Tags: , — Nicholas @ 12:15

H/T to Nick Packwood, who blogs at Ghost of a Flea.

Recycling: it’s not economics, it’s control

Filed under: Bureaucracy, Economics, Environment, Government, Politics — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 00:03

Gregg Easterbrook points out the stupidities of many municipal recycling programs:

Freeze! Drop That Discarded Dishwasher or I’ll Shoot! The New York Times recently reported that unwanted appliances — old washing machines and so on — placed on the curb for disposal in New York City have been “disappearing.” With scrap metal prices strong, what the article calls “thieves” have been driving along streets scheduled for used-appliance pickups — in New York City, this happens by published schedule — and taking away the unwanted junk before the city’s officially approved recycler arrives. The “thieves” then sell the unwanted junk as scrap metal.

Set aside whether it’s theft to take an unwanted item that has been discarded in a public place. New York City bureaucrats think so; they’ve instructed police to ticket anyone engaged in recycling without government sanction. Twenty years ago, New York City bureaucrats were demanding that citizens recycle whether they wished to or not, and imposing fines for failure to comply. Now if the average person is caught recycling, it’s a police matter.

This issue is not the cleanliness of streets or the environmental benefits of recycling — it’s control of money. The New York City Sanitation Department pays a company called Sims Municipal Recycling about $65 million annually to pick up and recycle metal, glass and aluminum. Notice what’s happening here? Recycling is supposed to make economic sense. If it did, then the recycling company would be paying the city. Instead the city is paying the company. Montgomery County, Maryland, my home county, imposed recycling rules saying they made economic sense. Now the county charges homeowners $210 annually as a recycling tax. If recycling made economic sense, government would pay homeowners for the privilege of picking up their valuable materials. Instead New York City, Montgomery County and many other government bodies charge citizens for something they claim makes economic sense.

Recycling of aluminum makes good economic sense, given the energy cost of aluminum and the high quality of recycled aluminum. Depending on where you are in the country, recycling of newspapers may make sense. Recycling of steel and copper usually makes sense. But recycling of glass, most plastics and coated paper is a net waste of energy. Often the goal of government-imposed recycling program is to use lack of understanding of economics to reach into citizens’ pockets and forcibly extract money that bureaucrats can control.

Notice what else is happening here — New York City pays a company millions of dollars to do something “thieves” will do for free. The “thieves” harm no one, and could save New York City taxpayers considerable money. But then bureaucrats wouldn’t be in control. And surely no-show jobs and kickbacks have nothing, absolutely nothing, to do with New York City sanitation contracts.

December 28, 2010

The French Foreign Legion in film and in history

Filed under: Books, Europe, France, Germany, Media, Military — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 00:01

Peter Shawn Taylor explains how what was once the second most popular “adventure movie” themes has become all but invisible today:

The French Foreign Legion, steeped as it is in romance and adventure, had an entirely prosaic birth. It was a supply-side army.

In 1830, France’s reputation for continual political upheaval made it a magnet for Europe’s wandering class. Political agitators, disenfranchised liberals, left-wing revolutionaries and outright criminals from every country flocked to Paris. Such an agglomeration of potential trouble-makers proved unsettling for the newly reinstalled French monarchy.

At the same time France had recently conquered Algeria, rather by accident. (It’s a long story involving Napoleon Bonaparte’s unpaid grain debt, a flyswatter to the face of a French diplomat and the Gallic need to avenge even the slightest insult.) Maintaining the colony, however, was proving perilous for regular French troops.

The genius of the French Foreign Legion was that it solved both problems.

Refugees, criminals and agitators were pressed into a special unit of the French military created exclusively for foreigners. To make this urban renewal process as efficient as possible, no questions were asked as to the background of the recruits. And because French law prevented mercenary troops from serving on French soil, these soldiers were immediately shipped off to Algeria. Out of sight, out of mind.

After the “cowboys and indians” movies, Legion movies were the next most common adventure movie in early Hollywood. They faded from Hollywood’s radar even faster than the French empire did in the real world.

I remember reading a book about the Legion in French Indochina in the late 1940s and early 1950s (The Devil’s Guard by George Robert Elford), but I assumed it was largely fictionalized. Checking the Wikipedia entry, I see I wasn’t alone in suspecting it to be less than fully factual:

[. . .] published in 1971, is the story of a former German Waffen-SS officer’s string of near-constant combat that begins on World War II’s eastern front and continues into the book’s focus — the First Indochina War, as an officer in the French Foreign Legion. The book is presented by the author as nonfiction but considered to be untrue by military historians, and usually sold as fiction. In 2006 the online bookstore AbeBooks reported that it was among the 10 novels most frequently sold to American soldiers in Iraq (the only war fiction in the top 10, in fact).

December 27, 2010

Bargain of the year on classical music

Filed under: Media — Tags: — Nicholas @ 00:01

By way of Gerard Vanderleun, here’s perhaps the biggest bargain in classical music I’ve ever seen (iTunes store link):

That’s 316 classical music tracks. As one of the comments said “That’s pretty much ‘buy one album’, get 30 free.”

December 26, 2010

Vikings-Eagles game snowed out, to be played on Tuesday

Filed under: Football — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 20:13

Could this season be any more disrupted? Yes, apparently it can:

With a blizzard expected to hit Philadelphia today, the NFL announced that the Vikings road game at Philadelphia against the Eagles is now scheduled for Tuesday at 7 p.m. CST.

This move came amid predictions of an intense storm that could bring more than a foot of snow to this city and also winds that could reach 40 miles per hour during the game. It sounds like the storm is supposed to be intense from this afternoon into early Monday.

In an e-mail to the Star Tribune, NFL spokesman Greg Aiello said: “Due to public safety concerns in light of today’s snow emergency in Philadelphia, tonight’s Vikings-Eagles game has been postponed. Because of the uncertainty of the extent of tonight’s storm and its aftermath, the game will be played on Tuesday night at 7 p.m. [CST]. This will allow sufficient time to ensure that roads, parking lots and the stadium are fully cleared. The National Weather Service states that a winter storm warning in Philadelphia remains in effect until 1 p.m. [EST] on Monday.”

December 25, 2010

Merry Christmas!

Filed under: Books, Media, Randomness — Tags: , — Nicholas @ 11:10

Among my gifts this year, I received the H.L. Mencken collection Prejudices, so I’ve got lots to read over the next few days.

I also received the “Yes, Minister” and “Yes, Prime Minister” DVD collections, although getting a chance to play them will probably not come up for a few days, given how many other DVDs were exchanged as gifts this year.

I hope your Christmas (if you celebrate it) was equally happy.

Now, turn off your browser and go enjoy yourself offline!

December 24, 2010

Hey Kids! Did you get your paperwork in on time?

Filed under: Bureaucracy, Humour — Tags: , — Nicholas @ 00:01

If you hurry, you can just get your Santa’s Visit Application in before the deadline tonight!

December 23, 2010

QotD: Welcome to New England

Filed under: Humour, Quotations, USA — Tags: , — Nicholas @ 12:31

In New England in December the cold does not come in on little cat feet. Instead some mountain god of the great north woods throws open the door to Canada late one night. When you step out the next morning your scrotum promptly goes into hibernation somewhere around your arm pit. The cold gets hammered down tight. And it stays that way. Until, oh, somewhere in the middle of March.

I’d come to New England after many years away and, in Seattle, thought I’d packed well for the trip. I’d made a point to bring my very warm Seattle jacket. I stepped outside into the New England winter this morning and between the door and the car I knew, based on testicle retraction velocity, that my coat had nothing to say to this winter. I might as well have packed and dressed in a Speedo. At least I would have been rapidly arrested and taken to a warm jail cell until my need for medication could be determined.

Gerard Vanderleun, “The Gift of the WalMagi”, American Digest, 2010-12-23

Prichard, Alabama defaults on civil service pensions

Filed under: Economics, Politics, USA — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 12:12

The town failed to fully fund the pension plan for their employees, and it ran out of money in 2009. In spite of state law, they stopped paying the pensioners:

Since then, Nettie Banks, 68, a retired Prichard police and fire dispatcher, has filed for bankruptcy. Alfred Arnold, a 66-year-old retired fire captain, has gone back to work as a shopping mall security guard to try to keep his house. Eddie Ragland, 59, a retired police captain, accepted help from colleagues, bake sales and collection jars after he was shot by a robber, leaving him badly wounded and unable to get to his new job as a police officer at the regional airport.

Far worse was the retired fire marshal who died in June. Like many of the others, he was too young to collect Social Security. “When they found him, he had no electricity and no running water in his house,” said David Anders, 58, a retired district fire chief. “He was a proud enough man that he wouldn’t accept help.”

The situation in Prichard is extremely unusual — the city has sought bankruptcy protection twice — but it proves that the unthinkable can, in fact, sometimes happen. And it stands as a warning to cities like Philadelphia and states like Illinois, whose pension funds are under great strain: if nothing changes, the money eventually does run out, and when that happens, misery and turmoil follow.

Prichard is only the start: far too many local governments are approaching the same situation.

“Henry . . . mated with an 80-year-old female named Mildred, and last year became a first-time father — at the age of 111”

Filed under: Science — Tags: , — Nicholas @ 11:30

Meet the Tuatara:

Tuataras are living fossils in more than one sense of the term. Through long-term capture, tag and recapture studies that were begun right after World War II, researchers have found that tuataras match and possibly exceed in attainable life span that other Methuselah of the animal kingdom, the giant tortoise. “Tuataras routinely live to 100, and I couldn’t tell you they don’t live to 150, 200 years or even more,” said Dr. Daugherty.

They live, and live it up. “We know there are females that are still reproducing in their 80s,” said Dr. Daugherty. At the Southland Museum and Art Gallery in Invercargill, New Zealand, a captive male tuatara named Henry, a local celebrity that had been nasty and unruly for decades until a malignancy was removed from his genitals, mated with an 80-year-old female named Mildred, and last year became a first-time father — at the age of 111.

In every way, tuataras are late bloomers and passionate procrastinators. They don’t reach sexual maturity until age 15 to 20. A female needs two or three years to grow a clutch of eggs internally, and takes another seven or eight months after mating before she finally lays those fertilized eggs. Then the eggs incubate in the ground for yet another year before a brood of finger-size baby tuataras will finally hatch. By comparison, the incubation time for the average North American lizard is only four to six weeks. “If these were plants, most lizards would be like weeds, and the tuatara like a sequoia,” said Dr. Daugherty. For all the nobility of the comparison, the tuatara’s stately pace is also its Achilles’ heel, he added. That’s why the reptile today is found only on diligently monitored islands away from the New Zealand mainland, protected from mammals like rats, pigs or stoats that within months could reduce every sequoia equivalent and its seedlings to so much sawdust.

H/T to DarkWaterMuse for the link.

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