Quotulatiousness

October 27, 2014

Beware the stoner sheep!

Filed under: Britain, Humour, Law — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 07:21

In The Register, news you can use!

A flock of sheep that are about to meet their maker at the abattoir got high on cannabis plants worth £4,000, after the drugs were ditched in a Surrey field.

“My sheep weren’t quite on their backs with legs in the air but they probably had the munchies,” farm shop manager Nellie Budd told local rag the Surrey Mirror.

“They haven’t had any other side effects but I’ll tell you about the meat next week.”

The stash of marijuana plants, which were each roughly three foot tall, were dumped at the edge of Fanny’s Farm in Markedge Lane, the paper reported. Budd’s shop was just 200 yards from where the drugs were fly-tipped, apparently.

Police told Budd that the cannabis had a street value of about £4,000.

Vikings beat Bucs in overtime, 19-13

Filed under: Football — Tags: , , , , — Nicholas @ 07:02

Stadium staff in Tampa Bay should have been getting ready to refund the ticket prices for those poor souls who had to sit through the first three quarters of the game yesterday between the Minnesota Vikings and the Buccaneers. There were a few good plays, but for the most part calling the “action” pedestrian would have been a generous way to describe it. That all changed in the fourth quarter, as the somnolent Bucs suddenly discovered both a running game and that the forward pass was still legal in the NFL.

Vikings fans were starting to get that horrible 2013 feeling … that the Vikes were going to lead all the way down to the final minute, then give up the go-ahead score … just like last week. Instead, the last drive in regulation got the score tied up to force overtime, and overtime didn’t last very long at all, as Arif Hasan explains:

Those two minutes (or rather 1:57 after the runback by Patterson) were just enough for rookie quarterback Teddy Bridgewater (after a confusing call by the refs that functionally drained 20 seconds from the clock—though not technically wrong, just unusual) to drive down the field in perfect position for a field goal (with room for error) in order to force the game into overtime.

A pair of offsetting penalties may have felt like more of the same to a franchise whose fans are convinced the organization is snakebitten. But immediately afterwards, a completion to Austin Seferian-Jenkins was turned into a fumble by the goat on the touchdown play, Anthony Barr, who ran it in for a touchdown to end the game.

In the end, just like in the Buffalo game, the real takeaways are not in single plays like the fumble return or the touchdown Barr allowed, but in the balance of the game. The ball bounced the right way for the Vikings this time, but the overall script was a positive one for Minnesota, as they consistently dominated an admittedly weak Tampa Bay team.

Rookie quarterback Teddy Bridgewater’s stats included 241 passing yards, and a touchdown with no interceptions and only took one sack. 1500ESPN‘s Andrew Krammer discusses Bridgewater’s “up and down” day:

Bridgewater did his part to force overtime, but there is plenty of room for improvement from a rookie quarterback the Vikings initially wanted to have sit and learn in 2014 before Matt Cassel’s season-ending injury. Seven of Bridgewater’s 18 incompletions were tipped passes, including three from the Bucs’ defensive line.

“[Bridgewater] was up and down,” coach Mike Zimmer said. “I thought he took good care of the football, which we’re asking him to do. He was only sacked one time, those things are important too. We definitely are having a hard time scoring points, so we have to do a better job there. I think his composure was very good today. He took some shots down the field, which we have to do. And we missed them. If we keep throwing them, we’ll hit some.”

On a play-by-play count, Bridgewater went 4-for-10 on his deep attempts, missing his first three before tight end Chase Ford reached back to grab a poorly thrown ball to finish with a 19-yard catch-and-run. Three plays later, Bridgewater spiked the ball to set up Walsh’s 46-yard field goal before halftime.

The receivers helped Bridgewater out, including Patterson’s 28-yard tip-toe grab down the sideline that was challenged by Buccaneers coach Lovie Smith and upheld for the Vikings’ longest pass play of the day. But Bridgewater showed the ‘ups’ as well as the ‘downs’ that Zimmer’s postgame comments referred to.

After left tackle Matt Kalil was beat by Michael Johnson, who tackled running back Jerick McKinnon for a loss of five yards, Bridgewater hit Ford for nine yards and then found receiver Greg Jennings over the shoulder for a 17-yard touchdown and 10-0 lead in the third quarter.

“The throw to Jennings was a great catch,” Zimmer said. “Unbelieveable throw with a guy in his face. Those are the throws he can make, just have to continue to make the pocket clean and he has to just keep making those throws.”

The mayoralty race in Toronto

Filed under: Cancon, Politics — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 00:03

I haven’t lived in Toronto for a couple of decades — and when I did, the city hadn’t been amalgamated so the role of the mayor was much more symbolic than real: the mayor had peers in North York, Scarborough, Etobicoke, East York and York. Now, the psychological stakes are higher even though the role of the mayor hasn’t changed all that much — still only one vote on council, but the advantage of the bully pulpit. That said, the voters in the former city of Toronto often feel that the mayor should “really” represent them more than those uncultured swine in the former satellite municipalities. The place is still called Toronto, but the sensibilities of former city of Toronto voters are affronted that the barbarians in the suburbs inflicted the Ford brothers on them. In a sense, Rob Ford was an over-sized middle finger gesture by the rest of Toronto directed toward those effete downtown snobs.

At Gods of the Copybook Headings, Richard Anderson mulls who Torontonians should be voting for (or against):

With days to go we are confronted with two choices here in the Imperial Capital: The polished millionaire non-entity or the white trash millionaire bruiser. It is in moments like these that the vasty fields of Saskatchewan beckon with unusual strength. What are housing prices like in Regina anyway? What’s the price for a Toronto-sized shoe box without the Toronto sized traffic and political idiocy? This used to be a boring city placed within a boring province. It’s gotten very interesting of late and in the very worst way. I miss Mel Lastman. Heck I miss Art Eggleton, if such an emotion is even possible.

The Toronto Sun, a usual bastion of populist common sense, has decided to endorse John Tory. Given the farce that has dominated municipal politics these last twelve months I can’t blame them. The Fords have become so terribly embarrassing. Vulgar, crude and probably violent as well. Respectable people can no longer abide by the Fords’ antics. John Tory could not be more respectable. He says all the right things in all the right ways. The Right respects him, the Left respects him and the Centre looks upon him as a long-lost lover miraculously returned. Who are we to oppose?

[...]

Then there is Team Ford. Rob, Doug and whichever brother is currently running the family business. I don’t think I’d ever invite any of them over for tea. They have a natural ability to alienate those around them. It’s almost a talent. They have a flare for screwing things up. Toronto has never seen anything quite like them and will likely never again. A god awful mess. They are, however, the only conservatives running in this election. A house trained Doug Ford would likely do more to trim municipal government than John Tory. The latter needs to be liked but the former doesn’t give a damn. Therein lies the difference. One is a carefully managed artifice and the other is a sincere disaster.

What I like most about the Fords is their lying. They lie like children. Attempts at deception, misdirection and deflection are so obvious they have a kind of charm. Beneath the trailer trash manners and the millionaire bank accounts they are actual, albeit deeply flawed, human beings. These are rare enough traits that they should be encouraged.

I don’t want a smooth mediocrity bankrupting Toronto, or striking half-baked compromises with the Left. If the Imperial Capital is going to go, let it go with a bang and not a well-heeled whimper. Let’s have Doug Ford’s fat blond figure standing right in the middle of municipal politics for the next few years. For sheer obstructionism he can’t be beat. A clear message to the great and good that there is a mass of people in this city who no have interest in being patronized to.

The invention of the suit

Filed under: Britain, History — Tags: , — Nicholas @ 00:02

A.A. Gill had an unplanned meeting with British Labour Party leader, but the article isn’t about the politician himself, it’s about his suit:

Suits are malevolent magicians’ sleeves for socialists, full of patrician loops and tricks, small, embroidered, cryptic messages of deference and privilege. They are ever the uniform of the enemy. They are also the greatest British invention ever. That’s not hyperbole or jingotastic boasting. It’s the plain, double-breasted truth. Nothing else that comes from this pathetically stunted island has had anything like the universal acceptance, reach or influence of the suit.

Look at it as if you’d never seen one before. Nothing about it makes sense. It’s not practical; it’s not particularly comfortable; it doesn’t work; it’s not decorative; and it doesn’t make us look good, rather like the establishment it represents. And, like most things in this place, it arrived through a series of accidents, mistakes, misinterpretations, good intentions, conventions and slovenliness, all of it growing out of radicalism.

The suit is the polite taming, the socialising, the neutering, of riding and military kit. Those pointless buttons on the cuff were moved from lateral to vertical. You used to be able to fold the end of your sleeve over and forward and button it like a mitten, for riding in the cold. Incidentally, the buttons on the cuff should correspond to the number of buttons on the front, not for any practical reason, but just because that’s what they should do. The vents at the back are made for sitting on a horse. The slanting pockets are for easy access when mounted. The suit that we wear was, in essence, invented by Beau Brummell – an obsessive, highly strung, socially insecure, thin-skinned aesthete, snob and genius. And, of course, an Etonian. He wanted to simplify the extraordinarily otiose decorative court dress to give men an elegant line. When the bailiffs finally broke into his rooms, they found only a simple deal table with a note that said, archly, “Starch is everything.” Beau escaped to France, where people said he looked like an Englishman and he died in an asylum.

We have to thank the members of the Romantic movement for the sober colours of suits. It was their love of the Gothic that put us in grey and black but the suit stuck. It said something and it meant something to men around the world; it said and meant so much that they would discard their local dress, the costumes of millennia, their culture and their link to their ancestors, to dress up like English insurance brokers. There is not a corner of the world where the suit is not the default clobber of power, authority, knowledge, judgement, trust and, most importantly, continuity. The curtained changing rooms of Savile Row welcome the naked knees of the most despotic and murderous, immoral and venal dictators and kleptocrats, who are turned out looking benignly conservative, their sins carefully and expertly hidden, like the little hangman’s loops under their lapels.

QotD: The value of co-operation as a social strategy

Filed under: History, Quotations, Randomness — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 00:01

In any species that lives lives other than the solitary, brutish, and short variety, members cooperate. Cooperation is often a utility maximizing approach for basic economic reasons: if I’m well fed because I had a good hunting day, and you’re hungry because you had a bad day, a marginal calorie is worth much less to me than it is to you, so I should share some of my catch with you. This is true for two reasons: first, because if we’re kin, your future reproductive success redounds to the benefit of (some of) my genes, and second, because you might return the favor a day or a year later.

Nature, however, is better at generating frenemies than friends. A better way for me to reproduce my genes is to use a mixed strategy: helping you when it’s easy, defecting when I think I can get away with it, etc. I should ideally take food from you when offered, yet give back as little as I can get away with. I should be seen to be a good ally, and fair, and yet stab you in the back when I can get away with it.

In social species, there’s advanced technology to accomplish these goals: I can marshal alliances, vote people off the island, harass males away from fertile females, seize more than my share of the food for myself and my offspring.

It doesn’t matter if it’s nice; it matters if it’s effective. Gnon has no pity and laughs at your human ideals…especially because he created your human ideals to help you be a convincing liar in social games.

And thus deception slithered its way in to the garden of Eden and/or earthly delights.

What is the take away here? It is this: evolution has crafted every one of us for one mission: to pass our genes on to the next generation. The fact that you, or you, or you, have chosen not to have kids does not refute this; in fact, in supports this. Your genes will not be present in the next generation, and Gnon will laugh.

And what effects does this mission have on us? High libidos? Well, yes, some of that — but so much more. We’re the ape with the run away brains. Any ape that just had a high libido is long removed from the gene pool. Only the apes that also are excellent at joining alliances, marshaling allies, sniffing when the winds are changing, and defecting strategically reproduced with enough success to have contributed meaningfully to our genome.

A million years ago this alliance-making skill meant being on the right side of the alpha ape…and perhaps sneakily supporting the up-and-coming number two male.

Ten thousand years ago it meant being a member of a hunter gatherer tribe, and making status-degrading jokes about the one guy who was acting a bit big for his (deer hide) britches.

A thousand years ago, it meant … well, by a thousand years ago, social alliances for status games were starting to look pretty damned modern. It meant cobbling together wacky alliances from diverse groups like Diggers, Levelers, and Fifth Monarchists in order to overthrow one set of rulers and establish yourself in their place. Once in power there are all sorts of food-and-sex optimizing strategies for those good at the alliance game… like enslaving the foot soldiers of the old regime and selling them into slavery overseas, seizing their land, and more.

Clark, “Gamer Gate: Three Stages to Obit”, Popehat, 2014-10-21.

October 26, 2014

A bit of perspective on the damage to China’s aircraft carrier

Filed under: China, Military, Pacific — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 12:40

At The Diplomat, James R. Holmes talks about the recent accident on board the Chinese carrier Liaoning:

Reports of Chinese aircraft carrier Liaoning’s death — or debilitating wounds — are greatly exaggerated. The flattop suffered some sort of steam leak that prompted her crew to stop at sea and conduct repairs before resuming operations. The news comes from Robert Beckhusen of War Is Boring, who relays a Sina.com story that Liaoning suffered a “steam explosion” following “a leak in ‘the machine oven compartment to the water pipes.’”

Beckhusen denies that PLA Navy leaders will decommission the flattop because of mechanical problems. (By raising the possibility, though, he seems to imply they might.) He does speculate that the accident will force the navy to relegate her to training duty.

Would an engineering casualty represent a setback unseen in the annals of naval history? Hardly. All sea services have been there, done that, and will likely find themselves there again. It’s doubtful such travails will induce PLA Navy officials to overreact, demoting Liaoning from whatever plans they have in mind for her. China’s first aircraft carrier is probably destined to serve as a training platform in any event — a ship used to groom China’s first generation of naval aviators, flight-deck crewmen, and air-group commanders. She will remain such despite minor hardware problems belowdecks.

Indeed, if suffering zero engineering casualties were the standard for maritime competence, the briny main would be empty of shipping. Think about what going to sea involves. A warship is a metal box largely encased in an environment hostile to metal — namely seawater and salt air. And it’s a box packed with machinery, flammables and explosives of various sorts, and human bodies. In such surroundings, rare is the seaman without a hair-raising tale to tell about fires or floods, equipment failures, and sundry mishaps.

I could spin a few such yarns myself. One involves a pipe springing a pinhole leak. And spraying fuel. On a steaming boiler. While crewmen are loading ammunition. At anchor. In rough weather. And that was a good-luck ship for the most part. Murphy’s Law — a.k.a. s*#t happens — is an iron law of marine engineering, and of seafaring writ large. When it does happen, you fix the damage, learn whatever lessons there are to learn, and move on.

Vikings vs Buccaneers – “When a 2-5 disaster visits a 1-5 dumpster fire”

Filed under: Football — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 11:31

I wonder if I’ll even be able to watch this game later today: the Winnipeg CTV affiliate station usually carries the Vikings games on Sunday, but this promises to be a very low-audience meeting. If it’s not viewable in my area, I’ll have to depend on the team’s game highlights which are usually posted on their website the next day. How bad is this matchup? At the Daily Norseman, Eric Thompson thinks that it’ll be such a quiet game, you won’t even hear the boos:

The Minnesota Vikings vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers game on Sunday is NOT a marquee matchup. Who will win on Sunday? And more importantly, who will care?

If the Minnesota Vikings and Tampa Bay Buccaneers play each other on Sunday and nobody gives a sh*t, does the game make a sound? When a 2-5 disaster visits a 1-5 dumpster fire and nobody can be bothered to care, can you still hear the boos?

We’re only seven weeks into the 2014 NFL season and the two metaphorical trees of the Vikings and Bucs seem to have already fallen in the forest. This was supposed to be a year of improvement and hope for both teams. The Vikings had a new coach to clean up the woeful defense, a promising new rookie quarterback, five starters returning on the offensive line, and the league’s best running back still in his prime. The Bucs had a new coach of their own that has already proven himself in the league, a veteran free agent quarterback that lit it up last year, and enough pieces on both sides of the ball to make a lot of experts choose them as a dark horse playoff contender before the season.

And yet here we are with both teams looking undead before Halloween. Minnesota’s new coach and quarterback are scrambling to learn on the job with the star running back exiled from the team and the offensive line in shambles. Tampa Bay has already benched Josh McCown and suffered two of the NFL season’s most embarrassing blowouts through six games. (The only saving grace for the one-win Buccaneers? The NFC South has been so lousy this year that they’re still only two games out of first place.)

[...]

The scapegoat in recent weeks for the Vikings has been Matt Kalil & The Turnstyles, which unfortunately isn’t a 50’s doo-wop cover band. The offensive linemen were scapegoats with good reason — they were an atrocity against Green Bay and Detroit. But they actually weren’t that bad last week in Buffalo. And “not terrible” is a gigantic upgrade for that unit, especially considering the mid-game injuries suffered by John Sullivan and Vladimir Ducasse. So why did the offense still muster only 16 points even though the defense forced four Bills turnovers? Quite frankly, Teddy Bridgewater wasn’t nearly consistent enough with his decisions and throws to make the offense run efficiently.

Canadians’ ambivalent views on the Canadian Armed Forces

Filed under: Cancon, Military — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 00:03

In Maclean’s, Jonathon Gatehouse reflects on the reaction of bystanders just after Corporal Nathan Cirillo was shot while standing guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Ottawa, and how Canadians are still uneasy about the role of the military in Canadian society:

They came together with haste and purpose. Three civilians and two members of Canadian Forces, all working frantically to save the life of Cpl. Nathan Cirillo.

In the first minutes after the Hamilton reservist was shot twice at Canada’s National War Memorial on Oct. 22, it was passersby who joined in the challenge of trying to staunch the bleeding and keep his heart beating. Photos captured their desperation. A red-headed woman, her legs stretched out across the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, administering artificial respiration while a uniformed man performs CPR. A man in a dark business suit helping to keep the blood where it was needed by holding the kilted Cirillo’s bare legs in the air. And two more — a grey-haired lady and a man in an army beret — applying pressure to his wounds. All of them as anonymous as the fallen combatant inside the granite sarcophagus that the soldier was guarding.

A discarded backpack leans against the tomb, next to a Thermos mug of morning coffee. A black attaché case has been tossed to the flagstones. Right beside that lie the two military assault rifles—one belonging to Cirillo, the other his regimental partner—perfectly stacked, stocks tucked tight against the brass foot of the monument. By the book, even though they were never loaded, per standard honour detail practice.

[...]

The Canadian public and its military have been out of sync over duties and mission for more than a decade. It is a gap that doesn’t make much sense. In the aftermath of 9/11, we have come to venerate first-responders — those who run toward danger — as local police, the RCMP and Parliament Hill security did in their shoot-out with Zehaf-Bibeau. But we remain slightly suspicious of the motives of people who volunteer to serve in the army, navy and air force, as if there is something nobler — and more Canadian — in playing defence than being on the offensive.

The events of the past week illustrate that we live in an age where such distinctions have been rendered meaningless. First the murder of Warrant Officer Patrice Vincent, run down by ersatz jihadi Martin Couture-Rouleau in a shopping mall parking lot in St-Jean-sur-Richelieu, Que. And now the death of Cpl. Cirillo at the hands of another “self-radicalized” fellow citizen. Like it or not, Canada is in this fight, abroad and at home. Facing enemies who don’t give credit for past good deeds, and have few, if any scruples about whom they target.

There’s a tradition that has sprung up in Ottawa over the past years. After the conclusion of the official Remembrance Day ceremony, members of the public approach the War Memorial, remove the poppy from their lapels, and lay them on the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. It’s a small act of respect, and an attempt to connect with our fading, black and white past.

This year will be different. Not just because Nathan Cirillo died at that very spot, but because of what happened in his final moments. When a red-headed lawyer, a grey-haired nurse and a suit-clad government bureaucrat joined with a colonel and a corporal to try and save a soldier’s life, a page turned. The sacrifice, in full colour and public view, can’t be ignored. Everyone has become a witness. It is part of our present, and our uncomfortable future too.

Andrew Sullivan on the end of gamer culture

Filed under: Gaming, Media, USA — Tags: , , , , , — Nicholas @ 00:02

Andrew Sullivan carefully dips his toes into the #gamergate war:

Andrew Sullivan on the end of gamer culture

Many readers have warned me not to dip a toe into the gamergate debate, which, so far, we’ve been covering through aggregation and reader-input. And I’m not going to dive headlong into an extremely complex series of events, which have generated huge amounts of intense emotion on all sides, in a gamer culture which Dish readers know far, far better than I. But part of my job is to write and think about burning current web discussions – and add maybe two cents, even as an outsider.

So let me make a few limited points. The tactics of harassment, threats of violence, foul misogyny, and stalking have absolutely no legitimate place in any discourse. Having read about what has happened to several women, who have merely dared to exercise their First Amendment rights, I can only say it’s been one of those rare stories that still has the capacity to shock me. I know it isn’t fair to tarnish an entire tendency with this kind of extremism, but the fact that this tactic seemed to be the first thing that some gamergate advocates deployed should send off some red flashing lights as to the culture it is defending.

Second, there’s a missing piece of logic, so far as I have managed to discern, in the gamergate campaign. The argument seems to be that some feminists are attempting to police or control a hyper-male culture of violence, speed, competition and boobage. And in so far as that might be the case, my sympathies do indeed lie with the gamers. The creeping misandry in a lot of current debates – see “Affirmative Consent” and “Check Your Privilege” – and the easy prejudices that define white and male and young as suspect identities (because sexism!) rightly offend many men (and women).

There’s an atmosphere in which it has somehow become problematic to have a classic white, straight male identity, and a lot that goes with it. I’m not really a part of that general culture – indifferent to boobage, as I am, and bored by violence. But I don’t see why it cannot have a place in the world. I believe in the flourishing of all sorts of cultures and subcultures and have long been repulsed by the nannies and busybodies who want to police them – whether from the social right or the feminist left.

But – and here’s where the logic escapes me – if the core gamers really do dominate the market for these games, why do they think the market will stop catering to them? The great (and not-so-great) thing about markets is that they are indifferent to content as such. If “hardcore gamers” skew 7 -1 male, and if corporations want to make lots of money, then this strain of the culture is hardly under threat. It may be supplemented by lots of other, newer varieties, but it won’t die. Will it be diluted? Almost certainly. Does that feel like an assault for a group of people whose identity is deeply bound up in this culture? Absolutely. Is it something anyone should really do anything about? Nah. Let a thousand variety of nerds and post-nerds bloom. And leave Kenny McCormick alone. This doesn’t have to be zero-sum.

QotD: Rowing

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

George never went near the water until he was sixteen. Then he and eight other gentlemen of about the same age went down in a body to Kew one Saturday, with the idea of hiring a boat there, and pulling to Richmond and back; one of their number, a shock-headed youth, named Joskins, who had once or twice taken out a boat on the Serpentine, told them it was jolly fun, boating!

The tide was running out pretty rapidly when they reached the landing-stage, and there was a stiff breeze blowing across the river, but this did not trouble them at all, and they proceeded to select their boat.

There was an eight-oared racing outrigger drawn up on the stage; that was the one that took their fancy. They said they’d have that one, please. The boatman was away, and only his boy was in charge. The boy tried to damp their ardour for the outrigger, and showed them two or three very comfortable-looking boats of the family-party build, but those would not do at all; the outrigger was the boat they thought they would look best in.

So the boy launched it, and they took off their coats and prepared to take their seats. The boy suggested that George, who, even in those days, was always the heavy man of any party, should be number four. George said he should be happy to be number four, and promptly stepped into bow’s place, and sat down with his back to the stern. They got him into his proper position at last, and then the others followed.

A particularly nervous boy was appointed cox, and the steering principle explained to him by Joskins. Joskins himself took stroke. He told the others that it was simple enough; all they had to do was to follow him.

They said they were ready, and the boy on the landing stage took a boat-hook and shoved him off.

What then followed George is unable to describe in detail. He has a confused recollection of having, immediately on starting, received a violent blow in the small of the back from the butt-end of number five’s scull, at the same time that his own seat seemed to disappear from under him by magic, and leave him sitting on the boards. He also noticed, as a curious circumstance, that number two was at the same instant lying on his back at the bottom of the boat, with his legs in the air, apparently in a fit.

They passed under Kew Bridge, broadside, at the rate of eight miles an hour. Joskins being the only one who was rowing. George, on recovering his seat, tried to help him, but, on dipping his oar into the water, it immediately, to his intense surprise, disappeared under the boat, and nearly took him with it.

And then “cox” threw both rudder lines over-board, and burst into tears.

How they got back George never knew, but it took them just forty minutes. A dense crowd watched the entertainment from Kew Bridge with much interest, and everybody shouted out to them different directions. Three times they managed to get the boat back through the arch, and three times they were carried under it again, and every time “cox” looked up and saw the bridge above him he broke out into renewed sobs.

George said he little thought that afternoon that he should ever come to really like boating.

Jerome K. Jerome, Three Men in a Boat (to say nothing of the dog), 1889.

October 25, 2014

Fran Tarkenton’s three suggestions to help protect Teddy Bridgewater

Filed under: Football — Tags: , , — Nicholas @ 11:03

Legendary Vikings quarterback Fran Tarkenton has some suggestions for the current coaching squad for ways to keep opposing teams from teeing off on Teddy:

The good news is, the Vikings’ defense is playing great. When you consistently hold teams to 17 points, you expect to win a lot of games.

The bad news is, the Vikings’ offense just isn’t producing enough. Even though the defense held Detroit and Buffalo to 17 points apiece the past two weeks, the offense has gotten only three and 16, and the Vikings lost both games.

No matter how many ways you analyze it, slice it up and study it, that’s not good enough. And it’s tough to watch great defensive efforts like Sunday’s against the Bills go unrewarded. When the defense gets six sacks and four turnovers, you can’t lose that game!

The offensive line is still struggling, and Teddy Bridgewater was sacked five times Sunday. That makes 13 sacks in the past two weeks. But the Vikings aren’t the only team in the NFL with offensive line problems, and there are things you can do to compensate.

You have to keep your quarterback upright. If the quarterback is on the ground, he has no chance.

Destroying the “too big to fail” meme

Filed under: Britain, Economics — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 10:09

In the Telegraph, Allister Heath makes a case for the looming end to the economically disastrous notion that certain entities are “too big to fail”:

Bank bail-outs have been a cultural catastrophe for those of us who support free markets, low taxes and enterprise. During the 1980s and 1990s, much of the British public came to accept and even embrace capitalism, in return for a simple deal: profits and losses would both have to be privatised. Clever entrepreneurs, savvy traders or brilliant footballers would be encouraged to make money; but companies and investors that placed the wrong bets would be allowed to fail, with no pity.

Not only did this trigger an explosion in prosperity, it also helped shift the British mindset towards a much more pro-enterprise position. The rules of the game felt fair: risk and reward went hand in hand. The government would serve as an umpire, not a supporter of vested interests.

But the crisis of 2007-09 put an end to this implicit bargain, at least in the eyes of vast swathes of the public. They saw large institutions bailed out at great public expense, and with substantial amounts of taxpayer money put at risk. It started to look as if — when it came to the banking industry at least — risk had been socialised while profits remained private. To many members of the public, it was a case of heads you win and tails we lose. Profits were retained by a small elite, while losses were spread much more broadly — or so it felt.

Needless to say, the reality was more complex. Shareholders of bailed-out banks often lost everything. But bondholders were rescued, institutions survived, staff contracts were not ripped up and the process of creative destruction was severely derailed. And while big beasts were kept afloat, many smaller firms went bust and many ordinary folk lost their jobs. This is one reason — together with an incorrect narrative of the causes of the crisis which wrongly absolves governments and central banks — for increased support for punitive tax and government meddling in prices and wages.

So why did governments turn their back on capitalism and suddenly refuse to let market forces do their work? The uncontrolled failure of a major financial institution has a much broader, system-wide impact than the uncontrolled failure of a hair salon. Under traditional bankruptcy law, however, both would be treated in the same way, which simply makes no sense. One needs a different approach to tackle the failure of major banks or insurers — a proper Plan B. With the right institutions in place, there need not be such a thing as “too big to fail”. With the correct planning and tools, even the largest of financial firms can be dismantled sensibly without wiping out millions of depositors and triggering another Great Depression.

They don’t like to brag…

Filed under: Cancon, Humour, Military — Tags: , — Nicholas @ 09:56

John Turner sent me this link. I found it quite amusing:

JTF2 brag sheet from imgur

Harper government to restore part of the military budget?

Filed under: Cancon, Government, Middle East, Military — Tags: , , , — Nicholas @ 09:49

In the Edmonton Leader-Post, Michael Den Tandt reported last week on the chances of the Canadian Armed Forces getting back at least some of the most recent budget cuts, in light of the increasing deployment tempo in Europe and the Middle East:

Even as the Harper Conservatives have deployed CF-18 fighter jets to Eastern Europe, and now to Kuwait to join the air war against Islamic State, also known as ISIL or ISIS, the Canadian Forces have seen their funding slashed. But that may be about to change, as the government considers adding back part or all of the $3.1 billion removed from the military’s piggy bank in last February’s budget.

Friday, it was reported here that Prime Minister Stephen Harper personally intervened recently to settle a dispute between Treasury Board, led by Tony Clement, and the Defence Department, led by Rob Nicholson, over a pending $800-million sole-sourced purchase of next-generation Sea Sparrow naval missiles from U.S.-based Raytheon Co.

Concerns that the acquisition under the U.S. government’s Foreign Military Sales program would tilt the scales in favour of the Raytheon-Lockheed-Martin group in a burgeoning transatlantic competition for up to $18 billion in subcontracts on DND’s new Canadian Surface Combatant fleet, were overruled. As were, apparently, any worries about the optics of making another large military purchase, a la F-35, without opening the process up to competing bids.

Sharpening woodworking tools

Filed under: Technology — Tags: , — Nicholas @ 09:39

Paul Sellers talks about the practical limits to sharpening woodworking tools like planes and chisels:

As I have said, we have become something of an obsessive bunch when it comes to the different elements of working wood; sharpness has become more and more obsessive. Now we are not talking about the violin maker seeking sharp levels for clear tone from the wood and who uses wood so soft, unsharp gouges and planes would bruise rather than cut the fine surfaces he strives to achieve. His standards parallel the levels needed for severing tissue by the surgeon’s hand, not the bench joiner chopping mortises and cutting a few dovetails.

Chisel edge degradation by Paul Sellers

It’s unfortunate that since the demise of ordinary craftsmanship we now turn to guru wood writers and not wood-wrights. Woodwrights are no longer there to give us our information of course. It’s true too that the sources of information become more and more questionable. Three recent sources of information teaching on sharpening techniques I tracked back to tool catalog and online sales people selling products for sharpening. Most of the information they have is not new but regurgitated. Each phase of sharpening change marks another saleable product and so we see Japanese water stones added to carborundum stones, Arkansas stones and Washita stones and then came diamonds and abrasive films, diamond paste and flattening stones. The list goes on.

We have survived the different gospels of scary sharp and micro-bevel methodology and are emerging to this very simple reality. As long as you start the cutting edge somewhere around 30-degrees and polish it out it will cut well. If you you sharpen to around 1200-grit it will cut most anything you need in woodworking. If you sharpen to a polished edge of around 15,000-grit you can slice the most delicate of materials effortlessly, but 98% of the time that’s far from necessary. What am I saying? I’m saying that we generally sharpen to task but often sharpen to a higher level because it’s not much extra effort. We all know after a few efforts at sharpening that the greatest effort comes at the start of the process when we have to regain ground to get through a fractured and dulled edge and back to a productive cutting edge. That said, it’s not a big deal, just a few extra strokes on the coarse diamonds gets you there. So, if that is the case, why do we sharpen to higher levels than are usually needed. Well, it is a fact that the more polished the two plains forming the arête for a cutting edge are, the sharper the edge is but the stronger the edge is too. As I said, the extra effort is worth the work because it’s so quick and effective. It’s not so much what we do to the edge to establish it but what we do to the edge after we have prepared it for work. Taking the chisel to the surface of the wood to work the wood begins an immediate process of edge reduction we now know is edge fracture but was once called wear. No matter the steel, edge fracture occurs at some level but some steels fracture more readily than others. What we often do not realise is that it is impossible to find a steel that both takes and retains an edge and at the same time has a level of durability we can rely on forever. All edges wear away by fracture and constantly need restoring.

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