Sunday, August 31, 2008


My daily walk to work takes about fifteen minutes each way, slightly less if the weather motivates me to pick up the pace. Not long ago I began noticing an unusual number of pennies on the ground along the way.

I live in a small city, and even the downtown area where I work isn't especially heavily travelled. Still, I wouldn't think it odd to see an occasional coin on the ground.

However, I was finding five to ten pennies each way, in different locations, pretty much every day. I didn't pick any of them up. Part of my reason was standard arrogance ("That's not even worth bending down for"), but I had another motive that I thought was more important.

Whenever I see a coin on the ground, I think of the book of Leviticus:

When you reap the harvest of your land, do not reap to the very edges of your field or gather the gleanings of your harvest. Leave them for the poor and the alien. I am the LORD your God. - Leviticus 23:22 (NIV)
The book of Ruth relies heavily on this principle for its plot.

I live in a blessed land of plenty. A handful of pennies aren't going to make any difference to anyone in my area code. Still, I think the principle holds: leave something of your bounty behind for someone else who may need it more than you would have.

In this case, it's not about money. Even if someone in my city was poor enough for those few cents to matter to them, it wouldn't be enough to do them any good.

However, finding a coin on the ground may do someone some good. It may brighten their day, and some people walking those streets may really need their day brightened. I've seen children get honestly excited by finding such a small treasure. Even some adults can have their whole outlook on life brightened, at least for a while, by the smallest "stroke of luck". It can make them feel (realize) that Somebody out there cares about them. If leaving a penny on the ground has any chance at all of doing that for someone, then I'm happy to do it.

So, my habit was established, and I felt pretty smug about it. Each day I noticed, but left, several cents lying scattered on the ground.

Then one morning there was a shiny dime lying on the sidewalk in front of me.

Well, that clearly changed matters. Pennies are one thing, but to leave a dime behind just wouldn't do. I picked it up, put it in my pocket, and kept walking.

I didn't even get to my office before realizing that I had just been tested, and failed.

My "principle", my "benevolence", apparently only held for completely insignificant things. Making matters worse, it's not like a dime, a mere ten cents, makes any difference to me either. I was just greedy.

Failure is once again proven the best teacher. I was convicted.

The next time I walked though the same area where I found the dime, I discreetly dropped a quarter onto the ground. I hope it made somebody's day a little better.

Enough rambling. Here's a picture of my mother-in-law's coat and scarf.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Origin Of A Name

Plenty of people who know me in real life are aware that I write this blog. That's fine with me - in fact, it's a direct result of my shameless self-promotion.

This blog is anonymous largely so that running my real name through a search engine won't lead people here. Anyone with half a clue who's checking someone out, for instance while considering a job applicant, does that as a matter of course these days. I can usually find a way to offend prospective employers during the interview itself. I don't need them coming on here and finding out that my irrelevant-to-the-job views don't fit their orthodoxy.

That said, people come up to me all the time and ask, "From whence derives your online sobriquet - your pseudonym, if you will?"

They really do.

I might as well tell the story. My apologies in advance if you don't find it especially interesting. As always, feel free to speak to the cashier on your way out for a full refund if not satisfied.

There was a time long ago when the official Dilbert webpage ran a "list of the day"-type feature where readers could submit entries to the current list topic. One of the lists I remember fondly is "signs you're not a team player." I printed out several dozen pages from that one to post all over my cubicle walls, highlighting the ones that applied most to me.

It became the custom on that site for users to select a username that ended in "-bert". If you have to ask why, then you haven't read enough Dilbert. So, there's the second syllable accounted for.

The first syllable came from the name of my now-dead dog, pictures of which/whom (depending on your take on the status of dogs) have shown up here in the past. Her name was Zira, pronounced to rhyme with the bolded portion of the sentence "I sold Richard Gere a case of duct tape without asking any questions."

Her name, in turn, came from the name of the chimpanzee scientist and beloved wife of Cornelius, as portrayed by Kim Hunter in the Planet of the Apes movies. The original Planet of the Apes movies made from 1968 to 1975, thank you very much, and the less said about that Tim Burton travesty the better.

When I wanted a screen name for various things a while back (this blog wasn't, and still isn't, the only place I use it), I combined my dog's name with the "-bert" motif. The A in the middle didn't feel right, so I dropped it, altering the pronunciation in the process. It's pronounced "zur-bert", not "zeer-bert".

I thought I made it up, and had absolutely no idea that the word had any other meaning. I later found that it means when you put your mouth against someone's skin and blow to make a rude, slobbery noise, most frequently practiced on the tummies of babies. While working on this entry I tried to find an online use of the word in that sense, but to my perverse satisfaction, a Google search for "Zirbert" now mostly turns up references to.... me.

There's that story told. Not exactly one for the ages, but at least it's a post with content other than quotations from people who are smarter than me.

Enough rambling. Here's a picture of the light fixture in my living room.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Five Reasons To Love P.J. O'Rourke

P.J. O'Rourke has been a huge influence on me over the years, on my thought if not on my writing (although on good days I hope there's a trace of him evident there as well).

I ws a longtime subscriber to Rolling Stone, to no one's amazement more than mine these days. In the early days of coming to grips with being a conservative (I didn't used to understand the "liberal / conservative" distinction - I thought there were just sensible people and silly people, and didn't realize that the silly people were taken seriously by anyone), I began noticing that once in a while a political article in Rolling Stone seemed to make sense.

Most political articles in Rolling Stone revolved around two themes: legalizing the smoking of anything that can be rolled inside paper, and freeing all convicted felons who happen to be minorities because those people clearly aren't capable of understanding what they did wrong. Those oases of sanity were invariably written by the same person: P.J. O'Rourke. As a bonus, those articles were usually funny, making excellent points with well-sharpened verbal daggers.

Then I found out that he had written entire books, and quickly formed a small collection.

I don't agree with O'Rourke on everything, to be sure, but we agree on enough that I can without hesitation recommend any of his books to anyone who wants to start comprehending exactly how messed up the world has gotten because of taking silly people too seriously. You can either laugh at life or cry about it - I made my choice a long time ago. I'll sit with P.J. in the Mocking section.

Today I present what is probably the first in a series (this is almost like a Reading Log entry in a way, since I'm re-reading several O'Rourke books simultaneously, looking for the best quotes) of Five Reasons To Love P.J. O'Rourke:

1. About environmentalists:

The Green dweebs want a world where individuals don't count for much, where all the important decisions - such as whether to shift the Viper into fifth - are made in Washington. They want a world controlled by the political process. That's because the shrub cuddlers are, as individuals, so insignificant. They're losers, the three-bong-hit saviours of the earth, lava lamp luddites, global warming dolts, ozone boneheads, peace creeps, tofu twinks, Birkenstock buttinskis, and bed-wetting vegetarian bicyclists, who bother whales on weekends. They have no money, sense, or skills. But they can make their mark on politics because the whole idea of politics is to achieve power without possessing merit.

- Age and Guile Beat Youth, Innocence, and a Bad Haircut, p. 194
The best thing about this quote is that it comes from out of nowhere. It's not in an article about politics, or even environmentalism. It's from a luxury car review (hence the reference to the Viper). It was originally published in Automobile magazine in 1994, and the article's title was, I kid you not, Die, Eco-Weenies!

You have to admire someone who finds a way to work a slam on liberalism, apropos of pretty much nothing, into the middle of a car review.

2. About "human rights":
There is only one basic human right, the right to do as you d*m* well please. And with it comes the only basic human duty, the duty to take the consequences.

- Age and Guile Beat Youth, Innocence, and a Bad Haircut, p. 227
This quote comes from the transcript of a 1993 speech given to the Cato Institute, a libertarian organization. Whereas this was a speech, and a remark meant to be funny (although true) at that, O'Rourke did not stop to flesh out the ramifications of this position. Upon any serious consideration whatsoever, it becomes obvious that the right to do as you please cannot possibly include imposing your wishes on others against their will, since that would negate their own right to do as they please. Many long books could be - and have been - written to discuss this exact idea, but O'Rourke nails it in two pithy sentences.

3. From the Acknowledgements at the front of All The Trouble In The World, published in 1994 when Al Gore was still the Vice President of the United States:
Particularly, I'd like to thank Vice President Al Gore for being the perfect straw man on such subjects as the environment, ecology, and population. Sorry, Al, for repeatedly calling you a fascist twinkie and intellectual dolt. It's nothing personal. I just think you have repulsive totalitarian inclinations and the brains of a King Charles spaniel.

- All The Trouble In The World, p.xi
O'Rourke called it, many years before Parker and Stone made everyone realize just how completely and serially crazy Gore is.

4. From the dedication page of 1993's Give War A Chance, which O'Rourke dedicated to whoever wound up going to Vietnam in his place after he dodged the draft:
I hope you got back in one piece, fellow. I hope you were more use to your platoon mates than I would have been. I hope you're rich and happy now. And in 1971, when somebody punched me in the face for being a long-haired peace creep, I hope that was you.

- Give War A Chance, p.vii
O'Rourke freely admits that he's made mistakes in his past. Like lots of former liberals - including me - he eventually put away childish things. I thought this was a nice tribute.

5. From a major piece about Cuba, which O'Rourke uses as an example of "bad socialism" (as contrasted to Sweden, which he calls - relatively for purposes of contrast - "good socialism"):
Socialists think of society as a giant, sticky wad. And no part of that gum ball - no intimate detail of your private life, for instance - can be pulled free from the purview of socialism. ... Socialism is inherently totalitarian in philosophy.

-Eat The Rich, p. 90
That last sentence sums it up. The only way socialism could even come close to being ethical or moral would be if an opt-out mechanism were readily available, but that would cause the socialist system to collapse completely. If such an option were available, anyone who was even remotely productive would exercise it and leave the takers sitting there with their hands out.

Enough rambling. Here's a picture of the controller for the radio-controlled vehicle we met yesterday.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Hate Crime Of The Day

I'm not normally big on playing "me too", but this is worth it. I'm going to post, in its entirety, the 2002 letter written by Rev. Stephen Boisson that got him convicted of a hate crime by a "human rights commission".

Ezra Levant, from whom I shamelessly crib the idea of doing this, has been charged for posting this letter on his site. The commission is probably going to drop the charge against him, which is nothing but another flagrant display of hypocrisy on their part.

Before proceeding I would like to point out that for the crime of writing this letter Rev. Boisson was fined $7,000 and forbidden to say anything, publicly or privately, that could be construed as "disparaging" to homosexuals. This ruling means that a Canadian pastor has been forbidden by the State to preach on, or even read aloud, certain passages of the Bible.

Please think about that for a moment.

Here's the letter, presented without further comment from me (so that any HRC employees who may stumble across this won't have the "debate and commentary" excuse for not wanting to charge me too):

The following is not intended for those who are suffering from an unwanted sexual identity crisis. For you, I have understanding, care, compassion and tolerance. I sympathize with you and offer you my love and fellowship. I prayerfully beseech you to seek help, and I assure you that your present enslavement to homosexuality can be remedied. Many outspoken, former homosexuals are free today.

Instead, this is aimed precisely at every individual that in any way supports the homosexual machine that has been mercilessly gaining ground in our society since the 1960s. I cannot pity you any longer and remain inactive. You have caused far too much damage.

My banner has now been raised and war has been declared so as to defend the precious sanctity of our innocent children and youth, that you so eagerly toil, day and night, to consume. With me stand the greatest weapons that you have encountered to date - God and the "Moral Majority." Know this, we will defeat you, then heal the damage that you have caused. Modern society has become dispassionate to the cause of righteousness. Many people are so apathetic and desensitized today that they cannot even accurately define the term "morality."

The masses have dug in and continue to excuse their failure to stand against horrendous atrocities such as the aggressive propagation of homo- and bisexuality. Inexcusable justifications such as, "I'm just not sure where the truth lies," or "If they don't affect me then I don't care what they do," abound from the lips of the quantifiable majority.

Face the facts, it is affecting you. Like it or not, every professing heterosexual is have their future aggressively chopped at the roots.

Edmund Burke's observation that, "All that is required for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing," has been confirmed time and time again. From kindergarten class on, our children, your grandchildren are being strategically targeted, psychologically abused and brainwashed by homosexual and pro-homosexual educators.

Our children are being victimized by repugnant and premeditated strategies, aimed at desensitizing and eventually recruiting our young into their camps. Think about it, children as young as five and six years of age are being subjected to psychologically and physiologically damaging pro-homosexual literature and guidance in the public school system; all under the fraudulent guise of equal rights.

Your children are being warped into believing that same-sex families are acceptable; that men kissing men is appropriate.

Your teenagers are being instructed on how to perform so-called safe same gender oral and anal sex and at the same time being told that it is normal, natural and even productive. Will your child be the next victim that tests homosexuality positive?

Come on people, wake up! It's time to stand together and take whatever steps are necessary to reverse the wickedness that our lethargy has authorized to spawn. Where homosexuality flourishes, all manner of wickedness abounds.

Regardless of what you hear, the militant homosexual agenda isn't rooted in protecting homosexuals from "gay bashing." The agenda is clearly about homosexual activists that include, teachers, politicians, lawyers, Supreme Court judges, and God forbid, even so-called ministers, who are all determined to gain complete equality in our nation and even worse, our world.

Don't allow yourself to be deceived any longer. These activists are not morally upright citizens, concerned about the best interests of our society. They are perverse, self-centered and morally deprived individuals who are spreading their psychological disease into every area of our lives. Homosexual rights activists and those that defend them, are just as immoral as the pedophiles, drug dealers and pimps that plague our communities.

The homosexual agenda is not gaining ground because it is morally backed. It is gaining ground simply because you, Mr. and Mrs. Heterosexual, do nothing to stop it. It is only a matter of time before some of these morally bankrupt individuals such as those involved with NAMBLA, the North American Man/Boy Lovers Association, will achieve their goal to have sexual relations with children and assert that it is a matter of free choice and claim that we are intolerant bigots not to accept it.

If you are reading this and think that this is alarmist, then I simply ask you this: how bad do things have to become before you will get involved? It's time to start taking back what the enemy has taken from you. The safety and future of our children is at stake.

Rev. Stephen Boissoin

Enough rambling. Here's a picture of a radio-controlled vehicle.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

The Peaceful Northeast

This pleasant story (no sarcasm - yet) was recently reported up here in the frozen north:

If the federal government's numbers are right, Newfoundlanders and Labradorians are Canada's most heavily armed citizens, but also its least trigger-happy.

According to the most recent numbers from the Canada Firearms Centre, the province has 70,977 registered firearms. Statistics Canada's latest numbers estimate the province's population at 508,270. That's one gun for every 7.2 people, the highest ratio of guns to people of any province in the country.

Statistics Canada's most recent numbers on gun crime also reveal the province has the lowest annual rate of victims of firearm-related crime in the country, with just 11.4 victims for every 100,000 people.

But-but-but...more guns mean more crime! Oprah and Britney Spears said so!

Could it be, just maybe, that the guns aren't the problem?

It should be obvious, but in my experience statists have a very poor grasp of the obvious (and refuse to accept it when it's clearly demonstrated to them): firearms, in and of themselves, are not a problem. When people are taught respect for other people, themselves, and the sanctity of human life, then violence becomes less prevalent. It would appear that the good people of Newfoundland have that kind of culture. Arm them however you like, they still won't be interested in killing each other or anyone else.

One other funny note. The anti-gun site linked above has an uncredited quote on the page: "Little man whips a big man every time... if the little man's in the right and keeps a-comin'."

Sure, if the little man's got a gun. Otherwise, he's just going to get the snot beaten out of him.

(Update: Rats. I'm not the first person to point out the irony in that quote.)

Enough rambling. Here's a picture of fabric.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Mygazines - Here For A Good Time

Today I want to write about a useful new website that won't be around for long.

Mygazines allows people to upload PDF scans of magazines for anyone - well, any registered reader, and registration is free - to read. You can select single articles, and, of course, skip the ads if you like.

They've got a fairly good selection available now. Until the last time I checked it, a few minutes ago, the Top Ranked magazines featured on the home page always seemed to be Cosmopolitan and clones. This last time, though, Mad, Men's Health, FHM, and (believe it or not) Tactical Weapons were featured. Things are looking up.

They've got a decent selection of computer and music magazines; I hoard actual print editions of those (and others). There are large stacks of magazines like Guitar For The Practicing Musician, Christianity Today, Maximum PC, MoneySense, Compute's Gazette, and anything with a Beatle on the cover squirrelled away all over my house.

One of my many long-term projects that'll probably never get done is to scan those magazines, and dispose of the print editions (probably via eBay). This website shows that I'm not the only person with plans of digitization.

The website isn't perfect. For one thing, it doesn't fit my monitor screen cleanly no matter what resolution I try. Perhaps it's formatted for widescreen monitors.

For another, the magazines are only readable in slow-loading popup windows, and they can't be saved for offline reading. Digitized magazines are already at a disadvantage in that I can't haul them to the breakfast table (or the bathroom, for that matter) as easily as their dead-tree equivalents; having to stay online and read them in a clunky interface is another deficit. Even downloadable PDFs that Foxit Reader would let me view as I see fit would be a big improvement. (Yes, Foxit Reader - I abandoned the official Adobe reader client long ago, and probably won't be back.)

I recently found out that Maximum PC actually allows PDF downloads of complete old issues, straight from their website. This is a great idea that pretty much all publishers should be doing. Really, what's the market value of the content from a year-old magazine anyway? At least by providing the PDF themselves they control the quality, and can make sure that the ads are included (if they want them to be - which can be a negotiation point with their advertisers).

About the only types of magazines for which this model wouldn't work are those which are purchased specifically for licenced content. Consider crochet magazines with patterns, or (more my area) guitar magazines with transcriptions. Since those magazines contain information with some lasting shelf life, giving their content away after a few months probably wouldn't be workable. So, those will remain available only on the uncontrolled black market of filesharing, often with the ads removed.

I'm really, really glad I don't make a living in a way that relies on "intellectual property". All such industries are completely doomed.

One other strong word of warning about Mygazines: when I first registered my account, they offered to "check and see if any of my friends were already there". All you have to do is give them the username and password to your GMail or Yahoo Mail account, and they'll check the addresses in your address book to see if any of them are registered.

Oh, sure, owners of a legally questionable website based in some tropical country with no copyright (or other) laws - here's my Google account username and password. Would you like my credit card numbers, and maybe a key to my house and a schedule of when nobody's home?

Just say no to the "see if my friends are here" option.

Overall, Mygazines is definitely worth checking out if you're a periodicals fan. It doesn't beat the convenience of an actual magazine in your hands, but it's great for keeping an eye on what's going on over a wide range of publications.

Enjoy it while it lasts, though. I understand the lawyers are already circling, and copyright laws will probably be shutting them down in very short order. If that won't work, expect them to be attacked in other ways (hacking, DDOS attacks, etc.) that render the site basically unusable. I like this site, but I figure it's got the life expectancy of a cupcake in Rosie O'Donnell's neighbourhood.

Enough rambling. Here's a blurry picture of toys on a shelf.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Quick Update - Illness, Injury, and Ezra Levant

It's been a hectic week, and I don't have the time or energy - well, energy - to write a proper entry for today. Just checking in.

My wife's grandmother died late last week. After the funeral, a small luncheon was held in the (Catholic) church hall. Our son noticed the bingo machine in the corner, then after I explained to him what it was and how it worked, spent most of the afternoon wandering around asking mourners when we could start up a game.

Soon thereafter, my wife's Dad was injured in a way that'll leave him laid up for several weeks. While I'd enjoy an excuse to spend some serious time on the couch, it'll drive him crazy. He's a very busy, very useful man. One of the old-school jacks-of-all-trades guys who can build or fix pretty much anything. This makes him my much-respected antithesis.

Then my wife got a nasty little stomach flu or similar. A couple of days of various unpleasantness that I won't describe further.

Just as she seemed to be fully recovering, I got a turn. Much, much milder - just an evening with a churning stomach. However, when I went to work today, I quickly discovered that I was useless. I felt OK, but couldn't focus or concentrate at all. It was nice to be reminded that my job is all about thinking. If I can't think well, I'm no good to them, so I came home after less than an hour. I went upstairs for a nap, and woke up six hours later feeling much more clear-headed.

In news that's not about the minutiae of my domestic life, Ezra Levant is being charged with another silly "hate crime", this time from a homosexual activist. Here are some notes from his true-to-form response:

Is that the new test? Something can promote hate, but if it also promotes debate, then it’s not hate speech? They’re making this stuff up as they go along, and it’s not hard to guess why: Rev. Boissoin was poor, powerless and easy prey for them. I’m a noisy troublemaker.

So let me publish the same illegal words again. And let me do it for a different reason.
I’m not publishing these words as part of any “debate”. I am publishing them for the express purpose of promoting contempt – contempt for Rob Wells, and contempt for his gophers at the Canadian Human Rights Commission.


I have contempt for them, and I wish to spread it to all of my fellow Canadians.

Jennifer Lynch: like most bullies, you are a coward who picks on penniless pastors like Rev. Boissoin. Why don't you come and get me?

The emphasis in that last one is from Levant' s original - I didn't add it.

Enough rambling. Here's a picture of my son trying to find the weak link in a security system.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Extreme Days

I'm happy to see Extreme joining the list of reunited bands (Genesis, The Police, Led Zeppelin, and many other high-profile names have come back around for another swing over the last couple of years). Extreme was always one of my favourite groups, and they seemed to have more left to say when they called it quits after Waiting For The Punchline. Nuno Bettencourt, the guitarist, released a criminally underrated (and under-successful, in case that's a word) album, Schizophonic, and singer Gary Cherone went on to a short stint as the frontman for Van Halen, only to be rejected by an audience that didn't deserve him.

Now they're back, as seemed inevitable. Unlike most of the reuniters, they actually have new material. Saudades de Rock (Saudades, pronounced "sow-dodge", means a nostalgic longing for something that's been lost) was released on August 12. I haven't heard it yet (although I should have a... preview copy, shall we say, within the next few hours), but I'm cautiously optimistic.

Extreme is a group I could write several articles on, and someday I may, but for today I want to bring the focus in on their second album. I'd like to examine an aspect I haven't seen discussed elsewhere. I can't be the first person to point this out - there is nothing new under the sun (hey, cool! That works as a reference on at least 2 levels for this discussion!) - but a cursory Google search doesn't turn up anything quite like what I'm about to say.

It's pretty obvious and well-known that Extreme II: Pornograffitti (PG hereafter) is a concept album. For those of you who don't remember the days when musicians generally preferred marijuana and LSD to heroin and crystal meth, "concept albums" are albums (do I have to explain that term too? Well, I'm not. Google and Wikipedia are your friends.) that tell a hopefully coherent story. The songs may stand alone, but most (if not all) of them contribute to a larger narrative.

Some of the most famous concept albums are Tommy (The Who), The Wall (Pink Floyd), The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway (Genesis), and Operation: Mindcrime (Queensyche). The concept album was a staple of nerd rock, AKA progressive rock, starting in the sixties, but has generally fallen out of favour as the attention span of the average listener approaches that of a crack-addicted fruit fly.

On the surface, PG tells the story of Francis, a young boy growing up in America, being assaulted on all sides by immoral influences. The theme of the story is the difficulty in surviving exposure to the culture at large without being corrupted.

While that's a good story to tell, and the album already contains a great deal of edification and encouragement for those who would resist the pull toward the lowest common denominator in all things, I think there's another allegory lying underneath. I think the entire album is a parallel to the book of Ecclesiastes. I don't normally link to the King James Version text for Biblical passages, but the poetic language of Ecclesiastes is especially beautiful in the KJV.

Like Solomon, the author of Ecclesiastes, Extreme show us an exploration of attempts to fulfill man's deepest longings. The songs, like the passages in Ecclesiastes, address materialism (Decadence Dance), power and prestige (When I'm President), wealth (Money), romance (When I First Kissed You), and empty sex (most of the others).

The parallel holds as in Song For Love, the penultimate track of the album, the speaker realizes that all of his self-indulgence has left him unsatisfied:

I look around and see the hearts
That still are broken
I can't believe all of our hearts
Remain unopened
We can't go on and on
With that same old song
This isn't so very different from Ecclesiastes 2:10-11:
I denied myself nothing my eyes desired;
I refused my heart no pleasure.
My heart took delight in all my work,
and this was the reward for all my labor.

Yet when I surveyed all that my hands had done
and what I had toiled to achieve,
everything was meaningless, a chasing after the wind;
nothing was gained under the sun.

Finally, the authors of both the album and the book of Ecclesiastes realize the solution. From Hole Hearted, the prayer that serves as the last track on PG:
There's a hole in my heart that can only be filled by you
And this hole in my heart can't be filled with the things I do

There's a hole in my heart that can only be filled by you
Should have known from the start
I'd fall short with the things I do
Compare this to the conclusion of Ecclesiastes:
Now all has been heard;
here is the conclusion of the matter:
Fear God and keep his commandments,
for this is the whole duty of man.

Both carry the same message: no matter what else you may try, only God will ultimately satisfy the longings of your soul.

This almost certainly wasn't an accident. Nuno and Gary, the two main songwriters in Extreme and the writers of every track on this album, are both Biblically literate. Their third album, the magnificent III Sides To Every Story, was filled with explicit Biblical references. I remember some discussion around that time as to whether Extreme would be characterized as a "Christian" band; Nuno told an interviewer for a guitar magazine I remember reading that he wasn't worried about that prospect. To this day I'm not sure whether he meant that he didn't think it would happen, or that he wasn't bothered by the idea.

Enough rambling. Here's a picture of clasped hands.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Demanding A Nicer Shoe

As a taxpayer and homeowner, this story seems like it was designed to annoy me. If the journalists involved wanted to generate sympathy for this lady's "plight", they failed miserably. I can only hope that their actual intention was to draw attention to how completely ludicrous the system currently in place is.

To prevent unwanted search engine hits on her name - as I'll discuss, the lady may not be as much at fault as the article sounds, and I'll give her the benefit of the doubt - I'm going to change the name of the lady in the article to Momma Hubbard. Let's dig in:

Momma Hubbard wants to know why, with two boys aged six and 10, and two girls aged five and 11, she cannot get suitable housing at Eel Ground First Nation.

"Here I'm sitting with four children, and I was denied," said Hubbard, who currently lives in Miramichi with her boyfriend and four children.

First of all, as completely wrong as this may sound, I hope this lady is widowed or divorced (and if the latter, not for some silly reason). If she had four children without a husband to (at least help) support them, than it should be obvious that her situation is the result of her own irresponsibility.

If the current live-in boyfriend (or, as I like to call "common-law partners", the Bang Du Jour) is the father of one or more of these children, then it's pretty clear he's helped drop the ball. Either way, shacking up is a great example to set for the kids. This is how people become grandparents at 35.

Hubbard appealed her continued wait for band housing in 2006, having turned down in 2004 as unsuitable a home that was offered to her..[snip]..because it was too remote from the rest of the reserve at a time when she was without a vehicle. Consequently she turned it down without further checking it out.

OK, taxpayers: raise your hand if you think that it demonstrates any responsibility, maturity, gratitude, or any positive quality for that matter, to turn up your nose at an apparently free house without even looking at it because you aren't completely satisfied with its location, then follow up your refusal with a complaint that no one else will give you a better free house immediately.

Those of you with your hands in the air - please leave them there for several days. That'll probably be more useful and productive than anything else you would have done with them anytime soon.

Back to the article:

"It sounded like I basically have to beg for a house," she said, referring to a conversation she had with a councillor. "Why do I have to do that? I filled out my form, like everyone else."

Momma Hubbard is exactly correct. No one should have to beg for a house.

Here's the actual situation: you have to pay for a house.

See, I own a house. My family and I had to find it ourselves, then pay for it. No begging involved at any stage of the process. No "filling out our form", either, unless you count the papers we signed at our lawyer's office and the bank. I'm not sure what Momma Hubbard means by "like everyone else."

That's how it works out here in the real grown-up world where people take responsibility for their own lives.

It seems like even the people trying to help Momma Hubbard - those who haven't gotten sick of her whining and washed their hands of the situation - are getting there:

Band councillor Kenny Larry said although he had not spoken to Saunders personally, his understanding was that council had considered the home appropriate.

"The reason why we offered it to her in particular was because it was a pretty big-sized home," Larry said, "It would have been the perfect set up for her, but for some reason or another, she didn't want the home, so that sort of bumped her to the back of the list."

There's a lesson here:

When you're getting daily shipments of free ice cream in the mail, don't complain if there's no cherry on top. Sure, you deserve it, being a delicate blossom unlike any other and being owed whatever you want from the big mean world, but some nasty people might start spreading a rumour that you're a bit ungrateful. And they just might leave the chocolate sprinkles off tomorrow's delivery.

I often wonder, and even ask aloud (it gets me some odd looks sometimes on the bus), when the concept of personal responsibility for one's own actions factors in for some people. Momma Hubbard is a great case in point. (For liberals, socialists, etc., when they choose to answer me, it's usually by implying - or stating outright - that I'm in the wrong for asking the question.)

My real problem here isn't with Momma Hubbard herself. It may not sound like it from the tone of this article (polemics and nuance do not peacefully co-exist), but I actually have sympathy for her on a personal level, and a great deal of sympathy for her children, who cannot be considered in any way responsible for their plight.

My real problem is with the system that has instilled this sense of entitlement in her. Everyone who has ever told her that she's "entitled", that she "deserves", that she "has a right" (beyond basic human rights, of course) has done her a grave injustice. They've left her incapable of fending for herself and her children. Dependency and helplessness are expected in children. When they're defining characteristics of an adult, something has gone very wrong.

There is nothing "soft" about the bigotry of low expectations. I can think of no better way to demean and subjugate someone, with very low likelihood of rebellion, than to tell them from birth that they are entitled and do not need to (read: cannot) meet the same standards or fulfill the same responsibilities as everyone else. Affirmative action programs (retitled "employment equity" by the Canadian government), race-based entitlement programs, and their ilk are insulting and ultimately enfeebling to their supposed beneficiaries.

Enough rambling. Here's a picture taken inside my house. Not seen in photo: lots and lots of mortgage payment receipts.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

This Is Not True At All

I don't get the big deal about parking in handicapped spaces. The way I see it, if you're in a wheelchair, the fact that I'm in your parking space is the least of your problems.

Enough rambling. Here's a picture of the stuff my son got for Christmas, 2007.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Fight The Real Enemy

Not so long ago, somebody in the Canadian customs bureaucracy thought that the Khadr family would be just spiffy additions to this once-great but rapidly-faltering nation.

Over half of the known gang members in Ottawa were born outside of Canada, meaning that some presumably sharp-eyed immigration officials must have been a little sleepy. Several hundred times.

However, it's comforting to know that the good people at Border Services are pulling out all the stops to protect us from the greatest threat to our national security: Decepticons!

A recent Canadian International Trade Tribunal ruling has paved the way for a contentious Transformers action toy to be imported into Canada.

In November, the tribunal was asked to review a Canada Border Services Agency decision not to allow an action figure into the country, according to a tribunal ruling released last week.

At issue was an "MP-5 Destron Leader Megatron" plastic action figure, which the border agency classified as a prohibited device.

The toy can be transformed from a model robot into a purported replica of a Walther model P-38 semi-automatic pistol. Under Canadian customs tariffs, replica firearms cannot be brought into the country.

The border agency hired an RCMP firearms expert to prepare a report, which found the toy gun was in fact about 30-per-cent larger and contained "added elements" when compared to the actual Walther P-38 pistol.
The RCMP firearms expert might have also pointed out that real Walther P38s very rarely shapeshift into robots.

You may wonder why it took this collection of Keystone Kustoms Agents 10 months to figure out that Megatron isn't really very dangerous, what with being a fictional character and all. That would be the pessimistic view, though. Personally, I'm glad they're being extra careful. It's one thing to give free passes to terrorists and gangbangers, but if we start letting Decepticons slip through the gates, they may steal our Energon reserves!

Enough rambling. Here's a picture of somebody taking a picture, of somebody trying to take a picture of themselves in a mirror, in a mirror. (This description is brought to you by Everything I Remember About Nested Loops From My Programming Classes.)

Monday, August 11, 2008

He's A Real Dead Mother

Popular wisdom (one of my favourite oxymorons) holds that celebrity deaths usually come in themed sets of three. Remember that; we'll come back to it in a few paragraphs.

I'll start with a look at Isaac Hayes. Yes, he was the man who wrote and sang the Shaft theme, and he was of course Chef on South Park, but to me he'll always be The Duke of New York! A-Number One! (This should be said in as deranged a voice as possible, à la Donald Pleasance holding a machine gun.)

CNN's initial report on his death (now taken offline, apparently) said that he was found "near a treadmill." There's a lesson here, kids. No good ever came from getting too close to a treadmill.

Another entertaining element in CNN's initial report - and the giveaway that the original report has been taken down and replaced with a gentler revision - was the inclusion of Matt Stone's hilarious takedown of Hayes for quitting South Park over their mocking Scientology: "He has no problem - and he's cashed plenty of cheques - with our show making fun of Christians."

Then we have poor old Bernie Mac.

Really, I've got nothing here. I have no opinion of Bernie Mac's work, never having seen any of it that I can remember, nor of his personal behaviour.

I'll just digress to say that it's almost extra-unfortunate that he died of "complications from pneumonia," if only because that used to be journalism-speak for AIDS. I'm pretty sure it's never used that way these days, if only because newspapers don't seem to report AIDS deaths anymore. Nobody famous enough is dying that way, I guess, so it's off the radar.

On a related note, for the few blissfully non-jaded souls who didn't already know it, whenever you see a report that a celebrity has entered any sort of care facility for "exhaustion", that means rehab. (Shattering innocence is what I do. You're welcome.) Exhaustion is treated by going home and taking a nap. A month in an undisclosed private facility means detox.

Now, as mentioned, celebrity deaths are supposed to come in themed sets of three. Given that two popular black entertainers have passed, it seems obvious to me that Morgan Freeman was not meant to survive the car accident. From this point on, his life will be like one of those Final Destination movies, only with far better scripts. He'll need to be very careful - the shower curtain will probably try to slither around his throat in the near future.

Apparently Morgan is also getting a divorce. This leaves open the possibility that his survival of the car crash means that his wife won't be paying the other half of the money to that mechanic who "adjusted the brakes".

I've never understood people getting divorced once they've reached a certain age (and at 71, Morgan has reached a certain age). If you and / or your spouse are in (or beyond) your seventies, doesn't there come a point where you just wait it out?

Enough rambling. Here's a picture of the stuff I got for Christmas, 2007.

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Ezra Levant For President Of Everything

I hereby nominate and pledge to support Ezra Levant for any elected office that he ever chooses to pursue.

My only qualm had been that I've never seen an unequivocal statement from Levant saying that he's pro-life. A politician's position on abortion is a litmus test for my vote. I will never vote for anyone who sees killing children in the name of "choice" as acceptable.

I still haven't found a clear statement from Levant himself. However, everything I've read from him is consistent with a pro-life position. Being pro-life generally correlates closely with being sensible and conservative (which are very close to being redundant terms).

Now some Googling has informed me that he was a featured speaker at the Alberta Pro-Life Alliance Association's 2005 Life conference (or at least scheduled to be - I haven't seen any reports from after the conference). Good enough for me to give a unqualified endorsement. I know from personal involvement that speakers don't get invited to these type of conferences if their "doctrine isn't sound", unless they're specifically invited - and promoted - as a voice from the other side, for debating purposes.

I'm writing about Levant again because he just scored a major (if somewhat pyrrhic) victory. The "discrimination" complaint that was filed against him has been dismissed. The good guys won.

However, much to his credit, Ezra isn't satisfied. He refuses to take this victory lying down, and for good reason. He hasn't been vindicated in the sense of someone saying "You didn't do anything wrong." Instead, some bureaucrats decided that they would magnanimously pardon him from their lofty thrones, despite his offenses.

His full preliminary account is here, and well worth reading. Here are some choice excerpts, with Ezra's admittedly mild expletives edited; my son reads this occasionally, and I'm not looking to expand his vocabulary in this sense just yet. Trust me, Ezra's occasional strong language is not at all uncalled for in context (and probably not as bad as what your mind will insert into the edits):

What a scam – on the part of the complainants, who were able to wage “lawfare” against an infidel without paying a cent; and on the part of the HRC, as a make-work project.

Fire. Them. All.

I’ve read the dismissal letter three times now, and each time it makes me more angry. Because I haven’t been given my freedom of the press. I’ve simply had the government censor approve what I said. That’s a completely different thing.

Pardeep Gundara – a second-rate bureaucrat, a nobody – had to give me his approval for me to be allowed to go back to my business.

I don’t [care] what Gundara or the HRC says. Getting his approval is not a success. I won't legitimize his arrogant "authority" by saying "thank you, master". I'll say: "who [...] are you? Besides a busy-body bureaucrat?"

It rather creeps me out that a whole squad of teat-sucking bureaucrats spent 900 days inspecting me and the Western Standard. I positively want to offend them. In fact, that’s pretty much the only test of my freedom: can I do exactly what Gundara says I shouldn't? I’m not interested in publishing recipes or sports scores. I’m interested in bothering the [...] out of the government.

This guy is a true hero. He's standing up for everyone's freedom in a meaningful way, unlike the vast majority of politically correct lemmings who think that sticking a rainbow flag on their desk, or a ribbon of whatever colour on their SUV's bumper, makes them a humanitarian. Ezra Levant has made significant personal sacrifices for the greater good. He could have done the equivalent of walking away by issuing a grovelling apology and promising not to do it again, but he didn't, because that wouldn't have been the right thing to do. Now that he's won, he could let the matter drop, but the bullies will just start over with a new, hopefully easier target, and he doesn't want that to happen.

Ezra, thank you. I hope your example encourages a lot more people to provoke, agitate, and refuse to show their bellies to the tyrants, whether those tyrants are wearing government ID badges or turbans and ZZ Top beards.

I sent a few bucks for Ezra's legal defense already. I may have to do it again very soon. The case may be over, but the legal bills still need to be paid. Besides, Ezra's essay indicates that he may not be done throwing rocks at this particular hornets' nest just yet, and I'd hate to see him run out of ammunition.

Enough rambling. Here's a picture of wrapping paper.

Friday, August 8, 2008

You're Silly. Go Sit Down.

There's a difference between nonsense that gets spouted on insignificant blogs and what gets said in situations where people are actually listening. Press conferences, sessions of legislative bodies, courtrooms - what gets said in places like those matters, and people should choose their words carefully in such a venue.

Sometimes someone goes simply beyond the pale, and it's time to stop giving them an audience. Hyperbole is fine in some circumstances; in fact, on blogs, it's the absolute greatest thing in the history of the known universe. When someone in a position of authority goes too far in a venue where they really should know better, though, then it's time to stop taking them seriously. It's time to tell them, "You're silly. Go sit down."

This is a fantastic example of what I'm talking about. Grand Chief Morris Swan-Shannacappo of the "Southern Chiefs Organization" has called for an inquiry into recent police shootings on reserves. OK, it's entirely possible that there are valid questions to ask in that area. However, here's how he chose to express his position (emphasis added):

"I also want to take this time ... to extend an olive branch to (police chief) Keith McCaskill so we can sit at a table and talk about how we are going to reduce not only crime, but the killing sprees that seem to be enjoyed by the Winnipeg Police Service."

I've said it before, I'll say it again: Wow.

Methinks it may be time for the election of a new Grand Chief. This one is silly, and needs to go sit down.

On another completely tasteless note, the problem here is that people keep coming at police officers with weapons and refusing to drop those weapons. When that happens, the police officers sometimes choose to shoot them instead of trying out the role of a pincushion or pinata. I know it's just a figure of speech, but the line between "extend an olive branch" and "come at them with a stick" may be a little too fine. I wouldn't want anyone to get shot.

And I certainly wouldn't want anyone else to enjoy it.

Enough rambling. Here's a picture of my father-in-law's hat.

New Stuff On The Right

Despite the title, this is not a political post. Besides, those of us on the political right hate anything new, remember?

In lieu of actual new content, I'd like to take a moment to introduce a couple of new elements in this blog's sidebar (that column of stuff on the right, beginning with the Archive menus).

I keep meaning to put some more links over there. The one that's been listed since I started this thing was just entered to test the feature, but it will be staying on when I get around to a doing up a "real" list of links. However, that's never quite made it to the top of the To Do list. Plus, I'd like to figure out how to categorize my links first, separating them by whether the target pages are about comics, games, politics, etc. That may not even be possible without digging into HTML and CSS, so it may never happen.

Anyway, on to what's new over there. You may need to scroll up or down a bit (for best results, wait until after you've read this). First up, a neat little widget called the Flagcounter. It tallies and displays how many of my visitors come from different countries. Unfortunately, it only started counting when I installed it; it can't go back and count my past visitors. Google Analytics can, and it shows that I've had visitors from 34 different countries, not just the four currently represented.

Worse, it gives an indication of just how many (read: how few) people are reading this stuff. Cue David Niven for a joke about my willingness to display my shortcomings.

Second, a bit further down, you'll find the New Brunswick Blogroll. This is pretty much what it sounds like: a list of blogs from, about, or somehow connected to the province of New Brunswick. This is one of the most specific pieces of personal information that I've ever revealed on here, if you think about it for a second.

It should probably go without saying, but I'll say it anyway for the record: my linking to a site, especially one that's just in that blogroll listing, in no way endorses anything that may get written on that site. In fact, I've checked out several of the sites on the NB Blogroll (the ones with plus signs have recently been updated), and discovered one that appears to be written by an escapee from some sort of mental health facility for elementary schoolchildren. Which one I mean is left as an exercise for the reader.

I've contacted the NB Blogroll administrator and asked to be added to the list. Putting the list on your site is an understandable prerequisite to being listed. It can apparently take up to a few weeks for addition requests to get processed, so I may not show up there for a while. Assuming I eventually do, the blogroll will stick around.

Enough rambling. Here's a picture of my living room floor.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

This Is Not True At All

Every time I see a newspaper headline about a drug dealer getting convicted, I think, "Typical. Another entrepreneur forced out of business by government regulations."

Enough rambling. Here's a picture of my son's bigger, better, faster, stronger bookshelf.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Reading Log: Steven Colbert Is America

I've actually got 6 other books piled up that I finished since my last Reading Log entry, some of which I finished before reading this one. However, this one's from the library and I want to get it back, so it's up first.

Your opinion of Steven Colbert's I Am America (And So Can You!) can be easily predicted by your opinion of his show. It's the exact same sort of deeply sarcastic material, just on paper instead of on the screen. Margin notes take the place of onscreen comments.

For my part, I used to be a faithful Colbert Report viewer. It was one of the last two TV shows I gave up, its sister program The Daily Show being the other. I had weaned myself almost fully from the boob tube, clinging only to that daily hour (45 minutes by fast-forwarding through the commercials), when one day I realized I just didn't care enough anymore to invest that almost-hour. (I still watch a few shows that I'll write about some other time.)

The constant left-wing politics bombardment of both shows didn't bother me. I don't mind someone disagreeing with me, as long as they don't try to lie about it. Neither Stewart nor Colbert make any secret of their liberal inclinations.

The only time I found it heavy-handed to the point of not being funny anymore was when the Colbert Report tried to make a catchphrase out of "Reality has a well-known liberal bias." The fact is, reality has no liberal bias whatsoever. The main difference between liberal and conservative policies is that while both may sound good in theory, conservative ideas are the ones that actually work in the real world. Idealism and utopianism are all well and good, but there comes a time when the dreamers need to step back and let the grownups actually run things.

More about that another time, though, because it's a much larger topic than I want to deal with just now. Back to the book.

I Am America (And So Can You!) succeeds at its goal of being funny. It's crammed with a jokes-per-page rate rivalling that of Mad magazine, but with a much higher maturity level (and a much better percentage of jokes that are actually, you know, funny).

I can only remember one joke that made me laugh out loud, which is my litmus test for whether a writer is really funny. In a margin note in the religion section, next to the main text talking about the Protestant Reformation, emphasis in the original: "Where I come from, nailing things to a church door is vandalism."

If you think that's funny, you'd probably enjoy this book. Be warned, however: if you're even the slightest bit right-leaning - and if you can stand reading this blog without having to replace monitors damaged by throwing things at the screen, you probably are - you'll need a sense of humour about yourself. For me, jokes can be funny no matter which side is the target.

I wonder about Colbert's emotional health sometimes. The profiles I've read about him tend to claim that he really is a "devout Catholic", teaching religion classes (Sunday School) in his church. He must suffer immense cognitive dissonance at times, because he frequently mocks moral beliefs that are held by Catholics and Protestants alike. He frequently makes remarks indicating strong support for gay "marriage" rights (remember that his entire persona is a parody of conservatives, so when he says he supports something for a ludicrous reason, he's actually mocking it), ridiculing pro-lifers, or attacking the concept of absolute truth. I suspect that his priest would have some words of correction for him (unless his priest is a washed-out relativist).

As I've mentioned before, cognitive dissonance is not healthy for human beings over the long term. I worry that by laughing at Colbert, we're laughing at the gradual disintegration of a man's mind.

It reminds me of the idiotic theater audience with whom I saw I Am Legend. During two powerful emotional scenes - when Smith begged the mannequin in the video store to talk to him, and when he was screaming at "Fred" to tell him how he got into the middle of the street - they laughed. Those scenes were not funny. We were watching a man lose his grip on what little sanity he had left. Will Smith, the writers and the director did a terrific job. Those scenes were wrenching. The filmmakers didn't fail - that audience did.

I probably should just set my concerns about Colbert's long-term emotional health aside and recommend the book, because it really is quite funny. And, in the end, as long as I'm getting what I want, why should I worry about the consequences to someone else who I don't even know?

It seems like Steven Colbert would want it that way. After all, such isolationism is the liberal ideal (e.g., since Iraq "wasn't a direct threat" to the U.S. of A., Hussein should have been left alone. As long as he was only slaughtering foreigners, people who talk - and even look - different from most Americans, that was fine. Right?), and Colbert and Stewart's clear position.

Enough rambling. Here's a picture of my son's old bookshelf, some drawers full of toys, and some other stuff in my living room.