Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Another Game I'll Probably Never Play

I picked up Trivial Pursuit, the Saturday Night Live DVD Edition, at a local dollar store (although it cost three dollars, constituting blatant false advertising). My wife, much to her credit, agreed to try it with me. That had no chance of being a fair match, since I watched SNL faithfully for over twenty years, whereas she only saw an occasional few minutes and was never a big fan.

The game seems fine for what it is, although it's far more difficult than I had expected. I guess if you want to write thousands of SNL questions, you have to start referencing some of the more obscure material. My wife and I played for about an hour, and Denny Dillon's name came up twice. That qualifies as getting obscure.

I'd definitely recommend the game to even casual SNL fans, if only for the player tokens, which are miniatures of popular characters. I can't even stomach most of the chosen characters (Mary Catherine Gallagher, Mango, Will Ferrell's cheerleader, etc.), but the inclusion of a land shark and Belushi's samurai make it worthwhile.

I had hoped to see the game going for decent prices on eBay, because that dollar store still has a big shelf full of them and I could have bought some for resale, but no such luck. Lots of people can't find bidders at ten dollars, and even some people who are willing to start at a buck aren't getting buyers. So much for that college fund idea.

Enough rambling. Here's a picture of a big ugly big. This picture was taken right after he and Godzilla flipped a coin for the right to crush Tokyo.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Where In The World Is Zirbert Sandiego

By the time you read this, I'll already be gone.

On vacation, that is!

Now I see why the Simpsons writers keep using that joke over and over. It's more fun when you're the one doing it.

Anyway, I'm on vacation in a undisclosed location. I'll talk about it when I get back. This post, and some other recent ones, and maybe some yet to come, you'll just have to wait and see, are being written in advance and posted using the Blogger post scheduling function. Hopefully it's working correctly.

I may be (and may have already been...) checking in here while away, but I didn't want to spend my vacation time hunched over a computer writing posts. See you soon with new stuff. And maybe even before that with more pre-written stuff...

Enough rambling. Here's a picture of something they did recently to an apartment building in my neighbourhood. I thought maybe they were putting in a moat, but to my disappointment they filled the trench back in a couple of days later. I had hoped for a drawbridge, and maybe some crocodiles.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Lead Me Not Into Temptation

My son has an ear infection. Definitely not the first, and probably not the last. Saturday night I wound up visiting the emergency room at 11:00.

The antibiotic they gave him didn't soothe the pain he was in for long, so I wound up driving around at 4:00 Am looking for pediatric painkillers. I finally found an all-night gas station that had some children's Tylenol in a display behind the counter. After asking about it, I finally had to get the two clerks to hand it to me to read the box. Neither of them could confirm whether the words "pain relief" appeared on the packaging. Not a word of lie, I honestly think that both of them were illiterate.

The best part of this story, though, came when I went to the pharmacy the next day to get his prescription for Amoxycillin (a frequent guest in our home) filled. Here's the actual conversation I overheard between the two pharmacists. Or pharmacy technicians, or whatever - all I know is they took the little piece of paper away then brought me a bottle of medicine:

"This Amoxycillin smells so good. I could just drink the whole bottle."

"That would probably kill you. You're really allergic, right?"

"Yeah, but it smells so good."

"You probably shouldn't even be handling that."

For some reason, this pleased me for the rest of the day.

Enough rambling. Here's a picture of something else my wife made out of fluffy string by using pointy sticks. She informed me after the last one of these I posted that the sticks are, in fact, hooked. Such subtle distinctions are lost on me.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Reading Log: Sweet Thursday At The Movies

Sweet Thursday is the fourth of John Steinbeck's books that I've read, after Of Mice And Men, Cannery Row, and The Grapes Of Wrath (in that order). I haven't done a writeup yet on Grapes, but I own that one and Sweet Thursday is already overdue from the library, so it moves to the front of the line.

I've also watched the movie adaptation of Cannery Row, which is apparently being released on DVD soon. I'll be discussing it along with this book. You may be wondering why I'm lumping the movie Cannery Row in with the book Sweet Thursday; it's because, despite its title, the movie is actually an adaptation of the later book.

Fair warning: there will be spoilers from here on in. If you don't want to know what happened in a half-century-old book or its quarter-century-old movie adaptation, then get thee to a nunnery. Or at least quit reading this entry.

Sweet Thursday is a sequel to Cannery Row, set in the same place about a decade later. Some characters have gone, new ones have entered, and some have been through life-changing experiences. The gap between the books included World War II, and at least two characters from the first book have stories of their wartime military service told.

Sweet Thursday is much more linear and cohesive than Cannery Row. The first book was largely a series of related but independent scenes, many of which had little connection to each other and could have been told in a different order without harming the overall work. Sweet Thursday has a unifying plot.

The plot is a fairly clich├ęd and predictable love story, but it's well told. It's your standard boy-meets-girl. As per the formula, they take an instant dislike to one another, but you know all along that they'll wind up together in the end. The familiar plot can be excused, because it's pretty well established that there are really only so many plots in all of literature (and any other media). Complaining that a novel has a familiar plot would be like complaining that you don't like a new song because another songwriter already used D minor.

Sweet Thursday succeeds because the characters are as likable as the ones in Cannery Row (no surprise, since many of them are holdovers), the side stories are entertaining, and the whole book is quite funny. Cannery Row had a sense of resignation about it. This book, although it shares the same setting, has a sense of celebration.

From the introduction, in which some of the derelicts from Cannery Row break the fourth wall to discuss their misgivings about that book, it's clear that Steinbeck intends Sweet Thursday as a comedy. That introduction also made repeated use of the word "hooptedoodle", so you can blame Steinbeck for the titles of some of my recent posts. The comedy works, and there are two scenes, both near the end, that made me laugh out loud: when it becomes clear how Hazel intends to help Doc get Suzy's attention, and when we find out that Suzy can't drive (after she's already agreed to drive Doc's car on a long trip).

Sweet Thursday is light entertainment compared to the deeper themes of Steinbeck's other novels that I've read, but it works very well on that level. In those other books, Steinbeck wanted to make the reader think about the human condition. In this one, he wanted to lighten up and make the reader smile. It's a credit to his ability that he succeeds at both goals.

As for the movie, although it's called Cannery Row, as far as I could see it's based entirely on Sweet Thursday. The opening credits say that it was based on both books, but I can't remember a single line or scene that was specific to the first book. I can only assume that the studio considered Cannery Row to be the more marketable title. Perhaps they thought that a few literate moviegoers (they still existed back then) might pass on a movie called Sweet Thursday because, recognizing the title, they would think they had missed the first movie. Shades of "But I haven't even read Henry The Seventh yet!"

I would not recommend the movie, and I certainly wouldn't want anyone to judge the book (or any of Steinbeck's other work) based on this mediocre adaptation.

For starters, I didn't buy Nick Nolte as the intellectual Doc. Although a capable actor, he simply doesn't have the air of a genius. It's worth noting that in a monologue where Doc states his actual IQ score, the movie lowers it considerably from the book. The IMDB Trivia page for this movie speculates that the producers did this deliberately to avoid stretching the audience's credibility past the breaking point.

Nolte is too rugged and rough around the edges for Doc. He would have been perfect for Mack, though - in fact, when I first heard that Nolte was in the movie, I assumed that would be his role. Jeff Goldblum would have made a good Doc, I think. I also never pictured Doc as dressing like Indiana Jones.

It was cool to see Mrs. Roper as the brothel proprietor, though.

The movie moved both too quickly and too slowly. Perhaps it was a result of the compression necessary to turn a novel into a film (or in this case two novels, although as noted they dealt with that by ignoring the first one), but some of the character development seemed much too fast. In the book, I believed Suzy's acceptance of her new lot in life at the outset of the story. The movie had her making the transition from waiting tables to prostitution just a bit too quickly and smoothly for my way of thinking. Perhaps I travel in the wrong (or right) social circles, but that doesn't seem like a casual career switch to me.

However, the movie bogs down in other scenes. There are two in particular, neither of which have any basis in the book: an interminable and torturous dancing sequence, and a baseball game that seems to take longer than the actual pennant race.

The baseball game brings up another sore point for me with the movie: there was no need to add the silliness about having been a baseball player to Doc's backstory. The books had no hint of that, and it doesn't fit the character that Steinbeck created.

Worse, the filmmakers then used that nonsense to tie Doc's backstory to the backstory of the Seer in the most trite fashion imaginable. In the book, the Seer doesn't get or need an explanation; he just is. He exists and relates to the other characters entirely on his own terms. The movie takes away his mystery, destroying everything interesting about him in the process.

The other changes were a mixed bag. I can almost buy Mack being a boogie-woogie piano player, but I can't understand why the screenwriters decided to cut my favourite line of dialogue from the book, from very near the end:

She was headed for the door. She whirled and faced him. Her brows were straight and her mouth taut. Then she took a slow breath and her lips became full and turned up at the corners and her eyes shone with incredible excitement.

"Brother," said Suzy, "you got yourself a girl!"
Instead, the filmmakers chose to frame this scene just like the ending of almost every other romance movie ever made. Violin swells, a long wordless kiss, blah yadda blah, and roll credits. This movie would have been much better if the director had been willing to take some risks instead of using the same cookie-cutter as every other hack in Hollywood.

The bottom line is that I'd definitely recommend the book (as long as you read Cannery Row first, of course), but the movie is only for fans of mediocrity.

Enough rambling. Here's a picture of the view from my bedroom window. How bad can life be?

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Best Report Card Comment Ever

Courtesy of my son's gym teacher:

"He has difficulty moving his body through space safely and with control."

This demonstrates reason # 352 why I couldn't be a gym teacher. I would have cut to the chase and used the phrase "careens like a drunken pinball."

Enough rambling. Here's a picture of my son about to careen down a slide like a drunken pinball.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Post-Election Hooptedoodle (U.S. Edition)

Got some more election / U.S.A. politics stuff to purge. This is a long one, so I might have gotten it all out of my system for a while. Or maybe not. We'll all find out together.

Just after the election, some of my co-workers were discussing what the future holds for Sarah Palin. "Rehab, probably," said one.

I asked them, more sharply than they expected, why they would say that. I added, "Just because you don't like her doesn't make her a junkie."

Taken aback, they stammered out something like "going to rehab doesn't mean you're a junkie" (Right. It means you sold the most Girl Scout cookies of anybody in your whole troop) and tried to get out of the conversation. I let it drop.

Thinking about it later, I tried to figure out why their remark, among all the ignorant leftist gloating that was going on in that room, was what I responded to. I think I've got it.

I wasn't being particularly protective of Palin. Worse things were said about her without my batting an eye. However, it frequently occurs to me that most of the people who call her stupid - the most common comment I heard about her during and after the election - are far less intelligent than she is.

I was being protective of comedy.

Good comedy tends to reside at one end of the spectrum or the other: either completely absurdist or shining a light on some truth. A "Palin in rehab" joke is neither. Because it is neither hot nor cold, but lukewarm, then it should not come out of anyone's mouth. Lukewarm comedy is lame and sad, although judging from talk show monologues it sells well.

Instead of suggesting that Palin will wind up in rehab, put a spin on it. I hear that her husband's been known to enjoy a few drinks; say that she'll be spending 2009 as his chauffeur because of his suspended driver's licence. Children of famous people are under even stranger pressures than most adolescents, and often make disastrously bad decisions about what to put into their bodies; say that she'll spend the next few years visiting the kids in rehab.

To say she'll be in rehab, with no context or justification of any kind, is offensive because it's so lazy. If you're going to make jokes about someone, put a modicum of effort into it.

Someone else came over to me the day after the election and, clearly hoping to gloat, asked what I thought of the results. I said, "What a horrible, humiliating night...for Obama."

Their eyebrows shot up, and they asked how I could possibly say that.

"Easy. After Bush's two terms, given his incredibly low approval ratings and popularity, the Democrats should have been able to nominate a lava lamp and get almost 500 electoral votes. Obama's under 400. His winning by that close a margin is like me playing one-on-one against Michael Jordan, and his winning by ten baskets to seven. Nobody expected me to win, but the fact that it was that close is embarrassing to him."

They blinked at me a few times, said, "You're unbelievable", walked away, and left me alone for the rest of the day. I call that a win.

It was clear by early 2006 at the latest that the Republicans had essentially no chance of winning the presidency in 2008. Being a Republican in 2008 was a lot like being a fan of a lousy sports team. Some years you take the pennant, and other years are "building years." That's fan-speak for "We fully expect to get the tar knocked out of us this season, and we're making our excuses now."

McCain had to have understood this. It speaks well of him that he agreed to be the one to jump under the bus. I keep trying to explain to "non-political" friends that he wasn't liked by the Republican base; they didn't want to waste a "good" candidate on the 2008 suicide run. Note that a common theme on conservative blogs on November 5 was "At least now we can go back to not liking McCain."

In a sense, this election was a no-win scenario for the American people. They had to choose between a RINO and an empty suit. The fact that McCain came as close to winning as he did shows that the American people as a whole were deeply ambivalent about Obama.

Vocabulary sidebar: despite how you hear it used all the time, "ambivalent" doesn't mean "indifferent." Far from it, in fact. It means something closer to "pulled in two directions simultaneously". The word is formed by joining "ambi-", meaning "both" (think "ambidextrous"), with "-valent", meaning movement. To be ambivalent about something means that you can see both sides of the matter, find aspects of each side attractive, and are torn between them. End sidebar.

As I've said before, America will survive this. Although if Obama is as soft on terrorism as it looks like he intends to be, some individual Americans may not. Ask the families of 3000 or so people who didn't come home from work on September 11, 2001 what happens when the administration doesn't stand up to terrorists (and, just in case you didn't read that last link, I'm not talking about the Bush administration here).

I hope and pray that nothing so awful happens to America again. One of the few consolations is that another attack would at least remind people that there are actual serious bad guys in the world, and they need to be dealt with. If 9/11 could make Dennis Miller accept that, then another attack might even jolt a few Code Pink members to sanity.

Incidentally, that "serious bad guys" bit in the last paragraph is how I explain terrorism and war to my young son. He understands it. Why don't some politicians?

The people who lost out the most in this election were the peaceful majority in Iraq. He already seems to be hedging, but if Obama carries out the plans he hinted at during the campaign, then he'll be abandoning them to slaughter. The power void left by a sudden withdrawal of U.S. forces guarantees that Iraqis will suffer a massacre the likes of which they haven't seen since... well, since Saddam was in power.

During the campaign McCain should have continually hammered on the theme of wanting to bring American troops home as soon as possible, but not at the expense of leaving innocent people to be slaughtered. That could easily have been explained to the American people, and would have resonated, but it needed to be explicitly laid out at every opportunity. Instead it was only mentioned occasionally, almost offhandedly.

If Iraq is abandoned, then several years from now the world may get a reminder that there is no enemy more bitter than a former friend. Remember when the U.S. stopped supporting the freedom fighters in Afghanistan, and one of them (a guy named Bin Laden) was a little miffed over getting dumped like a Hugh Hefner girlfriend on her thirtieth birthday? What ever happened to that guy, anyway? He probably calmed down once he had time to cool off and think it over, and never did anything drastic, right?

Hopefully this defeat will re-energize the conservative movement (not necessarily the Republican party, although right now they're the only viable national-level game in town). Take hope, Americans, and remember that four years of Carter wound up getting Reagan elected. I've seen a theory that America decides to elect an unabashed liberal every sixteen years - that may be how long it takes people to forget how idiotic and ineffective liberalism is - but I'm not sure that three times constitutes a cycle. Check back here in 2024.

I've often been asked why I'm so interested in American politics, especially since until the last couple of elections I had minimal interest in the politics of my own country (that has changed).

Imagine that you're at a boxing match. You have a choice: you can either watch the shadows of the boxers, or look up and see the actual action.

That's why I follow U.S. politics instead of Canada's.

Plus, American politics are far more entertaining. Polarization makes for good television. During an election cycle we get to watch heartless greedy Nazis versus mindless tree-hugging surrender monkey potheads, or so the media (including blogs of all stripes) would tell it.

In Canada, everybody's pretty much in the centre. By American standards even our "Conservative" party would only be considered slightly to the right (and I would debate even that). All our other national-level players are centrist or off to the left by varying degrees. In recent years some of the minor national parties have drifted steadily further left, which is fine with me. It means they fragment the liberal vote even more, giving me hope that one day an actual conservative party will come along to win elections while they squabble over the global warming acolytes. (As always when I'm writing about Canadian politics, whether the words "liberal" and "conservative" are capitalized is deliberate and significant.)

It's also indisputable that American policies affect Canada deeply - sometimes more than the policies of our own government. The U.S. is our largest trading partner, greatest ally (despite the efforts of Canadian liberals - including Liberals - to poison that relationship in recent years), and we share the longest undefended border in the world. That's something to be proud of and to attempt to preserve.

On a related note, a lot of Canadians think it's funny that some Americans don't know much trivia about our nation. Rick Mercer strolls around California with a microphone and proves that Americans don't know the capital city of Saskatchewan, and Canadians point and hoot.

I don't find that funny in the slightest, and I certainly don't find it insulting. You have 300 million people, we have 30 million. Your gross national product is measured in trillions, ours is measured in moose pelts. There's no reason for an elephant to care much about the flea on its backside. Why should the average American know, or care, about Canadian minutiae?

For my part, I like to wait until some yokel has just snorted Tim Hortons coffee out their nose because somebody in Burbank doesn't know how warm Yellowknife gets in July, then ask them to name the capital of West Virginia, or the third president of the United States, or the year that the Alamo fell. When (not if) they don't know, I say, "Wow. I guess you're as stupid as an American then, huh?"

One final note. I watched the 2006 disintegration of Cynthia McKinney with great amusement (although I don't know how far down she had to fall to reach the lowest pits of crazy). As soon as I saw that Cracked.com was running a feature on The Most Insane People Ever To Run For President, I knew she had to be there. I was not disappointed.

Enough rambling. Here's a picture of former Democratic congresswoman, Green Party presidential nominee, and race-baiting, cop-slapping, raving loon Cynthia McKinney at her finest.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Remembrance Day

I'm no poet. I have no great eloquent way to express my gratitude toward those who have put on uniforms and taken up arms to protect others. All I can say is that I kind of wish that I knew some surviving veterans well enough to go over and give them a hug without getting a punch or at least a bewildered look in return.

My attitude toward the military has shifted dramatically over the years more than once. My worldview has gone though a few major upheavals.

In childhood, during those prepubescent years when we first begin to form (what we think are) our own opinions on important matters, I was a pacifist. I remember writing a speech in the fifth or sixth grade on the terribly original subject of War. I researched and reported on the human and economic costs of war, coming to the terribly original conclusion that war is bad. It costs a lot of money, and people die.

The idea that there are worse things than war, that nobility and sacrifice are virtuous, that right must sometimes take up arms against wrong, never occurred to me.

My teacher ate it up. She led the class in giving me a round of applause, and offered me a chance to present this speech publicly in some silly forum or another. There I would stand a chance to win a ribbon or perhaps even a certificate with my name embossed on it.

I declined the invitation, taking the excuse that I would be too nervous. At the time I probably believed that, not yet understanding that my personal shyness does not translate to stage fright. I realized before much longer that I'm perfectly comfortable getting up to speak in front of groups of any size. I only panic once I set the microphone down, walk offstage, and need to try to make conversation with a single human being. Audiences are easy to deal with - actual people aren't.

My pacifism was eventually replaced with a strong militaristic streak. A couple of years later I was reading magazines like Gung Ho and Soldier of Fortune, planning to apply for ROTC with hopes of getting into the airborne and jumping out of planes, and thoroughly romanticizing all aspects of military life.

This too had faded before it actually came time to start preparing for adult life. By the time early adult life rolled around, I was back on the pacifist side of the fence, but this time because I had become a Christian and thought that Jesus demanded pacifism of his followers. I no longer think that, having since studied the Scriptures and theology in some depth. I still don't think that Christians are ever called to be aggressors, but I don't think there's any moral problem with taking up arms in defense of yourself or others.

I now think that devoting yourself to the defense and protection of others is laudable, and I deeply appreciate those who do it. I include police officers in this as well as members of the military, and think that soldiers who have never seen combat are as much to be admired as those who have. By enlisting, they are offering themselves up and saying that they are willing to die if called upon to do so.

To all those who have volunteered to protect and defend in uniform, thank you.

As for that stupid kid and untrained Christian that I used to be, I apologize for them. Not only did they not know what they were talking about, but they were each really, really sure that they did. I'm glad they had the opportunity to survive and learn, in no small part thanks to you whose service we remember today.

Enough rambling. Here's a picture of my son pointing at a squirrel, who seems to be trying to hide from either him or the camera.

Monday, November 10, 2008

The Case Of The Missing Jump Drive

I like that title because it sounds like a Hardy Boys book. Although in my youth I always preferred the Bobbsey Twins.

Yes, I'm secure enough to admit that.

I had a puzzling computer problem yesterday. Here's what happened and how I eventually fixed it. This will be deathly dull to non-techies, and only slightly better for those who understand what I'm talking about. Those in the latter group will see the end of this story coming long before I get there.

As background, I have a home LAN with two PCs, Rueben (misspelled, I know, but I'm too lazy to do the work that renaming it would require) and Simeon. Simeon, the newer PC, had mappings to the four logical drives on its big brother Rueben, showing up in Windows Explorer as G, H, I and J.

I had just put another hard drive, a 40 GB IDE drive that had become surplus from another machine, into Simeon. Everything seemed fine, until I plugged in my MP3 player last night to reload it and it wouldn't show up in Windows Explorer (WE from here on, because I'm already sick of typing it out). I got the "Donk" noise of Windows detecting it, and the USB connection icon in the system tray, but nothing in WE.

I tried a jump drive - same thing. "Donk", system tray icon, and nothing in WE. I tried the MP3 player with a different connector cable, and I tried different USB ports. Same thing. I tried plugging my other USB devices (printer, mouse, Plextor ConvertX video capture box) into different USB ports, and they all worked fine. I tried plugging the jump drive into Rueben, and it worked there. The MP3 player has never worked in Rueben, who's simply too old and cranky to deal with these newfangled digital audio players.

So, by process of elimination (the PC troubleshooter's credo), I determined that the jump drive and USB ports were not the problem. As noted, I couldn't rule out that the MP3 player and/or both of the connector cables I tried had gone bad, although that wouldn't explain why the jump drive worked in Rueben but not in Simeon.

After working on this throughout all the commercial breaks in The Simpsons, King Of The Hill, and Family Guy, I had a breakthrough during American Dad. Even before installing the new hard drive, Simeon already had logical drives named C and D (only 1 physical hard drive, but I practice safe partitioning in case I need to reinstall my operating system). E was the DVD-RW drive, and as noted I had mapped network drives in slots G to J.

When I installed the new hard drive, it was assigned the letter F. That means that every letter from A to J was in use (with B being reserved for a 5 1/4" floppy drive, which even I don't use anymore). When I tried to plug in a USB drive, for some reason it was trying to use G, instead of going to the next available letter. Since G was already in use, WE couldn't figure out how to show me the USB drive.

I tested this theory by disconnecting the mapped G drive. Lo and behold, the USB drives would then happily grab that letter and show up. I wound up simply reassigning the mapped drives to letters further down the alphabet, and my LAN lived happily ever after.

Enough rambling. Here's a picture of my son doing some supersonic headbanging. Stryper's Reborn album rocks mightily.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Mygazines Is Dead

A little while back, I wrote about a website called Mygazines, where you could read scanned magazines online, quite without the permission of their publishers. I predicted the site had a very short life expectancy.

I tried to visit them today, and here's what it says on what used to be their login page:

Due to monetary reasons and the state of the global economy, we unfortunately must close mygazines.com.
I assume that when they say "state of the global economy", what they really mean is, "there wasn't enough money in the world to pay off the lawsuits headed our way."

Too bad. The site wasn't perfect, but I liked it. Back to the library's periodicals section and torrented PDFs, I guess.

Enough rambling. Here's a picture of my son noticing a squirrel.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Election Day In The U.S. Of A.

Once again, random political thoughts groping wildly for an editor. Buckle up and enjoy the ride. Keep your hands and feet inside the blog at all times.

Let's get this out of the way now: there will be no Sarah Palin Pictures in this post. Not even any Sara Palin Bikini Pictures, and certainly no Sara Paylen Nude Pics (as the search queries get tawdrier, the spelling gets sloppier).

The Electoral College, like most policies intended to right some inequality, actually makes matters worse (or at least absolutely no better), just in the opposite direction.

I get what the original idea was. Since the population if the United States is disproportionately concentrated in a few areas (New York, California, the gas station men's room closest to Clay Aiken's house), the fear was that national political candidates would only bother campaigning in those places. If you can get a majority of the nation's votes by visiting five states, why go anywhere else?

So, the Electoral College system said that each state would get so many votes. (Quick civics lesson: there are 538 people who actually get to vote on the Presidency. The rest of you Americans are kidding yourselves by casting a ballot.) Smaller, less densely populated states received more Electoral votes, proportionate to their population, than larger centres. This was to make sure that, for example, a North Dakotan's vote wasn't "worth less" than a Manhattanite's.

The problem is, there's no reason why the Manhattanite's vote should be worth any less, but it is under this system. To figure out what your vote is really worth, divide the number of electoral votes your state has by the number of eligible voters in that state. Then do the same for a bunch of other states. If those quotients don't come out exactly equal - and they won't - then the system is fundamentally unfair. All people are not equal under the law if my vote counts for one ten-thousandth of an electoral vote but yours only counts for one fifteen-thousandth.

The Electoral College has to go. It's just another case of institutionalized discrimination. People in Montana aren't worth less than people in Hollywood, but they aren't worth any more either. One voter, one vote, and the majority wins. If that means that Hillary won't visit Alaska in 2012, so be it. If Alaskans are that upset about it, they can always move to Chicago.

Some of Obama's unthinking support (which may be redundant) is really scary. Check out the lady in the video at this link, over on Cassy Fiano's site. Here's a transcript of what she said (with some editing to give her the benefit of the doubt on spelling): “I never thought this day would happen. . . . I won’t have to work on putting gas in my car. I won’t have to work at paying my mortgage. You know. If I help him (Obama), he’s gonna help me.”

WHAT. ON. EARTH. do these people think Obama is going to do?!? Do they think he has a magic Money Wand that means nobody will have to pay for anything ever again?

That video was one of the most frightening things I've seen this year. If I were American and inclined, even slightly, to vote for Obama, this lunacy would have driven the thought from my mind.

One of my many political pet peeves is this whole misbegotten notion that the President / Prime Minister / Grand Poobah is somehow personally responsible for the economy of their nation. They aren't. They are government representatives, and the government's involvement with the economy should extend no further than providing a framework and infrastructure. Beyond that, the government should stay out of the way and let the people take care of their own business, which is what the economy boils down to.

That said, "the market" is not entirely rational. People do indeed invest differently based on the political climate, because they (wisely) don't trust politicians to stay out of their pockets. I'm convinced of the theory that the American market is down largely because large-scale institutional investors (the backbone of the stock market) have already considered what Obama will try to do (although he shouldn't - see my last paragraph) to the American economy. He may introduce a high federal minimum wage; forbid secret ballot union votes, meaning corrupt thugs always get their way through intimidation; exorbitant new energy taxes; exorbitant payroll taxes to fund socialized health care; etc. Check out this page for a fantastic analysis.

I'm planning a trip to the States in the not-terribly-distant future. I'll want some U.S. currency for pocket money while I'm there. I'm trying to time when I should buy it to get the best exchange rate.

If Obama wins, I expect the U.S. dollar to jump in value in the immediate aftermath of the election. Foreign nations are far too optimistic about his performance prospects, and so the U.S. dollar will momentarily look great to most of the world. Momentarily. Once Obama gets in and starts nibbling at American productivity and efficiency like a termite in a log cabin, the greenback will suffer and be a bargain purchase. The only question is whether that process will begin even before my trip.

If McCain wins, the opposite will happen. Foreign markets will be too busy calling Americans stupid (in a variety of languages, most of which sound suspiciously like Ewok) to bid up the value of their dollar. It'll drop in the sort term. However, as the world realizes that McCain is neither Bush nor a communist, it'll rebound.

It's all in the timing. If McCain wins, I'll buy my U.S. cash this week. If not, I'll wait until the last day before I cross the border.

That's all for tonight. I've still got some more Sarah Palin bits to write up, but they'll work as well after the election as before. Maybe even better, depending how things go.

Enough rambling. Here's a picture of my son crowding my sister-in-law's dog.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Pre-Election Hooptedoodle

This is the U.S. of A, edition, of course. The article that I posted on the night of Canada's recent election saw a traffic spike of over ten times this blog's usual daily readership, beating my old one-day traffic record by almost five times. I don't expect a repeat of that performance. There's just a wee bit more competition in the field of snarky political analysis on the American side of the Parallel. In Canada, it's me or the CBC, so I get hits.

Once again, disjointed thoughts ahoy. We'll be listing to starboard 'till morning, following no set course. Where'er the wind and currents lead, there shall we go.


About 24 hours from now it'll all be over and we'll know who the next President will be. I'm interested, but not worried. I have faith that America will survive no matter which candidate wins. Neither one will be a disaster in and of themselves. There are too many checks and balances in place, and the office of the President is not a dictatorship. Just because the President wants something doesn't mean it automagically happens.

Of course, having wacky-at-best Pelosi and friends littering a perfectly nice Congress doesn't help keep things under control. If elected, Obama may be able to get some schemes through that wouldn't have survived a less hysterical House and Senate. For instance, he's admitted that electricity prices are going to skyrocket under his administration, and that he'll tax any attempts to build new coal-based power plants into oblivion. Unlike Bush's inexplicable dreams of handing U.S. port security over to Dubai, Obama may be able to achieve his fantasies.

Sidebar: I've decided that for this entry, I'm going to skip linking to sources for most (but not all) of this stuff. I certainly could, and will look them up if any are requested in comments, but for the sake of expediency I'm going to mostly let the reader do their own Googlin'.

Overall, instead of utter devastation, I picture an Obama administration as more a live-action adaptation of Goofy Minds The House. Yes, a big noisy mess may get made, but eventually the adults will return to put things right.

I just hope that the mess doesn't include nuclear ash because of Iran getting to finish building their "peaceful purposes only, honest, not for bombing infidels at all, and like the Democrats we have no idea what Taqiyya means" reactors.

Obama, like Bill Clinton before him, is comprised of far more charisma than substance. I hope Obama doesn't juggle and deflect as well as Clinton did, so he only gets the single term that Clinton should have. Clinton won a second term by managing to distract the masses with bread and circuses. Meanwhile, as people amused themselves to death, the DMCA passed, two of the Supreme Court justices who supported the Kelo decision slithered onto the bench, and the groundwork was laid for September 11 and the current mortgage crisis.

America, if you elect another Democrat, please pay closer attention this time.

One way that Obama could do serious damage is with his Supreme Court nominations. Joe Biden, when asked in the VP debate for an issue where he has changed his position, actually said that he used to think that judges should be picked based on, you know, their abilities, but now he understands that judicial picks are really all about politics and ideology. I was stunned that anyone would admit that, and even more so that no one picked up on it. I expected the moderator to say, "Wait. So you're saying that used to hold a mature position on the matter, but now you look at it like a toddler?"

Anyway, everybody let it pass, although for me it was one of the most telling moments of the entire campaign. Presumably Obama holds similar views, or Joe wouldn't have been allowed to say it.

Everybody with a conscience knows that Roe v. Wade was one of the worst judicial decisions in history. Even liberals who applaud its results will admit, once they've had enough drinks to start being honest, that it was a fraudulent act of sheer arrogance on the part of the Supreme Court.

As an avid pro-lifer, of course I want Roe v. Wade overturned. However, at the same time, I recognize that the real problem behind the abortion tragedy is not legal but spiritual. We need to change hearts, not laws, to protect preborn children. Even if abortion were outlawed tomorrow, some women would still find ways to commit it, and some men would be perfectly happy to take their money to help. Pro-life laws, in and of themselves, are not the answer to the abortion problem.

That said, I wholeheartedly support pro-life laws (or anti-abortion laws; that term doesn't scare me, since it accurately describes my position).

Yes, changing hearts is more important that changing laws, but unless and until we can manage the former I'll take the latter. Think of it this way: in the long term, Germans of the 1940s needed to understand that rounding Jews into ovens was wrong, and morally repent. I'm happy that Auschwitz got shut down anyway, though, even if it happened before all the German people were on board with the change.

If I had more readers, especially of the leftist variety, I'd be expecting some righteous indignation over "comparing abortion to the Holocaust". That objection always cracks me up. Hey, pro-abortionists: if you don't like being compared to Nazis, then stop advocating the murder of people you've decreed to be sub-human despite all scientific evidence and moral arguments to the contrary. The main difference between a Nazi and a pro-abort is that the pro-aborts have been far more successful, probably due to better marketing.

Wow, did that one ever wander off on me.

An insightful friend (who really needs to get his own blog going, so I can quit stealing his stuff) made a really good eschatological point about Obama in an e-mail to me. He said that if you think Obama is charismatic, wait until you see the actual Anti-Christ. (And yes, this does mean that I specifically object to any claim that Obama is the Anti-Christ. This is as close as I can come to giving him an endorsement.)

Note carefully that despite their very similar sounds, the words "eschatological" and "scatological" have nothing to do with each other.

It amazes me that some American voters still haven't made up their minds. Apparently a large number or voters routinely make their decision only when in the actual voting booth. Obama has a definite edge there; he looks more like the movie President. Any movie. Anytime a movie made in the last fifteen years showed a fictional President of the vaguely near future, they were either black or female. I think a bylaw got passed by the Screen Actors Guild or something. Anyway, since Obama fits the casting call better than McCain, he gets an advantage.

You know, if Hillary Clinton's supporters had actually followed through with their threats to support the Republican nominee instead of Obama, it would have been their first smart decision.

You see, if Obama gets elected, there's a good chance he'll hold onto the office until 2016 (bread and circuses, bread and circuses). By then, she'll be pushing seventy. Still younger than McCain is now, yes, but maybe not so interested in running for office. There's also the distinct chance that everyone will have gotten bored and forgotten about her by then.

However, if McCain wins, there's - let's face it - a pretty good shot that he won't go a second term, for various reasons alluded to in the last paragraph. That gives Hillary a fresh shot at it again. Her odds would be much better in 2012 against a Republican incumbent than against a wide-open field in 2016.

Her supporters absolutely should have been out there doing everything they could to get McCain elected. Of course, if they honestly believed their own rhetoric about McCain, it would mean they were willing to inflict horrible damage on their country (according to their peyote-fueled "prophetic visions" of McCain's performance) just to get another shot at getting their own way down the road.

Sounds about right for Democrats.

I'm not sure whether I'm happy or sad that Hillary's supporters haven't been smart enough to realize this. I note, however, that on the Saturday Night Live Presidential Bash opening monologue I just watched, Amy Poehler, playing Hillary, made a lot of "subtle" hints toward hoping that Obama would lose, for this exact reason. Rats. I came up with this bit a while ago but didn't write it up until now, and now even I feel like I'm ripping off the SNL writers.

You know what? I'm stopping for now. I've got some more election stuff, but I think it'll keep for a day to keep this one to (maybe) readable lengths. (Let's see, checking my notes... economy, scary Obama supporters caught on tape, exchange rates, why the Electoral College stinks... yeah, this can all wait a day.)

Before I go, though, I need to mention someone. She's terrific for bringing in search engine hits, but her name hadn't come up naturally in the course of writing this entry. So:

Sarah Palin. Sarah Palin, Sarah Palin, Sarah Palin. Too bad I don't have any pictures of Sarah Palin. Sarah Palin pictures are great for generating traffic.

There. That should help.

Enough rambling. Here's a picture of the ceiling in my computer room. In the lower left, you can see a bit of my Crisis on Infinite Earths poster, painted by Alex Ross over George Perez pencils. If you had already recognized it, chances are you're a huge nerd.