Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Happy New Year!

... to everyone!

Monday, December 29, 2008


Go check out the 50 best astronomy pictures of the year (the page may take a minute or two to load, but it's worth it)!

Fez tip to Maru.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Sports Update

A little ago, it was observed that things were going rather bizarrely well in the sports world. Time, then, to check back, and see if the momentum has been maintained!

Back on October 18th, we wrote: "Millwall have lost exactly once since August, and are sitting a comfortable third. Today they beat Leeds United, something that has not happened in almost 20 years." Millwall have stumbled a little bit in the last couple of games, but are still sitting a comfortable third, only five points off the league lead. Tomorrow's match, at home against a struggling Yeovil Town, is pretty a must-win, though.

We wrote: "Napoli are leading Serie A, having just beaten Juventus (ok, there are teams right behind them with games in hand, so they'll likely be overtaken tomorrow, but still...)." Napoli have slipped to fifth in Serie A, not that there's anything particularly wrong with that. In fact, it's one spot better than I had them predicted to finish! So far, they've managed to defeat Juventus and Fiorentina, but lost (narrowly) to both the Milan sides.

Finally, we observed: "The Edmonton Oilers are 3-0-0, and in all three of those wins they've successfully defended a 1-goal lead. Furthermore, their big off-season acquisitions, Mssrs. Cole and Visnovsky, already have 3 goals between them. Oh, and their power-play is scoring goals too." It would be very easy to get all pessimistic here, because the Oilers have seemingly fallen off after their quick start to the season. They're currently 10th in the Western Conference, in other words out of the playoff picture at the moment. However... the Oilers are three points better than they were last season at this point, and the general sense is that things are coming together. Hemsky is putting up a point a game, more or less, and the powerplay for once is productive. The three-headed goalie monster has settled down a bit, with Dwayne Roloson cementing himself in place as the #1 guy. Now, if the penalty-killing were to improve, and Sam Gagner and Erik Cole were to boost their offensive numbers a bit, all would be well. As it is, there's reason for cautious optimism.

Monday, December 22, 2008

The Theology of Cats

An interesting and apropos Lolcat:

funny pictures of cats with captions
more animals

Which reminds me of the basic theological difference between cats and dogs. A dog looks at its owner and thinks "this person feeds me, shelters me, loves me, and takes care of me. This person must be a god!" Whereas a cat thinks "this person feeds me, shelters me, loves me, and takes care of me. I must be this person's god!"

And so forth...

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Slingin' Sammy Baugh

A sad sports note. Sammy Baugh was the man who made the forward pass an integral part of football. In 1943, he led the NFL in passing (as a quarterback), interceptions (as a defensive back), and punting (as, well, a punter). That is probably not something we will see again.


I have undertaken to look after a friend's house for the next couple of weeks or so, while he's away for the holidays. Beyond the usual snow-shovelling etc. type of tasks, this involves taking care of Benny, the resident four-year-old tomcat. So far, it's going fairly well. However, Benny, like most cats, has a bit of a personality. For example, here's a sample dialogue from yesterday:

  • Benny (pawing at back door handle): Lemme out! Lemme out! Lemme out! I want to go outside right now! Oh, why, why won't you let me go outside?
  • Chunklets (opening door): Out you go!
  • Benny: Hey, it's cold and snowy... no way am I going out there!
  • Chunklets (closing door): Ok then.
  • Benny (pawing at back door handle): Lemme out! Lemme out! Lemme out! I want to go outside right now! Oh, why, why won't you let me go outside?

For all that, though, he's a friendly fellow. He has perfected the feline trait of finding the spot on the bed that maximizes his comfort while minimizing mine, and then purring loudly about it. He also is quite fascinating with things moving under the covers. Feet, for example. Last night he pounced on mine from the top of the dresser as I was getting into bed. Anyway, he's a fun little cat.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Musical Interlude

I was lucky enough, when I was much younger, to get to see Odetta in concert here. Mostly what I remember about it is the fact that she had an incense stick on the end of her guitar - I recall thinking that it smelled very interesting. Anyway, she passed away last week, about a month before she was scheduled to perform at Barack Obama's inauguration. Here she is performing "Midnight Special."

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Yoga Time!

If nothing else, I have to give this guy props for maintaining concentration...

Fez tip to Maru.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Latin All Done

Well, another term of Latin 101 has come to an end. My students wrote their final on Saturday afternoon (blech!), and I didn't see anybody looking too dismayed at the end! This year they were writing in a gym, mixed in with about 400 Civil Engineering students. This meant, among other things, that it took me an hour to find one of them in the crowd. However, they were all there, and I have ended up with the right number of exams - hooray!

As usual, I shall miss my students - they were a good bunch this year!

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Parliament Suspended

GG agrees to suspend Parliament until January
Decision gives Tories reprieve, thwarts imminent attempt to topple government

Gov. Gen. Michaëlle Jean has granted a request from Stephen Harper to suspend Parliament until late next month, a move that avoids a confidence vote set for Monday that could have toppled his minority government.

Well. It's going to be an interesting month-and-a-bit! I was rather hoping, as I'm sure you've gathered, that we would be getting Prime Minister Dion any day now. However, if nothing else, this whole process has shown clearly that Conservative bullying does not need to be tolerated, and can be opposed. Whether the Conservatives got that message remains to be seen.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Hey Look! It's Ed!

Mr. Broadbent weighs in...

Harper 'lies' about coalition details: Broadbent
PM 'shameful' in portraying crisis as national unity issue, former NDP leader says

To save his own government, Stephen Harper is deliberately trying to deceive Canadians about the facts surrounding a proposed Liberal-NDP coalition, former NDP leader Ed Broadbent said Wednesday.

In an interview with CBC News in Toronto, a furious Broadbent had harsh words for the prime minister, saying Harper was also trying to pit English Canada against Quebecers in his attempt to discredit the proposed coalition to replace him if the Conservative minority government falls.

Yup. I could go on at some length about the whole the-coalition-is-bad-for-national-unity line of attack, but instead I'll just send you over to Peace, Order, and Good Government, Eh? to read Purple Library Guy's post on the issue. Wow, this blogging thing sure is easy...

I would merely point out here the hypocrisy of shrieking about the Liberals being in bed with the Bloc when it turns out that Stockwell Day was contemplating doing exactly the same thing a few years ago (read right to the end of the article). Goose, gander, good, etc.

"I've never seen the leader of a Conservative party, certainly not Bob Stanfield, certainly not Joe Clark, lie — I choose the word deliberately — the way Mr. Harper has," Broadbent said.

Yup again. Today's Conservatives are not, by any stretch of the imagination, the Tories of yore. One could very often disagree with the policies of the old Progressive Conservative Party (and I usually did), but one never got the impression that it's members viewed Canada with the kind of angry contempt so prevalent in today's Conservatives.

It also occurs to me that I would really, really, like to hear Joe Clark's opinion of this whole situation...

The former NDP leader, who helped negotiate Monday's deal between the New Democrats and the Liberals with the support of the Bloc Québécois, said Harper also lied when he said the three opposition leaders refused to sign their agreement in front of a Canadian flag because Gilles Duceppe, a Quebec sovereigntist, objected.

The funniest about that bit of hysterical mendacity was that the opposition leaders signed the agreement in front of not one, but TWO Canadian flags, AND a portrait of the Fathers of Confederation. So, if one were silly enough to measure the patriotism of the coalition leaders by their physical proximity to symbols of the nation, then they're actually doing just fine. Although... they could have brought along a beaver... and invited Paul Henderson... and arrived at the meeting by canoe... and so on and so forth.

In other news... Rally Tomorrow!!

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Viva La Revolución Del Jarabe De Arce!!

(with apologies to the entire Spanish-speaking world)

Gov. Gen. rushes home to deal with political turmoil
Last Updated: Tuesday, December 2, 2008 | 10:57 AM ET

Gov. Gen. Michaëlle Jean is returning home early from a state visit to Europe to deal with the upheaval on Parliament Hill, where she could decide the fate of the government in the next week.

Come on, GG, do the right thing! Take government away from Harper and his smirking band of twits and give it back to the people who are willing to govern in a more adult manner. You know, the ones who don't see political power merely as a hammer with which to hit people who disagree with them...

Let's get one thing straight here: The move by the opposition parties to form a coalition government is neither illegal nor undemocratic. The three party leaders involved, and their MPs, were all elected to Parliament fair and square, and it is entirely within their right, as elected representatives of the Canadian people, to act as they are acting (in fact, one could argue that, under the circumstances, it's their sworn duty to rein in Harper). The Conservatives, while they did indeed win more seats than any other individual party, were not entrusted by the electorate with a majority. And yet, they have insisted on governing as though they had been. That arrogance is now being slapped down hard, and the country is better off for that.

So yes, let's have this coalition government and the object lesson that it represents. For one thing, it should mean that Omar Khadr gets to come home.1

Important Note: A large tip of the fez to skadl at Peace, Order and Good Government, Eh?, who seems to have been the first to start labeling the current situation "The Maple Syrup Revolution." It's brilliant! Further Note: The sidebar coalition image is from here.

1On the Khadr situation: I'm aware that the incoming Obama administration seems to have plans to close the Guantanamo Bay prison, and may be planning to send Khadr back to Canada anyway. The point here is that Stephen Harper, disgracefully, wasn't about to raise a finger to help the kid out.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Interesting Times...

Dion to lead Liberal-NDP coalition, Liberals confirm
PM: Dion 'playing biggest political game in Canadian history'

Liberal caucus members agreed unanimously on Monday that Stéphane Dion will stay on to lead a Liberal-NDP coalition, after the two parties reached a tentative agreement to replace the minority Conservative government.

Let us deal swiftly with the outright hilarity of Stephen Harper accusing somebody, anybody, of playing political games. The Libs and the Dippers aren't playing any games that the Cons didn't start. All they're doing is calling a massively silly bluff.

In fact, this whole situation works well in poker terms. For about a year, and perhaps even earlier, Harper has been betting aggressively, daring the opposition (this is a heads-up game, by the way) to call him. Most of the time, however, the opposition has folded meekly, and Harper has collected the blinds. So this time, when Harper peeked at his hole cards and discovered 7-3 of clubs, he looked forward to more of the same, and bet big. He doubtless even looked forward to showing his hand after the anticipated capitulation, and to mocking his opponent for being bullied out of the pot.

However, instead of folding, the opposition grinned at him and re-raised all-in.

This puts Mr. Harper in a bit of spot. He could fold, which would leave him in control, but would also mean admitting that the opposition has him sussed, and that the bully bet, his favourite and perhaps only tactic, isn't likely to work anymore. Or he could call, and hope like hell that he flops something that allows him to beat the opposition's pair of queens. It could happen, but it's not really likely.

Anyway, it looks now like there's a pretty good chance that Stephane Dion will get to be Prime Minister after all. And I wouldn't mind that a bit.