August 31, 2005

Still feelin' groovy

Just goes to show that some people never learn:

Singer Art Garfunkel, who pleaded guilty last year to pot possession in upstate New York, was charged again Sunday after a marijuana cigarette was allegedly found in the ashtray of his car, state police said.

The 63-year-old Garfunkel, who lives in Manhattan, was charged after being pulled over for failing to stop his vehicle at a stop sign, The Daily Freeman of Kingston reported Tuesday.

[Full Story]

The ironic thing about this story is: as the story goes on to say, Garfunkel was stopped last year in Hurley, NY, mere miles from Woodstock - for the very same offense.

Way to go, Mr. Garfunkel. You are the DIM BULB du jour.

And after the wind . . . the sound of a low whisper

Inevitably, after a major hurricane lashes the American South, it finds its way north and covers my part of the world with heavy rainfall for a day or two. For example, the remains of Hurricane Ivan last year dropped a month's worth of rain on Ottawa overnight, leading to many basements unexpectedly becoming flooded in a foot of water. Understandably, we were warned that when Katrina came, we should be prepared for the same sort of problem.

Fortunately, however, it appears that by the time it reached Ottawa, Hurricane Katrina had become Minor Nuisance Katrina. It rained all morning, though not as heavily as I would have expected. By late afternoon, the streets were dry save a few isolated puddles.

How ironic that what was such a destructive force only two days ago should dissipate into something so harmless so quickly.

And now . . . this - Aug. 31/05

Ewwwwww . . .

We have centipedes here in Ottawa, and they sometimes get into the house. As nasty as they are (and hard to catch), they rarely get longer than about an inch and a half. I hate leggy insects, so this would be enough to induce a nervous breakdown:

Aaron Balick expected to find a tiny mouse rustling behind the TV in his apartment. Instead, he found a venomous giant centipede that somehow hitched a ride from South America to Britain.

"Thinking it was a mouse, I went to investigate the sound. The sound was coming from under some papers which I lifted, expecting to see the mouse scamper away," the 32-year-old psychotherapist said Wednesday. "Instead, when I lifted the papers, I saw this prehistoric looking animal skitter away behind a stack of books." . . .

The next day he took it to Britain's Natural History Museum, which identified the insect as a Scolopendra gigantea - the world's biggest species of centipede.

[Full Story]

The same country that gets liquored up and chased by bulls brings you . . .

La Tomatina.

Every year, the Spanish town of Bunol buys 100 tonnes of ripe plum tomatoes.

Every year, tens of thousands of participants grab the tomatoes and hurl them at each other, in the world's biggest food fight.

That was today.

Apparently the annual tomato fight, fought for the first time in 1940, has no real significance; it's just one more of those things you can do while drunk in Spain that would be frowned upon any other time of the year.

Tomatoes are probably a lot more fun (and safer) than bulls, though.

Hurricaine Katrina, part deux

Just to follow up on yesterday's post, an FFF regular got hold of Don Elbourne this morning, and says, in part:

He and his family are safe at his parents home. They evacuated and he believes all of his church family did as well.

His home is most likey totally destroyed and the building where his church met is almost certainly gone too. I spoke for him a year ago and the buildings were of wood frame and right in the path of the huge 25 foot wall of water that destroyed so much in that area of Mississippi.

Under the circumstances, who could ask for anything more? Praise God.

Postscript: Don himself has got Internet access again, and has blogged about the damage he supposed has been incurred.

August 30, 2005

No, really: It doesn't count as adultery when you're gay

With Pride Week just wrapped up here in Ottawa, it's only fitting, I guess, that this sort of wackiness should cross my desk today:

Shelly Pickering thinks it is unfair that her husband's extramarital affair with a man doesn't legally count as adultery. So today, she's heading to court in Vancouver to challenge the law.

The 44-year-old Vancouver resident had been married nearly 17 years when, in October of 2004, she discovered her husband was having an affair with a younger man.

She and her husband separated immediately and she filed for divorce two months later, seeking an immediate end to their union. . . .

But Justice Nicole Garson of the B.C. Supreme Court declined to order the immediate divorce, because the definition of adultery in common law does not include homosexual relations.

[Full Story]

Put another way: If you catch your husband having sex with someone other than yourself, it's grounds for divorce. But if you catch your husband having sex with someone other than yourself, and it turns out he's a homosexual, it's not grounds for divorce.

Two men or two women can't be "married" according to common law either, but that particular fact doesn't seem to matter in the schizophrenic family law of today.

Hurricane Katrina

The "international community" that is the Internet is a blessing and a curse. A blessing because you can get to know people from all over the place for practically nothing, but a curse, because with the more people you know around the world, the more likely it is that one of them is going to wind up in the middle of the evening news.

Case in point: Please pray for Don Elbourne and his family. Don is the Webmaster of the blog Locusts and Wild Honey, as well as of the Fightin' Fundamentalist Forums, one of my favourite virtual hangouts. He is a resident of New Orleans who evacuated to Baton Rouge before Katrina hit. Since then FFF regulars have been asking after him. We've heard nothing yet, although at this juncture that is perfectly understandable. Don is also the pastor of a Baptist church near Gulfport, Mississippi, which got hit point-blank by the storm, so it's a fair bet that their building is underwater right about now.

August 29, 2005

It's fitting, in a poetic kind of way

Cindy Sheehan hasn't achieved a meeting with the president during her three-week war protest, but she met a man who plays one on TV. Martin Sheen, who portrays the president on NBC's "The West Wing," visited Sheehan's makeshift campsite Sunday.

"At least you've got the acting president of the United States," Sheen said as the crowd of more than 300 people cheered. "I think you know what I do for a living, but this is what I do to stay alive."

[Full Story]

It's only appropriate; after all, Sheehan isn't a grieving mother, although she, too, plays one on TV:

Cindy Sheehan and Al Sharpton kneel before crosses as hordes of media look on

August 26, 2005

Friday in the wild - August 26, 2005

Ha! After three straight weeks, Friday in the Wild is, indeed, occurring on a Friday. Here's a roundup of some of my favourite contributions to the blogosphere this week.

Ligon Duncan posted an encouraging article on Reformation 21 about the seemingly unlikely unity that exists between John MacArthur and C .J. Mahaney, leader of the Sovereign Grace denomination of churches:

Yesterday, C.J. Mahaney preached the worship services at Grace Community Church in Sun Valley, California. In my opinion, that is a sign of good things quietly astir in the evangelical and Reformed community today - new networks of friendship, kinship in the truth and cooperation in ministry. And it's something you wouldn't have guessed twenty years ago.

Many evangelicals will recognize Grace Church as the congregation pastored by John MacArthur. Many will also know that John has been a strong critic of charismatic theology (how many printings and editions has Charismatic Chaos gone through?), and that C.J. is leader of a family of churches that is both Reformed and charismatic. So what's up? Is John going soft on his positions? No, not at all.

[Read C.J. Mahaney and John MacArthur]

This is cool: According to What Attitude Problem, a number of authors are auctioning off the right to be a character in one of their books. Stephen King, for example, appears to be looking for a female character to die horribly. (Imagine that.)

Steve Camp blogs on a theological subject that is one of my pet peeves as well:

A few years ago a gentleman approached me after a concert with a question about what I had been teaching that evening (it was Hebrews 2:9-18). He mentioned one of the verses to me that he gave a very unusual meaning to. He was taking completely out of context, but defiantly said that he couldn't be challenged on what that verse meant, because regardless what I had to say�this is what he "felt" it meant. When he calmed down and actually inquired what I thought the verse meant I replied with a bit of sarcasm saying, "I think that this verse means that Michael Jordan is going to come out of retirement, return to the Bulls, and they will win another NBA Championship." He looked puzzled at me and then barked out, "that isn't what this verse is saying!!!" I said, "Oh, we're not concerned with what it�s actually saying... just what it means to me and what it means to you." He then reluctantly acknowledged what I was driving at� that the Scriptures actually mean something textually apart from any experience or proclivities we bring to them.

[Read A Text; Taken out of Context; is a Pretext; for Proof-Text]

Meanwhile, Scott Klusendorf takes on a pro-choice blogger. This is what pro-life advocacy should look like.

Finally, Steve Hays at Triablogue takes on one of Karl Keating's "hissy fits" over something John MacArthur said recently (and apparently the fact that MacArthur's letter head calls him a "Bible teacher"):

What we have here is the difference between ascribed status and achieved status. Men like MacArthur and James Kennedy built their ministries from the ground up. They had no preexisting constituency. Folks follow them for what they say and do, not for what they are.

By contrast, the only reason that folks follow the Pope is because he�s the Pope. Who was reading the Bishop of Krakow before he became Pope? Who was reading the Bishop of Freising before he became the Prefect?

[Read Karl Keating's hissy-fit ]

There were no humorous search queries this week. I guess all the weirdos are still looking for info on Skylar "No, Really, I Was a Power Ranger" Deleon, the mere mention of whom has literally tripled my traffic for the last two weeks. Not that I'm complaining.

Until next time . . . enjoy!

August 24, 2005

Brock Peters, 1927-2005

Actor Brock Peters, best known for his role as Tom Robinson, a black man falsely accused of rape in the classic film To Kill a Mockingbird, died Tuesday in Los Angeles of pancreatic cancer; he was 78.

[Full Story]

In addition to To Kill a Mockingbird, Peters appeared also in Soylent Green, a film adaptation of the opera Porgy and Bess, the miniseries Roots: The Next Generation and numerous other roles.

In recent years he was best known as Benjamin Sisko's father Joseph in a frequent rôle on Star Trek: Deep Space Nine.

Earlier he had also been cast as Admiral Cartwright in Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home; then, in Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country the character was given more depth, made strongly xenophobic and ultimately criminal. It is Cartwright in STVI that declares the Klingons the "alien trash of the galaxy"; Peters, as a black actor, found the line very difficult, and it took multiple takes to complete. Nonetheless, in a movie about overcoming old prejudice and enmity, he understood the significance of his character uttering such repugnant sentiments. (Later in the movie, Nichelle Nichols flatly refused to say the line, "Guess who's coming to dinner," and it was assigned to Walter Koenig instead.)

A fine actor, and a sad loss. Rest in peace, Mr. Peters.

The September CanLit Project: May I have the envelope please?

Many thanks to all of you that submitted suggestions for my September CanLit reading list. For the record, the complete list of submissions, which I received both online and offline, was:

  • Margaret Atwood, Alias Grace
  • Margaret Atwood, Oryx and Crake
  • Sandra Birdsell, The Russländer
  • Wayne Johnston, The Colony of Unrequited Dreams
  • Hugh MacLennan, The Watch that Ends the Night
  • W. O. Mitchell, Who Has Seen the Wind
  • Farley Mowat, The Boat Who Wouldn't Float
  • Farley Mowat, The Dog Who Wouldn't Be
  • Michael Ondaatje, In the Skin of a Lion
  • Mordecai Richler, Barney's Version
  • Guy Vanderhaeghe, The Last Crossing
  • Robert Charles Wilson, The Chronoliths
  • Adele Wiseman, The Sacrifice
  • Adele Wiseman, Crackpot

Now, the thing about this is, I only wanted five, and I had already pre-selected one: Stephen Leacock's Sunshine Sketches of a Small Town, which will kick off the set. After scouring the library for all these books, reading the cover blurbs, and all the rest of the usual rigamarole that goes into choosing reading material, I just barely managed to pare down the list . . .

In order, then, here's my reading agenda for the month of September:

  1. Stephen Leacock, Sunshine Sketches of a Small Town
  2. Guy Vanderhaeghe, The Last Crossing
  3. Michael Ondaatje, In the Skin of a Lion
  4. Adele Wiseman, The Sacrifice
  5. W. O. Mitchell, Who Has Seen the Wind

As for the rest of the recommendations that didn't make the short list: Thanks a lot! I'm not going to ignore them, as most of them looked good. I maintain a list of books I'd like to read in the future sometime, and they'll get added. It just means they won't be read soon.

August 23, 2005

He doesn't just look like Dopey

One thing you can always count on prominent televangelists for, is to stick a foot in their mouths. Normally it's Jerry Falwell, who faithfully commits some sort of faux pas about two or three times a year. But this time, it was Pat Robertson:

Robertson told viewers of his longtime show, "The 700 Club," on Monday Chavez is "a terrific danger" bent on exporting Communism and Islamic extremism across the Americas.

"If he thinks we're trying to assassinate him, I think that we really ought to go ahead and do it," Robertson told viewers on his "The 700 Club" show Monday. "It's a whole lot cheaper than starting a war." . . .

"We have the ability to take him out, and I think the time has come that we exercise that ability," Robertson said. "We don't need another $200 billion war to get rid of one strong-arm dictator. It's a whole lot easier to have some of the covert operatives do the job and then get it over with."

[Full Story, emphasis added]

Congratulations, Pat Robertson. We are used to you shooting off your mouth on television, but since this time you have singlehandedly created a diplomatic snafu, you are the next lucky winner of the coveted DIM BULB du jour. Millions of voting Americans collectively sigh with relief that they ignored your 1988 presidential campaign.

Besides, which part of "Thou shalt not kill" don't you understand?

August 22, 2005

I've been tagged! Again!

I've seen this tag meme floating around the blogosphere for about a month now, so I knew it was only a matter of time before I got hit - by my friend Julie.

1. How many books do you own?

Good question. I've never bothered to count them, so this is only a rough estimate. Let's say, about 500 here with me in Ottawa, and an equal number sitting in boxes in my parents' basement. So 1000, give or take. (But all the really good ones are here.)

2. What is the last book you bought?

Probably the last book almost everybody bought: Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince. I'd tell you what it was all about, but if you haven't seen the spoilers all over the Net up to now, you'll magically miss it now!

3. What was the last book you read?

It was The Tale of the Comet by Derek D. Dempster, a 1958 history of the de Havilland Comet, the first commercial jetliner. Roughly the first half of the book is a brief history of the de Havilland company and the design and early success of the Comet. The second half is about the engineering detective work that went into discovering the design flaw that destroyed three planes, but nobody had anticipated up to that point: metal fatigue, due to the cabin pressure at extremely high altitudes, resulted in explosive decompression and destroyed the aircraft in midair. Fortunately for the future of commercial aviation, this unforeseen flaw was correctible, and the Comet flew again, many of them remaining in service until 1980. However, the entire Comet fleet was grounded for about three years while the investigation was underway, and as a result Boeing gained a virtual monopoly on commercial jetliner manufacturing until the more recent successes of Airbus.

At present I am also about three-quarters of the way through Bono by Michka Assayas, and hope to have it finished by tomorrow.

If you want to know what else I've been reading recently, you can always look on the sidebar.

4. What are some books that meant a lot to you?

Apart from the Bible, of course, probably the three books that have had the greatest impact on me are Desiring God by John Piper, Knowing God by J. I. Packer, and Decision Making and the Will of God by Garry Friesen.

My favourite novel is The Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro, and I also enjoy the literature of C. S. Lewis, Douglas Adams, Roald Dahl, and Stephen King.

5. Tag! You're it...

When you're at the tail end of one of these games, whom do you tag that hasn't already been tagged? Let's see . . .

Take it away, Rand.

August 20, 2005

FridaySaturday in the wild - August 20, 2005

Oh, not again! This time I just plain forgot to post the weekly roundup yesterday.

At, Tim has started a series of Interesting FactsTM about Canada, titled "It's A Fact, Eh?" The first installation explains the distinctly Canadian expletive "Eh?"; the second is an interesting history of "O Canada". Admittedly there wasn't much Tim was able to tell me that I didn't already know (see, for example, my own post from Canada Day 2004); however, this particular fact did stand out:

It is also interesting to note that while the songs are written in different languages, they were also written by men of different theological backgrounds. The English version is Protestant and emphasizes hard work and duty. The French version, written by a Roman Catholic, emphasizes history and national glory.

[Read O Canada - It's A Fact, Eh?]

Jeff at Hold Fast does some commentary on the Big Daddy Weave song "Just the Way I Am," and takes on the sloppy theology of those who say that God loves us "just the way we are":

See, God loves the person, but He definitely does NOT love "the way they are." All people are sinners; unbelievers, especially, are corrupted and enslaved with a sinful nature that is abhorrent to God. This nature renders them dead to the things of God, in total rebellion against Him. And a holy God cannot love a person "just the way they are," if that's they way they are!

No, God loves His people much He's willing to change the way they are! He loves people in SPITE of the way they are, NOT "just the way you are." Big Daddy Weave's song, in the second verse, recognizes this fact, but many Christians aren't that careful in the way they describe God's love.

[Read "Just the Way I Am?"]

Quite predictably, thanks to my pondering the identity of Skylar Deleon, I have been inundated with search requests for "Skylar Deleon," "Skylar James Deleon," "Skylar Deleon Power Rangers," and a few other variants on the theme. Most of these searches come from Yahoo, for some reason. I've followed some of the other hits myself out of curiosity, and they tend to confirm my suspicions: Deleon was an uncredited extra on the program who probably told someone he starred in it. In other words, notwithstanding all the media hype, he's a fake celebrity.

Nonetheless, fake celebrity murderers didn't stop the occasional goofy search from coming my way:

August 19, 2005

Useless fact of the day

If you dug a hole straight through the earth from my back yard, you would be incinerated when you reached the molten mantle of the planet.

But if you weren't, you would drown in the Indian Ocean, several hundred miles south of Australia.

That is all.

Blogroll poll

Martha, Martha wants to know what people think of the practice of blogrolling, so she's posted a short poll on her blog.

  1. how important do you find it to be on someone's "blogroll?"

    I'm interested in knowing how, and how far, information spreads. Being on someone's blogroll is one of many gauges I use to measure how widely I'm being read. I'm not after the prestige.

  2. do you scan blogrolls to see if you are listed?

    Not actively, but I would probably spot it if I were reading the blog, and I was there.

  3. do you list the person who listed you, simply because they've taken note of your blog?

    Yes, I maintain a list of reciprocal links. This is partly a courtesy, and partly because I assume that someone who actively promotes my blog is at least partially of like mind with me, and therefore their blog is one that I might enjoy reading myself. This works out to be surprisingly true.

  4. do you list people whose blogs you enjoy and actually visit, or is it a status thing?

    My blogroll reflects those blogs that I actually visit daily and first. They are my favourites. Again, I make the assumption that if someone is like-minded enough to enjoy my blog, they might also enjoy what I like to read elsewhere.

    I also like to exercise a "personal prerogative" every now and then and link to the blogs of friends.

  5. do you find yourself feeling uncomfortable if you have been taken off of a person's blogroll?

    Not really. Well, I might want to know why, especially if it was someone I respect and I think I might have unintentionally turned him off. Plus, if the other blogger is being a real drama queen about it, I might like to get in a few jabs. Apart from that, I don't particularly care one way or the other.

  6. does this even factor into what you write or any part of your day?

    Does this mean, am I trying to buy credibility (links being the currency of the blogosphere) by playing to the crowd or toeing a certain line or trying to get noticed by Glenn Reynolds or Hugh Hewitt? No, I think that would lack integrity. I write what I feel like writing.

(H/T: What Attitude Problem - one of those "reciprocal" blogs I read regularly.)

August 18, 2005

Random fact

Three of the blogs in my aggregator are named after lines from T. S. Eliot's "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock."

Two of those blogs are titled "I Have Measured Out My Life in Coffee Spoons."

No one understands the poem, but everyone wants to borrow its best lines. Remind me to name a future incarnation of my blog:

  • A Patient Etherized Upon a Table; or
  • A Pair of Ragged Claws Scuttling Across The Floors of Silent Seas; or
  • In and Out the Bloggers Go, Talking of Michelangelo.

(Come to think of it, it's time to change the tagline again.)

That is all.

Whosoever will

Here's a quick lesson in presuppositions and how they colour how we read the Bible.

It is practically inevitable that when I tell someone I am a Calvinist and believe in predestination, that I get into a conversation that goes something like this.

Free-willy: Oh, so you don't really believe the Bible then.

Me: What do you mean?

Free-willy: The Bible says that whosoever will, may come. John 3:16 says that whosoever believeth has eternal life. You Calvinists can't believe in "whosoever will."

Me: What are you talking about? Of course I believe what John 3:16 says. Every Calvinist believes that whoever believes will be saved.

Free-willy: But you believe that only the elect will be saved, right? John 3:16 says that "whosoever believeth" will be saved. That means anyone may, not just some spiritual "elite."

Me: "Whosoever" doesn't mean "anyone may." It doesn't imply anything about their ability to believe. That is your assumption. It means only that there is a certain category of people: those who believe.

Free-willy: You're really weird.

The problem is that the free-willy imports a certain philosophical presupposition about libertarian free will into the meaning of "whosoever" (or "whoever," if you happen to live in this century). The idea seems to be that if you can actually create a category of believing people, then everyone is automatically an equal candidate for belonging to that category. For example, he might assert the following:

Whoever posts to this chat forum has a computer means that Anyone who has a computer may post to this chat forum.

A simple reductio ad absurdum, however, shows the fallacy of this assertion:

Premise 1: Anyone who has a computer may post to this chat forum.

Premise 2: Joe the Troll has a computer.

Conclusion: Therefore, Joe the Troll may post to this chat forum.

However, suppose I am the webmaster of the forum, and I do not want Joe the Troll posting there, so I have banned his IP address. Therefore, it is not the case that Joe the Troll may post here, and hence there is something wrong with the free-willy's Premise 1.

"Whosoever will" simply does not mean that "anyone may." Verses like John 3:16 simply do not explain, one way or another, who will come to believe in Christ, or how, or how many. It is no more an Arminian verse than a Calvinist one.

August 17, 2005

". . . they were written down for our instruction . . ."

Came across this passage at random this afternoon when I happened to open my Bible to it; it has a certain amount of relevance to some Top News Stories.

Now when Sanballat and Tobiah and Geshem the Arab and the rest of our enemies heard that I had built the wall and that there was no breach left in it (although up to that time I had not set up the doors in the gates), Sanballat and Geshem sent to me, saying, "Come and let us meet together at Hakkephirim in the plain of Ono." But they intended to do me harm. And I sent messengers to them, saying, "I am doing a great work and I cannot come down. Why should the work stop while I leave it and come down to you?" And they sent to me four times in this way, and I answered them in the same manner. In the same way Sanballat for the fifth time sent his servant to me with an open letter in his hand. In it was written, "It is reported among the nations, and Geshem also says it, that you and the Jews intend to rebel; that is why you are building the wall. And according to these reports you wish to become their king. And you have also set up prophets to proclaim concerning you in Jerusalem, 'There is a king in Judah.' And now the king will hear of these reports. So now come and let us take counsel together." Then I sent to him, saying, "No such things as you say have been done, for you are inventing them out of your own mind." For they all wanted to frighten us, thinking, "Their hands will drop from the work, and it will not be done." But now, O God, strengthen my hands. (Nehemiah 6:1-9)

Sky de-Who?

A former child actor who appeared in the Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers television series is accused of murdering a couple in California by tying them to an anchor and throwing them overboard.

Skylar Deleon has been ordered to stand trial for the murders of Thomas and Jackie Hawks last November in an alleged plot to steal their 55ft luxury yacht Well Deserved.

[Full Story]

The fact that Skylar Deleon appeared on [gak!] Power Rangers occurs in multiple news stories about this arrest. Apparently, this is some sort of point of reference for us ignorant readers who don't know who Skylar Deleon is.

Here's the problem: The Internet Movie Database does not list a Skylar Deleon. Nor does it list a Skylar Deleon as a member of the cast or crew of Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers.

But it's awfully nice to know that Skylar Deleon probably appeared in an episode once as a random 15-year-old in a crowd scene, maybe.

August 16, 2005

Topper versus the Feature Creep

I can relate to today's Dilbert strip, being one of those people who intensely dislikes finding out how many megabytes of my hard drive are taken up by user interface data intended for obscure languages I never intend to use.

But am I the only one who really didn't see that particular punchline coming? Hilarious.

August 15, 2005

Eenie, meenie, minie, moe; Southwest Airlines racist? No.

The second distinguished recipient of the coveted DIM BULB du jour is actually a pair of low-watt geniuses: Louise Sawyer and Grace Fuller.

In February 2001, Sawyer and Fuller boarded a Southwest Airlines flight. This no-frills airline is known for its flight attendants' mildly humorous quips to encourage passengers to take their seats. On this fateful flight, attendant Jennifer Cundiff spoke these words over the intercom: "Eenie, meenie, minie, moe; pick a seat, we gotta go." Har har.

Only it wasn't so funny to Sawyer and Fuller, because they are black, and Cundiff isn't, and there's a variation of the "Eenie, meenie, minie, mo" rhyme that uses the dreaded N-word. Citing discrimination and physical and emotional stress, they sued Southwest Airlines in 2003. Amazingly, a district court judge agreed that this lawsuit - over a vulgar word that was never spoken - could proceed.

Here is the original story in the Kansas City Star, courtesy of Google's cache: Rhyme at center of lawsuit against Southwest Airlines.

At the time, some of the women's claims were rejected, and the jury found for the defendent. Now, the Tenth Circuit court of appeals has affirmed the district court judgment, noting a number of the plaintiffs' less than logical arguments. Unfortunately, however, the airline is still stuck with their own legal bills. Too bad, as this idiotic lawsuit is yet another poster child for loser-pay tort law. Even that woman who spilled McDonald's coffee all over her a few years ago had a physical injury to point to as evidence.

(H/T: Michelle Malkin and Overlawyered.)


My friend Rand notes his first blogiversary, along with a brief postmortem of the year that was. Congrats!

I think I'm going to deificate

The loony left continues its apotheosis of the Blessed Virgin Cindy. Today's idolatrous gibbering comes from Democratic Underground. You may want a bucket of bleach handy to sanitize yourself after reading.

Cindy is a light from above, far away from any religion or God, she is pure love and justice. I honestly believe that many people can see her and feel for her, but to be honest, only a mother can truly understand, a person that would give their life for their children, and if anything happened to them it would rip the very core of your soul that would be gone forever. There is no other creature on this planet that can understand that then [sic] a mother.

I wept with true sorrow while reading her day 8 summary. She is a remarkable woman of great courage, and she is making history. For those of us who don't truly believe in god, she is truly a gift that we must not f--- up under anyway [sic] shape or form. For all of you Jesus believers, she should be looked upon by you as a true savior. For Budhist [sic], she is about true, unconditional love. For Muslims, she wants to stop the pain against your people. She has united this world from love, and there is no greater power then a mother's love of her child. I know, mine are my life, my soul, my joy and my acomplishments [sic]. If anyone would harm them, I would die and want to take down whoever did this. She is justified in her anger, beyond any man can truly understand. She is our Martin Luther King, Bobby K, she is a start of a movement. We don't get these chances very often because the world is asleep at the wheel.

[Full text, emphasis added]

From down-thread a ways:

[Sheehan has] become the Goddess - for now anyway. At this moment, Cindy Sheehan has become the Great Mother, and even the fundies know instinctively there is no way they can fight that kind of power, because it's the power of life itself.

If you must vomit, try to keep it off the upholstery.

(H/T: Angry in the Great White North, from whom I rather shamelessly stole my title idea.)

August 13, 2005

St. Cindy of Crawford?

The barking raving loonies at Daily Kos want to canonize bereaved mother Cindy Sheehan.

1. We should call her "Mother Sheehan". We should never call her Cindy; I don't know her. "Mother Sheehan" is her title, and expresses her ceremonial status as a bereaved mother, calling forth over the dead body of her son. She is not a person now, she is a mother, which is not an expression of her individuality, but rather the expression of her eternal character: the mother, the bringer of life who has been wronged by state power.

2. We should use the word "sacrifice". She has sacrificed the most precious thing a mother has, the life and promise of her child.

3. We should use the word "useless" frequently. The death of her son is a useless sacrifise [sic], done for the vanity of the ruler.

4. We should not use the name of her son. Her son is a symbol of all sons who have been sacrificed for this useless and criminal war. . . .

8. If I was there, I would not let Mother Sheehan talk to the press, but I would have her talk only through a spokesperson. In particular, I would not allow her to argue with critics, and would allow no critics to approach her. Her dignity must be preserved. If lesser emissaries from the ruler arrive (C Rice, etc), these should not be allowed to speak to Mother Sheehan.

[Full Text, emphasis added]

This freakin' insane rant is an apotheosis. The moonbats are elevating Ms. Sheehan to the level of revered prophet or cult leader, or some sort of Patron Saint of Moonbattery. They'll be proclaiming her a perpetual virgin next.

Note also the self-centred tone of the post: "We should call her 'Mother Sheehan.'" "We should not use the name of her son." "I would not let Mother Sheehan talk to the press." "I would not allow her to argue with critics." What's wrong here? Isn't "Mother Sheehan" a rational adult? Is she not a moral being who ought to be allowed to stand or fall on the basis of her own moral choices?

Wake up, Cindy. You're no saint. You're a tool. Start picking your friends more carefully.

(H/T: Little Green Footballs.)

FridaySaturday in the wild - August 13, 2005

Oops! Once again I'm a bit late with the weekly roundup. I'm busy working on a Sunday school lesson, so I don't always take the time to pop my head up and see what day it is. Feh.

We seem to instinctively identify big natural phenomena with beauty. I remember in 1997, when Hale-Bopp graced our night skies, how many people's natural response was "God is great." I was one of them. Nonetheless, as Dan of Cerulean Sanctum points out, many Christians seem to be down on the wonder and mystery of the world:

Wonder is at the heart of whom God made us as Mankind. It is as natural to wonder and to be overwhelmed with mystery as it is to breathe. Not a single advancement we men have made on this blue orb would have come about if not for wonder and mystery.

At some point someone sat down and looked up at the sky and tried to understand its secrets. Copernicus, Kepler, Newton, Einstein, and Hawking have all gazed up and wondered. That wonder led to the space program and mankind setting foot on the moon.

[Read Is It Any Wonder?]

Steve Camp does a weekly "Mulligan Monday" feature where he points out a Christian person or movement who said something silly that he'd probably rather take back. This week's installment: Selling Crap to Christians for Fun and Profit, a parody originally found at The Sacred Sandwich. "Trademark biblical words and you can charge user fees to unsuspecting pastors. . . . One word: Amway!" (Steve Camp, incidentally, has long been one of my favourite Christian musicians, especially so in the last four years or so, and he doesn't get half the recognition he deserves.)

Speaking of Campi, he has been critical of late of "evangelical cobelligerence": evangelical Christians allying themselves with other groups, Christian or not, to fight a common cause such as abortion. Understandably, many other Christian activists take a different approach. One of them is Scott Klusendorf, until recently a staffer at Stand to Reason but now the head of the Life Training Institute. I have heard Scott in debate and I have sat through his "Pro-Life 101" seminar, which I can heartily recommend as an excellent resource for dismantling the arguments of abortion advocates with logic and plain reason.

Scott also has his own blog, which I am happy to add to my blogroll this week. (I may have to further sub-classify the blogroll in the future and highlight a small selection of good pro-life blogs.) He had one particularly good post this week about Christian involvement in public affairs by none other than John Calvin.

Meanwhile, it looks like some semblance of sanity has gripped Google searchers this week, though we haven't quite achieved normality quite yet.

Until next time, enjoy.

August 11, 2005

And now . . . this - Aug. 11/05

Then we had nothing to live on but food and water

Monks at a Belgian abbey have been forced to stop selling their famous beer after it was voted the best in the world and was promptly sold out.

The abbey of Saint Sixtus of Westvleteren in western Belgium is home to some 30 Cistercian and Trappist monks who lead a life of seclusion, prayer, manual labor - and beer-brewing. . . .

But the abbey only has a limited brewing capacity, and was not able to cope with the beer's sudden popularity. . . .

And the abbey has no intention of boosting its capacity to satisfy market demand.

"We are not brewers, we are monks. We brew beer to be able to afford being monks," the father abbot said on the abbey's Web site.

[Full Story]

Now, if they were Protestant brewers, they'd settle an entire continent over this crisis.

Not getting the hint

First he had to give up his Mercedes to avoid being killed. Then a man who owed him $1 million tried to kill him, and his girlfriend took out a contract hit on his life. In February, he was kidnapped and forced to pay a ransom of $1.5 million.

Incredibly, businessman Igor Lantsov, who claims to be a victim of circumstance, has not soured on working in Russia and is forging ahead with plans to build several golf courses. Maybe only after that will he go home to Canada. . . .

Lantsev said the first time he faced a threat on his life was in 1995, when the Mercedes he was driving on Volokolamskoye Shosse in northwestern Moscow was carjacked by several men. He said the men took him to a forest and threatened to kill him but he convinced them to let him go in exchange for the car.

He said a man who owed him $1 million tried to kill him in 1998.

But the incident that grabbed national headlines occurred in December 2003. His girlfriend, Anastasia Nasinovskaya, 21, became enraged when Lantsov demanded that she return a brand-new BMW and asked a friend to kill him for $15,000. The would-be killer, Ivan Sentyurin, went to police, who organized a sting operation and arrested Nasinovskaya after she handed over a down payment of $10,000 - money that Lantsov said came from his own pocket.

Nasinovskaya, a runner-up in the 1997 Miss Moscow beauty pageant, was charged with trying to organize a murder, but Lantsov then had a sudden change of heart. He hired an expensive lawyer to defend Nasinovskaya and eventually proposed to her. In August 2004, the Moscow City Court gave the newly married Nasinovskaya a five-year suspended sentence on a lesser charge.

The couple divorced in November.

[Full Story]

Dumb as a bag of hammers. At this rate, he's going to have to open those golf courses, just to provide the funds to keep his enemies bought off.

Celebrating the public square's lesser lights

Regular readers of this blog know I have a taste for offbeat news. Usually this is of the "man bites dog" variety: stupid criminals, unusual natural phenomena, Darwin Award candidates, and so forth. Apart from taking a few jabs at certain unphotogenic presidential candidates last year, I've kept public figures out of the "and now . . . this" category.

There are those, however, whose dimwittery leaves me shaking my head in wonder that anyone would take them seriously. That they manage to get the attention of the press or a major publishing house only compounds my mystification. Therefore, I've decided it's high time to create a new semi-regular feature to highlight very public figures doing or saying very silly things.

And this feature shall be called: The DIM BULB du jour.

Our inaugural Dim Bulb is Cindy Sheehan, mother of slain U. S. soldier Casey Sheehan, who died in Iraq in the spring of 2004.

I have nothing but sympathy for the fact that Ms. Sheehan has lost a son. That is not the issue. Neither are her views of the legitimacy of the War on Terror, because many reasonable people happen to agree with her. What bothers me about this woman is her shrill exploitation of her son's sacrifice for political purposes - not to mention her exploitation by hard-left organizations such as and Code Pink.

In June 2004, Ms. Sheehan had a meeting with President Bush in Seattle. She described this meeting to her local newspaper as very congenial. Despite her opposition to the war, she said of Mr. Bush, "I now know he's sincere about wanting freedom for the Iraqis. . . . I know he's sorry and feels some pain for our loss. And I know he's a man of faith."

A year later, her story of this meeting has dramatically changed. She now claims that the meeting with Mr. Bush was like a "party," in which he was rude, condescending, and completely lacking compassion. She has become the darling not only of the far left, but the far right (such as The Power Hour, where I first heard her tell the revisionist version of her story). Whoops! I guess she forgot that in this century we have this thing called "print" which keeps a permanent record of things people said a year ago.

Ms. Sheehan is a co-founder of the organization Gold Star Families for Peace, currently holding a protest outside President Bush's ranch in Crawford, Texas. Amongst her goals we find this abject nonsense:

2) We would like for him to explain this "noble cause" to us and ask him why Jenna and Barbara are not in harm's way, if the cause is so noble.

3) If George is not ready to send the twins, then he should bring our troops home immediately. We will demand a speedy withdrawal.

[Full Text]

Excuse me, but are Barbara and Jenna Bush not in their mid-20s? Doesn't that make them adults? Wouldn't that mean that joining the military is for them to decide, not "George"? And how come no one has figured out this particular factoid, from Michael Moore on down?

In addition to protesting the war, Ms. Sheehan has made other statements having nothing to do with it, for example, protesting Israeli foreign policy, global warming, and electronic voting machines. How does accusing Diebold of vote fraud honour the memory of Casey Sheehan? It doesn't, but it certainly suits the agenda of the moonbats she has chosen to ally herself with.

Today Cindy Sheehan is the cause célèbre of the extreme left and right. But the cracks in her credibility are starting to show, and it won't be long before she is cast aside by these people in favour of the next Big Thing. She receives the first DIM BULB du jour for using the memory of her son to get "face time," and for being used for propaganda purposes by those with more radical agendas.

(H/T: Angry in the Great White North, The Anchoress, and Michelle Malkin, who has received the usual obscene and racist hate mail for her position on this issue.)

August 10, 2005

Fundamentalist atheists are not the intellectual giants of the universe

Undeniable truth: There is nothing more useless than teats on a bull, the opinion of a teenager, or the intellect of a Fundamentalist Atheist.

On a Christian forum I frequent, a former fundamentalist who "de-converted" to atheism about two years ago (give or take) has actually issued the following challenge, and God help me, I think he meant it:

I will post everyday for "god" to strike me down by lightning. What luck, it's raining and there are thunderstorms in the area.

Guess "god" isn't in the evidence business anymore since we can prove his "miracles" by science these days.

It's okay, keep telling yourself he's long suffering and is not to be tempted.

Come on, I know that you secretly want him to do it....

Gawd, where are you at? So far, he hasn't checked in yet, but look at the forum tomorrow to see if he's proved himself.

I suppose we could call this rock-solid proof of the non-existence of God the "Proof by Unreasonable Demand." I'm convinced it is irrefutable, and to prove it, I intend to send the following letter:

The Honorable George W. Bush
President of the United States
The White House
Washington, DC 20500

Dear sir:

I respectfully request that you provide proof of your existence at your earliest convenience.

Please send me an autographed photo of yourself as follows: You are wearing a chicken outfit. In your left hand, you hold a sign that reads "Hillary/Franken '08"; with your right, you shake hands with an actress impersonating Lucille Ball.

Failure to follow these instructions to the letter within 48 hours of receipt will is prima facie evidence that you do not, in fact, exist. Therefore, for your own sake, your prompt attention to this letter is appreciated.

Yours very truly,

Scott McClare

Think I'll get the response I demand? In my dreams.

The aforementioned Born Again Atheist later admitted that being struck by lightning "has been known to happen in nature." In other words, not only was the challenge unreasonable, but it was issued in bad faith since he could always pull out the "natural causes" excuse.

There's a reason God calls atheists "fools" (Psa. 14:1). How can we take them seriously?

August 09, 2005

It's been a good week for not dying

First no one died in a plane crash in Toronto. Then no one died in a Russian sub accident. In spite of two weeks of angst, no one died on Discovery. Now this:

Grammy-winning singer Marc Cohn was shot in the head during an attempted carjacking after a concert in Denver but survived with only minor injuries, police said on Monday.

Cohn had just finished a performance on Sunday night when a man fleeing on foot from police tried to commandeer the van Cohn was riding in, Denver police spokesman Sonny Jackson said.

When the van driver refused to stop, the suspect fired into the vehicle, striking Cohn in the head, although the bullet did not penetrate his skull.

"The bullet hit Mr. Cohn flush in the temple," Jackson said. "He's very lucky it wasn't a fatal shot."

[Full Story]

I guess you could say, "Boy, you've got a prayer in Denver."

Back on earth

After what probably appeared to earthbound viewers everywhere to be a ridiculously pedantic mission, Discovery landed safely this morning at Edwards AFB in California.

No shuttle mission has been this closely scrutinized, and to public eyes Discovery seemed to encounter crisis after crisis: falling foam, tile damage, loose gap fillers, thermal blankets. However, the crew handled each "crisis" successfully, and the truth is, STS-114 was by design a shakedown cruise to prove the shuttle was still safe. And it is. At least, as safe as hurling seven people into low orbit strapped to a rocket can be.

August 08, 2005

Update on the CanLit Reading Project

One month ago, I solicited suggestions for a September reading program in Canadian literature. I have also asked some offline friends for the same advice. Thank you all for the recommendations. Here's where that list stands now:

  • The Colony of Unrequited Dreams by Wayne Johnston
  • The Watch that Ends the Night by Hugh MacLennan
  • The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood (a good suggestion, but disqualified simply because I have read it many times)
  • Who Has Seen the Wind by W. O. Mitchell
  • The Dog Who Wouldn't Be by Farley Mowat
  • The Russlander by Sandra Birdsell
  • In the Skin of a Lion by Michael Ondaatje
  • Barney's Version by Mordecai Richler
  • something by Adele Wiseman (in the absence of any specific recommendation I would probably choose The Sacrifice)
  • something by Guy Vanderhaeghe (The Englishman's Boy is out of the running, but I would probably consider The Last Crossing)

In addition I would also be interested in a recommendation of a good anthology of Alice Munro's short stories, though oddly enough someone actually cast a vote against her.

I want to start gathering some books together starting in the last week of August, so if you have anything to add, please feel free to comment here.

August 06, 2005

FridaySaturday in the wild - August 6, 2005

A slightly belated installment of FitW for the first weekend of this month. I have been concentrating on some Web design work this week and haven't had the time I would like for serious blog runs. Nonetheless, here are a couple of posts I had a good look at.

Right Wing Nut House posted a taxonomy of left-wing political sites yesterday:

I discovered that the more forcefully the denizens of these sites bragged about being a member of the "Reality Based Community" the farther they actually were from existing on the same plane of the universe as the rest of us. Some maintain a passing familiarity with reality � as if reality were like walking past a beautiful woman and getting a tantalizing whiff of an exotic perfume. Others have had reality slap them upside the head and still deny the evidence of it with their own eyes and ears.

[Read Moonbat Blog Taxonomy]

I admit that my list of political blogs is solidly rightist, though my Canadian section has roughly equal representation. Frankly, I find the vast majority of lefty blogs completely unreadable. Every now and then, I do dive into Democratic Underground for the entertainment value of the DUmmies' conspiracy theories.

My favourite post of the week came from It was a discussion of the TV program King of the Hill and the contemporary church campaign to make Jesus cool:

While my memory of the show is getting hazy, I found a substantial number of quotes from the show at various web sites, enough to provide a good summary of the episode. In this particular episode Bobby (Hank's son who must be twelve or thirteen) becomes involved with a youth group and the far-too-cool youth pastor, Pastor K. Hank is reluctant to have Bobby involved in this type of group, where all the kids skateboard, listen to loud music and generally try to make God cool. Bobby becomes captivated by the group and seeks to impress his parents with his new friends.

BOBBY: These are my friends from the youth group. They're cool and they're totally Christian.

Bobby begins to absorb the message of this youth leader and begins to wear a "Satan Sucks" t-shirt.

[Read Making Christianity Better or Rock N' Roll Worse?]

Fortunately, unlike myself, the Google weirdos don't take breaks. Here are some of the stranger ways people found my blog this week:

Until next time, enjoy.

Is this a sign of the end times?

I never thought I would see this day.

"Brother Stair" has a blog now.

So far it only appears to have reports about stations or regions where the "Last Day Prophet of God's" can be heard, but I'm sure the wild rants are on their way.

Canadian Civics 101: The Governor General

"Mike" asked in the comments to my previous post:

What does the Governor General do? Is that like the US Sec of State?

Canada is a former colony of Great Britain. Like them, we are a constitutional monarchy: the Queen of England is also the Queen of Canada. Unlike England, however, we don't have the Queen conveniently living up the road from Parliament. So she delegates her duties to a representative, and this is the Governor General of Canada.

As the representative of the Crown, the Governor General is Canada's de facto head of state. Before 1952, all the Governors General were British aristocrats; beginning with Raymond Massey in that year, all of them have been Canadian. Today the GG is a Canadian, selected by the Queen on the advice of the Prime Minister. Traditionally the GG serves for five years, but this term can be extended; Her Excellency the Right Honourable Adrienne Clarkson, for example, is currently in the sixth year of her term. The Prime Minister thought it wise to have an experienced Governor General in office while a minority government was in power, and asked the Queen to extend her tenure.

The typical Governor General is someone who has had a distinguished career of service to the country, typically a diplomat or high-ranking politician. Ms. Clarkson is the first who does not have a political or military background; she is a former broadcast journalist and author. It is also customary that English and French Canada get equal representation in the office. Ms. Clarkson is an English-speaking Chinese-Canadian from the West Coast; her designated successor, Michaëlle Jean, is a French-speaking Haitian-Canadian from Quebec.

The Governor General acts as the Queen's representative in Canada. Like the British crown, the office is constitutionally non-partisan. In theory, her power is quite extensive, but as the role is considered to be ceremonial and symbolic, there would be great public outrage if she acted on her own without the advice of the Prime Minister. She gives royal assent to legislation by signing it into law. She summons Parliament (i.e. begins a new session) and delivers the Speech from the Throne, which outlines the government's legislative agenda. She also dissolves Parliament on the advice of the Prime Minister and issues the writ of election. Theoretically she has the power to refuse this, but it has been exercised only once in Canada's history, in 1926. Once the election is completed, it is the Governor General who selects the Prime Minister - usually the leader of the party that won the most seats, but if he is unable to form a government, then she is to appoint the person most likely to have the confidence of Parliament. She appoints Cabinet ministers, Senators, judges, and other public officials, again on the advice of the Prime Minister. Finally, though she is constitutionally neutral, she has the right to consult with and advise the Prime Minister.

(Thus the Governor General is not equivalent to the U.S. Secretary of State, which is a political, Cabinet position. The Canadian equivalent is the Minister of Foreign Affairs, also a member of the Cabinet.)

In addition, the Governor General has a number of other ceremonial roles. For example, she is the Commander-in-Chief of the military. She receives the credentials of ambassadors and visiting dignitaries and is herself Canada's chief diplomat.

Finally, it is her job to promote Canada and Canadian culture at home and abroad. She makes many goodwill visits to other countries - in fact, Ms. Clarkson has come under some fire for the money she has spent on these trips. She also promotes Canadian excellence by presenting various awards, such as military decorations or the coveted Order of Canada, Canada's highest civilian honour. The Governor General's Award is Canada's highest literary honour. In addition, the Stanley Cup for hockey and the Grey Cup for football were first presented by previous Governors General.

The official residence of the Governor General is Rideau Hall, a massive stone house on Sussex Drive, almost directly across the street from the Prime Minister's residence. Many official functions are carried out at Rideau Hall, including dropping the writ of election, the swearing of federal ministers and judges, and the awarding of decorations. The residence sits on 70 acres of land that includes some beautiful gardens, and dozens of ceremonial trees planted by visiting heads of state. Tours of the residence or the grounds are available, and the grounds are used for many public functions throughout the year, most notably concert series, the Governor General's Garden Party, and the Teddy Bear's Picnic, a charity event for the Children's Hospital of Eastern Ontario.

August 04, 2005

Meet Canada's next Governor General

The Prime Minister made the official announcement yesterday: the 27th Governor General of Canada will be CBC television journalist Michaëlle Jean.

At just 48 years old, the award-winning journalist will become one of the youngest governors general ever, the third woman in the job and the first black person to call Rideau Hall home. . . .

Jean is probably best known to English-Canadians as the host of The Passionate Eye and Rough Cuts on CBC Newsworld.

She was born in Port-au-Prince, Haiti. She left in 1968, her family fleeing the oppressive regime of Fran�ois "Papa Doc" Duvalier, settling in Quebec with her family. She has a six-year-old daughter and is fluent in five languages: French, English, Spanish, Italian and Haitian Creole.

[Full Story]

Ms. Jean takes over the reins from current Governor General Adrienne Clarkson on October 1.

While pointing out the number of "firsts" her appointment comprises, this article overlooks an interesting "second": Michaëlle Jean is also the second consecutive broadcast journalist to serve as our head of state. Realizing that the CBC isn't exactly the cutting edge of hipness, are we trying to turn the GG into a pop-culture icon?

August 03, 2005

One suh-weet ride

Here's a fun news story about an American soldier's adventures buying an armoured Mercedes-Benz that formerly belonged to Saddam Hussein, and trying to get it shipped back to the U.S. Some highlights:

A year's service in Iraq gave William von Zehle a host of memories, some good, some bad. The first sergeant in the Danbury-based 411th Civil Affairs Battalion returned home from Baghdad a certified hero for his rescue efforts when terrorists destroyed the United Nations headquarters in the Iraqi capital. He helped foster democracy where it never existed and gave hope to a people still suffering the after effects of war and oppression.

He also came home with a new car, a Mercedes Benz that possibly once belonged to Saddam Hussein. . . .

"I could tell right away it was armored," von Zehle said, "and I thought that was kind of neat." . . .

After buying the car, von Zehle quickly noticed it had a few of those "extras" for which some car buyers pay thousands extra.

"One of the neat things, aside from the fact it's armored, is it has microphones that allow you to hear people talking outside the car and loudspeakers so you can talk back to them," von Zehle said. "It also had a pretty neat crowd-control device."

Although he had to dismantle it, the "crowd-control device" consisted of a series of pipes that would shoot out flames from the side of the car. "I guess it was to make sure nobody got too close," said von Zehle, who is a Wilton firefighter.

[Full Story]

Paging 007 . . . your car is waiting.

These guys make it look easy

This morning, Discovery astronauts successfully removed two pieces of gap filler, which were protruding from between the thermal tiles, from the underside of the shuttle. has continuing coverage of the STS-114 mission.

I'm beginning to appreciate what my parents' generation must have felt to witness the golden age of spaceflight prior to the moon landings, when men like Gagarin, Shepard, Glenn, and Armstrong literally went where no man had gone before. Today's EVA is similarly unprecedented; no one has ever gone gone outside to perform impromptu repairs on a spacecraft before (though in-orbit repairs have been carried out on orbiting satellites such as the Hubble Space Telescope). Today's spacewalk supports the feasibility of repairing minor damage while in flight on future missions.

The realist in me does have to wonder, though, how much of this is really necessary. Granted, STS-114 is a mission intended to prove the shuttle's safety and spaceworthiness, and it is only natural that it be more closely scrutinized. Yet although spaceflight is dangerous, it isn't necessarily delicate. John Glenn brought the Friendship 7 capsule to earth safely in 1962 even though its heat shield had become loose and was only attached by the straps that held the retro package in place. On the other hand, my entire aerospace career to date consists of six months as an editor, so I'll leave the procedures to the experts.

Meanwhile, today NASA is wondering what to do about a puffed-out thermal blanket just beneath the cockpit, which they are worried may fly off during re-entry and damage the craft. Has any vessel ever been this closely scrutinized while in flight?

August 02, 2005

BREAKING: Plane crash in Toronto

Air France flight 358 from Paris to Toronto skidded off the runway while attempting to land during a thunderstorm. The Airbus A340 jet crashed through several barriers and fell into a ravine, where it caught fire mere yards from highway 401.

[Toronto plane crash 1] [Toronto plane crash 2]

No news yet on casualties, though anywhere from 200-300 people were on board. Since the plane had already touched down and was not moving very quickly, it's possible that most, if not all, passengers were evacuated.

Update (5:50): Eyewitnesses are saying that they saw lightning strike the plane. Right now CTV interviewing a survivor who says the power on board went out just before landing.

Update (5:55): 291 passengers and crew on board. Three busloads of people taken to nearby hospitals. Unconfirmed reports that there were no deaths.

Update (6:20): 309 persons total on board. 14 people treated in hospital for minor injuries. No fatalities. A passenger (it is no longer proper to label him a "survivor," thank God) interviewed on the radio said that once the plane stopped, the crew deployed the shutes, the plane was evacuated, and everyone "ran like crazy" in case there was an explosion. There wasn't.

Last update: Final figures: 43 minor injuries treated in hospital. Kudos to a very brave flight crew for doing their duty and keeping their passengers safe.

Raving freaky moonbat alert

Check out this letter to the editor in the San Francisco Chronicle by a lefty moonbat, in response to a story about Hamas camps, comparing the Boy Scouts to Hamas terrorists:

Yes, it is disturbing that Palestinian children are being taught to chant "Rifle fire! Raise it up!" in Hamas summer camps.

But, hey, we've got militaristic chants going in this country for our kiddies, too. On Sunday, President Bush met with the Boy Scouts, a gathering of 50,000, at their National Jamboree at an Army base in Virginia. Among other things, he went on about patriotism and military service.

Bush's audience had been warmed up by a man wearing an Army T-shirt who, as balloons with military emblems floated about, led the children in chants of "OO-rah" and "U.S.A.!"

Looks like we've got some of our own sun, fun and indoctrination.


San Francisco


Hmmm. During my stint in the Boy Scouts, I must have missed my opportunity to get the splodeydope merit badge. I guess it would look something like this:

[Splodeydope merit badge

(H/T: Little Green Footballs and Michelle Malkin.)

"Canadian Idol": The academic version

Always good to know what some former professors of mine are up to. From today's UW Daily Bulletin:

Michael Higgins - media personality, raconteur, scholar of religion and literature, and incidentally president of St. Jerome's University - has been selected one of "Ontario's 30 best lecturers" by the TV Ontario program "Big Ideas."

He was nominated by former students, a news release says, for "the clarity, passion and assurance of his lectures in religious studies."

From the 359 nominations received, and on the strength of videotaped submissions solicited by the program's producers, Higgins (right) was selected to be on the shortlist of 30 professors who will vie for the provincial title. A distinguished panel of judges - columnist Robert Fulford, playwright Andrew Moodie and Literary Review of Canada editor Bronwyn Drainie - will narrow down the list by selecting 10 finalists.

[Full Story]

I studied under Prof. Higgins for the second half of the required English literature survey course. His treatment of the Romantics went a long way toward reforming my very negative opinion of poetry. (My prof. for the first half of that course heard that I didn't like poetry, and quipped that I really had no business in an English program.) Good luck.

August 01, 2005

Happy Whatchamacallit Day

Today is a holiday in most of Canada (except for Québec, Newfoundland, and Yukon), creatively named the Civic Holiday. This is probably why many provinces and municipalities name it something different.

Ottawa is one of those municipalities. I discovered this last time I was at the public library, where a paper taped to the door informed patrons that the library would be closed today for "Colonel By Day."

John By (1779-1831) was a British military engineer who was posted to Canada in 1826 after serving in the Napoleonic Wars, to supervise the construction of the Rideau canal system, intended to be part of a secure supply system between Montreal and Kingston in case of another invasion by the United States. The St. Lawrence River bordering Upper Canada was thought to be too vulnerable.

The canal was to begin in a wild part of the shore of the Ottawa River, so By's first step was to build a town to house the construction workers. This town was later named Bytown in his honour. The Rideau Canal was completed in six years, and considered an engineering marvel in its time. However, it was never used for its intended purpose, as the Americans never attempted to invade Canada again after being repelled at Lundy's Lane in 1814.

Bytown was incorporated as Ottawa in 1855, and in 1857, Queen Victoria chose the town to be the common capital of Upper and Lower Canada; it was thought to be a fair compromise between English and French Canada (being right on the border) and far enough from the States to be secure from invasion.

Though Colonel By's name has disappeared from the name of the city, it still appears on several landmarks: the Byward Market, Colonel By Drive, the usual smatterings of schools and government buildings.

As for By's canal, it remains operational for pleasure craft. It has nearly 50 locks, many of which are within Ottawa and most of which are still operated by hand, such as these at the Ottawa River end of the canal, adjacent to Parliament Hill. In the winter, seven kilometers of the Canal between downtown and Dow's Lake are flooded and turned into the world's longest skating rink.

Quitting while he's ahead?

IT IS a decision that will horrify his legion of worldwide fans and leave grown women in tears.

Scottish screen legend Sir Sean Connery has almost drawn the curtain on his long and glittering career by revealing it would take a Mafia-style "offer he couldn't refuse" to tempt him to make another film.

At the age of 74, Connery still manages to be Britain's highest-paid actor, commanding up to £10m per movie. But his three-year absence from the industry has prompted questions about whether the Scots star has decided to retire after half a century in Hollywood and 77 films.

Now, Connery has provided the answer. In an interview with a New Zealand newspaper, the actor says he has no time for the "idiots" now making films in Hollywood.

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Well, as the song says, it's better to burn out than to fade away. But Hollywood is losing one of its few true professionals.

Pass the bread, rice, pasta and oatmeal please

Another fad diet bites the dust:

Atkins Nutritionals Inc., the company that promoted low-carb eating into a national diet craze, filed for bankruptcy court protection Sunday, a company spokesman said.

Atkins has been hurt by waning popularity of its namesake diet, which focuses on eliminating carbohydrates such as bread and pasta as a way to shed weight. The diet quickly became one of the most popular in U.S. history, spawning numerous derivatives and a virtual cottage industry of low-carb regimens - but also drew criticism from many experts for its focus on fatty foods and low fruit and vegetable consumption.

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I hereby predict the next Big Fad Diet will be: Eat less and exercise more.

Nah. It's too good to be true.